The latest print issue of Rain Taxi
includes an essay I wrote, "Derek Jarman and The Memory Palace Of Life", about Derek Jarman's books, particularly the ones re-released by the University of Minnesota Press
. I incorporated a few sentences from the piece in my video essay on Jarman and Caravaggio
a few months back, but to read the whole thing you'll need to pick up a copy of Rain Taxi
. Here, to tempt you (or dissuade you), are the first two paragraphs:
Derek Jarman died in 1994, leaving behind him one of the most important bodies of work of any artist or filmmaker of his generation, an oeuvre that challenged orthodoxies of sexuality, politics, and aesthetics. Though best remembered for such films as Jubilee, Caravaggio, The Last of England, Edward II, and Blue, Jarman was also a prolific writer, particularly as a diarist, and The University of Minnesota Press has now brought all of these books back into print in uniform paperback editions. Additionally, they have reprinted Tony Peake’s 1999 biography of Jarman.
Though very much an artist of his time, Jarman’s work has sustained its power and relevance long beyond its creator’s death. Having found meaning and pleasure within the bohemian, anti-establishment world of the late-'60s British avant-garde art scene, Jarman never hesitated in presenting an identity for himself that was defiantly queer. At first, this was not a political identity. In his 1992 memoir/journal/manifesto At Your Own Risk, Jarman wrote that “I danced the sixties away but I didn’t see that as hedonism; it was a REVOLUTIONARY GESTURE — you should have seen the way the other students reacted to two men kissing in public. I believed we could bring change with individual actions, it wasn’t linked to any conventional political blueprint. One person in one room quite cut off could change the world.” During the early 1970s, Jarman attended many of the meetings of the Gay Liberation Front, but though he enjoyed the more pranksterish elements of their activism, Peake quotes him as saying he “disliked these well-meaning rather lonely people laying down the law … there was an element of joylessness about it.” His early films were proudly queer (a label he came to prefer to “gay”), but their queerness was in service to their countercultural core. Jubilee (1978), his second feature-length film, was an anarchic vision of an apocalyptic England (or an apocalyptic vision of an anarchic England) full of punk rockers. With the arrival of AIDS and Thatcherism in the 1980s, though, Jarman would become radicalized, his bohemian individualism and sense of humor evolving into furious, confrontational queer communalism.
I'm happy whenever one of my favorite playwrights, Wallace Shawn, gets some attention. Andrew Ervin has written an interesting personal essay at The Quarterly Conversation about Shawn and white privilege, his thoughts sparked by Shawn's latest publications, Essays and Grasses of a Thousand Colors.
I wrote about those two books and Shawn's whole career as a writer for the most recent print issue of Rain Taxi. While you'll have to get your hands on the dead tree magazine itself to read it all (for now), here are three paragraphs from it to whet your appetite...
More than a decade after The Designated Mourner, Grasses of a Thousand Colors received its world premiere in London (a city that has been more hospitable to [Shawn's] plays than any other). Soon after, Essays was published, collecting, in fewer than 200 pages, more than twenty years of occasional writings, including interviews with the linguist and activist Noam Chomsky and the poet Mark Strand. Shawn breaks his essays into two groups: "Reality" (mostly political commentary) and "Dream-World" (commentary on the arts), and these twin realms could apply as easily to Grasses of a Thousand Colors, wherein a wealthy and successful scientist begins by reading from his memoir (in which he justifies the work that, we soon realize, destroyed the Earth's food chain), continues by talking about his high regard for his penis, moves into a surreal and erotic variation on elements from the old story of "The White Cat" by Madame d'Aulnoy, and ends with the borders between the dream-world and reality unclear. The scientist, named alternately in the Theatre Communications Group edition of the script as The Memoirist, Ben, and He, is as unreliable a narrator of his life as any of Shawn's other characters, though perhaps more obviously compromised in his morality -- he did, after all, intentionally develop a way for animals to
The great and glorious magazine Rain Taxi is holding a benefit auction to raise some money. They're offering a wide assortment of books and book-like items of all sorts and genres for sale -- some real treasures.
RT is a wonderful source of information on books that otherwise are difficult to learn about, and I have relied on them for years now. In a time when book coverage is disappearing from the mainstream media, it's particularly important that venues such as Rain Taxi exist.
Rain Taxi Review of Books is a marvelous magazine, and they've just begun their annual auction, which is an event I always look forward to because of the wide variety of items they have to offer, including dozens of signed books.
The new print issue of RT includes an essay I wrote about the work of Wallace Shawn, a playwright and essayist whose face and voice many people know from some of his iconic roles in movies and TV shows, but whose writing is vastly less known -- he's one of those writers who is more popular outside of his native country than in it.
Aside from a couple short stories that are currently wending their way through the submission process, my major writings since this summer have been the Shawn essay for RT and the essay on Coetzee for The Quarterly Conversation. The effect of spending so much time reading and re-reading the writings of both men is obvious in my latest Strange Horizons column, "On the Eating of Corpses".
From a wonderful new interview with Brian Evenson by John Madera at Rain Taxi:
Brian Evenson: Some of the stories I always come back to, when I’m teaching full stories and trying to get students to understand how all the different elements of a story are working together, include William Trevor’s “Miss Smith,” which I think does amazing things with shifting the reader’s sympathy; Franz Kafka’s “A Country Doctor,” which does something amazingly manic with doubling and which may be my favorite story ever; Isak Dinesen’s “The Roads Round Pisa” or “The Monkey,” both of which do things that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else do; Peter Straub’s “Bunny Is Good Bread” and “Lapland,” which do very important things in terms of questioning the relation of genre to literature; Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” which manages to collapse as a story while still establishing an incredible resonance; D. H. Lawrence’s “The Prussian Officer,” because it works even though it does all sorts of things that contemporary writers have been taught a story shouldn’t do. I often teach Kafka’s “A Fratricide”—it’s far from his best story, but it’s very rich in the things it can teach a writer; I can talk about it for hours. I love, too, to teach Muriel Spark’s novellas, Ohle’s Motorman, Dambudzo Marechera, Barbara Comyns, Leonard Sciascia, Ann Quin, Jean Echenoz, Eric Chevillard, certain Chekhov stories, Bruno Schulz, Heinrich Böll, Nabokov, Gary Lutz, Stanley Crawford, Kelly Link, etc., etc. There are a lot of writers I draw on and they’re different every semester, which is probably why I find it difficult to stick to an anthology. I end up teaching stories that I think are likely to be helpful or important to particular students.