Joan was convinced she had cancer. Sometimes it was a dull ache in her side, sometimes a cut that didn’t heal. She knew of a woman with Crohn’s Disease and just recently an old friend of hers died of pancreatic cancer. It was just a matter of time before those alien cells took over her body. Her body was on the edge of a cliff, ready to fall. When she got out her Tarot deck, she always drew the Fool. Once she saw the Hermit in a dream. He dropped his lantern and the light tumbled down into a rocky canyon, glowing on the silver cliffs as it fell. It was winter, with pockets of snow on the peaks. [Read more…]
Excerpted from Murakami's recent novel, Killing Commendatore Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel Read Riot Material's review of Killing Commedatore
When I was fifteen, my younger sister died. It happened very suddenly. She was twelve then, in her first year of junior high. She had been born with a congenital heart problem, but since her last surgeries, in the upper grades of elementary school, she hadn’t shown any more symptoms, and our family had felt reassured, holding on to the faint hope that her life would go on without incident. But, in May of that year, her heartbeat became more irregular. It was especially bad when she lay down, and she suffered many sleepless nights. She underwent tests at the university hospital, but no matter how detailed the tests the doctors couldn’t pinpoint any changes in her physical condition. The basic issue had ostensibly been resolved by the operations, and they were baffled. [Read more…]
The two samples below are enough to show Frank’s savage (and hysterical!) brilliance, but if you need further proof, or merely more of Joe Frank’s wonderous vision, go to joefrank.com and listen to virtually his entire career. Below, Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin & Mao speak of tailors, floral arrangements, paint colors and books while the lesser-breeds, those less brilliant and accomplished — the pikey-lot of Gary Gilmore, Jeffrey Dahmer, JW Gacy, T-Bone Bundy and Charlie Manson sit with party hats at a nearby children’s table, wordless, inconsequential, shunned. In the second clip, a preacher speaks in Old Nick’s tongue:
“No More my Lord,” from Bad Karma (2000).
“Telephone Prayer,” a clip from Joe Frank’s Men of the Cloth (2001).
“Baby . . . I’m a genius but nobody knows it but me.” — Bukowski, Factotum
As a bottom-feeding, hardscrabble Walt Whitman, Bukowski sang of himself, incessantly, with a volcanic chip on his shoulder. He was determined to be heard, recognized, affirmed—Charles Bukowski Wuz Here stamped on Eternity’s forehead. He coerced you to see life as a cruel and dirty joke that he was in on, and often felt himself to be the butt of, and he would play the page like a blowsy stand-up comedian with too much acid in his diet. He was a living room Pulcinella with a beer-gut, a literary W.C. Fields tossing water balloons and Molotov cocktails with sardonic glee. [Read more…]
I, Parrot: A Graphic Novel
Reviewed by John Biscello
“A black-sharded lady keeps me in a parrot cage.”
The power of the black-sharded lady, a cunning saboteur of a shadow-self, resides less as a jailor and more as an illusionist. She creates a phantom cage out of thin air, and conditions one to behave and function as a captive, barred from moving beyond limitations that calcify into tainted gospel. In the new graphic novel I, Parrot, written by Deb Olin Unferth and illustrated by Elizabeth Haidle, cages, both real and metaphysical, play into what is a modern-day fable on survival, fierce love, and the necessity of wing-spreading. Or, as Emily Dickinson so eloquently stated: “Hope” is the thing with feathers. [Read more…]
“Strangler Bob” is one of five stories from Denis Johnson’s forthcoming collection, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, which was completed just before his death in May of this year. See Riot Material’s earlier tributes to Denis Johnson here.
You hop into a car, race off in no particular direction, and, blam, hit a power pole. Then it’s off to jail. I remember a monstrous tangle of arms and legs and fists, with me at the bottom, gouging at eyes and doing my utmost to mangle throats, but I arrived at the facility without a scratch or a bruise. I must have been easy to subdue. The following Monday, I pled guilty to disturbing the peace and malicious mischief, reduced from felony vehicular theft and resisting arrest because—well, because all this occurs on another planet, the planet of Thanksgiving, 1967. I was eighteen and hadn’t been in too much trouble. I was sentenced to forty-one days. [Read more…]
In further tribute to the great Denis Johnson, who died late May, an excerpt from Jesus’ Son:
I’d been working in the emergency room for about three weeks, I guess. This was in 1973, before the summer ended. With nothing to do on the overnight shift but batch the insurance reports from the daytime shifts, I just started wandering around, over to the coronary-care unit, down to the cafeteria, et cetera, looking for Georgie, the orderly, a pretty good friend of mine. He often stole pills from the cabinets.
He was running over the tiled floor of the operating room with a mop. “Are you still doing that?” I said.
“Jesus, there’s a lot of blood here,” he complained.
“Where?” The floor looked clean enough to me.
“What the hell were they doing in here?” he asked me.
“They were performing surgery, Georgie,” I told him.
“There’s so much goop inside of us, man,” he said, “and it all wants to get out.” He leaned his mop against a cabinet.
“What are you crying for?” I didn’t understand. [Read more…]
Joe pushed open the door and a bell sang.
Max followed Joe into Red’s.
The men’s dark hats and trenchcoats were beaded in snow.
Joe took off his hat and waved it profusely, air-drying the moisture that had accumulated on it. He put the hat back on and surveyed the diner.
The place was empty except for two customers.
An old woman, wearing a green hat that fit her head like a woolen conch shell, was seated at a table in the far corner. Arms gelatinously splayed on either side of the table, she was hunched over her bowl as if divining messages from it. When Joe and Max entered, she raised her eyes and stared at them with listless gravity.
At the counter, which was lined with red vinyl stools, sat a rumpled, doughy-looking man with an eyepatch.
Snow in April, Joe piped, as if announcing the title of a hit song. [Read more…]
A new day comes
like something you cannot name.
And perhaps because once again,
you must bend yourself
to the task of living
you begin to hack your way
through the mute glyphs
and weird print of your own thinking.
Searching among the splayed alphabet
of time and space
for the word’s cordite shape. [Read more…]
1949 | 2017
Excerpted from Jesus’ Son
Car Crashing While Hitchhiking
A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping . . . A Cherokee filled with bourbon . . . A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student . . .
And a family from Marshalltown who headonned and killed forever a man driving west out of Bethany, Missouri . . .
. . . I rose up sopping wet from sleeping under the pouring rain, and something less than conscious, thanks to the first three of the people I’ve already named–the salesman and the Indian and the student–all of whom had given me drugs. At the head of the entrance ramp I waited without hope of a ride. What was the point, even, of rolling up my sleeping bag when I was too wet to be let into anybody’s car? I draped it around me like a cape. The downpour raked the asphalt and gurgled in the ruts. My thoughts zoomed pitifully. The travelling salesman had fed me pills that made the linings of my veins feel scraped out. My jaw ached. I knew every raindrop by its name. I sensed everything before it happened. I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside it I knew we’d have an accident in the storm.
I didn’t care. They said they’d take me all the way. [Read more…]
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Again last night as we slept,
were falling from the sky.
So many of them–
eyes wide as darkness,
glowing lifeless palms. [Read more…]
by Donika Kelly
When he opens her chest, separates the flat skin
of one breast from the other, breaks the hinge of her ribs,
and begins, slowly, to evacuate her organs, she is silent.
He hollows her like a gourd, places her heart
below her lungs, scrapes the ribs clean of fat
and gristle with his thick fingers. He says, Now you are ready, [Read more…]
From Tree of Smoke
Last night at 3:00 a.m. President Kennedy had been killed. Seaman Houston and the other two recruits slept while the first reports traveled around the world. There was one small nightspot on the island, a dilapidated club with big revolving fans in the ceiling and one bar and one pinball game; the two marines who ran the club had come by to wake them up and tell them what had happened to the President. The two marines sat with the three sailors on the bunks in the Quonset hut for transient enlisted men, watching the air conditioner drip water into a coffee can and drinking beer. The Armed Forces Network from Subic Bay stayed on through the night, broadcasting bulletins about the unfathomable murder. [Read more…]
by Anthony Hassett (3 of 3)
And the order among them was very strange, for they worship a cow, and they have idols in the woods. Some be like a monkey, and some like the devil.
by Anthony Hassett (2 of 3) Amongst their kind was one thrust through, who fell off from his house and made such a lowing that we Christians thanked Almighty God for his delivery, and fell straight way to our labor with full power upon his body. [Read more...]
by Anthony Hassett (1 of 3)
For three months, and in a confusion of names now vanished, our rotting vessels made slow headway through the strange aberrant splendors of the sea. Finally, in a state of madness, we ran our ships on shore, and so embedded them forever in sand.
The following day on the skyline to the south they saw clouds of dust that lay across the earth for miles. They rode on, watching the dust until it began to near and the captain raised his hand for a halt and took from his saddlebag his old brass cavalry telescope and uncoupled it and swept it slowly over the land. The sergeant sat his horse beside him and after a while the captain handed him the glass. [Read more…]