Dixon Place Readings from The Anarchist’s Girlfriend and Autobiography Without Words. December 8th.. Peter Cherches from Autobiography, Susan Weinstein read AG, chap. at Federal Hall and Incident at Phebe’s.
Projections of Bowery and Lower Manhattan, late 70s and early 80s. http://www.dreventphotography.com/ Diana Rivera research and photos
The Anarchist’s Girlfriend, a novel by Susan Weinstein; Pelekinesis Publishing Group
Known only as the AG, the anarchist’s girlfriend is a fey beauty with ESP, and an unlikely Go-Go Dancer in an out-of-the-way Brooklyn bar. The Anarchist, an Irishman who wants to fix the Irish troubles through organic food, having founded Food for Vendettas, plasters his subversive silkscreened posters all over the streets of 1980’s New York City. There is a sense of déjà vu as Sandy, the meanie of the story, sets in motion a terrorist act that will cause the country to believe in its eventual downfall, using dust as the weapon. “There will be a sigh that a catastrophe has finally occurred. Yet it’s limited in extent and duration.” The key to the anarchistic meme is effect, not result. It’s all eerily suggestive of 9/11. A deaf mute, Wayne, a con artist-like Llama, founder of the Denotational Church, and the Anarchist’s Girlfriend shape the plot in this past tense futuristic novel that taps into the absurd with sure-handed writing and a voice that does not judge but carries on quietly through downtown New York before it became real estate fodder, when artists and anarchists could still afford to roam the streets, with time to listen, to dream and to plot grandly, if naively. Susan Weinstein’s freewheeling prose, wry humor and inspired, madcap observations have created a romp of a good book.
Janyce Stefan-Cole, author of The Detective's GardenIntroduction to THE ANARCHIST'S GIRLFRIEND, Excerpted in debut issue of The Portable Lower East Side. 1984.
Somewhere along the Bowery, in a basement, a red-haired Irishman wears his eternal black suit. Somewhere in Chelsea, a Russian defector has a twin brother. Somewhere in midtown Manhattan, a switchboard operator is going on her night shift. She carries a little video cam. She doesn't know what it is filming. She assumes it will collage to a logical sequence of related images that will have meaning by juxtaposition. She doesn't know if this is so, but it doesn't matter; not to this girl who lived for American rock ’n’ roll blaring incongruously over a Greek coastal town. She doesn't matter, to anyone in that isolated fishing village she left at 17.
The Irishman works without a green card in a health foods restaurant. He likes beansprouts, nuts, and most goat cheeses. He also silkscreens posters in his basement at night. His long, white fingers are smudged with raw, red ink. The poster glows, DO YOU WANT TO KILL YOUR BOSS? It’s very prettily designed, it's graphically appealing. It ends with a handshake.
The Anarchist examines the new poster, frowning at the quality. His silkscreen is fraying. He thinks of a specialist who prints with an expensive offset lithograph machine, realizing there's a certain quality of poster you need in New York to be noticed. The specialist, who amuses the Anarchist, is fascinated by the “Spy vs. Spy” comic of the raincoated anarchist. His favorite episode is when the spy attempts to throw a bomb sticky with adhesive, ending up a very charred cartoon man. Once he embarrassed himself, by expecting the Anarchist to agree to the cartoon's subversive nature. "I mean, it's anarchistic, even if the magazine still makes money on it.”
The redhead laughed, "Anachronistic, you mean.”
THE ANARCHIST’S GIRLFRIEND
The Anarchist's Girlfriend is from Brooklyn. She's apolitical. She works as a Go-Go Dancer for sixty dollars a night. She sews unusual ideas of what people could wear, might wear, perhaps will wear, in the next century at least. She can combine textures, styles, and periods to come up with any particular feeling in a short while. This is how she “positions” her creations. The Anarchist disapproves, since he is very careful how and where he positions his posters.
"One must have the largest audience possible!” he often admonishes her, "Who will buy these?"
She always answers with conviction, ''Museums of the Future. Underneath a holographic fashion cube a small latex placard will say, ANONYMOUS DESIGNER, 1980, DATE APPROXIMATE WITH TEUTONIUM 90.”
The Anarchist's Girlfriend has short blonde hair cut like Kim Novak and a ski slope nose under the largest, softest, otherworldly eyes. Though her heart is strong, she has very thin shoulders, and delicate highly-tuned nerves. Luckily, she is blessed with second sight. When the men hoot at her Go-Go Act, she excuses their ignorance. In her mind's eye, she is wearing a demure black dress.
In accordance with her futuristic visions, she dropped her name several years ago. She told her friends, “Oh, I don't have to carry it on; several others are listed the same way.” To tell the truth, she believed there would be no such designation in the future. Presently, she preferred the privacy of being known by how people referred to her. Since they often identified her by boyfriends, she became the AG, the Anarchist’s Girlfriend. She doesn't mind the abbreviation as she treasures her friends who entrust her with all their tragedies.
Sandy, the AG’s roommate, works on an answering service under an assumed name. She changes services every week to another area of the city. Fortunately, she is, as yet, only a personal nihilist, since her photographic mind retains much information.
Sandy records the auditory impulses of the city and the wires are long. Every tie-in has a magnate's love affair, a jilted mistress' confession that ticks off a multinational cover-up to be noted and diagnosed. Yes, Sandy knows her city and its moods. During full moons the wires go wild with people seeking absurdly definite answers from their shrinks, clients, bosses, lawyers, mothers, brothers, and lovers. Sandy prefers the graveyard shift, when the board lazily lights up in a few spots, like the windows of a high-rise during a holiday.
Sandy takes and collages photographs that hang in galleries. They show anonymous limbs, faceless or masked people in strangely objectified compositions. She pastes when her switchboard is quiet. This evening, her subjects are magazine cut-outs of glinty chrome car bodies and “Town and Country'' tweeded flesh. As she applies the glue, she wonders how best to use her video-cam's potential for arranging events. Sandy also wonders if the Anarchist can be manipulated. She knows that she controls the board. She has the right pigeonholes to stick the messages in. She cuts a hole in her collage of men and machines, tempted to go beyond art. It's a perfect square. It makes a great sunroof.
The Llama is a bald man with a broad back. His nose is flat; his cheeks are high-planed. His squint is evaluative. There is nothing of weakness in this man. There is something of self-delusion. He thinks his aim is peace through knowledge. It's really power through obligation.
The Llama’s "Denotational Church" is based on his empirical concept of the universe. The Llama experienced an epiphany on the Santa Barbara Freeway during a traffic jam. This former life insurance salesman had more in common with Saul of Tarsus than just being a merchant. Not in the desert, but on the highway, his eyes rolled back in his head, his mouth foamed and he KNEW. Yes, there, in his car, on that freeway, he thinks he received the meaning of life. THE ROAD, he could get off one ramp and onto another, pass the speed limit or respect it. His reflection in the rear view mirror became his only icon.
Saul of Tarsus was an epileptic. The Llama is not. He postulated that all his mental logic was absurd in the overwhelming reality of the traffic jam. He gave no credit to the heat, which had so effectively triggered his vision. Still, he did recall the odd light around the circumference of his eyes before he passed out. Miraculously, when he came to, he found himself on the exit ramp. Immediately, he went to Tibet for spiritual credentials from Buddhist monks and emerged several years later with certain compatible age-old credos that were nothing new to the Anarchist’s Girlfriend.
The Llama's Denotational Church offers a faith of demystification. Events have specific meanings. The truth is always in a homily. The Llama proselytizes in awkward homilies that are not important for inherent wisdom, but for implications in context. They provide a through-line to life's incomprehensible mysteries. The future can be faced as objectively as death. Fragmentation is heresy.
Denotational journalists work in a loft in Chelsea rented for the Llama by a pair of Russian twins. The paper is called "The Printed World." The Llama uses it for political influence and as a source of new membership for his church. It preaches his pragmatism. It couches his homilies in the repetitive manner so necessary to reorder the mind's perceptions.
Wayne can stop on a dime. He's got a snub nose and good eyes. He can smell spilled milk from three days ago. He can sight a black cat at night. Still, he uses notes to talk.
Wayne is a deaf-mute, who parks cars in a pigeon-hole lot. He's also a floater on "The Printed World." Both places are owned by the Denotational Church. Wayne is a devotee because the church eased his spiritual infirmity.
As a child, recovered from rheumatic fever, Wayne taught signing to his classmates as an elite code. He used his natural gift for mimicry as well. A popular boy, he was sought after as a man. He read gestures as speech. People found his attentions flattering; his understanding profound. Women, anxiously awaiting his notes, were careful how they shaped their syllables.
Wayne became a gifted lover, a master of tactile sensations, who would select a scent, a cheek, or the turn of a heel for an individualistic approach to sex. Making love filled him with the soundless echo of a theme. But, he demanded ultimate content in an impossible compression of time. His mind and senses split. He went to too many parties. He read too much philosophy. Temporary illusion became his only goal.
At the age of twenty, Wayne was a nail-bitten sensualist--an indecisive intellectual obsessed with impossibility. An academic career seemed inane, the job market worse, since his tolerance of boredom was very low. The Llama taught him a management system. Now, Wayne's smile rarely reflects that constant anxiety. In addition, the Llama has promised him an editorial column, when he's firm in his faith. Wayne is grateful for the Llama's techniques, but skeptical about his own potential for enlightenment. Sex, as transcendence, remains his first religion.
It was this reformed Wayne Niebold, who took a drink of light coffee. He only drank it at night. It seemed to jangle his nerves. Wayne liked the effect, especially for a task as boring as proofreading his feature, "Helpful Hints for Citizens.” Wayne compared the galleys with the corrected copy. The press proofs showed a neat line drawing of a woman in a very geometric kitchen. The pots on the stove had diagonal lines around them.
MOTHERS! FOR SAFETY’S SAKE, KEEP HANDLES INWARD
AWAY FROM CHILDREN’S ACCIDENTS! ! !
Wayne decided the slant was right. The Llama would like it.
Somewhere along the Bowery, the Anarchist's Girlfriend walks herself, her spirit taking her body. She wants to see the sun rise--the familiar landmarks that make her day. The lunatic, placarded Socialist is on his corner at Fourth Street. Hung around his neck are various mottos: THIS IS YOUR WORLD, NOT THEIRS. THE KABBALA IS NOT A POP SONG.
The Socialist is old and doesn't see well. He thinks she's a debater on a soapbox with wheels, giving a Pearl Harbor harangue in Hyde Park. He shouts to get in the last word, "And I reiterate my friends, we are not sufficiently accomplished for apocalypse, we are not worthy!"
The Anarchist's Girlfriend smiles compassionately at such madness. She thinks perhaps he lives in the apocalypse presently. Paranoia? She smiles to herself at the term. It sounds too much like annoyance. Gingerly, she steps over the dubious puddles in her shiny yellow boots.