Monday, April 25, 2011

Some context for "Peeping Tom 'Rockefeller'"

I have been meaning to write this post for more than a week now but I have been stupid from stress and exhaustion and so I have written about less important things, like candy. (I am sorry candy, you are still very important to me, I had some of you today and it was fabulous.) The subject of this post, and several posts to come, will be Sutherland Douglass, brilliant writer and excellent guy.

So Sutherland Douglass was kind enough to let us publish a piece of his project on the conman 'Clark Rockefeller' -- a project he describes in further detail here. The book is a fictional third-person memoir, concerned partly with Rockefeller's sexual psychology (or psychosis). As Sutherland writes:
he was—allegedly allegedly—a frustrated sex freak. With a peculiarly Christian grand-ma-ma who helped impact any number of sexual hang-ups in his head (not to mention lap). One quickly finds, in the memoir, a biographical catalog of one scene after another from video film TV, a body and list populated by other impressive memes—celebrity culture knockouts and queens: Obviously the aforementioned Ms. Allen, but also Vera Miles, and Romy Schneider, and Tina Aumont, and Annette O’Toole Nic Kidman Anna Chapman (even Campbell Brown, ex-CNN)…His lived life only lived in its proximity to them. An effeminate, alligator-shirted, geek-glassed man—the length and breadth of his understood life as run through and compiled by (ah) sex. The end.
You can read another excerpt here, at H_ngm_n. This concerns the screen more pointedly than does our excerpt. It is also more concerned with dreams, though I would perhaps say less dreamlike. Douglass' use of bracketed, gray text is a whisper, but it is also emphatic, in the way that anyone must be when he whispers with sufficient volume to make himself heard.

In this excerpt, published at PANK, 'Rockefeller' has been locked away. This bit strikes me as an especially strong example of Douglass' style:
After his beloved toddler-daughter’s birth, though {which brought with it, like a current gushing straight out at him from between his ex-wife’s legs, the simple imperative: “GO STRAIGHT!”}, he’d re-gifted the name to her. Her for whom he did now languish 23 hours a day in a cell on account of “kidnapping,’ for going on the run-slash-lam while refusing to relinquish, no, not his baby girl.
The way it twists and shifts rhythms, the unexpected movement in "no, not his baby girl," the constant negotiation of narrative distance (sometimes very close, sometimes very far, and often changing mid-sentence, even mid-phrase). These are the reasons I love his writing.

Another thing I like about it, although I'm not sure how Sutherland might feel about this, is the way that each publication represents his texts a little differently. The manuscript we accepted had a number of typographical quirks, some of which we replicated in our published version, some of which we did not, for various reasons mostly having to do with our interpretation of what looks "readable" and "professional" on the web. You can see some of those perhaps more faithfully replicated in the H_ngm_n piece, and you can see by comparing our approach to PANK's more similarities, perhaps. We paragraphed the text similarly. Our more narrow column alters the effect of the prose, somewhat, I think. (Generally speaking I find a narrow column less stressful. But stress is a part of the piece's effect -- an important part, I think.) Sutherland challenges us to reconsider form as we edit, as we publish, as we read. This makes his writing richer and more engaging than it would otherwise be.

I'll post more soon on Sutherland Douglass' other published works. For now, you can read "Peeping Tom 'Rockefeller'" here.

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