With the dog days just beyond the horizon, we are getting sirius and heating up our own brand of caniculārēs: introducing a new slate of content so bright you’re gonna want to wear shades!
Volume 9 features poetry by Laura Broadbent and Rachael Katz to name only a couple; interviews with Erín Moure and Chus Pato, Kevin Barry, Larrissa Lai and Rita Wong, as well as Janet Rogers; reviews of Divya Victor, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Donna Tartt, Redell Olsen, Chris Tysh and more; essays by Alessandro Porco, Mira Mattar, Martha Baillie, Erin Lyndal Martin, Prathna Lor, and Jaqueline Valencia on film; a short take by Cory Collins, and (of course) SO much more! Make sure to check back often – there are a number of surprise additions on their way every single day over the coming weeks.
LEMON HOUND is also pleased to announce that a number of exclusive folios by guest editors are percolating for summer and fall! In the meantime, this Friday’s dance break is brought to you by summer wine.
…This TOC is under construction, so check back often
Essays and Reviews
Alex Porco on Gary Barwin: Moon Baboon Canoe
Mira Mattar: Perhaps a finch, a finch perhaps
Heather Cromarty on Chris Tysh: Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic
Jacqueline Valencia: The Need for Lonely Women Film
Jonathan Ball: Misreading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”
Erin Lyndal Martin: Notes Toward an Essay on the Construction of the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família
Klara du Plessis on Redell Olsen: Film Poems
Marianne Ackerman on Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch
Martha Baillie: The Search for Heinrich Schlögel – A Novel Sent in Fragments
Geneviève Robichaud in Conversation with Erín Moure
Geneviève Robichaud in Conversation with Chus Pato (Translated by Erín Moure)
Conversation with Chus Pato (versión orixinal)
Alex Porco in Conversation with Katherine Sehr: I’m Drawing a Language
Bukem Reitmayer in Conversation with Kevin Barry
Fazeela Jiwa in Conversation with Rita Wong and Larissa Lai: sybil unrest
Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy in Conversation with Janet Marie Rogers
Alex Porco in Conversation with Kerri Pullo
Firing Line with William F. Buckley, 1968
Guests: Jack Kerouac, Lewis Yablonsky, and Ed Sanders
transcribed by Jason Grimmer
A 1968 episode of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, featuring a drunken Jack Kerouac, the Fug’s Ed Sanders and a clueless academic, Lewis Yablonsky, discussing the “Hippie” movement.
BUCKLEY: The topic tonight is the hippies. An understanding of whom we must, I guess, acquire or die painfully. We certainly should make some considerable progress in the next hour because we have with us a professional student of the hippies as also someone who has said to have started the whole beat generation business, and finally a hippie-type who can correct us, ever so gently please if we are wrong.
Mr. Lewis Yablonsky is a sociologist who studied at Rutgers and took his doctorate at New York University, and teaches at San Fernando State College in California, where he is chairman of his department. His first book, which focused on teenage gang life and drug addiction prepared him for his magnum opus which is called “The Hippie Trip: A Firsthand Account of the Beliefs and Behavior of Hippies in America”.
Mr. Jack Kerouac over here became famous when his book “On the Road” was published. It seemed to be preaching a life of disengagement, making a virtue out of restlessness. The irony is that when the book was belatedly published in 1958, seven years after it was written, Mr. Kerouac had fought his way out of the Beat Generation and is now, if not exactly orthodox, at least a regular practicing novelist whose thirteenth book, “The Vanity of Duluoz” is widely regarded as his best.
Mr. Ed Sanders is a musician, a poet, and a polemicist. He is one of The Fugs, a wildly patronized combo. He has published four books of poetry and has vigorously preached pacifism for a number of years.
I should like to begin by asking, Mr. Sanders, whether we have serious terminological problems, for instance: are you a hippy, Mr. Sanders, and if not, wherein not?
SANDERS: Well, I’m not exactly a hippy, I mean I have certain…ah…I have several sentiments for that quote “hippy movement”, unquote. I would say that I’m different from the hippies in that I would have a more radical political solution the problems of this part of the century and I have my roots more strongly in…ah…say the more classical tradition and in poetry and literature rather than in, ah, dope and street sex.
BUCKLEY: This, this you think…
KEROUAC: And you wrote, you published that magazine called what?
SANDERS: Called “Gutter Expletive” a magazine of the arts.
BUCKLEY: Well now do I understand from this that we, that we are supposed to make the inference that the hippies don’t have a highly developed political schedule, a highly political ideology?
SANDERS: The problem with the terms like ‘hippy’ is they have a definition foisted on them by the media and that the word ‘hippy’ has been limited by the necessities of the type of journalists that promote it. You can’t rely on the name hippy to include a human being and everything about a particular human being, you know, so it’s a bad term I think, because there’s no meaning, I think of hippopotamus, I mean you know and it’s like it has no other connection, spiritual and emotional, like say beat, the beat generation title had, you know it had other implications, but the word ‘hippy’ you immediately think of…uh…you don’t have any good connections.
YABLONSKY: I kinda disagree with that. I spent last year traveling around the country, various communes and various…Haight-Ashbury, Lower East Side, various city scenes and there was an identifiable…ah…define a hippy as generally a young person in several catagories, there’s kind of a priestly-type, I would include Allen Ginsberg, Tim Leary, and individuals like that, in that category (KEROUAC mumbles), ah people like, searching for some loving solutions to society’s ills, trying to tune in to the cosmos, whatever that means, we can explore that…generally using psychedelic drugs (KEROUAC gives thumbs-down) and then there’s a whole cadre of individuals who I’ve termed ‘novices’ who are attempting to achieve a certain transcendental state and then a lot of teeny-bopper kids who are sort of…ah…hanging on. Then there’s some ancient folks like Kerouac here who…
KEROUAC: (interrupting) Whaddya mean ancient?
YABLONSKY: Why couldn’t you keep quiet while I was talking? I’ll keep quiet when you talk.
BUCKLEY: Yeah, that’s fair enough isn’t it?
BUCKLEY: I think that’s fair enough, your request.
KEROUAC: You said ‘cadree”. It’s ‘cad-ray’.
YABLONSKY: Well, I’m sorry…
KEROUAC: Spanish word.
YABLONSKY: …I apologize…
YABLONSKY: …my semantics aren’t [unintelligible]
KEROUAC: And I showed my thumbs-down to Ginsberg, over there in the back.
YABLONSKY: Oh, he’s a nice fella.
KEROUAC: Yeah, we’ll throw him to the lions.
BUCKLEY: Well, what about it, Mr. Kerouac, you’re exorcised about something, or by something. What is it that…
KEROUAC: Restless is true, you had the right word, ‘restless’. Huh?
BUCKLEY: But what is it in your judgement distinguished the, the hippy movement from, for instance simply a routine radical…
KEROUAC: Get your question over with.
BUCKLEY: ..political movement?
KEROUAC: No, I interrupted your sent..sen (gulp) sentence.
BUCKLEY: Yeah, I say what distinguishes the hippy movement from simply an orthodox radical…say…
BUCKLEY: Adamite movement?
KEROUAC: Adamite? You mean Adam, Adam and Eve or atom?
BUCKLEY: A-dam. As in Adam and Eve.
KEROUAC: What’s an Adam and Eve? What’s an Adamite? Where they all wear their hair long, layers, in caves?
BUCKLEY: Yeah, and sort of back-to-nature and…
KEROUAC: Well, that’s all right.
BUCKLEY: …exclusive concern for…
KEROUAC: Might have to, in due time because of the Atom…ite…bomb. [Kerouac laughs].
BUCKLEY: Hey that was good wasn’t it?
KEROUAC: [unintelligible] boy.
BUCKLEY: Give that man a drink. Now Jack, Mr. Kerouac, what I want to ask is this: to what extent do you believe that the Beat Generation is related to the, to the hippies? What do they have in common, was this an evolution from the one to the other?
KEROUAC: It’s just the older one. See I’m forty-six years old, these kids are eighteen but it’s the same movement, which is apparently some kind of Dionysian movement…in late civilisation.
BUCKLEY: Um, hm.
KEROUAC: And which I did not intend any more than, I suppose, Dionysius did, or whatever his name was. But although I’m not Dionysius [unintelligible], I should have been.
[Audience and Buckley chuckle]
BUCKLEY: Yeah, that’s a point.
KEROUAC: No. It’s just a movement that just..ah…supposed to be licentious…but it isn’t , really.
BUCKLEY: Well now licentious in what was…
KEROUAC: The hippies are good kids, they’re better than the Beats, the Beats, well Ginsberg and I…well, Ginsberg, boy…we’re all in our forties and we started this and the kids took it up and everything…but a lot of hoods, ‘hoodlums’, and ah…communists jumped on our backs.
BUCKLEY: Um, hm.
KEROUAC: Well, on my back. Not his. [indicates someone in the audience].
BUCKLEY: Um, hm.
KEROUAC: Ferlinghetti jumped on my back…and turned the idea I had that the Beat Generation was a generation of beatitude and pleasure and life and tenderness, but they called it, in the papers, Beat Mutiny, Beat Insurrection. Words I never used. Being a Catholic. I believe in order, tenderness, and piety.
BUCKLEY: Well then your point was that a meeting that…rather that a movement which you conceived as relatively pure has become ideologized and misanthropic and generally…
KEROUAC: A movement that was considered what?
KEROUAC: No, a movement that was considered what?
KEROUAC: Yes, it was pure in my heart.
BUCKLEY: Um,hm. What about that Mr. Yablonsky, do you see that as having happened somewhere between the Beats and the Hippies?
YABLONSKY: I there’s a..in early sixty-seven going back to, well I suppose sixty-four or five, there were a lot of people trying to kind of a- return to a sort of an Indian-style of life or relate to the land differently to, ah, love each other, communicate, be more loving to each other, and I think it’s recently it’s taken a turn in a violent direction, a lot of responsibility, I think, is due to drugs like Methadrine, Amphetamines, and perhaps the over-use of –because it’s been around for quite awhile now- of drugs like LSD…
KEROUAC: How ‘bout the herring?
BUCKLEY: What is herring? Is that kind of drug?
KEROUAC: It’s a cherry herring.
YABLONSKY: No, no, no, no. Kerouac’s still…
YABLONSKY: …is out of style, he’s still on alcohol which is, you know…
KEROUAC: I’m on alcohol [unintelligible]…
YABLONSKY: …there are other drugs now that…
BUCKLEY: How about Mr. Sanders? Is that out of style?
SANDERS: Well, uh, you mentioned misanthropic and objectionable, I think…
SANDERS: …many of the …ah… so-called misanthropic elements of this generation is, are due to the war and that you have a surly generation of draft-eligible but literate and articulate people who are confronted with the hideous probability of having to go…
KEROUAC: Yes [unintelligible]…
SANDERS: …to an Asian land-war…
BUCKLEY: [to Kerouac] Shh, shh, shh, shh…
SANDERS: …and that, uh, so that have to go to war and they’re faced with this looming and gloomy future…
KEROUAC: [blows raspberry]
SANDERS: …and that rather than die in Vietnam, they’d rather prepare themselves to articulate a lifestyle, in the streets and in the open, that really reflects something they really wanna do, rather than this other thing you have to do later on they don’t really believe in, that they will do because, uh, push comes to shove, most kids go to war.
BUCKLEY: ‘Course the trouble with that is, it doesn’t account for the restlessness in, say, Paris, where they don’t have that particular problem, does it?
SANDERS: Well that’s the…
KEROUAC: Who’s [unintelligible]
SANDERS: …’up against the wall’ syndrome, I mean…
[fade to commercial]
BUCKLEY: Mr. Sanders, I’m interested in trying to pin this point down because a lot of us have heard that the restlessness of so much of American youth, which has contributed to the growth of the Hippy movement, has to do with the trauma of Vietnam but then all of a sudden awhile ago in France what seemed like the entire student population exploded even though that particular provocation was singularly –in fact conspicuously- absent, France having been officially very pro-North Vietnam, very anti-American. How do you account for that and has it caused you to perhaps look in for more generic sources of this sort of…
SANDERS: I think it’s the nefarious occurrence in French civilisation of Madame DeGaulle.
BUCKLEY: Madame DeGaulle?
SANDERS: Because she has exercised a noxious influence on French television, sitting up and personally censoring it, and I think…
SANDERS: …no, I think it’s absolutely true. I think that when you have a type of a obnoxious matriarchy that’s evident in France plus a[sic] encrusted , boring, boorish university structure, and ah..you know..ah..this…ah…the old man himself, and who wouldn’t? I mean it’s a whole thing to, God…there’s a huge structure to revolt against.
BUCKLEY: So as Madame DeGaulle is roughly equal to Vietnam…
SANDERS: She’s Madame [unintelligible].
BUCKLEY: …she’s [unintelligible]. Aha, ah Professor Yablonsky, what would you say if a student of yours told you that?
YABLONSKY: Well, I think in the United States, the Hippies, with all the tantamount difficulties of defining them, come from the middle upper classes, upper socio-economic situation, and these are generally people who have tasted the best of what American society seems to have to offer, they have access to all the goodies, and they’re turned off by it, they feel that it’s kind of a plastic society , there’s no room for political change – I’m talking about the pure Hippy, the pure Hippy isn’t particularly involved in politics, he sort of retreats from that, he’s withdrawn from it, and he’s involved in –I mentioned the term ‘cosmic consciousness’ before – there is an experience one seems to get under LSD that a lot of people talk about as putting them in touch with all things, with all people, and there’s an effort –a kind of an extremist effort- at love that seems to dominate the Hippy scene and a retreat from politics.
BUCKLEY: Well, is there a causal relation between, they’re adopting this attitudes – and the Vietnam War- or do you reject the Vietnam War as the proximate cause of this movement.
YABLONSKY: I think the Vietnam War is part of it…
BUCKLEY: But if there had been no Vietnam War we might’ve had the identical things that you’re pointing to.
YABLONSKY: Well, I think that part of it, there’s a lot of, there’s no single cause for a particular movement, I think part of it may have been the assassination of JFK, I think people on the left felt that through the establishment, through political devices, that society could move in other directions and then…
BUCKLEY: And what direction was it moving in 1963 that was pleasing to them?
YABLONSKY: Ah, there was a movement toward greater welfare programs, towards resolving in some ways the civil rights issue, there seemed to be some hope, and then this seemed to be snapped off and a lot of kids who went to Mississippi and….
BUCKLEY: But, if I may say so, precisely the movements that didn’t get passed in 1961, 62, and 63, of the kind you just enumerated, were passed in 64, 65, 66, so there would seem to be almost negative correlation between the civil rights legislation and welfare passages and the growth of the movement.
YABLONSKY: Well, I think if you cross-compare the limited JFK administration and the rather lengthy LBJ administration, I think the LBJ situation has kind of been going through the motions of doing something and there was a certain – I feel and a lot of people have told me this – spirit afoot in the country and there seemed to be a bit of a revival with Bobby Kennedy and here again – and to some extent the McCarthy involvement – and I think a lot of people are turned off from the political establishment because they don’t see any hope for changing it, they use terms like ‘plastic’ and more severe words about it, they’ve disengaged. They’re uncommitted to it.
BUCKLEY: How about that Mr. Kerouac? Does that make sense of you in terms of…
KEROUAC: I’ve lost the entire train of thought.
BUCKLEY: Well the train of thought has to do with whether in the last few years people have ceased to look at the political process as profitable, in terms of bringing on the kind of world they want to live in, and maybe that has something to do with the assassination of Kennedy, that kind of thing.
KEROUAC: No, that was an accident. I refer back to Count Leo Tolstoy, who wrote War and Peace, y’know? Leof Tolstoy. He said that at one time, the hourglass – that sand is coming down from on top of the hourglass down to the other- and that will be the end of war. I think that war will be over. Fairly soon. Although I don’t know for sure. That’s what Tolstoy said.
BUCKLEY: Well, yeah…
KEROUAC: And he was the guy who taught Gandhi and Thoreau…
BUCKLEY: Yeah, ah..
KEROUAC: Henry David Thoreau.
BUCKLEY: Yeah. Taught ‘em a lot of foolish things but [unintelligible]…
KEROUAC: No, but I didn’t get the full context of your question.
BUCKLEY: Well, the full context of the question is: Are a significant number of Americans precisely at an age when we enunciated the great society…
KEROUAC: No great society!
BUCKLEY: ..ie, the society that was actually going to introduce politics as well…
KEROUAC: As far as I’m concerned…
BUCKLEY: …in everything, are they disillusioned and does this have to do with the growth of the Hippy movement?
KEROUAC: In the first place, I think that the Vietnamese War is nothing but a plot between the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese – who are cousins- to get Jeeps in the country. [Audience laughter].
BUCKLEY: They’re not very plotters, are they?
KEROUAC: Well, they got a lotta Jeeps! [Audience laughter] I think they’re pulling the wool over our eyes and we’re little American lambs.
BUCKLEY: They turned out to be more expensive than Sears Roebuck Jeeps, didn’t they?
KEROUAC: That’s what I really think there. As for the Russion takeover of Czechoslovakia, that showed the world what they’re like. What the Communists are really like. They’re really Fascists.
BUCKLEY: Well yeah, I don’t guess anybody doubted that, except maybe Mr. Sanders, right?
SANDERS: I’ve…I think it was a terrible thing…you know, I, uh, if I were in Czechoslovakia or a Czechoslovakian student I’d be putting out a[sic] underground newspaper and doing my best to…
KEROUAC: Called what?
SANDERS: Called Gutter Expletive [Kerouac stomps and laughs, obscuring sound]…
BUCKLEY: Well since…
KEROUAC: Didn’t spill nothin’, Bill!”
BUCKLEY: …since you aren’t in Czechoslovakia, ah Mr. Sanders, what do you consider it appropriate to do in the United States?
SANDERS: During the presidential campaign?
BUCKLEY: Yeah, by way of protest against the Czechoslovakian…
SANDERS: Oh, well I recommend sit-ins in front of the Russian missions…
KEROUAC: What for?
SANDERS: To vigorously and more forcefully, yet non-violently, to witness against it. I would advocate writing articles and advocate, you know, maybe going to Czechoslovakia, I mean, we may, the Fugs are going to Europe in a couple weeks and we may just…
KEROUAC: You gonna bring your carbines?
SANDERS: We’re going to the Essen Song Festival in Germany and we just try to freak across to Czechoslovakia to try to visit Kafka’s birth place, I guess. Was he born in Prague? So we may go have a homage to Kafka with the, uh, with our band.
BUCKLEY: Well do you draw any generalities on the basis of the behaviour of the Soviet Union which instruct you in assessing other political situations?
SANDERS: Yeah, like Mayor Daley in Chicago.
BUCKLEY: What are those?
SANDERS: Well, those are that, when you attempt to essentially, peacefully, gather together to press a point about war or about a freedom or about a freedom of journalism, that when you’re confronted with people like the Soviet leaders and like the leaders in Chicago, namely Mayor Daley and Mr. Stahl and Mr. Barger of the Chicago Municipal Office, that you’re confronted essentially the same position, you’re not allowed, you’re clubbed, you’re maced, you’re gassed, you’re freaked, zapped, pushed over if you’re an old lady, you’re thrown through a plate glass window. If you’re a cripple, you’re thrown against a street light. If you’re a peaceful, long-haired, loving protestor, you’re smashed and knocked down, if you’re a camera man, you’re bricked, your camera’s destroyed, and your blood is splattered all over you, I mean it’s a nefarious scene and there’s all kinds of correlations and the only [unintelligible] you would draw would be to prepare yourself –and in the sense of, if you’re a non-violent like I am, and if you believe in pacifism- you attempt to create a body of love and light so that that thing can’t happen, that there’ll be so many loving people there that you will have a festival of life and all its attributes and you can do that by praying together, loving together, by – Allen was singing “Ohm” in the streets, which is the Hindu benevolent word, and by getting together and creating love I think it’s a great force and at least in allowing you to demonstrate in the United States against Daley, who’s like Al Capone, you know?
BUCKLEY: Yeah, sure
KEROUAC: Beware of false prophets who come unto you dressed in sheep’s clothing and underneath they are ravening wolves.
SANDERS: But who’s that?
Entretien entre Pierre Dumayet et Michèle Berstein au sujet de Tous les chevaux du roi.
Durée : 8 min 9 sec.
Pierre Dumayet (PD): C’est un premier roman. C’est un livre très brillant, très narquois. On ne voit pas pourquoi il n’aurait pas de succès, je lui en souhaite. Il a tout pour plaire ou presque tout. Je voudrais, avant d’entrer dans ce livre, que vous me racontiez, puisque c’est un premier roman, l’histoire d’un premier roman. Ça me paraît intéressant tout de même. Vous travailliez dans une maison d’édition lorsque vous avez décidé d’écrire ce livre n’est-ce pas ?
Michèle Bernstein (MB): Oui, c’est par hasard. C’est parce que je ne sais rien faire d’autre.
PD : Qu’est-ce que vous faisiez dans cette maison d’édition ?
MB : Pas grand chose, pas grand chose. J’apportais des papiers, je taillais des bouts de crayons et puis j’avais un titre de secrétaire, mais ça ne servait absolument à rien.
PD : Et alors vous avez écrit ce roman et puis après qu’est-ce que vous avez fait ?
MB : Je l’ai tapé à la machine, je l’ai mis dans des paquets, j’ai mis des faux noms.
PD : Dans combien de paquets ?
MB : Quatre paquets.
PD : Vous avez envoyé votre manuscrit à quatre éditeurs ?
MB : Voilà. Je l’ai envoyé à quatre éditeurs sous un faux nom, puis j’ai attendu des réponses.
PD : Sous le même faux nom ?
MB : Non, sous des faux noms différents.
PD : On peut savoir lesquels ?
MB : Et bien non, oui enfin je m’appelle Michèle Bernstein, le premier je l’avais appelé, j’avais signé Danielle Aaron et pour mieux me reconnaître dans les réponses après j’ai pris Baron, Caron, Daron.
PD : Et alors quelle était la réaction des trois éditeurs qui n’ont pas accepté ce manuscrit puisque…
MB : J’avais…Il a été refusé. Il y en a un autre qui m’a convoquée…
PD : Pourquoi ? Vous ne connaissez pas les motifs ?
MB : Non, je ne sais pas les motifs. Ça ne lui a pas plu et il y en a un autre il m’a dit, il m’a convoquée, et puis c’est pas le…j’ai pas vu un directeur littéraire, j’ai vu un sous-directeur littéraire qui m’a dit c’est trop bien écrit. Oui, on m’a dit ce n’est pas assez maladroit. Maintenant il faut être gauche.
PD : Gauche ?
MB : Il faut une certaine maladresse. Oui, faut faire gauche. Ça n’est pas un cri du cœur. Alors je lui ai dit si, un instant c’est un cri du cœur. Il m’a dit un cri du cœur ça ne se lit pas comme ça. Alors je suis partie. On était un peu froids. Et puis le troisième a été assez gentil aussi, mais on a parlé de différentes possibilités puis ça ne s’est pas fait; et puis en même temps c’était pris, alors…
PD : C’était pris chez Corrêa?
MB : Oui.
PD : Le fait d’avoir travaillé dans une maison d’édition, vous a t-il aidé à deviner ce qu’il faillait faire pour être éditée ?
MB : Sans doute, mais on ne s’en rend pas très bien compte soi-même.
PD : Si, je crois qu’on se rend compte assez bien soi-même. Il y a un certain nombre de conventions que vous avez voulu respecter.
MB : Ah, les conventions…on apporte chacun sa petite pierre à la cathédrale, alors évidemment on travaille dans la même mine.
PD : Oui, mais par exemple, à un certain moment, dans une bonne partie de ce livre, vos personnages prennent des vacances sur la Côte d’Azur, à Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
MB : Oui, moi je ne suis jamais allée par exemple, mais eux ils y vont.
PD : Et pourquoi ?
MB : C’est bien pour des personnages de roman d’aller sur la Côte d’Azur, vous ne trouvez pas ?
PD : Est-ce que vous ne pensez pas que c’est nécessaire même, non ?
MB : Oh nécessaire ? Non, pas vraiment, mais ça leur fait plaisir en tout cas à ces personnages. Moi je me mets à leur place.
PD : Vous ne connaissiez pas Saint-Paul ?
MB : Non.
PD : Vous parlez beaucoup des cafés de Saint-Paul. Comment avez vous fait pour savoir…
MB : Moi j’ai pensé que tous les cafés du monde étaient pareils.
PD : C’est pas vrai.
MB : C’est pas vrai ? Enfin il y a des différences, mais j’ai pensé que les cafés de Saint-Paul devaient être comme ça.
PD : Vous m’avez dit comment vous avez travaillé tout à l’heure. Vous avez demandé à quelqu’un ?
MB : Ah oui, j’ai demandé aussi combien il y en avait parce que je ne pouvais pas mettre quatre si il y en avait eu quinze.
PD : Il y a une voiture, si. Il y a souvent des voitures, non ? Des voitures…
MB : Oui. Je ne sais pas conduire, non, mais en fait une voiture… on dit on prend une voiture et…
PD : Est-ce que c’est des voitures comme dans les livres de Françoise Sagan?
MB : Je ne sais pas. Je ne sais pas. J’en ai pas vu. Je n’ai pas vu celles non plus des romans de Françoise Sagan. Elles devaient être plus belles.
PD : On boit beaucoup. Oui…On boit beaucoup hein dans votre livre aussi.
MB : Ah oui, ils boivent, ils boivent.
PD : Ça fait partie des choses que doivent faire les personnages de roman aussi, non ?
MB : Non, mais les miens ils boivent tout le temps.
PD : Oui, y’en a beaucoup d’autres aussi.
MB : Mais ils boivent bien. Ils boivent bien.
PD : Ils boivent français, hein. Ils boivent pas de whiskey. Ils boivent du marc, hein.
MB : Oui, et puis ils boivent avec élégance… après ils ne sont pas très ivres.
PD : Et du style de ce roman, est-ce que vous saviez, euh, ce qu’il fallait choisir ? Est-ce que vous saviez qu’il fallait écrire d’une certaine manière ? Brève ? Sèche ?
MB : Bien, oui on peut écrire d’une façon brève et sèche. C’est facile. C’est compréhensible.
PD : C’est comme ça qu’il faut écrire en ce moment ?
MB : Non, ce n’est pas forcé. On peut écrire comme ça. On peut écrire autrement.
PD : En fait, il se trouve que vous avez écrit comme ça.
MB : Oui.
PD : Quel est le genre de votre roman enfin ? À quoi peut on le comparer ?
MB : Oh, je ne sais pas. À quoi vous le comparez ?
PD : Je ne sais pas. Il vous paraît absolument unique en son genre ?
MB : Oh non, non, non.
PD : Bon, alors ?
MB : Eh bien, si on considère que c’est un roman et simplement un roman, on peut le comparer à tous les autres romans qui existent, en tant que romans, et puis après il y a des catégories.
PD : Oui. Et dans quelle catégorie le mettez-vous ?
MB : Eh bien, ce n’est pas un roman historique. C’est une histoire d’amour. Ça c’est déjà un genre d’être une histoire d’amour.
PD : Oui, et est-ce qu’on peut aussi définir un peu ce roman par euh… la morale du couple qui en est le personnage principal ?
MB : Au sens courant du terme, ça serait plutôt des gens immoraux. Mais si on prend le mot morale à un sens plus détaché, comme la recherche d’une conduite, d’une certaine manière acceptable de vivre, alors ce sont des gens qui sont à la recherche d’une nouvelle morale, de nouveaux rapports humains.
PD : Bon, peut-être maintenant serait-il temps même de nous dire vaguement de quoi il s’agit ?
MB : Et bien, il y a cinq ou six personnes qui s’aiment toutes, alors entre cinq ou six personnes qui s’aiment toutes il se passe des choses pas compliquées pour qu’on puisse les raconter ici.
PD : Oui. Mais en fait, même si c’est tout ce qui se passe est en rapport justement avec, cette morale immorale, n’est-ce pas ?
MB : Oui, au milieu, au milieu, de ces personnes il y a un couple, c’est un garçon et une fille qui sont mariés, qui s’aiment et qui s’aiment suffisamment pour se laisser libres et pour ne pas s’empêcher de vivre.
PD : C’est ça…mais il me semble que si on…il y en a un bon tiers des romans contemporains qui sont habités par des personnages qui ont cette morale, non ?
MB : Heureusement!
PD : Oui, mais c’est un fait, non ?
MB : Oui, il y en a, il y en a, il y en a… il y en a. Non, je ne sais pas. Vous êtes peut être au dessus de la vérité, oui
PD : Et vous avez l’impression que l’arrière suit ? J’ai l’impression que presque seuls les personnages de roman se comportent comme cela, non ?
MB : Je ne sais pas. Vraiment, je ne sais pas.
PD : Vous avez répondu vous même à cette question… y’a…votre personnage principal dit: « nous sommes des personnages de roman » , ce qui est très habile.
MB : Il se rend bien compte des choses.
PD : « D’ailleurs vous et moi nous parlons par petites phrases sèches, n’est-ce pas ? Nous avons même quelque chose d’inachevé, voilà comment sont les romans. » C’est très habile ça.
MB : De sa part ?
PD : Non, de la vôtre enfin.
MB : Et bien, que voulez-vous, c’est un personnage de roman qui se rend compte qu’il est dans un roman.
PD : Je crois que…Ils…
MB: Ils descendent du roman, ils se regardent passer…
PD: Ça semblait être…je l’ai lu un peu comme une parodie du roman, j’ai eu tort ?
MB : Non pas, c’est une histoire un peu sérieuse quand même.
PD : Oui…c’est pas parodique ?
MB : On est toujours plus ou moins parodique quand on se sert d’un moyen, mais enfin non ce n’est pas vraiment un roman parodique.
PD : Il y a des phrases… « Enfin je ne suis pas très, très perverse, je suis du genre faussement naïf…genre je me réveille toujours plus tôt dans un lit dont je n’ai pas l’habitude. » C’est pas parodique ça ? C’est pas…
MB : Non puisque c’est un des personnages du roman, qui le dit. Les personnages de romans ne peuvent pas être parodiques.
PD : C’est un roman, hein ? C’est pas un exercice de style.
MB : C’est un roman.
PD : Mais j’ai plutôt l’impression que c’est un moyen que vous avez trouvé, excellent d’ailleurs, de démontrer que vous avez beaucoup de talent…je crois que c’est plutôt ça qu’un roman…
MB : Merci.
PD : Merci.
Pierre Dumayet in Conversation with Michèle Bernstein on All the King’s Horses
Duration: 8 min 9 sec.
Pierre Dumayet (PD): This is a first novel. This is a brilliant book, very sardonic. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be successful; at least I hope it will be. It has everything or almost everything to please. Before we start talking about the book, it’s interesting to me, since this is a first novel, to talk about the story of a first novel. You worked in a publishing house when you decided to write this book, right?
Michèle Bernstein (MB): Yes, but that has nothing to do with it. It’s because I don’t know how to do anything else.
PD: What were you doing in this publishing house?
MB: Not much, not much. I brought documents to people, I sharpened pencils, I was a secretary, but it served absolutely no purpose.
PD: So you wrote this novel and then what did you do?
MB: I typed it, packaged it, and came up with pseudonyms.
PD: How many packages did you make?
MB: Four packages.
PD: You sent your manuscript to four publishers?
MB: That’s right. I sent it to four publishers under a pseudonym, and then I waited for responses.
PD: Under the same pseudonym?
MB: No, under different ones.
PD: Can you tell me which ones?
MB: Well, no, yes, finally my name is Michèle Bernstein, so the first one was called, I signed it Danielle Aaron, and then to better recognize the response I took Baron, Caron, Daron.
PD: What was the reaction of the three publishers? They didn’t end up accepting this manuscript because…
MB: I…It was refused. There’s another one who approached me…
PD: Why? Did they give you a reason?
MB: No, I don’t know. It wasn’t for them, and there’s another one who told me, he approached me, and then…I didn’t see an editor; I saw an assistant editor who told me it’s too well written. That’s right, I was told it’s not awkward enough. It’s not clumsy enough.
MB: It takes a certain kind of awkwardness. It has to seem clumsier. It’s not heartfelt enough he said, so I told him that in fact it was heartfelt. He told me heartfelt books don’t read like that. So I left. He was a bit cold. The third one was quite nice, but we talked about different possibilities and then nothing came of it; at the same time it was picked up so…
PD: It was picked up by Corrêa?
PD: Did working in a publishing house help you understand what you needed to do in order to be published?
MB: Probably, but I don’t think I was that self-aware.
PD: I think we’re definitely self-aware. There must have been a number of conventions that you wanted to incorporate.
MB: Oh, conventions…to each her own.
PD: Yes, but for example at some point, and in much of this book, your characters take a holiday on the Côte d’Azure in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
MB: Yes, I ‘ve never been there, but that’s where they go.
MB: It’s good for characters in a novel to go to the Côte d’Azure, don’t you think?
PD: You don’t think it might even be necessary?
MB: Oh necessary? No, not really, but it makes these characters happy in any case. I just put myself in their shoes.
PD: You didn’t know Saint-Paul?
PD: You talk a lot about Saint-Paul’s cafés. How did you know to…
MB: I just thought all the cafés in the world were the same.
PD: They’re not.
MB: They’re not? I suppose there are differences, but I thought the cafés in Saint-Paul would be like that.
PD: You told me a bit about your process earlier. Did you ask someone?
MB: Of course. I also asked how many cafés there were because I didn’t want to put four if there were actually fifteen.
PD: There’s a car. There’s often the mention of cars, right? Cars…
MB: Yes. I can’t drive, no, but in fact a car, we take cars and…
PD: Are they cars like the ones in Françoise Sagan’s books?
MB: I don’t know. I don’t know. I haven’t seen them. I haven’t seen any like Françoise Sagan’s. They must be even more beautiful.
PD: There’s a lot of drinking. Yes…There’s a lot of drinking in your book as well.
MB: Yes, they drink. They drink.
PD: That’s part of what characters in a novel should do though, right?
MB: No, but mine drink all the time.
PD: And in many others as well.
MB: But they’re good drinkers. They’re good drinkers.
PD: They drink like the French, though. They don’t drink whiskey. They drink marc, right.
MB: Yes, and their graceful drinkers, so they don’t get very drunk.
PD: And regarding your novel’s style, did you know, uh, what choices to make? Did you know that it had to be written a certain way? Concise? Prosaic?
MB: Yes, you can write in a concise, prosaic manner. It’s easy. It’s intelligible.
PD: Is that how one should write at the moment?
MB: No, it’s not a rule. You can write like that, but you can also write otherwise.
PD: Well, it turns out that you write like that.
PD: What kind of a novel is it? How would you compare it?
MB: Oh, I don’t know. What would you compare it to?
PD: I don’t know. Do you think it’s the only one of its kind?
MB: Oh, no, no, no.
PD: Well, what then?
MB: Well, if we consider that it’s a novel and that it’s just a novel, it can be compared to all the other novels that exists as novels, and then after that there are genres.
PD: Okay. And what genre would say yours is?
MB: Well, it’s not a historical novel. It’s a love story. That’s already a kind of genre.
PD: Yes, and we can also define this novel in terms of the morality of the main characters: the couple?
MB: In the ordinary sense of the term they would be considered rather immoral people. But if we take the word moral in a more flexible sense, like the search for a way of being, of a more acceptable way of life, then these are people who are looking for a new kind of morality, a new kind of human interaction.
PD: Okay, maybe now would be a good time to say even vaguely what the novel is about.
MB: Well, there are five or six people who all love each other, so between five or six people who all love each other there are things that happen that are easy enough to recount here.
PD: Yes. But in fact, even if that’s all that happens there’s still a link between that and this immoral moral, isn’t there?
MB: Yes, in the middle, in the middle of these characters there’s a couple, a boy and a girl, who are married and who love each other very much, and who don’t impede on each other’s freedom.
PD: That’s right, but it seems to me that if we…at least a third of contemporary novels have characters who share this kind of morality, right?
PD: Yes, but it’s a fact, isn’t it?
MB: Yes, there are, there are, there are … there are. No, I don’t know. You might be right, yes.
PD: And you’re under the impression that it’s the other way around? I have a feeling that it’s almost only characters in novels that act like that, no
MB: I don’t know. Really, I don’t know.
PD: You answered this question yourself. Your main character says “we are characters in a novel” – which is very clever.
MB: They are well aware of things.
PD: “You and I, we talk in little prosaic sentences; wouldn’t you agree? We’re even a bit unpolished. Those are novels for you.” It’s very clever.
MB: Of him?
PD: No, of you.
MB: Well, what you have is a fictional character who realizes that he’s in a novel.
PD: I think that…they….I read it as a parody of the novel. Was I wrong?
MB: No. It’s still a pretty serious story.
PD: Yes, but it’s not a parody?
MB: There’s always something more or less parodic when you have representation, but it’s still not a parodic novel.
PD: There are sentences … “Well I’m not very, very perverse. I ‘m kind of … I’m the kind that’s falsely naive who always wakes up far too early in a bed that isn’t mine.” This isn’t parodic? This is not…
MB: No, since they’re character in a novel, you said it. Characters in a novel can’t be parodic.
PD: This is a novel, right? It’s not a writing exercise?
MB: It’s a novel.
PD: But I rather feel that this is a way that you’ve found, that’s also excellent, of showing that you have a lot of talent…I think that it’s rather a novel…
MB: Thank you.
PD: Thank you.
the last time I saw you I was so angry at
the most unnegotiable parts of yourself
that I thought “black hole lobbed around twice‟.
my thoughts were distorted, this is how angry I was.
it felt like I meant the anger and was afraid to lose the anger.
now I miss the anger.
my body was a liquor cabinet
the night you said “when are we going to be boyfriend-and-girlfriend‟.
I said “I don‟t know, when do you want‟ while shrugging my shoulders,
and you said, “now‟ so I said “let‟s make out‟,
which was romantic in a true-to-self sort of way.
from “POEM ABOUT REMOVING SOMEONE AS A FRIEND ON FACEBOOK”
guillaume morissette is a creative writing major. His work has appeared in Lickety Split and he’s currently working a short story collection. He runs a free outdoor cinema during the summer and writes sad emails during the winter.
Originally posted on Synapse.
Here, we find an archival gem that illuminates the pinnacle of an exceptional moment for women’s writing in Canada, in Vancouver in particular. Here, in the thrum of the Giantess (a chapbook series I am trying hard to bring to you) at the birth of Debbie, of Debbie: An Epic, in a moment of Raddle Moon (more on that soon), a small window of “flounce with civic tenderness…”. Here, in the wasteland of the 90s, thought greets us, and this work continues to reverberate in poetic circles beyond the English speaking world. You can find a few poems from Robertson up on the Poetry Foundation site now. Below is a page from one of the Barscheit Nation chapbooks made by Robertson, Christine Stewart, and Catriona Strang. Vancouver, 1995.