Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
In which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Role Models, by John Waters. When I first heard of John Waters, it was because he had directed movies like Cry Baby and Hairspray and Serial Mom which seemed to star Ricki Lake or Johnny Depp or Kathleen Turner and, though they were ostensibly mainstream, seemed, somehow, incredibly perverted in an ambiguous way that would make you change the channel if your mother caught you watching them on cable late at night. Then, at some college party, or at some basement show, some budding young punk film enthusiast cornered me and was like, “Dude, you have to see Pink Flamingos. Divine eats dogshit in it, and Waters filmed it in one take. The shit comes right out of the dog and goes right into Divine’s mouth, so you know no one is faking it.” A few years later, I was at another college party or basement show, and Pink Flamingos was on, and I watched it for some time, waiting for this famous Divine-eats-dogshit scene that was, somehow, the ironic equivalent of that long tracking shot in Goodfellas or that long tracking shot in Children of Men. Unfortunately, I only watched Pink Flamingos long enough to see Divine give a blowjob to the actor playing her son before, for whatever reason, I had to go. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Pink Flamingos since, so I can’t confirm that Divine does eat dogshit in real time in the film, though I look forward to, one day, perhaps on Netflix or Comcast On Demand, watching the part of Pink Flamingos in which a dog shits and Divine eats that shit in real time. It’s kind of like I’m saving myself for marriage, in a way—waiting until I’m ready, psychologically and emotionally, to watch a fat queen chow down on fresh dog turds. I don’t want to rush into that kind of commitment. I’m only 33. 2.Under the Table Books, by Todd Walton. I thought this novel was set in an actual anarchist bookstore in Chapel Hill, N.C., that I’d once visited after one of the innumerable bad shows I’d played in that town. Then, I realized it was set in a fictional anarchist bookstore in Northern California not far from where, once, I played a pretty bad show for which I was remunerated not in old-fashioned American currency but marijuana. Either way, if you’re playing in or near an anarchist bookstore, the show might be really bad, and something unusual might happen, so be prepared.
3. No Dig, No Fly, No Go: How Maps Restrict and Control, by Mark Monmonier. Jean Baudrillard, the map is the territory is the map is the territory, psychogeography, Situationism, blah blah blah.
4. On Whitman, by C.K. Williams. When I visit the Walt Whitman rest area on the New Jersey turnpike, I think of Walt Whitman lying on a sensual, lush rolling lawn on a sensual, sunny spring day. In this daydream, Whitman is twirling his sensual, long, gray beard with his sensual, long, lithe fingers or, alternately, running those sensual, long, lithe fingers through sensual, tall blades of grass and sensually staring at the sky, sensually cloudbursting. Perhaps he’s packed a small, sensual picnic on this outing, a sensual outing planned for a lazy, sensual Sunday on his sensual, native Long Island or, perhaps, in sensual Camden, N.J., where he sensually died. Perhaps, amongst his sensually packed picnic items, is a sensual bottle of sensual red wine and a sensual mason jar. Perhaps Whitman will sensually uncork the sensual red wine and pour it into sensual mason jar and, in this sensual, “Song of Myself” kind of way, sensually sip the wine from the mason jar as the sensual mockingbirds caw and the sensual honeysuckle blooms around him…and at the end of this sensual daydream, I remember that I should put a sensual $20.00 worth of gas into my sensual Toyota Matrix at sensual Sunoco, since gas is cheaper in sensual New Jersey than elsewhere, but there’s no sensual self-service, which means I have to sensually tip, which negates the whole point of sensual cheaper gas anyway, if you think about it.
5. Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions, by Mark W. Moffett. You watched all five seasons of The Wire over the course of a month and, at the end of that month, you were like: “Fuck this shitty career making $20,000K/year toiling away at a prisoners’ legal advocacy non-profit. I want to be a ‘murder police,’ just like Dominic West as Jimmy McNulty.” Then, a few weeks went by, and you forgot all about becoming a “murder police.” But then, you watched both seasons of HBO’s In Treatment over the course of, like, two weeks, and were like, “Fuck this shitty career making $17,500/year on the street team of a glossy, DJ-focused monthly tabloid mag distributed for free on the streets of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. I want to be a psychotherapist, just like Gabriel Byrne as Dr. Paul Weston.” Then, a few weeks went by, and you forgot all about becoming a psychotherapist. Now, you’re ready to read a book about ants. Ants, it turns out, inhabit a whole world of their own and build intricate societies based on a very homo sapiens-like division of labor. Isn’t that fascinating? Wouldn’t you like to study that? Wouldn’t devoting your life to ants be better than whatever shitty thing you’re doing right now? But beware: HBO has no show about entomologists, nor is it likely to develop one.