Literature

Literature

Concerning My Health by Girolamo Cardano (Non-Fiction)

Concerning My Health
Girolamo Cardano
An excerpt from The Book of My Life

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My bodily state was infirm in many respects: by nature; as the result of several cases of disease; and in the symptoms of weakness which displayed themselves.

My head is afflicted with congenital discharges coming at times from the stomach, at times from the chest, to such an extent that even when I consider myself in the best of health, I suffer with a cough and hoarseness. When this discharge is from the stomach, it is apt to bring on a dysentery and a distaste for food. More than once I believed I had had a touch of poison, but I shortly and unexpectedly recovered.

Another trouble was a catarrh or rheum of the teeth, through the effects of which I began to lose my teeth, several at a time, from the year 1563 on. Before that I had lost but one or two. Now I have fourteen good teeth and one which is rather weak; but it will last a long time, I think, for it still does its share.

Indigestion, moreover, and a stomach not any too strong were my lot. From my seventy-second year, whenever I had eaten something more than usual, or had drunk too much, or had eaten between meals, or eaten anything not especially wholesome, I began to feel ill. I have set forth a remedy for the foregoing in the second book of my treatise On Guarding the Health.

In my youth I was troubled with congenital palpitation of the heart, of which I was absolutely cured by medical skill. I had hemorrhoids, also, and the gout, from which I was so nearly freed that I was more frequently in the habit of trying to call it back when it was not present, than of getting rid of it when I had it.

I ignored a rupture, another weakness, in its early stages; but later, from my sixty-second year on, I greatly regretted that I had not taken care of it, especially since I knew it to be an inheritance from my father. In the case of this rupture, something worthy of note occurred: the hernia had started from either side, and although it was neglected on the left side, was eventually healed completely in that part by natural processes. The right side, more carefully treated with ligatures and other attentions, grew worse. A cutaneous itching annoyed me constantly, now in this part, now in that.

In 1536 I was overtaken with — it scarcely seems credible — an extraordinary discharge of urine; and although for nearly forty years I have been afflicted with this same trouble, giving from sixty to one hundred ounces in a single day, I live well. Neither do I lose weight — that I wear the same rings is evidence of this; nor do I thirst inordinately. Many others, seized that same year by a similar disease, and who did not seek a remedy, held out much longer than those who sought medical aid.

The tenth of these infirmities is an annual period of sleeplessness lasting about eight days. These spells come in the spring, in the summer, in the autumn, and in the winter; so that almost a whole month, rarely less, is spent yearly, and sometimes two. This I am wont to cure by abstaining from certain kinds of food, especially heavy food, but I do not diminish the quality. This insomnia has never missed a year.

Several actual cases of sickness overtook me during my life. In the second month of my life I had the plague. The next serious illness occurred in or about my eighteenth year; I do not recall the exact date, other than that it happened in the month of August. I went almost three days without food, and spent the time wandering about the outskirts of the town, and through the gardens. When I returned home at nightfall, I pretended that I had dined at the home of my father’s friend Agostino Lanizario. How much water I drank in those three whole days I cannot truthfully say. On the last day, because I was not able to sleep, my heart palpitated wildly and the fever raged. I seemed to be on the bed of Asclepiades in which I was incessantly swung upward and downward until I thought I should perish in the night. When at length I slept, a carbuncle, which covered the upper false rib of my right side, broke, and from it, at first, there was a scanty black discharge. Luckily, owing to a dose of my father’s prescription which I swallowed four times a day, such a copious sweat broke out upon me that it drenched the bed and dripped down from the boards to the floor.

In my twenty-seventh year I was taken with the tertian fever. On the fourth day I was delirious, and on the seventh as well; on that day, also, I began to recover. Gout attacked me when I was at Pavia in my forty-fourth year, and when I was fifty-five I was troubled with daily fevers for forty days, at the crisis of which I was relieved of one hundred and twenty ounces of urine on October 13, 1555. In 1559, the year I returned to Pavia, I was taken with colic pains for two days.

The symptoms of weakness which attended my state of health were varied. To begin with, from my seventh year until I was almost twelve, I used to rise at night and cry out vaguely, and if my mother and my aunt, between whom I used to sleep, had not held me I often should have plunged out of bed. Likewise, my heart was wont to throb violently, but calmed down soon under the pressure of my hand. To this was due the peculiarity of my breathing. Until I was eighteen, if I went out in the wind, particularly a cold wind, I was not able to breathe; but if I held my breath as soon as I became aware of the difficulty, normal respiration was quickly restored. During the same period, from the hour of retirement until midnight I was never warm from my knees down. This led my mother, and others as well, to say that I would not live very long. On some nights, however, when I had warmed up, I became entirely drenched with a sweat so abundant and hot that those who were told of it could scarcely believe it.

When I was twenty-seven, I took double tertian fever, which broke on the seventh day. Later, I had daily fever for forty days when I was fifty-four years old.

In November of my fifty-sixth year, from drinking a mild draught of squill wine, I was taken with dysuria, very acute in form. First I fasted thirty-four hours; later, twenty more. I took some drops of pine gum and cured myself.

It was my custom — and a habit which amazed many — when I had no other excuse for a malady, to seek one, as I have said, from my gout. And for this reason I frequently put myself in the way of conditions likely to induce a certain distress — excepting only that I shunned insomnia as much as I could — because I considered that pleasure consisted in relief following severe pain. If, therefore, I brought on pain, it could easily be allayed. I have discovered, by experience, that I cannot be long without bodily pain, for if once that circumstance arises, a certain mental anguish overcomes me, so grievous that nothing could be more distressing. Bodily pain, or the cause of bodily distress — in which there is no disgrace — is but a minor evil. Accordingly I have hit upon a plan of biting my lips, of twisting my fingers, of pinching the skin of the tender muscles of my left arm until the tears come. Under the protection of this self-chastisement I live without disgracing myself.

I am by nature afraid of high places, even though they are extensive; also, of places where there is any report of mad dogs having been seen.

At times I have been tormented by a tragic passion so heroic that I planned to commit suicide. I suspect that this has happened to others also, although they do not refer to it in their books.

Finally, in my boyhood, I was afflicted for about two years with indications of cancer. There appeared, by chance, a start upon the left nipple. The swelling was red, dark, hard, and eating. Some swollen veins seemed to remove this toward my young manhood, and in that period a palpitation of the heart — before mentioned — succeeded the varices. From this cancerous growth came blood-blisters, full of blood, and an itching and foulness of the skin; and subsequently I was healed, contrary to all hope of any relief, by a natural sloughing of the mass of diseased skin, although I had removed some of the affections by means of medication.


Translated from Italian by Jean Stoner. Available from the New York Review of Books.

Literature

Excerpts from The Voice Imitator (Fiction)

Excerpts from The Voice Imitator
Thomas Bernhard

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THE TABLES TURNED

Even though I have always hated zoological gardens and actually find that my suspicions are aroused by people who visit zoological gardens, I still could not avoid going out to Schönbrunn on one occasion and, at the request of my companion, a professor of theology, standing in front of the monkeys’ cage to look at the monkeys, which my companion fed with some food he had brought with him for the purpose. The professor of theology, an old friend of mine from the university, who had asked me to go Schönbrunn with him had, as time went on, fed all the food he had brought with him to the monkeys, when suddenly the monkeys, for their part, scratched together all the food that had fallen to the ground and offered it to us through the bars. The professor of theology and I were so startled by the monkeys’ sudden behavior that in a flash we turned on our heels and left Schönbrunn through the nearest exit.

HOTEL WALDHAUS

We had no luck with the weather and the guests at our table were repellent in every respect. They even spoiled Nietzsche for us. Even after they had had a fatal car accident and had been laid out in the church in Sils, we still hated them.

AT THEIR MERCY

In order to save his wife’s life—she had a lung ailment—the man who went by the name of Ofner, the parish man-of-all-work and sexton, bought jointly with his wife, and as our doctor had advised him to, a small piece of wooded land in our neighborhood, high enough up to be out of the mists and in good clean air, and the two of them, after several years’ work—supported, of course, by the parish and their immediate neighbors—had built a small house on the property. When, however, the house was finished, Ofner fell ill, because building the house had really been too much for him, and died within a short time. His widow, for whom, after all, the house at the edge of the wood had been intended and who, even after her husband’s death, was visibly recovering from her lung ailment, had to get herself a dog, because, of course, now that she was alone, she was afraid. The dog barked at everyone who came within two hundred feet of her house, and as time went by, no one dared to go near it. For years the woman endured being on her own with the dog and without people, when suddenly, in a flash, she could no longer stand the situation and went out and bludgeoned the dog—who had served her so faithfully all the years—to death with a so-called Sappel, which loggers use for hauling logs, and threw herself on the mercy of her fellow human beings.

THE MILKMAID

Last week we witnessed the spectacle of five cows running, one after the other, into the express train in which we had to return to Vienna and of seeing them cut all to pieces. After the track had been cleared by the train crew and even by the driver, who came along with a pickax, the train proceeded after a delay of about forty minutes. Looking out of the window I caught sight of the milkmaid as she ran screaming towards a farmyard in the dusk.

TWO NOTES

In the large reading room of the Salzburg University library, the librarian hanged himself from the large chandelier because, as he wrote in a suicide note, after twenty-two years of service he could no longer bear to reshelve and lend out books that were only written for the sake of wreaking havoc, and this, he said, applied to every book that had ever been written. This reminded me of my grandfather’s brother who was the huntsman in charge of the forest district of Altentann near Hennsdorf and who shot himself on the summit of the Zifanken because he could no longer bear human misery. He too left this insight of his in a note.

NO SOUL

As long as doctors in hospitals are interested only in bodies and not in the soul, of which apparently they know next to nothing, we are bound to call hospitals institutions not only of public law but also of public murder and to call the doctors murderers and their accomplices. After a so-called amateur scholar from Ottnang am Hausruck, who had been admitted to the Vöcklabruck hospital because of a so-called curious condition, had been given a thorough physical examination, he had asked—as he states in a letter to the medical journal Der Arzt (The Doctor)—And what about my soul? To which the doctor who had been examining his body replied, Be quiet!


Read more about The Voice Imitator, by Thomas Bernhard, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott.

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Literature

Bugs and Beasts Before the Law (Non-Fiction)

Bugs and Beasts Before the Law
Part I
From “The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals,” by E. P. Evans (1884)

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It is said that Bartholomew Chassenée, a distinguished French jurist of the sixteenth century (born at Issy-l’Evêque in 1480), made his reputation at the bar as counsel for some rats, which had been put on trial before the ecclesiastical court of Autun on the charge of having feloniously eaten up and wantonly destroyed the barley-crop of that province. On complaint formally presented by the magistracy, the official or bishop’s vicar, who exercised jurisdiction in such cases, cited the culprits to appear on a certain day and appointed Chassenée to defend them.

In view of the bad repute and notorious guilt of his clients, Chassenée was forced to employ all sorts of legal shifts and chicane, dilatory pleas and other technical objections, hoping thereby to find some loophole in the meshes of the law through which the accused might escape, or at least to defer and mitigate the sentence of the judge. He urged, in the first place, that inasmuch as the defendants were dispersed over a large tract of country and dwelt in numerous villages, a single summons was insufficient to notify them all; he succeeded, therefore, in obtaining a second citation, to be published from the pulpits of all the parishes inhabited by the said rats. At the expiration of the considerable time which elapsed before this order could be carried into effect and the proclamation be duly made, he excused the default or non-appearance of his clients on the ground of the length and difficulty of the journey and the serious perils which attended it, owing to the unwearied vigilance of their mortal enemies, the cats, who watched all their movements, and, with fell intent, lay in wait for them at every corner and passage. On this point Chassenée addressed the court at some length, in order to show that if a person be cited to appear at a place, to which he cannot come with safety, he may exercise the right of appeal and refuse to obey the writ, even though such appeal be expressly precluded in the summons. The point was argued as seriously as though it were a question of family feud between Capulet and Montague in Verona or Colonna and Orsini in Rome.

[…]

Chassenée is said to have been employed in several cases of this kind, but no records of them seem to have been preserved, although it is possible that they may lie buried in the dusty archives of some obscure provincial town in France, once the seat of an ecclesiastical tribunal. The whole subject, however, has been treated by him exhaustively in a book entitled Consilium primum, quod tractatus jure dici potest, propter multiplicem et reconditam doctrinam, ubi luculenter et accurate tractatur quaestio illa: De excommunicatione animalium insectorum.

[…]

This curious dissertation originated, as it appears, in an an application of the inhabitants of Beaune to the ecclesiastical tribunal of Autun for a decree of excommunication against certain noxious insects called hubris or hurebers, probably a kind of locust or harvest-fly. The request was granted, and the pernicious creatures were duly accursed. Chassenée now raises the query whether such a thing may be rightfully and lawfully done […], and how it should be effected. “The principal question,” he said, “is whether one can by injunction cause such insects to withdraw from a place in which they are doing damage, or to abstain from doing damage there, under penalty of anathema and perpetual malediction. And although in times past there has never been any doubt on this point, yet I have thought that the subject should be thoroughly examined anew, lest I should seem to fall into the vice censured by Cicero […], of regarding things which we do not know as if they were well understood by us, and therefore rashly giving them our assent.” He divides his treatise into five parts, or rather discusses the subject under five heads: “First, lest I may seem to discourse to the populace, how are these our animals called in the Latin language; secondly, whether these our animals can be summoned; thirdly, whether they can be summoned by procurators, and, if they are cited to appear personally, whether they can appear by proxy, i.e., through procurators appointed by the judge who summons them; fourthly, what judge, whether layman or ecclesiastic, is competent to try them, and how he is to proceed against them and to pass and execute sentence upon them; fifthly, what constitutes an anathema and how does it differ from an excommunication.”

At a later period of his life Chassenée was reminded of the legal principle thus laid down and urged to apply it in favour of clients more worthy of its protection than a horde of vagrant rodents. In 1540 he was president of the judicial assembly known as the Parliament of Provence on a memorable occasion when the iniquitous measure for the extirpation of heresy by exterminating the Waldenses in the villages of Cabrières and Merindol was under discussion. One of the members of the tribunal, a gentleman from Arles, Renaud d’Alleins, ventured to suggest to the presiding officer that it would be extremely unjust to condemn these unfortunate heretics without granting them a hearing and permitting an advocate to speak in their defence, so that they might be surrounded by all the safeguards of justice, adding that the eminent jurist had formerly insisted upon this right before the court of Autun and maintained that even animals should not be adjudged and sentenced without having a proper person appointed to plead their cause. Chassenée thereupon obtained a decree from the king commanding that the accused Waldenses should be heard; but his death, which occurred very soon afterwards, changed the state of affairs and prevented whatever good effects might have been produced by this simple act of justice.

[…]

Sometimes the obnoxious vermin were generously forewarned. Thus the grand-vicars of Jean Rohin, Cardinal Bishop of Autun, having been informed that slugs were devastating several estates in different parts of his diocese, on the 17th of August, 1487, ordered public processions to be made for three days in every parish, and enjoined upon the said slugs to quit the territory within this period under penalty of being accursed. On the 8th of September, 1488, a similar order was issued at Beaujeu. The curates were charged to make processions during the offices, and the slugs were warned three times to cease from vexing the people by corroding and consuming the herbs of the fields and the vines, and to depart; “and if they do not heed this our command, we excommunicate them and smite them with our anathema.” In 1516, the official of Troyes pronounced sentence on certain insects […], which laid waste the vines, and threatened them with anathema, unless they should disappear within six days. Here it is expressly stated that a counsellor was assigned to the accused, and a prosecutor heard in behalf of the aggrieved inhabitants. As a means of rendering the anathema more effective, the people are also urged to be prompt and honest in the payment of tithes. Chassenée, too, endorses this view, and in proof of its correctness refers to Malachi, where God promises to rebuke the devourer for man’s sake, provided all the tithes are brought into the storehouse.


Check back for our next installment of Bugs and Beasts Before the Law, which you can also read in full here.

Literature, Publishing, Photography

Carl Van Vechten, William Seabrook, and Marjorie Worthington

William Seabrook and Marjorie Worthington
Portraits by Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964)


Usually we took them in our stride, offering an apéritif, lunch, or dinner, and sometimes a trip in one of the little boats across the harbor to Les Sablettes. But when Carl Van Vechten and his vivacious wife, Fania, arrived, they expected more than that. At least, Carl did. For all his sophistication there was a streak of naïveté in Carlo that was perhaps part of his charm. 

We took him and Fania to Charley’s, where we enjoyed our dinner, and then Carl announced that he wanted to visit a Toulon brothel. I am quite sure he would never have asked to visit one in New York or any other American city, but because he was in France and because Marseilles had a certain reputation and Toulon, actually, was not far from Marseilles, he expected Toulon to be filled with houses of ill fame, all of them very exciting and special. 

The truth was, Willie and I were the last people to act as cicerones in the area of commercialized vice. When Willie wanted excitement he had his own ways of creating it, and the synthetic stuff likely to be found in brothels would have bored him to death. 

However, since all our friends expected us to show them the sights, we walked with the Van Vechtens to a part of the town that was almost as unfamiliar to us as it was to them. As I remember it, there was a row of houses over near one of the gates in what remained of the wall that had surrounded Toulon in medieval times. Over each house, on the glass transom, was written in elaborate lettering, a name: Adele, Nanette, Mignon, etc. And over the name was a naked light bulb, painted red. 

We went along the row and came back to the first one, Adele’s house, because it was the largest and therefore promised the most elaborate entertainment. We rang a bell and the door was opened for us after a while by a rather drab female whom we took to be a servant. She led us into a large square room, and to a wooden table along a wall. She took our order for drinks, and disappeared. 

We looked around. Anything less like a house of joy would have been hard to find. The floor and walls were bare. In a corner was an upright piano and a bench but no piano player. In fact, a lugubrious silence filled the room, and we waited for our drinks with the hope they would brighten things up, at least for us. They took a long time coming and when they arrived were served by a short squat little man with a handlebar mustache, wearing sloppy trousers and carpet slippers. 

Carlo asked him where everyone was and he shrugged his shoulders. Adele was not working tonight, he said, and her regular customers had the delicacy to stay away. It appeared that Adele’s father had just died, and the house was in mourning. 

However, he added, as we started to leave, there was one girl on duty, “une brave jeune fille,” and he would send her to us immediately. In the meantime, since the “girls” were permitted to drink only champagne, would we not like to order a bottle? Of the very best? It was obvious that he disapproved of our marc, the local eau de vie, which Willie had ordered for all of us in a vain effort to show we were not tourists. The French were always great sticklers for form, and in the circumstances champagne was the proper thing to drink, even the sweet, sickening stuff he opened for us with a pop and a flourish. It didn’t make us feel any gayer. 

Pretty soon a young woman entered the room and came up to our table. She was wearing a plain dark skirt and blouse and she looked vaguely familiar. It was the little slattern who had opened the door for us, only now her dark hair was brushed and she looked cleaner. She sat down with us and accepted a glass of wine. Then she looked at us expectantly. 

Willie spoke to the girl, using the patois of the region, and Carlo listened as if he understood, and I grew very nervous. I looked at Fania and she looked at me and we didn’t need words in any language to understand each other. We made an excuse and asked the girl to show us where the powder room was, just as though we were at “21” or the Colony, and if the girl looked puzzled it was only for a moment. She caught on quickly enough that we wanted to talk to her. 

When we got out of sight, Fania took a handful of francs from her bag and I found fifty of my own to add to them. “Say no to the Messieurs,” I managed to say. She understood, parfaitement, and thanked us. After all, with a death in the family . . . you understand . . . and the funeral tomorrow . . . one didn’t feel exactly like . . . It was understood. And she thanked us. 

Carlo and Willie were as relieved as we were to be out on the street again. The hour was late, and the Van Vechtens were catching a train for Italy early in the morning. We took them back to the Grand Hotel, still good friends in spite of the fact that we, as well as Toulon, had failed to live up to our reputation.

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Literature

The Three Sneezes (Short Story)

The Three Sneezes
by Roger Duvoisin

 Via The Public Domain  Review

Via The Public Domain Review

Jean-Marie the Farmer climbed up a tree to cut some wood for his stove. His donkey, standing below, closed his eyes and went to sleep. 

Just then a stranger on horseback happened to pass by. “Heh, there,” cried the stranger, “have you ever sawed wood before?”

“Why, if all the wood I have sawed in my life was gathered together it would make a fine forest,” Jean-Marie shouted back.

“One wouldn’t think so,” said the stranger.

“Why not?” demanded Jean-Marie.

“Because when you have sawed through that branch on which you are sitting, both you and the branch will fall to the ground.”

“Be off with you, stranger,” said Jean-Marie. “I can see that you know nothing about sawing wood.”

So the stranger went off, and Jean-Marie went on sawing. Presently there was a terrible crash, and both he and the branch fell to the ground.

Jean-Marie picked himself up, and when he had rubbed all his bruises and found that his back was not broken, he bethought himself of the stranger’s words. “Surely that was a wonderful man,” he thought, “for he told me that the branch and I would fall to the ground, and so we did. He must know the future. I will go after him, and ask him a thing or two.”

So Jean-Marie got on his donkey, and away they went after the stranger. Presently they came to a turn in the road, and there was the stranger, ambling along on his horse as though nothing had happened. 

“Ho, there!” cried Jean-Marie.

“What is it?” said the stranger, stopping his horse. 

“I see that you can read the future, so I want to ask you a thing or two.”

“What makes you think I can read the future?”

“You said that when I had sawed through the branch, both of us would fall to the ground, and so we did.”

“Oh,” said the stranger, smiling, “I see. Well, ask me your questions, but I warn you I can only answer one of them.”

“Very well,” said Jean-Marie, “just answer me this. When am I going to die?”

“That’s easy,” said the stranger. “You will die when your donkey has sneezed three times.” And with that he rode away. 

“My donkey never sneezes,” thought Jean-Marie, “so I shall live a long time.” And he started for home feeling very happy.

Now donkeys are very stubborn, and they always do just the very thing they should not. When they should walk, they will not budge, and when they should keep still they are always walking away. So it was not very long before the donkey opened his mouth and…

“Aatshoum!” he sneezed, loud and long. 

Jean-Marie was aghast. All his happiness was changed to terror. He jumped down and pressed both hands against the donkey’s nose to stop the next sneeze (for everybody knows one always sneezes more than once). When the danger seemed past, he resumed his trip, but now he did not dare to ride. Instead, he walked beside the donkey so as to prevent any more sneezes. 

Presently they came to a freshly plowed field, and there Jean-Marie paused to admire the rich brown earth. What a fine crop of wheat would grow there next summer. Forgetting all about the sneezes, he bent down to feel it with his hands, and…

“Aaatshoum!” sneezed the donkey for the second time.

Jean-Marie snatched his hat and put it over the donkey’s nose and held it tight.

“Two sneezes already! Two horrible sneezes!” he lamented. “I am only one single sneeze from death, one miserable donkey sneeze. Surely I am the most unhappy man alive. I am sure that stranger must have been the devil. He not only told the future, he is making my donkey sneeze. He bewitched my donkey!”

But he was holding the hat too tightly over the donkey’s nose, and the donkey, finding he could not breathe, reared up and kicked Jean-Marie very severely.

“Some other remedy must be found,” said Jean-Marie. “For if my donkey sneezes again I am a dead man.”

Then he had an idea. He picked up two round stones and placed them in the donkey’s nostrils, like corks in a bottle. “There, just let him try to sneeze that out,” he thought. But he had reckoned without the contrariness of donkeys.

“Aaaatshoum!”

The stones flew out like bullets from a gun. They hit Jean-Marie in the face.

“Ah! Ah!” said Jean-Marie. “I am dead. Very, very dead.”

And he lay down in the road, for it is not right for a dead man to stand up.

Literature, Publishing

Excerpt from The Big Love

FROM THE BIG LOVE

BY MRS. FLORENCE AADLAND

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I know the world will always be full of chattering busybodies. I suppose I should be used to them by now, but I know I never will. 

Ever since Beverly was catapulted into world publicity, she and I have been besieged by busybodies. After all the trouble and tragedy occurred, after Errol died and, later, that lovesick boy shot himself, Beverly and I were deluged by do-gooders and Bible-pounders. “Let’s have this girl baptized!” they cried. “Let’s bring this lost lamb into the church!”

As far as I’m concerned, those do-gooder busybodies can drop dead. And that’s what I told them when they came crying around at us.

The trouble with busybodies is that they never bother to examine the facts. If they had ever bothered to look into Beverly’s background, they would have discovered that she went to Sunday School and church for years, that she learned about God like all good little children do, and that she could recite her favorite Bible stories backward and frontward. 

Even while I was studying with the Rosicrucians, I kept up with the Episcopal Church. I saw to it that Beverly was christened and later, when she was three, she won her first beauty contest at Sunday School. Beverly went as Bette Davis and, believe me, even though she was just a toddler she was Bette Davis. She wore one of my long skirts, a big brimmed hat, and trailed a hanky from her bent wrist. She flashed her big eyes all over the place and won in a breeze. 

When Beverly was still quite small she was noticed one day by Jean Self at a Hermosa Beach cleaning shop. Jean, who lived in nearby Redondo Beach, had guided the careers of many famous children and she was so taken by Beverly that she encouraged me to enroll her in the Screen Children’s Guild. 

From that time on Beverly had many, many opportunities. She posed for magazine pictures. She modeled children’s clothes. She sang and danced at club entertainments and at soldiers’ and veterans’ camps and posts. She was chosen mascot for the Hermosa Beach Aquaplane Race Association. She cut the ceremonial tape when ground was broken for a $200,000 beach aquarium. Her photograph appeared on the cover of Collier’s magazine.

By the time she was five, her hair was a golden blonde, very long and naturally curly. One day when we were returning home on a bus from Los Angeles she got into a winking contest with a bunch of sailors who were sitting ahead of us. They kept turning around, laughing loudly at the cute way she winked back.

I gave her a warning that day in no uncertain terms. “That’s all right now, dear,” I told her, “but in about ten years you better be careful because that’s when they’ll take you up on it!”

When she was five and a half she made her first movie, a commercial film in Technicolor called The Story of Nylon. She wore a special nylon dress and had a featured role in a colorful Easter egg hunt. She was paid six hundred dollars for four days’ work.

Not long after that she fell accidentally in the bathroom and struck the back of her head extremely hard. I became very worried and took her to a specialist for X-rays. I was relieved and happy when the films showed that she had not injured herself seriously.

The doctor was a very learned man, an authority on eastern religions who had lectured all over the world and written many books. He was absolutely fascinated by Beverly. He held her hands the way that Rosicrucian lady had done several years before and then he glanced at me.

“Mrs. Aadland,” he said very seriously, “wherever did you get this little girl? She is something very special. I can tell without ever having met her before that she has a great deal of talent.”

“Yes,” I said, “she has been singing and dancing since before she was a year-and-a-half old.”

Then the doctor sat down in his chair and did a very strange thing. He closed his eyes and passed his hand back and forth just above Beverly’s bright blonde curls.

“I think I see sort of a halo on this child,” he said.

His words absolutely astounded me – because one night a few years before, I’d thought I’d seen the same thing. I had come into her room where she was sleeping and there was a wonderful play of light upon her face and head. I suppose it was really just the light from the living room streaming in through the partly-closed door behind me, but it affected me very much.

“Be very careful of this child,” the doctor warned me, half seriously. “She is more precious than even you realize. Protect her and guard her.”

I was given a similar warning about a year later by the head of one of the advertising agencies Beverly modeled for. He was very fussy about his large modern office and never let any of the young children who modeled for him touch any of the objects on his desk. 

He noticed Beverly playing with a letter-holder made in the shape of a dog and he shook his head and sighed.

“Florence,” he said, “I never allow any of the kids to play around my desk, but your child is so different I just haven’t the heart to tell her to stop.”

He shook his head again very slowly and solemnly.

“I’ve seen hundreds of little girls,” he said. “Perhaps thousands, but I’ve seen very few like your child. And I hate to tell you this, Florence, but I think this girl is going to cause you an awful lot of heartbreak.”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I think men will be terribly affected by this girl,” he said. “I think men are going to kill over this girl. I have the feeling in my heart that she has the scent of the musk on her.”

I knew what he meant. It wasn’t the first time I had run into that phrase. I had read it in the Bible. I knew that women who had the scent of the musk were so desirable to men that in ancient times they had been kept hidden away in secret rooms. When it was necessary for them to be outdoors, they were concealed by veils and bulky clothing.

“Be very careful with your daughter,” he went on to warn me, echoing the doctor’s exact words. “You must be very careful to protect her from herself.”

Both men proved more terribly right than I ever could guess.


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Literature

Panegyric (Excerpt)

PANEGYRIC

BY GUY DEBORD

 Film still from THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT

Film still from THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT

After the circumstances I have just recalled, it is undoubtedly the rapidly acquired habit of drinking that has most marked my entire life. Wines, spirits, and beers: the moments when some of them became essential and the moments when they returned have marked out the main course and the meanders of my days, weeks, years. Two or three other passions, of which I will speak, have been more or less continuously important in my life. But drinking has been the most constant and the most present. Among the small number of things that I have liked and known how to do well, what I have assuredly known how to do best is drink. Although I have read a lot, I have drunk even more. I have written much less than most people who write, but I have drunk much more than most people who drink. I can count myself among those of whom Baltasar Gracián, thinking about an elite discernible only among the Germans – but here he was quite unjust to the detriment of the French, as I think I have shown – could say, “There are those who got drunk only once, but that once lasted them a lifetime.”

Furthermore, I am a little surprised, I who have had to read so often the most extravagant calumnies or quite unjust criticisms of myself, to see that in fact thirty or more years have passed without some malcontent ever instancing my drunkenness as at least an implicit argument against my scandalous ideas – with the one, belated exception of a piece by some young English drug addicts who revealed around 1980 that I was stupefied by drink and thus no longer harmful. I never for a moment dreamed of concealing this perhaps questionable side of my personality, and it was clearly evident for all those who met me more than once or twice. I can even note that on each occasion it sufficed but a few days for me to be highly esteemed, in Venice as in Cadiz, in Hamburg as in Lisbon, by the people I met only by frequenting certain cafés.

At first, like everyone, I appreciated the effect of mild drunkenness; then very soon I grew to like what lies beyond violent drunkenness, once that stage is past: a terrible and magnificent peace, the true taste of the passage of time. Although in the first decades I may have allowed only slight indications to appear once or twice a week, I was, in fact, continuously drunk for periods of several months; and the rest of the time, I still drank a lot.

An air of disorder in the great variety of emptied bottles remains susceptible, all the same, to an a posteriori classification. First, I can distinguish between the drinks I consumed in their countries of origin and those I consumed in Paris; but almost every variety of drink was to be had in mid-century Paris. Everywhere, the premises can be subdivided simply between what I drank at home, or at friends’, or in cafés, cellars, bars, restaurants, or in the streets, notably on café terraces.

The hours and their shifting conditions almost always retain a decisive role in the necessary renewal of the stages of a binge, and each brings its reasonable preference to bear on the available possibilities. There is what one drinks in the mornings, and for quite a long while that was the time for beer. In Cannery Row a character who one can tell is a connoisseur proclaims, “There’s nothing like that first taste of beer.” But often upon waking I have needed Russian vodka. There is what is drunk with meals, and in the afternoons that stretch out between them. At night, there is wine, along with spirits; later on, beer is welcome again, for then beer makes you thirsty. There is what one drinks at the end of the night, at the moment when the day begins anew. One can imagine that all this has left me very little time for writing, and that is exactly as it should be: writing should remain a rare thing, since one must have drunk for a long time before finding excellence.

I have wandered extensively in several great European cities, and I appreciated everything that deserved appreciation. The catalogue on this subject could be vast. There were the beers of England, where mild and bitter were mixed in pints; the big schooners of Munich; the Irish beers; and the most classical, the Czech beer of Pilsen; and the admirable baroque character of the Gueuze around Brussels, when it had its distinctive flavor in each local brewery and did not travel well. There were the fruit brandies of Alsace; the rum of Jamaica; the punches, the aquavit of Aalborg, and the grappa of Turin, cognac, cocktails; the incomparable mescal of Mexico. There were all the wines of France, the loveliest coming from Burgundy; there were the wines of Italy, especially the Barolos of the Langhe and the Chiantis of Tuscany; there were the wines of Spain, the Riojas of Old Castille or the Jumilla of Murcia. 

I would have had very few illnesses if drink had not in the end caused me some, from insomnia to gout to vertigo. “Beautiful as the tremor of the hands in alcoholism,” said Lautréamont. There are mornings that are stirring but difficult.

“It is better to hide one’s folly, but that is difficult in debauchery or drunkenness,” Heraclitus thought. And yet Machiavelli would write to Francesco Vettori: “Anyone reading our letters … would sometimes think that we are serious people entirely devoted to great things, that our hearts cannot conceive any thought which is not honorable and grand. But then, as these same people turned the page, we would seem thoughtless, inconstant, lascivious, entirely devoted to vanities. And even if someone judges this way of life shameful, I find it praiseworthy, for we imitate nature, which is changeable.” Vauvenargues formulated a rule too often forgotten: “In order to decide that an author contradicts himself, it must be impossible to conciliate him.” 

Moreover, some of my reasons for drinking are respectable. Like Li Po, I can indeed exhibit this noble satisfaction: “For thirty years, I’ve hidden my fame in taverns.”

The majority of the wines, almost all the spirits, and every one of the beers whose memory I have evoked here have today completely lost their tastes, first on the world market and then locally, with the progress of industry as well as the disappearance or economic re-education of the social classes that has long remained independent of large industrial production; and thus also through the interplay of the various government regulations that now prohibit virtually anything that is not industrially produced. The bottles, so that they can still be sold, have faithfully retained their labels; this attention to detail gives the assurance that one can photograph them as they used to be – but not drink them.

Neither I nor the people who drank with me have at any moment felt embarrassed by our excesses. “At the banquet of life” – good guests there, at least – we took a seat without thinking even for an instant that what we were drinking with such prodigality would not subsequently be replenished for those who would come after us. In drinking memory, no one had ever imagined that he would see drink pass away before the drinker. 


Read Panegyric by Guy Debord, translated by James Brook and John McHale, from VERSO.

Literature

Pathologies (Excerpt)

PATHOLOGIES: THE DOWNFALL OF JOHAN VAN VERE DE WITH

BY JACOB ISRAEL DE HAAN

TRANSLATED BY PAUL VINCENT

Jacob Israel de Haan

 

This is my refined, sensitively presented description of the pathologies that were the downfall of Johan van Vere de With.

 

The market square forms the rectangular interior of the small town of Cuilemburg, which is, however, very much like a village. In the centre of one of the long sides stood their house, an old dwelling.

From outside it seemed like a double residence, consisting of two step-gabled wings on either side of a wide door, wider than two front doors. Still, on the inside it was a single house. Three people lived in it: a boy, Johan, his father, and a very old woman, Sien. Because the house was so big, and these people generated very little noise, the place often seemed quite empty of life.

Johan’s mother had died quite a while ago, before he and his father moved to Cuilemburg. So there were no rooms in their present house that she had occupied, which lessened the unhappiness of Johan’s father. There were, though, many of her things, which for Johan were strange and of little value, but which for his father were very precious, irreplaceable treasures.

Johan occupied two rooms at the back of the house, both of which had a view of and access to the dark old fully planted garden, which was as large and mysterious as a wood. But the darkness did not come as far as the house. Between it and the garden was a paved path and a meadow, in which in the good old days there had been a display of many multi-coloured flowers. In the evenings Johan sat working at his window; the standard lamp shone out with its delicate light, a golden hazy sun that refined and transformed the colour of the flowers, like those in a strange, fragile story. The lamplight could not penetrate the dark, closed, wood-like garden. The trees stood in ranks like a black rampart, behind which there loomed the other world. [ . . . ]

 

Johan’s father, like his mother, was born into a milieu of flawless culture and lifestyle. They were unacquainted with any manual, coarsening labour, but were familiar only with work involving the full, lucid intellect. Johan resembled both his parents. All his life he was a strikingly beautiful young man. Until his life was disrupted in a terrible way, he preserved an aristocratic calm. By the age of sixteen he was fully grown. He looked like an immaculately groomed young man of twenty, who, however, seems younger.

His body was slim and finely structured, and impeccably dressed. Johan had blue eyes, like blue roses would be, were they in our gardens.

When he turned eight years old, he did not go to school because his father thought it more reasonable for his mental development to stay quietly at home, since Johan showed that he felt deeply, but that his feelings were unstable. He did have a reliable intellect, but precisely because of that his father did not want it to be put under too much strain. This is why when Johan was sixteen, he studied with boys who were two years younger. That was not unpleasant, because Johan was not stupid, and so remained effortlessly at the top of the class. He had little to do with the other boys, partly because of the age difference and partly because of his different temperament and nature.

In the last two years, since he had started to grow up, he had developed strange, intense attachments to small, well-dressed, frail boys at the school. He could not fathom why, since he knew of himself that he did not easily bestow friendship. But he felt that this attachment was dangerous, of such a kind that he could not say anything about it to his father. As his body grew stronger, those dangerous experiences redoubled and grew stronger. He dreamed at night of some boys, and he committed obscene acts with them in those dreams, which they also committed with him. Those acts were pleasant to him and evoked powerful feelings. After waking, he noticed that his nightclothes were damp and dirty. He often felt helpless and discouraged, while his thoughts were very melancholy.

Although he knew that these things happened in life and in the body of every boy growing into a man, he was ashamed, and felt very unhappy. He was quite clear that he was unwilling and unable to talk to his father about it, and at the same time he knew that it would bring him relief and solace, if he were to speak to his father about it. Often Johan felt an intense urge to speak to his father, and the fact that he did not give into that urge caused him pain.

 

Johan was always sure that he never had the slightest problem with his father. He never gave it a second thought in his earliest years. But he did think about it, with joy, which moved him deeply, when he heard of other families where there was smouldering discord between the father and his sons. Later he realised that his father never needed to desist from doing anything for his sake, just as he never needed to for his father’s sake, since because of their mutual affection all actions were settled in a calm way.

 

However, recently there had been a devastating upheaval in Johan’s life, because he began to involve his beloved and respected father in the dreams full of obscene behaviour. His father performed indecent acts on him and he in turn did the same with his father. And both of them enjoyed it greatly.

When he awoke Johan was speechlessly and vacantly ashamed at the horror of such thoughts. He looked at his father, his blossoming blue eyes open with shame, fear, and bewilderment. He could not possibly be calm and pleasant. He was also frightened to death of being difficult with his father. The terrible effort he had to make to remain normal made him precisely shy and abnormal. So that his father noticed and asked him naturally and lovingly if there were any problem. This made Johan hopeless with the deepest wretchedness.

The dreams repeated themselves, and from now on concerned only his father. They ruined every night for him. He became neurotic and deathly pale. His blue eyes dried up, becoming wrinkled in their delicate blue and dull in their whites, which had formerly been clear. Johan saw that his father already noticed his sick decline, and that made him precisely sicker still. Finally Johan said, with a calm voice and careful choice of words: ‘Father, I have a great sorrow and it’s making me ill, as you can see. But I can’t tell you what it is… and that the worst thing of all… but perhaps it will get better now that I’ve told you.’ 

They looked at each other with emotion, and this emotion shattered Johan’s calm and firmness of purpose. He sobbed, suddenly broken. He hugged his father, kissing him like when he was a little boy, on his eyes and open mouth. But then Johan felt the same evil and pleasant sensation as in his dreams with the obscene acts, and he felt that his clothes were becoming dirty and damp. His body felt wretched. He released his father from his paralysed arms, and crept upstairs to the bathroom, where he sluiced off his excited body with hard, cold, running water. His father heard the water raging and rattling. It made him uneasy, failing to understand the shyness, the wildness, and the strange behaviour of his beloved son. He thought of the madness of his wife, who had killed herself in a strange way one night when everyone thought that she had been completely free of suicidal plans. The man shivered and trembled with fear for his son. Johan was always precise in the shape of his sentences and in the value of his words, but Johan was never exaggerated in the strength of his expression. Now he had finally spoken, after a long period of suffering, as carefully as if he were writing the words instead of speaking them, he had confessed to a great sorrow that was making him ill, because he could not speak about it.

That same afternoon at the table Johan raised the subject again. Their table was always lavishly laid and provided with many choice artefacts. The boy was greatly pleased, in a way that he was not often pleased, at their possession of so many objects of such beauty. In that exquisite mood the boy addressed his father, while his blue eyes bloomed in the thin sunny light of the lamp. He said: ‘Perhaps my sorrow will pass again… and then we’ll be at ease with each other again.’ As he said this, he paid anxious and careful attention to the state of his body. His body, however, remained calm, without any noxious effect. Johan was very pleased about this, and he again enjoyed an evening with his father.


Jacob Israël de Haan (1881–1924) was a Dutch teacher, novelist, poet, legal scholar, and journalist. In 1904, De Haan published his first novel Pijpelijntjes, which is a thinly veiled version of his own promiscuous gay life with Arnold Aletrino in Amsterdam's “Pijp” working-class district. The book is dedicated to Aletrino. Aletrino and De Haan’s fiancée bought almost all copies of the book to prevent a scandal that would involve both of them, and De Haan subsequently lost his job. De Haan’s Pathologies: The Downfall of Johan van Vere de With was published in Rotterdam in 1908. He also wrote poetry, and a line from one of his poems adorns the Amsterdam Homomonument. In the 1910s he became interested in Zionism and left Amsterdam for Jerusalem. He was murdered in 1924 by a member of the Zionist organization Haganah. Read more about De Haan here

Paul Vincent (b. 1942) studied at Cambridge and in Amsterdam. Until 1989 he was a professor at the Dutch department of University College London. Since then he has worked as a freelance translator. His translations from Dutch literature include works by Willem Bilderdijk, H.M. Van den Brink, Louis Couperus, Midas Dekkers, Douwe Fokkema, Arnon Grunberg, W.F. Hermans, P.C. Hooft, Harry Mulisch, Saskia Noort, Paul Van OstaijenErik VlaminckGuido GezelleWillem ElsschotLouis Paul BoonErwin Mortier and Leonard Nolens.

Literature

Berlin’s Third Sex (Excerpt)

Berlin’s Third Sex

By Magnus Hirschfeld

translated by James J. Conway

 Transvestite and transgender sex workers at the popular Berlin gay bar Marienkasino in the 1920s. 

Transvestite and transgender sex workers at the popular Berlin gay bar Marienkasino in the 1920s. 

The issue of male prostitution has already come up on several occasions, and we really cannot avoid this lamentable practice if we wish to produce a more or less comprehensive account of the diverse forms in which uranian life manifests itself in Berlin.

Like any other metropolis, Berlin has both female and male prostitution. The two are closely related in their origins, nature, causes and consequences. Here, as elsewhere, there are two reasons that always come together, of which one or the other soon prevails: inner inclination and outward circumstances. Those who fall prey to prostitution are marked from youth onwards by certain peculiarities of which the most pronounced is an urge for fine living combined with a tendency to laziness. If the external circumstances are favourable to these qualities, that is, if the parents are well-off, the young person will be safe from prostitution. But if there is domestic squalor, a miserable livelihood, unemployment, lack of accommodation and possibly the greatest of all problems, hunger, then stable, steadfast characters might well withstand, but the weaker will seek out the ever-present temptation, succumb to it and sell themselves, ignoring their mothers’ tears.

There are humanitarians who expect improvement to come from freedom of the will and others from force of circumstances; one longs for education and religion, the other looks to the state of the future. Both are overly optimistic. Those who wish to help must strive to improve conditions from within and without, such that girls and youths are not obliged to sell themselves, and help improve people with particular consideration for the laws of inheritance, so that the obligation to sell oneself as a product falls away.

You might say that is impossible, but I say he who surrenders is lost.

Prostitution’s sphere of activity is the street, particular areas and squares, the so-called ‘beats’. A homosexual showed me a map of Berlin on which he had marked the ‘beats’ in blue; the number of places thus designated was not inconsiderable.

Since time immemorial the various parts of the Tiergarten have played their own particular part. There is no other forest that is so interwoven with human destiny as this park measuring over 1000 acres.

It is not the beauty of its landscape nor its artistic ornaments that lend it significance, but people – their lives, loves and laments. From early morning, when the well-to-do work off their meals on horseback, until midday, when the Kaiser undertakes his ride; from early afternoon, when thousands of children play in the park, until late afternoon, when the bourgeoisie goes strolling, each pathway has its own character, in every season, in every hour. If Emile Zola had lived in Berlin I do not doubt that he would have investigated these woods and that his enquiries would have resulted in another Germinal.

But when evening falls and the sun turns to other worlds, the breath of dusk mingles with the questing, yearning breath from millions of earthly beings, all part of that global spirit that some call the spirit of fornication but which in truth is just a fragment of the great, powerful drive, higher than everything, lower than anything, which ceaselessly shapes, prevails, forges and forms.

Couples meet at every crossroads in the Tiergarten – see how they hasten to one another, how joyfully they greet each other and stride into the future pressed close in conversation, see how they alight at the now empty benches and silently embrace, and how the high, inalienable kind of love sits side-by-side with the more vendible variety.

Women offer themselves for sale on three widely distributed paths, the men on two. While female and male prostitution are intertwined, here each has its own ‘beat’. Of the men’s, one is filled every evening almost exclusively by cavalrymen, their sabres glinting queerly in the dark, while the other, quite a long stretch, is largely occupied by those reckless lads apt to refer to themselves in Berlin dialect as ‘nice and naughty’. Here you will find one of the typical half-moon-shaped Tiergarten benches, where from midnight onwards thirty prostitutes and homeless lads sit close to each other, some fast asleep, others yelling and shrieking. They call this bench the ‘art exhibition’. Now and then a man comes along, strikes a match and illuminates the row.

Not infrequently the lads’ shrieking is interrupted by a shrill cry, a call for help from one robbed or manhandled in the thicket, or the snatches of music wafting over from the Zelten are punctuated by a sharp bang, reporting of one who has answered the question of life in the negative.

And anyone looking for the colourful city characters erroneously reported to be extinct will find no shortage of them in the Tiergarten. See the old lady there by the waters of Neuer See with the four dogs? For forty years, with brief intermissions during the summer, she has been taking the same walk at the same time, always alone, ever since her husband died of a haemorrhage on her wedding day in transit from the registry office to the church. That desiccated, hunched apparition with the shaggy grey beard? He is a Russian baron who seeks out a solitary bench, sits down and cries ‘rab, rab, rab’, a sound much like the crowing of a raven. This mating call draws the odd ‘cheeky grafter’ from obscure paths – his friends, to whom he distributes the ‘dough’ left over from his daily earnings, usually three to five marks.

Male prostitutes can be divided into two groups – those who are normally sexed and those who are themselves homosexual, or ‘genuine’. The latter are often particularly feminine, and some occasionally wear women’s clothes, a practice met with particular disfavour by female prostitutes. This is ordinarily the only casus belli between the two groups, because experience has shown that neither would rob the other of clientele were it not for this fraudulent representation. I once asked a fairly well educated prostitute to explain the good relations between female and male prostitutes. ‘We know that every john wants what he wants,’ she answered.

There are often unusual pairings among Berlin prostitutes. Normal male prostitutes, the so-called dollboys, not infrequently conduct cooperative ‘work’ with normal female prostitutes. I have even heard tell of pairs of siblings of whom both sister and brother fall prey to this lowly work; often two female and not infrequently two male prostitutes will cohabit, and finally there are also cases of female homosexual prostitutes who take male homosexual prostitutes as pimps, finding them to be less brutal than their heterosexual colleagues.

It is established fact that there is a large number of homosexuals among female prostitutes, estimated at 20 per cent. Some might wonder at this apparent contradiction, after all commercial prostitution primarily serves the sexual satisfaction of the male. Often it is said that they suffer from surfeit, but that is not actually the case, because it has been proven that these girls usually know themselves to be homosexual before taking up prostitution, and the fact of their homosexuality only serves to prove that selling their bodies is simply seen as a business, one they regard with cool calculation.

The relationships between prostitutes are noteworthy. Even here the system of double morality has made its presence felt. Because while the manly, active partner, the ‘father’, is at liberty, free to pursue female contact beyond the shared bedchamber, he demands the utmost fidelity from the ‘female’, passive partner when it comes to homosexual activity. When this fidelity is breached he exposes himself to the most grievous abuse. It also comes to pass that the manly partner forbids the womanly partner from pursuing work for the duration of their affair.

The female street prostitutes of Berlin also maintain diverse relations with uranian women of the better social circles, and on the street they might even make advances to women who seem homosexual. Here it is worth noting that the fees for women are much lower, and might indeed be waived altogether in some instances. One young lady who certainly appears decidedly homosexual reported to me that prostitutes had made her offers of 20 marks and more on the street. The poor example of both female and male prostitution is not just a threat to public morality, and to public health – for it is far from uncommon that infectious diseases from scabies to syphilis are passed through male prostitution – but also public safety to a large degree.

Prostitution and criminality go hand in hand; theft and burglary, blackmail and coercion, forgery and embezzlement, every sort of violence; in short, every possible crime against person or property are a way of life for most male prostitutes, and what is particularly hazardous is that in most cases the anxious homosexual fails to report such crimes.

While twenty of Berlin’s uranian population of 50,000 souls – this figure is surely not too high – are caught on average by the ‘long arm of the law’ every year, at least a hundred times more, that is, 2000 a year, fall victim to blackmailers who, as the Berlin Criminal Police will gladly attest, have built a widespread and particularly profitable profession from the exploitation of the homosexual nature.

The close links between prostitutes and criminals also arise from their use of the same shared criminal jargon. If the ‘beat boys’ are looking for their quarry, they call it ‘going on a collection tour’, blackmail itself they designate in various degrees: ‘scalding’, ‘burning’, ‘busting’, ‘fleecing’, ‘clipping’, ‘dusting down’, ‘plucking’ and ‘clamping’. Here it is worth noting that in Berlin there are also criminals who specialise in ‘plucking’ male prostitutes by threatening them with a charge of pederasty or blackmail. They categorise the ‘schwul  groups’ according to liquidity into ‘mutts’, ‘stumps’ and ‘gentlemen’, and the looted money they refer to as ‘ashes’, ‘wire’, ‘dimes’, ‘gravel’, ‘rags’, ‘dosh’, ‘meschinne’, ‘monnaie’, ‘moss’, ‘quid’, ‘plates’, ‘powder’, ‘loot’, ‘dough’, ‘cinnamon’, and for gold coins, ‘silent monarchs’. To have money means ‘to be in shape’, to have none is ‘to be dead’, should something get in their way they say that ‘the tour has been messed up’, ‘bunking’ means running away, ‘snuffing it’ is dying, and if they are picked up by the ‘claws’ – the criminal police, ‘the blues’, or policemen – they call it ‘going up’, ‘flying up’, ‘running out’,  ‘crashing’ or ‘going flat’. That is when they are brought to the ‘cops’, or the police station, then to the ‘nick’, the remand prison, and finally, as the euphemism goes, they move to the ‘Berlin suburbs’, understood as Tegel, Plötzensee and Rummelsburg, the locations of prisons and work houses. Only rarely do they leave better than they arrived. Well-to-do uranians often try their hardest to save prostitutes from the street, but only in very few cases do they succeed. Many ‘feast on memories’ when they get older by ‘drilling’ small sums of money out of known homosexuals with whom they once crossed paths, which they refer to as ‘collecting interest’ or ‘tapping’.


MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD (1868-1935) was one of the world’s first gay activists. Both a writer and a doctor, he sought not only to define sexual variation – homosexuality in both men and women, as well as what we would now refer to as trans identity – but also to repeal laws that policed their expression in his native Germany. His insistence that homosexuality was in-born, and that consenting adults should be free to form attachments without harassment from the law, was almost a century ahead of Western public consensus. Hirschfeld published in relative freedom under the German Empire and ensuing Weimar Republic but emigrated before Hitler came to power. As the Nazis cast his research to the fire, Hirschfeld resigned himself to exile, eventually settling in Nice where he died on his 67th birthday. Among his works already published in English are Transvestites and The Homosexuality of Men and Women.

Berlin's Third Sex is available now from the new publishing house Rixdorf Editions

Literature

The Island (Fiction)

The Island

By Ashton Politanoff

 From  Oedipus Rex  by Pier Paolo Pasolini

From Oedipus Rex by Pier Paolo Pasolini

From the mainland, he’d been searching for the island’s coastline day after day. Some mornings he could see it, depending on the smog. He wanted to escape the hustle, the bustle, so he looked at the boat schedule and made a reservation. He’d go for the day.   

The morning of, he arrived at the harbor near the port and parked his car under the green bridge. A section of bridge was being repaired. Every time a car drove overhead, he’d hear a loud clatter coming from the steel plates. 

After picking up his ticket at will-call, he took a seat under the sail tent. The speaker above his head played swing. He took a Dramamine and as other people showed, he placed his bag next to him so no one could sit too close. There were several boats in the fleet and he was hoping for the catamaran—that boat, he knew, could slice through chop like butter. Instead, when the crew called for them to stand in a line and split their tickets, they were directed to the old mono-hull. He swallowed a second Dramamine and walked across the gangplank. He mounted the stairs of the ship to the upper deck. He tested the white aisle bench with his finger and used the back of his backpack to soak up the cool morning dew. Then he sat down facing the front of the boat. A tall woman in a peach dress sat directly across from him. She had leathery skin and two earrings in each ear—a hoop and a diamond. She already had a drink, a Bloody Mary, and sucked it through a straw. When she was done, she removed the pickled green bean and ate it, showing her front teeth with each bite. 

What are you doing on the island? she asked. 

Getting away, he said. 

Oh, she said.

When he didn’t say anything else, she said, Well I’ll be eating and drinking. 

That’s nice, he said. I’ll be getting off on the second stop. 

He was thankful when the boat finally started to move, and when a family of four had crowded next to them—he wouldn’t have to talk to her anymore. The father of the family told his children about the sea life they would see, and the animals on the island. Buffalo, he said. A red fox.

A red fox? the young towhead with neon green shoelaces asked. 

Yes, the father said. A red fox. No one knows how it got there, the man said, but it lives on the island. 

Through the harbor, the boat passed a container ship with scrapings on the side.

From going through the Panama Canal, he heard the father say. 

They passed the prison. He couldn’t get a view of it, just the watchtower. Abandoned warehouses stood nearby. In the dark water, a seal popped up and then took a dive. 

Soon they were at the break wall, and once they emerged through the passage known as Queen’s Gate, into the open ocean, the boat sped up. The water was no longer calm, the wind blowing. A swell coming from the west pushed against them, the boat lifting and lurching. He steadied his eyes on the horizon line and zipped up his windbreaker. He raised the hood and wore it, pulling the drawstrings tight to create a hole with just enough space for his nose and eyes. With his fingers, he slowly and carefully tied a square knot. 

As they approached the leeward side of the island, the water calmed. The island was mountainous coastline peppered with sandy coves with yachts in each. Some coves had cabins or yacht clubs. Others had quarries. The air was cleaner here. He could finally see the sky’s ceiling, the low clouds that were starting to burn off. 

The first stop was in the touristy section where there was a casino and shops that sold trinkets. The boat slowed and briefly docked and the woman got off without saying goodbye. The family left too, as did most people. The next stop—his—didn’t have a hotel. The only passenger in sight was a man holding blue prints. He wanted to burn the man’s blue prints. 

Out in the ocean again, they climbed north for close to twenty minutes before turning into the intended harbor, a place known as the isthmus—another harbor was just on the other side. The neighboring mountains dipped down creating a flat strip of land. From a distance, it looked like two separate islands. He could feel the wind blowing across from the windward side as they approached the pier. 

Tied up, they disembarked starboard. He had four hours before the boat would come back again to take them home.  

The town itself had one bar, a diner, and a general store. There was a shower for those who had been at sea, but it required eight quarters for three minutes and twenty seconds of usage. 

At the diner he ordered a bagel sandwich and a large cup of coffee. The chair he sat on had a cushion that deflated. He tried another with the same result. Plants hung from the ceiling and a spinning fan wobbled a little. It looked like it could break off and fall any second. The diner started to get packed. He felt elbows, smelled odors. He ate quickly and didn’t finish his coffee.

Outside, after, he headed to the beach with the imported silica sand, the palapas available for rent. But there were kids and families with dogs and a group of teenagers, girls and guys, with floaties and blue cups that concealed alcohol. Yes, the water was clear, but people were in it with their kayaks and stand-up paddleboards or snorkels. So he walked to the other end that was cobblestone instead of sand. There was only one person there, a thin man in a Speedo. The man was lounging in a beach chair, taking sun with his eyes closed. 

With mask and snorkel, he butterflied around finless. The water was colder than expected—he should have brought a wetsuit top. He saw the orange Garibaldi, the clingfish. He took a deep inhale and dove to the bottom, running his fingers through the eel grass swaying from side to side. When he breached the surface, he blew the water out of his snorkel with a burst and lifted his mask. The man in the Speedo waved and smiled. 

He got out of the water and gathered his things. He didn’t wait to dry off, to heat up again in the sun. He just left, until he was on the oiled dirt road that led to the windward side, the other harbor. He only saw one car, a van with taxi written in the dust of the rear windshield. He wasn’t sure if this was a real taxi or not. 

He appreciated the natural flora and fauna surrounding him, the leaning foxtails, cacti, the sticker bush. There were tall bundles of eucalyptus that looked like giant bouquets in the clearing. A wooden swing hung from one of the trees. There were dwarf palm trees scattered about too. 

The other harbor was less busy; there were only a few vessels, sails down, and a woman rowing in her shore boat. He could see people hiking on a ridge, but they were far off—it would take them hours to reach him. But then, two elderly women claimed a nearby bench. He hadn’t seen them coming.

He left the main road into the clearing, walking until he settled on a breezy meadow. There, he pulled out his Mexican blanket and rolled it out on the dirt to lie down. The dry grass tickled his face, his bare arms, his feet. It was nice. He felt things in his hair but didn’t care. Through a squinted gaze, he watched a cloud drift. 

           

The peel of three loud horns woke him and he found this appealing at first. He checked his watch and saw the time. It was his ship, about to back out of the dock, he knew. He shot up and grabbed his bag, but felt a tug of something else, a red flash in his periphery. He craned his neck and saw the bushy tail high and the erect ears, frozen still. He let go of his bag and ducked down until he himself was on all fours, peeking above the grass. 

He set his face forward, unblinking, and sniffed before plunging deeper into the meadow, for what he wasn’t sure. 


Ashton Politanoff lives in Redondo Beach, CA. His writing has appeared in NOON, Golden State 2017, Sleepingfish, Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere.  

Literature

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook (Excerpt)

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook

By Marjorie Worthington

“Another Toulon Day”

It was about ten o’clock when we reached the hotel. That was pretty early for Toulon, but the big yellow Victorian palace of a place, with ornate chandeliers and Brussels carpeting, seemed very quiet. We almost tiptoed to the door indicated to us, and knocked. A voice asked who was there, and when Willie answered, “Seabrook,” there was a happy laugh and the command, “Entrez.”

It was not a suite, but just one enormous bedroom, with lots of chairs around, a fireplace, and a bar set up on an ormolu cabinet. The princess had expensive tastes and an income much more modest than that of her friends, and she must have been in one of her economy streaks. 

She was wearing a silk pajama suit, the kind that was worn for afternoons and evenings in the South of France at that time. Her bed was fully made, and she was lying on top of the creamy satin spread. At one side of the bed was a table on which was laid a lacquered tray containing all the paraphernalia for smoking opium: a small spirit lamp, a sticky lump of black stuff, and a long, ivory-colored pipe with a small cup-like thing near one end. The little lamp was lighted and she was rolling some of the black gum into a ball, or pill.

“Make yourselves drinks,” she said, waving to the bottles and glasses with her free hand. “Then come and sit near me and tell me what wonderful and scandalous things you have been doing. I am starving for news of you.”

We did as we were told, and Willie talked, telling marvelous tales, some of them true, most of them not. I sat quietly drinking my drink and listening some of the time, and thinking my own thoughts; but mostly I watched the princess, who spent so much time preparing her pipe for what amounted to one deep puff. Being a rather lazy person, I wondered what there was in that puff to make it worth such a long and complicated process. I decided not to find out.

The room became filled with an acrid-sweet smell that mingled with the fumes of the cognac in the glass I held in my hand. Willie had joined the princess on the bed and she was teaching him to fill a pipe. I felt very drowsy. There was a chaise longue in the room, and I settled myself upon it and waited. A musical clock on the mantel chimed the hours of twelve . . . one . . . two . . . three. . . . 

I remember making, or being asked to make, a pot of tea. I found what looked like a solid gold teapot and put it over the alcohol lamp I found near it, and lit the wick. When I remembered about the tea again, the whole beautiful little gold teapot had melted down into a nugget. Evidently I had forgotten to put any water in it. I was very sad about the teapot and told the princess so, but she was off in some exalted region with Willie tagging behind on his own cloud. And it didn’t matter.

The clock went on ringing out the intervals of hours. Through the cracks in the venetian blinds I could see daylight. The murmur of voices had been going on forever: Princess Telle describing her childhood, then her marriage and her happiness, and then her sorrow. I slept through most of it, almost as drugged, by the fumes, as they were by their pipes. And then it was six o’clock, and Willie was standing up and telling me we must go.

We went out very softly; the hotel was not awake. But as we walked down through the city, people began to sweep the sidewalks before the shops and caf.s, and some of them greeted us with a polite “bonjour,” to which we responded. We reached our studio somehow, I leading a remote Willie by the hand most of the way. I didn’t know how many pipes he had smoked, but I knew they were too many for a neophyte. I was worried enough to become heroic and attack the primus stove by myself. I made a large pot of coffee and kept pouring cup after cup until he had drunk enough, I thought, to counteract the opium. Then we slept for a while, and then we woke up and went to our respective typewriters. Another Toulon day had begun.


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Literature

Case Nine from Psychopathia Sexualis (Text)

Case Nine from Psychopathia Sexualis

By Richard von Krafft-Ebing

 Self-portrait by Austrian painter Richard Gerstl (1883—1908)

Self-portrait by Austrian painter Richard Gerstl (1883—1908)

“He found it absurd, and did not repeat it”

F.J., aged nineteen, student; mother was nervous, sister epileptic. At the age of four, acute brain affections, lasting two weeks. As a child he was not affectionate, and was cold toward his parents; as a student he was peculiar, retiring, preoccupied with self, and given to much reading. Well-endowed mentally. Masturbation from his fifteenth year. Eccentric after puberty, with continual vacillation between religious enthusiasm and materialism — first studying theology, then natural sciences. At the university his fellow students took him for a fool. He read Jean Paul almost exclusively, and wasted his time. Absolute absence of sexual feeling toward the opposite sex. Once he indulged in intercourse, experienced no sexual feeling in the act, found it absurd, and did not repeat it. Without any emotional cause whatsoever, he often had thoughts of suicide. He made it the subject of a philosophical dissertation, in which he contended that it was, like masturbation, a justifiable act. After repeated experiments, which he made on himself with various poisons, he attempted suicide with fifty-seven grains of opium, but he was saved and sent to an asylum.

Patient was destitute of moral and social feelings. His writings disclosed incredible frivolity and vulgarity. His knowledge had a wide range, but his logic was peculiarly distorted. There was no trace of emotionality. He treated everything (even the sublime) with incomparable cynicism and irony. He pleaded for the justification of suicide with false philosophical premises and conclusions, and, as one would speak of the most indifferent affair, he declared that he intended to accomplish it. He regretted that his penknife had been taken from him. If he had it, he would open his veins as Seneca did — in the bath. At one time a friend had given him, instead of a poison as he supposed, a cathartic. Instead of sending him to the other world, it sent him to the bathroom. Only the Great Operator could eradicate his foolish and fatal idea with the scythe of death, etc. 

The patient had a large, rhombic, distorted skull, with the left half of the forehead flatter than the right. The occiput was very straight. Ears far back, widely projecting, and the external meatus forming a narrow slit. Genitals very lax; testicles unusually soft and small. 

The patient occasionally suffered from onomatomania. He was compelled to think of the most useless problems, give himself over to interminable, distressing and worrying thoughts, and become so fatigued that he was no longer capable of any rational thinking. After some months the patient was sent home unimproved. There he spent his time in reading and frivolities, and busied himself with the thought of founding a new system of Christianity, because Christ hd been subject to grand delusions and had deceived the world with miracles (!). After remaining at home some years, the sudden occurrence of a maniacal outbreak brought him back to the asylum. He presented a mixture of primordial delirium of persecution (Devil, Antichrist, persecution, poisoning, persecuting voices) and delusions of grandeur (Christ, redemption of the world), with impulsive, incoherent actions. After five months there was a remission of this intercurrent acute mental disease, and the patient then returned to the level of his original intellectual peculiarity and moral defect.


The unabridged Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard von Krafft-Ebing is listed here, and it is available to purchase new via Bloat Books.

Literature

Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (Text)

Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan

By J. G. Ballard

ballard-ronald-reagan-01

At the 1980 Republican Convention in San Francisco a copy of my Reagan text, minus its title and the running side heads, and furnished with the seal of the Republican Party, was distributed to delegates. I’m told it was accepted for what it resembled, a psychological position paper on the candidate’s subliminal appeal, commissioned from some maverick think-tank.
— J. G. Ballard

During these assassination fantasies

Ronald Reagan and the conceptual auto-disaster. Numerous studies have been conducted upon patients in terminal paresis (G.P.I.), placing Reagan in a series of simulated auto-crashes, e.g. multiple pile-ups, head-on collisions, motorcade attacks (fantasies of Presidential assassinations remained a continuing preoccupation, subjects showing a marked polymorphic fixation on windshields and rear trunk assemblies). Powerful erotic fantasies of an anal-sadistic character surrounded the image of the Presidential contender. Subjects were required to construct the optimum auto-disaster victim by placing a replica of Reagan’s head on the unretouched photographs of crash fatalities. In 82 percent of cases massive rear-end collisions were selected with a preference for expressed faecal matter and rectal haemorrhages. Further tests were conducted to define the optimum model-year. These indicate that a three-year model lapse with child victims provide the maximum audience excitation (confirmed by manufacturers’ studies of the optimum auto-disaster). It is hoped to construct a rectal modulus of Reagan and the auto-disaster of maximized audience arousal.

Tallis became increasingly obsessed

Motion picture studies of Ronald Reagan reveal characteristic patterns of facial tonus and musculature associated with homo-erotic behavior. The continuing tension of buccal sphincters and the recessive tongue role tally with earlier studies of facial rigidity (cf., Adolf Hitler, Nixon). Slow-motion cine-films of campaign speeches exercised a marked erotic effect upon an audience of spastic children. Even with mature adults the verbal material was found to have a minimal effect, as demonstrated by substitution of an edited tape giving diametrically opposed opinions. Parallel films of rectal images revealed a sharp upsurge in anti-Semitic and concentration camp fantasies.

with the pudenda of the Presidential contender

Incidence of orgasm in fantasies of sexual intercourse with Ronald Reagan. Patients were provided with assembly kit photographs of sexual partners during intercourse. In each case Reagan’s face was super imposed upon the original partner. Vaginal intercourse with “Reagan” proved uniformly disappointing, producing orgasm in 2 percent of subjects. Axillary, buccal, navel, aural and orbital modes produced proximal erections. The preferred mode of entry overwhelmingly proved to be the rectal. After a preliminary course in anatomy it was found that the caecum and transverse colon also provided excellent sites for excitation. In an extreme 12 percent of cases, the simulated anus of post-colostomy surgery generated spontaneous orgasm in 98 percent of penetrations. Multiple-track cine-films were constructed of “Reagan” in intercourse during (a) campaign speeches, (b) rear-end auto-collisions with one- and three-year model changes, (c) with rear exhaust assemblies, (d) with Vietnamese child-atrocity victims.

mediated to him by a thousand television screens.

Sexual fantasies in connection with Ronald Reagan. The genitalia of the Presidential contender exercised a continuing fascination. A series of imaginary genitalia were constructed using (a) the mouth-parts of Jacqueline Kennedy, (b) a Cadillac rear-exhaust vent, (c) the assembly kit prepuce of President Johnson, (d) a child-victim of sexual assault. In 89 percent of cases, the constructed genitalia generated a high incidence of self-induced orgasm. Tests indicate the masturbatory nature of the Presidential contender’s posture. Dolls consisting of plastic models of Reagan’s alternate genitalia were found to have a disturbing effect on deprived children.

The motion picture studies of Ronald Reagan

Reagan’s hairstyle. Studies were conducted on the marked fascination exercised by the Presidential contender’s hairstyle. 65 percent of male subjects made positive connections between the hairstyle and their own pubic hair. A series of optimum hairstyles were constructed.

created a scenario of the conceptual orgasm,

The conceptual role of Reagan. Fragments of Reagan’s cinetized postures were used in the construction of model psychodramas in which the Reagan-figure played the role of husband, doctor, insurance salesman, marriage counselor, etc. The failure of these roles to express any meaning reveals the nonfunctional character of Reagan. Reagan’s success therefore indicates society’s periodic need to re-conceptualize its political leaders. Reagan thus appears as a series of posture concepts, basic equations which re-formulate the roles of aggression and anality.

a unique ontology of violence and disaster.

Reagan’s personality. The profound anality of the Presidential contender may be expected to dominate the United States in the coming years. By contrast the late J. F. Kennedy remained the prototype of the oral subject, usually conceived in pre-pubertal terms. In further studies sadistic psychopaths were given the task of devising sex fantasies involving Reagan. Results confirm the probability of Presidential figures being perceived primarily in genital terms; the face of L. B. Johnson is clearly genital in significant appearance–the nasal prepuce, scrotal jaw, etc. Faces were seen as either circumcised (JFK, Khrushchev) or uncircumcised (LBJ, Adenauer). In assembly kit tests Reagan’s face was uniformly perceived as a penile erection. Patients were encouraged to devise the optimum sex-death of Ronald Reagan.

ballard-ronald-reagan-02

 

An image from NUDE REAGAN, a photography book by John Brian King.

 

Literature

People in General (Fiction)

Short Story from “People in General”

By John Colasacco

Pennsylvania_Station,_NYC,_Waiting_Room,_Cassatt_Statue.jpg

Once I tried to imagine what it would be like to have to say something to my best friend if she were dead. I spent the whole night by the open window, getting dressed and undressed, and it was almost as though many years had passed. After a while I no longer felt qualified to say anything. When I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror there was something awkward about my body, the way it looked and moved. I used to know what it was but the rain made me forget it. In the morning I went to school, and I moved through the crowd with a piece of fruit in my hand, looking for a table with an empty seat. When I found one I sat down and put the fruit on the table next to me. Suddenly it flew apart, disintegrating into a million little pieces. I listened to the voices all around me; some were laughing, and others were angry, or pretending to be. I asked someone what time it was, and they told me it was only nine o’clock. It felt like I was snowing inside myself. Now I am sitting in the train station again. My hands are freezing cold and I have a stranger sitting near me kicking his feet against the legs of his chair. A minute ago he leaned in close to me, as though he wanted to whisper something private in my ear. Am I thirsty? he wanted to know. I have the same few words going through my head over and over, he said. It’s maddening, but it’s how I learned to speak. I stayed very still and rigid while he told me this, never flinching or turning to acknowledge how close to me he was. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that he was holding something, and from the way he cupped it in his hands I knew that it was probably a lighter and a pack of cigarettes. Sure enough, a second later he settled himself back into his own seat and began tapping the pack against his palm. He peeled away the cellophane and opened up the box, then pulled the foil wrapper out and immediately crumpled it up. I kept waiting for him to put the piece of foil in his pocket or get up to throw it away. He never did though; he’s still holding it now, kicking his feet, with a very faint rumbling sound coming from the back of his throat. Oh, I see, I think to myself, noticing the huge globes of light on top of the old fashioned street lamps standing in the open waiting areas of the station. People file by on their way to the coffee shops and souvenir stands that line the edges of the concourse under these huge, swollen lamps, which don’t need to be as intense or beautiful as this. It reminds me of being home, and leaving the door to the attic open for just second or two, and in that moment while my back is turned feeling certain that one of the cats has just slipped upstairs.

Just then I see a little girl in a pink jacket standing by a white mannequin that’s been stripped of all its clothes. Her feet are pointing in one direction but the rest of her is turned toward me, and she’s looking at me with big, unfocused eyes. I stare back at her for a while, then I stop looking at her, and in my head I see the train station the way it was before it filled with people. There’s moonlight on the floor, pouring down from the skylights, and the huge antique clock on the wall says that it’s 2:40 a.m. There are a few passengers here and there, none of them close by. I watch them moving slowly toward the far end of the terminal. One is a blind man in a heavy winter coat being led by a service dog. When he disappears around a corner I realize that over the past few minutes I’ve gradually become afraid of something. The inside of my mouth hurts, and my hands are so cold now that I wish I’d brought gloves. Just when I feel like I can’t stand it anymore, I look up at the hole in the wall that I thought was a clock, and the last thing I notice is the smell of rice cooking.


John Colasacco’s books include Antigolf, The Information Crusher, Two Teenagers, and the forthcoming The Wagners. Other excerpts from the manuscript People in General can be found in Enclave’s #finalpoems and Dennis Cooper’s blog. Anyone interested in written/artistic collaboration can email at jacolasa@syr.edu.

Literature, Publishing

THE STRANGE WORLD OF WILLIE SEABROOK

COMING IN FALL 2017:
MARJORIE WORTHINGTON’s Memoir

This is the somber, quietly stunning account of American author Marjorie Worthington’s life and relationship with William Seabrook. 

A bestselling writer on the exotic and the occult, Seabrook was an extraordinary figure from the 1920s to the 1940s who traveled widely and introduced voodoo and the concept of the “zombie” to Americans in his book The Magic Island

In 1966, years after his death from suicide, Worthington, a novelist and Seabrook’s second wife, cast her eye on their years living in France as lost-generation expatriates; their time traveling in the Sahara desert (where Seabrook researched his book The White Monk of Timbuctoo); their friendships with Aldous Huxley, Gertrude Stein, and Michel Leiris; and the gradual erosion of their relationship. 

Worthington was with Seabrook in France and later New York when his life became consumed by alcohol, and he took the drastic step of committing himself to a mental institution for a cure; though he wrote about the institution in his book Asylum, he remained an alcoholic. He was also fixated by sadistic games he played with women, which he and the surrealist Man Ray photographed, and which he later viewed as a way to initiate altered psychological states through pain.

The Strange World of Willie Seabrook is an intimate look at the complicated, torturous relationship of two writers. Seabrook was a sadist, yet to Worthington he was also enthralling; he was an alcoholic, but she believed she could protect him. Even after he had hurt her emotionally, she stayed near him. In brilliantly depicted moments of folie à deux, we watch Worthington join Seabrook in his decline, and witness the shared claustrophobic, psychological breakdown that ensues.

Literature

Sand (Short Story)

Sand
by Rav Grewal-Kök

johnbrianking-sickcity

For eight years, or ten, the world outside her apartment was a stage. In the subway, people looked at her with envy or admiration—her slender ankles and wrists, her beautiful hair. At work, her colleagues listened for her voice in the hallways. Strangers held doors for her and offered their seats. Bartenders didn’t let her wait when she raised her hand at the counter. She led the kind of city life a teenager in a dying town might recognize from a television show, and want for herself.

Each August she left the city to go to the shore with a man. Often she didn’t know the man very well, but for two weeks they spent their days next to each other on plastic chairs on the sand wearing almost nothing. They read intelligent magazines, sipped fruit-flavored cocktails, rubbed lotion onto each other’s backs, and talked about the delightful weather. Twice each day during those two weeks—once in the morning and once in the afternoon—the woman walked from her plastic chair to the water’s edge. She let the waves lap over her toes but went no farther. At night the woman and man ate dinner at a restaurant. They drank another cocktail, shared a bottle of pink wine, and talked about the weather they hoped for the following day. Then they returned to their hotel room, took off all their clothes, and got into bed.

After these vacations, what the woman remembered most fondly was not the sun, the water on her toes, the cocktails, wine, food, or bed, and certainly not the man, but her walks from the plastic chair to the surf and back. Sometimes she slipped off her shoes while she sat at her desk and imagined that she was once again at the shore. She loved the fact that sand wasn’t anything more than rocks that had crumbled into dust. And she loved that when she walked on sand she sank only a little with each step, before the softness turned to steel under her feet.

• • •

One year, to her surprise, there was no man to go with her to the shore. So she went by herself to sit almost naked on a plastic chair on the sand. At first, she walked twice each day to the surf and back, as she’d always done. But with no one waiting for her in a plastic chair of his own, she began to wander. Soon she circled the beach for an hour at a time. Her mind was clear now that she was alone. As the days passed, she set aside her cocktails, lotion, and intelligent magazines. She realized that since walking on sand was the best part of her vacation, she should do more of the walking, and less of everything else.

The next year she signed up for a hiking tour of the desert near the city where she lived. The sand in this desert wasn’t as pure as the sand at the shore—it was marked by cactuses, boulders, and even the occasional coyote skeleton—but she was happy there was so much of it. Still, the other hikers distracted her with their chatter. She couldn’t keep her mind clear. On the third day of the tour, as she walked behind a man and two women who were talking about musical theater so loudly they were almost shouting, she decided she needed to visit a desert in a foreign country whose language she didn’t know.

A year later she flew to such a country and joined a tour through a desert much larger than the one near the city where she lived. This desert was flat and without shade. It would have been dangerous for tourists to walk under all that sun, so they rode camels instead. The other tourists talked among themselves. They gestured, laughed, and posed for pictures. One man sang arias from beneath a wide-brimmed hat. The animals emitted a terrible stench. Despite all this, the woman passed her first day in a state that was almost tranquil. Because she didn’t understand what the tourists were saying or singing, she found it possible to ignore them. After she sprayed perfume on her scarf, she could forgive her camel its smell. When the group stopped for the night, and while the guides boiled lentils and barbecued a goat, the woman took off her shoes to walk around the campsite. It was only then that she realized she hadn’t yet found the right desert. The sand was full of hidden rocks and even beetles.

For her next vacation, she planned a trip to the biggest desert she could find on the globe she kept on her bookshelf. She arranged for someone to meet her at an airport on the desert’s edge. She stepped out of the plane into a vast but empty terminal. A man in a blue jacket and cap stood waiting with a sign that had her name on it. She followed him to his car. Silently, he drove out of the airport and onto a highway that, within minutes, was empty of traffic. The sun dropped behind them. The land turned red, then black. The woman fell asleep.

She woke up the next morning with the sun in her eyes. They had stopped where the highway stopped, at the foot of a dune that seemed to her as tall as a mountain. The driver, who was already standing outside the car, held the door open. The woman got out, took off her shoes, and began to walk. The sand still held the night’s coolness. It was smoother and softer than any she had stepped on before. She had walked only a few yards from the car when she found herself sinking to her ankles. With each step of her climb she sank deeper. Soon the sand reached her knees. She was halfway up the dune when she realized that this desert—the greatest desert, formed of the purest sand—was an ocean. She hoped to reach the top, and to see it all, before she plunged beneath.


Rav Grewal-Kök’s stories and essays have appeared in the New England Review, Missouri Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Hunger Mountain, online at The White Review, and elsewhere. He was a National Endowment for the Arts fellow in 2016. He is a fiction editor at Fence and lives in Los Angeles, where he is working on a novel.

Featured image from the series “Sick City” by John Brian King.

Publishing, Photography, Literature

Portraits of Spurl

Portraits of Spurl

  Andy Adams  @FlakPhoto

Andy Adams @FlakPhoto

  Kim Cooper  @kimcooper  / Larry Edmunds Bookshop  @LarryEdmunds1

Kim Cooper @kimcooper / Larry Edmunds Bookshop @LarryEdmunds1

  Edward Carey  @EdwardCarey70  / bought at  @MalvernBooksTX

Edward Carey @EdwardCarey70 / bought at @MalvernBooksTX

  Naomi Fry  @frynaomifry

Naomi Fry @frynaomifry

  Stephen Sparks  @rs_sparks  / Point Reyes Books  @PointReyesBooks

Stephen Sparks @rs_sparks / Point Reyes Books @PointReyesBooks

  Alex Maslansky / Stories Books  @StoriesEchoPark

Alex Maslansky / Stories Books @StoriesEchoPark

  Kliph Nesteroff  @ClassicShowbiz

Kliph Nesteroff @ClassicShowbiz

  Grafiche Morandi

Grafiche Morandi

  Clare Kelly  @NewAgeSext

Clare Kelly @NewAgeSext

  Denise Enck / Empty Mirror  @EmptyMirror

Denise Enck / Empty Mirror @EmptyMirror

  John Coulthart  @johncoulthart

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

  Kathleen Graulty and Julian Lucas / Mirrored Society  @MirroredSociety

Kathleen Graulty and Julian Lucas / Mirrored Society @MirroredSociety

  Small Press Distribution  @spdbooks  / New Museum  @newmuseum

Small Press Distribution @spdbooks / New Museum @newmuseum

  John Coulthart  @johncoulthart

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

  J. M. Schriber  @roughghosts

J. M. Schriber @roughghosts

  Ed Turner / Biblioklept  @biblioklept

Ed Turner / Biblioklept @biblioklept

Thank you to all of the wonderful, sensational artists who have taken part in PORTRAITS OF SPURL, and who are are not ashamed to read and sell our misfit books!

Literature

Some Perspective (Short Story)

Some Perspective

By Ari Braverman

The jet arcs over the plains, carrying the woman toward her family obligation. The closer she gets to her native geography the more raw and receptive she becomes.

Once, years ago, her English teacher said, “If you poke me, do I not squeak?”

It’s like that, the woman thinks, except it’s the world poking, and she’s in public so she can’t make a sound. This is perhaps a side effect of contemporary living: she, a human animal, was never meant to travel so quickly.

Now everything hurts and feels good at the same time.   

The woman interprets the interior of the plane as a vast, communal living room.

Right before takeoff, a young man in a cropped Capote coat had sauntered toward her down the aisle. His khaki-colored hair swept back toward his crown. The passenger drew herself up taller in her seat, prepared to make conversation because his beauty convinced her he was a good person. But he had swung into row seven and the woman walking behind him—effortless, long-limbed, dark, chic even in sweatpants—folded herself into the same compartment. When she pulled a handful of natural hair out of her collar and pushed it over her shoulder, the woman could smell her perfume.

“Yeah, babe, you’re right as per usual,” said this other passenger. “But the point is that I didn’t know that I didn’t know those things. So how could I have done differently?” And she leaned over to kiss the handsome man with her whole mouth.

Hearing an admission of such a human foible from someone so glamorous, the woman decided she adored them both.

Now, twenty-thousand feet over the surface of the earth, instead of reading her book, she watches them cuddle and share a water bottle. From behind, she can almost believe their cheekbones convey a moral message. It is obvious they have money but it doesn’t matter whether it is earned or inherited; their grace remains the same.

After a while they settle down into a single shape, sharing a long gray scarf like a blanket.

With only thirty minutes from touch-down, they still haven’t moved. The passenger retrieves two mandarins from her carry-on, peels and eats them both, feeling furiously, swallowing the seeds.

Back home, she lives with her own lover in a small house on a cul-de-sac. She thinks of his small teeth and predictable sense of humor. Of his reliability and scrotum. Her phone contains a message in which he bids her a safe flight, as though his courtesy could prevent a plane crash.

Still staring at the couple in row seven, the passenger considers that such a finale might be the best way to go. The least-lonely option. A surge of filial adoration warms the inside of her body. She thinks about the community the three of them might make among themselves, if only they knew she was there, behind them, brimming with love. She imagines touching their bodies as the plane tumbles out of its trajectory, the imminence of death obliterating the personal boundaries that have always disappointed her.

She’d tell them: “I very much believe in God, but only when things are going bad for me,” and afterward her heart would be light. Her new companions would nod silently, thrust beyond language by the extremity of their situation, grateful for her honesty. The woman might smooth the hair away from her temples, or push a tear away from the bridge of her nose. She thinks of their arms around her amidst all the noise, the rushing air, the alarms, the nausea, the crying, the ugliness in everyone’s face.

Her row-mate, a fat person whose elbow has colonized the armrest for an hour, does not factor into this fantasy because it is erotic.

The peels have become sticky in the passenger’s fist but she can’t drop them onto the floor and won’t allow herself to hide them in the chair pocket at her knees. The barf-bag is long gone; she needs a trashcan.

She decides to take her refuse to the bathroom in order to walk past the couple, up and down the aisle, to force them, gently, to contend with her presence as she has contended with theirs. A tiny reckoning. To know for certain if she could ever belong to their little family, if only for the duration of the crash.

Standing, though, she can see their eyes are closed. She sits back down.

Looking out the porthole window, the passenger believes she can comprehend the vastness of the North American continent. Frontage roads parcel the winter farmland into squares, where thicker lines indicate an occasional highway, all of it bound by a single unknown county.

When she looks up again, the couple in row seven has shifted positions and she can see their hands again. The man’s wedding ring—big, custom-made—glitters in the overhead light. The passenger takes a photograph of it on her phone.

The voice, when it comes to her, resonates with the round tones of her own heritage.

“Cute, aren’t they?” he says.

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s nice, right? Seeing a happy couple. It’s a rare thing, anymore.”

“What?”

“Would you like something to drink? Coffee, tea, pop?” This final word strikes her. She wants to laugh until her jaw falls off. Pop. Pop!

“I have these.” Her voice cracks and she shows the flight attendant her sticky handful.

“I’m sorry, hon, I’m only doing beverage service right now,” he says. Wrinkles frame his mouth and deepen when he smiles. The skin along his jaw looks loose, like her mother’s. Is he laughing at her? She wants to touch his hand, explain herself and the photo, but says instead “Well I’ll probably be here when you come back.”


Ari Braverman is from Iowa City and Denver by way of New Orleans. She was awarded a 2015 De Alba Fellowship from Columbia University, was a semi-finalist in the 2016 American Short(er) Fiction Contest, and was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. Some of her recent stories have appeared in BOMB, in the newest issue of Tammy Journal and at SmokeLong Quarterly. She is an assistant editor for Conjunctions and lives in Harlem, New York.

Literature, Publishing

Two Reviews of Michel Leiris

Two Reviews of Nights as Day, Days as Night
By Michel Leiris

In her article titledNocturnal Disturbances in Diabolique Magazine, Samm Deighan gave Nights as Day, Days as Night a fascinating (rave!) review. 

A book that largely resists classification, this is a combination of surrealist autobiography (literally, in the sense that is was written by a leading Surrealist and figuratively in the sense that it is predictably and wonderful surreal), prose poem (which is how translator Richard Sieburth refers to it), and dream journal. Anyone who has a fascination with the Surrealists or 20th century Paris will find much to love and the work’s appealing strangeness certainly lingers in the memory — I can’t stop thinking about it.
Spurl’s new volume captures the poetry, absurdity, and beauty of Leiris’s book thanks to a translation from Richard Sieburth. A comparative literature professor at New York University, Sieburth specializes in writing about and translating German and French literature; perhaps I’m biased, because he has translated a number of some of my favorite authors, from Walter Benjamin and Georg Büchner to Henri Michaux, as well as Nerval, and I suspect his knowledge of the latter assisted him here. Regardless, he does Leiris proud.

And in The Pepys of Sleep (in Strange Flowers), Berlin-based writer/translator James Conway talks about dreams and literature; Michel Leiris, Raymond Roussel, and André Breton; and the real-life dream of an Italian game show. A highly recommended read.

As language rests from its customary labours, Leiris takes words apart, comparing them, rearranging them, rousing the associative logic slumbering in their syllables.

You can also read an excerpt from Nights as Day, Days as Night online at The Brooklyn Rail. 

Literature

Lost De Quinceyean Dreams (Prose Poems)

Lost De Quinceyean Dreams

By Matt Schumacher

 Illustration by Zhenya Gay of Thomas de Quincey’s  Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Illustration by Zhenya Gay of Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

LOST DE QUINCEYEAN DREAM NUMBER ONE

The 1821 revised Confessions were to contain “the crowning grace” of twenty to twenty-five dreams, but nearly all these prose poems were burned or lost. In one of these, De Quincey’s nightmare exiles him to a solemn, ruinous city.  Gargoyles guard its arched entrance, inscribed with a slogan from Ovid: Dolor Ipse Disertum Fecerat. The streets abandoned save for the sense no one lives here. Just when he’s sure no one’s about, a pallid gaunt man in a top hat and long black trenchcoat hurries out a small door and proceeds briskly toward the poet with pure purpose. The pale stranger nears, gray eyes staring maliciously into De Quincey’s. Then, like opiumsmoke, walks right through him.

A SECOND LOST DE QUINCEYEAN DREAM

Le flâneur magnifique, De Quincey dreams that, while walking down Parisian streets, he’s truly gliding backwards. The dream soon has him rushing faster in reverse, then flying head over heels, sire of some cyclonic gyre, flown down and swallowed by a south pole Symmes Hole, tumbling into hollow earth. Shivering high diver into stalictite caverns. Traveler, his sieve-like vessel leaking flames on subterranean rivers of fire. He wakes in the tower of Remedios Vara’s painting Embroidering the Earth’s Mantle. It’s frightening to be suddenly blinded by the glare of his threadbare suit, an incandescent gold. To see his shirtsleeves, now lava flows. His coattails fulgurite. And what a hat! An ash cloud plume, rising from the brim to sublime heights of cumulus. The crown stitched here and there with lightning.

LOST DE QUINCEYEAN DREAM NUMBER THREE

De Quincey dreams of sleeping cities long before electricity exists, cities whose steeples truly knew the moon. Cities seemingly deeply asleep, save for a scant lantern swaying down an alley, or a single flickering, candlelit room. He dreams of sleeping cities, silent cities which won’t let a rustle, not one whisper, slip. Not one hum from Northumbrian lowlands. With closed eyes like locked apothecary doors. A flock of insomniacs resume their posts as woe’s own nightwatchmen. He dreams of passengers restlessly sleeping on trains, perturbed, yet failing to complain, keeping to themselves. He dreams of sleep deprivation’s selling its last estate, sits betwixt narcoleptic auctioneer and hypnogogue who, drifting off, forgets to bid. Cities slide by in shimmering nightclothes, slow Barcelonas, languid Madrids, embark in darkness’s black fabric. De Quincey dreams of new dreams silently settling in, like a scarlet ibis retires to its nest. Strange visions dilate strange eyes, open the white flower of so many nightblooming minds beneath so many thousand eyelids.

THE FIFTEENTH LOST DE QUINCEYEAN DREAM

He dreams he’s a jockey galloping ahead of all of the other thoroughbreds on a steed named Celestial Hallucination, one of hundreds of horses the Zetas race in the United States to launder millions in fiendish proceeds. The horse gallops faster and faster, murdering the competition, then leaps steeplechase-style over the track and fence, metamorphosing beneath De Quincey into a manyheaded beast. Sudden heads of sabertoothed tigers and tyrannosaurus rex crane their necks to salivate on him. Their gleaming teeth can’t quite reach him. Burying his face in its mane, he grips the chimera tighter. Glancing down, he sees his legs and arms have fused into the beast. His limbs belong to the wild scaffolding and bellows of its wings, hot and loud as a jet engine, part of this monstrosity flying higher into the air, this thing shapeshifting all the while with fangs gaping, slavering jaws wide, soaring somewhere in the stratosphere, trying to eat him alive.

From Matt Schumacher’s unpublished collection A Missing Suspiria de Profundis


Matt Schumacher's collections of poetry include Spilling the Moon, The Fire Diaries, Ghost Town Odes, and favorite maritime drinking songs of the miraculous alcoholics. Managing editor of the journal Phantom Drift, he lives in Portland, Oregon.