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Slave? Salve? A sorta kinda review of Richard Hell’s Chapter 28.

June 14, 2011 \pm\30 12:38 pm

Chapter 28, an excerpt from I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, the forthcoming autobiography by Richard Hell.  A Rain Taxi Brainstorm limited edition chapbook.



I thought that by writing this book I might be able to get an idea of what my life is like, seen from outside of myself.


I don’t know if Richard Hell succeeded with that, but this book sure did a number on me. After reading it several times, and meaning to write about it for months, every time I sat down and tried, I ended up staring at the blank .doc, basically having a writerly existential crisis. Still not sure why. I loved this book. I read lines and passages over and over again just because I liked the way they sounded in my head even though the visceral response I had when I read them was like a punch to the solar plexus.


…confessions of a person who thinks he can redeem himself for his egotism and pettiness and immorality and numerous other shortcomings by his goofy, tortured acknowledgement of them, and by turning himself into art. Maybe I should add, his unoriginality.”


Do you know how many hours I spent contemplating how I fit into that? Is that what I’m trying to do with my life? I’ve absorbed all the “just children looking for approval” comments like a toxic sunscreen I’ve used to block myself. So. Yeah. Wow.


The cover drawing, by Richard Hell and Christopher Wool, is an overlapping word pair: Salve/Slave or Slave/Salve, take your pick. At first it looks like a printing error. But it’s not. I actually did some looking and found this about Hell & Wool’s word pairs. At first I wondered why this particular word pair was chosen for the cover, but then I got to the BDSM part. Choice explained. At least to my mind.


The book is billed as “riveting, no-hold-barred, sexually explicit…conceptually complex meditation on the music-era sex life of one of punk’s originators and leading provocateurs.” This kind of makes it sound like it should be found on one of the front tables of a big box book store (and maybe the autobiography in its entirety will be), but this book is so much more than just a tell-all.


Not that there isn’t any of that, but a good portion of the book is taken up by “Dear Reader.” Hell considers this “a kind of prose poem” that imagines sex with your exact double, “or–heterosexually speaking–one’s pretty iteration of opposite gender”) and which I found to be a wonderful bit of erotica written from both points of view, intermingled. Think about it. I did. A lot. Someone who is your equal and opposite “match.” Someone who knows what you like because they ARE you. They do your bidding because that’s what they want. A slave in a way.


And maybe that’s why it’s been so hard to write this, because I didn’t want to write about the fact that I was so taken in by this concept. Because this was something I’ve always yearned for. Somebody who could understand me and be how I like to be. Nope. Can’t admit to that. Besides, it’s not possible. Right? Damn!


So, back to Chapter 28. I wondered, is it really the 28th chapter of the book? If so, why does it start out like the beginning of a book? I guess I’ll just have to wait till the full autobiography comes out to figure that out. I look forward to it.


The end is a discussion of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, which I’ve never read, but have now added to my list of gotta read books, when I have the time. I’ve never read any Proust. What can I say? I was a geology major.


Yeah. I liked this little book. In an odd way that I’m still pondering.

  1. June 14, 2011 \pm\30 6:34 pm 6:34 pm

    cool review robin, to the point, i like it. the idea of the equal and opposite slave or whatever alone makes me want to read this. everyone just wants to be understood x

    also the name ‘richard hell’ is pretty dope

    • Robin Elizabeth Sampson permalink
      June 15, 2011 \pm\30 2:23 pm 2:23 pm

      Thanks Ani. Think you would like it.

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