Barbaric Splendor

Somewhere above him, sealed in revolving casks of flyweights lay the letters to the book, not the final book perhaps but the book with every secret of the lost land, and Xotl’s own people in their journey from Stygia and the mind blasting secrets they once strove to guard from outside raiders.

Lost without understanding, he could not understand their voices on the wind through the cacti forests. So he’d come here, to the proud keep on the heights, and found only this quartzine maze of the Founder.

The first mirror broke into fragments that rained upon him in his flight. Behind Xotl the Cold Man barreled on with its elongated snout and iron thews, the flat-footed charge of the steel beast ravened in a mechanical maniac way for the blood of the Xuchotlan. As the iron beast crashed closer, Xotl gripped the long knife he still carried and prayed to the Green Lady but no plan came to him.

As it careened forward showering the semi-barbaric tracker with biting shrapnel, he sprang from his hiding place in the manner of a desert mountain wolverine– now he found slight purchase on the smooth and machine tooled surface of the creature, but its grasping pincers were easier to avoid up close.

He knew he was chancing a worse pulping of his injured frame by wrapping up the creatures middle with his legs in a lock position as he strove to pry back the neck plate and expose the semi-organic nerves piping along to the sensors housed in its sleek skull– like a man caught on the charging buffalo with no steering but to hold to its mane he and the metal charger tore through the crumbling Halls of Science in a welter of rending shards and screaming visions of an ancient past brought into the roaring case of steel guarded modern product from the old craft of the counterfeiter.

Beyond the Outskirts III

He’d traveled far from the land of his fathers, and though loath to admit it by voice, he had not witnessed much by deed or rumor to bear up the notion that men were made better in their rule or treatment of other men by the sight of beautiful lands and skies– But then he could say little for their improvement close crowded withdrawal of all comforts and tender human graces within the walls of the mountain castle where the walls seemed to sweat the congealed tears of every miserable end they’d borne mute witness to in the days of the lotus.

He was roused from this meditation by the shout of a Wazri, quickly stifled by his compatriot with a swift slashing gesture of his thick muffled hand. Hark– the passage above, one of the doors is undone, if my ears do not lie…ah what is that? Xotl placed his ear to the marble floor, and though he struggled to hear it, with ears used to the free motion of horses and whirling prairie devils, he felt the bounding tread of some immense animal, carrying all the hooves and snorting fire of hell with it. Form a stout line with your backs to the pillar men, and don’t waver with those lances no matter what comes down that hall he shouted, rising to a flat platform the slightly overlooked the hall where they’d been sitting moments before.

The Seer’s fastness shut its shining doors on Xotl’s attack, blocking them within its square warrens. The three Wazri bounders held their stout claw braided pikes in a ready crouch, but they shook in their padded armor like with an ague of ancient plagues released from long sealed bottles. Xotl pried at the edges of the doors, he threw his granite trained muscles into the quartz barriers, hammering with the strength of a maddened crew at a sealed bulkhead.

Finally sinking to the floor , he found the last fight left was keep his head and eyeline from sinking to his bosom . he’d seen men allow their nerve to leak from their navels long before any enemy with sword or bow claimed them. He composed himself as he rested, counting the strange goldwork and gilt whorls that traced the remnants of a strange and ascetic kingdom that the Silver Seers transposed for their own obscure uses .

The devotion of the former inhabitants and presumed builders of the Seer’s fortress were seeming devotees of both refined reposes amid gardens and the most barbaric torments inflicted on a captured nobles of another tribe or band of tribes that the absconded builders once warred against.

These halls were built over something much older, crooned the Seer’s disembodied voice. The curtains pulsed in glowing colors, he and the Wazri felt less as a band of desperadoes in a trap than defenders on a lone redoubt, with howling peaks on one side and plummets to the far rocks below to the other. Over it all brooded the strange and evil stones from which the curtains, the narrow shelves and the grisly bowls and candleholders ran with a light that belonged in skies reddened like blood mad eyes.

Beyond the Outskirts II

The broad hall with carven scenes of hunting and journeys over strange mountains and fields ringed the close walls , brooding upon any entrants with a sense of the structure that must weigh above that cliff sealed crypt. It was unreachable from the narrow broken heights from which she’d descended with the Auxai before Xotl took the fighters to scout and try and breach the walled plateau.

Vlayna whirled and squared with a starshot of twin wavering flames that stole back into the dark. Like two burning brands cast into a well of pitch, they fled before the singing of her scabbard as her blade smote and singed some stray mist from the clammy broil of the apparition.

The air within that chamber was oppressive as a summer hothouse despite the fall air that moved the wavering grasses in the vast fields outside. She stared as the floor rose up in glittering panels and she heard the searing yet not unmirthful chatter in the voice that followed– you have a noble figure for one so foolhardy to interrupt my sanctity. I will diminish your presumed lack of station…

She felt torn backwards as if an abyss swallowed the sky in its passage, and her ego telescoped downward to hover above a zero point that yet still hummed and churned with the tormented conscioussness within.

Vlayna felt hurtled on vermillion stained and dusty byways of time, saw roiling eons in their turn and flew above the rise and muster of great legions and cities until the only beggars left were to take up new rags hewn from the raw cacti and yucca stem. Stragglers who armed themselves with such sparse timber from the deserts to face with fear-struck eyes the cold dawn above the scoured wastes as mute mirrors to their vanished ancestors.

Then like a mote in a star tumbled sky she rocketed back into the lush seat before the psychic minister. The air was dark but for the curtains which seemed to glow a pale greenish haze across from the single white painted table that sat between them, and before her the man whom she now knew no mistake was one of the Seers, sought by the fen beating hordes of the Auxai, chortled and grimaced in his delight at her bewilderment.

Now you won’t deny our masterful truth, like those wine sotted japes that call themselves the Meydin Hall of Science. I laugh at the Auxai outfielders as well, the stinking savages won’t accost me here.

Even as she wished to shrink from his merciless gloating and triumphal sneer, she raised her frame to the full and directed the now soaring ire of the river boat privateer and Captainess at her captor — You mottled and failed sooth and stoop haunter! You dare abduct a holder of the keys of the Gonzalin League? Whilst in the fulfillment of a disarming and call to stand before the infallible of this land?

When the Xuchotlan arrives here…she silenced her mouth but not her wrath as a fresh wave of mirth seized the Seer. It shook from his swaying stomach to his stout upper body. Under his silken and loose garments he resembled a water hog with the lower half of a bandy legged wagoneer, fresh from hauling his produce and swaggering on his cushion below the black and white fringed mirrors and the piercing light from a single brand that burnt above them and seemed to give more animate leap and gleam to the strange parodies of life that brooded from the shadows around the sorcerer.

When that devil hearted rouster gets here, I’ll subdue and slay him in my lair. Here, wench! I have complete rule and through you , the City Hall of the League will empty of all but the most supplicant to brush their noble pates upon the royal floors at my leave.

Beyond the Outskirts, early version

The display of cuisine and dining on social media means little to me, its not intended for me, its not my idea of aspirational– but that doesn’t mean it’s meaningless.

“Have a cocktail, relax by the pool”– And as you sink back into the lounge chair, hallucinate bands of swarthy foreigners rappelling into yr backyard from primitive gliders to scalp and practice white slavery. Continue to stir yr cocktail with a handgun, or participate in my illusion and try and figure out if it’s ancient or utterly modern.

The constable told of a hulking grey skinned demon, with a large brow and a prominent bulge both concelaed and obscenely displayed in a crotch pouch that protruded like a helmet crest. What he wants, no one can tell. They say he was a man that went out in that desert and saw things that changed him, then he come back and start growing the lotus in the old compound atop Split Skull Canyon.

Changed, how? asked Xotl, already tamping his single shot’s breech and holding his fingers from fidgeting with his knife handle. His Xuchotlan temper would mount to a deadly serene calm at the point of battle, not during this waiting and scouting, reconning and planning. He could think much better fighting men on horseback.

The old man sank back in the chair, near touching the wall. His eyes suddenly grew large and pale in their dark sockets. He leaned forward with an effort– They put somethin in him, in that hospital, so that he grows unlike other men. Taller, stronger, but with each year he looks less and less human. I only saw him from the upper balcony, when they’d bring in new prisoners. But what he was standing in a dark cloak always, and never in the open sun apart from his wrappings.

She watched his slender yet muscled back retreat up into the broken fastness of the canyon, his shock of long dark hair waving like a brutal pennant in the blue tinged air. The ridge held for another 100 yards and then dipped into the ravine, where a distant trickle of scarce spring water fed the waving fronds of blooming aloe and yucca far below them. They’d crossed the salt wash with their weapons held above the swirling devils born of long departed dust reddened waters, and she reclined on the bench-like rock at the foot of the ravine Xotil had disappeared into.

She’d admired the rippling play of his muscles as he’d ascended carrying their pack loaded with wines from the city in copper stopped flasks and the dried meat they’d bartered a war camel for after rounding on the herd of Pinker patrols in the outlying dry marshes. But she’d admired even more how he would size up the task ahead, and simply do what was needed without fiddling deliberation or a lengthy counsel.

She caught the glint of an uncoiled serpent like thing falling at great speed from the rocks above. She’d lighted to her leather booted feet and the flash of twin rapiers bounded from her large hands as she stared from side to side to spy where the snake had stolen. The laughter from above almost startled her more than the falling rope, and she found herself looking up into his grin– he stood holding a fast line about the size of four stories up the ridge. A fine draw lass, but the snakes we must fear are ahead of us and less ready to make their arrival known he chuckled with grim mirth.

Cowboys and Lawmen in Ancient Plains

Uncouth and halting interactions with the desolate outside. Pressing gifts many threaded sleeves as the men wearing multi-colored patterns of vulture and warthog slapped trinkets and tobacco pouches furnished with strange devices towards the adventurer.

He gestured slowly, several leaf shaped daggers slid from woven sheaths. He did not reach down to the scabbard at his side, but looked at them like dogs in the morning mist. Then he tipped his hand with forefinger and the last cocked in the universal signal for the thirsty traveler. The man with his high head wraps with strange crosses of gold threaded shells gestured for a word, and Xotl stood back, letting him step ahead of him.

The entire band stared at them with eyes and faces bronzed by no sky traveled by wholesome sunlight. He resumed walking with the man slightly forward. He’d learnt the art of the river jargon and knew the best respect to show among war-like strangers was to give little opening for a short notice sortie. The older man pointed to his headwrap or dressing as Xotl observed with slight unease– they call me Once White Claw, see this ladder? I invented it.

They stepped under a wide framed arch that seemed a copper alloy . As they grew closer to its carvings it loomed as a large boulder splashed with marble carved and shaped to an ornate display.

Several long seats abutted an obsidian bar piled with bent iron bowls, hammered kettles and crack mortars. Downed his glass, each reclined in his own fashion and the gathered men began to drift away while a few from the gate stood with quiet interest.

The trader sank back in his dirt streaked silks and regarded him. He’d not seen his like since he fist entered the stone city. Few found any reason to leave as the gardens that reached down from the broken balustrades in the oval stone cliffs that served them for walls brought in fair harvest. The soil less eeries of the catacombs teemed with a rippling roost of silent bats that brought nourishment to the dew hungry fruiting plants that grew among the caked guano of the caverns.

Not so bad for a straggling crew on a sorrowful watch and no sleep isn’t it wanderer, said the old man. You’ll leave the gambling to professionals and serve no more liquor to Plainsmen this night said Xotl waving off the second round–the face of the old man was creased with amusement as the server swept in on pointed shoes , he seemed to frown as the attendant carefully placed a clear tray of the green melon ice float in front of Xotl who downed it with gusto.

That was for the throat, he indicated the small metal cups as the old man shrugged and filled another. You expect to sing like pretty bird once you leave here? Xotl eyed him with a practiced ease, leaving one side of himself propped to the bar covering any lunges from his front side with the scabbarded fusil.

I’m not the kind of cowboy that sings so sweet he grunted as he helped himself to another ice float. Maybe not, but the canyon carry a long way, you hear many things , ever been down there late at night? Have you retorted the adventurer, knowing it for a blunder just as it left his lips, and knowing further there would be no way back to their genial ease in the city of the barricado’d plains.

Writing update

This novel writing November is heading into the final innings and I’ve nearly completed another final draft of a sci-fi novel I started years ago. I’m frowning and tapping incessantly at the keyboard, I’m probably about to be kicked out of my parent’s house where they’ve allowed me to go through recovery (and been rewarded with an irritating madman novel writer for their generosity, so it’ll be for the best I find my way somewhere else).

As for other things I’ve written here, I’ve archived the posts where I’m too obviously imitating other writers ( wordpress is only a writer’s workshop if it’s made into one, and I’ll assume that most readers don’t want to read my writing exercises). Over the years I’ve stolen from theatrical culture and gay culture to pad my untutored artistic* leavings. But how could I lift something I couldn’t ever carry off? It’s like a jowly dog stealing smartphones in his drooly mouth; he won’t be able to trade it in for something he’d rather have but he can succeed in slopping some drool over the chic handheld.

Now a dog might be able to steal a car, provided it was lank and long legged enough to reach the pedals. But he’s going to be distracted by all kinds of things: other cars, cute girl bits on dogs outside, dog shit in the street, on someone’s doorstep, well mostly dog shit but you get the idea– dogs aren’t racing cars and are smarter for not trying. When I think of the musicians and writers I claimed some kind of faint similarity or kinship to, I can see that I must’ve been tripping banana crackers indeed. One thing about being a performative type person and not taking the stage for a long time, is that everything can get ugly.

*should I even call what I do art? Maybe that’s for others, to call it art, all I produce are meta-comments on other people’s art , trashy novels and a post-rock song every 3 years to half a decade.

Burroughs’ intuitive vision and Ligotti’s scholarly pessimism

While I mentioned Burroughs as having a “meta-art vision of junk” in my last post, that would be more fitting with Ligotti ( whose pessimistic vision includes all of life ), as this post by Marmalade makes clear. Burroughs’ use of words like “junk” and “fix” was sometimes metaphorical– I’m not sure about the centipedes. His vision was more intuitive than a system of thought, and in a future post I’ll write about that from the stance of Croce’s Aesthetic philosophy ( once I’ve digested that! ).

via Burroughs, PKD, and Ligotti

WSB Jr. on the other side of the equation had no truck with the piled up dead words and anything too high-falutin for plain writing (not typing by and large). The son forged beyond the style Burroughs Sr. hinted at in his first published book– with the same understanding of addictive drug use with more humor and heart– and is the better painter of that life in his “Kentucky Ham”.

As I came out of the bathroom rolling down my sleeve, I found Richard, Schell and the girl meditating I think is how they would have described it. The girl was sitting in the lotus posture with he head thrown back , and her tits absolutely seared the air. Or so it seemed to me through my loony eyes. She was very fine footage indeed, but I didn’t think that she or anyone present would appreciate my idea of oneness with the allness so I just saddown.

While we were sitting there, Chad came wondering in, and we had a quick
discussion with Schell. We decided carefully that all three of us wanted to leave started saying good-bye and thank you etc. Everybody thanks the host. I did some quick bartering and came up with two more doses to take along because I never know when to quit. I’ve always wanted to continue beyond X point. That is, I’ve always been kind of dumb. Chad and Schell walked out the door and as I went to get my works the girl told me not to forget them and I said ,”Boy , I’m glad you reminded me, yes sir”…

When all three of us were finished, I slipped as I started down and scraped my elbow down the side of the tree. I watched the bark soak up a little blood and then went down by the bay at the end of the park where there were mosquitoes spiraling above the water. I sat on a rotten picnic table watching the oil on the surface and listened to the flagpoles clank in the wind. A little sailboat named (em Mercy Two was thudding weakly against the dock nearby, and I began to be afraid that if I didn’t move soon, I’d have to stay there forever.

So I got up and walked back to the street with the wind shuddering in my ears to come back. I’d felt the same way before, but I’ve never been able to find the reason. Some kind of surrealist desolation and I kept wanting to look over my left shoulder

Occasionally I stumble on conservative journals with interesting book reviews.

Edit- I have many thoughts about the dominant model of addiction used in medical treatment, rehabs and the like. The disease model, which is basically my conclusion in this piece, might itself be diseased.

That is what I intuited while reading WSB’s work, an ‘ugly’ artform that nevertheless made an impact on me that culminated in me giving up all drugs (weed’s a plant, right?) after over a decade of recreational use that was shading into addiction and stints in rehab. Now I’d like to put up some of the writing of WSB Jr. whose criminally underrated work is an interesting departure from his father’s paranoid style; a more lyrical account of a hard life ( tougher than mine surely) filled with drugs.

I am not a social conservative, but I respect a writer like Russell Kirk for examining the poems of Baudelaire next to Burke’s foundational writings in his history of conservatism. This is an example of a critique, within a larger article I can’t agree with. It is titled “Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?” ( the answer is somewhat unclear, since he never discusses that substance), written by a man who is often brought up in discussions of social decline, Theodore Dalrymple.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2013/11/should-we-be-threatening-cocaine-addicts-with-execution/

William S. Burroughs, the famous American who was an even worse man than he was a writer, which is saying something, and who addicted himself to heroin, wrote in his first book Junk, later retitled Junkie, how addicts called the doctors who prescribed their drugs ‘writing fools’, who willingly believed that their patients were unable to stop.

It is more than a little dismaying how easily social conservatives fall into an authoritarian position they would be horrified to see in themselves on any question other than the scourge of addictive drugs. The statesmen and thinkers associated with the founding of modern conservatism continually returned to the reality of evil, and the limitation of human institutions before its existence in this world, in us. No government can do anything about this. It is a part of conservatism that I believe in (while disagreeing with many of the conclusions reached), but is one denied by most of the movement’s voices. Dalrymple seeks to affirm this and ends by proposing state action of immense scope. Perhaps recognizing the inability of the statesman to change the existence of evil is beyond the reach of any political thinker today.

The Gnostic vision in W.S.B.’s strange and unsettling books finds a metaphysic of junk, which he identifies with evil and sin itself. This is especially present in those passages that foreshadow his nightmare visions in his later work; particularly those where he notes the ability of dope to linger as a feeling in the areas it has blighted (” If junk were gone from the earth, there might still be junkies standing around in junk neighborhoods feeling the lack, vague and persistent, a pale ghost of junk sickness.”) But the Gnostic idea of addiction as the totality of life’s pursuits takes a condition that reduces its sufferer to near absolute imprisonment in the material world as an all encompassing theodicy. Addiction as an explanation and a metaphor for all of life’s myriad activities (cuisine, sex, art and politics) is overdone, and the right criticism of Burroughs’ non-fictional ideas should begin here.

As for Dalrymple’s condemnation of the author with his work, this assumes that the best writing must come from the best character. This is a delusion. Burroughs is among the most disturbing and insightful writers. His later stories of rebellion against homoerotic insects and time travel are a response to his earlier studies of chemical degradation. This most disgusting and insightful writer starts from the bottom of the world, and wades into the gilded pool of Tiberius without hesitation. The place where the blood from the opened veins of noblewomen lingers on the legs of the Imperator-Who-Disdains-the-Title’s toy boys , the Emperor watching the executed fall to the rocks from his dreadful seclusion. The man who is most visible is often the most alone, and while condemned by society the writer shares neither the praise nor infamy of history’s passions. Society’s outrage is a wildfire that exhausts itself on shallow fuel. The true writer observes Caesar’s expression as the condemned are thrown to the hooks below– is he sweating profusely or serenely placid? History demands the description to the minutest detail. Morality only enters into the work as a color to the palette.

And…in this book there is evidence of what, at least in the case of heroin addiction, is obviously the case, namely that withdrawal symptoms from heroin are much more (though not entirely) psychological rather than physical. Burroughs describes how he is relieved instantaneously by drugs that can have had little physiological effect upon his symptoms.

Presumably in the last sentence Dalrymple means the effects of minor tranquilizers, marijuana and improvised opiate substitutes on the withdrawing addict. That he came to this conclusion without the slightest nod to any accounts of how these additional substances relieve the rictus frenzy of withdrawal (much less scientific data, where it is most warranted ) makes all of his following claims questionable at the least.

The notion of addiction as illness cannot possibly explain why, in the 1950s, there were at most a couple of hundred heroin addicts in this country (the UK) , and why now there are perhaps 250,000 of them, 150,000 of them injecting.

Epidemiological studies that chart the spread of the drug and comparing it to other pathogens would be a good start. I’m no scientist, but neither is Dalrymple. The data models used to “prove” this or that notion about the political psychology of social media users might have their proper domain in this area. I’m uncertain; Dalrymple could have investigated this further, but it would require him to add practical rigor to an exercise in moralistic literary criticism.

Pay it all back

Substance addiction induces a creeping isolation beyond the hostility it generates in the presently non-addicted. Addiction is a vaporous Red Death lurking in the shadows around the pit of the world. The slow sink into a cellular vegetative state, the brain all alight like an antique pinball machine, is a grotesque parody of art; “(that) which destroys action”.

The dreadful triumph of frigid vegetative states is also the parody of a renunciate’s solitude, the flesh becoming a locked music box. Dalrymple betrays his contempt for the scruples of any traditional faith when he launches his jeremiads against the addict; any worthy tradition will deal with the reality that life either contains, or is suffering– if you are not suffering presently or buying it off with the introduction of sensuous pleasures, you are not alive in any conventional sense of the word.

Once past his sensationalism about Mao’s drug “treatments”, he makes his strongest claim.

“If you examine the lives of impoverished heroin addicts, for example, you find that their existences are not helpless oscillations between desperately searching for a vein in which to inject themselves to avoid the pains of withdrawal on the one hand and the bliss of the oceanic feeling that comes with injecting heroin on the other. Heroin addicts are very busy people, what with obtaining their drugs from dealers and finding the means to pay for them. (Incidentally, criminality is much more a cause of heroin addiction than vice versa.)”

The fact that the “bliss” is short-lived once addiction sets in (and as Burroughs points out again and again, the euphoric action of dope is not of all-importance to the addict until addiction is reached, and then the diabolical logic of the substance takes hold) is ignored by Dalrymple, while it is commonplace in most drug outreach efforts today. The usual charges against addicts rarely coincide with reality– the ability to commit outrageous acts is near “bled-out” in the confirmed addict. The high is inseparable from the torments of withdrawal, when furtive thievery requires an almost heroic effort.

This is one of Burroughs’ early insights. Dalrymple has taken this much into his claims. But his refusal to look into the depths and unite his literary mind to them is his flaw as a thinker. And his claim about the blood-thirst of a tyrant shining insights into addiction betrays the palpable horror of a man face to face with relentless dis-ease.

First blog post

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