My first encounter with Ann Hirsch’s performance work was through a YouTube link a stranger had posted on my friend’s Facebook wall. A brunette girl in a zebra-print bodysuit turns the camera on herself and tells viewers that she will be exploring ‘the dark side” in her bathroom. (fig. 1) She begins dancing to witch house music, pressing and wiggling her body against the nude-colored bathroom walls. Was she seriously looking for attention or dancing earnestly for an imagined network audience? This looked nothing like gallery-oriented performance art. Calling herself Caroline Benton, a few clicks through her YouTube channel leads me to a gaudy personal website called Scandalishious.com. I browsed through bad student art, a homemade rap video about her butt, and a telling Sex in the City movie review. This text revolves around the discussion of Hirsch’s work as an ongoing performative practice–one that is both real and fictive, one that is informed by the autobiographical and also the theatricality of televised performance.
Congratulations on your commitment to “ethical” “organic” eating. Treat your body right and your body will treat you right. We’ll just pretend all the food at Whole Foods is organic which it mostly is if you don’t think too hard about the salad bar, hot food bar, and deli. Of course, you kind of negate your commitment when you pull up to the store in your huge SUV but I’m not here to judge so we won’t talk about that either.
I hate to break it to you but you are, in fact, simply shopping at a grocery store, not hanging out at a night club or country club. To be fair, I understand your confusion. There is a wine bar in the store for those desperate moments when you absolutely need a sip of Merlot before you can continue with the most quotidian of activities—buying food for your household.
Here’s a little known fact. When you cross the threshold of Whole Foods, you are not endowed with magical properties. You can stop shoving your nose so high in the air. What you’re actually doing is shopping at a store that tries to make you feel better about spending an exorbitant amount of money on food that only the privileged can enjoy with any regularity. There’s no shame in this but not everyone gets to shop at Whole Foods. Maybe acknowledge that once in a while.
Is it absolutely necessary to put on a full face of make up, fancy outfit, high heels, and get your hair did just to move through the store at a glacial pace because it is so crammed with other similarly dressed customers? Who are you trying to impress? I’m dying to know.
Yes, fat people shop at Whole Foods. Staring is rude.
You aren’t impressing anyone when you harangue the staff about the provenance of the fresh buffalo mozzarella or the cranberry cous cous. Your intestines do not give one single fuck.
Don’t you think it’s a little funny that you spend up to fifteen minutes hovering over an olive bar? Does the ridiculousness of this ever cross your mind? Is your life going to be improved by a chutney stuffed organic Greek olive, that costs $2 an olive? Just once, I’d like to see you giggle as you purchase your olives. Have a sense of humor about your privilege.
Why are you only buying one, lonely carrot? Why are you even bothering? Carrots belong in bunches.
It is not necessary to talk so loudly about what you’re planning on doing with the food you’re buying. You’re not impressing anyone. It’s just food.
Shopping at Whole Foods will not get you into heaven. I’m sorry.
You are always sending me quotes from books that I haven’t read and probably will never read.
We talk about these quotes like conversation because we don’t have anything else to say to each other.
Instead of talking about current events, pop culture, or emailing YouTube video links back and forth, we talk about the past. The unchanging events of fictional characters with lives that are more interesting than ours. Filtering our current stimuli through the lens of some dead white guy.
You like to point out quotes that seem to abstractly apply to our current situation.
I’m currently shitting. If you were still around you would probably have a quote for that.
Through you I’ve read Phillip Roth:
[“This made me laugh,” you said.]
“Just as I am about to unlock the door, imagining I have covered my tracks. My heart lurches at the sight of what is hanging like snot to the toe of my shoe. I am the Roskolnikov of jerking off- the sticky evidence is everywhere!”
[“It has a section titled ‘Cunt Crazy’. The son has a literal Oedipal fixation on his mother. It is written in stream-of-consciousness self-loathing Jewish-American continuous prose. What is with male writers and their cocks? I’ve never felt the urge to write about jacking off. But it is a perennial fixation for Updike and apparently Phillip Roth.”
I said something like, “I think writing is not dissimilar to masturbation.”]
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K. Martin:
“North Korea called Carter a ‘vicious political mountebank;” his journey, ‘a powder-reeking trip of a hypocrite agitating for aggression and war.’ But a North Korean spokesman in Tokyo said that, in the North Korean lexicon, this was a relatively moderate slur. At least the North had not called Carter an imperialist, its worst insult. “Not an imperialist! Anything but that!”
[For three days we joked in mock horror about the thought of being called an imperialist. You brought up the joke recently and I groaned in return.]
The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides:
“He held up the baggie. Leonard stuck his nose into the bag and his depression lifted another notch. It smelled like the Amazonian rain forest, like putting your head between the legs of a native girl that had never heard of Christianity.”
[You called it a ‘paltry piece of fiction’ but you said you wanted to put your head between my legs and I said ‘okay’ even though I had no intention of letting you do that. I remembered the first time you went down on me in the hotel room that you lived in at the time. It was the first time anyone had ever gone down on me. It was the first time someone had done something specifically for me for more than an hour. You kept looking up at me periodically with this apologetic look on your face. I kept looking at your bed sheets, trying to figure out the thread count with a concerned enough look on my face that could have hopefully been misconstrued as a look of pleasure. You had an asthma attack during and after.]
Once, you texted me and said, “I must fuck you.”
I didn’t reply but I took a screen shot of the text. I texted you the screenshot a few days later without context.
It is the only quote I have sent you. I think I sent it in a way that meant, ‘look at all the ridiculous things you say to me.’ But you took it as meaning I wanted to sext.
That was the conversation that you told me I would be good at writing erotica and then made sure to add that you’re too much of a book snob to read erotica. Though, while I was sending you detailed descriptions of how I masturbated (face down, sometimes with lesbian porn) you didn’t seem to mind erotic realism.
Tonight you will text me with something like,
“Intense solitude becomes unbearable only when there’s nothing one wishes to say to another.”
You’ll text me again before I answer and tell me that the quote is from ‘Americana’ by Don DeLillo.
I will look at my Iphone light up then check my Gmail.
While I’m going through my spam inbox, trying to figure out how to get off all of these subscription lists (Macy’s, PETA, Sierra Club, ModCloth, Urban Outfitters) that I thought were a good idea to sign up for at some point, you’ll text me a third time and say something like,
“I just finished a margarita. I am dining at alone at Plaza Azteca”
You have perfectly crafted a scenario within the span of three text messages of a lonely drunk writer, drinking comically tropical drinks in a Mexican restaurant, while contemplating the prose of the ‘American heartland’. In the back of your mind, behind your wire framed glasses, matted, self-conscious beard, and nervously thin lips, you think that this is a romantic vision of a struggling writer that drinks margaritas until drunk or out of cash and eats vegetarian tacos because they are cheaper.
Bukowski in paradise.
You quoted Bukowski too many times to count. It was mostly in reference to how you were so much like him. Or how you thought that drinking at 3 am on a Tuesday while writing self-loathing poetry made you so much like him. I usually waited until about the fifth text in a row to text you back when you got started on your Bukowski rants. I knew that the important part wasn’t that I had anything to say back. The important part was to make you feel like someone else thought you were like Bukowski. I didn’t think that but I also didn’t feel strongly enough against it to start any sort of debate.
I always wanted to tell you that I hate Bukowski.
I hate Bukowski. Maybe you are kind of like him.
In response to the first text in the trilogy I text back,
“I like that quote”
Even though I don’t really like that quote.
I like to sit alone and not talk about how I’m sitting alone. I like to drink to get drunk then go to sleep in my own bed. I don’t mind not having anything to say.
Immediately you respond,
“I knew you would.”
“I want you. Come to me.”
I do not want to drink margaritas with you. I do not want to talk in quotes. I do want to be the kind of person that brings novels to Mexican restaurants.
I do not want to be with the kind of person that thinks bringing a novel to a Mexican restaurant makes them an interesting person.
Some nights I just want to watch Mean Girls and talk about the weather. Some nights I really don’t care what is and isn’t post-modern. Some nights I wish that we were post-conversation.
I wish that we didn’t have to turn everything into a metaphor for itself.
You once told me I was your ‘manic pixie dream girl’ like you had never even spoken to me before. Like I was a caricature of myself or a trope to be employed in one of your short stories. You can never talk to me like I am in the present tense.
If I met you at Plaza Azteca I would order a beer, or I would get you to order a beer for me, and you would start talking about how beer makes your stomach queasy the way I make your stomach queasy. The way you are writing a novella about a girl that makes your stomach queasy. You will use that word ‘queasy’ and I will hate it but I will nod like I am interested in becoming a character. I would spend the evening trying to figure out ways to hide my water cup from the waiter who was determined not to see it empty. I would want to see the cup completely empty. No water, no ice. I would sip my beer and hide my water and you would talk to me about something you read or wanted to read. Something about Gore Vidal or Salman Rushdie. You wouldn’t notice what I was doing with my water. I would think silently about how many water related quotes you had; quotes about being empty.
My review of Gabby Gabby’s Pretty Flowers is now up on The Lit Pub.
This cohabitation of opening up and closing off, the double motion of an identity that projects itself outward but also negates that projection in acknowledging the separation that exists between its potential and its fulfillment: that is what sustains the concept of ‘Gabby’ in the text.
Still a few titles remaining, plus a few new ones: If you’re interested in a title, email me at roxane at roxanegay dot com with the name of the book you want and your address.
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro The Last Testament by David Javerbaum Memoir of Sunday Brunch by Julia Pandl Gone by Alex Witchel The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate Zipper Mouth by Laurie Weeks My Dead Pets are Interesting by Lenore Zion Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson
it’s a cliche to want what you can’t have which is why that’s annoying. also annoying that i find apathy so attractive. the most important thing about you is skin, then disposition
i like walking around south london by myself and feeling awkward on the tube. i have no idea why but it makes me feel good. i’m afraid if anyone even slightly dislikes me, but at the same time i don’t feel eager to please. afraid of feeling alone not being alone. afraid i will spent my life looking for a certain kind of love and never finding it. where are you
seems like i have achieved a new level of apathy, feel v pleased with this, paradoxically. the other day my boss said i had a ‘quiet assuredness’. i mean sure i guess so
don’t feel attractive when my hair is tied up at all. dislike how dry my hands get. never grow my fingernails long. always wear a watch
keep wondering if the guy at waitrose was flirting or just being nice to me because i was a customer. i don’t know how to respond to flirting. think i responded by turning red and then dropping my coins all over the floor. in some ways i think i am the same as i will ever be. god does that even make sense i am so tired. it is late at night i’m sitting in bed feeling sad downloading sexy rnb music
find myself thinking at least 3 times a day how weird the band name ‘dashboard confessional’ is, like what does that even mean. so stressful
one afternoon susie and i sat in a park drinking cider and talking about where we wanted to go in the world, what we wanted to do. we watched all the squirrels running around in the park. we felt free, unattached. i love susie. in a way that is just so familial and intimate. i like to be able to have friendships that are more like that. i like inside jokes a lot. think i am secretly funny. not sure. maybe not
constantly have drake lyrics stuck in my head, currently: ‘how did a pile of kush become the mountain of truth/how did a bottle of wine become the fountain of youth’. somehow i always read something meaningful into really stupid rap lyrics
hang on a second just want to check my facebook. okay great that was fantastic and useful and life-affirming jk
just heard that it was raining outside. made my tummy do something funny
i don’t know what this is, as i am writing i feel as though it will not take form, like i am typing these words into air
i am typing these words into the air and my macbook materializes underneath my fingers