What you (may have) missed on 3:AM this week:
Poetry: The return of Van Gogh’s Ear, Darran Anderson’s column. This time ’round, mobster and artist Dutch Schultz:
To edit Schultz’s monologue is to misrepresent it. It’s the very freeflowing nature of his babblings that provides the impact. Here is the human mind cut adrift from reason. On the brink of expiration, his speech turns both haunting and mundane, both feral and humdrum. There’s a certain outsider art-style fascination with it, the voyeurs’ pleasure that we all get upon hearing people’s last words as if they give us some great insight into the void and as if they reaffirm to us our very condition of being alive, however temporary that may be. Regrettably, there’s no audio recording, just a dictation on paper which inevitably loses some of the tone of his sentiments. Maybe there’s nothing to learn about dying from Schultz’s last words, no enlightening pearls of wisdom to impart. It’s certainly no Tibetan Book of the Dead. To seek some kind of truth in everything however is an unfortunate consequence of the age of materialism. Instead, this is art for art’s sake and the heart-gouging, eye-defiling mobster is the unlikeliest of dandies.
Reading the transcript, you’re firstly struck with its antecedents in literature, however illusory. You sense in his words the Dadaists and their Surrealist offspring with their cult of the unconscious and the accidental, employing all those Freudian methods from slips of the tongue to dream interpretation, all those melting clocks and ghostly mannequins. There’s Antonin Artaud tapping into the Holocaust and collaborationist guilt like it’s the national grid and blazing and shrieking like some unhinged desert prophet before an assembly of well-dressed Parisian dignitaries. And where else would you encounter a dying mobster ranting about French Canadian Pea Soup than in the novels of Richard Brautigan? Schultz probably never read a book. He, more than likely, thought writers were all cunts. But that’s the strength of Schultz’s last words; they have side-effects he never intended.
First posted: Saturday, March 14th, 2009.