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Kate Zambreno on Kate Zambreno.

June 14, 2010 \pm\30 3:10 pm

Kate Zambreno, Author of O Fallen Angel, Reviews O Fallen Angel by Kate Zambreno.

I live in Akron, Ohio. When I first moved to Akron, Ohio, I went to the Radio Shack, which was in a strip mall, sandwiched in between a fabric store and a military recruiting place. I went to the Radio Shack because I wanted to buy a conversion box to watch TV, I had been stealing cable in Chicago, where I got the cable channels TBS and MSNBC, and I would watch Sex in the City reruns where the fucking was cut out and Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, but then when I got sick of Keith Olbermann, I just watched Rachel Maddow, until I got sick of her. I bought a conversion box and I took it home but I only got like three channels, and one of them was not FOX, and I wanted to watch Glee, so I took the fucker back and returned it. Glee is set in Ohio. Everyone is miserable there because it is Ohio. Once on Glee they mentioned the EJ Thomas Hall in Akron, Ohio, where Patti Lupone has performed and will perform again. The other time I went to Radio Shack was to buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, because everyone and everything  is too fucking loud in Akron, even though it is the suburbs, they say it is a city, but it is the suburbs with a lot of industrial waste.  Screaming children and screaming squirrels and a huge dog that lives on the other side of the wall with a boyfriend/girlfriend couple who seem quite normal and the woman gets Martha Stewart, Living and Cosmo and once when her Martha Stewart, Living, arrived, she proclaimed loudly, Martha is here! And so I hate her.

The third time I am in this Radio Shack, I am with my partner John. We’re returning the converter, when he sees a woman and she is holding between her filthy fingers a little wedge of hotdog and she is touching all of the equipment with her greasy fingers. And John told me that he wanted to punch that woman in the face and then vomit all over her. Akron turns one into an antihumanist because usually John is quite mild-tempered. And I never loved John more than I did right then.

John has just reread the above and he says I got the order wrong. He says he wanted to vomit all over the woman and then punch her in the face. He says this is a crucial difference. Because if you wanted to punch the woman and then vomit on her that is just violent indifference, he says. But if you vomit on someone and then actually want to punch them, punch your own bile pressed up against their flesh, you are actually touching your own puke, something that has stirred up from deep within you, your bile and your bitterness and your breakfast, you are punching your vomit that has just been splashed across the face of a vile and ugly yet essentially “innocent” bystander. So really this gesture of violence is about intense crippling self-loathing, and then maybe love, because love is about touching, even if it’s icky or wrong, and so maybe once the vomit spray hits her stupid sweaty hand and hotdog it arches from hate and crosses over into something like love.

My novel O Fallen Angel is that woman holding the little hot dog in her hands who you want to vomit all over and punch. Or, my novel O Fallen Angel is the vomiting all over and punching the woman holding the little hot dog in her hands, the woman who is society and Midwestern suburbia. My novel O Fallen Angel is both of these things. It is the vomiting and the punching. My characters don’t touch each other, but they want to connect and they’re all suffocating in their cells. It is a stupid, terrible book, about the stupid and the terrible. It is as banal and greasy as that little wedge of hot dog the woman plops onto a TV screen and  the hands she wipes onto her sweatpants. It is as stupid as the woman holding the hot dog. There is a character in O Fallen Angel who wears Juicy Couture pink sweatpants and is stupid and normal like a hybrid of my neighbor with her Martha and the Radio Shack woman, and I call this character Mommy. Except Mommy isn’t like the Radio Shack woman because she prides herself on being bourgeois, but she is like her because she is ugly and hateful. This book is like a 5-minute hate which is in Orwell’s 1984 which in high school was my favorite book and my favorite character was Julia because she was an anarchist whore, and I loved how Winston Smith wrote in his diary because I wrote in my dear, dear diary and in O Fallen Angel there is a character named Maggie who is Mommy’s daughter and she writes in her dear dear diary all these childish little fragments and she thinks she’s so deep and singular but she isn’t really, which is kind of like the book, which thinks it’s deep and singular but isn’t really. The book will take you about one hour to read, so it is like one hour of hate. But you will also wind up not only hating all of these characters, but hating the book, and hating the author. The consolation is that it is an easy read because I don’t use big words, and sometimes it’s funny, as in cruel, so if you like that kind of comedy, because you’re a terrible human being, then you might find some degree of pleasure, maybe. My author photo is on the back of the book and it looks like I have red lipstick on but I don’t and I am looking very severe and serious and you might want to punch me in the face and vomit on me. Or vomit on me and then punch me in the face. That is the sensation of this book. The punching and the vomiting. The vomiting and the punching. The grotesque intimacy of this.

Also just the other day in Akron, Ohio I was driving by a gas station and I saw a woman walking down the street and she had duct tape taped across her mouth but she was also holding a plastic cup with a straw, like a Big Gulp, which probably had Coca-Cola or Mountain Dew in it. It was a very strange image. There is no way she would have been able to drink through the straw, I don’t think. John suggested she may have been a kidnapping victim on lunch break. And this also reminded me of the book O Fallen Angel both what I wanted to write to in it and what the sensation of reading it is like. There is a third character in O Fallen Angel —although there are really no characters and no plots and nothing happens except stupid words on a stupid page—and his name is Malachi, and you know he’s more serious, and you’re supposed to take him more seriously, because I write his sections  in a more ponderous tone, and it kind of looks like poetry, except really untrained, and Malachi is the fallen angel, who has the duct tape across his face, he wants to scream but he is mute, and he is the crazy street preacher who will puncture a hole into the real for Mommy, in a straight-up rip-off of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which if you think was an ecstatic text, you will be disappointed by O Fallen Angel, you should just reread Mrs. Dalloway, which is a million times better than O Fallen Angel, and if you thought Mrs. Dalloway was a really boring text, you might like O Fallen Angel, which offers like a hipster Cliff Notes version of Mrs. Dalloway, but if you think Mrs. Dalloway is really boring you should really try it again! the way Woolf tunnels into the heads of each of her characters I tunnel into each of my characters but I give them lobotomies.  Also I was inspired by Francis Bacon and the Greeks. The Greeks because I was ripping off Bacon who was super into Aeschylus’The Oresteia. Every book I write will be an attempt to write The Oresteia and failing. Every book I will write will be trying to write to Bacon’s crawling, craven figures and failing.

On the cover of O Fallen Angel there is a quote by the performance artist Karen Finley that reads “Kathy Acker would be proud.” This is a blurb. Blurbs are for marketing, and are all about ego. So really all this blurb is saying is “I think I’m like Karen Finley” or “I really like that Karen Finley said I’m like Kathy Acker.” I asked Karen Finley to blurb my book and she typed me something out on a Blackberry, very quickly, I don’t know if she read all of it, but she sent me two lines and I just used the second, and it gratified my ego, but really, Maggie is like the most watered-down Janey Smith ever. But I love Karen Finley, and wanted in the book to write monologues like Karen Finley, destructive quaking ids like a daughter of Artaud. The back of the book reads: “Kate Zambreno’s O Fallen Angel commits an act of anarchic literary sacrilege that calls to mind the rant and rage of an American Elfriede Jelinek, an exorcism of the culture wars and pop-cultural debris, a sneering indictment of deaf ears, blind eyes, and mute mouths.” So a few points on this. As Johannes Gorannson of Action Books pointed out to me at AWP, the last phrase is like really able-ist, it’s like really bigoted against blind people and deaf people and people who can’t speak. I didn’t tell him that I actually wrote the copy myself, because this was published by Chiasmus Press, which is a small press, and I had to secure the blurbs and come up with the jacket copy. And also it’s really pretentious what I wrote, me comparing myself to Elfriede Jelinek, who is my favorite writer, and I was kind of having a laugh when I wrote it, because I figured, if I have to write the copy can’t I compare myself to whomever I want? and O Fallen Angel is a pretty direct rip-off of the cutting way in which Jelinek reappropriates clichés in order to savage Austrian society, and her characters who are grotesques that she plays with like puppets. So not only is Maggie a watered down Janey Smith she is a watered down Anna from Wonderful, Wonderful Times, and she has with her mother a loving yet terribly abusive bond like the mother and daughter in Piano Teacher, except my Maggie and Mommy don’t touch, not like in Piano Teacher, where Erika pulls out her mother’s hair and then puts it back on her scalp, sniffling, kissing the bare wounded spot.  Oh I love love Jelinek. Jelinek who hates where she lives and the Alpine resorts like I hate Akron with its nature trail and  hills and valleys that make it impossible to get decent reception. Jelinek who doesn’t leave the house. Jelinek with the beautiful red hair, and stern red lipstick, real red lipstick, and designer clothes and designer chair where she poses disdainfully. So in conclusion I would say instead of reading O Fallen Angel I would read Jelinek’s Wonderful, Wonderful Times instead, or Piano Teacher, although it helps if you haven’t seen the Haneke film in a while, or even Women in Love or Greed which are not my favorite of her books but are still eons better than O Fallen Angel. Or read some Thomas Bernhard. Or go and reread Woolf. Or Acker, especially Blood and Guts in High School.

  1. June 15, 2010 \am\30 11:34 am 11:34 am

    This makes me want to read O Fallen Angel more than it makes me want to reread Woolf. So, success, I guess.

  2. June 23, 2010 \pm\30 12:07 pm 12:07 pm

    This is great! I hate the author already! And I can’t wait to read the book! And watch some cable TV afterward.

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