Tag: history

min manga kamp

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Actually, Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s memoir is not at all like Knausgard’s books. A DRIFTING LIFE is not a manga equivalent of word vomit (although text dominates: in letters, movie posters, book covers) but a tight procession of 16-page chapters. The protagonist is named Hiroshino Katsumi, and we follow his youth and early adulthood as an aspiring manga-ka up to 1960.

It’s mellow and episodic but never boring — I love this employment of narrative from neo-realist and mid-century Japanese films. I could go for two more volumes of later decades: the other work by Tatsumi I know, like ABANDON THE OLD IN TOKYO come from the late 60s, and they are mature examples of that form gekiga that T/Katsumi is pioneering in these pages, which means “serious manga,” (manga itself meaning “whimsical comics”).

When Katsumi is starting out (and a friend pointed out to me that not once in the narrative doe he question his ability to draw and write comics), the strip form is still dominant in manga, which his sick brother specializes in. Gekiga, which is the lingua franca of manga now, I think it’s fair to say, is interested in stories of novelistic duration and dramaturgy. But moreover, even long-form manga in the 50s, we learn, is satirical and abstract, a gag a minute, simple in plot, cartoonish. Gekiga as Tatsumi develops it has a literary seriousness and tone (he wishes to adapt THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTOand even as he writes mainstream manga takes inspiration from Jules Verne adventure books).

Growing up in an Osaka suburb, Hiroshi actually lives near Osamu Tezuka’s house. (On the way to school Katsumi cuts through the campus where sensei Tezuka is a med student.) A relationship is struck, and in a lovely seen Katsumi is riding the train home and sees a whole cast of Tezuka characters in the car with him: the lines of two artists mingle in this big panel as fantasy and the real do.

Throughout the narrative there are expository panels filling out context with historical events in politics and culture, like the release of SEVEN SAMURAI. These are hardcore days of hoofing in wooden sandals across town to submit a manuscript to have the editor say you’re not a good fit for the house. As Katsumi moves up we see other up and coming manga writers: he gets to experience the artist household-workshop life. (Tezuka was also living with a manga collective at a time, and there was also Pizza Island in New York.) This isn’t the US workshop, but the European kind, which is part of the program experience too: sharing most of your life with other artists, keeping morale up or demoralizing each other together.

But going back to Tezuka: having finished all 8 volumes of BUDDHA some weeks back, I understand the saturation of ultra-random gags in a new way, see that such material was the bread and butter of older manga. Maybe it’s Tezuka’s genius, or his embracing of the gekiga form in this late period of his work revealed this, but his gags do some sophisticated self-conscious work. Tezuka had a star-system: a set of character designs who would be cast as characters in all of his stories. So the tutor in ASTRO BOY is the detective in METROPOLIS (he has a brief appearance as an ancient world police detective in BUDDHA). Moreover, each as a “real life” name and salary!

This is why in BUDDHA, a character feverish with an infected wound (I could be misremembering) hallucinates Ananda into Black Jack. (Buddha himself becomes Black Jack in a single hilarious panel, highlighting his role as a healer.) This hyperawareness of the fictiveness in Tezuka’s entire ouvre creates this delightful cycle of inflating and puncturing your own imaginative bliss.

I suspect I gravitate toward surreal/modernist literature because I’m chasing after the balls-out imaginations captured in the anime/manga and science fiction of my youth.

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written on water

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from the encyclopedia britannica:

Atrocities and sexual abuse of the enslaved captives were widespread, although their monetary value as slaves perhaps mitigated such treatment. In an infamous incident of the slave ship Zong in 1781, when both Africans and crew members were dying of an infectious disease, Capt. Luke Collingwood, hoping to stop the disease, ordered that more than 130 Africans be thrown overboard. He then filed an insurance claim on the value of the murdered slaves.

something to note about Zong is that it’s a nonsense word. the name of the boat on which this senseless atrocity occurred was meant to be Zorg, meaning care, but somehow became a senseless syllable. but poet Philip points out in her essay at the end of the book, it also sounds like Song. these more ellusive relationships between words give a sense of what she’s up to in ZONG! which has to be one of the most galvanizing works of experimental literature produced on this continent in this century.

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this is page 101. see what i mean by written on water? it’s like the signs are drifting away on a liquid surface. it’s a fascinating struggle to read, which you can, left to right and top to bottom and “reading” the white space, like free music.

the source is a short legal document included in the book, the decision of that insurance claim, which is Philip’s only concrete piece of evidence for this event. like all modern history, we’re in a suffocating hermeneutics, trying to reach past the surface into the depths, which here is also the final resting place of all those people tossed overboard like the cargo which the trans-Atlantic slave trade made them to be.

ZONG! is organized into six books titled with a latin words for bones, salt, skin, ratio (the legal term “reason” as opposed to dictum), iron, and ivory.

each book is distinct in terms of its linguistic performances. “Bones” is like its title, keeping the lines more coherent, laid out in more familiar compositions, before the water seems to spread out the language, disintegrating it into hidden and transformed meanings. Philip breaks down the words in the legal document, so that legal language gives way to words within words that wouldn’t be noted in an etymology dictionary, as well as new characters.

a good example is on page 63: a syllable, seemingly pure sound, goes through a transformation with offshoots, which is arranged in a neat cluster:

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S.O.S. written out as es oh es, split and shunted into os, the latin word for bone.

and then “save” turns into “salve”: salve our souls.

Philip’s work is a compelling answer to the question of how to produce literature after Derrida. in effect it’s like she can do a multimedia piece within one medium, by focusing on the pure sonic qualities of english. the pulling apart increases in extremity as we try to approach that unknowable thing that is the historical reality of slavery. the rationality, the drive to mastery in wester thought gets pulled apart, the master’s house torn down, so that we approach contact with the dead, which speaks in only sound; shouts and shrieks communicating nothing except perhaps anguish. the turn to irrationality, spiritualism, seance, the culture and rituals of indigenous Africa societies, has been an important contribution from black artists to modernist aesthetics, as D.G. Kelley points out in his intro to Robinson’s BLACK MARXISM.

part of the litter of new words Philip works with include latin words, french, fon, hebrew, greek, twi, and more. she then includes a lot of mythology from these cultures. at the same time, her first epigraph is from celebrated modernist poet and white supremacist Wallace Stevens: “the sea was not a mask.” it’s more than appropriate, yet it’s interesting to open square in the middle of Euro-american tradition. there’s been discussion of placing Philip between “white” high avant-garde art and the “black,” “pre-modern” cultural practices that her work evokes. ZONG! embodies a search for a lost or hidden tradition, a vain voyage from the diaspora back home.

e … that can t c … an a sa … d tale it … is i ran … t run fro … m the sun … s rays i am h … am h … am i a … m cur … se o … f go … d by g … od cur … se d as … they are h (133)

we can see the unrelated words within words. ran/rant, go/god, cur/cursed which cues an echo of ye ole god/dog joke.

but the most important one here is can/cant. slavery is the story that cannot be told and must be told, to repeat the sound bite. at bottom Philip is offering this as the telling of slavery, which is in one way a very disarming and provocative thing to do, but also given western literature’s service to power makes intuitive sense as a way of doing it with a certain ethical commitment. the problem of language and discourse is that ultimately they get in the way of “truth” (which becomes a woman named Ruth in ZONG! who receives letters from an unknown speaker). we put up words when what we really need to do is clear away, but we can only clear the words away by putting up more words; it’s the joke of theory. but here is Philip tearing words apart and scattering them away. grammar chains up words in iron and suffocates them in packed boats, every text a slave ship. so the next inevitable time some magazine or celebrity or college frat makes their smarmy appeal to “free speech,” keep in mind words from Philip’s concluding essay:

our language … is often … preselected for us, simply by virtue of who we understand ourselves to be and where we allow ourselves to be placed. And, by refusing the risk of allowing ourselves to be absolved of authorial intention, we escape an understanding that we are at least one and the Other. And the Other. And the Other. That in this post post-modern world we are, indeed, multiple and “many-voiced.” (205)

Philip “absolves” herself of authorial intent in part by giving credit to Setaey Adamu Boateng, who ive only heard described as an African spirit. but indeed the form of the text is a relinquishing of control over the language. Philip, who was a lawyer before writing full time, produced ZONG! partially as a process of letting go, of facing the lacunae, the impenetrable darkness of this history, since the document itself is one of “amnesia,” forgetting who is human on this planet.

race rebel remix (quote)

Robin Kelley’s RACE REBELS: CULTURE, POLITICS, AND THE BLACK WORKING CLASS pp. 226-27

…A nice, neat ending to be sure, but I can’t go out like that. To write about the “politics” of gangsta rap is only part of the story. Let’s face it: listening to gangsta rap, or any hardcore hip hop, is not exactly like reading an alternative version of the Times (New York or L.A.). Hip hop is first and foremost music, “noize” produced and purchased to drive to, rock to, chill to, drink to, and occasionally dance to. To the hardcore, how many people get fucked up in a song is less important than an MC’s verbal facility on the mic, the creative and often hilarious use of puns, metaphors, similes, not mention the ability to kick some serious slang and some serious ass on the microphone. A dope MC leaves a trail of victims to rot in body bags, perpetrators who had the audacity to front like they could flow. This is why I insisted from the get-go that gangsterism is integral to all hardcore hip hop, from EPMD to MC Lyte, from Big Daddy Kane to Nice n’ Smooth, just as gangstas have been integral to all African American and, for that matter, black Atlantic oral traditions. Moreover, as microphone fiend Rakim might put it, hip hop ain’t hip hop if you can’t “move the crowd.” In my book, the most politically correct rapper will never get my hard-earned duckets if they ain’t kickin’ some boomin’ drum tracks, a phat bass line, a few well-placed JB-style guitar riffs, and some stupid, nasty turntable action. If it claims to be hip hop, it has to have, as Pete Rock says, “the breaks…the funky breaks…the funky breaks.”

I wrote this little refrain not to contradict my analysis but to go out with a dose of reality while giving a shout out to the hardcore. For all the implicit and explicit politics of rap lyrics, hip hop must be understood as a sonic force more than anything else. You simply can’t just read about it; it has to be heard, volume pumping, bass in full effect, index finger in reach of the rewind button when a compelling sample, break beat, or lyric catches your attention. This is why, for all my left-wing politics, when you see me driving by in my Subaru wagon, windows wide open, digging in the seams with the gangsta lean, rearview mirror trembling from the sonic forces, I’ll probably be rockin’ to the lyrics of King Tee, Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, and C. L. Smooth, Das EFX, The Pharcyde, Cypress Hill, Boss, Lords of the Underground, MC Lyte, Ice T, The Coup, Jeru da Damaja, Son of Bazerk, Gangstarr, and yes, Ice Cube. Keep the crossover and save the “PC” morality rap for those who act like they don’t know. I’m still rollin’ with Da Lench Mob, kickin’ it with the Rhyme Syndicate, hanging out in the Basement with Pete Rock and the rest, and like Das EFX, I’m coming straight from the Sewer…

I’m out…Peace.

the internet’s into lists, right?

Ten experimental documentaries for your consideration

[(unofficially, the Peter Watkins fellation station.) i offer as a filler post a listicle i made last summer. i do recommend all these films to everyone.]

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10. Culloden (1964), by Peter Watkins

Peter Watkins’s first full-length documentary is radical in both subject and style. We see a dramatized reconstruction of the final pitched battle of Scotland’s Jacobite uprising in 1745, with nonprofessional actors. But these historical people are interviewed and followed around by a handheld camera as if the BBC’s primetime news team had gone back in time — children stare directly into the camera with desolate expressions and British marines carouse in dark tents.

The film is critical of both the brutality of the Scottish clan system as well as the rapacious violence perpetrated by British soldiers on civilians. With a bitter, terse narration (“This is grapeshot. This is what it does to people.”), and chaotic battle scenes, the film presents history from the bottom-up, while showing us how making sense of the past is always a performance, whether it’s visual reconstruction or writing. So many films and television shows use a documentary aesthetic of roving handheld cameras for immediacy and realism. Such tropes give today’s media punch, but fifty years ago we see that Peter Watkins got there first.

9. The Ties That Bind (1985), by Su Friedrich

Su Friedrich’s mother lived and worked under the German Third Reich, survived bombings, and eventually escaped to the United States. In this beautiful piece she creates an oral history in which we hear her mother’s voice over a collage of footage, some original and others sampled from archives and home movies. Su’s questions are not heard but seen on film — literally scratched into the emulsion, and these jittering words add to the film’s tactile intimacy. It adds an extra impact when her written narration brings up the fact that the Allies knew about the train routes to the camps, and demands, one word on screen at a time, “WHY — DIDN’T — THEY — DO — ANYTHING.”

The black and white 16mm photography is as gorgeous as it is haunting. Ultimately the film considers how we remember and forget history with more nuance and depth than you’ll find in any mainstream historical documentary, which seem chiefly concerned with commemoration. Friedrich considers many binding ties: between individuals and history, the present and the past, U.S. imperialism and the fascist regimes of the axis. It’s also a dark reflection on where the superpower is heading in the nuclear age.

8. Tongues Untied (1989), by Marlon Riggs

In one sequence in Tongues Untied, a film on black gay experience and one of the best documentaries of the 80s or 90s, director Marlon T. Riggs gives a talking head interview that is suddenly intercut with extreme close-ups of white mouths yelling racial slurs, black mouths yelling homophobic slurs, with an only increasing frequency. We see how the anti-blackness of American society combines with certain oppressions within the black community and forces Riggs and people like him into silence for safety.

This film is about breaking that silence — with rap, poetry, dance, dramatic monologue, and a whole arsenal of creative performance. Tongues Untied is an enthralling album of queer culture, in both making art and making love, while tackling racist and gay-bashing violence and the AIDS crisis. You will wonder that a documentary with so many “artificial” techniques could be so real.

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7. Poto and Cabengo (1980), by Jean-Pierre Gorin

A working class family in Columbus, Georgia, has a pair of twin girls who speak to each other in their own language. This is not uncommon for young twins to do, but this case has persisted longer than normal, and the girls, Poto and Cabengo in their language, are not picking up English.

Jean-Pierre Gorin is a well-known collaborator with Godard, but in this film he strikes out solo to create a portrait of these unusual kids. All the techniques of “anti-documentary” are on display to make sure you never forget that you are in fact watching a movie: black screen, overlays of text, and looping sound bytes. The effect is that Gorin’s material is as wonderfully dissolute and chaotic as the children themselves. He can often barely keep them within the camera frame as they run about exploring the world around them. The sisters are studied by doctors and specialists who try to normalize them, and one earnest scholar describes this as a story of free-spirited individual youth crushed by the system; by the “forces that strangle life at the perpetually final moment of its bright, beautiful flowering.”

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6. The Fourth Dimension (2004), by Trinh T. Minh-ha

Ethnography has been central to the documentary genre since it was invented. And along with it developed an insidious history of racism and an imbalance of power between filmmakers and their “subjects”. The staged scenes of Flaherty’s Nanook of the North reflect the director’s condescending romantic fantasies more than how the Inuit people really live and work.

Trinh T. Minh-ha, far and way the most radical artist on this list, offers an anthropology documentary without the imperialism. Various Japanese festivals and dances with their deliberate, graceful choreography are reverently captured by Minh-ha’s camera, with a poetic narration and avant-garde music for piano and voice on the soundtrack. You will marvel at how so much cultural diversity is packed into an island country barely the size of California. Choosing poetry over exposition, dream logic over argument, The Fourth Dimension explores the mix of tradition and contemporary life, of city and country, as it exists in Japan; an extremely unusual and unforgettable experience.

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5. Edvard Munch (1974), by Peter Watkins

What if a documentary crew could observe the great Norwegian painter Munch at home and out on the town in the straight-laced city of Kristiania (now Oslo) at the turn of the century? Peter Watkins places Munch in a social context that lets us appreciate just how daring and risky his art was, and how he was viewed as a degenerate for most of his career.

The film’s biggest experiment is in mixing up visual and audio tracks, and the result is a masterful depiction of human subjectivity. When we see Munch in a quiet domestic setting we are assaulted with the raucous noise of a bohemian tavern, and when Munch is hanging out with his anarchic friends and colleagues in said tavern, the berating voice of his father pounds our ears. The narrator also reads off newspaper headlines with each passing year: An anarchist bombing, this or that political watershed, doing more to tie in an individual’s life with the political and sociological patterns around him than many other biographies are willing to do, either filmed or written.

Like Culloden, these are nonprofessionals who look into the camera and are often playing characters of the same class background as their own life. They also candidly air their actual opinions on Edvard Munch’s life and work while “in character”. The effect is  alienating and enthralling. This self-reflective practice and the blending of reality and performance would be pushed to the limit in Watkins’s next film, a biopic on August Strindberg called The Freethinker, arguably his most forbidding work.

4. The Watermelon Woman (1996), by Cheryl Dunye

While many African-American actors were on screen in 1930’s Hollywood, they were limited to stereotypical roles such as the “mammy” figure, and were rarely credited by their real names, and instead were given odious racist monikers. In this, the first feature film by a black lesbian, director Cheryl Dunye makes it her mission to track down the real identity of “The Watermelon Woman” the on-screen nickname for a black actress who has captured her imagination.

She takes us on a journey across Philadelphia and the fields of race, gender, and cultural studies with a rich humor that deflates the pretensions of academia. The style is loose and playful, yet the documentary techniques are so well handled that audiences were fooled by and large, and Dunye had to insert a title card at the end to clarify that the Watermelon Woman as a character was fiction. But this is no idle exercise — “The Watermelon Woman” is a sophisticated and fun answer to how to go on when the history of your people has been systematically erased.

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3. Brutality Factory (2007), by Wang Bing

Wang Bing is mostly known for his 9-hour epic West of Tracks. While this piece is only seventeen minutes long, it is easily the hardest watch on the list. In the derelict spaces of a factory, like so many of the factories that are closing down as China opens itself to the post-industrial globalized economy, we witness a horrifying re-enactment of an interrogation, one of so many during Mao’s regime and the Cultural Revolution. While West of Tracks followed the lives of the people that history has forgotten, this work takes on issues of representing history where Peter Watkins left off. The past no longer exists, but trauma lives on.

2. RR (2007), by James Benning

We watch documentaries to see evidence from the factual world around us. But set a camera down, let it roll continuously, and simply document a thing and it’s labeled as experimental! James Benning’s “investment in minimalism,” as he once called his style, offers a unique experience that challenges our conventional viewing habits and has carved out a tradition of video art that invites us to slow down for a little while.

RR is a series of static shots of trains, which pass by in their entire length before we cut away to another one. Sometimes a little extra commentary is added, such as when we hear Eisenhower’s famous 1961 speech on the military-industrial complex over a mile-long coal train. The compositions and landscapes are lovely and make for pleasant viewing, but this work is far more than shallow formalism (though it would still be great if it were). We see so many trains that the film ends up being about the image of trains and their place in our collective imagination. We are taken to realms of thought that perhaps only slowness and contemplation can provide.

With the rise of “Slow TV” in European stations and on Reddit, perhaps James Benning’s ideas are finally catching on.

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1. La Commune (Paris, 1871) (2000) by Peter Watkins

Viewers expecting a colorful costume drama might be let down when they are confronted by this, a six-hour austere black box theater reconstruction. Peter Watkins’s culminating work is actually about a group of ordinary French people who get together and re-enact the beautiful anarcho-communist revolt of 1871 over a few days and then sit down to discuss the experience. This film touches on all of the experimental ideas on this list and in addition takes the anachronism in the two previous Watkins entries to another level: the communards seize media equipment and take the means of television production into their own hands.

So the film explores not only how we reconstruct the past and our relationship to history, but is also an indictment of the mass media, against which Watkins has been in a long, bitter, and Sisyphean struggle. We see the ruling class with their own cable-news like program, and their disparaging commentary on the Commune is crudely xenophobic. The way the “free” press spins issues in racialized ways is one of the film’s themes that is only becoming more and more relevant.

differential rotation

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Walter Benjamin writes in “Theses on the Philosophy of History”

[Progress] was something boundless, in keeping with the infinite perfectibility of mankind. […] progress was regarded as irresistible, something that automatically pursued a straight or spiral course. Each of these predicates is controversial and open to criticism. However, when the chips are down, criticism must penetrate beyond these predicates and focus on something that they have in common. The concept of the historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogeneous, empty time. A critique of the concept of such a progression must be the basis of any criticism of the concept of progress itself.

Disputing the myth of progress goes to the heart of linear time, that frame of reference which serves as the main banner of Western imperialism. Benjamin’s notes move towards an alternative non-chronological way to think about time, one bound with revolutionary action and the revolutionary classes. Thus “the French Revolution viewed itself as Rome reincarnate.” These sorts of explosions or expressions link together those historical moments when shit really popped.

Sebald’s RINGS OF SATURN is as explosive and replete with revolutionary violence as a walking tour thru the county of Suffolk can be. It’s a quiet meditation on how linear time can disintegrate right before us. i was almost always disoriented as a reader. It would’ve helped if i had any kind of geographical knowledge of Britain, but the multiple participles employed in each ultra-long paragraph threaten that homogeneous stable time — the kind of practice that im comfortable linking to the aesthetic postmodern bc of Ermarth.

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history becomes legend, legend becomes myth (quote)

Erich Auerbach’s MIMESIS, pp. 19-20

Even where the legendary does not immediately betray itself by elements of the miraculous, by the repetition of well-known standard motives, typical patterns and themes, though neglect of clear details of time and place, and the like, it is generally quickly recognizable by its composition. It runs far too smoothly. All cross-currents, all friction, all that is casual, secondary to the main events and themes, everything unresolved, truncated, and uncertain, which confuses the clear progress of the action and the simple orientation of the actors, has disappeared. The historical event which we witness, or learn from the testimony of those who witnessed it, runs much more variously, contradictory, and confusedly; not until it has produced results in a definite domain are we able, with their help, to classify it to a certain extent; and how often the order to which we think we have attained becomes doubtful again,, how often we ask ourselves if the data before us have not led us to a far too simple classification of the original events! Legend arranges its material in a simple and straightforward way; it detaches it from its contemporary historical context, so that the latter will not confuse it; it knows only outlined men who act from few and simple motives and the continuity of whose feelings and actions remains uninterrupted. In the legends of martyrs, for example, a stiff-necked and fanatical victim; and a situation so complicated — that is to say, so real and historical — as that in which the “persecutor” Pliny finds himself in his celebrated letter to Trajan on the subject of the Christians, is unfit for legend. And that is still a comparatively simple case. Let the reader think of the history which we ourselves are witnessing; anyone who, for example, evaluates the behavior of individual men and groups of men at the time of the rise of National Socialism in Germany, or the behavior of individual peoples and states before and during the war, will feel how difficult it is to represent historical themes in general, and how unfit they are for legend; the historical comprises a great number of contradictory motives in each individual, a hesitation and ambiguous groping on the part of groups; only seldom (as in the last war) does a more or less plain situation is subject to division below the surface, is indeed almost constantly in danger of losing its simplicity; and the motives of all interested parties are so complex that the slogans of propaganda can be composed only through the crudest simplification — with the result that friend and foe alike can often employ the same ones. To write history is so difficult that most historians are forced to make concessions to the technique of legend.

the aristocracy didn’t believe in her

richard yates collected storWolff’s story “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs” drew me to his interview with the PARIS REVIEW, in which he tells a story after the interviewer mentions Richard Yates:

I came to his work rather late, I’m afraid. I started reading his stories in the early eighties and ended up using one—“Oh, Joseph, I’m So Tired”—in an anthology I put together in 1983. Funny story about that. Yates was an odd duck, as is well known, and he did a drop take now and then. Now, when this anthology I’d edited, Matters of Life and Death, was coming out, the publisher arranged a launch reading for the book at a museum in Boston. Jayne Anne Phillips, Mary Robison, and Richard Yates were going to read, in that order. I showed up just before the reading, and met everybody in the lobby, and sat down with Yates for a little while—first time I’d met him—though he was hardly in a state to have much conversation with me. He was very, very drunk. He had on a beautiful suit that was full of cigarette holes, and his elbow kept slipping off the table, he could hardly put two sentences together, and I thought, Oh, well, what can one do, you know? And so the reading began, first Jayne Ann, then Mary, and Yates was slumped in the front row and every once in a while you’d see his head bob up violently and you’d know he’d gone to sleep. Now, “Oh, Joseph, I’m So Tired” is a very long story, and it’s written in a complex language, full-throated sentences, delicately inflected, nuanced. How was he going to get through a page of it? But when Mary Robison ended her reading and Yates was introduced, he made his way to the podium and read that story without dropping a comma. He read it in a beautiful, smoke-cured, gravelly voice. It was a wonderful reading. A perfect reading. Professional doesn’t even begin to describe it. And then he came off the podium and I went up to congratulate him and he was drunk again.

You can read that story here, along with some random MFA pieces, and you can see a taped reading by him on YouTube. It’s true: his voice is gravelly. Everybody says Thomas Pynchon’s voice sounds like Jeff Lebowski, and Yates reminds me of Pynchon’s voice if he spent a decade as a crabber and came back a salty ol’ sea captain, the kind of voice that results from chain-smoking Pall Malls after your lungs have already been wrecked by Tuberculosis (and Albert Camus also kept his habit after TB at a young age, how did these guys do it?!). Anyway, it’s a beautifully sad story: the setting is vividly rendered and the whole thing is immaculately composed.

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