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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in allen ginsberg (7)


In Which Kenneth Patchen Created Us All In His Image

"Hiya Ken Babe, What's The Bad Word For Today?"


They've never made a movie about Kenneth Patchen. Now they're too late. The only guy who could play him, Robert Mitchum has just died. He had the voice, the build and the sleepy eyes. He had the laconic barroom style to deliver a poem like "The State of the Nation" whose last line I have altered in the title above.

It's difficult to fathom why he's not read by the young these days. Do the young have enough grounding to read any unconventional poet these days? Basil Bunting always insisted there were still plenty of "unabashed" boys and girls about, but their slovenly teachers had never trained them in the literature that mattered. There were three or four decade when Kenneth Patchen was a poet who mattered to a lot of people. I was having lunch last autumn with J. Laughlin, Patchen's old friend and his publisher at New Directions. He shook his head sadly, "They just don't read Kenneth anymore - how can we understand that?" I don't think we can understand. Each century produces a Blake and a Whitman, a Ryder and a Bruckner. They didn't arrive out of the empyrean with fan clubs and web sites.

Patchen wrote at a time when most writers stayed home and wrote, in places like Rutherford, Old Lyme, Fort Atkinson and Sausalito. The previous generation was into celebrity and reporters followed them to Pamplona, the rue de Fleurus and Rapallo. Patchen had to stay home, and stay in bed - his wrecked back gave him no mercy. Except for a few sessions of poetry-and-jazz with Charles Mingus in New York in the late 1950s, and with the Chamber Jazz Sextet in California, Patchen was a private man, not on stage.

It is instructive, perhaps, to contrast this kind of life with that of two later poets who have recently died: Allen Ginsberg and James Dickey. Both of these men spent early years working public relations on Madison Avenue and neither stopped jabbering for a single second thereafter. Ginsberg was a mensh. His desire to be the spokesman of his generation was the last thing I could imagine or would want, but we always enjoyed being together on what were rare occasions in San Francisco, New York or here in Dentdale. He upset a lot of squares, he opened up liberating avenues, he put himself on the line; but, may I be excused if I have to say that most of the poetry struck me as hard-sell advertising. I was reminded more of Walter Winchell and Gabriel Heater and Paul Harvey than of the Buddha.

Sheriff Dickey, more bubba than mensh, was unbelievably competitive. At a poetry occasion in the White House put on by Rosalynn Carter and Joan Mondale, Jim barely had time to shake my hand. He whispered to his wife, "Come on, honey, we got to work the crowd." He never forgave me for writing to someone that Deliverance was about as accurate about goings-on in Rabun County, Georgia, as Rima the Bird-Girl was in Green Mansions, by W.H. Hudson. I also made the mistake of quoting Mr. Ginsberg on Deliverance: "What James Dickey doesn't realize is that being fucked in the ass isn't the worst thing that can happen to you in American life."

Compared to these public operators, Patchen was as remote as one of the Desert Fathers. (The Desert Fathers is not a rock group.)

I sat in Concourse K at O'Hare Airport in Chicago recently, reading The New York Times and Fanfare and watching the passing parade for about three hours. This is very sobering work. I am not sure I saw one individual who was dressed individually. Most people looked like mall-crawlers. Most people looked overactive and stressful. They were moving at speed, like ants in a formicary. Others were merely bland and moved like wizened adolescents. It would be future ti suggest any sign of appetite among these citizens for Kenneth Patchen or J.V. Cunningham or Wallace Stevens or James Laughlin. A few people waiting for the evening flight to Manchester were reading paperbacks purchased at the airport. John Grisham and Danielle Steele and Dean Koontz were most in evidence. (One young man was reading Camus, but we must pretend he doesn't exist.) I decided to buy The Door to December by Dean Koontz, "a number one New York Times author who currently has more than 100 million copies of his books in print."

Whatever the cause of his crumbling self-control, he was becoming undeniably more frantic by the moment.



Why was he suddenly so frightened of them? He had never liked either of them, of course. They were originally vice officers, and word was that they had been among the most corrupt in that division, which was probably why Ross Mondale had arranged for them to transfer under his command in the East Valley; he wanted his right-hand men to be the type who would do what they were told, who wouldn't question any questionable orders, whose allegiance to him would be unshakable as long as he provided for them. Dan knew that they were Mondale's flunkies, opportunists with little or no respect for their work or for concepts like duty and public trust. But they were still cops...

That goes on for 510 pages. So, fellow-stylists, there is hope for us all, whether you like square hamburgers or round hamburgers. I go for the round ones, as I am sure Mr. Koontz does. McDonald's has sold over ninety billion of the little buggers. Here's to LitShit and a kilo of kudzu up the kazoo!

New York publishers calculate the fate of the American novel is in the hands of five thousand readers who will actually purchase new hardback fiction. At the Jargon Society we would by delighted to sell five hundred copies of the latest poetry by Simon Cutts or Thomas Meyer. It might take ten years. Of course, out there in the real world, thousands of verse- scribbling plonkers crank out a ceaseless barrage of what Donald Hall calls the McPoem.

Oracles in high places proclaim a Renaissance of Poetry. A distributor tells me of the purchase of twenty thousand hardback copies by a woman poet I have never read nor hear of. The hermits and caitiffs I hang out with don't explore other parts of the literary jungle, and just stick to their Lorine Niedecker and Basil Bunting, and even drag out volumes of Kenneth Patchen when the fit is on them. We few, we (occasionally) happy few...

How did we odd readers find our way to Kenneth Patchen? He, of course, would never have been in the curriculum at St. Albans School or at Princeton, my adolescent stomping grounds. I stumbled across a pamphlet by Henry Miller, Patchen: Man of Anger & Light. Miller I knew about because evil Time magazine had so vilified his book The Air Conditioned Nightmare that I took the next bus to Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. and bought it at the excellent bookshop run by Franz Bder. By the time I was ten I had the knack of discovering the books important to me beyond those required at school. But I was lucky. I had three good teachers in prep school and I lived in a city with real bookstores. And reading books was something you did. Nowadays, books are a form of retro-delivery system with no cord to plug in. Way uncool.

By the time I was twenty and had dropped out of Princeton to study painting and printmaking and graphic design, I was into Patchen in a big away. I read him along with Whitman, Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Williams, e.e. cummings, Edith Sitwell, Robinson Jeffers, Hart Crane, Kenneth Rexroth, Thoreau, Randolph Bourne, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Henry Miller and Paul Goodman. Before I was twenty-five I owned the manuscripts of The Journal of Albion Moonlight and Sleepers Awake. I had over forty of Patchen's painted books and a few watercolors. I'd published KP's Fables & Other Little Tales during my stay in the medical corps in Germany. What was the attraction?

Patchen was an original. Someone said, equally, of Babe Ruth: "It's like he came down from out of a tree." He was ready to play. Patchen and the Babe were heavy hitters, and nobody struck out more.

There is a towering pile of Patchen poems that amounts to not much. But he really does have twenty or twenty-five poems that seem as good as anybody's. He had power, humor, intuitive vision and a kind of primitive nobility. He knew his Blake and Rilke. He loves George Lewis' clarinet and Bunk Johnson's comet. He drew fabulous animals and painted very well. There was nobody like him.

Oh nobody’s a long time
Nowhere’s a big pocket
To put little
Pieces of nice things that
Have never really happened
To anyone except
Those people who were lucky enough
Not to get born

Oh lonesome’s a bad place
To get crowded into
With only
Yourself riding back and forth
A blind white horse
Along an empty road meeting
All your
Pals face to face

Oh nobody’s a long long time

The poet, painter and publisher Jonathan Williams died in 2008.

"I've Waited For So Long" - The Juan MacLean (mp3)

"The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love" - The Juan MacLean (mp3)


In Which We Lather Our Sensibilities At Length

Reading at Berkeley

I'm knocked out. I mean, I had a glass of whiskey. I said I hope nobody thinks I'm drunk. Man, I was high this afternoon, and I'm just exactly the same way now.

On July 23rd 1965 the poet Charles Olson took the stage at the University of California-Berkeley Poetry Conference, ostensibly to read a few poems. There was always an apprehension among Charles' friends whenever he attempted public speaking during his last years. The full text of Olson's remarks that evening runs over 60 pages, and it must have been evident to everyone in attendance that Olson, while somewhat cogent for him, would have to be dragged off the stage. Olson's talk that night has alternately been called "a tour de force" (by editor George F. Butterick and "an absolute travesty" (by most others). What follows are some excerpts from the text, along with private remarks during intermission transcribed by Zoe Brown.

ROBERT DUNCAN: As I think all of you, or almost all of you, must know, the man I am introducing tonight is visibly a large man. And he has to find in poetry — a phrase came up in a seminar of his: suddenly he was saying he was trying to find a position inferior to language. Every American impulse from the beginning has been to use it right away, and cash in on it, no matter what it was.

What I want to suggest is, if you find difficulties in Olson, they're because that the only thing in poetry for him is going to be found in a struggle, and because his knowledge of language is such that its usability seems everywhere, I keep thinking he'll never find how to take ahold of that so it isn't usable. We're absolutely baffled. But when he does, we have, the rest of us poets, been absolutely baffled. But when he does, we have the rest of us poets, been confronted with some amazing dimension, in which we find the — will "bedrock of poetry" do? I mean, the really resistant thign, the poem.

He has had to occupy an area in history big enough for some spirit size. You know, it's like he's trying to find clothes big enough for him. The spirit which can roam over anything it can imagine, and then imagine one that is still restless because it can't find a space big enough for it to exist in: we, this evening, will attend a poetry of this order.

One thing I find, for those of you who may really find yourself having to go along with something that will leave you feeling like you could have fitted it in a much smaller space and time, the other things he delights in sometimes are really beautiful songs.

And then you discover that, whatever the huge size in space, in time, he occupies, he also occupies beautiful and discrete, almost ordinary areas.

So, may I now get from the back of the room there, Charles Olson, who will take over.


CHARLES OLSON: Thank you. It feels like a convention hall. And I never was running for anything, fortunately.

Oh, would somebody loan me The Maximus Poems? I haven't a copy. Thakn you.

Gee, I did it again. I left something in the room. Yeah, that's right. How the hell do you prove what you always...? Hm, wow, that's crazy. That's a funny one. Where the hell did they go? Somebody took 'em. Would by any chance, Robert Creeley, you have — ? Oh here it is. I got it.

I'd like to first read a — thank you, Robert, for that word "song." In the face of the poets that have read here, I have had an experience.

DUNCAN: Charles, would you please put the microphone on?

OLSON: Oh. Did you say that? How do you do this if there ain't...? Just connect...? You see, this is life. I mean, I either am the Hanged Man, or... Where do you put that, like? Where does that go? There's no hole! Where do you put it? You'd better show me, Mr. Baker. Able Baker. You see, security.

Thank you. That's what we got our nation for. That's why, the rest of us are, fortunately, as Mr. Creeley proved last night, free. And then there's really no worry about the land of free, cause it's been replaced. Like Allen did! Instead of drinking to you and me, I'll drink to that, hm?

But I would like to read first what for me was kind of an experience of writing a song. It's called "The Ring Of" and I hope it's, if my memory is right...Mr. Creeley? That you did...?


OLSON: Yeah, O.K., that's why. I mean that was so much a matter of support that I felt... Here it is.

It was the west wind caught her up, as
she rose from the genital
wave, and bore her from the delicate
foam, home
to her isle

and those lovers
of the difficult, the hours
of the golden day welcomed her, clad her, were
as though they had made her, were wild
to bring this new thing born
of the ring of the sea pink
& naked, this girl, brought her
to the face of the gods, violets
in her hair

Beauty, and she
said no to zeus & them all, all were not or
was it she chose the ugliest
to bed with, or was it straight
and to expiate the nature of beauty, was it?

knowing hours, anyway,
she did not stay long, or the lame
was only one part, & the handsome
mars had her. And the child
had that name, the arrow of
as the flight of, the move of
his mother who adorneth

with myrtle the dolphin and words
they rise, they do who
are born of like

Hm, thank you. I just learnt it from you last night. OK, we're off. I mean the horse is at least on the track. See if we can win.

I also wrote a poem which I'm sure neither Creeley nor I would include in anything, but I want to read it. I'm going to read three poems first — that one, this one, and then "Letter 9" of the Maximus Poems, which has to do with this same book, this beautiful book, which I love...because that design on it was done — and then I don't know how many years later, enormous years later, I, after Creeley had criticized me and taught me everything one night, when I was burned up that he let a class go to go down to Peek's to have beer, and I thought the whole of Black Mountain was going to fail if we didn't get those windows in before the freeze that night — and long after, he said, "Don't flip your wig, man."

And that made me, that brought me up to time, eh? I mean, he knocked any wig I ever had off my head that night. And it was beautiful, because he knew exactly what he was saying. And he was right. And I was not up — I mean, I was obviously, like they say, not with it, not right. But curiously enough, it was so many years after even that, that I was left alone at Black Mountain, with my wife and son, and with the beach wagon, which Wesley Huss had acquired before we closed Black Mountain, in fact, within three days I had a beach wagon.

So I feel even comfortable in reading what I consider, and I guess everybody else does, a bad poem, which I wrote as a Christmas pageant or something, a poem for Christmas at Black Mountain. Ha ha ha! Because I suppose Allen Ginsberg still thinks I'm Santa Claus. I'd like him to say,"No!" or I'll run you for whatever you — what do I want to run for, Allen?

ALLEN GINSBERG: Read the poem and I'll decide.

OLSON: That's why I'm reading it. It's called "An Ode to Nativity," and I don't believe it's ever been read. Except for this morning, I thought I'd look at it and I liked it, you know how you do. I don't think anybody has ever...By the way, did you reject, did you even bother to consider it, Bob? How far can I come with this tether?

GINSBERG: Go ahead and read it, read it.

OLSON: Oh, I'm going to do it. Look this thing is so bad, I can't ruin it. The only thing I can, as Allen says, is it might turn out to be how it sounded to me today. I guess that's really how it feels for me tonight, or this morning.

All cries.


All cries rise, & the three of us
observe how fast Orion

Naah, that's too poetic.

All cries rise, & the three of us
observe how fast Orion

Jeez I'm looking it all. Big voice... Shit! You see, you shouldn't talk; you should just read the thing.

All cries rise, & the three of us
observe how fast Orion
marks midnight
at the climax
of the sky
while the boat of the moon settles
as red in the southwest
as the orb of her was, for this boy, once,
the first time he saw her whole halloween face northeast
across the skating pond as he came down to the ice, December
his seventh year.
Winter, in this zone, is an on & off thing, where the air
is sometimes as shining as ice is
when the sky's lights... When the ducks
are the only skaters
And a crèche
is a commerciality
(The same year, a ball of fire
the same place - exactly through
the same trees
was fire
the Sawyer lumber company yard
was a moon of pain, at the end of itself,
and the death of horses I saw burning,
fallen through the floors
into the buried Blackstone River the city
had hidden under itself, had grown over...


Recorded during the intermission:

OLSON: Allen, I'm just proving that oral poetry exists, O.K.? Ain't I or not?

GINSBERG: It's very good, it's beautiful.

OLSON: Isn't this oral poetry? Isn't this improvisatory, spontaneous poetry?

GINSBERG: All except one thing, when you had the cigarette in your mouth.

OLSON: And what happened? Was that visual?

GINSBERG: Couldn't hear you at the back.

WELCH: We were worried it was backwards.

OLSON: Gee, I wish it were. I needs to be backwards. That extra piece that I needed: I don't need it, I'm drunk on you guys. And I meant it.

WELCH: Hey, don't you have to pee too?

OLSON: Nah, shit pee? I never pee. The reason why I'm not a queen is I don't have to pee to prove that I'm a man. Go pee, Allen. We got over that tonight.

PAUL X: Can I have a cigarette?

OLSON: Of course, it's yours, baby. Isn't that crazy, I should be smoking your cigarettes? Goddamn it, it irritates me, but it also -

PAUL X: A broad gave them to me, so it doesn't matter.

JOHN WIENERS (introducing a girl): Just here visiting.

GIRL: Hello, how are you? I'm enjoying it so much.

OLSON: Awfully nice to see you. Pleasure. I'm glad. Will you kiss me too? You would kiss me, anyhow, but I want you to kiss me in honor, as well, will ya? In love and honor.

WELCH: That was why we did it.

SUZANNE MOWAT: What are you doing?

OLSON: I'm doing just what I ought to be doing, don't you think so?

MOWAT: I don't.

OLSON: You don't? You think I should be reading poetry? God, I got the poems, but -

WELCH: Charles, do you know John Montgomery? Allow me to introduce John Montgomery.

OLSON: I know Stuart Montgomery, the guy who's publishing Ed and me in London.

WELCH: No, he's the guy who talks so funny in The Dharma Bums, that forgotten painter.

OLSON (drinking): That's the last of it, dammit. I had one last slug.

WELCH: Don't you want to give him a drink?

MOWAT: No, I don't think you should.

OLSON: "...and John Montgomery." Let's do this thing the way it's coming out tonight. "Charles Olson and John Montgomery." O.K.? Now give me that shot. You got a whiskey.

WELCH: I brought this for you, but no one told me that you drink.

OLSON: What the hell is that? Just that lousy wine. Well, I'll just go like Jack Kerouac, right straight on to Rot Red. Drinks. It's sweety time. You, you drunken bum, have a shot. And if you don't stop drinking...

WELCH: Yeah, I know, I'm a terrible lush.


OLSON: I think the poets are ahead of the scientists now. I know they are. The decadence of the imagery of science is as shocking as James Joyce. I mean, Ezra Pound long years ago returned the presentation copy of Finnegans Wake to himself, with the word "DECADENCE" written over the cover. I mean, that takes guts, the same guts that led him to say, "I thought I knew something." I'd be proud to have been the man in this century... And like, here I am, dragging my ass after Ezra.

Two years ago in Vancouver, what did I do? I tried to read the poems? Now I could, and instead I'm telling you, "Gee I wish they were more." I'm not just avoiding it. I'll be happy to read them. I love some of them. Just like those poems I wrote longer and earlier, I bet they'll turn out to be all right. That's not the point. They're nothing by comparison to what I propose, or what I would dream I might do. Because poets only are worthwhile if they do what they dream. And there's been a few. In fact, the only ones that count are those who want to be, hm, the same in their dream.

last days of the vancouver poetry conference, 1963

And I'm like — let me continue 5, and I'll come back to 9, which I love because it talks about how a book practically is the only goddamn thing that is a dream in a society like this. And do you know it embarrassed me two years ago in Vancouver. I mean, god, Allen an activist, Orlovsky, Dunky, Creeley, everybody that was there, I feel like an old schlumpf from Gloucester. And, in fact, I'd love to read even that crazy "Tantrist sat saw Lingam in City Hall" or something, I mean, a poem I did read, you know, I'd like to read it right now, like that, like that, like.

And just make it like it felt when it was written, that's all. I am a tantrist. But two years ago I was embarrassed, and not because I hadn't been to Buenos Aires. O.K.?

I mean the universe today is a very hard thing for an individual to possess. The whole human race has it. The efficiency of the universe is in our hands. But for any one of us, as what they used to call a private soul, when I protested was a piece of piss at any public wall, in that paragraph, in that opening paragraph of Projective Verse, but you know, it comes out that the private soul — and if I could cry like the cock at the birth of day - which is all I'm doing tonight — that's the only thing that's more than public and private. And like that great thing we've been talking about and we discussed in seminar. Isn't it nice, really? This is the private soul at the public wall. Charlie Olson. Closed verse. Not even bothering to play the music.

I got the music. I mean, it's like scores, Beethoven and all those things, John Keats' letters in Harvard's library. I read 'em. In fact, I wrote a fourteen line sonnet. You know, it's powerful. I was talking to Ed Dorn recently. Probably I shouldn't have eaten supper...

CREELEY: Please read the poems.

OLSON: All right, Bob, I heard you.

July 23rd, 1965

"Keep Your Secrets In Midnight City" - Kill Paris (mp3)

"Too Many Fish" - Karmin (mp3)



In Which We Pay Mind To Author Photographs And Facebook

Cowgirl Mouth


To become an author photograph, you must stop being yourself. You must sit in a chair looking serious, possibly on a deck or otherwise inside a room filled with books. You must stare off as if possessed by thought, and then you must pretend you are thinking about something besides how the picture is going to look. You must not make the face that you actually make while writing, or you will look crazed.

Some people prefer to look crazed, but that's a very specific kind of author photo and those people are usually Hunter S. Thompson impostors lacking in the effortless stylishness and talents of the actual Hunter S. Thompson. William S. Burroughs also preferred to look cool. A crazed photo will not make your writing any more crazed.

A good author photo will last you several books. A truly iconic image can be repeated infinitely. If you are attractive enough, you can put the picture on your book. If you are a talented enough writer, no one will suspect that anyone buys your book because of what you look like. If you are a man, putting a picture of yourself on the cover implies some self-seriousness, especially if you are handsome. If you are a woman, putting a picture of yourself on the cover implies frivolity or that you are a C-List celebrity trying to sell books. Most serious new books do not have author photos on the front.

Unless you are Patti Smith. If you are Patti Smith you can do whatever the fuck you want. Also if you are Susan Sontag or Joan Didion or Hannah Arendt. People take a woman seriously so long as she is not also trying to seem beautiful. If she can fake a lack of vanity, or transform her vanity into an attack on generalized female vanity.

I have looked at Sam Shepard's author photograph countless times. People don't automatically think that Sam Shepard is trying to seem handsome in his author photo because male beauty is assumed as a thing that just is, that naturally exists. In actuality all beauty is somewhat acted, even in the beautiful. A candle must be lit. 

What does Sam Shepard want us to know about himself? That he is married, or at least that he sports a wedding band. He wears a denim work shirt to show his allegiance to the West (although he is from Illinois) and to demonstrate a kind of folksiness, to differentiate himself from all the authors in their starched oxford shirts or sweaters or white suits. To show us that he is a Sam, not a John, and everything that implies.  

How do you decide what face best represents you? How can you possibly pick one image of yourself to represent you at all times? If you pick a serious photograph you are discounting all the times you are not serious. If you pick a smiling photograph, the light-heartedness seems grotesque because it was so obviously faked or staged.  

Hunter S. Thompson holding a stick suggestively as a young man without sunglasses 

But no person is entirely funny or serious, so one photograph seems impossible. Maybe two photographs next to each other, one representing each. Maybe one superimposed on the other. The other solution is to smirk, which implies seriousness and humor at the same time. Some people use candids, but they're still choosing which one. Any face you make in a self-take will seem ridiculous, because it will be. 

Gertrude Stein by Carl Van Vechten

Not too long ago it was taboo to put a picture of yourself up on the internet. It was something reserved for only the truest geeks who it was assumed had nothing to lose in devaluing their privacy, feelings about which are a true generational gap, (although obviously now your grandparents are on Facebook) and dating websites, which were also considered taboo. It implied a kind of sad desperation. It still carries some of those connotations. People feel more ashamed using Photobooth than PornHub, but there's hardly a person alive that you can't find a picture of now on the internet. 

When I get spam friend requests on Facebook I always spend some time looking at the picture and wondering who they are, whether their personality bears any resemblance to the fake facts in their info section, what the actual original context of the picture was and whether they know they are being used to represent an imaginary human being. It's like having a staring contest with a robot. If you win, it explodes.

Rita Hayworth photographed by George Hurrell

The author photo was previously only an issue if you were famous or notable. As a kid I used to pore over a book of George Hurrell photographs that had the unretouched photos on one side and the finished images on the other and wonder why the real pictures of movie stars looked less "real" to me than the retouched ones. How I recognized Bette Davis and Ginger Rogers in the pictures with blown out exposure and dramatized contrast, and who were these strange mundane people right next to them?

You go to bed with Gilda and wake up with Rita Hayworth. You go to bed with Rita Hayworth and wake up with Margarita Carmen Cansino. You cannot wake up with Gilda. How could it be I had never noticed the retouching before then? I had just accepted automatically that the finalized image was truth. Thus is Facebook.  

Hunter S. Thompson, a few cool guy accessories and a plaid flannel later

What's especially amazing is that nobody had to be taught how to do it. Everyone just understood how from viewing and absorbing images, a process jacked to warpspeed by the internet with sites like flickr and tumblr. I used to have boxes full of pictures I cut out from magazines. Everyone has seen enough album covers, enough movie posters, enough author photos, to understand how to present themselves in a picture.

Once you start thinking about this, it is impossible to stop. You can't look at anyone's facebook pictures of themselves without determining how they are trying to portray themselves, how they want to be perceived: cool, pretty, fun, serious, goofy. You are never just being yourself in a photograph. You are being yourself in a photograph.

Sam Shepard and Wim Wenders

What is it that men see in cowboys that they want so much to see in themselves? A natural seeming lack of desire to demonstrate or communicate feeling? A sort of wildness, freedom from constructed identity, even though "cowboy" is one of the most deliberately constructed identities there is? Writers seem particularly drawn to them because they represent pure physicality, a direct line between being and deeds. As if cowboys never stay up at night in cluttered rooms thinking about who affects them.

It's why I fantasize about being a doctor even though it is as ridiculous for me to say I'd like to be a doctor as to say that I would like to be a duck, and yet I still fantasize about both in equal measures for the same basic reason. A purpose of spirit divorced from personal purpose of mind. An objective practice with concrete goals.

The illusion that all that matters is whoever's on the operating table that day, or however many cows need to be roped, and then you're too exhausted from the physical fullness of your work to take it home with you. But of course you do. 

Fact: Ernest Hemingway was forced to wear a pink gingham dress as a child

People romanticize cowboys for the same reason they romanticize gangster rap. It is the idea that there exist somewhere men for whom masculinity is natural, not a performance. The biggest lie of course, in rap and also Westerns, is that anyone exists who can kill people and have no feelings about it. That is how countries get men to join the army and go to war, by glamorizing this idea, and why they then get PTSD (shellshock) and are fucked up about it for the rest of their lives. The Wire is essentially a treatise on the endless fucked up cycle that permits and reinforces this.  

It is a partial lie that distracting the body can distract the mind. When the mind is overly preoccupied there is literally nothing that can distract it from itself. ("There is no geographical solution to an emotional problem.") The illusion I have that doctors live a professional life uncomplicated by personal relationships? I know it is a total lie. The doctors I know have told me that it is a lie. Everyone imagines themselves succeeding in some field that is different from the one they have chosen to pursue. All fields are equally ensemble casts. That is why ensemble casts are so relatable as an idea. 

Cormac McCarthy as a young man, not yet a professional fake cowboy

Cormac McCarthy is from Providence, Rhode Island. He is as much of the West as H.P. Lovecraft is of R'lyeh or Yuggoth. The only citizen of a place that exists entirely in his mind. I often think about Cormac McCarthy being a kid fantasizing about the West, and then I think about my own childhood fantasies of New England.

I like to think about the childhoods of people I can't imagine as children. I just picture them as a tiny version of whatever they look like now. It's especially funny with guys who have facial hair. Rhode Island is the smallest state, California one of the largest, but they are equal sizes in my mind. 

take me seriously because I am so very serious 

In New England during college, I developed my own Western fantasies. Finally delivered to the land of my teenage ideals, of real seasons and people who care about books, I started dreaming about the open plains. I thought about avocados and listened obsessively to Gene Clark and Gram Parsons. I could always locate myself much more easily in lonesome men than in their female counterparts. There was something too affecting to me about female plaintiveness. A part of myself I did not wish to have. But then I listened to Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton and found myself in there too. 

Larry McMurtry, champion of the emotional cowboy

We long for companionship, and then we long equally to be alone. That is what Westerns are about: pursuing aloneness together. You love the people who know you best, who know you as much as anyone can. They keep you alive in the wilderness. 

William S. Burroughs all eyez on me

Male loneliness is overly romanticized, female solitude overly demonized. There is occasional pleasure in loneliness because there is pleasure in being alone. The thing people actually like about Jennifer Aniston is that despite coming up in an ensemble cast show about friendship, she comes across as kind of a loner. Not a loser necessarily, although that is also a part of her charm. Mostly a loner (also, a stoner).

Aniston is a female take on 1970s antiheroes like Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye or Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces. She just needs to find a way to translate it back into film. Her best roles, in Friends With Money and The Good Girl, capture this about her. That quality of being a loner is also what women like about Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder, and Aniston's closest predecessor Barbra Streisand. Actresses who seem like outsiders are the most beloved because all women feel like outsiders, since they are.

When you think of yourself, you think of yourself as you are with yourself. Not as you are with friends, although that is also how you are. You spend an inordinate amount of time in conversation with yourself every day of your life. That's why you go out in the world and live, to try and lose track of this conversation. Identity is contrast.   

When you long for the West you are longing for space. For room between places and things but also between your thoughts. For a few years I used to say that New York made me feel overly claustrophobic. The buildings are so close together, I would say, they are pushing my thoughts that way too. But they weren't. It was just that I was pushing them that way. At its best New York pushes your thoughts upwards.

Joan Didion neckscarf diva

If you grow up intellectual in Los Angeles, you are constantly told that you do not belong there. People told me this so much growing up that I really believed it. Now I know you can be anything anywhere, an idiot in Paris or a genius in Des Moines (calm down IA intellectuals, I picked Des Moines because it's French and I like the way it sounds. Real G's move in silence like Des Moines.) That the people who think California is full of idiots bought an image they were sold, and they're no more foolish for believing it than I was for believing that New England would not also have idiots. 

Susan Sontag stacking paper

The public narrative about Los Angeles is that its beauty hides a corrosive interior. That you can't have temperate weather and fruit out of season without being punished for it somehow. That the Black Dahlia and the Manson family murders and all the fires and floods and quakes and riots are retribution for something, for original sin, for the buying and selling of false images and idols. That pleasure creates Puritan debt.

Raymond Chandler and friend

That concern with appearances means you care nothing about insides. That if something is beautiful it cannot also be serious. That if something is evil it cannot also be sometimes good. Even that artifice is automatically evil. I have never believed any of it. Los Angeles to me is edenic, even now knowing all its tricks. Los Angeles is corrupt but small towns have just as much sin. Los Angeles is a hooker with a heart of gold. 

The internet is the open country of the mind. The promise of space, no boundaries or bindings, no MLA handbooks or proofreaders. No set ideas about how writing or images "should" be, just how they can be and are.

No prejudice against fragments and run-ons and parentheticals, which I have always felt are truer to the way people actually talk with each other than "real" sentences, which have rules that that can ruin translation of thought. No old gods.  

It is freeing to write a "bad" sentence. It does not destroy the integrity of the "good" ones. If anything it props them up, the way "fucking" can be the best modifier. If you make your point, it does not matter how you make your point. Informality helps.

That is the purpose of blogging, of writing, of poetry. It's why we love Gertrude Stein. She is the founding father of This Recording and Allen Ginsberg is the founding mother. They cared that words could not so they broke it. 

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She also tumblstwitters and runs GIF Party and JPG Club. Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb San Diego. She last wrote in these pages about the internet.

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