I love libraries; I love scooting around the web from one link to another, tracking down references and quotations that lead to authors and texts and artists, that lead to whole philosophical systems and art movements I never knew about, or that had some vague, oh-I-have-to-get-around-to-that-one-day aura surrounding them that I never managed to bust through. (What IS performativity, anyway? I mean, I know what I think it means, but is that what people who use it a lot think it means? I gave up on Jean Baudrillard early, when it seemed to me like all he was really saying was, People take television more seriously than reality, and – hello! Lived through Reagan? Got it.)
Mostly, though, when I want to be a smart guy I go to my friends, like I’ve always done. They told me to listen to Roxy Music and Aphex Twin and Riceboy Sleeps (siiiiiiigh), and to read W. G. Sebald and Magda Szabo, and to see the films of Chantal Akerman and Bong Joon-Ho. (There, I sound smart already, just dropping those names.) I may have contributed to my friends’ ongoing education as well. I believe at one point I may have suggested to someone reading Shakespeare.
I’ve always thought that my life should be pretty much an endless series of breakfast and lunches, gabbing over bagels or soup dumplings or vegan Ethiopian platters, about Tuesday Weld’s performance in Play It As It Lays, and where film adaptations of terrific novels go astray, or land perfectly on target. The weird thing is, a surprisingly large proportion of my life really has been exactly like that. I think maybe the happiest people in history may be people like Samuel Johnson, Oscar Wilde, and Fran Lebowitz, who, although they certainly wrote fine works, are remembered particularly for their scintillating conversation. Me, I’m not pretending I’m not a charming interlocutor (if you’re looking for an interlocutor, which sounds like something you’d find on the Starship Enterprise: “Mr LaForge, ready the subspace interlocutors!”), but let’s face it, all too often, I’m just following my neurons wherever they decide to wander, in reference to whatever topic. (By the way, did you know that blather comes from the same root as bladder? Apparently not so much from the bladder that’s such a blessed relief to empty sometimes--like your mind--but the inflated pig’s bladder clowns and jesters used to hit people over the head with. Funny stuff. There’s conversational finesse for you.)
Oh yeah, my friends, right.
Some of my friends not only meet me for coffee and matcha eclairs but actually put their opinions, knowledge and wisdom out there on the web and kind of get an international cultural klatsch going. One of these has sustained me for years.
Dennis Cooper is a Southern Californian poet and novelist; scriptwriter for unusually affecting dance-theater performances choreographed by Gisèle Vienne; innovator of a new form, the gif novel; and now, with his collaborator Zac Farley, a filmmaker, whose latest work, Permanent Green Light, just premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival. So he stays busy. But he still finds time, six days a week, to put out a blog—daily entries are rapid, densely packed tours of some really diverse topics of interest: post-punk bands and avant-garde filmmakers, haunted-house rides and French Christmas cakes, Eastern European novelists and Western European male escorts. Regulars guest-curate days sometimes; I’ve done several myself. (Dennis’ own work is often what is now called “transgressive,” so it should be approached with caution by anyone who doesn’t have a very good idea what they’ll find there; the same is true of his first film with Farley, Like Cattle Towards Glow. His books and films without exception very complexly take on the most basic and the most rarefied issues in their respective forms, in ways commercially distributed novels and films almost never manage.)
One thing Dennis’ blog does with great precision and insight is present images of the work of contemporary artists. Some days are as edifying as a well-curated museum show—and I see them more often than museum shows and have taken more ideas from them. I recommend you have a look at the ones listed below. DC’s is always relevant and vital; sometimes mind-expanding; consistently at least as good an investment of time as any library or museum.
A literary entry: