Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
SHE DWELT AMONG THE UNTRODDEN WAYS
She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:
A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
--Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!
Monday, January 29, 2007
It would be wrong to interpret Dead Beat's thesis that all good writing dies when the last period is hammered into place as an incitement for murder.
There are enough writers out there murdering their work with little regard.
No, what Dead Beat is talking about is a natural death.
A really fine piece of writing dies naturally once it is completed. It stops breathing, and its heart stops beating.
It enters then, I guess, the afterlife where it can be read, interpretted, reinterpretted. But it cannot be relived. It can be experienced in new ways, and much can be learned from it, but it is nevertheless a thing of the past.
The important thing for writers therefore is to bring their work all the way to its conclusion. To live out each and every breath in the writing and rewriting, to leave no aspect of its life unlived.
Whether it be a poem or a story, a memoir or a novel, an essay or a script the writer must stay with it to the end, listen out for its last breath, feel its final pulse. Then and only then can it be let go.
Don't grieve for too long - find another piece of writing - guide it to its death.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Dead Beat appreciates your comments greatly (as long as they are not about cheap medications or even cheaper images of obscure body parts). This one then from Al on Premature Burial
I tell ya Dead Beat, last week I was sure my story was deceased. I performed the necessary rituals, then laid the work to rest. I tied one end of a string to the forefinger of its right hand and the the other end of the string to a bell, just in case I was mistaken. Then while working the graveyard shift(?) I heard a faint but clearly audible ringing. The story, she was not deceased, had not passed on, didn't die, she was... a... dead ringer.
So Snyder gets on to Dead Beat.
"If you are going to talk about Death," he chides, "don't leave out the Japanese Death poems. Got that Dead Beat."
"I hear you Gary. I am always listening out for you."
So Dead Beat offers these up:
Hosshin, 13th century
Coming, all is clear,
no doubt about it.
Going, all is clear,
without a doubt.
What, then, is all?
Shoro, died April 1894, at age 80
Pampas grass, now dry,
once bent this way
Goku Kyonen, died October 8, 1272, at age 56
The truth embodied in
Of the future, present,
The teaching we
received from the
Fathers of our faith
Can be found at the tip
of my stick.
Gesshu Soko, died January 10, 1696, at age 79
Arrows, let flown each to each
Meet midway and slice
The void in aimless flight --
Thus I return to the source.
Shinsui, died September 9, 1769, at 49
During his last moment, Shisui's followers requested that he write a death poem. He grasped his brush, painted a circle, cast the brush aside, and died.
The circle is one of the most important symbols of Zen Buddhism. It indicates void -- the essence of all things -- and enlightenment.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Dead Beat like all good writers has a fear of premature burial (see The Book of the Dead). You don't want to bury your book before it has successfully died. So a few pointers for those other writers out there concerned enough about their craft to share the same worries.
First off, this is not a recent trend (indeed it has rarely been a trend among 'writers' at all - so many are happy to bury their work and move on without bothering to check for a pulse - many don't even bury it - just leave it to rot unattended) the fear of premature burial became more common amongst Nineteenth-Century Americans and Europeans. The fear arose out of the reputations of physicians who, lacking modern medical knowledge, (and often a medical degree), occasionally pronounced comatose or unconscious patients dead prematurely. The deceased would mirculously revive during funeral services, much to the dismay of friends and family.
Amazingly, despite modern medical knowledge (often accompanied by a slew of English and Creative Writing Degrees) many bodies of work pronounced dead are in fact still comatose, unconscious or downright upright dancing the polka in full view of everyone.
What to do about it?
Resurrect The Society for the Prevention of People being Buried Alive who recommended leaving the deceased lying in their caskets for days or weeks on end before being deemed sufficently dead to bury.
Other options include placing crowbars and shovels in the deceased's caskets; if they revive, they can dig their own way out. Also, recommended is a pipe that goes through the ground and into the casket, to be used for emergency communications.
Bateson's Revival Device is Dead Beat's preferred method to ensure that his work does not suffer a premature death. This device consists of an iron bell mounted on the lid of the casket just above the deceased's head. The bell is connected to a cord through the coffin that is placed in the dead's hand, such that the least tremor shall directly sound the alarm.
And yes indeed Dead Beaters, you ought to be alarmed if you bury your work prematurely.
(postscript: Bateson himself feared premature internment so powerfully that it is thought he was driven mad by his preoccupation. In 1886, he committed suicide by dousing himself with linseed oil and setting himself on fire
- always another option for work poorly prepared for death.)
Thursday, January 25, 2007
There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.
And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.
Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.
Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.
I'm not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.
But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.
Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.
Dead Beat has been thinking about the death of writing (see haunting). If our duty as writers is to ultimately end up with a corpse, then we had better know how to prepare one for the afterlife.
And where better to get instructions than from The Book of the Dead.
Dead Beat is particularly intrigued by Mummification since so much of literature it would seem has been poorly mummified. So here then a few basic instructions:
1) Allow for a lengthy process spanning seventy days in some cases (you see too many writers are apt to rush to the finish line ignoring process along the way).
2) Remove all internal organs with one exception, the heart (no comment required).
3) If the body is not already West of the Nile, transport it across (too much writing has failed to make the necessary crossing due to fear and laziness).
4) Extract salt from the river banks and place under the corpse, on the sides, on top, and inside the body cavity to facilitate the process of dehydration (fill the body of your writing with salt - salt I say - nothing else will do).
5) After thirty-five days anoint the body with oil and wrap in fine linen.
6) Don the mask of Anubis and preside over the ceremonies to ensure proper passage into the next realm.
Go ahead folks. You have D.B.'s blessing. Trust me your writing will be the better for it - preserved.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I guess it is the serious nature of writing that haunts Dead Beat the most. Even while John O Brien was drinking himself to death he continued to write books about the inevitability of his own young death -
Whoever said this was going to be easy?
Death of course is at the core of all great writing - it is the metaphor which drives the narrative - hastens it to a conclusion as the unending flow of alcohol hastens the conclusion.
All writing dies a death when the very last period is hammered into position. For sure we can talk about the afterlife - the afterlife of Leaving Las Vegas for instance - but death comes before the afterlife, sometimes with the barrel of a gun.
The real mistake is in believing that the writer is giving birth to a creation.
The writer therefore as killer? The writer as undertaker?
The writer surrounded by ghosts.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Jack hollered into the void: "This one is for O'Brien"
Dead Beat brings it to your ears.
The story of man
Makes me sick
I don't know why
Something so conditional
And all talk
Should hurt me so.
I am hurt
I am scared
I want to live
I want to die
I don't know
Where to turn
In the Void
For no Church told me
No Guru holds me
Of New York
And on the cafeteria
O dead Ruby
Died of Shot
In Thirty Two,
Sounding like old times
And de bombed
Murder by the clock.
And I see Shadows
In love, holding
TIght the lovely asses
Of the little girls
In love with sex
In white undergarments
At elevated windows
Hoping for the Worst
.I can't take it
If I can't hold
My little behind
To me in my room
Then it's goodbye
Girls aren't as good
As they look
Than you think
When it starts in
Hitting your head
In with Buzz
We've been waiting for you
Since Morning, Jack
Why were you so long
Dallying in the sooty room?
Is the better part
Dead Beat is being haunted - inexplicably - for some reason the ghost of John O'Brien and his book Leaving Las Vegas have returned to haunt him.
The book for those who have never read it is harrowing. Ben, an alcoholic, moves to Las Vegas (because the bars never close there) to drink himself to death. We are witness to the minutiae of his disintegration: the nausea, the blackouts, the immense difficulty of eating the smallest amount of food.
O'Brien, an alcoholic too, took his life two weeks after learning that his book was to be made into a film.
The book is not without its flaws but is compulsive in engaging us in Ben's death. But it is O'Brien I keep coming back to - he was only 33 when he shot himself - the novel his Dad said was his suicide note.
And so the writer chronicling his own disintegration as a work of fiction...
O' Brien's book survives. Without warning it has returned to haunt Dead Beat leaving him deeply disturbed, troubled.
Monday, January 22, 2007
It's one thing to have Horace berating you for "reforming" your writings, but it's altogether another thing when you start berating yourself. Conversation went a little like this.
"So Dead Beat, has Horace got a point? Too much time spent rewriting and not enough time "writing something of promise"?"
"Sit on it D.B. what would you know?"
"Well maybe you can overwrite something, know what I'm saying?"
"You know spend too much time going back over it - worrying it to death."
"You wish. The problem with you D.B. is that you don't rewrite enough. Making do with something that is just not quite there yet. Figuring out what the story really is and then how best to tell it - That's what rewriting is all about."
"Too much time in the shed with Horace talking *****"
"Dead Beat, you're cruel."
"The truth hurts D. B. That's the long and the short of it."
Friday, January 19, 2007
Horace is happy as a pig in sh**e in Dead Beat's tool shed. He bursts out occasionally spouting off some nonsense or other then disappears back in. I throw him a handful of Hudson's leftovers. He nearly bites my hand off.
This morning he flings open the back door and shouts in:
"Happy is Fannius, with immortals classed,
His bust and bookcase canonized at last,
While, as for me, none reads the things I write.
Loath as I am in public to recite,
Knowing that satire finds small favour, since
Most men want whipping, and who want it, wince."
"How do you like your eggs?" I shout after him as he scurries away.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Kesey took off - and what with the relatives safely back in Ireland Dead Beat thought it was back to normal. He had finished a draft of a novel before Christmas and was waiting on some feedback, and so he got on with rewriting a children's novel he has been working on (or more like working on and off on). Anyway Dead Beat thought he would return to his rewrite and all thoughts of Kesy and his Merry Pranksters disappeared like a sinking psychedelic bus in a western swamp.
But no it was not to be - there I am ensconced in rewriting once again when who wanders in uninvited but Horace. Yes that Horace! Gave up all the gladiatorial work so that he could tramp around the country and ended up finally on my doorstep.
"Shoo!" I shooed.
But Horace is no pushover, pig-headed really. Will not be shooed. Starts berating me infact:
"Dead Beat, You write so seldom, as not to call for parchment four times in
the year, busied in reforming your writings, yet are you angry
with yourself, that indulging in wine and sleep you produce
nothing worthy to be the subject of conversation. What will be
the consequence? But you took refuge here, it seems, at the very
celebration of the Saturnalia, out of sobriety. Dictate therefore
something worthy of your promises; begin."
Then he skulks off - takes up residence in my tool shed.
Too busied in reforming my writings!!
Dictate therefore something worthy of my promises!!
Be gone fool!
Thursday, January 11, 2007
First Party At Ken Kesey's With Hell's Angels
Cool black night thru redwoods
cars parked outside in shade
behind the gate, stars dim above
the ravine, a fire burning by the side
porch and a few tired souls hunched over
in black leather jackets. In the huge
wooden house, a yellow chandelier
at 3 A.M. the blast of loudspeakers
hi-fi Rolling Stones Ray Charles Beatles
Jumping Joe Jackson and twenty youths
dancing to the vibration thru the floor,
a little weed in the bathroom, girls in scarlet
tights, one muscular smooth skinned man
sweating dancing for hours, beer cans
bent littering the yard, a hanged man
sculpture dangling from a high creek branch,
children sleeping softly in their bedroom bunks.
And 4 police cars parked outside the painted
gate, red lights revolving in the leaves.
December 1965 Allen Ginsberg
Dead Beat puts a lot of faith in Kesey (see Advice To A Would-Be Writer). The Merry Prankster speaks the truth.
Examine the hollow.
Too many writers are attracted by the light(s) shining from the dark instead of shining their own light upon the dark and revealing what lies within.
Too much surface layer stuff. Get down on your hands and knees and go potholing.
Never mind the bright lights of 'success': The Awards, the BestSellers' Lists, the TV appearances. ..
It's tinsel, Christmas Tree shananigans.
Look at the root system, get dirt in your nostrils and upon your lips.
And remember you are not alone. Ken is right behind you showing you the way.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
"Stay with me Dead Beat."
"Not going anywhere Ken."
"It's just that you call yourself a writer."
"Well promise me one thing."
"Cross my heart."
"Examine the hollow."
"When people ask me about LSD, I always make a point of telling them you can have the shit scared out of you with LSD because it exposes something, something hollow. Let's say you have been getting on your knees and bowing and worshiping; suddenly you take LSD, and you look, and there's just a hole, there's nothing there. The Catholic Church fills this hole with candles and flowers and litanies and opulence. The Protestant Church fills it with hand-wringing and pumped-up squeezing emotions because they can't afford the flowers and the candles. The Jews fill this hole with weeping and browbeating and beseeching of the sky: "How long, how long are you gonna treat us like this?" The Muslims fill it with rigidity and guns and a militant ethos. But all of us know that that's not what is supposed to be in that hole.
There's only a big hollow, the great American wild hollow, which is scarier than hell, scarier than purgatory or Satan. It's the fact that there isn't any hell and there isn't any purgatory, there isn't any Satan. And all you've got is Sartre sitting there with his momma--harsh, bleak, worse than guilt. And if you've got courage, you go ahead and examine that hollow."
"I'm listening K.K."
"That's the new wilderness. It's the same old wilderness, just no longer up on that hill or around that bend, or in that gully. It's because there are no more hills and gullies that the hollow is there, and you've got to explore the hollow with faith. If you don't have faith that there is something down there, pretty soon when you're in the hollow, you begin to get scared and start shaking. That's when you stop taking acid and start taking coke and drinking booze and start trying to fill the hollow with depressants and Valium. Real warriors like William Burroughs or Leonard Cohen or Wallace Stevens examine the hollow as well as anybody; they get in there, look far into the dark, and yet come out with poetry."
"I'm ready Ken. I take up my torch. I'll shine with it."
Posted by Gerard Beirne at 10:04 pm
Kesey just won't let go.
"You write novels Dead Beat."
"An archaic form don't you think? What with the information age - all that the brain can absorb."
"What are you saying Kenneth, give it up?"
"It's a flash in the pan, as far as history goes, I think. Because the storyteller was there to begin with. He used the fire, and he used his voice; he used shadows and monsters, and he used poetry and music. And all those things worked on the audience. When you just get into print, you reduce the input quite a bit. But it makes for a nice thing to package and distribute--like a box of tampons. But I think that for us to really deal with a young audience, we're going to have to pick up the pace."
"What to do?"
"When Shakespeare was writing, he wasn't writing for stuff to lie on the page; it was supposed to get up and move around. And I think that writers are going to have to face this; they were performers originally. That's what storytellers did--they told a story. And the better they were at telling it, the more famous it became. The Chopes were writers that moved from castle to castle. The word `Chope, C-H-O-P-E,' means `see, too see, and be seen.' So you went from castle to castle and you told about the castle you just came from, and how beautiful the maidens were and how powerful and manly the knights were. You helped prop up a young civilization: They couldn't have done it without them.
Now, we've got electronic means to do that, so you wouldn't have to actually travel to castles. Come out of that box, there, and address the audience. The whole MTV audience, that is the new audience. And the people who are being purists and ignoring that, are those who are going to be left behind. As Dylan says, `it's a new road; if you don't like it, get out of the way.'
Dead Beat thinks he has a point. Pick up the pace or get out of the way.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
So Kesey calls me back.
"Sorry about the bus Dead Beat."
"It's okay Kenny. It was a lousy plan anyway. So what's really on your mind."
"This Dead Beat and only this: Everything's still basically the same as it used to be. Fire hurts you when it burns you. If you fall in water, you drown, rocks bruise you, wolves bite you, you go through a certain bunch of things that are the same. The job of the shaman / mystic I think is to pull things away from the Freudian mind. Let's quit examining ourselves and trying to make ourselves psychologically perfect. We aren't and never will be.
Now I gotta rush. Some things that need pulling away."
So Kesey drove Further into the swamp (see previous posts).
"That'll stop you Dead Beat," he howled.
Meanwhile the winds began to howl outside Dead Beat's door. The temperatures dropped. Nostril hairs froze and the folks finally decided it was time to go home.
D.B.'s off to put his feet up and finally read Visions of Sin.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
So Kesey calls up Dead Beat:
"Keep your hands off Further," he warns.
"Kenny, it's a great plan."
"It's a disaster."
"You haven't even heard it yet."
"Okay, so I put up the cash necessary to bring Further back to life in exchange for one trip."
"LSD laced juice again?"
"Not that sort of trip K.K. No, Neal Cassady drives the bus to Seven Sisters Falls. I tell the relatives to forget about the snow, think California, Summer of Love, long hair, beads that sort of thing. They won't be able to resist it, I just know it. So off they go. They're off my hands and I can get on with reading Visions of Sin. It's a surefire thing."
"Dead Beat, Cassady's dead."
"You sure K.K.?"
"Sure as the hole in the ozone."
"It's still a good plan, Ken. We just need a new driver."
"It's a lousy plan."
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Update on my plan (see previous post):
Yes, Further, Ken Kesey's old psychedelic bus. The one that crossed the States from California to New York with The Merry Pranksters on board, Neal Cassidy at the wheel, and a jug of LSD laced juice in the refrigerator.
Well it is in the process of being restored...sort of...
So my plan is....
Dead Beat apologises for his lack of posts, but honestly his relatives from Ireland just won't go home. They love the snow, they really do. Dead Beat is more than willing to help them pack it up and ship it off to the old sod, but no, they love the good life too.
So Dead Beat is still on page 6 of Visions of Sin and Modern Times is little more than background music.
But D.B. has a plan....
Posted by Gerard Beirne at 1:32 pm