If you’ll allow me a moment of high self-bullshit-praise, the kind I give myself in the bathroom or maybe the alley, this is my favorite post (by me) on Tin Hats. I think we put it into Writing for the Absent Reader. Anyway, we should have since that is the title of the book, but knowing us we probably left it out. I no longer have a copy of the book. Two very down on their luck so-called friends came to stay with me and took the only three copies I had. I think they wanted to sell them at a used book store in Portland since neither of them had read much since they started wearing shoes. The guy was some sort of visionary who had coke bottle glasses and she was an escapee from a San Francisco cult. They overstayed their welcome by about twenty minutes which was like some big guy removing my skin with pliers and if you think about it, a guy with pliers and twenty minutes can be a really fucked up combination. I internally screamed and I was sure I must have looked like The Scream by Munch. The thing about that painting, which hardly anybody understands, is that the two shadowy figures in the background are the parents. I don’t buy the “friends” theory, regardless of what Munch might have said. I feel certain that the real story of that painting is how the two parents have abused the gender fluid person who is screaming. Whatever the case may be, since all art is subjective and the viewer is supreme, at least in the way history unfolds, I have decided to re-post “Writing for the Absent Reader” which was the fourth piece of writing I did back in April of 2016. I think only five or six people have read it, yet it is still my favorite. But whatever, and as we all know “whatever” sometimes means fuck you, but in the context of this introduction, I ask you to understand it as “I don’t care”. Tone is everything when one utters “whatever”. So here you go, “Writing for the Absent Reader”…and the writer in the story is long since dead. I only have my memories of him and sometimes at night he comes to me and we talk about the way Santa Cruz used to be back when the dinosaurs walked the earth and one fart from any of them could wipe out a whole cave of humanoids. Incidentally, his name among the living was Bill Gilliam and I have one of his unpublished manuscripts. It’s titled Mo, You Overrate Your Own Bullshit. It was his last and only gift to me before he died. It’s a masterpiece.
“Art is a totally fucked operation. Let’s face it. You are driven to create and you do it and people watch like you’re a bug circling the zapper and they wonder what the hell is the point? Maybe they say you’re wasting time or behind your back that you have no talent, and these are the honest ones. The dishonest say things like, you have really got something or you’re great, going to be the next big thing and somewhere deep inside, you know that’s all bullshit, but you don’t care because you self-medicate, which helps with self-delusion and fits of cynicism. In response to the deceit, maybe your tongue turns to acid and you burn down entire city blocks or you devise a method to beat the shit out of people using heavy black rags or maybe you just stop fucking them in the dark. You start to see the options. Maybe you have a job and do your art at night or on weekends and then you start to understand how difficult all that is. You contemplate the illusionary nature of life and suddenly you are entertaining thoughts of strangling your marriage; leaving kids, job, house, everything, because ultimately it’s all about you and your fucking art. Where’s your mother? Have you seen dad today? You start running and when you finally stop you start to mine the pain.
At the core of most great art is selfishness. Can a very good person create great art? It’s rare. Leave me alone is a common refrain of the great artist. I won’t drop any names, but if you think you’re an artist, the big question is: are you crazy enough? Because you’re going to need a different point of view and the perfect level of insanity is a big help. When you are witness to a young girl dying of starvation, you have to see something else like maybe four giant toothpicks topped by a head of cauliflower that gets in bed with you at night and won’t let you sleep.
Literature requires a commitment from the reader. It is more demanding than music, painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry (outside of epic poems), photography, and conceptual art. The judgement of these forms of art is made in seconds or a few minutes at most. A book of literature could take days. Who has days to appraise art? Only the lonely.
Then there’s the question of why you make art? I don’t have time for that one. It’s too subjective and I can’t hear what you might be saying about the topic, since I’m hiding here in this obscure, punkass blog.
What you have just read, if you’re still reading, was a distillation of what a friend of mine, who died today, told me about six months ago. It was the last time I saw him. He was a writer from California. You have never heard of him, but he died today and I thought I’d post this on Tin Hats. I wrote it a few days after leaving him. It’s not a tribute, it’s a ripping of my skin. It’s partly about him, but mostly it’s about me, because regardless of what I write, it’s always about me. Self-absorption is not necessarily narcissism, but you need to stay on guard.
I recently took some smooth, light-hit LSD with a friend dying of cancer. He is mostly bedridden and a writer. As you might expect, the drug allowed us to meet each other within dimensions of our relationship that were normally hidden. If life is war, than a good LSD trip is peace; and we wore many faces, and we became smart children, and things were funny, different, and sad. The cool colors filled us like the blues from a million wise black people playing upon the same trumpet.
I highly recommend dropping acid with the dying to everyone. Future years move in the room and what will be lost, is found.
Smiles run as rivers at the feet of clocks.
We talked about literature and music and our words were alive and god-like, so fuck you.
Forgive me, sometimes I feel insane, but not in the way of my casual identity.
No, today I am aware that the insides of my doe-eyed dogs are changing and the debris, the work dust, is entering my pores. New sorts of cities are being built within their bodies and I can feel their paws slowly circling down towards the ground where they claw and howl and gather for food without humans. My dogs make me think about temperatures of 150 degrees that will burn up the libraries and make criticism a thing of the past and the old ideas of markets, money, paintings, homes, love, war, families, plans, sex, and writing a story for the telling, will stop; all of it will die like distant stars, except this time we will be forced to notice in a way sadder and more encompassing than Johnny Got His Gun.
I remember a man with a pistol in his hand telling me that they shoot the poets and the novelists first since they are all about blame and the effort to remember. He went on to say that in the future, even if the writers are hesitant, safe, and only write lipstick covered truth, they will still get drunk and loud in some bar, and undercover policemen will drag them out into the streets and execute them. Yes, the writers will lie there for days bargaining with the crows, yet from the edges of towns, in the basements and the holes, the few people left will crawl out and study the images and stories and character arcs propped up with bones and in the end everything will be quietly spoken, passed one to the other, as riven pages.
In the mountains the dogs will spread the word to survivors who will grip each other tightly; lying together in hidden spots; touching each other for what will eventually be the last time. They will mark their hours humming a song of regret and lost love. It will be a French jazz cover and they will trade it as the national anthem of the doomed, and finally no one will remember, no one will be left, and the dogs will run through the suffocating days without literature, without poetry.
So there you have it. How many people will read this? Maybe ten if I’m lucky and only half of those will like it; so in keeping with my friend and the theme of Tin Hats: fuck you absent reader, fuck you and it’s flying through the air and will visit you as something invisible, but toxic.”