It's time once again to share some of the Jody Scott fiction available to you here on her blog, Censorable Ideas. Enjoy!
And for more by and about Jody, from her spouse and literary executor, including announcements, never-before-published stories, free novels, and always exclusive content not available anywhere else in the known universe, subscribe to our mailing list.
Kicking and Screaming Naked we come into this world and handsomely outfitted in a new pinstripe from Big & Tall, complete with a foulard tie, we go out of it.
At any rate that’s what happened to Nettie Polotnik’s husband Phil who had been dead nine years to the very day when our story begins. Philip Hart Polotnik had never been neat while he was alive (Phil died at age fifty-six, his skull broken in a car crash); he drank like a fish, played poker all night long and smelled like the nasty brown cigars he smoked (and those cigars were what killed him, according to Nettie! If it hadn’t been that accident it would have been emphysema like the late Johnny Carson)......
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Goddess Pissed There is no earthly explanation for what happened to me one terrible night last spring except that I was deeply depressed, seriously thinking of killing myself because I wasn't a celebrity (or at least rich, successful and sought-after) and had started having a real problem with alcohol.
I was in the newsroom (I'm a reporter in her mid-to-late forties; the exact date won't pass my lips in this cruelly ageist society. Also, my name happens to be Dorsey Corn and I don't like hearing jokes about it) doing my routine daily work when the invitation was tossed on my desk along with the rest of the morning mail, which I customarily read with a latte and a sticky bun or two. Little did I know this would be my last morning of relative peace and sanity!....
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The Silence of the Hacks , or What Really Happened to Hannibal Lector I don't want to rain on little ole Thomas Harris' parade or put a spoke in his wheel--it's just that I'm sick and dog-tired of all these tenth rate so-called "writers" harvesting kudos and million-dollar advances for writing pure trash all the time.
I mean what's the point? Hannibal Lecter can go take a long jump off a short pier--so what if the Queen Herself knighted the slimy little jerk? It just proves what a tribe of perverted bums our Leaders are, don't it? Because you are never told the truth, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. You are once again being fed a LIE and right now I'm going to tell you the way it really happened (which is nothing like it's reported in the so-called News of the Day, Hannibal the Cannibal being the hot story of the moment).
Anyway, a bunch of us got together and said we wuz sick and dog-tired of the reading public being such a ninny, needing something as DUMB as mere cannibalism to get them to go to their bookstore and buy a book. At that time Hannibal Lecter was right here in Shoreline, Washington, which is the suburb of Seattle where me and my buddies live. He was hiding out here; it's the one place the cops would never think to look for him....
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Incident At The Dog Park Steve began to remonstrate (that means like, protest a bit when you know you are in the right) and at the same time Reba, who always carries a baseball bat on her walks to send the tennis ball spinning a little farther and faster and also to protect against stalkers and suchlike-- Reba snuck up behind the cop. Just as the cop was saying, "The law states that each of you are subject to a $120 fine or you can appear in court with or without a lawyer to present argument--"
That was the exact moment when Reba hauled off and whacked the officer in the head with her Louisville slugger.
When the bat connected with the cop's skull, the sound was like a watermelon being dropped ten stories down to a cement alley.
Reba wiped her bat with handfuls of grass.
"That's one dead-looking cop," she observed....
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SONG OF TIME by Ian R. MacLeod
They say the past is a foreign country where folks do things differently. The world constantly moves on, places change, affiliations fade, relationships end... and at some point in one's life social paradigms have shifted sufficiently that this becomes not so much an expression of bemused noncomprehension as a desire to go home. There is something of this pathos in Song of Time, Ian Macleod's Arthur C. Clarke Award winning novel.
Roushana Maitland, world-renowned violinist is nearing the end of her long life. Song of Time, set in the near future, is her story. As she contemplates technology's now-available option to go on living a sort of virtual life-after-death (details about this are vague, but then technology isn't the point, just the pretext prompting her to look back), an amnesiac man washes up on her Cornwall beach who may have a mysterious connection to her past.
Maitland lived in some very interesting times- to paraphrase the old Chinese curse. She grows up in Birmingham, England with a musical-prodigy brother who develops a mysterious new illness and eventually takes his own life. This illness proves to be the first salvo in a world about to be dramatically transformed by apocalyptic events, and Roushana guides us through the geopolitical, ecological and personal upheavals as she now looks back over her life.
Song of Time is an excellent portrait of an age, in this case an age yet to happen, and perhaps a glimpse of a future we may experience. It is a quintessentially English novel. In American dystopian novels, the future is often brutishly totalitarian, a suspension of normal life leaving little choice but abject servitude or active resistance- usually involving explosions and acts of heroic daring. In Song, with the Brit's richer literary tradition, one finds a more nuanced and subtle exploration of the mundanities of living in a cautionary future- after all, ordinary life does go on; careers must be forged and groceries shopped for- and it is infinitely more interesting and enjoyable to read for that.
If you are looking for a genre-centric dystopian adventure story, this isn't the novel for you. But if your taste skews toward the literary side of speculative fiction, I highly recommend Song of Time. I give it a rare 5-out-of-5-stars rating.
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Saul wasn't having a whole lot of success suppressing the philosophy and one day trudging along the hot, dusty road to Damascus he had an epiphany, he got the very bright idea that the way to destroy this movement was to infiltrate and subvert it from within. And so Saul changed his name to Paul, told the christians he'd been visited by an angel of God and was now one of them.
He spent the rest of his days architecting the religion of "Christianity," inputting laws and interpretations antithetical to the simple direct message of Jesus.
In short, Paul was the anti-christ.
And the short-lived movement of Jesus, who like Buddha, told his followers to be like him, not worship him; who told his followers that they didn't have to kowtow to religious authority and the weight of its onerous laws; that holiness was already within each of them..... that movement died 2000 years ago. Not with a bang but with the soft whimper of money sliding into an offering tray.
Reporting by Mary Whealen and Agatha Runcible
The Gone–Away World by Nick Harkaway (twitter.com/Harkaway)
There are many fine, hardworking craftsmen of the written word, and the sum of the parts of their novels are very enjoyable to read, but then there are writers who also possess the skill of an artist. In their novels every word is perfectly chosen and placed in combination with every other word in an inevitability that makes structure disappear, and the whole is much greater than just the sum of its parts. The Gone–Away World by Nick Harkaway is such a work.
In it we follow an unnamed protagonist through childhood and college into a proxy “Un-War” in the Elective Theatre, formerly known as the prosperous and peaceful country of Addeh Katir. There he is reunited with his childhood best friend Gonzo. When the enemy launches a chemical attack, our side answers with “the most advanced weapon in the history of warfare,” The Go Away Bomb that disappears the enemy: “We are… feeling a bit superior and waiting for the order to do some more demonstrative world-editing, when our very own Green Sector vanishes from the map… like a sandcastle being washed away by the tide… The same thing is happening everywhere. Not just in the Elective Theatre.”
Predictably, the effects are unpredictable and uncontrollable; the tide that ebbs also flows, carrying back a recombinant and deadly genesis of the thoughts, forms, feelings, memories, dreams and nightmares of everything it supposedly erased. Most of humanity has been made “Gone-Away” and the survivors battle desperately: “this is not an attack. It’s an atmosphere.”
Protagonist, Gonzo and a ragtag group are rescued by Piper 90 (“love child of a bulldozer and a shopping mall”) which is laying “The Pipe” that contains the anti-stuff, called FOX, which makes the Gone-Away stuff go away, “making a strip of land which is safe to live in.” This is where the remnants of humanity begin to rebuild.
Fast forward a few years and this outfit of roughnecks is hired for a dangerous job of putting out a fire on The Pipe that looks like sabotage. Here the story takes a shocking turn that throws into question the protagonist’s entire history and future, and a horrible secret is found to underlie the system that keeps this strip of the old world, this “Livable Zone,” intact.
A rousing dystopian story with a terrific story arc that can be enjoyed on just those terms, The Gone-Away World is also a cautionary tale that confronts the endemic, species-defining stupidity and hidden moral equivocations of human life on Earth. Notwithstanding, Nick Harkaway is fundamentally an optimist, and quite funny; I will definitely be reading more of him. Highly recommended!
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Once upon a time in a mall in Orange County CA with my paternal aunt and her husband, as we were exiting past Barnes & Noble Jody and I noticed a display of William S. Burroughs' newly published novel, Queer, which naturally we rushed over to look at. Dozens of copies, stacked high, the word queer repeating over and over in large, bold type.
My Catholic aunt (rabid fan of Elvis, who once gigglingly exclaimed, "He can park his shoes under my bed anytime") and her husband (soon-to-be transplants to Colorado Springs CO, birthplace of the 1992 anti-gay hate bill Amendment Two, of which they were staunch supporters- not that we knew that then of course) were shocked.
It was scandalous that a publisher and a mainstream bookstore in a mall in conservative Orange County, and Jody and I by our attention, together with some degenerate writer were forcing the "gay agenda" upon their delicate heteronormative sensibilities. Or so I assume it seemed to them.
Which anecdote I share with you because it's sadly absurd, but also apropos as introduction to this month's Censorable Ideas post about William S. Burroughs, Jody's minor connection to him, and some musings on queer and other "outsider" writers who influenced Jody and WSB.
Michael Stevens is a Burroughs scholar who recently contacted me about WSB's connection to Jody (he wrote a nice comment about I, Vampire when it first came out) for future editions of his book. The Road to Interzone: reading William S. Burroughs reading is "an index to the books known to have been read, blurbed, or cut up by the author of Naked Lunch," including any known commentary on that work or writer, and it is surprisingly revelatory as a portrait.
While this may not be the sort of titillating page-turner you read cover to cover, it is a fascinating treasure trove of insights, influences and previously unknown writers you'll want to dip into again and again with your laptop open to google and your favorite bookseller. Highly recommend.
Two writers that were unknown to me are Jack Black
and the POET LOUISE BOGAN.
"Jack Black’s You Can’t Win was probably the longest lasting literary
influence on Burroughs’ writing . From his first novel to his final memoirs he
was making references to its characters and philosophy. He incorporated the
hobo jungles, the criminal code, cat burglars, safe crackers, robbers
and rodriders into his mythology and virtual worlds. WSB’s appreciation
of the nobility of the criminal and the underground lifestyle found its inception here. Many readers are not even aware that the Johnson family and Salt Chunk Mary are not Burroughs’ creations, but key players in Black’s work. Burroughs first read the book when he was fifteen and it had a profound effect, not only on his literary life but his personal life as well. His reading of You Can’t Win was his earliest exposure to the criminal lifestyle that he attempted to recreate in his life and his fiction from that moment on." (Interzone)
It's worthwhile asking here why artists are attracted to the forbidden and the outlaw. The great American sage Ralph Waldo Emerson explains it this way: "Society is a joint-stock company which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs."
To violate these customs is to invite society's punishment, be it ostracism in the schoolyard, mass incarceration of black folk, or coercive economic duress.... What artists, writers, and outlaws have in common is an instinctual rage against this. ("Society represented law and order, discipline, punishment. Society was a machine geared to grind me to pieces." -You Can't Win)
In the case of the criminal, this manifest as self-destructive sociopathy; in the case of Burroughs, Jody Scott, et al it gives us great art and literature, music and philosophy- all that counterbalances the oppressive side of society and makes of it (sometimes) a civilization.
Another who influenced both Jody and WSB- and celebrated the outcast and criminal- was the french novelist Jean Genet. Jody considered him a tremendous stylist and her transgressive gay novel of the 70's, Kiss the Whip, was greatly influenced by him. "Burroughs consistently listed Genet among his favorite writers and on several occasions said that Genet and Samuel Beckett were his favorite authors. 'Every man, no matter what his sexual tastes- likes the characters in Genet'" (Interzone)
For your pleasure and scholarly edification, here are excerpts from Genet, Burroughs and Scott:
You should have listened to me lover and abandoned this journal but now it's too late, much too late. To pry into St. Michael's life is to invite that most terrible curse, the Deuce of Vapors. Do you know how serious this is? Remember one thing. Whatever happens, dear reader, I love you. Watch closely as I come to the forefront of the canvas and look you straight in the eye--lock eyes!, Goddamn you, you evasive little bastard, and listen: "love" is much too timid a word; I adore you, my stone angel with the greedy greedy mouth. We deserve each other! For despite my flaws and crimes I am the One you've waited for, such a long time, such an empty, barren, windswept, crying-in-the dark long time, my darling.
-Jody Scott, Kiss the Whip
Before Armand had granted me the esteem of which I have already spoken, I probably would not have betrayed him. The mere idea would have horrified me. So long as he had not given me his confidence, betraying him had no meaning: it meant simply obeying the elementary rule which governed my life. But now I loved him. I recognized his omnipotence. And though he might not love me, he contained me within him. His moral authority was so absolute, so generous, that it made intellectual rebellion within his bosom impossible. The only way I could prove my independence was by acting on the emotional level. The idea of betraying Armand set me aglow. I feared and loved him too much not to want to deceive and betray and rob him. I sensed the anxious pleasure that goes with sacrilege..
― Jean Genet, Thief's Journal
A curse. Been in our family for generations. The Lees have always been perverts. I shall never forget the unspeakable horror that froze the lymph in my glands--the lymph glands that is, of course--when the baneful word seared my reeling brain: I was a homosexual. I thought of the painted, simpering female impersonators I'd seen in a Baltimore nightclub. Could it be possible I was one of those subhuman things? I walked the streets in a daze like a man with a light concussion--just a minute, Doctor Kildare, this isn't your script. I might well have destroyed myself, ending an existence which seemed to offer nothing but grotesque misery and humiliation. Nobler, I thought, to die a man than live on, a sex monster. It was a wise old queen--Bobo, we called her--who taught me that I had a duty to live and bear my burden proudly for all to see, to conquer prejudice and ignorance and hate with knowledge and sincerity and love.
―William S. Burroughs, Queer
There are many authors I could include here, and I may well return to this fertile subject in future Censorable Ideas, but for now I will conclude with the other new-to-me writer from Interzone (though not a direct influence on either Jody or WSB), the poet Louise Bogan. a brilliant minor poet of the ‘reactionary generation.’
Yes, Bogan is indeed a “minor” poet, but that does not mean she isn't worth reading. As the Poetry Foundation website puts it, “her poetry is modern and emotive without being sentimental, and her language is immediate and contemporary.”
A woman born in 1897 insisting upon her right to live her life her way (something hardly acceptable for women today, revolutionary then) definitely qualifies as a societal “outlier.” In a letter to Theodore Roethke she writes, “I, too, have been imprisoned by a family, who held out the bait of a nice hot cup of tea and a nice clean bed. . . the only way to get away is to get away: pack up and go. Anywhere. I had a child, from the age of 20, remember that, to hold me back, but I got up and went just the same, and I was, God help us, a woman.”
"Burroughs may have been familiar with her work as a youth, but didn’t make reference to this poem until The Western Lands,” writes Stevens in Interzone. The poem that caught his eye was SEVERAL VOICES OUT OF A CLOUD and it seems a fitting note to end on:
Come, drunks and drug takers; come, perverts unnerved!
Receive the laurel, given, though late, on merit, to who
and wherever deserved.
Parochial punks, trimmers, nice people, joiners true-blue,
Get the hell out of the way of the laurel. It is Deathless
And it isn’t for you.
* * *
Last month I wrote about Wicky, one of the many fascinating characters Jody knew. This month's Censorable Ideas is a sort of addendum to that post, a sweet little story Jody penned on a napkin for Wicky, when they were a couple.
Once upon a time a little W. woke up, got out of glorp, and descended gracefully into her cereal bowl; when all at once she saw a big gigantic spoon begin to drop towards her location in the bowl. It was terrifying! Her little arms and legs flashed wildly, as she tried to swim away through the curdled milk and sugar and floating grains of Grape Nuts; but faster and faster descended the great spoon-- behind which was a great, hungry, gaping FACE-- the face of J.S. Wood!
Reaching for her silver sergeant's whistle on a lanyard around her neck, the frantic W. gave a short, sharp blast. Instantly the hideous face, which had pores the size of coal cars, became transparent and disappeared, leaving a gaping hole in the air.
"Whew, that was a close one," declared the relieved W.; whereupon she florked into the shower and had breakfast.
She would have bragged about her coolness and presence of mind to the other monks around the srab, BUT, they were all doing impressions of Mae West, so she went back to glorp and dreamed a hero's dreams.
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