Grace

Men blather about the perfidy of women. Sixteen-year-old Grace Torrance doesn’t know about that, but she knows her exclamatory booblets, whoa-goddam legs and ultramarine eyes can get her in more trouble than she’s already had from blatherers and daddy creeps. So the first thing she does with her pocket change is buy a pair of coveralls and a loose denim shirt at Modell’s.
 
Sleeping arrangements come harder. The first nine nights in Manhattan she sleeps in rock shafts in the Freedom Tunnel leading from Penn Station to points north. Chris “Freedom” Pape and other graffiti artists had turned it into a museum. Bolts of natural light illuminate their work, and at night the homeless bivouac in this flip-the-bird museum.
 
Grace feels safer here than in Arendskill. That first night, as she huddles in the roots of utilities conduits, her mangy blue parka over her head, The Queen visits her creche. Nobody calls her Queenie, nobody knows her name, and nobody ever hears a sound from her. She’s almost a giant. Her eyes are holes of December sky. She hands Grace a flap of cold pizza, crouches in front of her and stares. Grace touches the Queen’s tow hair. Her subjects rustle behind the queen. They’ve never seen anyone touch her.
 
A train rattles their bones, each mustard window taking someone somewhere. She can move on. She doesn’t have to go back to her unsafe bed. The troutful Arendskill had gone on a rampage, tearing away the gimcrack pine bridge between their island and the shore. Then a surge uprooted their moldy cabin and left it teetering on its spongy sills. Poe had been too drunk to notice. She waded fifteen feet to the shore and never looked back.
 
But that’s the trouble. Others may never look back, but Grace already knows she remembers every day of her life, brown trout in a rock pool, strands of hair in a brush, the expressions of girls peeing at school, books on a shelf, stains on a sheet, damned near everything. Nobody knows she remembers. And when she tells herself she remembers, she answers, I’m left-handed. As if that had something to do with it. Maybe it does. But if it does she didn’t learn anything about it from the computer in the Phoenicia Library. Nobody would believe it. And if she proved it she’d just prove she’s a freak, which she already knows.
 
When you remember everything, you know how much people lie. Well, it’s not so much lying as confabulating. It’s like Lego, there isn’t just one combination that works, is there? And that’s what counts, what works, a contraption that works. So nobody’s ever going to feel okay around Grace, nobody with what they call emotional intelligence, because nobody swallows a lie deadpan, they just pretend they do. Our lives are contraptions and sometimes, splat, we fall off and land face down in the truth.
 
And if you’re going to remember everything you have to decide how to build your library, because you don’t have a basement deep enough to hide the images and thoughts, and you will never run out of room. So what will your library look like? It will look like your life. Maybe that’s why Oscar Wilde said we pretty much have the faces we deserve by the time we’re forty.
 
She’s okay leaving Poe to six-point bucks, largemouth bass and cheap whiskey. But dead is safer. Some people are gnats and motes. They pester the corner of your eye, you have to bawl to wash them out. Grace never got Poe Torrance into focus. He wouldn’t be looked at head-on. She doesn’t remember crying. But now she knows how to get him out of her eye. This blind sax man here in front of her is going to rinse her eyes with his steep and mournful riffs. She smiles her loony, jack-o-lantern grin to think that unlike her mother Sally, who hid her tips under a rock in the woods to escape the valley, she’d left with pocket change and thumbed her way on eighteen-wheelers to the city. This sax man’s notes are better than Spiderman’s webs. She can ride them through keyholes and windows. She can soar above the spotty sycamores and piss on wrong ‘uns, as Sally called them.
 
I need some enemies, but what if I’m not cut out for them? Who can you be without them? God has enemies. What about mine? I had Poe, but I deserve a better enemy. I had Heather Romanelli on the basketball team, but I nailed her into that shiny floor. Where are my enemies? I’m serious. I gotta get some. A serious person has enemies. I’m a serious person now, sixteen going on thirty.
 
The blind man picks a five-dollar bill out of his sax case and hands it to her. What does this tell her? He has the radar, she has the presence. It tells her she’s not the invisible type. She feels seen. Not my legs, not cagers’ peeks at my crotch, not my pointies, but me and whoever the hell I’m gonna be.
 
No, you earned it, she tells him.
 
Yeah, but today you need it, girl. And I need you to come back and keep drawing, ‘cause people like to watch us. They like watching you listening t’me, you get that, doncha, girl?
 
How d’you know I’m drawing? How d’you know I’m a girl? How d’you know who’s watching?
 
You a tall, skinny gal. I see the way we all see, but we scared to admit we see like that. I’m not as blind as most of the people who listen t’me. But you know that, doncha? You got eyes back of your head, and we both know why, don’t we? Everybody got eyes all over you, girl, but they don’t know how many you got on them, do they?
 
I wish I could show you.
 
I bet you do. I feel your ether, I smell your heart.
 
Whuddha they smell like?
 
Lilac and New York Bay at 4 a.m. I got your job for you, your profession. Make everything you draw for me. I’ll know it. I’ll always know it. That green-eyed gal is making pictures for me. I know you a green-eyed gal, ya know how I know it? Easy swimmin’, thas how. Tide goin’ out. Dark eyes, tide comin’ in, oh yeah, didn’t know that, didja? Out, way out, gal, I  know that ‘bout ya, you goin’ way out. You lived you whole life to come here today, thas the way life is. We all get to have this day, this one day, and most of us don’t even know it. And there you are knowin’ it, sittin’ in front of me knowin’ it. You drawin’ it, thas how much you know it, gal. Thas a whole lot ‘a knowin’.
 
What’s your name?
 
Can’t have it. Not now. It’d just get in the way ‘cause we’re mostly not our names. Fact is we’re mostly not what people think we is. But I got a name for you, gal. Oh yeah, I’m gonna make you some mad sax for it. Your name be Boudica, B-o-u-d-i-c-a. Killed a bunch of Roman soldiers and bankers. You go, Boudica, that be your secret name from now on. You go to the library and read all ‘bout her and in your New York Bay heart don’t ever call yourself nothin’ else. Thas why you here, thas why you found me in this Union Square Park, to hear that name. You hear everythin’ y’ever gonna hear from this here sax, but d’you want it? Boudica, she don’t ever forget a thing she hear, not one damn thing, and nothing she ever see gonna look the same again. Lissen t’me, lean over here, you gonna change every damn thing you look at. We all do, but you gotta take responsibility for it, thas the trick. And when you do the world says, Oh my, I can trust that Boudica, I’ll give her all kinds of things, ooh yeah! ‘Cause that gal, she cop to what she see.
 
And with that he let rip Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Bleeding Gums.
 
Remembers everything she hears, how’d he get that right? Nobody else ever got it. Boudica dreams of girls like her who remember everything. What do they do? How do they live? Over and over in her head she outlines them, colors them, dances with them, but they never speak, they never sing. One girl has electric hands that shock Boudica, another smells like fresh hay. No boys. Just sisters, silent sisters.
 
 
© Djelloul Marbrook 2015
 
This story is an excerpt from a novella of the same name published with another novella by Djelloul Marbrook in Mean Bastards Making Nice, Leaky Boot Press 2015

Men blather about the perfidy of women. Sixteen-year-old Grace Torrance doesn’t know about that, but she knows her exclamatory booblets, whoa-goddam legs and ultramarine eyes can get her in more trouble than she’s already had from blatherers and daddy creeps. So the first thing she does with her pocket change is buy a pair of coveralls and a loose denim shirt at Modell’s. 
Sleeping arrangements come harder. The first nine nights in Manhattan she sleeps in rock shafts in the Freedom Tunnel leading from Penn Station to points north. Chris “Freedom” Pape and other graffiti artists had turned it into a museum. Bolts of natural light illuminate their work, and at night the homeless bivouac in this flip-the-bird museum. 
Grace feels safer here than in Arendskill. That first night, as she huddles in the roots of utilities conduits, her mangy blue parka over her head, The Queen visits her creche. Nobody calls her Queenie, nobody knows her name, and nobody ever hears a sound from her. She’s almost a giant. Her eyes are holes of December sky. She hands Grace a flap of cold pizza, crouches in front of her and stares. Grace touches the Queen’s tow hair. Her subjects rustle behind the queen. They’ve never seen anyone touch her. 
A train rattles their bones, each mustard window taking someone somewhere. She can move on. She doesn’t have to go back to her unsafe bed. The troutful Arendskill had gone on a rampage, tearing away the gimcrack pine bridge between their island and the shore. Then a surge uprooted their moldy cabin and left it teetering on its spongy sills. Poe had been too drunk to notice. She waded fifteen feet to the shore and never looked back. 
But that’s the trouble. Others may never look back, but Grace already knows she remembers every day of her life, brown trout in a rock pool, strands of hair in a brush, the expressions of girls peeing at school, books on a shelf, stains on a sheet, damned near everything. Nobody knows she remembers. And when she tells herself she remembers, she answers, I’m left-handed. As if that had something to do with it. Maybe it does. But if it does she didn’t learn anything about it from the computer in the Phoenicia Library. Nobody would believe it. And if she proved it she’d just prove she’s a freak, which she already knows. 
When you remember everything, you know how much people lie. Well, it’s not so much lying as confabulating. It’s like Lego, there isn’t just one combination that works, is there? And that’s what counts, what works, a contraption that works. So nobody’s ever going to feel okay around Grace, nobody with what they call emotional intelligence, because nobody swallows a lie deadpan, they just pretend they do. Our lives are contraptions and sometimes, splat, we fall off and land face down in the truth. 
And if you’re going to remember everything you have to decide how to build your library, because you don’t have a basement deep enough to hide the images and thoughts, and you will never run out of room. So what will your library look like? It will look like your life. Maybe that’s why Oscar Wilde said we pretty much have the faces we deserve by the time we’re forty. 
She’s okay leaving Poe to six-point bucks, largemouth bass and cheap whiskey. But dead is safer. Some people are gnats and motes. They pester the corner of your eye, you have to bawl to wash them out. Grace never got Poe Torrance into focus. He wouldn’t be looked at head-on. She doesn’t remember crying. But now she knows how to get him out of her eye. This blind sax man here in front of her is going to rinse her eyes with his steep and mournful riffs. She smiles her loony, jack-o-lantern grin to think that unlike her mother Sally, who hid her tips under a rock in the woods to escape the valley, she’d left with pocket change and thumbed her way on eighteen-wheelers to the city. This sax man’s notes are better than Spiderman’s webs. She can ride them through keyholes and windows. She can soar above the spotty sycamores and piss on wrong ‘uns, as Sally called them. 
I need some enemies, but what if I’m not cut out for them? Who can you be without them? God has enemies. What about mine? I had Poe, but I deserve a better enemy. I had Heather Romanelli on the basketball team, but I nailed her into that shiny floor. Where are my enemies? I’m serious. I gotta get some. A serious person has enemies. I’m a serious person now, sixteen going on thirty. 
The blind man picks a five-dollar bill out of his sax case and hands it to her. What does this tell her? He has the radar, she has the presence. It tells her she’s not the invisible type. She feels seen. Not my legs, not cagers’ peeks at my crotch, not my pointies, but me and whoever the hell I’m gonna be. 
No, you earned it, she tells him.
 
Yeah, but today you need it, girl. And I need you to come back and keep drawing, ‘cause people like to watch us. They like watching you listening t’me, you get that, doncha, girl? 
How d’you know I’m drawing? How d’you know I’m a girl? How d’you know who’s watching?
 
You a tall, skinny gal. I see the way we all see, but we scared to admit we see like that. I’m not as blind as most of the people who listen t’me. But you know that, doncha? You got eyes back of your head, and we both know why, don’t we? Everybody got eyes all over you, girl, but they don’t know how many you got on them, do they? 
I wish I could show you.
 
I bet you do. I feel your ether, I smell your heart.
 
Whuddha they smell like?
 
Lilac and New York Bay at 4 a.m. I got your job for you, your profession. Make everything you draw for me. I’ll know it. I’ll always know it. That green-eyed gal is making pictures for me. I know you a green-eyed gal, ya know how I know it? Easy swimmin’, thas how. Tide goin’ out. Dark eyes, tide comin’ in, oh yeah, didn’t know that, didja? Out, way out, gal, I  know that ‘bout ya, you goin’ way out. You lived you whole life to come here today, thas the way life is. We all get to have this day, this one day, and most of us don’t even know it. And there you are knowin’ it, sittin’ in front of me knowin’ it. You drawin’ it, thas how much you know it, gal. Thas a whole lot ‘a knowin’.
 
What’s your name?
 
Can’t have it. Not now. It’d just get in the way ‘cause we’re mostly not our names. Fact is we’re mostly not what people think we is. But I got a name for you, gal. Oh yeah, I’m gonna make you some mad sax for it. Your name be Boudica, B-o-u-d-i-c-a. Killed a bunch of Roman soldiers and bankers. You go, Boudica, that be your secret name from now on. You go to the library and read all ‘bout her and in your New York Bay heart don’t ever call yourself nothin’ else. Thas why you here, thas why you found me in this Union Square Park, to hear that name. You hear everythin’ y’ever gonna hear from this here sax, but d’you want it? Boudica, she don’t ever forget a thing she hear, not one damn thing, and nothing she ever see gonna look the same again. Lissen t’me, lean over here, you gonna change every damn thing you look at. We all do, but you gotta take responsibility for it, thas the trick. And when you do the world says, Oh my, I can trust that Boudica, I’ll give her all kinds of things, ooh yeah! ‘Cause that gal, she cop to what she see. 
And with that he let rip Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Bleeding Gums.
 
Remembers everything she hears, how’d he get that right? Nobody else ever got it. Boudica dreams of girls like her who remember everything. What do they do? How do they live? Over and over in her head she outlines them, colors them, dances with them, but they never speak, they never sing. One girl has electric hands that shock Boudica, another smells like fresh hay. No boys. Just sisters, silent sisters. 
 
© Djelloul Marbrook 2015
 
This story is an excerpt from a novella of the same name published with another novella by Djelloul Marbrook in Mean Bastards Making Nice, Leaky Boot Press 2015

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

BR: Today we’re meeting upstairs in Barnes & Noble on Union Square in Manhattan, and I can see a guy playing sax on the sidewalk down there, with his case open for change. So it’s kind of a perfect place to discuss today’s story. Djelloul, welcome.
 
TN: And thanks for coming by and doing this.

 

DM: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.

 

BR: Your story that we’re featuring on this episode is an excerpt from a novella that was published with another of your novellas in a volume called Mean Bastards Making Nice, from Leaky Boot Press. We don’t typically use excerpts from longer works on The Strange Recital, but this piece is in sync with what we’re doing, both because of the quality of the writing and because it fits our goal to question standard perceptions of reality. I’m wondering what you think Djelloul… why do you suppose we felt that it meets that goal?

 

DM: Well, I think we're always dealing with the authorized version of things, the official narrative, and we call that reality. And for me the whole idea of what is and what is not reality, and what realism is, is a bogus concept. It's a received idea. We think we know more than we actually do know. We don't know what reality is. Actually, the fact that we're so certain that we know, that we tell people to "be realistic" is... that's actually our hubris talking, and it's a monumental hubris. We should be more concerned in my view with piercing the veil of illusion. We live in a world of illusion. So... I don't feel that I take liberties in fiction with reality, so much as I assume that our society is really "full of it" when we think we know what reality is.

 

BR: Okay. So that idea is really the underpinning of this story, it's built right into the fabric of it, is what I hear you're saying. Now in the section that we feature here, there's a blind man who has some type of second sight. That's one way that conventional reality might be questioned but I think there’s something else as well, and I referred to it on my blog when I reviewed your book. I think of it as something I called “fierce subjectivity” - it’s a use of language that I find to be highly personal, idiosyncratic, dreamlike. Even hallucinatory. Simply reading your fiction undermines conventional ideas of experience, and of storytelling.

 

DM: I think it comes from a long period in my life of being immersed in Sufism and also in Christian mysticism, as well as a lifelong exposure to Surrealism. My mother was a prominent Surrealist artist, so I naturally absorbed a great deal of surrealist thinking, and of course Surrealism challenges our ideas. But I think also it was rooted in the childhood experience of carrying on a dialogue within myself, of someone who actually was me, which left open the question of who I was, since obviously the person who was talking to me in my head was bearing my name. But I think for that reason, there may be that dreamlike quality in the work, and also its idiosyncratic aspect. Psychiatrists would perhaps think of it as a disorder, but my own theory is that we're all disordered, it's just a matter of how we express our disorder, and how we cope with it.
 
BR: Yeah.
 
TN: You know, In film school they teach about Sergei Eisenstein, the major pioneer of the art cinema. For him, meaning came not from the sequential logic of shots but from what he called the “collision” of adjacent images in editing. It seems to me that the power of your prose is similar - it comes from the continual collision of unexpected words, phrases, images, ideas. Was that your intention?

 

DM: Yes, very much. And it comports with what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance," and there's now a book out by George Musser that talks about that. And physicists are thinking now that actually we live in a universe in which collisions, and also our personal encounters for example, combust, and account for what happens - so that our encounters are collisions. And in a sense we live in a kind of collider, and we are therefore always creative.

 

BR: Sort of along those lines, I wanted to mention this - one thing that I have found that I dislike about so much writing advice that I’ve seen, especially on the Internet, is this idea that a fiction author should be invisible so the story can come through without distraction. To me your work proves the stupidity of that idea. What would art be if all artists made their expressive style invisible so the subject matter could be seen without distraction? That would mean Van Gogh would have been a photographer taking mundane snapshots on his phone or something. Do you have any thoughts on this subject?

 

DM: Yeah, I mean I hope I'm 'trodding' on that idea, because I think it's an ephemeral convention. The problem for writers is that editors and marketers are always buying into these passing dicta. And then the writers have to confront that as they try to get published, and try to... and their work is marketed. There was an interesting film, made back... I think it was in 1989. It's Ang Lee's, a film called "Ride with the Devil." The critics roundly criticized the script because they said that it was "stilted." It's set in Missouri and Kentucky during the Civil War, and Ang Lee is trying to reproduce what speech might have sounded like at that time. And the script is incredibly poetic, and as a matter of fact, it often scans like poetry. If you really study the prosody of that script, you'll see that it's pure poetry. And so because Ang Lee wanted to create this poeticism, he was criticized, because it didn't fit with this official narrative, whatever the official narrative is.
 
BR: Let's go back to a topic you mentioned earlier. I know that your aunt, Irene Rice Pereira, was a prominent modern artist and your mother as you mentioned, Juanita Guccione, was a surrealist painter, and her work is being rediscovered today. Say a little more about the kind of impact that those women’s work have on your own?

 

DM: Oh, a huge impact. I think I saw in dealing with my mother - well, with Irene too - the difficulty of course that women have, in the world in general and in the art world, which was highly misogynistic. Still is, for that matter. And that influenced me a great deal, because I could see... I had no father; I had a stepfather. But I could see what women were up against, and I could also see their heroism. And so I, unlike quite a few male writers, I feel very comfortable writing about women, because they've played basically a much greater influence in my life than men have.
 
WOMAN: Excuse me, sorry… can I just reach across you and get that book there…?

 

TN: What, this one about Picasso?
 
WOMAN: Yes… thanks! (she leaves)

 

TN: So, Picasso…  he’s rumoured to have said something to the effect that “art is a lie that tells the truth.” How does your work fit into that idea, Djelloul?

 

DM: I think it fits in quite well. We walk around with a ton of received ideas on our heads, you know. Gustave Flaubert, the French novelist, actually wrote a dictionary of received ideas. Today in cyberspace we're calling them "memes." But they're these ideas that we've settled upon, and they become reality, and they become "truth." And I think it's the job of writers, poets, artists, musicians, to challenge them and to always turn over stones, and to always look behind what is accepted, because quite often, the truth is the lie and, vice versa, the lie is the truth.

 

BR: Well the lie that tells the truth -  that’s something we do on The Strange Recital too. Like right now, in fact! We’re sort of a truth sandwich, wouldn't you say, Tom? … We add some lies like bread to make it easier to eat, but the meat is always there, on the inside. Nutritious and delicious!

 

TN: Well… it could be meat..... Or vegetables......with some kind of remoulade, or a basil coulis perhaps. Apparently you should limit your intake of red vegetables to only one portion a week, no bigger than your clenched fist. But then.....I might be lying. What's the truth? A sandwich?

 

BR: Okay and on that note, we’ll be on our way… to lunch!. Thanks again, Djelloul!

 

DM: Thank you Tom, thank you Brent. I'm so happy to have talked to you.

 

BR: Today we’re meeting upstairs in Barnes & Noble on Union Square in Manhattan, and I can see a guy playing sax on the sidewalk down there, with his case open for change. So it’s kind of a perfect place to discuss today’s story. Djelloul, welcome.
 
TN: And thanks for coming by and doing this.

 

DM: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.

 

BR: Your story that we’re featuring on this episode is an excerpt from a novella that was published with another of your novellas in a volume called Mean Bastards Making Nice, from Leaky Boot Press. We don’t typically use excerpts from longer works on The Strange Recital, but this piece is in sync with what we’re doing, both because of the quality of the writing and because it fits our goal to question standard perceptions of reality. I’m wondering what you think Djelloul… why do you suppose we felt that it meets that goal?

 

DM: Well, I think we're always dealing with the authorized version of things, the official narrative, and we call that reality. And for me the whole idea of what is and what is not reality, and what realism is, is a bogus concept. It's a received idea. We think we know more than we actually do know. We don't know what reality is. Actually, the fact that we're so certain that we know, that we tell people to "be realistic" is... that's actually our hubris talking, and it's a monumental hubris. We should be more concerned in my view with piercing the veil of illusion. We live in a world of illusion. So... I don't feel that I take liberties in fiction with reality, so much as I assume that our society is really "full of it" when we think we know what reality is.

 

BR: Okay. So that idea is really the underpinning of this story, it's built right into the fabric of it, is what I hear you're saying. Now in the section that we feature here, there's a blind man who has some type of second sight. That's one way that conventional reality might be questioned but I think there’s something else as well, and I referred to it on my blog when I reviewed your book. I think of it as something I called “fierce subjectivity” - it’s a use of language that I find to be highly personal, idiosyncratic, dreamlike. Even hallucinatory. Simply reading your fiction undermines conventional ideas of experience, and of storytelling.

 

DM: I think it comes from a long period in my life of being immersed in Sufism and also in Christian mysticism, as well as a lifelong exposure to Surrealism. My mother was a prominent Surrealist artist, so I naturally absorbed a great deal of surrealist thinking, and of course Surrealism challenges our ideas. But I think also it was rooted in the childhood experience of carrying on a dialogue within myself, of someone who actually was me, which left open the question of who I was, since obviously the person who was talking to me in my head was bearing my name. But I think for that reason, there may be that dreamlike quality in the work, and also its idiosyncratic aspect. Psychiatrists would perhaps think of it as a disorder, but my own theory is that we're all disordered, it's just a matter of how we express our disorder, and how we cope with it.
 
BR: Yeah.
 
TN: You know, In film school they teach about Sergei Eisenstein, the major pioneer of the art cinema. For him, meaning came not from the sequential logic of shots but from what he called the “collision” of adjacent images in editing. It seems to me that the power of your prose is similar - it comes from the continual collision of unexpected words, phrases, images, ideas. Was that your intention?

 

DM: Yes, very much. And it comports with what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance," and there's now a book out by George Musser that talks about that. And physicists are thinking now that actually we live in a universe in which collisions, and also our personal encounters for example, combust, and account for what happens - so that our encounters are collisions. And in a sense we live in a kind of collider, and we are therefore always creative.

 

BR: Sort of along those lines, I wanted to mention this - one thing that I have found that I dislike about so much writing advice that I’ve seen, especially on the Internet, is this idea that a fiction author should be invisible so the story can come through without distraction. To me your work proves the stupidity of that idea. What would art be if all artists made their expressive style invisible so the subject matter could be seen without distraction? That would mean Van Gogh would have been a photographer taking mundane snapshots on his phone or something. Do you have any thoughts on this subject?

 

DM: Yeah, I mean I hope I'm 'trodding' on that idea, because I think it's an ephemeral convention. The problem for writers is that editors and marketers are always buying into these passing dicta. And then the writers have to confront that as they try to get published, and try to... and their work is marketed. There was an interesting film, made back... I think it was in 1989. It's Ang Lee's, a film called "Ride with the Devil." The critics roundly criticized the script because they said that it was "stilted." It's set in Missouri and Kentucky during the Civil War, and Ang Lee is trying to reproduce what speech might have sounded like at that time. And the script is incredibly poetic, and as a matter of fact, it often scans like poetry. If you really study the prosody of that script, you'll see that it's pure poetry. And so because Ang Lee wanted to create this poeticism, he was criticized, because it didn't fit with this official narrative, whatever the official narrative is.
 
BR: Let's go back to a topic you mentioned earlier. I know that your aunt, Irene Rice Pereira, was a prominent modern artist and your mother as you mentioned, Juanita Guccione, was a surrealist painter, and her work is being rediscovered today. Say a little more about the kind of impact that those women’s work have on your own?

 

DM: Oh, a huge impact. I think I saw in dealing with my mother - well, with Irene too - the difficulty of course that women have, in the world in general and in the art world, which was highly misogynistic. Still is, for that matter. And that influenced me a great deal, because I could see... I had no father; I had a stepfather. But I could see what women were up against, and I could also see their heroism. And so I, unlike quite a few male writers, I feel very comfortable writing about women, because they've played basically a much greater influence in my life than men have.
 
WOMAN: Excuse me, sorry… can I just reach across you and get that book there…?

 

TN: What, this one about Picasso?
 
WOMAN: Yes… thanks! (she leaves)

 

TN: So, Picasso…  he’s rumoured to have said something to the effect that “art is a lie that tells the truth.” How does your work fit into that idea, Djelloul?

 

DM: I think it fits in quite well. We walk around with a ton of received ideas on our heads, you know. Gustave Flaubert, the French novelist, actually wrote a dictionary of received ideas. Today in cyberspace we're calling them "memes." But they're these ideas that we've settled upon, and they become reality, and they become "truth." And I think it's the job of writers, poets, artists, musicians, to challenge them and to always turn over stones, and to always look behind what is accepted, because quite often, the truth is the lie and, vice versa, the lie is the truth.

 

BR: Well the lie that tells the truth -  that’s something we do on The Strange Recital too. Like right now, in fact! We’re sort of a truth sandwich, wouldn't you say, Tom? … We add some lies like bread to make it easier to eat, but the meat is always there, on the inside. Nutritious and delicious!

 

TN: Well… it could be meat..... Or vegetables......with some kind of remoulade, or a basil coulis perhaps. Apparently you should limit your intake of red vegetables to only one portion a week, no bigger than your clenched fist. But then.....I might be lying. What's the truth? A sandwich?

 

BR: Okay and on that note, we’ll be on our way… to lunch!. Thanks again, Djelloul!

 

DM: Thank you Tom, thank you Brent. I'm so happy to have talked to you.

 

Music on this episode:

Saxophone riffs played by Peter Buettner.

Drum and music loop by Bill Laswell from his "Undocumented" collection.

Balti by xj5000 from their unreleased record Grooba.

THE STRANGE RECITAL

Episode 17042

BLACK BULL Logo