All in Books
I write to you from the land of Walser’s Selected Stories. The edition with the Susan Sontag forward, and the man-standing-alone-with-umbrella bad cover. Everybody, including Sontag, says Walser’s at his best with his stories. I reread Jakob Von Gunten, Walser’s most famous novel, just to be sure, and have found that everybody is correct. The stories are the masterpieces.
There is a game I used to play on tour with my band. We used to book shows in basements in lots of small towns, and that meant we spent a lot more time inside our van than not inside it. So we had to come up with ways to fill the time.
A puzzle piece (“sky, with a little bit of maple”) that a cleaning women from the titular story hunts for on her knees on green shag carpet. While she searches, she smokes and slides her ashtray along with her.
Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day unfurls as a confession, capturing interiors enough to make you sign up for the Sad Gurls Por Vida club. After it pulls you in, though, it expands, constellates, informs.
It was an Edenic time sexually: you could literally fuck whomever you wanted and the worst that could happen is that you’d get “the clap” or crabs, or wind up with a Reaganite prettyboy boring you about the stock market.
but really in lunch poems which is still universally lauded
he gets to talking about Black and Brown people a lot
usually as taxi drivers or leering sexual objects or
‘Puerto Ricans keeping the street warm’
Stories like Lady Sings the Blues, with all its contention and voices, are ones that I look to for reflections and strategies of survival in the face of the impossibility of artistry.
Without totally comprehending, we move forward into responsive survival, survival as a feather dropped from a window, turning and turning over again in the open air.
To see a familiar book outside of its usual context is like running into an elementary school teacher at the grocery store. The text is transformed, even multiplied, when I imagine the life it leads elsewhere.
I used to date a woman who was obsessed with vinyl pressing. She could rant for hours about how some records, depending on the location and year they were pressed, could become mimicries of the original recordings. It was something I would tease her about, tell her she was a snob, before blasting a track on my third-hand record player.
When Rainer is talked about it is often in relationship to how she started dancing late, how her body was not typical for a dancer, and how her stubbornness and creativity changed the course of modern dance. In her writing, she draws astute lines between her ambition, her relationships, and her mental and emotional distress.
Liza St. James
Ra Malika Imhotep