Spring Break: A Fever Dream, by James Franco
Image by Courtney Nicholas
Here’s the end of it all, and I’ll tell you why: because there will never be a movie or a character that is more important for this age than Spring Breakers and its protagonist Alien. As Harmony Korine’s friend Werner Herzog said to me on the phone call of all phone calls—I was out in North Carolina, sitting in a little Mexican restaurant called Cocula that I frequent on my lunch breaks from the low-residency writing MFA program at Warren Wilson College, just staring out the window that’s frosted over with a map of Mexico, at the dirty field across the roadway—when he told me that my performance in the film made De Niro in Taxi Driver look like a kindergartener, and that the film was the most important film of the decade. Imagine in a distinct German accent: “Three hundred years from now, when people want to look back at dis time, dey won’t go to the Obama inauguration speech, dey will go to Spring Breakers.”
I can’t even take credit for Alien. He is Harmony’s. As he says, Alien is a gangster mystic. A clown, a killer, a lover: the spirit of the age. Riff Raff wants to take credit for this creation, but that simplifies it. It is like Neal Cassady laying claim to Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty, which isn’t a great comparison because Kerouac was transparently and literally writing about Neal. Alien undermines all. He’s a gangster who deep-throats automatic weapons as well as Linda Lovelace would. He’s the guru of the age. He’s what you would get if you got every damn material thing you ever wanted and then relished in the realization that you don’t have a use for any of it. So you make one up. “Bring it on, little bitches, come to me, little bitches… We didn’t create this sensitive monster, y’all did. Look at his shit, that’s what y’all are working fo yo’selves.”
Untitled, a poem by Cass McCombs
Illustration by Albert Herter
Pages of poetry printed from her home computer
loose like the manuscript of life’s pages
loose and rough and running over to another page
of more poetry that may well belong to a different poem
but I’ve been reading it this way for a while
and built my own understanding
anyway the poet died today
she died and I regretted not asking more
I should have been lusty for her light
instead, I regret her death
indeed, death is regrettable
our friend, our sister
my true mother, our poet
is gone and we failed
All day before the news
I had every candle in the house
burning for her health
meditations on many saints, on Mary
even the ridiculous Infant of Prague
which reminded me of her wonderful sense of humor
but the flames are now out
No doubt she will touch us again, assist me again
Great Woman—have mercy on my stuttering
inject me with your magic fluid
the woman seed that goes against the grain
You who judge me
I hope you burn alive and become dust
I hope you are destroyed and disappear from this universe
Your days and nights filled with sorrow and pain
Tear open my chest and see what is inside
Only then can you understand
—Reading Taliban Love Poems in an Afghan Prison
Reading Taliban Love Poems in an Afghan Prison
We twisted up into the sky beneath a blur of rotors—mum in the numb motor din. The shadow of our helicopter flit below, yawing in the undulations of the sorrel earth, hurtling peaks, and hurling into dark valleys.
My military escort Lieutenant Cartagena and I took off from Mazar-i-Sharif, a city built 900 years ago in desolation—the site revealed in a prophetic dream. From the scattered earthen villages that passed beneath our craft to the army outpost we sought, every settlement seemed tinged with that same fantastic quality—accidents of life in a dead land.
We reunited with our shadow on the airstrip of a base in Baghlan province that I am not permitted to name. I jumped onto the tarmac, squinting through the heat blast. We had come to witness the successful passage of a NATO prison and military base into Afghan hands.
The American soldiers of Blackfoot Troop bounded out to meet us. They were tall and strong, engendering visions of Thanksgiving dinners in places like Battle Creek, Michigan, and Louisville, Kentucky. There was Lieutenant King, Sergeant Morgan, and their corpsman Specialist Singer. They welcomed us by asking our blood types—something practical and still somehow strangely intimate. They hustled us away, out of sight of the mountains, through the gauntlet of concrete T-walls and gravel-filled HESCO barriers that formed the outpost.
Remembering My Friend Carolyn Cassady, Queen of the Beat Poets
Of all that was said and written about last year’s film adaptation of Kerouac’s classic beat novel On the Road, nothing was more perfect than this quote that Carolyn Cassady gave to the Telegraph about actor Garrett Hedlund, who played the character (Dean Moriarty) based on her late husband, Neal. “I think he was the most boring person I have ever met,” she told journalist Peter Standford. “He didn’t ask me a single question about Neal, but instead told me how his turkeys in Minnesota bobbed their heads to Johnny Cash music. And then he came here, chauffeur-driven car waiting outside, sat in the chair where you are now, and read to me from his diary for what felt like four hours.”
Carolyn, who died last Friday, September 20th at the age of 90, loved throwing rocks at the Beat industry from the sidelines. The way she explained it, there was always interest, but intense fascination came around every five years or so, as a new film, or book of letters, or whatever, was released—at which point, she became an excellent interviewee. An arch Anglophile, she moved to the UK in 1983, and as widow of the man who inspired On the Road and Allen Ginsberg’s early poetry—and then, with Neal’s blessing, became Kerouac’s lover—she was a dynamite source for an article.
Carolyn used the opportunities she was offered to try to get her realistic, less-mythical side of the story across. It wasn’t always what journalists and editors wanted to hear. The last time I sat in that same chair Garrett Hedlund had occupied—in her immaculately kept mobile home near Bracknell in Berkshire, close to the hospital where she passed away—was in 2004 on assignment from style mag Dazed & Confused. They’d asked me to profile Carolyn. It didn’t go well. Or rather, I was happy with the article I filed, then Dazed editors added something incorrect into the piece that ran, which was devastating to Carolyn and me.
I had history. As a teenage Beat fanatic, I’d been a visitor at Carolyn’s flat in Belsize Park in London, before she moved to the Home Counties. I’d bring friends and alcohol around, and we also met a couple of times at the Chelsea Arts Club, where she’d been given a complimentary membership that she felt bad about seldom using. Perhaps, over the course of four years in the mid-1990s, when I was in my late teens, we saw each other ten times, and then my visits became less frequent. In the meantime, aged 18, I had traveled to the States and drove a $500 Chevrolet van from the east coast to the west. Carolyn had given me and my two friends Ginsberg’s number in New York—more of that later. I only went to her home in Berkshire twice, the second time for the Dazed interview. In fact, the last contact I had with her was in 2004.
Deep Thoughts on Jack Handey’s Days Writing for ‘SNL’ and His New Novel, ‘The Stench of Honolulu’
Jack Handey—who is indeed a real person, despite common misconception—is best known for his series of hilarious faux aphorisms, Deep Thoughts. Handey is also the writer of many ofSNL’s best sketches from the 80s and 90s, such as “Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive a Car,” “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer,” and “Happy Fun Ball.” For the past decade, he has been a regular contributor to the New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs section. This summer he released his first novel, The Stench of Honolulu, which begins: “When my friend Don suggested we go on a trip to the South Seas together, and offered to pay for the whole thing, I thought, Fine, but what’s in it for me?”
Lincoln Michel talked to him for VICE about writing, funny grammar, and proper cowboy dance moves.
VICE: I’m curious about the writing process for your novel, The Stench of Honolulu. Did you write most of the jokes separately, like for Deep Thoughts, and then add them to a narrative? Or did you write the jokes as you wrote the story?
Jack Handey: Some jokes were preexisting, but most were written as the story developed.
In the early 2000s, SNL ran excerpts from a fake novel of yours called My Big Thick Novel. If I’m not mistaken, one or two of those bits ended up in The Stench of Honolulu. For example, the one with a woman named Lanani (in the novel it’s Leilani) who gets annoyed about being a “personal blowdart counter.” Did the idea for writing an actual novel originate in the My Big Thick Novel spots?
Yes, I stole that joke from My Big Thick Novel. I think the novel did have a lot of its origins in My Big Thick Novel. I like a jungle setting, because just about anything can happen there, real or supernatural. It adds to the possibility of jokes you can use.
Three Poems from Rachel Glaser’s Moods
"God is popular"
god is popular with athletes
they think about him while they practice
but rarely will he watch with one of his eyes
he has countless eyes
a hundred eyes, more
he is all eyes, but they hurt
and he can never sleep
the ocean is okay
but boats crowd it with their wakes
god can’t help but look at every bubble
it puts a strain on his eyes to watch small things and fast things
cities, streets, fingernails
dots on a die
he prefers to watch other planets
Saturn and those ones
those are graceful
more one color
watching Rushmore be built
the Great Wall
something lengthy and accumulative
he hates fireworks
but the worst is to see a needle being strung
the little end of the string struggling to fit
his eye feels like it’s been injected with iodine
he cannot rub it
he is invisible
no one can help him
Two more poems
Knowing someone took the time to type out, “Pam I do not know where you are now. I think of you everytime I hear this song. I am glad my first night moves where with you. I hope you have a great life.” [sic] Followed by, “Yes, that line does, in fact, refer to perky teenage breasticles,” or even simple quasi-idiotic ungrammatical one-liners like “song kicks ass” or “FUCK BIEBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!” suddenly seem both genuine, insane, and true.
—Read Blake Butler on gender, murder, and a 75-page poem consisting entirely of YouTube comments on Bob Seger’s “Night Moves”