VIRTUAL CONVERSATIONS WITH THE WRITER EDMOND CALDWELL (NOW A GHOST)

VIRTUAL CONVO-EC

CONVERSATIONS WITH A FELLOW WRITER I ONLY REALIZED WAS IRREPLACABLE AS A FRIEND THE DAY AFTER HE DIED (when my need to joke with him about the situation was extremely frustrated), INCLUDING THOUGHTS ON HIS UNDERGROUND MONUMENT OF A NOVEL

[caveat: these exchanges bounced between email, Facebook messenger and the surface level of Facebook: only the Facebook messenger version of these particular exchanges remain]

[more conversations with Edmond, and others, from the same era, here]

.

Edmond sent December 11, 2011

How come FB can’t design a conversation thread in which one can respond to separate comments? 1) Yes, the tyranny of the demotic. In some moods I blame rock music, which made ‘authenticity’ the gold standard. Or of course really just the performance of such ‘authenticity.’ I.e. faking one’s fucking authenticity. I am faking my fucking authenticity!

You sent December 11, 2011

you fake fucking fuck faking uh…. yeah!

You sent December 11, 2011

“disturbances at home”… I love it.

12/11/11, 8:55 PM

You sent December 11, 2011

Go to 15:30 (and what Brodkey says at 16:20 and then 18:00… good GAWD: http://sounds.bl.uk/View.aspx?item=024M-C0095X0801XX-0100V0.xml

Archival Sound Recordings

sounds.bl.uk

You sent December 11, 2011

19:50… and then what Brodkey says in response (at 20:28)… what an amazing fucking document. No wonder they’ve turned Brodkey into an un-person! What a non-Fool!

You sent December 11, 2011

And he refuses, so coolly, to give that reach-around after getting his cork sacked! (virtually, I mean; literally was something else, probably, and a lot to do with what killed him… or so they’d like you to… etc)

You sent December 11, 2011

34:00 is aimed neatly at Owen’s Jejune Communitarianism

You sent December 11, 2011

Listening to this I got two feelings: one, it’s very easy to sound a certain way when writing, and much harder to pull it off when the language is coming out of your mouth; I always felt that writers who sound like a vacuous bag of ums and uhs and popular tics/ catch-phrases are fraudy and Brodkey supports that notion, for me… but the fact he can pull it off in front of such a chilly audience of affronted Limeys! I’m still the words behind the words on the page when I’m with friends or dealing with one hostile asshole at a time but Brodkey is Bruce Lee when it comes to that. And then an insight into Wood, who in his sort of “teen” stage, here, with Brodkey, was looking for a ride into the limelight by affecting to champion an Esoteric, special-interest “name” in the biz… but of course his real ambition was to master Brodkey (because, despite the effusive cock-sucking, he wants to show where Brodkey is wrong… but can’t manage; not even slightly). A real cynic (such as yours truly) would say that Wood realized at some point he’d bet on a bad pony (Wood was still an amateur in his careerism and he probably realized it soon enough)… so he reversed his methodology. He realized, at some point, that to hitch a ride to the next level he should not praise effusively but openly ATTACK a big name. He’d been plotting for some time, I’ll bet, when 9/11 gave him his excuse. And so he rode into the spotlight doing his reverse-cowgirl on DeLillo…

You sent December 11, 2011

“I always felt that writers who sound like a vacuous bag of ums and uhs and popular tics/ catch-phrases are fraudy and Brodkey supports that notion, for me…” I mean by this that Brodkey does the opposite (I re-read it and it seemed ambiguous, the first way I put it)

1/10/12, 1:53 AM

You sent January 10, 2012

FOOKIN GOOD! The whole site seems rather tasty: http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-anti-racism-protects-class.html

Activist Teacher: How anti-racism protects class structure and dominance hierarchy
activistteacher.blogspot.com

1/10/12, 4:02 AM

Edmond sent January 10, 2012

Hey danke. And by the way, do you have a meat-world address where I can send you your comrade’s complimentary copy of my novel?

1/10/12, 10:35 AM

You sent January 10, 2012

I’ll send my meatplace via email, Comrade! Will love to get a copy!

1/11/12, 5:18 AM

Edmond sent January 11, 2012

I was trying to think of something quippy for a quick response and I came up with, “I’ll be oiling my catcher’s mitt, comrade!” But then I had second thoughts, because, well, it sounded kind of …  forward . . .

1/11/12, 10:31 AM

You sent January 11, 2012

Oh not at all. Hey, uh… (sleazily) what are you doing after dinner tonight, Comrade…? (will switch to email and send the goddamn meatplace coordinates)

1/16/12, 4:30 AM

Edmond sent January 16, 2012

Are you getting all these L____ V____  revise-and-repost comments in your inbox as well?

1/16/12, 9:24 AM

You sent January 16, 2012

Nope… after I ignored her friend request, she evaporated (thankgawd!!!)…

2/19/12, 5:10 PM

You sent February 19, 2012

Uh, EC… can you figure out what L_____  was talking about in the HuffPo/Arizona thread…?

2/20/12, 1:57 AM

Edmond sent February 20, 2012

The only thing I can figure out about L____  is that she has a personality disorder, bless her heart.

2/20/12, 10:08 AM

You sent February 20, 2012

Oh fuck! They proliferate!

2/20/12, 11:02 PM

You sent February 20, 2012

It just doesn’t stop, does it? (laugh)

Edmond sent February 20, 2012

I thought maybe Bob J. had turned on me because there’s a very anti-Zionist chapter in the book…

2/21/12, 12:13 AM

You sent February 21, 2012

Yeah, first Littell, now YOU! laugh. By the way, haven’t had time to get past page 35 yet (combination of my slow reading and my overwhelming obligations to Warner Music, my daughter and Wife, not in that order, right now)… but what I’ve read is pitch-perfect, delightful, you name it. What a relief! I’ve been sent a few novels in my time and they’ve run the gamut from mediocre-too-dead-fish-in-a-warm-closet. But this is neither! It’s brilliant. It’s good to get to say that once in a while…

You sent February 21, 2012

erratum: “to”

You sent February 21, 2012

btw, another strange friend request (strange in that I don’t know her), this time from an “A___ G__”:   do you know her?

You sent February 21, 2012

PLUS re: “Are you getting all these L___ V___  revise-and-repost comments in your inbox as well?” I realized now that I misunderstood this question when you first asked it; the correct (revised) answer is “yes”

2/21/12, 1:57 AM

Edmond sent February 21, 2012

Of course I want millions of people to buy and consume my novel — or really just to buy it — but there’s only a bare handful of people whose opinion about it really matters to me, and you, comrade, might even be that hand’s opposing thumb, so thank you. I’ve never met A____  in person, but we friended after we appeared in a journal together and I love her sensibility. Plus she’s never gone all Bob J. on me, so there’s that.

You sent February 21, 2012

Always a plus (re: that last sentence). Golf clapping (re: The Book)

2/24/12, 7:42 PM

You sent February 24, 2012

What happened with my granddaughter’s mother’s sudden near-national success might best (though indiscreetly) be put as… Faustian.

2/25/12, 4:11 AM

Edmond sent February 25, 2012

I’m imagining that the producer-impresario guy  was the Mephistopheles figure in that case…

2/25/12, 9:04 AM

You sent February 25, 2012

It’s complicated because the taxonomy has expanded geometrically since Goethe’s day; the guy (I’m having to guess here: R___  O___ )  is just a guy who knows the guy who knows Beelzebub’s weed dealer…

You sent February 25, 2012

(Beelzebub being Jay Z)

You sent February 25, 2012

The last time I saw C___  (here in Berlin; 2007) she was happily married to my son, she was not Auschwitz-skinny nor with a chic androgynous haircut, and they had a charming little folk band which played the Mpls farmer’s market on weekends for coins in a hat. The band started getting some attention and…

2/25/12, 6:01 PM

Edmond sent February 25, 2012

Well, how can anyone argue with Jay Z? And as for P___, I liked them better when they were called Portishead.

You sent February 25, 2012

OWCH! But, to be fair, Portishead was kinda grating/challenging… C___’s thing is destined to grace a VW and/or Gap ad

2/27/12, 6:22 PM

You sent February 27, 2012

Not to be cruel but the recent post from L___  (aka The French Bob J.)… the one where you make a lighthearted comment about how cool your son is (and she retorts with a precursor to a police report)… is so wrong it’s sublime.

2/28/12, 4:17 AM

Edmond sent February 28, 2012

She took it down, I see. And there was only a single version! If no revisions come pouring in soon, I’ll have to start hoping that the meds are taking effect after all! But Nic Wong’s work — yikes! Superb! Wish she’d channel more of that bitterness into her work….

2/28/12, 9:09 AM

You sent February 28, 2012

By the way, you ruined my social status on the U-Bahn yesterday by imposing uncontrollable mirth (compressed laughter, teary eyes, snorting and gasping) during the Jim Wood passage. Novel unflaggingly good! Your “that’s it, keep going” riff brilliant. The endless circlings and reversals! But I don’t think it’s a good idea for Bob J. to be reading it… this seems like an ideal (destiny-granted) Trigger for him! Laugh

3/1/12, 11:21 PM

You sent March 1, 2012

Wait! You’ve misread my compliment, I think: “if you’d written Austerlitz, I’d have finished reading AUSTERLITZ.”  Did you catch that? AUSTERLITZ gave me museum fatigue. HW/EC is anything BUT fatigue-inducing!

3/3/12, 4:22 PM

You sent March 3, 2012

Sadly, I’m nearing the end (first page of the play)! Thoughts: On your Wall, I compared part lll of HW/EC to “Operation Shylock”… but what I’ll say in private (because I didn’t want to offend potential helpers of yours, on your behalf! laugh) is that, if anything, HW/EC shows how entertaining-yet-inocuous “Shylock” looks in comparison to HW/EC and that while Roth indulges in the fine art of Not Saying Anything That Will REALLY Get You in Trouble With Either Side of Any Debate, you lay the cards on the table with the rarest wit and control that I’ve ever seen. HW/EC is the most modern long-form text I’ve ever read, Comrade. You’re Beckett with an unlined face, Roth without the cog diss, Kundera without the crypto-Christian morality, Sebald with a big dick and a vital odor… all of the above without the EVASIONS. You managed to write the “9/11 book” DeLillo couldn’t. To put the hysterical slapstick so close to (and often within the heart of) the rawest, bleakest horror without ONE false note… and to execute so many rapid shifts between the two states without diluting the quality of either…! What our predecessors achieved (or attempted to) by marshaling the fusty plodding metaphorical armies of Napoleon on the fancy fucking page, you have done better with a handful of Ninjas and Hackers. Literature is evolving: your writerly choices and the sensibility governing them proves that! There’s more but this comment is getting out of hand. I don’t think you know how great HW/EC is. Probably because your subconscious was busy with this book before you knew it… bits and pieces you wrote, way back, without knowing why… while your conscious was busy being harassed and oppressed by the antagonistic nonsense of the Artist-hating, Writer-disparaging world. Amirite? Larf. Anyway: FUCK, I WANT A HARDCOVER OF THIS!!!!

You sent March 3, 2012

fooking erratum: innocuous

3/3/12, 8:36 PM

Edmond sent March 3, 2012

Yessir, URrite. I also did write it in the shadow of the rejection of my previous novel by 20+ of the mainstream corporate houses and the sudden mysterious silence of my slickie punk of an agent (who I will even name — A— G— at Trident Media Group — on the chance you ever encounter his name elsewhere). So I was determined to write something entirely self-delighting and -igniting and with NO HOPE, and I think that helped. Indeed, I’ve been having trouble lately getting that NO HOPE back and I’m “hoping,” so to speak, that your generous words help me recall myself to myself. Otherwise, though, I’m almost speechless and feel a little like simply quietly sobbing in the face of this praise, because I know it is critically informed, so, you know… (light chummy punch on the shoulder)…thank you comrade.

You sent March 3, 2012

I mean every single fucking word, EC!

3/3/12, 10:47 PM

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU PLAN ON READING THE BOOK

You sent March 3, 2012

PS Luckily, I didn’t read this blurb beforehand, so it came as a delightful surprise (that twist/reveal on pg 157) but I think the following gives too much away: “He might be the dead-end flâneur of non-places like highway rest stops, airport terminals, and shopping malls, or he might be a Gitmo-bound enemy of the state. He might be the son of American working-class parents, or he might be the cousin of a Middle Eastern revolutionary the US labels a terrorist. He might be in possession of a lost Beckett play, or he might just have to go to the bathroom a lot.” Because it’s at that moment (pg 157) you feel everything go from the easy b&w of post modern playfullness (in which “nothing happens”) to the saturated (bloody) colors of The World in Which Shit Most Definitely Happens and Won’t Cease To, In Fact! And you’ve done the patient work of lulling the reader with the first 157 pages… but I think that teaser-blurb will put the reader’s defenses on alert! I assumed “He” was merely “paranoid” (the albeit reasonable paranoia of the Serf) until that twist and the shift was a physical sensation, nearly!

3/4/12, 5:21 AM

Edmond sent March 4, 2012

I think you could be right about the blurb — or rather I worry you could be right. It’s a bit of a concession worked out between me & my esteemed editor, because the book goes on so long without anything “happening” in the conventional sense, so prospective readers are being thrown a dog biscuit. At least it doesn’t appear on the book itself, plus I can think of plenty of instances where I didn’t really grok the implications of something on a cover synopsis until it actually unfolded in the book (or just plain forgot it until it happened). And most consoling of all, of course, is that fact that only you and Bob J. and a few others will read the thing!

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [letters are vetted for cogency and style]

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