Sunday, January 15, 2006
"There's a little animal inside of me. It's eating me. It's building me each day. It starts with a blank lump and animates the person it wants from it. It controls me. It makes me do things. It won't let me stop thinking about it. Other times I can't think at all and I become more like a small fire emitting a lot of sparks that pass for talking, sex, behavior. A walking zombie pit where anything can fall into me."
Orange soda is so nice to drink when reading something that's just, well, delicious. It's a FANTA Orange kind of moment, and I've got one, right here at the computer. The thing is, this quote above from Sam D'Allesandro isn't isolated, it's actually typical of his writing.
Selfishly, part of me didn't want to write about the new collection of stories because I know how much flack I'll be getting in e-mails from folks I always tell how much I hate short stories, hate novels, etc.. But I have no choice I feel but to share the NEWS of these exquisite stories just re-released.
Kevin Killian has got to be one of the busiest writers and editors alive, and those who have entrusted their pages of writing to him for future use after their deaths were brilliant to do so. The Wild Creatures is the very thing many of us have been waiting for, since the other, earlier collection, The Zombie Pit has been out of print for years.
Jim Cory gave me a copy of The Zombie Pit years ago, and I didn't read it for a while, because it was short stories. Then I was dating this ridiculous swine actor named Christopher (who had one, maybe two good tricks for treats, and that's it) who saw it on my bookshelf and said how much he loved D'Allesandro, that the book was genius! He read the story "Lenny" out loud to me because he knew what a big Patti Smith fan I was, and it's a story about D'Allesandro's fling with Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith's lead guitar player. It was all I needed to hear, and NOT because of Lenny Kaye, or Patti Smith. The words were coming to me the way poems come to us, or at us when they're so good.
"When it happens it's like the film broke in mid-reel, you don't expect it and you're still expecting everything you were before. Everything in my life except me was suddenly different. Eventually that would make me different too, but it takes a while to catch up. Someone said the pain would go away, but I'm not sure that's where I want it to go. It's how I feel him most sharply. Without it, every move I make echoes because he's not here to absorb me. I don't like bouncing back at myself. A dead lover wants your soul, wants your life, and then your death too. And you give it, it's the only way to feel anything again. Take the death as a lover and sleep with it and eat it and purge it and suck it back in quick. And finally it's no event, it's nothing that happened, it's just you: an anger and a beauty that never really goes away. Not something you can wait out as it disappears, nothing ever really just disappears."
AIDS, Ronald Reagan, all kinds of things make me angry when I think of the loss of D'Allesandro who died at age 31. It is an incredible loss, in so many ways, of course, and when you reach the end of his thin, but amazing collection, you know there's nothing more to come, not even with this newer collection edited by Kevin Killian. It's like, I want to TELL KEVIN KILLIAN TO LOOK HARDER THAT HE MIGHT HAVE OVERLOOKED A FEW MORE STORIES! But there's just nothing more, and we've got to be with this as best we can.
Sad to find out that D'Allesandro was dead before the original, smaller collection The Zombie Pit came out. To make this story even more tragic, the editor of this earlier collection was Steve Abbott, who also died of AIDS in 1992. AIDS has tendrils and branches that get tangled and lost looking at so many men from this period, even as I say this I really do know you already know but....
Dodie Bellamy and Betsy Bayley did the cover of The Zombie Pit, and its cover said much about the fact that D'Allesandro, and his work, although beautiful, neither were ever (at any point as far as I can tell) superficial, or vain in that sad, rancid way so many gay men become when they don't feel or think anything beyond the flesh. His eyes on the cover, it's not just that they were looking back from an already dead author, they were eyes that were ready to tell you these stories no matter when you came to them, no matter what you did or didn't know of the author's fate.
When I worked at Giovanni's Room Bookstore, a couple years after reading The Zombie Pit, I was dismayed to sit through numerous readings by authors over the six years I was there, only to never hear much of an echo of that kind of D'Allesandro story. What did I hear? I'm telling you, I just can't stand short stories and novels, but I like his, very very much! These stories direct the force at your solar plexus as if they're guided on a beam and you can't get away from the feeling, and you feel everything else is cheap, and boring.
There was this customer at Giovanni's Room with the last name Faust who came around a lot, and he was one of those older gay guys who never read anything if it wasn't gay. And he only went to see movies if they were gay. He kind of got on my fucking nerves actually with his whole damn gay thing, as he was without a doubt heterophobic. We would get free passes to movie screenings every week at the store because whatever company gives those out seems to think that gay people are the best kind of people to have in the audience. Maybe we are, I don't really know to be honest. Anyway, Mr. Faust would ask if the movie pass was for a gay movie, which of course it never was, and he'd ALWAYS talk about how sick pussy made him, as though any movie which wasn't gay had naked women in them. He was so disgusting this guy, his misogyny, man, he pissed me off! And he also made me angry that he never read Goethe's Faust. Wouldn't you if your name was Faust? And when I asked him why he never read it he said --no lie-- that it wasn't gay. Brother! Anyway, one day he came in, and I was annoyed upon seeing him, as usual, and after he putzzed and poked about in the used book bin, he came to the counter with a copy of The Zombie Pit. It was the first time I actually had a real conversation with this man Faust. I asked if he had read it, and he angrily said "YES OF COURSE! Anyone with any sense of taste would have already read it! I'm buying it for a friend who hates to read, but he'll like this." He then admitted that The Zombie Pit was one of the few books that made him cry, and he added, "And I don't mean once, I mean I cried at some point in every story!" Another customer later told me about Faust, how he had been gay bashed horribly back in the 80s, and had the scars to prove it, and I was never annoyed with him again when I would see him. It's strange, but it's the kind of compassion D'Allesandro seems to enforce, I'll say enforce because although it seems strange to enforce compassion, the compulsion to feel is overwhelming when dealing with the stories, and even more importantly, the stories of those who have read them, and who are about to read them no doubt.
"Driving across the Southwest, my head in his lap, I watch headlights slowly swerve through the car's interior in a rhythm. One at a time. In Texas, my turn driving, I spill coffee all over myself when I break for a jerk in a Galaxy 500 reaching into the backseat to slap one of his kids. Farrell can't stop laughing and I get mad. Later that night we sleep pulled over on the side of a back road. Farrell leans against the car door with his long legs stretched out on the seat. I sit between his legs and lay against him. It's his idea. We sleep this way all night. I can hear his heart beat and feel the heat of his skin. The moment is so tender and bound to pass, that I'm nearly in tears."
Not enough thanks can be given to Kevin Killian for making it possible that these stories are back in print!
The Velvet Mafia has provided the short story "The Zombie Pit" selection from The Wild Creatures HERE, and, you can enter to win a free copy of the book!
Buck Downs sent me this AUDIO LINK of Kevin Killian reading from The Wild Creatures, check it out!