Writers are more fortunate than other well-known people because they are usually not celebrities. Their faces aren’t what people know about them. They’re usually shy, awkward, troubled. They spend an unhealthy amount of time alone. I don’t know what to do with my face when a friend pays me a compliment, much less someone I don’t know. I always think: “Oh god, if you actually knew me.”
The American taxpayer underwrites the existence of every Israeli citizen to the tune of $3 billion a year in subsidies—over the past ten years, that’s $200,000 per every Israeli family of five. Things are very good indeed for Israelis, as long as they’re not Arabs; far better, in material terms, than they are for the majority of Americans. What are we getting for our investment? Obviously, we haven’t bought a wonderful democracy in the theocratic desert of the Middle East, but another fascist enclave of masters and servants that happens to be run by Jews.
A room at the Standard. Night. An Alice Neel documentary on the TV with the sound off.
—Mary Woronov said that before she could start painting, she was like a dog trying to figure out where to take a shit, going around and around, and I do the same thing every morning for about three hours with writing.
—Then you’ve got writer’s block.
—Late onset writer’s block.
—Still it’s called a writer’s block. What you have to do is, first, I’m sure you have a note pad by your bed, but you have to have it right there. It doesn’t matter how bad the writing is. I can show you some, you write the first thing you’re thinking of, and as soon as you’ve written a word it’s like: fuck being a painter or an artist, you’ve destroyed a page, you’ve destroyed your idea, you look at it and think, what the fuck does that say? And that inspires you because you’re a visual person, so maybe for you writing’s pretty difficult, like it is for me. If I could be satisfied with writing, I’d be such a successful writer. And if I were satisfied with visual things—I’m quite sure I’m never going to be. If you give me the choice between writing or visual, I will go with writing any day.
—I found it easy to write when I was younger. A lot more than I do now. Writing could completely take me in, and made up for a lot of things that were not in my life, frankly. And now, first of all, I’m incredibly hypervigilant, perfectionistic to an idiotic degree. Because I know it doesn’t end up being anything perfect, anyway. No matter how much you fuss with it.
—You mean things you make that are visual? Or—your handwriting? You look at your handwriting—oh, no, I know what you’re talking about. Like when I make neons. You write something, and you think, that feels good, that looks good, it feels like it’s a thing, it’s moved from the heart to the soul to the mind to the eye, it’s working, it’s a full-circle thing. It’s an action, writing is an absolute action.
—Oh, on TV the other night, that film United 93, 83? The fourth plane on 9/11?
—I didn’t see it.
—It’s not a film I would normally watch, it was just on. I had the TV on as sort of an ambient visual, but towards the end, all these people had phones in the—in the headrest, and they were saying, “Just tell my family I love them,” “Just tell my wife I love her”—and I thought, well, of course, that’s what life is. That’s all it comes down to. “The plane is going to crash now, I love you.”
(story about a diver trapped in an underwater cave leaving a love letter)
—Do you have anyone to say that to? When the plane’s taking off, or the plane’s landing, do you have anyone to text, or—I have my mum, but she’s 84, and I have Docket, my cat, he doesn’t speak on the telephone any more. No one knows where I am.
—J. is the only person who knows where I am when I’m not here. Or when I am here.
—Do you care about anyone apart from J.? If my plane had crashed, would you have been upset?
—Of course I would. I love you.
—OK, so it’s not about who loves you, it’s about who you love that’s important. Now, I know lots of people love you, they are very fond of you, but you have to put the effort in.
—I don’t get to meet people. Most people I care about are not here. Vera lives in Berlin, Mike is in Dorset, Richard is in Havana. So if I want to see people I’m really close to I have to make all these stupid decisions. Like now, I have a window of two weeks—
—Was Vera a model?
—Her dad nearly killed Hitler.
—Yes, he tried—
—I met her 12 years ago. She wouldn’t remember me. We were both modeling for Vivienne Westwood.
—We’ve been close for 30 years. It’s weird how things go, because—
(a long story)
—the point is, she lived in Brooklyn for ten years, and I hardly saw her. Because generally, you also had to see him.
Melancholia - by Gary Indiana
Melancholia is playing at the Milan cinema on La Rampa. I considered recommending it to P., having thought about this film for months, but it’s already obvious that she is the debutante type so common in the art world, familiar with proper names and the prices of various objects but completely uninterested in anything more demanding than a thumbnail reproduction and a press release. That’s as true of many high-end dealers as it is of fringe figures like P., who hosts receptions, and arranges this and that for visiting artists. They all have the mentality of pork butchers who keep both thumbs on the scale. It’s doubtful that she would go to a movie house on La Rampa, anyway.
Something was a little off with the projection, or the print, or both, it looked in fact as if the movie I saw in New York had been dipped briefly in a bucket of Clorox, but it was still very powerful. I felt curious to see how a Cuban audience would react. People leaving the theater looked stunned. That might have been the Clorox effect. But they all dispersed quickly. I had no chance to eavesdrop on their conversations. When I first saw Melancholia I was crawling out of my own living death, and the film pulled me right back into it. At the same time, the fact that someone had pictured this state of depressive alienation was, on some level, soothing. It confirmed something true about the melancholiac’s view of the world, his/her indifference to its empty rituals and false emotions. Certainly by the time Justine tells Claire that “life on Earth is evil” the film has proven it in spades. “What kind of God,” my father used to ask, “would have invented the food chain?”
I wondered if Lars von Trier experienced any benefit from the large number of people concerned about him, and decided, probably not. When you go behind the moon no one can follow you there to bring you back, and the quality of darkness is so overwhelming it can’t be described. The words that could describe it, like most words, have been rendered meaningless by the hyperbole of vernacular speech. When everything is awesome and amazing, anything that’s really out of the ordinary is practically inexpressible.
“But before we dump his collected writings into the marina with which he is so often confused, bidding good riddance to once-sacred rubbish and forget about Hemingway altogether, let’s remember that Hemingway left a sizeable chunk of his fortune to his many cats and their successive offspring, who still enjoy a life of feline luxury in Florida. So Papa wasn’t all bad after all. Meow!”
—Gary Indiana is not a fan of Hemingway (nor Fitzgerald, nor Bukowski).
PS Gary Indiana is now writing for VICE!