Yesterday, Emily sent me the most wonderful end-of-semester gift a teacher could possibly hope for, Dodie Bellamy’s (in)famous Cunt-Ups (Tender Buttons, 2001), portions of which I once skimmed in a book exhibit years ago, after which I often suggested it to students but never got around to a full read. I had to restrain myself from devouring the text (a dead metaphor that seems more than usually apt given the book’s startling imagery of bodily borders incessantly breached by means violent and tender). As of today, I’m about 2/3 of the way through. And I keep having a fantasy of reading from Cunt-Ups at Zuccotti Park.
Here’s how I think it would go. I’d be wearing my sign, of course (BECA– USE THEY’RE TRYING TO DRIVE OUR PLANET OFF A CLIFF), and unlike all my other readings, where I face the world at large, I would deliberately position myself in close proximity to one of the clumps of goons (whether wearing the midnight blue uniforms of the NYPD or the green reflector vests of the Brookfield Properties employees) that serve as muscle inside and outside the site. (Flash on a memory, from a few days ago, of the Spanish-accented woman who stood next to me holding a sign and calling out to the cops along Broadway, “Hello, little policeman! Hello, little man in a uniform! Your pension is going, too. Your salary is going to be cut! And you will be out of a job, because you are the little people too, and the 1% don’t care about you!!!”) Perhaps I would even speak directly to these tall and broad “little men” in their goon outfits, something on the order of: “Good afternoon. Today, my reading is dedicated to you, little men. I will be reading from Dodie Bellamy’s Cunt-Ups, a work that takes off from William Burroughs’s experiments with the writing technique he referred to as cut-ups. It must be boring standing out here all day without enough to think about, and certainly without the opportunity to beat off to electronically transmitted porn, and without the comradely exchanges of the think tanks and other activities going on inside the park. So I hope this reading will help vary your routine.” Then I would really perform my reading for their benefit, stepping closer and literally getting up in their faces, looking them in the eyes to the extent that they permitted. (For my friend Nancy has pointed out that cops are trained not to look directly at you when you speak to them.)
I wonder mightily (but am more than a little afraid to find out) how they would react to passages like the following:
I used to have brains but now my tongue moves back and forth along you, they’re in my mouth and I’m licking you and you touch me without sleeping pills, I’m creaming for you through my panties, your jimmy like topsoil under my last breath. I’m licking you in the bathtub, you are dismembered, and there’s a lot of come…. My belly breaks open with light. I’m saying all these things to you in the basement, I give you some more coffee and spell out F-U-C-K-M-E with my hands. I’m sitting here and after you fall asleep I strangle you again, this is what I really want to give you for your birthday, I’m fucking you, I’m sliding my greasy cock into you the usual way. Then I boil your head. We are on. My cock, I think it wants to go camping. (37-38)
My cock, yes, MY COCK–that of a 61-year-old 5’3″ woman with buzzed iron gray hair– wants to go camping, and what are you going to do about that, little policemen?
What I’ve noticed so far about Cunt-Ups is not especially that it’s erotic–though for me it is, in moments, when textual strangeness and literary wit and social satire dissolve into a quick perception of arousal as derangement–but my double reaction to (a) its subversion of the usual cultural narrative linking sex and death (self-serious and single-minded to the point of seeming almost utilitarian, in a weird way–emphasis on the work of coming, of killing); (b) its evocation of the opposite cultural motion, whereby the generalized reassurance that violence is only an image, or a text (we are by now surely all sophisticated enough to know that representation isn’t the real thing, aren’t we?) threatens to dissolve into the question: “But why are there so many real dead and dismembered bodies scattered about the landscape adjacent to this text?”
I didn’t go to Zuccotti Park yesterday in actuality because I’m trying to figure out how to re-invent my relationship to OWS. I’ve been thinking maybe I should join one of the Working Groups, but a little voice always whispers “Your whole life is a Working Group, do you really want to add one more?” I did get the brilliant idea of logging onto the web site, and discovered that the OWS arts are alive and well; for example, starting tonight at 6 p.m. there will be a march from Times Square to a “secret location,” kicking off a 24-hour-long “performance occupation” by an impressive range of acts. On Saturday, Dec. 3, starting at 10 a.m., there will be a celebration of the Occupation at Zuccotti Park, featuring discussion of the importance of public spaces to the future of the moment. On Sunday, Dec. 4, from 2-4 p.m., a “Farmer’s March” is scheduled to “take on the corporate power of our food and farming systems” (thanks, Eric, for the info). And also on Sunday, from 1-4 p.m., there’s an Art and Labor Teach-in at Henry Street Settlement, info at: