It's painted by hand.
. . .

Community Service for the Public Domain

Gertrude Stein: The Language That Rises 1923-1934
by Ulla E. Dydo with William Rice

I picked this up for its genealogy. How could've I possibly guessed that would entail sex?

During her life with Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein's writings began in shared notebooks, the earliest drafts marbled with coded promises of "cows" for Toklas and "babies" for Stein. Shaping and revising a finished work consisted largely of removing or abstracting specifics reversing the usual How to Write advice throughout assuming shared handling by lover-author and lover-typist. A wikierotica de-eroticized.

"There is a public for you but no publisher."
- Henry McBride to Gertrude Stein, Nov. 15, 1920

And there was a community for her but a community gated against all but two, as Toklas successfully resisted Stein's attempts to widen her sphere of collaborators.

What to make of this writing's translation from messaging couple to unknowing reader? After the polish of abstraction and decontextualization, does any meaning inhere? Or was blinding-white mineral-leached refinement the goal?

Of course, in one way or another, most literature has been dislocated from a community to a public. See, for example, Ron Silliman's insistance that poetry can only be written as a sworn member of a poetic tribe, although poetry from outside the tribe can sometimes successfully be read. Stein/Toklas present just an extreme example of this more general mystery, most extremely in "Stanzas in Meditation," a difficult work which became undecipherable when most instances of the words "may" and "May" were hurriedly removed in expiation of Stein's old relationship with May Bookstaver.

Dydo-with-Rice draw the line there, treating those changes as textual corruption where other changes are treated as craft. Too blatantly mechanical to sustain the faith? And they seem uneasy at Stein's submitting Georges Hugnet's French lyrics to her usual process too profane an origin?

How to Read? Their evidence is brought not quite to bear on that question.

. . .

A B. S. Johnson Christmas

From Nicholas Nagsheaded:

What I think of st Nikelass

I think that st. Nik is very santely and nice but. He should not call us notty he is a notty fat git himself and needs a triming bad, his head is like a sheering contest and a old rabbi fomf. St Nikel ass has very shinie red beak from boozing. All the cloath are like a cirkus tent and red like he thinx he is Elvis. He starts laffing like a big ho nancy when he put the littlest boys on his lap because he pervs and is morbid obees. He is the fattest sante in the church and wiggle like jelly if we take the micke out of you that is all about you NOTTY FAT OLD PERV NIT.

Also I want a swichblade and led pipe and swade boots size 7 but NOT RED.


Also I want a swichblade to, brand new or if it is cleand may b.

. . .

Thinking of Cluny Brown: Part 6

[Revised & re-assembled & relocated to Senses of Cinema,]


My thanks go to Jake Wilson for catching a misattribution.

. . .

Guilty Unpleasure

I try and try to listen to Tom Waits, and all I ever hear is a lesser Lord Buckley with a better band.


Forgive a philistine, but who's Lord Buckley?
So he should stop? You never heard the pre-Lord Buckley at all. And back. It's a continuality. you're lettin yer male turf thing interfere with the intake, maybe.

Leaving my merkin out of this no, I don't wish he would stop, and I do intend to keep trying.

. . .

Thinking of Cluny Brown: Part 7

[Revised & re-assembled & relocated to Senses of Cinema,]

. . .

Thinking of Cluny Brown: Part 8

[Revised & re-assembled & relocated to Senses of Cinema,]

. . .

Ass Meat Research Group Update

Adding immeasurably to my cred as a "literary blogger," Aaron Mandel has sent me a scoop. And not just any scoop a scoop of edible offals!

Several years ago it was your webpage that alerted me to the existence of contemporary authors Ass Meat Research Group, Chilled The Fresh and Frozen Horse.

If you have not been keeping tabs on the gentlemen or ladies in question, I can inform you that when I checked sometime in 2003, I found that Amazon had miscredited all their works to some boring old single entity called "The Fresh, Chilled and Frozen Horse and Ass Meat Research Group".

However, it seems that Ass Meat Research Group, at least, is back to the literary world, now collaborating with Czech poet-manque Sheep The Edible Offals of Bovi.

by Preserved The Salted, et al

I see Bloo the Meat and Preserved the Salted have also been active:

by Meat Offals and Bloo the Meat

Still no reprints of Rosin the Bow or Preserved Fish, however. I blame copyright extensions.

. . .

Thinking of Cluny Brown: Part 9

[Revised & re-assembled & relocated to Senses of Cinema,]


Those stills from Cluny Brown are gorgeous, by the way.

Beautiful cinematography, yes. And it's an unusually bucolic setting for Lubitsch, which contributes to the elegaic mood.


An anonymous reader identifies himself or herself:

The song 'Now We Are Pirates' is attributed incorrectly to the band, 'Lobotomy.' The song is actually one written and performed by the band '1% Goat.' I should know, I wrote the song and was also a founding member of 'Lobotomy.'

We apologize for the mistake and regret any inconvenience.


Blame it on the A.C. One man's Messiah is another man's suzerain. Sure sure. But notice how it's only because the voice has conviction in its tone you regret and apologize. Assuming you didn't fact-check him. An optimistic moment, one we're all the better for living through.

I hope you don't think worse of me for this, but I did in fact check, and found that I had misread my original source.

. . .

Walter Benjamin in the Age of Mechanical Copyright Extension

"Every age must strive anew to wrest tradition away from the conformism that is working to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer; he comes as the victor over the Antichrist. The only historian capable of fanning the spark of hope in the past is the one who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he is victorious. And this enemy has never ceased to be victorious."
- Walter Benjamin, "On the Concept of History", 1940

. . .

Blogging W. N. P. Barbellion

My confessions are shameless. I confess, but do not repent. The fact is, my confessions are prompted, not by ethical motives, but intellectual. The confessions are to me the interesting records of a self-investigator.

. . .

What I like is Joyce's candour and verisimilitude. I have tried that, but it's no good. The publishers rejected two splendid entries about prostitutes and other stuff. That is why I think, in truth, 100,000 copies will not be sold. My diary is too unpleasant for popularity. It is my passion for taking folk by the nose and giving them a wigging, my fierce contempt for every kind of complacency. Stephen Daedalus. Butler started the fashion with Edward Pontifex. Then there is Wells' George Ponderevo. Pontifex is a good name.

. . .

Of course the novelists are behind the naturalists in the recording of minutiæ: Edmund Selous and Julian Huxley and others have set down the life of some species of bird in exhaustive detail every flip of the tail, every peck preceding the grand drama of courtship and mating.

- W. N. P. Barbellion, A Last Diary

In March 1919, The Journal of a Disappointed Man by "W. N. P. Barbellion" was published. As promised, the absurdly pseudonymed author seemed disappointed and male; also brilliant, autodidactic, obsessive, explicit, self-lacerating, and dead.

The blend of naturalist and Naturalism naturally appealed to H. G. Wells. The blend of conventional tragedy and titillating dirt appealed to a larger audience. And "Barbellion"'s disappointment struck an introductory chord with those more fortunate members of his generation who'd survive to call themselves "Lost".

The book was therefore a success.

It was also a puzzle. The presumable source material wasn't presented raw; it had clearly been labored over. But the result was far from flattering, and hardly as sensitive to family feelings as one would expect from an executor.

Some doubted its veracity (as I've doubted Plain Layne and Belle de Jour). Speculation centered on Wells as the author. Again, unlikely. Although the book's power was cumulative and structural, that thudding, cyclic, organic, and anticlimactic structure matched no existing model of the novel.

Later in 1919, the controversy was somewhat settled when a second "Barbellion" book appeared: Enjoying Life and Other Literary Remains, an awkward assemblage of odds and ends with a forward by the author's brother. Some pretense of disguise was maintained the forward was signed only "H. R. C." but the scientific papers reprinted there were little harder to trace than a domain registration would be these days.

The next year a slim sequel to the Journal appeared, a Last Diary in which the protagonist, undead without comment, quickly went on to die again. No further resurrection was forthcoming.

* * *

Maybe you've guessed where this is heading?

Barbellion's books anticipate (and epitomize) a kind of contemporary writing not my kind, certainly, but a kind I like. Pepys wrote only for himself (if that), Pooter and Dedalus and Pontifex had the benefit of being fictional, Kafka and Powell and Musil were principally known for other work, Anaïs Nin comes closer, I suppose, but sprawls....

If Barbellion is the first English writer to consider short chronologically arranged excruciating self-revelations his lifework, serialization seems an appropriate approach. I plan to post regular entries to the hideously named Barbellionblog. (Dating can only be approximate in some cases.) As each book comes fully online, I'll repackage it in its original form at the Repress. For now, I leave you with the first page of the first volume:

‘I returned, and saw under the sun, that the
race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the
strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet
riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour
to men of skill; but time and chance
happeneth to them all. For man
also knoweth not his time; as the
fishes that are taken in an evil
net, and as the birds that are
caught in the snare; so are
the sons of men snared in
an evil time, when it
falleth suddenly
upon them.’

. . .

The Death Wish in American Publicity Material

Part 3 in an Occasional Series

Very occasional, given our eccentric avoidance of most American publicity material.

Which is why we only learned via tough-as-nails correspondent Beth Rust that HP Digital Photography has taken the Kinks' caustic "Picture Book":

Picture book
    of people with each other
    to prove they loved each other
    a long time ago...

Picture book:
    Your mama and your papa
    and fat old Uncle Charlie
    out boozing with their friends...

Picture book:
    When you were just a baby
    those days when you were happy
    a long time ago...

And rubbed it in by overlaying footage of isolated narcissists with a swooping attack of "YOU", "YOU", "YOU"s....


what is vermont?

Better to ask, what isn't Vermont? 'Cause Vermont's got it all, baby!

Picture Book: Oh, Hotsie Totsie, the HP campaign is even worse than you describe. The visual schtick for these ads is a sort of Sherlock Jr/Purple Rose of Cairo break-the-plane video trick, where protagonists hold up prints, which magically dissolve into video or stills of the subject and the print becomes an empty frame. Of course, prior to the Kinks' song, HP used The Cure's "Pictures of You", which was a song about how *useless* pictures were to replace memories, which are in turn useless to replace the real presence of a person now gone.

Lyrics, other than a short catch phrase don't matter: just the feeling from the song. The assumption is that the audience won't even try to connect any kind of meaning with the song, but will cut and paste the feeling. Go back to Nike using the Beatles "Revolution" for the ultimate sell-out to mass consumption, $150 sneakers, etc.

It makes me ponder the series of product/song combinations you could advertise with songs with a message completely *opposite* of the sales implications of the product. Heck, we could find whole campaigns just in the Kinks' Korpus:

"I'm Not Like Everybody Else" -- Advertiser: The US Army, for it's "Army of One" campaign.

"Lola" --- Advertiser: Korbel Champagne. Visuals show two attractive people hooking up over the proferred beverage.

"Village Green Preservation Society" -- Advertiser: Walmart, announcing new stores.

"David Watts" -- Advertiser: US Department of Education, in support of 'No Child Left Behind'

"Well Respected Man" -- Advertiser: Apple, in a follow-up to its "Think Differently" campaign. Ads will show a conservatively-dressed man gyrating wildly while wearing his iPod.

Your pal,

- Renfrew Q. Hobblewort.

the 'prove they loved each other' line is even in the commercial...

In Other Consumer News

With disarming directness, Jack Fritscher reports:

In the 2005 edition of the now legendary book POPULAR WITCHCRAFT: STRAIGHT FROM THE WITCH'S MOUTH written by gay San Francisco author Jack Fritscher, Tuesday Weld is mentioned glowingly by Satanic High Priest Anton LaVey in terms of her mesmerizing blond presence in the classic interview Fritscher extracted from the enthusiastically cooperative LaVey who spoke to the ages. Book is endorsed by Magus Peter H. Gilmore, current High Priest of the Church of Satan. Published by the University of Wisconsin Press, March 2005. Available at

. . . before . . .. . . after . . .