Ping, what’s this. Debbie is sending images to my iphone by mistake (the cat in Cambridge, Debbie as a 14-year-old Goth, a queer lit mag). She sends the last image deliberately, a cartoon of Action Lesbian nosediving from the sky. Action Lesbian is a special edition of Action Man, launched by the real-life toy company Palitoy IN MY DREAMS. Soft vinyl painted head-first, Action Lesbian is hurtling towards a lake. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Chinese created considerably less splash in the diving pool than the British. This resulted in higher marks and Olympic medals for the Chinese. As Action Lesbian approaches the lake, I wonder whether the splash she’s about to create is at the forefront of her mind. THE LAKE IS ALIVE WITH CROCODILES. A Google image search of the cartoon produces zero results. I wonder where Debbie got it from, where she found it. Debbie is a miracle unearther of archival imagery, a visuals wizard, and a DIY filmmaker. I reply by quizzing her about her relation to crocodiles. Aren’t crocodiles your spirit guides, Debbie? They are, Debbie confirms. Debbie is not a fan of crocodiles. But she’s dealing with it (the fact that her least favourite animals are her spirit guides). Debbie now emails me an essay she wrote, Dream of a Crocodile. Dream of a Crocodile evolves from a dream in which a crocodile makes itself known as Debbie’s spirit guide into a reflection on crocodiles from various disciplinary angles. If Debbie were to submit Dream of a Crocodile to the Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize, she would make the shortlist I don’t see why not. Gaudy Bauble isn’t eligible for the Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize. Gaudy Bauble is a hybrid fiction or a prose poem, depending on what indie press or writing contest I’m submitting it to. One of Gaudy Bauble‘s protagonists is wearing a T-shirt with a crocodile print, that’s the closest I ever got to a croc. Unless Culture Club’s Karma CHAMELEON counts? OF COURSE IT COUNTS! One Karma Chameleon counts for several crocodiles. [read more]
In ’84 I manufactured jewellery incorporating Fray Bentos tins at the heart. This was New Romantic designer fashion, at its heart was not normally processed meat. Wearing top-to-toe House of Sui Juris or Bodymap outfits, my amateur models would carry their respective Fray Bentos jewels close to their hearts. Fray Bentos necklaces were energising cardiac regions en masse in ’84, and arguably the radical Zeitgeist that distinguished the period. I made a limited edition series of Fray Bentos brooches, too. This was the height of New Romanticism, at the heart of its industry was not normally processed meat. Margaret Thatcher’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme was at the heart of its industry, and a generation’s resourcefulness and resilience.
It’s true that faggots were at the heart of New Romanticism. Girl faggots, boy faggots, fags of all genders. Faggots are a processed meat and traditionally made from pig’s heart, entrails, offal. Processing tenderises the heart, apparently. The heart is not deceitful but tough above all things. My Fray Bentos jewels contained in one body both denotations of the homonym faggot, at one remove. Via processed meat, Fray Bentos signified faggot signified homo. That’s what the 1980s and ’90s were like, brimming with subversive subtexts. All of us were all the time scanning the world for subversive subtexts. Ours was a queer semiotics, dragged down to the level of DIY jewellery. But the heart is not tough but tender above all things. Offal is literally “off fall”, what falls off a butchered carcass. Owing to my personal tenderheart, I have yet fully to process Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden (1978), the West German drama film. One of the key scenes takes place in an abattoir. The scene features carcasses, entrails, offal, and the rest. I watched the VHS alone in a red-wine-soaked kitchen in Primrose Hill in 2004. [read more]
To write through a character called Fantômas would be laughable. Coming from a 42-year-old novelist, and a lesbian at that. Infantile, also ill-advised. The self-infantilisation of the butch lesbian is proverbial as it is. (Picture a bale of butches watching a rerun of Back to the Future (1985), the science-fiction adventure comedy film.) I might boycott boy fictions like Fantômas. Already I have the appearance of a boy cusping the age of consent (from afar). I pass as a boy or a young man in Sutton. Only yesterday I accessorised my rolled up carrot leg type of trousers with orange socks. I came in for suburban abuse (verbal, poof). Despite a recent resurgence or renaissance of all things butch, I am transgendered. I descend from a pretty genealogy. Between 1911 and 1913, 32 Fantômas classic volumes were published in France. I have not read them. Not one. They are available on Project Gutenberg and, elsewhere on the net, as audio files. Amazon UK lists 24 available copies of The Daughter of Fantômas/La Fille de Fantômas (1911) alone. Condition: Used – very good. Allain & Souvestre, the original authors, wrote: “‘Fantômas.’ ‘What did you say?’ ‘I said: Fantômas.’ ‘And what does that mean?'” (1911, p. 1) I don’t know. I don’t know what that means. Of 32 classic volumes I have yet to read one.
Reading or not reading Fantômas is not a question of age, nor gender. If reading Fantômas were a question of gender (which it is not), I would be your man. I have previously owned and listened to the self-titled debut LP of the experimental metal supergroup, Fantômas. Fantômas are vocalist Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle), drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer), guitarist Buzz Osborne (Melvins) and bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk). Fantômas are American and testosterone-fuelled. I had the T-shirt. Having listened to Fantômas’s LP in the past, repeatedly, I no longer invest in it. At 42, I have learnt not to invest in misogynist forms of masculinity as reproduced in the avant-metal genre and the avant-metal subculture. Quentin Crisp, Patricia ‘Bunny’ O’Rooley, Peggy Shaw, Moj of the Antarctic, Campbell X, The Divine David, Bird la Bird and Lisa Blackman, as gender nonconforming role models, outperform Fantômas’s band members hands down. In many respects, Sutton outperforms America hands down. Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) grew up in Sutton, for example. I wrote my novel Gaudy Bauble in Sutton (as well as in Cambridge, Clerkenwell and Crystal Palace). Like most Londoners, I am no longer in a position to live in London. I live in Sutton now. [read more]
Isabel Waidner’s novel Gaudy Bauble (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2017) is out now. Camp Crystal (2017) is published at Queen Mob’s, New Romantic & Tender Hearts (2016) is published at Berfrois, Fantômas Takes Sutton (2016) is published at 3:AM Magazine, and Avant-Ice (2016) is published at Minor Literature[s]. As part of the band Klang, Waidner released records on Rough Trade (2003) and Blast First (2004). She co-edits The Arrow Maker (a lit/art journal), and she is the organiser of an event series on Queer & Trans Writing at Goldsmiths Centre for Feminist Research. She is a lecturer in the English and Creative Writing Department at Roehampton University, London.