Davis Schneiderman follows the renegade countertradition of linguistic experiment, taking up where W. Burroughs and K. Acker, among others, left off

Davis Schneiderman, Drain: a novel (Triquarterly, 2010)

"It’s the year 2039, and Lake Michigan is mysteriously emptied of water. The planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field are failing, and fires burn ominously throughout the empty lake bed. In this seemingly endless desert east of Chicago, three factions are locked in conflict: the original end-of-times cultist settlers who follow religious visionary Fulcrum Maneuvers and worship a giant World Worm they deem responsible for the drained lake; the megacorporation Quadrilateral, a mega-consumerist, planned-community combine of bourgeois city planners developing what is now called the Wildland-Urban Interface; and the Blackout Angels, landlocked punk pirates raised in Quadrilateral cities, who oppose everything and everyone. In Davis Schneiderman’s shocking novel, Drain, freedom, creativity, and transgression wage war with forces of control, censorship, and conformity. The wordscapes of William S. Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon, the dystopic nightmares of Philip K. Dick, and the transgressive punch of Chuck Palahniuk and Georges Bataille together convene in this stunning and thrilling work."
Davis Schneiderman, DIS: or, the shadow of the DOME of pleasure (BlazeVOX Books, 2008) )

"M. Pascal to the contrary, this shit don't stink. This shit reeks of righteous rage, bloody wit, and the bitters of monkeys in front of typewriters. This is writing that doesn't write, can't right but through imagination, of which Schneiderman has buckets, not to mention rhythm: his snaking quantitative meter pulls us through the beer, alexandrines lighting the shit ablaze. At the end of which we arrive, finally, at the obvious: this book is nothing short of and nothing less than the real shit." - Kass Fleisher

"DIS is like a kick in the ass that propels you into the beyond. It's an untidy techno-blur spliced to the Kublai Khan's genetic code. Schneiderman may go molecular, but DIS always disses." - Raymond Federman

"Careening through Davis Schneiderman's writing is like being born with a placenta over your face. You're squirted into a charming untidy lit world and suddenly you know stuff, lots of stuff, and you don't even have to read the book because the movie's flickering on the inside of the bloody cowl. Yippee!" - Jiri Cech
Davis Schneiderman & Carlos Hernandez, Abecedarium (Chiasmus, 2007)

"Two writers decide to write a book together. They sit in the same room, nose-wrinklingly close, writing, trading pages, expanding each other's stories. But it doesn't take long before they start cutting up, mashing up and purposefully fucking up each other's prose. They dodge and parry, gouge at eyeballs, bite. In moments of tenderness, they pet each other in the wounded night. Their narrative grows increasingly chaotic, linked only by harum-scarum leitmotifs and a mounting scatological lexicon."

"Abecedarium is a collaborative novel that follows a nonagenarian man named Fex who is gifted with superior, highly coveted genes in a society where DNA is bought, sold, traded, and stolen. The setting shifts with each chapter, moving from a carnival to the Nazi occupation of France to the Bowie County Fair’s 143rd Annual Steak-a-Rama, all on the set of what sounds suspiciously like a reality TV show. Unlike a realist narrative, Fex undergoes no real character arc as the novel progresses, and there is very little of what could be called a plot or narrative arc; the book can be read in virtually any order. But plot, setting, linearity/nonlinearity seem of lesser concern here. More important is that Abecedarium is an experiment in collaboration, and a linguistic experience all its own.
Davis Schneiderman and Carlos Hernandez wrote Abecedarium together over five sessions in an apartment in Ithaca, NY, where they would each write for a period, switch seats, “edit/overwrite” each other’s work, and switch again to edit/overwrite once more. Through this process, Schneiderman and Hernandez claim in the Note on Process that prefaces the novel, a “third mind” developed, moving between them as they wrote. They call this mind Fex, and Fex, also the protagonist is arguably the only stable element in a text that works to destabilize character, setting, language itself. But if Fex is the author that has arrested and supplanted Schneiderman’s and Hernandez’s authorities, Fex is not the only author, for branching off of this third mind are other third minds that have developed between Fex and authors including Lewis Carroll, Bjšrk, and William S. Burroughs — whose book The Third Mind, written with Brion Gysin and which itself appropriates the titular concept from elsewhere, is the obvious reference for Schneiderman and Hernandez’s own use of the third mind in explaining their project. Intertextual collaboration, then, is just as important to the project of Abecedarium as the collaboration between Schneiderman and Hernandez that is at its forefront. In this way the novel produces layers of multiplicity that allow it to escape the function of the author as it relates to the power apparatus of the state.
Escaping authority, enacting multiplicity, writing between points: the project rings of Deleuze and Guattari. Abecedarium exercises a number of Deleuzian elements, notably the rhizome, the multiple, and the nomad. In his Dialogues, written with Claire Parnet, Deleuze explains that his collaborations with Guattari are never about working together, but working “between the two” . “We stopped being ‘author,’” Deleuze claims . “What mattered was not the points” — the authors as individuals — “but the collection of bifurcating, divergent and muddled lines” — the rhizome — “which constituted [A Thousand Plateaus] as a multiplicity and which passed between the points, carrying them along without ever going from the one to the other”. The rhizome, Deleuze explains, is a structure like grass, producing multiplicity by growing from the middle (viii). This structural conception stands opposed to the arboreal model: where traditional models of thought put forth the book as a “hierarchy of root, trunk, and branch,” Deleuze theorizes it as a “multiplicity of interconnected shoots going off in all directions” (Translator’s Introduction xii).
Schneiderman and Hernandez’s description of a third mind works similarly to the kind of line between points that Deleuze describes above. Fex is not simply the sum of both writers, but something entirely different that emerges from their synthesis. Fex is the encounter between the two; in Deleuzian terms, Fex is a “double capture”; he works by “showing what the conjunction AND is, neither a union, nor a juxtaposition, but the birth of a stammering, the outline of a broken line which always sets off at right angles, a sort of active and creative line of flight”. Abecedarium is a rhizome that grows from the stammering borne from the two writers’ conjunction. As such, the writers manage to sidestep the function of the author, escaping into a kind of anonymity where their individual contributions are neither identifiable nor important. In the process, they produce the multiple, “break[ing] free from structure … producing a rhizome and not a root”.
Why do the multiple? What are the politics inherent in performing multiplicity? While Schneiderman will claim no political agenda in the interview below, any use of an alternative literary model is in some sense a political act. To perform the multiple is political, perhaps even revolutionary, for it battles with the bulk of Western philosophy and its insistence on binaristic modes of thought. In a section of the Dialogues signed by Parnet, she links the binary machine to apparatuses of power and explains how language works within the binary: “Language is not made to be believed but to be obeyed”. But beneath the order-words — the words that carry dominant meanings — is what Deleuze refers to as the stuttering and which others might call noise; this subterranean usage of language is “like language’s line of flight”. The goal of the multiple is to produce these lines of flight by deterritorializing language and resisting the binary machine and its insistence on order-words.
The author fits in because any claim to authority is necessarily a declaration of power and a gesture of allegiance to apparatuses of power. Parnet explains that, any time an author is designated, “thought is subjected to an image and writing is made an activity different from life, having its ends in itself”. Authority claims power, and “power is always arborescent”. Writing’s aim is, or should be, according to Deleuze, “to carry life to the state of a non-personal power”. To do this, it must “[renounce] claim to any territory” and to authority. In a sense, Deleuze is imagining a purely democratic mode of writing, absent of hierarchies of power.
This is where the nomad comes in. “Nomads are always in the middle,” say Deleuze and Parnet. They have “no history,” only geography, and their paths trace unorganized and uncontainable lines of flight. Nomadic organization is rhizomatic, then, in opposition to the relationships of power that are “codified in a State”. The Deleuzian project — “to make thought a nomadic power” — purports to “shake” the state model of power, to disarm or unsettle “the idol or image which weights down thought, the monster squatting on it”. Abecedarium’s Fex, both the character and the third mind that writes the book, is the nomad. As a character, Fex traces lines of flight across numerous temporalities, geographies, and discourses. His path is uncontained, uncontainable.
And yet, though Abecedarium seems to almost uncannily adhere to the Deleuzian model of the book, it is not interested in doing only that, and in doing it rigorously. As it does with nearly every constraint or rule or game that its writers have set up for it, the novel sidesteps and violates this model at the same time that it seems to embody it. For instance, while the novel manages to escape authority through multiplicity and in so doing resists the binary machine, its adherence to stable gender binaries, to the stable heteronormativity that Fex seems to project, seems potentially problematic. In the interview below, Schneiderman explains that he and Hernandez wanted Fex to remain stable amidst a web of destabilization. As for the other rules, the book derives its tension precisely from alternately adhering to and undercutting them.
In his response to a question asking him to describe the avant-garde, Schneiderman posits that an avant-garde work is aware of its market status and its materiality. Abecedarium’s imperfect enactment of the Deleuzian multiple indeed highlights its own seams by foregrounding Schneiderman and Hernandez’s collaboration, by refusing to claim authority in the traditional sense. Add to this Deleuzian model the use of Burroughsian cut-ups and other kinds of intertextualities, and the result is a book that is both aware of and resists its ‘bookness’ on all fronts, recognizing and reinforcing its place in a lineage of predecessors while producing lines of flight at the same time. Its title purports to be a primer to the alphabet; that there is no simple A to Z here, but rather an order that is, as Schneiderman says, “fungible,” suggests that Abecedarium is a primer to a new alphabet, one that is not an alphabet at all, but an assemblage of generative lines of flight.

What is exciting about collaboration for you?
- I think of all my work as collaborative. There’s two types of collaboration — well, there’s more than two, but I’ll break it into two. One type is where you’re explicitly collaborating with another person, as I do with Carlos [Hernandez in Abecedarium], and as I do in many of my other works — I’m about to do a piece with Tim Guthrie, who’s here [at &NOW], he’s kind of a multimedia artist. And then there’s the collaboration one does in a pastiche sense, when you’re interacting, interfacing, intertextualizing with older authors, and you can do this very implicitly in the kind of anxiety of influence way — you write, and you’re very influenced by Proust, and it’s kind of floating in the back of your mind. Or it could be more in a Kathy Acker sense, and I think of Blood and Guts in High School, with Jean Genet. She meets Genet, she borrows from a book from one of his Moroccan friends, with the text taken directly from it. So there’s that type of collaboration.
What I’m interested in is the Kathy Acker type, because I like that explicit materiality of the writing process. I don’t like to pretend that there are no seams in writing. Collaboration shows those seams, and I like that.
How do you differentiate between this project (Abecedarium) and projects where you’ve used an alter ego as a collaborator? Why was it important for you to take up a more actualized collaboration, and to market it as a collaborative novel?
- The alter-ego methodology of my text Multifesto: A Henri d’Mescan Reader, a fabricated reader of a fabricated writer, edited by me, and Phoenelia Yeer, who may or may not be fabricated, traces the work of d’Mescan, his precursor Henry Mescaline, and Mescaline’s 1960s editor David Schneiderman, the latter of whom certainly existed at one time and in one particular place-well, these are just explicitly acrobatics of the same multiple-ego situation of all writers. Take Deleuze and Guattari: the only way to be multiple is to make the multiple happen in the process of making a book. In this text, I collaborate with not only myself, but also Genet, Acker, William S. Burroughs and a hundred others, whose words appears in various guises throughout the text.
I would not call this an un-actualized collaboration, but a deliberate pastiche that in its constitutive vectors operates similarly to the two-person approach of Abecedarium. In that text, [written with] Carlos Hernandez, a real person, in the same sense that you or I are real, the multiplicity of the text [is actualized] (your word) through its composition method. We write, unwrite, overwrite, amend, elide, and fight each other, or, versions of each other-implied authors-across the different sections. I won’t say which sections originated with either of us, but if I were writing, first, say, the chapter, “Fex During the Occupation of France” (Chapter 5), it was no more the me responding to you now who wrote that text, then it was the you asking me these questions now who wrote your teen-angst poetry. I don’t simply mean that it is a question of time (we are different now, than before), but rather, that a collaboration like Abecedarium — with its few ground rules — creates its authors in the process of its composition. We do not plan and outline and roadmap and stencil and trace. No, we write as we write, and in doing so, the character of Fex writes me, a particular version of myself at a particular moment — during the writing of the “France” chapter. Thus, the collaboration is as much about its process as it is about the fact that two people worked on it. Multifesto, while expressing different parameters of construction, operates homologously. Both books are collaborative. All texts are collaborative.
I know that you have a forthcoming anthology on collaboration.
- On the exquisite corpse. Which is a type of collaboration, certainly. This is tracing the exquisite corpse from its surrealist incarnation as writing — “the exquisite corpse will drink the young wine” was the first game — and also visual; and the many, many different ways it’s been used.
My essay is about an online collaboration I did with four, five other liberal arts colleges, where a student at my school would write something and another student would respond with a painting — all digital, all electronic. So collaboration is in the background there [in the anthology as a whole], but it’s in the foreground in my mind. There are two other editors, and I think their concerns are not the same as mine. But it’s certainly part of the essay.
Do you think it’s safe to say we’re in an age of heightened collaborativity?
- I don’t think it’s ever safe to say anything like that, because for every person who agrees with it, others wouldn’t. But if you look at the rise of digital/electronic culture and the internet — I’m thinking of a few years ago when David Bowie had a contest, where he posted twenty or thirty loops of his songs, and the best remix got used in a car commercial? That’s sort of the official co-opting of the strategy. For years people have been doing — and they still do — Bjork remixes through SubRosa. Bjork doesn’t officially approve them, but she doesn’t take them down. So I think, something about Flickr and MySpace and Facebook … I mean, the party lines say yes, these are more collaborative. But I don’t necessarily think they’re deliberately collaborative. I think they’re collaborative simply because those are the mechanisms of creating, and they’re not thinking about it theoretically. I think that will come later, people will look back ten years from now and think, “This means something in the story of where art has gone.”
Why do you think the attachment to the notion of a single author, the solitary genius, continues to persist?
- It’s kind of a legally ensconced fiction, and what I mean by that, if you know anything about the beginning of copyright, the first copyright law in the western world was like 1709, called the Statute of Anne in London, and it was to protect London booksellers, who had a kind of monopoly on a particular author’s work, from Scottish pirates who would come in and would buy a book and do it cheaper. It had nothing to do with the rights of the author. The author was still at the end of a feudal patronage period. So it’s only when you get into the Romantic era, and you have someone like Wordsworth advocating heavily for what became the Copyright Act of 1842, that you begin to get this Romantic idea of the author as solitary genius, and the production of that author, in the form of legal copyright, as something that is owned and protected, of the inner spirit or the soul.
The idea didn’t even exist in Shakespeare’s time, as seen in the fact that basically all of his plays are pastiche and heavily borrowed from other works. I don’t think anyone would have given that a second thought. But if someone were to attempt to do what Shakespeare did today, even if they got away with it by fair use, it would be looked down upon. It would be seen as unoriginal.
I think it’s such a big deal because, and all the critical legal studies will tell you, that the law doesn’t exist prior to the articulation of the law. It’s the legal code itself that creates the law. It’s not like there are universal doctrines that are inscribed in the law. The law sort of says what the law is and thus becomes the law. So I think that we just live in this society where this has been part of the legal code, and in the late 1800s, in the robber baron period, you get corporations becoming individual entities according to the law, and they begin to make use of these copyright laws. And because consumer capitalism develops at such a rampant pace in the United States, it gets dovetailed with this idea, too. So by the time you get McDonald’s suing anyone who uses their logo, the idea of originality and genius is pretty well established within our society.
These are not necessarily my ideas; this is kind of the summary of copyright scholarship.
In your “Note on Process,” you explain how the process of editing and reediting each other’s work “encouraged us to lose ourselves in the work so that a third mind that moves between us could develop.” I wonder if you can speak to the influence Burroughs had on this project. (I’m assuming that your idea of the third mind was appropriated from Burroughs.) In what ways do you see Burroughs’s strategies and theories of writing as relevant to the present cultural moment?
- As a Burroughs scholar, I find myself always playing with these concepts, and, in fact, I am in the midst of a multi-year project to bring out a new edition of The Third Mind [by Burroughs and Brion Gysin], based, hopefully, on the original text from the 1960s, and not merely the altered version from the late 1970s. The former uses a series of astounding Burroughs/Gysin collages, which, due to expense, were never published. Burroughs and Gysin, you might know, took “the third mind” from a self-help book called Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. You think. You grow rich. I assume my residuals from Abecedarium will do the same for me. As for Carlos, I plan to screw him out of his share.
What’s interesting about The Third Mind is the economics of the concept, and, the economic world reversed (à la Pierre Bourdieu) of Burroughs’s oeuvre. I’ve taken many things from WSB: most prominently a fearlessness in the approach to making a text. The “machine” that creates the project is always a version, in its nuances, of Gysin’s Dreammachine: a spinning cylinder with a light bulb in the center, both animating and mesmerizing the viewer. WSB’s strategies are multifarious in the same manner — they animate and mesmerize. Don’t fight fire with fire, but with a recording of fire. Pour everything into a cement mixer and see what comes out. I’m always wary of who manufactures the cement mixer, though.
Parts of Abecedarium, especially “Fex’s Contractual Obligations” are cut-up in the Burroughsian mode, while at the same time actualizing (your earlier word) an argument Carlos and I had while writing the book. He felt that I was overtaking his sentences, writing in between them, detourning them, while he was doing more the work of addition and fleshing out. My approach is always linguistic, and so, I laid out the argument in that chapter — which is perhaps one of the “harder” ones to get through. It jettisons everything you’d want to have, and for that, I thank Burroughs.
Can you clarify a bit what you mean by that last sentence?
- By the “it” I mean the chapter itself. Well, it’s a cut-up that’s materially trying to — I mean, you wouldn’t know this unless I’m telling you — but I mean, a reference to the process of writing. Carlos was very upset at one point; he just felt like the book was sounding like me. He’s a little more linear writer; his content is odd and kooky, but linguistically he doesn’t do the things that I do. So where he would add to the end of my sentence or write the next sentence, I would insert words between them, to break apart, fragment them. He was upset about that at one point. So I took that argument and basically wrote one chapter, wrote the argument down and sliced and cut up the argument. I gave it to him after my hour and said, “All right, here, do something with this. What can you do to get back at me?” And I think in a weird way that defused the tension of that moment.
The chapter is a cut-up in the Burroughsian tradition, but it’s not an exact cut-up. You know, if you sort of try and count and add the words, it doesn’t… You think you understand the system, but the system is not a system, it’s sort of an accidental system. I’m not being doctrinaire about it. And I do that in all of my work. I establish a game, but I don’t think it’s all that important to be faithful to the game. I like to play with the tension between the expectations of the game rather than the expectations of traditional narrative. You open a realist novel, it goes from A to Z, you know where your climax is. It’s a game, and from it you understand the narrative. I don’t want to give you the ease of understanding. I want to present a game that’s in opposition to something else, but then I want to do the things that are in opposition to the game at the same time.
So when you say cut-up — I’m familiar with Kathy Acker, not Burroughs so much. Does [the language in this chapter] have an actual source?
- No, so this is another thing. I’m cutting up my own stuff. Although I can’t promise that there isn’t the work of other writers in there, because there is, but not in the same way that Acker in Empire of the Senseless will have a whole paragraph, or Federman will do that, and then chop it around. Or Burroughs will take the Saturday Evening Post and do it. What I start with [in “Fex’s Contractual Obligations”] is the substance of the argument I have with Carlos, and that becomes the original text. It’s a text you don’t see. It’s an argument of oral text. And then I start cutting and moving and playing around with that, in the context of this reality game show. This is like when Survivor was just starting to get big.
I looked up some quotes that were in italics, or some phrases that were italicized that seemed suspect, that I thought might have original sources.
- And did you find anything?
I did. I found some stuff.
- Tell me. I’d be interested to know what I used, because one doesn’t remember these things.
I was going to ask you how that comes about for you. Do you actually go to a text when you’re stuck and pick something up?
- It’s interesting, because sometimes things stay with me. And it’s really weird, but there’s a great novel by Brian Gysin, The Process, which is a great novel, I think underserved. There’s something about a festering, gaping baby mouth. I wrote that, and then I was reading one of my favorite writers, Jean Genet, and I found it there. This process took two or three years, and when I saw it in Genet, I was very surprised because I thought that I had written the lines. I had just confused myself so much. So what did you find?
From “Fex Falls”: “Mechanical devices exteriorize the processes of the human organism. Fex stops at a flat rock floating inches above the rushing turbine of water; he removes a razor.” The italics come from Burroughs’s The Place of Dead Roads.
- How bout that. And I’ve written extensively on this novel, although not in years. I can’t tell you whether this was just in my mind, or if there was a copy of this laying around. More often than not, there’s a copy laying around: it’s a book that I like, and I know that there’s something I’ll find. I’ll encourage my students to run in the basement of our library and take ten random phrases and start with that, and I do the same kinds of things. But occasionally like the Genet-Gysin line, which I assume he borrowed from Genet, I sort of have it there [in my mind]. There’s a famous quote from the French Calvinist philosopher Blaise Pascal: “God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” And I’ve used that line, in fact I have an e-book from Blazevox with that as a kind of subtitle. And I was just reading an introduction to Borges’ collection Labyrinths, and Borges, I found out in the introduction, was fascinated with this line, and traced it to the 12th Century, so it’s much older than Pascal, in all these slightly different forms. I find that historical digging fascinating.
I found a few other things, just for your information. This one right here from your work (“As Fex Falls, So Falls Fex”) is from Burroughs’s The Ticket That Exploded.
- Now that one, right, is similar but not exact.
You changed it halfway through.
- This one has always stayed with me. This is the opening of The Ticket That Exploded. Have you read these books? How did you think to look there?
Google. Now that GoogleBooks is pretty awesome —
- Oh, I see. So the first three pages — if you read nothing else of that book — that has always stayed with me. And this scene reemerges in my fiction quite often in different ways. It’s about a guy who is rooming with someone else, and he begins to grow suspicious that he’s trying to kind of merge with him. The sounds of their hearts get in tune. They’re kind of playing this game. That’s always with me. I did that explicitly in this case, because that’s what I want to happen, the third mind that we’re working with, you know where two writers write and go together.
I don’t mean to be crass about this, but I’m always fascinated by when women live together, their menstrual cycles sort of line up, you know, things just get in sync sometimes. The heartbeat. Sometimes I press my daughter to my chest, and she’s excited and I’m excited and our heartbeats, I can hear them sync up. There’s something beautiful about that.
I hope you can talk a bit more about the authorial anonymity presumed by the notion of a “third mind.” Can you describe in more detail the process of collaboration? Having done some research into your past work and knowing very little about Carlos, I found myself assuming that your contributions were the dominant of the two, and trying to identify for myself which sections were originally written by you, and which by Carlos, and where the editing took them in new directions. How interested are you in the reader’s response to this obscuring of authorship?
- I typed out a wonderfully elusive answer to your question, and then my computer died, and then I lost the answer upon reboot. I blame Fex, or Carlos. We constructed the statement, the note on process, collaboratively, but, of course, it represents only the aspects of the collaboration, which we attempted to articulate at the moment of its composition. It no more divines the nuances of the composition than an author bio tells you about some real author at the other end of a royalty check. Yet, it leaves you satisfied like the a good toothpaste commercial, creating the conditions of our material anxiety, and setting you up for the important decisions to come when you finally reach the toothpaste aisle.
There are ten chapters written in five distinct segments. And we each “originated” five of the chapters, but there is no telling whether the “originator” composed two pages of crap in the first composition period, or seven pages of pure gold bricks shat out the wrong side of Pharaoh’s intestinal track. In other words, when phase two begins, the overwriting/cutting/amending, etc, the autonomy of the first writer quickly falls away. I’d be hard pressed to identify who wrote what, because we wrote the text at my home in Ithaca, NY, so Carlos was already an outsider: sleeping on a cot, or the floor, or camping in the backyard. He did bring some lunch meat along, roast beef, I believe, which despite my vegetarianism I reluctantly let him keep in the refrigerator. So you see, we each had physical, bodily advantages. Fex cuts through these with deft quickness. He is unforgiving, but loveable. Try him out in your home, but be wary, he is tricky.
Fex writes himself, and in doing so, he unwrites us.
Like the experiments of the Oulipo writers and, to a lesser extent, the Dogme 95 filmmakers, this kind of experiment, through constraint, privileges the texture and substance of production over content. Why privilege the writer in this way, at the expense of readerly reception?
- You are correct in that texture and substance emerge, explicitly, at the fore of the work. This has everything to do with content, which simply changes form according to the texture and substance. And yet. And yet. And yet. The writer is not privileged at the “expense” of readerly reception, unless we could agree that A) the writing of constraint does indeed sacrifice content for form, and B) this relation is somehow analogous to the relation between the writer and reader. In other words, your question implies that textural production is somehow the rarefied sphere of the author, whereas content-oriented texts float in and out of the reader’s mind like puffs of cotton candy. I don’t agree with the suppositions necessary to the question.
Abecedarium only privileges Fex. Fex never loses. That’s a prime principle, but perhaps, also merely a postulate. There is no proof for the winningness of Fex. A turkey can stick his head out of a hole each day to be fed, and then, the day before Thanksgiving, to be sliced. No record of previous wins can determine whether the blade will descend tomorrow. It’s entirely possible that Fex has fragmented the writer to the point where autonomy is sublimated, always, to Fex himself. I lose myself in the questions, because in writing Fex, Fex is re-writing Carlos and me. I used to be taller and better looking.
Getting back to the splicing, the body, the DNA, all of these things are of course crucial to the narrative of Abecedarium, it would seem. But it also seems that the language works to function kind of on a metalevel. You are splicing language as you talk about Fex’s DNA, etc. Where does that come from? What is your interest in DNA and these scientific ideas?
- I have the nonscientist’s interest in all of these scientific ideas. There’s a much better version of this genetic intertwining, and it’s Steve Tomasula’s novel Vas. Best book of the last ten years, by far. Steve is a good guy, and a brilliant writer; he went to UIC, in fact.
I don’t think I do it as well as people who actually know the science, but I’m interested in the idea of everything being a linguistic code. And what we’ve discovered about DNA, we give it names: G A C T, and we move those names around, and you get Down’s syndrome or you don’t get Down’s syndrome. I always think that I would have been more interested in math if somebody had explained to me in high school that it was an abstract language, rather than proofs and derivatives. But where does it come from? I don’t know if it comes so much from my reading as it comes from just — and this was, we wrote it in 2001, kind of at the height of the zeitgeist, you know, the human genome project had just been concluded, and it was in the news. Dolly the cloned sheep. So I think it was just sort of floating about at the time. And there’s characters, Gact, and Tacg, who appear in my other novel, Multifesto, which is impossible to find because there’s only 50 copies of it. It’s supposed to come out from Spuyten Duyvil in commercial form at some point soon. So I wouldn’t say this is an obsession of mind — I don’t always write about this topic — but at the time, it was sort of in the air.
I was also struck by how the novel’s tendency to “reset” every chapter seemed to possess a video-game sensibility. If we see Fex as a two-dimensional avatar of the synthesis of two minds, under what constraints do you see Fex operating under?
- Fex is four-dimensional: he is 5’8” tall; approximately half that from extended fingertip to fingertip, and 32” at the waist. He exists, you’ll notice, in an astounding array of temporal and spatial locations, and in this latter sense, stands outside Euclidean and Newtonian physical states. He is constrained only by the languages he operated within, which is why he slips through the net of language whenever possible. As we learn in the final moments of Abecedarium, he follows “a feeling” rather than a road, a desire rather than a responsibility, and an indefinite rather than a definite. Except, sometimes, when he does the opposite of these things.
Especially considering your interest in and appreciation of Acker, who destabilized gender when at all possible, I was interested to note — and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like Fex’s gender is limited and consistent throughout the novel. Was this a conscious choice?
- I’m struck by your question, and I don’t mean to critique your question, but it’s one of those questions, like “You wrote about a penguin! Why didn’t you write about a monkey?” That’s your agenda, and I appreciate that.
But I will say that there was a conscious choice not to do that sort of thing, only because the one rule Carlos always had — so, there’s a couple rules to these chapters. Every chapter has to mention a carnival dragon. Every chapter has to mention foie gras. There’s a couple other things. Carlos’s rule was that Fex always wins. Fex always comes out on top. Fex never loses, and I think that’s pretty evident throughout the book. I wanted to kind of represent this kind of Colonel Klink figure who is moving through time and is octogenarian, or nanogenarian, who knows how old this guy is. Part of it is I was deliberately trying to write an elderly character. Even though he acts like a youthful person. That’s a group that’s left out of most novels. But because he’s sort of dominant, and virile and impotent at the same time, I think the choice to make him a man and make him stable in that way was a deliberate one. We wanted him to be the top of the hegemonic pool. He’s a venture capitalist: he’s the guy who sells his genes at an auction. And even though the book does lots of destabilization, I didn’t necessarily want him to be the carrier of that. I wanted it to be the structure and the language.
Going back to — you were talking about rules.
- Yeah. Those were basically the rules, and what we did was we created the character Fex first. We had one meeting, I think it was in New York. We sat down in a park one day, and said, Well, how can we do this book? We can’t really set up a plot, and neither of us were interested in that. So we picked something that should appear in each chapter, [the carnival dragon and foie gras], and then we decided we needed a character. And there was an old emeritus professor at Binghamton who looked like he was dead. I won’t tell you his name. But he sort of wandered around, and he was just like … he was Fex. No one ever talked to him, no one really knew what he was doing there … he had been retired for about twenty years already, and I guess he was a nice guy. But he just seemed sort of timeless and, you know, triumphant. And we began to think about writing a character who was older, because it’s just not done that often. I guess we were doing the Golden Girls novel.
So we decided that that was a rule. And what we did was, he came to my apartment in Ithaca, New York. I believe that we each brought out some stuff. Just put some books on the floor. He brought some stuff and I brought some stuff. And whenever we couldn’t think of anything, we would just grab. So that was another sort of unintentional rule, was that we’d just sort of take.
The collaboration, which I think I mentioned in the Note on Process, that we’re doing now, is I’m in Chicago and he’s in New York, and we sent each other a box of fifteen things. And each object had a map attached to it. It could be a map of the moon; it could be a map of your circulatory system. And we call each other on Sunday morning, 8:30 in the morning Central time, and we each randomly pick up an object and a pen. We hang up the phone and write one thousand words. Then we have voice translation software which we’ve deliberately untrained, and we read our text back into the software. All the words get distorted. Not all, but key words. We email that to the other person, and then we do basically the same thing that we’ve done here [in Abecedarium].
So, we’re interested in setting up rules which kind of have a restraint or constraint, but again, the rules are not draconian, and they can be violated. Sometimes that’s the fun, is to violate it.
What is this propensity towards making up things and being elusive (referring to a question and answer about Deleuze that has been cut from this version)?
- I guess that part of it is that it’s none of your fucking business. No, I’m just kidding. That’s being elusive. Part of it is that the writing is the message itself, and I think of people like Pynchon or J.D. Salinger, you know, they didn’t give interviews because it was the work. And I don’t believe in that, because clearly I like to perform, and I have a good time in this sort of persona. I get a lot of mileage out of that. But I don’t think that I really want to explain the writing.
When I was giving a talk at a colloquium at UIC a few years ago, I got into a long, drawn-out discussion with Walter Benn Michaels about this, because he really wanted to pin me down on the specifics as well, and I just refused to do that. His interest was in the machine, like if we’re coming up with this machine and using it, how important is it for the reader to know that — because some of his early work was about the intentionality of the author. And I just refused to say whether it was important or not important, because for me the meaning comes from the reader. And so you asked me that question about Derrida, and of course I’m sure Derrida’s in there. But rather than giving you the theoretical, boring, alienating-to-the-reader-who-doesn’t-know-Derrida answer that doesn’t add to your understanding … I guess you either sort of pick up on those things or you don’t, but you’ll get a different interpretation of it either way. I try to code these things with many different layers — not deliberately, like, “Oh, now I’m writing the academic layer, now I’m writing the … ” — you know, not in that way. But since my work is such an amalgamation of different things, of culture and my own academic training, I put that in there.
I never try to pretend that what I do isn’t from a really privileged position, in that I was trained, quote-unquote, to be a writer. I mean, a lot of it is kind of my rebelling against the traditional MFA workshop model. It’s kind of a weird system we have, where people get PhDs in creative writing and go on to get these jobs where they produce more of themselves; there’s a kind of replication at work. So I always try to make that mark on the book itself. Some of the intellectual content is in there jokingly, sometimes I misuse it deliberately. In Multifesto, I have all sorts of historical anachronisms about World War II that the careful reader would say, “Wow, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about at all.” This deliberate messing with that code.
Why do you resist the MFA workshop model?
- Well, I didn’t get an MFA; I got an MA. Did you meet Dmitri Anastasopoulos with the two-year-old who just walked by? He was my first creative writing teacher. He was a graduate student when I was an undergrad, at Penn State in the early 90s. It’s sort of weird that we’ve come full circle here. He was very important to me because I was like this 18-year-old kid, and he taught a class like I would teach a class, and brought in like Beckett’s Texts for Nothing, things I’d never heard about. He gave me a list of books that you might be interested in. I still have that list, folded up and marked on. I went through all these various texts. So that was good for me.
By the time I got to my advanced undergrad at Penn State and grad at Binghamton, I just found the workshops weren’t that useful, because you just do more of the same thing, and after a while it becomes about the primping and the preening. I began to feel like it wasn’t so much about the development of my work as it was about people attempting to be coxmen, jockey for position, have a kind of swagger. Or they were writing from such a different space than I was. I didn’t feel persecuted or anything, but I remember someone saying in an MA workshop: “Why can’t you just write it so it makes sense?” This was the stuff that became my book DIS that just came out from Blazevox. And I just felt like, you know, “fuck you.” I just wasn’t getting a lot out of it. Which is why I took it upon myself to take all of the theoretical courses at Binghamton, in the comp-lit department, which was the theory-heavy place. You could get a PhD and only talk about the short story in the abstract and do nothing, or — I really gave myself a comp-lit or English-lit PhD and just happened to do a creative dissertation informed by all these things.
For me, it was actually someone saying, “You’re going to take a class on Proust, and you’re going to read all of Proust,” or Beckett and Stein, that helped me produce things like this, much more so than workshops. I think you outgrow workshops at some point. There’s always the danger of falling under the unintentional domination of the workshop leader, in the same way that everyone wants to please the teacher. I think you can be shaped in a way that’s very detrimental. You know, for years, you could read any story from the Iowa Writers Workshop, and even if they were very good, you would know that it was an Iowa Writers Workshop story. That’s bad. That’s a bad situation to be in.
I try to make my workshops less about releasing the inner genius and more about doing crazy collaborative shit. I want to break down the process. It’s kind of an anti-workshop model.
Going back to what you said about Deleuze and Guattari and the multiple: “the only way to be multiple is to make the multiple happen in the process of making a book.” Here you’re referring to your previous novel, Multifesto, which I haven’t read (it is hard to find!). In regard to Abecedarium, a question could be posed as to whether the polyvocal multiple is violated by the form of the print/text/book as an aesthetic object. If the polyvocal impulse seems to want to violate the aesthetic object (and perhaps you will disagree with that assessment), why is this polyvocal project in book form? Why is Abecedarium not an event without the commodity?
- Megan, this is the event that we’re having right now. I wrote the book in order to get people to do interviews with me. No. I mean, this strikes me as another, I mean, I’m not quite sure that I can parse that question, but it strikes me as another one of those, “you wrote about a penguin, why didn’t you write about a monkey?” questions. I mean, you can always impose your own theoretical agenda onto other works.
But I do believe that the materiality of what we’re doing, the Oulipian constraint, that those are ways of producing a text. It’s Chiasmus’s idea to number the pages as letters and to do some of the titling, and what Cris [Mazza] said to me over email, or over the phone, when she saw the book, before I saw it, was, “You can’t really read your name. You must be upset about that.” And actually, that makes me really happy. I like the fact that you can’t necessarily really read the chapter titles, that you have to go back here [to the table of contents] to figure out what they are. I don’t know if you had that experience, but some of them are basically unreadable. I like the idea that everything’s just sort of falling away. Some of that really speaks to this question.
But it just wasn’t an event, it was a book we wrote together, we sat down and we did it, but it wasn’t meant to be anything other than a book.
Deleuze and Guattari would say that even a thing that appears to be the most kind of territorializing moment can be a line of flight, can go in a different direction. They critique the idea of the book as the tree of knowledge, but I don’t think that means that they think nothing should be a book. Their works are books, too.
You could also read this book in any order. You could pick up any chapter and read it. We wrote them in a different order, and we thought about the order we wanted them to be in. But even though the first chapter kind of introduces him and the last chapter has that kind of switch to first person, you could read any chapter in any order. And all the chapters I think but one were published on their own. Burroughs has said you can read Naked Lunch in any order. Deleuze and Guattari said you can read A Thousand Plateaus in any order. I don’t know if you can really read Naked Lunch in any order. I don’t know anyone who can even read A Thousand Plateaus, for the most part. It’s a difficult book to read. This book you can read in any order. It could exist in another way. Whereas Tom Clancy’s novels can only exist in one form. So you can imagine the possibilities here.
What is the object of writing a book as such? What do you hope to achieve by doing that?
- I don’t hope to achieve anything. The writing is what it is. I never have an agenda. I never have — and I’m being slightly elusive here. I never sit down and say, “My book is making this political statement.” These are not ideologically driven texts. But these are texts that are driven by my upbringing as a writer, and the things that I’ve read, and the places that I’ve trained, and the type of writing I respond to, and yes, it’s going to take an innovative or experimental form. But within that, there’s still a large spectrum of the different — you can see it here at &NOW, things that are doing one thing and things that are doing another. There’s no intention — this is where Walter [Benn Michaels] would disagree with me. There’s no intentionality here on my part. There simply is the thing that emerges in the production. I think of Gertrude Stein. Production is composition; composition is what determines what you write. It’s not a kind of planning stage beforehand. So we mean this to be a kind of object that rises. And when you read it and when you reread it, it turns into something else each time. There are themes; there are things that are connected. But you’re not supposed to come to a modernist epiphany in the final moments. Although we wrote the final moments to sound like they were giving you an epiphany. You’re supposed to have that little shiverish thing.
Was the switch to first person [in the last chapter] part of that?
- I don’t think that we even noticed that that had happened when we wrote it, but then when we looked back at the ten chapters, we were like, a different thing’s happening in this one. I rarely write in the first person. I always write in the present tense. Always. All my own work. I even write the past tense in the present. I’ll say, “This happened yesterday: I am driving down the street.” The future, I write in the present tense. I’m interested in that kind of moment of happening. But it did seem like a nice, interesting way to end the novel. Although it could have gone in several different spots and had the same general effect. First chapter, right: if you made that the first chapter, and transposed “Fex at the Carnival” and made that the last chapter, that would work as well. The order is fungible.
How would you define ‘avant-garde’, or ‘the contemporary avant-garde’? What characterizes it?
- This is a difficult question. And it’s a question that’s very much on the minds of people here [at &NOW]. It’s a question that you even could get different answers for, if you said to people, “Do you think FC2 is an innovative or experimental press?” Because a lot of people think that FC2 in its original form was doing really different stuff, really different stuff in 72 than it’s doing now. I’ll give you a perfect example: Vas and the famous story of how FC2 passed on it, and they really regretted it because it’s such an FC2-style book. I think they just missed. I know one reader who read it and said, “Yes, this is a book for us,” and the second reader said no. It’s done by committee so then it went to a third person who said no, and that kind of ended it.
What characterizes innovative and experimental work? It’s not just Things That Come Out From a Small Press, because there’s a lot of crap that comes out from a small press, too, and I’m sure you’ve seen some readings here today that have not engaged you. You’ve probably seen some good things, and you’ve probably seen some things that you think are just so-so. So it’s not just that you have to have a DIY aesthetic. Steve Tomasula would say that it has something to do with the conceptual aspect of it, that it’s conceptual art, that it’s aware of its own boundaries. And I would agree.
What I would add is that it’s always aware of its own market status. If it’s small press work, it’s not pretending that it could be from Random House. It’s doing something that speaks to the economics of its limited distribution. It’s aware of its materiality.
I tell my students you can spend years reading the great books of western literature, however you define them, in order to become a great writer, or you can take a pair of scissors and cut some phrases from Proust and stick em in your piece right now. Burroughs would say this as well. Need some background on the tropics in 1890s? Google it, get some language, and start mixing it around. That’s not cheating. That’s not a shortcut. That’s how your mind works. It materially borrows things. You hear a song, it stays with you. But we think the artist must somehow go through this long, dark night of the soul and struggle to take on all this information through their genius, then spit it back out in a new form. But the artist is simply a cipher, it’s simply someone who opens himself or herself up to the flow of information, to the Baudrillardian thing, who takes it and jiggles it around in the cement mixer and sees what comes out. So for me, work that does that is innovative.
But there’s mainstream work that does that as well. One book you could argue about is House of Leaves. Some people would say that’s a brilliant book. Federman said to me a few weeks ago that a student asked him at Lake Forest, “Do you like that book?” and he said that it was crap. It has no heart. So for him, there has to be kind of an emotional core. And his work has that.
Some of experimentation you could say is way too slippery or intellectual and kind of leaves you cold. There’s one writer here who I like personally a lot, and every time I hear him read, I get that same feeling, like I’m just hearing this randomness, like it’s just written by a technocrat. There’s nothing to it. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes. But the heart is fickle. The heart is a Romantic idea, so you don’t want to decide what type of heart — put in a cyborg heart. This is why Kathy Acker’s so great.
A certain cohort of independent presses like FC2 and Chiasmus seem to operate under well-defined ideologies of avant-gardism that adopt pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric. How do you see Abecedarium challenging contemporary dominant narratives? How political a project is this for you?
- As I’ve written many times, I am less than sanguine about the possibilities of avant-gardism/experimentalism/whatever to “do” anything. Joe Tabbi (at UIC) and I had a discussion in which he expressed a similar suspicion of the rhetoric of these presses. To what extent does the language of FC2 signify an actual challenge to hegemony? Well, of course, by its very existence, the books that FC2 publish articulate a challenge to Tom Clancy. But is Tom Clancy listening? Is he training for a cage fight with ___________?
The Means of Distribution remains the most important difference between the work of the best innovative presses (FC2, Chiasmus, etc.) and the production of the larger houses. There are very real issues at stake in what the former publish for the integrity of this challenge: what languages are deployed? And, I can imagine serious problems should these small presses start publishing the same work as mainstream houses. I support the small press community, and, its political stances. And yet. And yet. Abecedarium can only be political in so much as it exists, and, it can only exist in so much as it find warm home in the bowels of the avant-garde world. The question of politics remains interwoven with the means of production and distribution, which are tied, directly, to the identity of the author, or in this case, authors, or, in this case, Fex, who unties everything together." - Interview with Megan Milks
Davis Schneiderman and Phoenlia Yeer, eds., Multifesto: A Henri d'Mescan Reader (Spuyten Duyvil, 2006)

"Multifesto: A Henri d'Mescan Reader charts the career of the cultural theorist, philosopher, and writer Henri d'Mescan, whose public image is manipulated by the political and aesthetic agendas of his two editors, Davis Schneiderman and Phoenelia Yeer. Part I follows d'Mescan's activity in France during the years leading up to his 1954 trial by the French government as an international "image" criminal. Part II chronicles d'Mescan's emergence as American experimental fiction writer Henry Mescaline, and his involvement with editor David Schneiderman. Part III details d'Mescan's reclamation of his earlier incarnations as he coerces his editors (and readers) into questioning the authenticity of the entire text while the failed relationship between Schneiderman and Yeer - marked by both their editorial introductions as well as their love child, Dial-Up Networking - reaches a gruesome textual climax involving the Egyptian crocodile god, Sebek the Unholy. The novel is constructed from pastiches of footnotes, abstracts, marginalia, and movie scripts to subvert the form of the introductory college "Reader."
Loaded with extras, this limited edition of the infamous Henri d'Mescan's work will move forward despite a cease-and-desist letter from his former publisher.
Spuyten Duyvil remains committed to publishing this fantastic chronicle of cats from outer space, monocle-wearing resistance fighters, enormous talking tortoises, and over-sequenced genetic terrorists told through a polyphonic mélange of marginalia, abstracts, appendices, and much more. All presented while the failed relationship between Schneiderman and Yeer - marked by their editorial introductions as well as their strange love child named "Dial-Up Networking" - reaches a gruesome textual climax invoking the Egyptian crocodile god, Sebek the Unholy.

"Schneiderman’s work follows the renegade countertradition of linguistic experiment, taking up where William S. Burroughs and Kathy Acker, among others, left off. With Multifesto: A Henri d’Mescan Reader, a pastiche of apocryphal marginalia surrounding the life and work of fictional writer Henri d’Mescan, Schneiderman terrorizes the form of the introductory college reader while jamming two fingers in the eye sockets of author-ity. (P.S. He does this within pages united by a sandpaper cover that quietly burns off the covers of neighboring books: subterfuge.) With Abecedarium, a collaborative novel written under preset time constraints with Carlos Hernandez, Schneiderman and his co-author lose themselves to the third mind that develops between them, and also to the third minds that emerge from the interaction between their text and the texts it appropriates. In doing so, the authors destabilize plot, setting, time, the rigidity of language itself. Like Abecedarium, which follows its protagonist as he moves through various episodes in an unspecified near future, DIS, (or, the Shadow of the DOME of Pleasure) is a sci-fi picaresque, following an autoerotic fetishist as he explores a virtual-reality pleasuredome while avoiding a cult group whose arcane mythology centers around a World Worm originary god.
DIS’s Cultists reappear in Schneiderman’s most recent manuscript, ScatØlØgically Yours, alongside one of Multifesto’s secondary characters, here catapulted to protagonist status. Dial-Up Networking is either the best Acker creation who never lived onpage, or Acker herself reembodied into a tattooed paramilitary pleasuredome — as if there were a difference between the two. Either way, Dial-Up is a vicious sheela-na-gig, a woefully landlocked pirate stuck in the dried-out Lake Michigan of the novel’s setting and wreaking havoc however she can. That Dial-Up and the Cultists, among other characters and props, appear and reappear in Schneiderman’s ouevre suggests an intertextuality among and between them: Schneiderman collaborating with and referencing Schneiderman. This sort of self-referential intertextuality is unsurprising considering the ways in which his novels, particularly Abecedarium, work to escape authority by producing layers of multiplicity, in what could be argued is an enactment of the Deleuzian multiple.
Deleuze will crop up again, but first, the premise of the novel. In ScatØlØgically Yours, we are transported to the year 2039, when Lake Michigan is waterless, dry, scabbed over by relentlessly burning fires, and now called the Wildland-Urban Interface. Two groups struggle to gain possession of the Interface: the Quadrilateral Commission powers-that-be, who have been steadily building planned upper-middle-class communities since the lake’s Great Drainage in 2000, and who are stumping to win the Interface’s statehood; and the Cultists, aka Umma-Segnites, aka Manueverians, poverty-stricken negativists who have devoted their lives to the World Worm, aka Umma-Segnus. Naturally, Quadrilateral wants to annihilate the Cultists, or more preferably turncoat them into complacent citizens of any of various Quadrilateral communities. And naturally, the Cultists are resistant to such nefarious plans. Meanwhile, there’s rabid terrorist leader Dial-Up Networking, a rebel from the Quadrilateral life, and her band of guerrilla punk Blackout Angels, who are from the novel’s outset getting increasingly creative, and increasingly scatological, with their anti-Quadrilateral tactics.
If this is dizzying, try sucking on a Schneidermanian sentence: your tongue and/or eyeballs may get speared with the bubbling poison-darts of its words. As in his other novels, the world of ScatØlØgically Yours is an explicitly linguistic world — sure, it is populated by the traditional fictional elements: plot, character, setting, so on — but Schneiderman is emphatic about laying bare the linguistic nature of these elements; emphasizing, for instance, that language is not employed to describe setting, but is rather deployed to create setting. The following short passage, wherein the novel’s second protagonist, Qui, a Quadrilateral employee embarking on a trip to the corporation’s next planned community, provides an appropriately metalinguistic example:
Qui scans the language of the horizon. A tinkling curtain of smoking sentences and blazing paragraphs, punctuated by the glyphs of silence and introspective phrases, diagrammed with flaming underlines.
Here the author’s use of figurative language is not metaphor: the horizon is literally composed of language, as are (accordingly) all images, all characters, all the Cultist mythology, all of the narrative itself.
Elsewhere and throughout the novel, Schneiderman works to underline the physicality of language, doing so by attaching it inextricably to the body as well as by stressing the physical nature of reading. Both of the novel’s protagonists, Qui and Dial-Up Networking, communicate through their bodies, specifically through their bodies’ orifices. Qui is perpetually and relentlessly coughing, a kind of Deleuzian stuttering that introduces noise into the “order-words” that he, a drudge to Quadrilateral, must obey (Deleuze 22). As Deleuze explains in the Dialogues, using the example of a schoolteacher, a person in a position of power does not provide information through language so much as s/he “communicates ordersÉnecessarily conforming to dominant meanings.” But beneath that linguistic schema is what Deleuze says “could be either the shout, or silence, or stuttering, and which would be like language’s line of flight, speaking in one’s own language as a foreigner”. This kind of stuttering Deleuze sees as liberating, as a way to resist the power apparatus of language and its dominant meanings. In these terms, Qui can be seen as something like a Kafka character equipped with Artaud’s screaming body, an employee lost in the system but whose body, with its persistent coughing and occasional vomiting, manifests resistance by stuttering “as a foreigner” in his own language.
Foul-mouthed Dial-Up Networking, meanwhile, speaks through her cunt in the language of desire, desire so powerful it impels her to inhabit other bodies. Her character is similar to O of Acker’s Pussy, King of the Pirates, and surely indebted to terrorist-pirate Thivai of Acker’s Empire of the Senseless: she is a desiring machine, her mission to fuck and bomb. Where the project of Acker’s characters is exploratory, saddled with the task of finding or creating new worlds where they can exist fully in bodies that desire (where in this world they cannot), Schneiderman’s Dial-Up has given up the possibility of existing fully in her own body; rather, her new world is created through the act of becoming someone else, inhabiting another’s body. And so she “jumps” into others via fucking, not unlike the way in which a narrative inhabits its readers by jumping in through the eyeballs.
Eyeballs are important in ScatØlØgically Yours, especially as they relate to Dial-Up: she has lost use of one of hers, and it is ringed with tattoos like the rings of a tree trunk. In Dial-Up’s sections, Bataille’s Story of the Eye is referenced both explicitly and implicitly, with Dial-Up intentionally confusing her cunt’s eye with her good eye: “the open eyeball of my cunt”. Schneiderman’s novel is a Story of the Eye that is surely as grotesque and surreal as the original, updated to the future, where America has died to be resurrected as Post-America, and where sex is not wedded to death, as it is in Bataille, but is here wedded to inhabitation, identity-shift, possibility: a becoming, in the Deleuzian sense.
When Dial-Up jumps a body via fucking, she is becoming-other. Deleuze explains becomings as “nuptials,” the “opposite of a couple,” the antithesis of a binary machine. The wasp and orchid being the famous example: “There is a wasp-becoming of the orchid, an orchid-becoming of the wasp, a double capture since ’what’ each becomes changes no less than ’that which’ becomes”. Dial-Up, inhabiting another body, is neither Dial-Up nor her host, but a host-becoming of Dial-Up and a Dial-Up-becoming of the host: an assemblage, a “we”. In this novel, sex functions as the path to assemblage, a way of performing the multiple. The sexual encounter, then, gives birth to “a stammering” which enables “active and creative line[s] of flight” (Deleuze 9-10). Dial-Up’s sexual conquests are thus the enactments of possibility; the potential for a new world, a way out of the novel’s apocalyptic fire-lake and the detritus of Post-America’s late-capitalist power apparatus.
A similar story of the eye is played out for and with the reader, whose interaction with the text is of course mostly through eyes. ScatØlØgically Yours is Schneiderman at his most brutal, each sentence designed to tattoo the reader’s eyes with unthinkably grotesque images in a replication of the tattoos that ring Dial-Up’s bad eye. The author makes explicit the physicality of reading: when Dial-Up gets locked in a library, her first-person changes to second, now directed outward at the reader, and she realizes, pulling a book from her face, that, when reading, “the body is never really severedÉrather, the audience’s eye is sliced” . Moments later, she sees words swimming in her mirrored good eye. She “[has] become a book” and is now “nowhere to be found”. She, the reader, you, me, are now not ourselves, but an assemblage, neither reader nor book but both, together, an encounter, a double capture, a we.
Don’t forget to blink." - Megan Milks

Davis Schneiderman, Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization (Pluto Press, 2004)

"This collection of essays by leading scholars offers an interdisciplinary consideration of Burroughs's art. It links his lived experience to his many major prose works written from the 1950s on, as well his sound, cinema and media projects. Moving beyond the merely literary, the contributors argue for the continuing social and political relevance of Burroughs's work for the emerging global order.
Themes include: Burroughs and contemporary theory; debates on 'reality'; violence; magic and mysticism; cybernetic cultures; language and technology; control and transformation; transgression and addiction; the limits of prose; image politics and the avant-garde."

"Schneiderman and Walsh's new collection should mark the beginning of a new and wider view of the contemporary implications of Burroughs's thought. This collection is retaking the universe of Burroughsian interpretation-starting now." - James Grauerholz

"'Retaking the Universe' .is the first serious and well-conceived study of [Burroughs's] global influence." - Victor Bockris

"More than any other writer of the last fifty years, William Burroughs cracked the code of the hyperreal, ultra-commodified society of control, and charted out possible lines of escape. These essays testify to the continuing relevance of Burroughs's words and projects in the twenty-first century." - Steven Shaviro
Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren, Davis Schneiderman, and Tom Denlinger, eds., The Exquisite Corpse: Creativity, Collaboration, and the World's Most Popular Parlor Game (U. of Nebraska Press, 2009).

"The Exquisite Corpse builds upon significant cultural and methodological innovations that have occurred since the first days of Surrealism, bringing together a diverse group of writers from across disciplinary boundaries. As such, this anthology will incorporate contributions from literary and performance scholars, visual artists, creative writers, theoreticians, and pedagogues-including Michael Joyce, Oliver Harris, Craig Saper, and DJ Spooky, that Subliminal Kid. The multidisciplinary aims of the anthology have resulted in a series of works that enable us to understand more fully the contemporary potency of the Exquisite Corpse as both figure and method."


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