Grainwaves

DOCTOR: Linda

LINDA: Herry

DOCTOR: Linda

LINDA: I checked out thirty books from the library today but I didn’t bring any of them home.

DOCTOR: What books? Why so many?

LINDA: I’m writing part of a master’s thesis this summer.

DOCTOR: About what?

LINDA: Just a fat fake scholarly elaboration of this Transom article from 2010.

DOCTOR: That sounds interesting!

LINDA: Yeah, I’m having fun researching it. The fake

DOCTOR: Hang on that’s the second time you’ve said “fake.” I think it’s become a tic. What do you really mean? Instead of fake, think of a more genuine, a more authentic

LINDA: [Seething] Why say both genuine and authentic? Is there a difference between the two that requires you to use both words?

DOCTOR: [With dignity and reserve] I merely used both words for emphasis.

LINDA: I’m sorry. My worst enemy had a baby last night. I just got the email announcement.

DOCTOR: It’s OK. I know you’re going through a lot.

LINDA: You mean my eyes.

DOCTOR: Yeah. Do you want to talk about your eyes?

LINDA: OK. They’re fucked.

DOCTOR: Ha. How are they fucked?

LINDA: I was taking Acetazolamide

DOCTOR: —a generic of Diamox, a standard diuretic used for glaucoma patients —

LINDA: —and also commonly prescribed for cystoid macular edema, which I have.

DOCTOR: A swelling in the retina. Which is itself a common complication of retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

LINDA: Yup. The RP is the main event — that’s the degenerative retinal condition that’s inexorably eating my vision from the outside in

DOCTOR:  At your diagnosis, at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, when you were a teenager, I asked if you could see stars. You said no, and I knew it was RP.

LINDA: You asked if I could see stars in the night sky. It felt a little creepy. That you knew I couldn’t see stars. like you’d asked me, “Do you have a fantasy of being reborn as Frank Whaley’s character in Career Opportunities (1991), locked in an after-hours Target, rollerskating and making out  with Jennifer Connolly for eternity?”

And I was like…”uh, yeah. No, I can’t see stars.”

MSDCAOP EC005
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, Jennifer Connelly, Frank Whaley, 1991, (c)Universal Pictures

DOCTOR: RP often first gets diagnosed in teenagers as night blindness.

LINDA: That movie (and, let’s be real, Jennifer Connelly) made a strong impression on me when I first saw it. I was probably 11.

DOCTOR: What made you think you had RP?

LINDA: It must have been… I don’t know. 2000, 2001. People were already Googling their ailments by then. Or, I guess, Yahoo!ing their ailments.

DOCTOR: Webcrawling across their pain.

LINDA: Ha. That phrase

DOCTOR: I just thought of it! I love riffing with you!

LINDA: Ha. That phrase reminds me of Chris Burden’s TV Ad, where it says “through the night softly.” he bought a TV spot on national television

DOCTOR: He’s the performance artist famous for the piece where he crucified himself to a Volkswagen.

LINDA: Right so he bought a TV spot on national TV where it shows him crawling through glass with his hands tied behind his back and then it says through the night softly

All this talk of my night blindness, kind of reminds me of this Chris Burden piece.

DOCTOR: Was it that painful?

LINDA: not at all. I mean that’s the thing unless you count walking into things (which hurts) or feeling sad or worrying you’ve passed it on to your son

DOCTOR: RP is genetically marked in some people but many with the condition have no record of it in their bloodline

LINDA: But it’s not painful. The Burden connection is more about the way I went through the world at night, and now the way I increasingly do during the day. Softly, at pains. But also something about the way that Burden has uhhh burdened himself with this difficulty himself. he’s not being tortured — he’s going through the night softly for an artistic reason.

DOCTOR: Cut that pun but my question is why do you think of the blindness as self-imposed?

LINDA: More that i have to perform it, that blindness becomes a sort of performance art. The cane really creates that feeling: when I unfold my cane, with a flourish, the social situation is transformed so fast it’s like Chris Burden just walked into a room and started doing one of his pieces. Of course I’m exaggerating

DOCTOR: At the time of your diagnosis you still drove a car

LINDA:  I still drove back then — even at night! Kind of unbelievable to me now. At first it was really only noticeable when I was like running through the woods with my drug-friends after dark

DOCTOR: But over the years…

LINDA: It’s gradually degenerated. Anyway I was living in NYC for a year recently

DOCTOR: You were in that one-woman show on Broadway.

LINDA: Grainwave.

DOCTOR: That got great reviews, didn’t it?

LINDA: Uh, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Yeah, we did well.

DOCTOR: What was it about?

LINDA: I adapted Dwight MacDonald’s Against the American Grain and sort of did a mashup with that and “The Star-Spangled Banner”  

DOCTOR: “Amber waves of grain”

LINDA: Right and there was also a thread about brainwaves

DOCTOR: “grain waves”

LINDA: Yep and one of the characters was the lovable fascist Walter Starkie whose autobiography was called The Waveless Plain 

DOCTOR: I thought it was a one-woman show. “Characters”?

LINDA: And I  performed the whole thing in a Lieder style inspired by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau who  Roland Barthes writes about in  “The Grain of the Voice,” his wonderful essay on the linguistics of sound.

Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings are played at loud volume at various times throughout the piece

DOCTOR: Wait didn’t you say it was a one-woman show?

LINDA: It took a lot out of me. Also Terry Eagleton has a book of essays called Against the Grain and he’s a character in it and so is an eagle that my mom made out of felt and I did the whole thing buried up to my waist in raw barley

DOCTOR: But so you said you stopped taking the Diamox?

LINDA: The Acetazolamide.

DOCTOR: Why?

LINDA: Well I was taking it because I had the swelling in my macula and that was fucking with my central vision

DOCTOR: you also have cataracts

LINDA: which are super treatable but I don’t want to fuck with surgery until it’s absolutely necessary because my vision is like a little scrap of parchment that I have been carrying with me through the wilderness

DOCTOR: the wilderness of, say, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

LINDA: Sure. Or maybe a YA adventure book à la Hatchet

DOCTOR: OK

Hatchet

LINDA: And I think of someone with otherwise healthy eyes getting cataract surgery they’re worried but also if something goes wrong there’s a lot more…uh… parchment left over for them even in a worst-case scenario

DOCTOR: Whereas you have just this tattered soft decaying square that you’ve worried over and sweated through and pissed on and so on through the King Lear style Tempests

LINDA: seriously, the literary references here are a bit much what is going on

DOCTOR: I dunno just feeling my oats

LINDA: right so I’m understandably wary of laying my precious little square of fabric out on the operating table. so when I’m living in NYC i finally decide to go see a retinal specialist which i haven’t been to for years because I figured what’s the point there is no treatment for RP

DOCTOR: At least not for someone with as much vision as you have left but recent developments such as the Argus 2, an artificial retina

LINDA: Right sure but I’m a few years out from needing one of those and it just recently became commercially available and anyway the specialist on Gramercy Park looked at my eyes and was like jesus I don’t know how you get around — i had folded up my cane when i arrived so he didn’t know i used one? — and told me I was legally blind and could collect disability and then said the good news is you have this swelling which we can treat with Diamox. So  I’ve been on that  for a year or so and the only side effect I noticed was that it makes beer and most carbonated beverages taste bad

DOCTOR: which is a shame because you love craft beer!

LINDA: yeah, woe is me. but then i started having tinnitus. which for a person who’s gradually but inexorably going blind tinnitus is really fucking scary. because I was just imagining myself once i’d lost all my vision,  sitting there in the dark with my family nearby reading books that i’d only know the titles of if I asked them and not being able to quite make out what they’re saying because of the painfully loud ringing in my ears

DOCTOR: jesus

LINDA: and then one day i was re-googling my ailments and remembered that tinnitus is a listed side-effect of the drug

DOCTOR: motherfucker!

LINDA: so I stopped taking it right away and then really quickly and dramatically my vision went to shit. like a new level of shit. it took about a week off the acetazolamide, and  suddenly reading got really hard. as did moving around, even familiar places. chances of knocking over my son went up by 40 percent. asking if anybody had seen the thing sitting on the table in front of me became a daily thing.

DOCTOR: ugh

LINDA: so anyway i found an alternative treatment which i’m trying but i’ve only been on it like 2 weeks and I’m not sure if it’s working yet or not

DOCTOR: what’s the new drug called?

LINDA: spousal love

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My College Radio Application

Dear mom and dad,

I went to college from 1999-2003, where I lived, ate, breathed, and smoked college radio (WOBC-FM) all day every day. Then, with a year left, I dropped out to move to CA to work for a magazine. I worked there for the next eight years. Then I fell in love with a beautiful woman and she got a job in town, so I decided to follow her here and finish my B.A. To my intense delight and surprise, this makes me eligible for a show on [yr station]. When I dropped out of college, I cryogenically froze my radio show and now, eight years later, [cue music bed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_tVZFZ5PR4] my beloved show is going into the industrial microwave on MEDIUM for 6-8 minutes and dragging itself through the halls of the academy once again!

My show (TITLE TK: “WEIRD OLD GUY?”) will be freeform radio at its finest, pushing into the red w/r/t innovation and FUN. Fun must never be sacrificed to innovation. And vice versa.

Music is the bedrock of the show, and I plan to make the most of [yr station]’s rock library, in addition to my extensive personal vinyl/CD/MPEG collection. The best rock — from oddities, novelties, classics, forgotten b-sides, to brand-new singles and previews of bands coming through town. But sprinkled throughout the music will be the true jewels of the show, the multiple talk-based segments. Possibilities include:

• “Walking the Line”
Each week, a different writer (from creative writing profs, to visiting poets, to MU poetry/fiction PhDs and even undergrads) brings in one line — a line of their own poetry, or their favorite poet’s, or a sentence from a novel, or from a piece of journalism, anything — just has to be one line of “literature” for us to discuss.

(Each of these segments will have its own musical intro. Maybe Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” for this first one? Or Johnny Cash, sure)

• “Comics Digest”

A weekly verbal recap of what happened this week in the comics page of the Missourian

ex: “It’s been a tough week for Lois of ‘Hi & Lois’; she’s been home with the measles and her little brother won’t leave her alone!” etc etc

• “Vibin’ with the City Council”

Each week I get a Columbia city councilperson on the phone (pre-recorded, most likely; I have a ZOOM H4N I can produce several of these segs in advance, but I’ll always cue and introduce them live) and ask: what’s the vibe of the city council like this week?

• deranged/brief Self-interviews; fake interviews with pre-recorded interlocutors

• I might try a recurring feature about being a 30 year old dude taking computer science with freshman; I will probably rip lots of samples from my DVD of Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School for this (maybe rent Happy Madison, too…). Find other old undergrads and ask them about their lives, what it’s like here for them

• I have an MU football-related idea that I’ll only tell you if you give me a show with a legit timeslot

• Reviews (with field recordings) of frat party bands (!!!!!)

• as many opportunities for live call-in segments as possible (TBD)

• Guest singles (a guest — anyone from the dean of grad studies to that girl who works at Sparky’s brings in 5 singles and we play them and talk about them)

• tiny, hilarious 5-minute radio dramas

• even tinier, even more hilarious 2-minute radio dramas in foreign languages feat. students in various MU language departments

• Much, much more

• Seriously, so much more you have no idea

• And, as I mentioned above, all of these segs, some of which may happen every week, some once a month or so, will all be sprinkled like cherries and chopped nuts over the wide swath of whipped-creamy dark-chocolate sets of top-shelf weird/funky/great music. Wire, the Fall, Olivia Tremor Control, Pixies b-sides, Unrest, Big Dipper, Deerhoof, Beefheart, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth, Truman the Tiger’s Drug-Hell Singers, Is That a Real Band?, That Would Be Amazing If So, Go Betweens, Soft Boys, Soft Machine, Soft Cell, Soft Bulletin, Don Cherry, Destroyer, Cluster, Tyvek, Essential Logic, Glasser, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe, Sparks, Magazine, Melvins, Cardigans, Acrylics, Pterodactl, Fela Kuti, R. Stevie Moore, et al!!!!

Please let me know if you have any questions. I love you.

nyc, 1993

INTERVIEWER

I wish your daughter could read your poetry. But with titles like “Neighborly Cum,” you’ve presumably guaranteed that she won’t be allowed, either by yourself or her tutors. And when she does find your work, chances are, she’ll be disturbed forever. I have to ask: Why do you all but ensure that at some point in her life, your daughter will be disturbed?

DERRICK RAPEWONE

I’m not the one ensuring that she’ll be disturbed. Old Barry Life-Truths is the one who makes sure of that. If it’s not “Neighborly Cum,” it’s Return to Oz (1985, Walter Murch, dir.) at a friend’s house—or any number of other horrors one can’t slide through life without being forcibly pressed up against them for longish periods of time.

INTERVIEWER

But why add to the horror by writing a poem like “Neighborly Cum”?

DERRICK RAPEWONE

I’m not making myself understood. I’m not adding to the horror. This is like asking why I’m adding to the flood by dipping my bucket into the angry, swollen creek and reserving that water for tonight’s broths, sipped in misery among the bloated, flood-ravaged corpses of our friends. The water is there, whether it’s in the creek with the dead catfish or if it’s in my tureen—with the dead catfish. [Smiles, awkwardly adjusts his pants, smiles again, grabs a full fistful of the wasabi peas on the table between them. He has small hands.] I’m not inventing the water, and I’m not conjuring it. I’m carrying it.

INTERVIEWER

But you could leave it in the creek. You don’t need to fetch it. Let it pass on.

DERRICK RAPEWONE

You describe the water as something in transit — just passing through our encampment, on its way to nobler fates — a job at a university, maybe, or a self-employment that manages to fuse social justice with a “hip” cultural engagement? Or just broader diffusion into the ocean, for example. Sure. But as it rushes west, the water is also quite a static thing. The creek is there—sometimes swollen, sometimes “normal,” now and then quite meager—but it’s there year-round. Just like your arms, or your thighs—sometimes swollen, sometimes meager, always present. [Derrick, looking away from the interviewer’s thighs, thinks about them.]

INTERVIEWER

Your work often mentions self-loathing, and something you call “fake self-loathing.” Do you really hate yourself?

DERRICK RAPEWONE

Well, yes, I do, but this isn’t really why I use those words. I think of self-loathing as an artistic tool, a raw material — it’s a particular brand and color of paint that I buy in quantity, and use in my compositions. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a subject of mine, no more than you could accuse a painter of using “brown” or “blue” as her subject.

[Originally published in Fake Paris Review, Issue 2, Spring 1994]

CSR

AG: …and have been published or are forthcoming in ROAPE, Mouthwagon, and Came-Tree.

AL: So you’re a freelance writer? Is that how you pay the bills?

AG: Periodicals publish my writing, yes, but I’m not a freelancer. I’m a writer.

AL: Fine, right. OK. But how do you make money?

AG: I don’t, really. I’ve been living off my savings. Raising my son.

AL: That sounds nice…

AG: It is. I started a pomegranate orchard in my yard.

AL: So money’s not a problem?

AG: Not right now, anyway. I might start volunteering with this political pain intellectual suffering charity thing soon

AL: But that’s volunteer, so they won’t be paying you?

AG: Right. I guess that won’t make any money. But it’ll take time, so the day won’t be quite so empty…

AL: Lots of people don’t have that luxury. They have these awesome sprawling narratives inside them, but they have to work to pay the

AG: Yeah, I know, I realize that it’s a luxury not to have to work and to get to write about fictional people all day. What’s your point?

AL: I guess… I just want you to know… that I wish some of those people… the writers who have to waste their days answering customer service emails, while you grow pomegranates and write stupid poems about pomegranates that are published in

AG: …periodicals including Roiphe’s Bones, College Radio Fiction, AGNI…

AL: … I wish those people who have no choice but to struggle and waste their time on unsatisfying labor could have even a few minutes with you in a  dark room with a whiffle-ball bat, making you feel extremely uncomfortable. It wouldn’t take much. That’d be justice, by my lights

AG: Damn your lights. I may not need to answer customer service emails all day but when I write my poems, some of which have explicitly taken up as their subject the suffering of the customer service representative, I am forced to experience the pain and the boredom and the angst and everything that the CSR feels. So being a writer isn’t any better than being a CSR, at least as long as you’re writing about the great struggles of modernity — the struggle of the Customer Service Representative — which I am. Which I hope I am. Maybe I should write about horny teens in paradise. It might be more fun…

AL: Can I have another one of those…

AG: They’re called “Flynt Martinis.” Help yourself.

2040

Southwestern Caveman Question Mark? or Trash Symbol?

Free Wi-Fi at the Phoenix airport. I’m one of those guys sitting on the floor near an outlet, working on my laptop. Except I don’t really look like one of those guys, because I’m unshaven and there’s underwear spilling out of my shoulder bag and I’m not wearing a purple short-sleeved polo shirt with a company logo on the breast. Two soldiers in desert camo just sauntered by, at ease but still walking in step with each other. I slept poorly last night so this “text” is going to be awful, not worth your time. Fortunately, it’s still worth my time, which is why I’m writing it. Unclear however why it still then needs to go on the internet, aside from the fact that the magnetic attraction that your potential attention asserts on the “language inside me” serves as a fine stimulus to draw it out. Of me. Otherwise I’m lazy and it’ll stay inside while I check my email again and again.

My friend met me at the airport in Albuquerque and told me he hadn’t eaten even though he’d had a layover in Phoenix because he was boycotting the entire state of Arizona. As I deplaned in Phoenix just now a douchey blonde guy looked through me, aggressively unsympathetic to my humanity, as far as I could tell, only because I wasn’t the brother in law he was waiting for. I felt like flipping twin birds at everyone within eyeshot and declaiming, clearly and loudly, “FUCK YOU, PHOENIX, AND EVERYTHING ELSE CONTAINED BY THE STATE OF ARIZONA, INCLUDING ME, AND ALL OF THIS PIZZA. BECAUSE OF YOUR IMMIGRATION POLICIES, I GUESS”

On the plane I read more of the New Yorker 20 under 40 issue. Yesterday, which seems like a long time ago, I wrote this about the Josh Ferris story:

(I’m on a sadness junket in Santa Fe.) I thought “Pilot,” Joshua Ferris’s story in the 20 under 40 issue of the New Yorker, was great. I haven’t read his first novel, which I know is written in first-person plural, but I was very impressed by the narrative control of this new story. It’s written in the “close third-person,” where the narrative voice is  contained entirely by one consciousness, except it’s communicated with a “he” or “she” instead of an “I.” Maybe a better term for “Pilot”‘s voice is “the clingy third person.”

Lawrence is a newly, shakily recovered alcoholic filmmaker who can’t believe he’s been invited to a fashionable Hollywood party, doesn’t want to go, but feels he must for the sake of the TV pilot he’s writing. He’s desperately insecure and spends most of the story neurotically trying to engage other people, to get the things he needs  without appearing so clingy. The story reads as if it were written in a more conventional third person — “He thought, ‘I should get out of here,'” e.g. — but then Lawrence’s voice, so strong and desperate and charming, has sort of crawled up inside the third person narrative and infected that voice with its self-obsession and neediness. The result is a pleasure to read. Ferris didn’t invent this technique, but he deploys it beautifully.

Who cares about my take on Joshua Ferris’s narrative control! I do(n’t)! Not sure if this is a journalistically responsible article. Phoenix Airport free Wi-Fi is barely functional. I’m entitled to one full meal for every delayed layover I have, regardless of the hour or Arizona’s immigration policy.

The Jonathan Safran Foer story irritated me even as I found parts of it familiar, smart, and…. “original.” I think it would be funny to write a novel that marketed itself as “vegetarian fiction.” I like the idea that Tao Lin writes “vegan fiction,” if if he doesn’t market it as such. Foer’s “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” is a vegetarian story. Not a lot of meat in it, but  plenty of complex carbohydrates and vegetable proteins. That’s a joke, insofar as I don’t know what it means and I’m saying it only because I like to.

I can’t help reading all of these 20 under 40 stories imagining their authors writing them at the behest of the New Yorker’s fiction editors. “Hey, Dinaw, submit a story to the 20 under 40 thing. You have a shot.” All fiction everywhere is “by definition” contrived, but these stories are maybe more contrived than usual. For that reason. Which doesn’t nec. make them bad. Solicited = contrived, unless the fiction writer responds to the solicitation with a piece of fiction they’d already written but not published, submitting something they wrote uncontrivedly. Which is impossible, because nothing is written uncontrivedly. But there are degrees. The Ferris story is contrived and great. I’m not as crazy about the Foer story. It’s my fault that I read it as a second-person half-fictional sexy love note to his wife, novelist Nicole Krauss, and it’s my lightweight brain alone that makes me read the “house” he refers to in the last paragraph as their dope brownstone in [specific part of Brooklyn TK]. My bad my bad

The Rivka Galchen story is great. It’s narrated by a woman who, like Galchen, has just published a well-received novel. Like the Ferris story, it features an unproduced television pilot. It’s also the first instance of an fictional, ekphrastic blog I can think of, there must be more: icantstandmywife.blogspot.com. (As of this writing, no one has yet reserved this blog. Which is surprising. Full disclosure: Phoenix Airport Wi-Fi has officially crapped out so I can’t check. I’d be surprised if Galchen didn’t reserve it herself. Update: PHX Wi-Fi never resolved, so I’m posting this from California, and of course someone, probably Galchen, reserved the URL. Goodnight)

I skipped the story called “What You Do Out Here, When You’re Alone.” Rant about this sort of declarative second-person short-story title TK, ad naus. Let me know if you read this story, by Philipp Meyer, and if you think I could’ve learned something about myself by reading it. If you think the horizons of my limited worldview would’ve been pushed out a hectare or two. If so, I’ll read it.

Yeah right!!!

More misc. notes on this New Yorker, June 14 & 21, 2010: The spread of illos of the writers (p. 90-1) is pointless and unappetizing. There are Q&As online, huh? That sounds good, but then What is the point of printing these straightforward, moody, photo-based line illos??? At least list the names of their favorite newspapers or where they went to elementary school or how many siblings they have alongside their portraits. The Chris Ware cover, on the other hand, and like the Steve Powers illos with the Shteyngart, are wonderful. Something has been beeping off to my left for a few minutes. (I’m sitting at gate A2. Come say hi!! This is a rebroadcast of a previous episode) Reading through  these stories I was occasionally  like, “this is awesome, but when I finally man up and decide to write fiction myself, my fiction is going to be all gnarly and unexpected and different and rad, and a drug-addict teenager in upstate new york is going to read it and decide that [oh my god, sorry, redacted]” but then I read the Gary Shteyngart story, and that thought bubble immediately dissolved, and I realized Ah, shit, this is it, he did it, damn, etc, I am mollified.

autoaggrandization

When I was a toddler I once witnessed a dancer hold a cocaine-encrusted cigar up to the sunbeams falling through the skylight. I saw it glitter before a background of exposed bricks and pipes.

Just kidding!!

I feel dumb not being more “open” on this blog, with an “about” paragraph floating in the upper-right with something to the effect of “Hello, my name is Quentin Levy. This is my personal website. I’m a freelance librarian living in a mouldy duplex in Pleasanton, Calif., with my girlfriend, Betty Richter, and Jean-Luc Pouncey, our pet ferret. I’m the author of Thesis Mountain, a young-adult novel about an anthropomorphized, learning-disabled copy of the Partisan Review accused of rape in a small Midwestern town. Purchase it on Amazon here.” But I won’t because I want to be able to make off-color “erotica” jokes that don’t reflect the views of anyone at all, including myself. And you can’t do that with your name attached to it…? Even if it’s fiction? Because then you get fired?

I wrote a short story — flash-fiction-style — called “Child Pornography,” which was “accepted” by the Fanzine! Then I freaked out that in ten years I would be applying for a job tutoring toddlers in Language Arts and the administrators would autogoogle me by looking at my hands (that’s how you google people in the future, just look at their hands) and my first hit would be this gem of my juvenalia, the short story “Child Pornography,” and I wouldn’t get the job, which is a volunteer position anyway, and my family would be devastated. So I asked the Fanzine to change the title to “Erotica Without Borders.” That didn’t work so I changed it to “Teen Sex.” They published it as “Teen Porn.” OK. Here is the URL for the story:

That’s all for now! I miss California, even though I’m sitting in a chair in California.