Andy Kaufman and the Physics of Human Response

by
Daulton Dickey.

1.

andykaufmanoncreatingrealityNear the end of his life, Andy Kaufman planned a college tour—but not as a performer. Instead, he envisioned a series of lectures entitled On Creating Reality: the Physics of Human Response. Although he died before delivering a single lecture, his agent had printed promotional material in the form of postcards. The material teased the lecture would discuss Andy’s career in relation to “the dynamics of human behavior.”

No known notes exist for this lecture and its contents remain as enigmatic as the man himself. His career in shambles, Kaufman had hoped to legitimize himself by touring the lecture circuit. Of all the titles and all the approaches to a tour, On Creating Reality seems most apt for a man who built a career on challenging peoples’ perceptions of reality.

To watch an Andy Kaufman performance is to experience the panoply of human emotions and experiences within the span of only a few minutes. Kaufman didn’t aspire to entertain—although he occasionally called himself an entertainer; instead, he manipulated and challenged reality itself. At his peak, those aware of him expressed strong opinions. Many people despised him, which he probably found more exciting than praise. But few people understood him—and it’s easy to assume he liked it that way.

Andy was playing a game, after all, and people took it seriously. Like most games we play in our day-to-day lives, his game wasn’t trivial or inconsequential. In fact, he did more to expose the illusion of objective reality while shedding a light on personality and persona than any artist, philosopher, or scientist of the twentieth century. Continue reading

In a Psych Ward on Suicide Watch: a True Story

by
Daulton Dickey.

“My passion was dead. For years it had rolled over and submerged me[…]” –Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

1.

23472755_508313162869436_3148584393869646739_nSuicides aren’t always dissatisfied with life. They’re certainly not cowards. Few people who consider themselves brave could commit the ultimate act. In the aftermath of suicide, those left behind search for answers or meaning. Sometimes they can find answers, sometimes meaning doesn’t exist, sometimes the suicide is the result of a brain wired differently and given free rein to act on its impulses.

If you reduce the physical universe to its most basic components, you’ll find most of the building blocks are comprised of empty space. When I experienced suicidal depression, I experienced the sensation of the emptiness of the physical universe. Every second of every day. Every atom contains emptiness. Since I was composed of atoms, I was mostly empty–physically and emotionally.

And that emptiness weighed on me. It strangled me. It assumed a three-dimensional form and embraced me, suffocated me, asphyxiated me. I was never more informed or aware of the emptiness of the universe than when anxiety and suicidal depression descended on me. Continue reading

On Non-Traditional Narrative

A Dialectic in Defense of Experimental Narratives through the Study of Slaughterhouse-Five and Paris Peasant

by
Daulton Dickey.

Some writers adore narrative convention. They stick to the algorithm without deviation. Others deviate only slightly. Other writers still incorporate radical deviation into conventional narrative algorithms. Then there are writers who eschew convention altogether in order to deconstruct or to dismantle narrative entirely. Each of these groups attempt to add their stamp to fiction or literature in one way or the other. And all have strong opinions on narrative. But which group, which tactic, is right?

The answer shouldn’t startle you: none. Declaring narrative can or should or must only4815205632_632ee48a71_b follow one path is like demanding that all athletes stand during the national anthem. It’s a form of authoritarianism predicated on inculcating and reinforcing conformity. Narratives are fluid, organic, the products of human perception of time. Think of it as water: it can assume the shape of liquid, steam, or ice while still containing water at its core. Continue reading

Notes of a Poor Bastard, parts 1 – 3

by
Daulton Dickey.

a.
It was sometime around Thanksgiving, maybe a day or two later, when my boss wanted to talk to me. He spoke in an even tone, not somber but not enthusiastic. I’d be out of work at the end of February, he’d said. My position–data entry and accounts payable–was going to be automated.

I couldn’t respond, didn’t know how to respond–I’d held the job for nearly eleven years, showed up day in and day out, without suspecting anything, taking my job for granted, and now, over the course of a single conversation, I was obsolete.

Anxiety consumed me. I felt frozen, locked in a state of inertia. Eleven years. Gone. A stable job. Gone. My future: uncertain. With a wife and two kids, with rent and bills, with debt, I couldn’t afford to dawdle. I couldn’t afford to coast through life, hopping from one dead-end job to the next. I had to act decisively.

But I froze.

Time stood still.

Is this the future? Locked into a job only to watch it disintegrate as algorithms replace people? If I’m so easily replaced by reams of code, then am I worthless?

Where do I go from here?

What am I going to do? Continue reading

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 3

by
Daulton Dickey.

(This is the third installment of a series, previously titled Notes of a Miserable Fuck. Click here for the first part. And here for the second part.)

j.

Tour my house, scrutinize it, and you won’t find a single visible universal product code. I

Screen-Shot-2013-10-29-at-10.47.50-PM-300x224
Even this was fucking painful for me to post.

loathe them. If I’m drinking from a can, I spin it when I set it on the table so the barcode isn’t facing me. In the kitchen and the bathroom, the bedroom and the living room, from cereal to toothpaste, books to condom boxes to movies–barcodes never face me.

I detest them.

“What do you know that we don’t?” my friend Chris often jokingly asks, as if I’m aware of a conspiracy few others know or understand.

But there aren’t any conspiracies–at least as far as barcodes are concerned. As far as I know. No, I turn or obscure or hide every barcode in sight for aesthetic reasons. I can’t stand their look. I don’t know why, but I find them aesthetically unappealing. And since UPCs are ubiquitous in our society, I spend more time than I’d care to admit hiding or destroying or ignoring them.

Source amnesia prevents me from knowing when or why or how this detestation started. I’ve despised them for as long as I can remember. As a child, I’d shiver on seeing them. They filled me with annoyance as a teenager. Now that I’m an adult, I tend to treat them as an art critic stumbling on a low-rent art fair might treat the canvases: with revulsion, then dismissal. Continue reading

Life is a Stage, So Why Not Screw with People?

Notes on an Essay Concerning Writing, Performing, and the Nature of Reality
by
Daulton Dickey.

[Author’s Note: This is an unfinished essay I vaguely remember writing, the result, I suspect, of having taken too many meds, which I do by accident from time to time.]

I.

My mind reels. Sometimes I lock myself in my head, in my world, and everything around me—my wife, my kids, my friends and job—vanish. Not literally. Figuratively. Everything slips into the background, sometimes into the deep background. Sometimes the universe transforms into background noise, a sort of visuospatial white noise. Other times, it disappears altogether.

I get so locked into my world, the world mutating and transmutating and exploding in my head, that the world and everything in it almost vanishes.

zoar2A strange sensation: living in my head inside, then going outdoors and feeling as if the world itself is indoors, as if the world is a set constructed inside a planet-sized soundstage. Sometimes, when these sensations inundate me, I glance around—at the ground and the sky, cars and buildings and passersby—and marvel at the corporeality of it all. Of everything.

On occasions, when I’m experiencing these sensations, I ask myself two questions, sometimes in conjunction, sometimes in disjunction:

What is imagination?

What is “reality”?

II.

So I’m sitting in a wheelchair on the corner of an intersection, wearing a plaid shirt, overalls, and sunglasses. I’m hunched over in the chair, not moving. Concentrating on steadying my breath, minimizing the expansion and contraction of my rib cage, trying to render it imperceptible.

Try it. It’s a fascinating study, something akin to sociology. People ignore you when you play dead. They amble or scurry past you. Some glance while others act as though they don’t see you. Some joke while others furrow their eyebrows.

I’d probably sell the death routine if “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees wasn’t blasting from a speaker attached to my phone in my right pocket. Continue reading

Notes of a Miserable Fuck: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Author’s note: this is the first part of a series. Click here for part two.)
a.
It was sometime around Thanksgiving, maybe a day or two later, when my boss wanted to talk to me. He spoke in an even tone, not somber but not enthusiastic. I’d be out of work at the end of February, he’d said. My position–data entry and accounts payable–was going to be automated.

I couldn’t respond, didn’t know how to respond–I’d held the job for nearly eleven years, showed up day in and day out, without suspecting anything, taking my job for granted, and now, over the course of a single conversation, I was obsolete. Continue reading

6 Awesome Celebrity Memoirs

by
Daulton Dickey.

This is by no means meant as a definitive list. Thousands of great artists and celebrities have produced thousands of great memoirs—or autobiography, whichever word we prefer these days—over the years. This list doesn’t even include some of my favorite memoirs, but, for brevity’s sake, I wanted to focus on the six that come to mind whenever anyone asks if I have a favorite memoir.

Groucho and Me
Groucho Marx
Bernard Geis Associates, 1959

grouchoandmeWhile his humor might feel dated, Groucho remains a true original. From his voice to his puns to his eye-rolling delivery—literally, the man punctuated gags and puns, usually jokes he knew were bad, by rolling his eyes or glancing upward—he’s spawned countless imitators, most notably  Bug Bunny.

He started comedy on the Vaudeville Circuit as a teenager. In the early twentieth century, theaters around the country offered variety shows featuring various performers: comedians, jugglers, singers, dancers, burlesque performers. Filled with puns and innuendo, vaudeville gags helped lay the groundwork for early cinematic comedies. Many of the biggest stars in the early days of film, in fact, started in Vaudeville, including Charlie Chaplin and, of course, Groucho Marx.

Groucho attained worldwide fame as the centerpiece of the Marx Brothers. He not only inspired generations of comedians—he also inspired counterculture movements, especially the movements of the 60s. Groucho—and the Marx Brothers—were fiercely anti-establishment. They challenged authority, the notion of government—democratic or fascist—and lampooned higher education. They also attacked the human condition, satirizing the wealthy, the poor, the credulous, those seeking fame and those running from it. Few targets escaped the brothers’ sights.

As a personality—both on and off the screen—Groucho was a prankster and a showboat, arrogant and miserly. He simultaneously sought and thwarted attention. In most cases, it’s better to view a celebrity’s autobiography as a sustained PR effort. Even in their worst moments, they later spin the story to minimize their appearance or effects on situations or people.

Groucho’s penchant for telling autobiographical stories and anecdotes in different ways to different people often makes it difficult to tell truth from fiction or to assess the veracity of his claims. It’s better to approach this is a book of dubious truths. Don’t let that discourage you, however.

Having little formal education, Groucho in later years aspired to become a writer. He devoured books and befriended some of the biggest modernists of the twentieth centuries—his letters to TS Eliot are great. He took writing seriously, and it shows. His prose is fluid, conversational, and never stuffy. Much of the book reads as if your funny uncle is relaying personal anecdotes. Although many allusions and jokes are dated, this books is still well worth checking out.

The Long Hard Road Out of Hell
Marilyn Manson with Neil Strauss
ReganBooks, 1998

thelonghardroatoutofhellIf you somehow don’t know who Marilyn Manson is, he’s a holy fuck read that first chapter nothing I could write can or will do this book justice so just read that first chapter fuck me what an insane and disturbing chapter Christ it will haunt you just read it already

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

Recent and Upcoming Indie Book Releases

by
Daulton Dickey.

Absolutely Golden: A Novel
D. Foy
Stalking Horse Press

Absolutely-Golden-Store-ImageIt’s 1973, and a thirty-something widow has been cajoled by a young hippie parasite into financing their vacation to a nudist colony in the Northern California mountains. The night before their departure, however, she arrives home to learn that she and this man will be accompanied by the stripper on his lap. At Camp Freedom Lake, the trio meet a womanizing evangelist, a bumbling Zen gardener, and a pair of aging drug-addled swingers from Holland. Together, they’re catapulted through one improbable event after the other, each stranger than the last, until finally the woman who was dominated by her fear of past and future finds herself reveling in the great here and now.

D. Foy’s Absolutely Golden is a radical departure from his two previous novels, Made to Breakand Patricide. It’s comic, ebullient, magic, light, gently surrealistic. It’s rollicking, effervescent, slyly profound. But more, this brisk tale offers a kaleidoscopic look at parts of the 1970s we haven’t often seen in fiction—nudism, New Age philosophy, Eastern religion, the occult, swingers culture, California culture, and then some.

Best of all, Foy tells his story in the guise of a woman obsessed with the notion that she’ll never find another man until she’s rid of what she believes to be a mysterious curse. As if written in the marriage of Vladimir Nabokov, Renata Adler, and Anaïs Nin, her words transport us from doubt, despair, and dread into states of increasing wonder and euphoria.

Click here to Pre-order or Buy Absolutely Golden

The Abridged History of Rainfall
Jay Hopler
McSweeney’s

rainfall_pb_cover_store_siteThe Abridged History of Rainfall is a finalist for the National Book Award.
Jay Hopler’s second collection, a mourning song for his father, is an elegy of uproar, a careening hymn to disaster and its aftermath. In lyric poems by turns droll and desolate, Hopler documents the struggle to live in the face of great loss, a task that sends him ranging through Florida’s torrid subtropics, the mountains of the American West, the streets of Rome, and the Umbrian countryside. Vivid, dynamic, unrestrained: The Abridged History of Rainfall is a festival of glowing saints and fighting cocks, of firebombs and birdsong.

Click here to Pre-order or Buy The Abridged History of Rainfall

 

  Continue reading

21 Transgressive Books (Part 3)

by
Daulton Dickey.

(This is part 3 of a 3 part series. Read Part One here. And Part Two here.)

Transgressive fiction is a genre of literature which focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways

Without spending too much time elaborating on theories w/r/t transgressive fiction, the above quote is from Wikipedia. Succinct, it offers a broad enough outline to convey the gist of this often ill-defined subset of fiction.

This isn’t a definitive list. It’s also not intended as authoritative. Instead, it’s a list of some transgressive books that have inspired me as a writer—and a person—over the years. Although I should clarify that I don’t love every book on this list. In fact, I find some of them repugnant, their authors appalling, but they’ve still affected me in one way or the other.

If you haven’t read much transgressive fiction, you should do yourself a favor a take a detour into world funny and strange, terrifying, awe-inspiring, and disturbing.

Although this list deals primarily with fiction, I’ve decided to include a few important works of non-fiction and poetry.

How to Talk Dirty and Influence People by Lenny Bruce
(Playboy Publishing, 1965)

HowToTalkDirtyAndInfluencePeoplePerhaps the most important comedian of the twentieth century, Lenny Bruce introduced satire and social commentary to mainstream comedy. His career started as any other in the 1950s: telling jokes wherever he could—bars, strip clubs, fledgling nightclubs. His career started with a whimper as he told jokes typical of the time. But when he found his voice, he forever changed the face of comedy—and became a target for federal and local law enforcement and puritanical groups intent on preserving the bland discourse of totalitarian 50s America. Continue reading