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Up Is Up, But So Is Down

Up Is Up, But So Is Down: New York's Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992

Edited by Brandon Stosuy
Dennis Cooper
Eileen Myles
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 500
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qgj1f
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  • Book Info
    Up Is Up, But So Is Down
    Book Description:

    Among The Village Voices 25 Favorite Books of 2006Winner of the 2007 AAUP Book, Jacket, and Journal Show in the Trade Illustrated Book Design category. Sometime after Andy Warhol's heyday but before Soho became a tourist trap, a group of poets, punk rockers, guerilla journalists, graffiti artists, writers, and activists transformed lower Manhattan into an artistic scene so diverse it became known simply as Downtown. Willfully unpolished and subversively intelligent, figures such as Spalding Gray, Kathy Acker, Richard Hell, David Wojnarowicz, Lynne Tillman, Miguel Pinero, and Eric Bogosian broke free from mainstream publishing to produce a flood of fiction, poetry, experimental theater, art, and music that breathed the life of the street.The first book to capture the spontaneity of the Downtown literary scene, Up Is Up, But So Is Down collects more than 125 images and over 80 texts that encompass the most vital work produced between 1974 and 1992. Reflecting the unconventional genres that marked this period, the book includes flyers, zines, newsprint weeklies, book covers, and photographs of people and the city, many of them here made available to readers outside the scene for the first time. The book's striking and quirky design - complete with 2-color interior - brings each of these unique documents and images to life.Brandon Stosuy arranges this hugely varied material chronologically to illustrate the dynamic views at play. He takes us from poetry readings in Alphabet City to happenings at Darinka, a Lower East Side apartment and performance space, to the St. Mark's Bookshop, unofficial crossroads of the counterculture, where home-printed copies of the latest zines were sold in Ziploc bags. Often attacking the bourgeois irony epitomized by the New Yorker's short fiction, Downtown writers played ebulliently with form and content, sex and language, producing work that depicted the underbelly of real life.With an afterword by Downtown icons Dennis Cooper and Eileen Myles, Up Is Up, But So Is Down gathers almost twenty years of New York City's smartest and most explosive - as well as hard to find - writing, providing an indispensable archive of one of the most exciting artistic scenes in U.S. history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8854-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-5)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 6-11)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 12-13)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 15-23)
    BRANDON STOSUY

    WHAT MAKES writing “Downtown”? In the context ofUp Is Up, but So Is Down, the term refers variously to an agglomeration of noncommercial literary and not-so-literary prose, poetry, guerrilla journalism, and undefined hybrids that emerged in the mid-1970s in homegrown periodicals, newsprint weeklies, xeroxed zines, semigloss monthlies, and small presses in New York City more or less below Fourteenth Street, covering Tribeca to the Lower East Side. Within the Downtown region of that time, maps proved only so helpful, though, and exact boundaries remained pleasingly impossible to chart.

    Downtown writing not only served as an alternative to mainstream publishing;...

  5. PART ONE: THE 1970S

    • INTRODUCTION TO THE 1970S
      (pp. 26-26)

      THE EARLY 1970s was a time of transition: Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 and the Vietnam War ended a year later. In June 1974 the Loft Law was passed and, accordingly, mostly postwar-born New York City–based artists and writers relocated to the low-rent lofts, tenements, and warehouses of SoHo and the Lower East Side, pecked away at typewriters, organized readings, and published their fictions.

      Around these authors, punk rockers also spilled into the streets, sweaty communal crash pads, and eventually the high-end boutiques. Today, fan-boys need only hearken to the Ramones’ 1974 CBGB’s debut and an oft-documented story unfurls....

    • FROM “THE EAST VILLAGE 1970–71” (1974)
      (pp. 27-30)
      Richard Kostelanetz

      On February 10, 1971, poetrocker Patti Smith gave her first reading. It took place at the Poetry Project, where she opened for Gerard Malanga and was accompanied onstage by Lenny Kaye, eventual lead guitarist for the Patti Smith Group. In 1974, Smith signed to a major label; it was the first such contract for the first wave of CBGB’s bands. Her debut album,Horses, was not released until 1975, but the signing immediately focused media attention on the sounds coming out of the Lower East Side. During the same period of Smith’s jump to a major and the release of...

    • FROM I DREAMT I WAS A NYMPHOMANIAC!: IMAGINING (1974)
      (pp. 31-31)
      BY THE BLACK TARANTULA

      I TOLD the guy I was living with I no longer wanted to fuck him. He told me to fuck or split. Then he started beating me up. I had to split fast. Either I could get a new apartment in New York City or split to California, the only other place I had friends. Either way I needed a lot of money. I was broke.

      I was a nice shopgirl, working in Barnes and Noble eight to nine hours a day answering phone-calls. Eighty dollars a week takehome. I was a nice girl earning nice money. Nice money doesn’t...

    • UNTITLED (1973)
      (pp. 32-32)
      THERESA STERN
    • 3170 BROADWAY (1974)
      (pp. 33-34)
      PEDRO PIETRI
    • THE AGE (1975)
      (pp. 35-37)
      EDWARD SANDERS
    • FROM MODERN LOVE (1975/7)
      (pp. 39-45)
      CONSTANCE DeJONG

      Everywhere I go I see losers. Misfits like myself who can’t make it in the world. In London, New York, Morocco, Rome, India, Paris, Germany. I’ve started seeing the same people. I think I’m seeing the same people. I wander around staring at strangers thinking I know you from somewhere. I don’t know where. The streets are always crowded and narrow, full of men. It’s always night and all strangers are men.

      I hear talk of a new world. Everywhere I go: eco-paleo-psycho-electro-cosmo talk. Of course, men do all the talking. I don’t get the message, my ears ache; my...

    • PISS FACTORY (1974)
      (pp. 46-47)
      PATTI SMITH
    • BLANK GENERATION (1977)
      (pp. 49-49)
      RICHARD HELL
    • IT’S ALL TRUE (1979)
      (pp. 51-52)
      RICHARD HELL

      The train I arrived on that early Autumn night might as well have been a bicycle—I was the only passenger getting off, I felt anxious and awkward as I would have on a bike, and, most of all, I’ve always had a strong sense of fantasy.

      It was very late at night, though comfortably warm, and I began walking away from the center of the small village towards the hilly forest that surrounded it. I wasn’t exactly afraid in the unfamiliar darkness but my senses felt extraordinarily acute. Actually I was never so happy to be completely alone and...

    • I MISSED PUNK (1979)
      (pp. 55-55)
      PETER SCHJELDAHL
    • WORDS IN REVERSE (1979)
      (pp. 57-69)
      LAURIE ANDERSON

      The following texts are extracts from “Like A Stream” (1978)—a piece for string ensemble, tape bow Instruments, and voice—and “Americans On The Move” (1979)—an extended series for voice, electronics, film, and instruments.

      It was the night flight from Houston—almost perfect visibility. You could see the lights from all the little Texas towns far below. I was sitting next to a fifty-two year old woman who had never been on a plane before. Her son had sent her a ticket and said, “Mom, you’ve raised ten kids, it’s time you got on a plane.” She was sitting...

    • FROM EPIPHANIES (1979)
      (pp. 70-72)
      RICHARD KOSTELANETZ

      In white sheets of paper he found the beginning of his story and in black sheets the end/no ambition he had was deeper than his desire to seduce a set of twins/it was his taste to crush his penis between her breasts and come all over her chest and neck/he could make his penis pop up and down with the precision of a baton/he hung crucifixes from her nipples/they peed in the sink, vomited on the tables, and defecated on my rug/you can find epiphanies anywhere, even in garbage cans/he bolted from the table clutching his stomach/knee-deep in sewage, he...

    • FROM NEW YORK CITY IN 1979 (1979, 1981)
      (pp. 73-77)
      KATHY ACKER
    • FROM BIKINI GIRL NO. 8 (1981)
      (pp. 79-84)
      LISA B. FALOUR
    • ON THE LOOSE (1994)
      (pp. 85-88)
      THURSTON MOORE

      In ’77 I was nineteen living on East 13th Street in New York and paying, or trying to pay, $110 a month rent. I was bonkers, alone, with no social life. I met this girl and became obsessed with being in love with her. She was fucking this older writer poet guy who lived in my building on the top floor. I would hang out my window from afternoon to evening hoping and waiting for her to turn the corner. One day she knocked, came in and I knew we were gonna have to be together forever. Five minutes later...

  6. PART TWO: THE 1980S

    • INTRODUCTION TO THE 1980S
      (pp. 90-100)

      SIMILAR TO the punk-scene parallels of the 1970s, the Downtown literary scene may be read through the more documented art explosion that ran alongside it in the 1980s.

      A definite cross-pollination occurred: artists and writers published in the same magazines, got drunk at the same parties, lived in the same tenements, and collaborated on intriguing visual/textual enjambments whether as comics, Purgatory Pie Press’s broadsides and artist books, flyers, or single-page illustrations. As the art scene boomed and rapidly burst, though, many poets and novelists ultimately enjoyed less trendy, but more quietly sustained artistic life spans.

      A brief history of the...

    • A LOWER EAST SIDE POEM (1980)
      (pp. 101-101)
      MIGUEL PIÑERO
    • LOWER EAST SIDE MESOSTICS 81–82 (1981–1982)
      (pp. 102-115)
      HOLLY ANDERSON
    • FROM BAGATELLES (1981)
      (pp. 116-117)
      PETER CHERCHES

      Sniffing each other was our favorite pastime. We would produce various and sundry odors for each other’s benefit. Some of our odors were mutual, but certainly not all. She produced many odors which I could not duplicate, and vice-versa. We spent many pleasant hours producing odors for each other. When we became familiar with each other’s repertoire of odors, we began to make requests. It was pure ecstasy. When we were sniffing each other nothing else mattered. We had each other, and as far as we were concerned, who cared how the world smelled.

      You take a lot out of...

    • NEWSPAPER POEM (1981)
      (pp. 119-121)
      BOB WITZ
    • HAIKU FROM PUBLIC ILLUMINATION MAGAZINE (1982–1989)
      (pp. 123-123)
      MR. BASHO
    • ZOOIN’ IN ALPHABET TOWN (1982)
      (pp. 125-132)
      BOB HOLMAN
    • WHILE YOU WERE OUT (1982)
      (pp. 133-134)
      PENNY ARCADE
    • AC-DC (1982)
      (pp. 135-141)
      URSULE MOLINARO

      She isn’t sure if it’s a shot she hears, or the backfiring of a truck.

      Before she sees two bare bony legs groping down the fire escape outside her bedroom window. In freezing April drizzle. Followed by tight buttocks clad in leopard undershorts. Followed by an unbuttoned white shirt, & a tight white face under a punk hair cut: a crest of orange bristles sticking up from an otherwise shaved head.

      She opens her window & pulls the half-naked figure inside. Relocking her window.

      He doesn’t resist, except with his eyes: Why is she doing this?

      He lets her shove him toward...

    • LUNCH BREAK (1982)
      (pp. 142-142)
      HAL SIROWITZ
    • LECTURE ON THIRD AVENUE (AFTER V-EFFECT) (1982)
      (pp. 143-147)
      MICHAEL CARTER
    • IN THE DARK (1983)
      (pp. 148-155)
      ERIC BOGOSIAN

      MMMMM. MMMMM. I wait for dark. The black comes for me. Some people are afraid when the sun goes down. MMMMMM. MMMMMMM. But for me … me … for me it’s good in the deep dark. Warm and dark and close. Some people are afraid of small places. Tight spots. Restrictive. MMMMM. MMMMMM. Not me. Not me. I’m right at home, I’m in the right place. The good dark place. Like a baby in its womb. Like a rat in its hole, I’mokay.

      Ever see the black skid marks on the highway? Ever wonder what happened? I don’t. I...

    • THIS IS IT? (1983)
      (pp. 156-158)
      BARBARA ESS

      So this is it? It’s not what I expected at all. Maybe the seeds of my bloated expectations were sown that hot summer night lying in the back seat of the Buick convertible half asleep. They carried me gently from my bed and tucked me into the car, put the top down and then we were moving. The radio was on and I could hear them talking and laughing in the front seat. Everything seemed as it should be. Above, the shimmering undersides of trees lit by headlights flew by, while the sultry air washed over me, breathing a wind...

    • CARDIAC (1983)
      (pp. 159-160)
      MAX BLAGG
    • PRACTICING WITHOUT A LICENSE (1983)
      (pp. 161-176)
      RICHARD PRINCE

      From limo, to V. I. P. lounge, to first class cabin. It sounds great but like any other isolation or prescribed modification, getting first class treatment is just another form of humiliation.

      She never liked being singled out or doted over, and did as much as she could to do her part, (“my fair share”) to rally against, what would have otherwise been a completely and provided for existence.

      Most of her friends thought she was crazy for rejecting privileged treatment, but she knew too that these were outsiders, ones on the other side of the fence, looking over …...

    • FIVE STORIES (1984)
      (pp. 177-177)
      MIKE TOPP

      1 A woman ran an employment agency for girls. The girls were supposed to be going to jobs, but they just disappeared. A man in an automobile spoke to the woman and told her he’d found the girls’ trunks at some place, but no girls. He was a night doctor and was going to take the woman to the hospital.

      2 sixty-year-old man one morning went from his home into the fields. The people of his village had subsisted without water for centuries. He decided to live on flowers like a bee. When his money was gone, he would go...

    • 3 STORIES (1984)
      (pp. 178-180)
      LISA BLAUSHILD

      My boyfriend and my mother are sleeping together. I told you I see other women, he said. Stop acting so surprised.

      I see them around town. They sit in front of me at the movies and make out. In restaurants they sit at the next table and play footsies. At parties my mother sits in my boyfriend’s lap, her arms wrapped around his neck, her head on his shoulder. When his hand disappears underneath her skirt she gives me a wink.

      My mother sits on the edge of my bed and tells me she has had better. We are in...

    • THE ST. MARK’S BATHS (1984)
      (pp. 181-184)
      TOM SAVAGE
    • TV (1984)
      (pp. 185-198)
      BRAD GOOCH

      The only light on in the room is the green lit-up dial of the stereo radio/record-player. Click as the record goes off. Doug gets up off the couch in one section of a big loft in Tribeca. He turns off the record player and puts on a black/white portable Japanese TV set. It’s Sunday night. A movie comes on the little screen. He keeps the sound off. You can see a toothpaste commercial that interrupts the movie. It is a hot night in August. Doug goes back and sits in the dark watching the screen, lights a cigarette, takes a...

    • BABY BIRDS (1985)
      (pp. 199-203)
      KAREN FINLEY
    • FROM “IDIOGLOSSIA” (1985)
      (pp. 204-206)
      ANNE TURYN
    • FROM SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA (1985)
      (pp. 207-214)
      SPALDING GRAY

      Whenever I travel, if I have the time, I go by train. Because I like to hang out in the lounge car. I hear such great stories there—fantastic! Perhaps it’s because they think they’ll never see me again. It’s like a big, rolling confessional.

      I was on my way to Chicago from New York City when this guy came up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Jim Bean. Mind if I sit down?”

      “No, I’m Spalding Gray, have a seat. What’s up Jim?”

      “Oh, nothing much. I’m in the Navy.”

      “Really? Where are you stationed?”

      “Guantanamo Bay.”

      “Where’s that?”...

    • GO-GOING—NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY—1978–79 (1985)
      (pp. 215-221)
      COOKIE MUELLER

      In the beginning I just couldn’t bring myself to do floor work. Bumping and grinding while laying on the floor looked completely ludicrous to me.

      I would have made more tips if I had; the girls who did floor work always had stacks of one dollar bills in their G-strings. They wore the money like a tiny green fringe tu-tu flapping around their hips.

      Those girls brought their own personal floor mats on stage with them for their half-hour sets. They’d just unroll their fake fur bathroom rugs on the stage floor and lay down and start undulating.

      It seemed...

    • THREE STORIES FROM THE TRAVELING WOMAN (1986)
      (pp. 222-223)
      ROBERTA ALLEN

      When she finds her husband with the woman, they are only sitting speaking softly to one another—but instantly she knows. She feels a lightning-like stab; an old wound splits open, and the pain sinks so deep she staggers. She tells herself she feels nothing. And without a sound she moves into the light where they can see her.

      When the woman with downcast eyes slides past her out the door, the husband tells his wife he loves that woman, and he cries. And he makes love to his wife as she lies numb in the darkness; hardly aware he...

    • POEM WITH A TITLE AT THE END (1986)
      (pp. 225-226)
      JIM FEAST
    • MODERN SAINT #271 (1986)
      (pp. 227-231)
      TAMA JANOWITZ

      After I became a prostitute, I had to deal with penises of every imaginable shape and size. Some large, others quite shriveled and pendulous of testicle. Some blue-veined and reeking of Stilton, some miserly. Some crabbed, enchanted, dusted with pearls like the great minarets of the Taj Mahal, jesting penises, ringed as the tail of a raccoon, fervent, crested, impossible to live with, marigold-scented. More and more I became grateful I didn’t have to own one of these appendages.

      Of course I had a pimp; he wasn’t an ordinary sort of person but had been a double Ph.D. candidate in...

    • MODERN ROMANCES (1986)
      (pp. 232-234)
      JUDY LOPATIN
    • FROM GIRLS, VISIONS AND EVERYTHING (1986)
      (pp. 235-238)
      SARAH SCHULMAN

      Friday morning Lila woke up with Emily at six o’clock and found a small gift box lying on her stomach.

      “What’s this?”

      “A good luck present for the Worst Performance Festival tonight.”

      Lila opened the box. Inside was a lace brassiere with an underwire and a little pink flower stitched in between the cups. Next to it sat black lace underpants with another stitched pink rose. She shut the box quickly, and opened it again, slowly, to look more closely.

      “Are you embarrassed?” Emily asked.

      No. It was intimate, so involved with Lila’s life that she was thrilled to the...

    • FROM “PHIL SPECTOR: A PERFORMANCE POEM FOR THREE GROUPS OF VOICES” (1986)
      (pp. 239-252)
      EMILY XYZ
    • ON BOHOMELESSNESS: A CONVOLUTED GUIDE TO THE OTHER SIDE (1987)
      (pp. 253-256)
      DARIUS JAMES

      You’ve bought them drinks at Vazac’s, picked them up at Save the Robots, let them smoke all your cigarettes, and given them food money on the pretext of subway fare home. They are one of New York City’s most misunderstood social groups: the homeless bohemian, or the Bohomeless. But who are they exactly? Hellspawn of mucus-secreting sewer people and poststructuralist art critics with coke nasal-drip? Or boho hobos living on the outskirts of Soho? Are the Bohomelessness suburban teens with cancer fuzz-cuts and woeful, Keane-like eyes seated on the stoops of Saint Mark’s Place, accosting you for loose change? Or...

    • FROM HAUNTED HOUSES (1987)
      (pp. 257-263)
      LYNNE TILLMAN

      Mark said he had nothing to hide because he wasn’t afraid of being called unnatural. Grace and he were sitting at the bar and were talking about the play Mark wanted to base on Wilde’s “The Birthday of the Infanta.” He’d changed his mind; no hospital setting, no nurse. He especially wanted to end with the fairy tale’s last line, “For the future let those who come to play with me have no heart.” “You’ve got to have something to hide,” Grace said, finishing her beer and lighting a cigarette. They agreed that Wilde was as cruel if not crueler...

    • GEORGE: WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY, FRIDAY (1987)
      (pp. 264-271)
      DENNIS COOPER

      GEORGE STREAKED toward his room. “I’m home.” He passed the kitchen door. His dad was drinking espresso. “George, wait …” He double-bolted his door. “I know it’s here.” He pawed through a desk drawer. At the bottom were two crinkled, typewritten pages.

      They contained detailed descriptions, in French, of how he looked, smelled and tasted. Philippe had presented them to him a few weeks ago, with the words, “This is you in a—how you say—nutshell.” “He should know,” George thought. “Now if I buy a French dictionary …”

      “George?” He dropped the pages and kicked them under his...

    • FEAR ON 11TH STREET AND AVENUE A, NEW YORK CITY (1987)
      (pp. 272-273)
      DENISE DUHAMEL
    • THE ANGEL (1987)
      (pp. 274-281)
      PATRICK McGRATH

      YOU KNOW the Bowery, I presume? It was on the Bowery that I first caught a glimpse of Harry Talboys. I was a writer in those days, and I lived in a five-story walk-up by the men’s shelter. I didn’t realize at the time that Harry Talboys lived in the same building, though of course I was familiar with the powerful smell of incense that contaminated the lower floors. It was high summer when I met him, high summer in Manhattan, when liquid heat settles on the body of the city like an incubus, and one’s whole activity devolves to...

    • NEIGHBOR (1987)
      (pp. 282-283)
      THURSTON MOORE
    • “THE RED HIGH HEELS” FROM LOVE ME TENDER (1987)
      (pp. 284-286)
      CATHERINE TEXIER

      HOT SUMMER night. Nipples erect, hard, hard, under palms, then fingertips working, intense. Moist down there where…. The ass is taut, small and round, pushed out, thighs opened, buttocks spread out. Her breasts swell. He is a tongue. He is saliva, movement, spiraling inside her mouth tasting of sex. The tips of their tongues meet, two magnets. Two insects throwing their antennae forward in a deadly seduction dance. The tips of their tongues. They move together like fingers pressed against a mirror.

      They’ve met at a costume party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where somebody dressed as a spider kept extending six...

    • “MONEY” FROM KILL THE POOR (1988)
      (pp. 287-293)
      JOEL ROSE

      GET THIS! This is gonna make your hair stand on end: Every day of Annabelle’s life, since day one, she has a picture taken of herself. Including today, a Polaroid, before we come over here to see this apartment on Avenue E. Eleven thousand, three hundred and sixty-eight, so far, all laid out in front of her. “Look, Zho, this day one thousand eighty-two. I am thirteen days short oftrois ans.”

      “Gorgeous,” I say.

      This was all her mother’s idea to begin with. Third kid, but the first born alive; two stillborn in the maquis during the war. Then...

    • FULCRUM OF DISASTER (1988)
      (pp. 294-295)
      SUSIE TIMMONS
    • FROM TOTEM OF THE DEPRAVED (1988)
      (pp. 296-298)
      NICK ZEDD

      At noon, a thirty-five year old man stepped out onto Eighth Street between First and Second Avenues buck naked. Couples out for a stroll looked the other way as a thick brown goo oozed out of his anal cavity onto the pavement. The naked man, his cracked skin a charcoal color of built up dirt, was oblivious to the people walking around him as he shit on the sidewalk.

      On a park bench on Fourth Street, a black guy with a beard sat motionless. His eyes were closed. Long tendrils of snot, long since solidified, hung from both nostrils, waving...

    • MORE OR LESS URGENT (1988)
      (pp. 299-299)
      NINA ZIVANCEVIC
    • GATHERING BRUISES (1989)
      (pp. 304-304)
      MAX BLAGG
    • BEAUTIES WHO LIVE ONLY FOR AN AFTERNOON (1989)
      (pp. 305-306)
      DENISE DUHAMEL
    • ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD (1989)
      (pp. 307-313)
      JANICE EIDUS

      MARGERIE STOOD, throwing up, bending down, on the side of the road. This had been going on for a long time: driving, hardly eating, throwing up, hating the driving. But the alternative—remaining inside the apartment in her town—only occasionally seemed any better. The apartment, when last she’d seen it, had an unopened box of Rice Krispies on the table and a can of Mr. Pibb’s in the refrigerator.

      She drove. Panicking each time she had to pass yet one more car (checking her blind spot three and four times) or worse, a truck; wincing at sudden, sharp turns....

    • BREAD AND WATER (1989)
      (pp. 314-323)
      EILEEN MYLES

      A roll from the bakery at sixth street with flecks of garlic on the top and a giant glass of ice cold water. A batch of broken merits which Claudia left on the table in the bar last night. Two knives on the table—one for slicing one for buttering. Ever since Christmas we’ve had a lot of butter around here. Christine buys the lightly salted sticks and I like breakstone’s sweet whipped butter better in the tub. I like the fact that the tubs are waxy. Chris comes in and we talk about our delirious days. She forgot to...

    • FROM BEER MYSTIC (1989)
      (pp. 323-327)
      BART PLANTENGA

      The vigilant light trails my transient shadow here, eats away at it like vermin gnawing through drywall. And I can hear my voice being mocked by its own echo and vice versa. And when you think thoughts they feel like the thoughts of someone else. And they probably are. When I say something, what I hear is something different. I hear the baffling defiance of our surroundings to conform to prescribed parameters of bliss. And I amthissmall. (I show you my pinkie.)

      I sometimes hung with Jude along the Tropic of Mirth and Mire. 40°42’ latitude, 74° longitude...

    • FROM HORSE CRAZY (1989)
      (pp. 328-337)
      GARY INDIANA

      WHO KNOWS what hearts and souls have in them? On the answering machine a message from Victor, who tells me when I call him that Paul, long ago my lover for two years, is sick. People use a special tone of voice, now, for illness, that marks the difference between sick and dying.

      I’ve heard he’s sick.

      And so this body whose secret parts were my main pleasure in life for longer than anyone else’s transforms itself into a fount of contagion. Paul passes over into the territory of no-longerquite-alive, and I calculate that if he got it five years...

    • G-9 (1989)
      (pp. 338-345)
      TIM DLUGOS
  7. PART THREE: THE 1990S

    • INTRODUCTION TO THE 1990S
      (pp. 348-351)

      ITS DEMISE has been announced countless times, and the Downtown scene will continue to be reborn and to gasp for final breaths. Yes, Downtown writing still exists, but not in as concentrated a scene as in the heyday years represented in this book.

      In fact, in the early ’90s seasoned writers began to show a new tendency toward reminiscence and memoir—sure signs of a changing of the guard. At the same time, voices emerged or came of age, including those of Susan Daitch, Maggie Dubris, Thaddeus Rutkowski, and Mary Gaitskill. The period also signaled the ascendancy of Sonic Youth,...

    • FROM “NORTH OF ABYSSINIA” (1990)
      (pp. 352-355)
      MAGGIE DUBRIS

      BUT IT’S 1990. Women lean against the cars on 45th Street, nylon stretched across their bruised thighs. We like to call this block, “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” because when they were paving it they ground up a bunch of glass and mixed it in with the blacktop, so now the whole street twinkles, soft and sparkling in the fallen night. When we get a job there, we look at each other and say, “Check it out. Someone must have had too much to drink and is throwing up all over the Boulevard of Broken Dreams again. We’d better turn...

    • THE NEW SCHOOL 1990 (1990)
      (pp. 356-356)
      RICHARD ARMIJO
    • FOLK (1990)
      (pp. 357-357)
      JOHN FARRIS
    • FROM THE COLORIST (1990)
      (pp. 358-364)
      SUSAN DAITCH

      PHANTOM STUDIOS was located in an office block which looked like an imitation of an early Louis Sullivan building, Orientalist and grimy: cast iron window mullions and lobby mosaics of Egyptian lotus blossoms were rarely cleaned. On the ninth floor the reception area and corridors of Phantom Comics were gray and austere in comparison, but individual art rooms, cluttered with mock-ups, props, and storyboards took on the character of whatever serial was being produced in them. The first door on the left was the studio, which produced a Camelot sort of knock-off, it was full of crenellated shapes, pictures of...

    • LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING IN BROOKLYN (1990)
      (pp. 365-367)
      SHARON MESMER
    • INTO THE SUNSET (1990)
      (pp. 368-369)
      MICHAEL RANDALL
    • FROM “LOVERS SLASH FRIENDS” (1990)
      (pp. 370-377)
      ANN ROWER

      We were lovers/friends but I’m afraid that writing about him will make him come back into my life again if he isn’t dead. Every time the phone rings I imagine it’s him. But then I’m easily spooked. It’s only been a couple of days since they sewed me back up and sent me home from the hospital. No sewing really. I have stainless steel staples, fifteen of them. I’m on two every four hours painkillers. Really floating by this time, floating and scared. Soon to be scarred, home alone. V.’s out of town. I start to work on my story...

    • BEAUTIFUL YOUTH (1990)
      (pp. 378-378)
      THADDEUS RUTKOWSKI

      I “bag raced” whenever I could. To compete, another bag racer and I would find an open area. There, we would put paper bags over our heads, lean toward each other and set the bags on fire. Then we would turn and run in opposite directions. Whoever got farther before tearing the bag from his head won.

      Each time I took off, I would see a sheet of flame that quickly became a fire-edged square. Through it, I had a narrow-angle view of ground and sky. Soon, I could smell burnt hair. Usually, by the time I pulled off my...

    • IN THE ABBEY OF ARCANE SYNTHESIS: RANDOM THOUGHTS POSING AS ANALYSIS IN THE GLOBAL PAN-ASSASSINATION CRISIS (1990)
      (pp. 379-386)
      CARL WATSON

      I was supposed to be going to a movie, but I went to a bar instead. Impulse sometimes rules my life; much like a prosthetic device, or a high price tag on a piece of damaged goods, it lends the illusion of wholeness or value. I may lumber toward my Bethlehem on a plastic limb, but am always just that much further away from whatever I intend. Call it prophylaxis—the need prevents conception. And it shields me from confusion. One doctor called it a subjective form of Premonition Psychosis. Another called it Panophobia, Fear-of-Everything. But then doctors will say...

    • A VISIT FROM MOM (1990)
      (pp. 387-394)
      BRUCE BENDERSON

      Last night, when I had sex with a suspected murderer. It was in the Carter Hotel, or maybe the Rio or the Fulton. About six this morning, actually.

      Was it in the Carter, or was it the Fulton? I forget which one. It’s the one that lets you pay with a credit card. After which you must convince the second party to leave when you do. Or else the signed credit slip at the desk will have the time added to it until he decides to check out. This is a situation that might be called awkward—isn’t it?—when...

    • FROM TWO GIRLS, FAT AND THIN (1991)
      (pp. 395-398)
      MARY GAITSKILL

      Justine Shade was a neurotic, antisocial twenty-eight-year-old. She had few friends, and as she saw them infrequently, her main source of entertainment was an erratic series of boyfriends who wandered through her small apartment, often making snide comments about her décor. She was serious about her career as a journalist, but she sold very few articles. This was because she got ideas at the rate of about one a year, and once she had one, she went through a lengthy process of mentally sniffing, poking, and pinching it before she decided what to do with it.

      To support herself, she...

    • DIVINE COMEDY (1991)
      (pp. 399-400)
      RON KOLM
    • IN BROOKLYN (1991)
      (pp. 401-404)
      DEBORAH PINTONELLI

      I’m in the backyard with Aunt June pinning up the laundry on a summer morning. She’s complaining about Liza’s awful pound cake and how Liza didn’t bring enough cash to Bingo last night. We’re doing this quickly, though, as soon it will get very hot and we want to be back inside watching the late morning soaps before that happens.

      The yard is beautiful at this time of year. Large, luscious peonies with tiny black ants roaming their velvety petals lift up their fuchsia, pale pink, and white faces to the sun. Grapevines that my grandfather planted when he first...

    • JANINE, OR HOW MY GRANDMOTHER DIED AND LEFT ME HOLDING THE BANANA (1991)
      (pp. 405-410)
      JOE MAYNARD

      She walked into Max’s, the ultra-cool lower east side bar every night after her day-gig at an established mid-town gallery. To me, I was cooler than her, cuz I couldn’t afford a beer. But to her, well, she sometimes bought me one—her way of connecting with the little people.

      I hated how she dressed down in three hundred dollar work boots, and ripped jeans imported from Luxembourg. She was a rich, perfect looking cunt. I wanted to smack her in the mouth so that at least her teeth were crooked, but I never even asked her on a date....

    • “EIGHTEEN TO TWENTY-ONE” (1991)
      (pp. 411-413)
      DAVID TRINIDAD
    • A SHORT HISTORY OF EVERYONE IN THE WORLD (1992)
      (pp. 418-421)
      JOSE PADUA
    • THE SHOWER (1992)
      (pp. 423-424)
      TSAURAH LITZKY
    • FROM “BETWEEN THE HAMMER AND THE ANVIL” (1992)
      (pp. 425-428)
      LYDIA LUNCH
    • THREE POEMS FROM I ALWAYS VOTE FOR SPARROW FOR PRESIDENT (1992)
      (pp. 429-431)
      SPARROW
    • A DIVISION OF WATER (1992)
      (pp. 432-432)
      DAVID RATTRAY
    • THE WEIRDNESS OF THE TEXT (1992)
      (pp. 433-435)
      JILL S. RAPAPORT

      I tried forty times in one night to read one page of a story by the notoriously simple Anatole France and simply could not crack through because one part of my brain, having become uncoupled from the lamely proceeding train of the rest of my mind, fixed on the central insult to logic that observance of the rule of behavioral coherency had always before caused me to skip over, and undoubtedly many others before me, and this was the fact that contrary to what schoolteachers and writers would have one believe there is no reason to read printed words on...

    • “GO AHEAD” AND “MISTAKEN IDENTITY” (1992)
      (pp. 436-437)
      BRUCE WEBER
    • SELF-PORTRAIT IN TWENTY-THREE ROUNDS (1984/1991)
      (pp. 438-441)
      DAVID WOJNAROWICZ

      So my heritage is a calculated fuck on some faraway bed while the curtains are being sucked in and out of an open window by a passing breeze. I’d be lying if I were to tell you I could remember the smell of sweat as I hadn’t even been born yet. Conception’s just a shot in the dark. I’m supposed to be dead right now but I just woke up this dingo motherfucker having hit me across the head with a slab of marble that instead of splitting my head open laid a neat sliver of eyeglass lens through the...

    • “WAR STARS,” AN EXCERPT FROM THE FICTIONAL MEMOIR “GIVING UP THE GHOST” (1991)
      (pp. 442-455)
      MIKE GOLDEN

      Dutch Schultz was not his real name. I call him that because he was part the “I know nothing!” guard onHogan’s Heroes, and part gangster. Those images give me a brand to hang his identity on. In the land ofFuture Schlockall is marketing. In the beginning, mediocrity was a crime. Then it became a way of life. And finally, in the name of the parlay, it became our life sentence. Like any good Booster, I’m only laying out the proposition.

      That may sound like a bleak pronouncement to whoever thought the East Village was a cool scene...

  8. DOWNTOWN PUBLICATION ROUNDUP: AN ADDENDUM
    (pp. 457-462)
  9. AFTERWORD. THE SCENE: A CONVERSATION BETWEEN DENNIS COOPER AND EILEEN MYLES
    (pp. 463-482)
    DENNIS COOPER and EILEEN MYLES

    In the following dialogue, Dennis Cooper and Eileen Myles, key figures in the Downtown scene, whose vital earlier work is included in this volume and who remain highly prolific, discuss their own New York City from the years leading up to 1974 through the 1980s and the 1990s to the recent artistic and literary developments of a younger generation. In the process they develop the idea of “Downtown” and what it means today.

    Dennis Cooper: I only lived in New York for four years total, from ’83 to ’85, and then again from ’87 to ’90. For me, Downtown is...

  10. ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 483-491)
  11. TEXTUAL CREDIT LINES
    (pp. 492-496)
  12. PICTORIAL CREDITS (IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER)
    (pp. 497-509)
  13. ABOUT THE EDITOR
    (pp. 510-510)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 510-512)