Der Zuschauer

A Journal of Essays and Reportage on Drama, History, and Literature

Gorkyland: Mental Square

with one comment

And sometimes the burning hotel drives towards you, instead of you driving towards the inferno. People continue to be tossed from the shelter. People continue to think they will get back in, or, instead, stay at the Sally. Even the Albany Street wet-shelter, shit-hole has cut its alkie beds in half, a third, who knows? No money, these days, is available for active drunks, dope-fiends, unless you are Bill Clegg, literary agent in New York, author of Portrait of an Addict as A Young Man. “He had a thriving business as a literary agent, representing a growing list of writers. He had a supportive partner, trusting colleagues, and loving friends when he walked away from his work and embarked on a two-month crack binge. He had been released from rehab nine months earlier, and his relapse would cost him his home, his money, his career, and very nearly his life.” That bullshit is from the dust-jacket. Nine and two makes eleven, right? Wooie! Irvine Welsh writes: “A remarkable achievement. Bill Clegg’s story of a man–largely locked in hotel rooms, engaged in a desperate, heart-wrenching battle with himself–is destined to become a cult classic of writing on drug addiction.” All I can say is fuck Irvine Welsh for his cliches; he should have stuck his head in a nasty toilet and spared us the desperation, the destiny, the cult classic, and remarkable achievment. As for Bill Clegg, fuck his wanker asshole and his almost lost his home, his money, his career, and very nearly, his life. If a writer like Andrew O’Hagan is reduced to “instant classic,” “beauty and truth,” and “I suppose we live for the magic of these things,” then we are all lost in a miasma of dreck; cheap, whisper-thin, toilet paper; and bad-boy at Dartmouth masturbation. Sebestian Junger, went to war for 15 months, as a sort of male camp-follower. He at least “showed [us] the adrenaline-fueled confusion of being ambushed.” He knocked me to the floor, he took all my crack, and he took the last of the toilet paper. Junger, at least, “shows what it means to fight, serve, and face down mortal danger on a constant basis.” But really, why can’t any of these male pussies actually write well? Socrates went to war, Sophocles went to war. Grant and Sherman wrote well after the fact. I’ve been locked in hotel rooms; I’ve seen public men’s rooms in Central Square. I’ve lost my only pair of glasses down a fecal rat-hole. It wasn’t my cell-phone. Trusting colleagues, loving friends? Dylan Thomas put some egg into his whiskey. Malcolm Lowry ate the worm in the tequila bottle. When did being “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” become such a man-girl exercise in bad writing? Hemingway, Ford Maddox Ford, Dos Passos, and Faulkner could write. Most of the time they did write well. George Orwell wrote well about being down and out; the dishroom was greasy; the john stank. Josepth Roth wrote brillantly while lit up on schnapps or marc. He didn’t make himself out to be a hero for drinking hard. He wrote about men and women living in history. His last rehab episode was in the Hospital Necker, in Paris, where friends reported seeing him strapped to his bed with delirium tremens; he was denied alcohol by the hospital staff; no benzos in May of 1939. According to the poet and translator, Michael Hoffmann, that was a “contributory cause of his death.” “I have finished my last book. I don’t want a doctor, just a priest.”

Maxim Gorky, the 3rd.
Copyright 2012. Der Zuschauer.

Written by herrdramaturg

April 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm

One Response

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  1. We love to read about attractive young people living in squalid conditions. When you are 22 and lost, you have no money, no sense of direction, you can be noble, you can be On the Road. Life is a grand adventure and this aimless wandering is a phase, you are on Walkabout. You will eventually get it out of your system, get your kicks on Route 66, get your Ya Yas out and then get a job and stare out the window at the interstate and fondly remember the time you got your rocks off in the back of a semi cab.

    When you are 50, or 55, or 60 . . . it is a very different story. Nobody wants to read about a failure who refuses to reform himself. Everyone wants to read about the young entrepreneur, living in his car in the Walmart parking lot, only to become the great white job creator . . . they want you to bottom out, bounce off the gutter and wake up one day and realize that the best is yet to come.

    We fear hopelessness. We live in mortal terror of the notion that there may not be a brighter tomorrow. The idea that THIS is as good as it gets will drive us to the nearest video screen to drown out the voice of truth in the back of our head that keeps sneaking up on us to say “this is it, buddy. All there is.”

    Failure is not an option. It is not an Option. It is a fact. Nobody chooses it. So, when we see someone who appears to be choosing it, we cannot fit them into our moral universe. We cannot comprehend why they would choose to live a life that is devoid of hope. We cannot admit that perhaps they are just being realistic, honest, truthful about their prospects. We cannot accept refusal to buy into the illusion of an ever-expanding personal economy. So, by definition, a person who accepts failure is no longer a person. They have become Other. Mentally ill, insane, incapacitated for whatever reason, incapable of rational thought.

    The only way we can stomach the truth about poverty, or war, is to glorify it. It must be a necessary means to a better life, or else it would reflect badly on us that we don’t do something to stop it.

    Matt Mayerchak

    September 22, 2012 at 11:04 am


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