King Kong Vs. Godzilla – Tom Bradley Happy-Fucks Osaka
By Barry Katz.
“That such an artist should have to live in a place like this, among sods like us, eking out a living in one of the most degrading ways imaginable — fuck me, isn’t that what drove your own Ezra Pound crazy? Seeing the best minds of his particular generation waste their vitality behind the cunting Berlitz podium?”
— Cye Johan, “Tom Bradley and The Sam Edwine Pentateuch “1
In chapter four of The Practical Writer2, Tom Bradley tells the tale of a diminutive author who was conned or coerced into giving a reading way out in the Far West, “where the men are big and the podia proportional.” This sad, short scribbler wound up getting mauled by a passel of cowpokes, “the majority of whom had only shown up to be obnoxious during the questions-and-answers part, and to jeer at this little lap-dog of the rich and famous.”
Tonight I travel on foot to bear witness to another auto da fe. This one, too, will bear a literary torque, but, in almost every particular, will twist in the opposite direction. The extreme oriental longitude of the venue, the victim’s generous physical dimensions, his nonexistent social connections: everything will have been reversed — except, I fear, for the surliness of the crowd.
I can hear them right now, a passel of cowpokes, far eastern-style. Sharpening their tongues, whetting their teeth, one by one, two by two, they’ve been falling in behind me as I slog through the tangled alleyways of this grim Nipponese megalopolis. We converge on the tavern our author has selected to be his peculiar Place of the Skull.
Everyone knows why the cowpokes out west were so hostile to that little lap-dog, and why they hankered to string him up on a barb wire fence and do a hate-crime on his candy ass. But, over here at the opposite end of the world from Truman Capote’s last stand, homophobia is far from endemic. And, in any case, tonight’s literary headliner (who just happens to be Dr. Bradley himself) doesn’t wiggle when he walks. Neither does he affect gelatinous wrists or a prim baby lisp.
So, what might he have done to turn the mild-mannered children of the Mikado into a lynch mob? Maybe I’m just projecting my personal paranoia. Perhaps he’s done nothing at all to rile anybody. This could be a happy posy parade I’m marshalling. Maybe I’ll hear beatitudes tonight rather than Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani.
I love hecklers and interlopers of any kind, and never get enough of them. I encourage people to jump up and chatter and scream right in the middle of everything.3
They’re right behind me, gradually swelling in numbers, those hecklers and interlopers whom Dr. Bradley loves so much. They limber up their larynxes and dog my steps, in their enthusiasm occasionally treading on my heels. Together we negotiate the convolutions of this city where, not too long ago, a gigantic foreign gorilla and a gargantuan native reptile rendezvoused to fuck each other hard.
* * * *
Osaka is not the rosy sort of garden that’s fun to get lost in. The firebombs dropped so long ago by Boeing Corporation’s B-29 Super Fortresses did little to disinfect this civic labyrinth. It’s almost as if our grandfathers’ flames still simmer in the sewers. Peril and persecution-mania steam from the cracks in the sidewalk and sting the nostrils, fumigating the front of the face. Back in ’45-’51, a sweet aroma rising from this pavement made natives dive and scramble on their empty bellies to suck sugar from our soldiers’ discarded chewing gum wrappers. More recently, Aum Shinrikyo’s neurotoxic vapors dragged a couple of those starvelings’ grandchildren down into the gutters, flat on their kissers, dead as dog droppings. And something reeks around the soles of my shoes right now. Have I trodden in something? Is it possible those twin poisons, VX gas and Wrigley’s Spearmint (even better, longer-lasting), linger yet in the Osaka smog?
I recall, earlier this evening, an unwelcome odor underfoot. It assailed me the same moment I accumulated my first pair of followers in the trudge toward Tom Bradley. I couldn’t believe the stench came from them, as they didn’t look like the incontinent type, these handsome blond youths: bona-fide Caucasoids, in fact, wholesome in identical conservative suits and white-sidewall waxed crew-cuts.
It turns out that I had stumbled, more or less at random, into Osaka’s most famous neighborhood, the very symbol of this municipality, the homeless ward, which festers under a permanent cloud of curdling geriatric piss. Tiptoeing among the orangish puddles and trying not to breathe, I noticed, through the corner of one cringing eye, this unisex couple of low-pigmentation lads, Mormon missionaries, from their look and sound.
All around them septua- and octo- and nonagenarians squatted and coughed and swooned on the pungent asphalt, and got tongued like Lazarus by feral mutts, and died, not needing the help of firebombs or nerve gas. Meanwhile, eager to be of service, my fellow honkies flapped Holy Writ in the myriad wrinkly faces. Since the codgers’ only ceiling is the sky, might as well fabricate them a landlord to live upstairs and oppress them from above.
The two Latter Day Saints saw me, glanced at their wristwatches, abandoned their marks, rose from their haunches and mounted their twin bicycles. And now, even though we have left Ammonia Alley behind us, I can hear them wobbling along behind, conspiring quietly in Utah and Wyoming accents, respectively. They are definitely going my way, these cowpokes.
What interest could the legendarily unbookish Mormons have in attending a recital of something other than The Pearl of Great Price? Perhaps their “bishop” has warned them to pay absolutely no attention to the following pan they’ve lately received in the perfidious secular-humanist press:
Most of their time [in Japan] is spent flitting about the mission home wrapped in black and white bath towels, providing glimpses of pendulous blond northern European scrota doubly cascading halfway down bike-muscled thighs… They have transformed the mission home into something resembling the callow male fantasy world of instantaneous gratification depicted in Hustler and Penthouse magazines… The sole difference between this enclave of faithful Saints and those “pictorials” is the absence of champagne splits and vulvas. Sarsaparilla and boners, rather.4
Now, if I were these boys, and if Universal Multiplanetary Headquarters in Salt Lake City had dispatched me all the way across the Pacific Ocean to soldier for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and if I was hearing snickers at my expense bubbling up from the baptismal font, wisecracks about Hustler and Penthouse and absent vulvas and so forth, I’d be pretty fucking goddamned pissed. (Pretty flipping dad-blamed ticked is the way I’d phrase it.) This is assuming, of course, I’d not been disarmed by the flattering of my scrotum as pendulous and cascading.
One can only speculate with reluctance about the configuration of these lads’ genitalia, but their physiques are strapping enough, milk- and beef-fed. They’re capable of rising up in the middle of a lit event or slam or whatever, and carrying out drastic cowpoke-type acts such as are coincidentally perpetrated by “hit missionaries,” against Dr. Bradley’s fictional alter-ego, Sam Edwine, in the climactic passages of Kara-kun, Flip-kun.5 Combine the tendency of life to imitate art with the well-known antipathy that has sprung up between both entities, and it seems likely a couple swinging dicks have joined our posse.
* * * *
Much to my surprise, as we turn the next non-ninety-degree corner, no less a structure than Osaka’s Cathedral of the Virgin Mary heaves sexily into view, reeking not of ammonia but of myrrh and hymenal rut. I’d forgotten this town is burdened with a full-blown archdiocese, complete with an actual Bishop, sans inverted commas. My deputies shudder and wisely avert their eyes from the Roman gallows affixed to the most prideful pinnacle.
From the north transept door slips a shadowy figure: tallish, darkly cassocked, a member of Societas Iesu by the formidable look and bearing of him. This scary guy, too, happens to be going our way. The Mormons shy away from him as though he were a wolf snapping at their Achilles tendons. In his teeth he grits a barbed rosary. In his right hand he brandishes a thoroughly thumbed copy of De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam, and, in his left hand, the current issue of Ambit Magazine. I manage to catch a glimpse of the particular pages of that legendary periodical upon which our Jesuit has sweated drops of anguished blood —
Father Itchy-Nookie is all suited up in his prettiest rhinestone dress and a big glans penis hat… He sprouts goat horns and granny teats and breaks out the meat cleaver… His clutch purse brimming with transubstantial gore, this attorney of nothingness dispenses wads of gristle and scab, flopping them greasily from the chipped rim of a crude ceramic chalice.6
I am charmed, in spite of such appalling blasphemy. It’s a beautifully illustrated piece of prose, which goes on to depict Father Itchy-Nookie’s Nipponese flock —
…squatting around the subterranean altar in vulgar positions, playing with themselves and trepanning their children with ragged thumbnails… yowling, in un-American Popish Esperanto, a cannibal hymn in the mixolydian mode.7
Our new recruit seems pretty miffed about this. Under his breath, so the methedrine merchants and porno touts and bipolar loiterers we pass won’t think him too weird, he begins to rehearse strange lines from the consecrated document in his right hand. This frightens the poor L.D.S. youngsters to the point of bladderly incontinence.
“I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions…that you tell me by some sign your name, and the day and hour of your departure!”
Maybe our practitioner of priestcraft hopes to join us at tonight’s reading, and to collar the performer before he goes on stage, and to neutralize him through the expedient of formal conjury, as certified by the Congregation of Rites in Rome —
“Give place, abominable creature, give way, you monster, give way! To what purpose do you insolently resist? To what purpose do you brazenly refuse? I adjure you, profligate dragon, in the name of the spotless Lamb, who has trodden down the asp and the basilisk, and overcome the lion, to depart…Tremble and flee! Tremble! And Flee!”
“Um…yeah. Good luck with that, Padre,” is all I can offer. I wonder if I should forewarn him of his opponent’s, shall we say, accomplishments in this shrouded style of dueling.8
And so, on we prance, to be seen at the most glamorous literary soiree of the Osaka social season.
* * * *
We pass a kind of indigenous shrine, improvised under a lean-to of corrugated aluminum, wedged between an underage Filipina hand-job bar and a standing-room-only whale meat sushi shop. Something catches my eye in the lurid neon shadows. Tiny demons are disporting themselves among the joss sticks, mugging in front of the ancestor-worship polaroids, scarfing and defiling the food offerings, fucking the plastic flowers. The Mormons don’t have eyes to see these naughty elementary spirits, but our chaplain does. How could he not? They’re priest-bait par excellence.
Preoccupied as he is with his copy of Ambit (he can’t pry his mortified eyes off the cover, which offers a scarlet image of Claudette Colbert’s head on a little boy’s bare-naked body), the Jesuit somehow musters the wherewithal to make an apotropaic sign of the cross, and to mutter some more —
“I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every spectre from hell, and all your fell companions! I adjure you, ancient serpent to depart forthwith in fear, along with your savage minions! Depart, then, transgressor. Depart, seducer, full of lies and cunning, foe of virtue, persecutor of the innocent!”
— but to little effect. Some of the goblins leer at him over their outsized begging bowls. Some feign fear, but smirk behind the knobs of their own lotus-positioned knees. Some rear back in petulant spleen, revealing mouthfuls of exquisitely detailed tooth stumps, while others crumple into their own pronounced rib cages with lubricious laughter or mortal agony. None shows the faintest inclination to pray or meditate or otherwise behave in any way like chastised sprites.
Suddenly, several of these mini-grotesqueries begin to inflate and swell to near adult human size, frightening the theists among us. They break ranks and transmogrify into a shambling squad of shabby old women. After bellying up to the altar and chugging the Buddha-appeasing jars of coin-op rice spirits (a sacrilege I’ve never seen before, perhaps an indication of the specialness of this night), the grannies leech onto our derriere garde.
So, what about these native faithful? Will they serve as Tom Bradley’s claque tonight? Coming from a profounder tradition, the crones must know that tonight’s main attraction spouts his libel and blasphemy and invective in obedience to inexorable karma, the universal law of moral causation. Can the weird sisters be relied upon to come to the doc’s rescue when he starts getting mauled?
I reckon that depends on whether or not they resent having their most secret doctrine regarding the profoundest mysteries of existence bellowed into every corner of the globe, splatter-shot pell-mell into space on light-speed microwaves, and plastered across the bandwidths on the web’s most famous blog (3.7 million hits per month), as follows
Once you’ve contrived that he should cease to be, all you need to do is place a little piece of fish, or perhaps a dab of pork gristle, between the lips of the youngster after you expel him, before you burn him. He will not become a Buddha as a result of this dietary indiscretion. He will return to the cycle of metempsychosis, his tiny soul and penis ‘recycled,’ as your mother says of milk cartons and plastic bags.9
Impressively, the keepers of this wisdom are able to match us, goose-step for goose-step, in spite of being bent ninety degrees at the waist with the geriatric scoliosis endemic to these calcium-poor volcanic isles. The boneless mouths through which they wheeze hover at just the right elevation for gumming the balls off guys who might have offended them. They might have to climb on a chair in Tom Bradley’s case, for his legs are monstrously long.
He does seem bent on leaving absolutely nobody unpissed-off. His venom’s no less ecumenical than gratuitous. He has braided a scourge of small cords and is beleaguering folks in fanes of every denomination within reach. Take your pick: polygamist, popish or pagan poo-poo could hit the fan tonight.
Fortunately for all involved, the only member of the formidable Muslim faith to be found amongst the Bradleyan dramatis personae is Mustapha, aka “Moosie,” in the Editors’ Book Award-nominated Black Class Cur. And that rollicking, nutty Palestinian abortionist is painted in colors of warmth and wrapped in bear-hugs. In any case, Moosie can’t make it tonight, for he’s stuck for all eternity way over on the Asian mainland, chained to a conveyor belt at the Foo-Chow Female Comrades’ Clinic.10
* * * *
Father Itchy-Nookie nearly frightened off the Mormons, but has been powerless to repel Gautama’s devotees. I hope his hexes and spells can be more effective against certain other species of Bradley un-fans who might infiltrate and disrupt the big show.
As if on cue, we are deafened by the unmuffled throttles of the most piercingly whiny rice burners ever to be misnamed motorcycles. They are being ridden by mean boys. Helmetless in violation of the law, sporting, in violation of taste’s canons, purple and green spike hairdos, brown lipstick and buttock-exposing cutaway leather jeans, these are the infamous bozosoku. And Dr. Bradley has not neglected to throw down the gauntlet of pugnacity before this sect as well.
In the whole universe, these adolescent “bozos” want nothing more than to be admitted to the ranks of the proper grown-up Japanese antisocials. To that end, they hang around [Yakuza headquarters] for weeks on end, sleeping in the mud and peeing in the weeds, just so they can be available to fetch…canned coffee and rice balls, or even their own sisters.11
The teen bikers speed off in the very direction we are headed, which does not bode well for Dr. Bradley’s chances of having a literate, attentive audience.
And then suddenly, as if Hell recruited the bozos to harbinger an evil so weighty that it needs twice as many wheels to creep upon, the street fills with a fleet of Mercedes Benzes. I avert my eyes and lower my face in pudency, just as the natives do, for these are the gangsters who have caused Osaka to become known as the Yakuza capital of Japan. Through tinted, bulletproof windshields they look like 1950’s B-movie caricatures of themselves: dark glasses, kinky punch-perms, and full-body tattoos showing under too-short cuffs. Flagrantly they flout every civilized traffic norm.
They aren’t known for their English skills, but Babel Fish might very well have alienated Dr. Bradley from their affections. In a patronizingly Kiplingesque passage, he has shown them doing one of their routine daily chores —
This is the proper angle…between these two ribs. Slice in, firmly, to get through the muscle fibers, and then up, up, up. Come on, don’t be so polite about it. I mean really up! Try again… Okay, now watch his eyes. Count to ten… See that? The life goes out at a leisurely pace, and he sort of snuggles into himself with a sigh, like a tired baby at bedtime. That’s because we have just cleanly sliced his left ventricle in two, in the efficient and effective manner of our proud Samurai ancestors… It’s best not to look at their eyes after you’ve tucked them in. Their soul is looking for a place to hide from the devil, and it might just choose your body.”12
The Benzes speed on ahead and vanish into the bozos’ cloud of phosphorescent exhaust. The Yakuza, too, have decided to take in tonight’s performance, causing me to commence shedding enthusiasm for this assignment.
* * * *
I’m calculating how many styrofoam containers of freeze-dried ramen noodles the kill-fee will yield me (I like the kind with little cubes of solidified pork sauce), when the Chinese consulate, just across the street, captures my attention. Its severely dented gate brings thoughts that drain me even further of journalistic grit.
Osaka boasts this Divine Nations’s most fervent extreme-rightists, who hold the mere Yakuza on a short leash. They funk not to crash their gigantic sound trucks into whatever displeases them. If they rammed the consulate of the soon-to-be richest and most powerful and meanest-assed country on earth, do you think a mere lit-tavern’s going to slow them down?
Pray to the deity, whoever that is, whether my own YHWH or the local emperor, that the doc hasn’t chosen to bait this contingent of Nippon-dwellers. Beseech the powers which ostensibly be that he won’t read from the book containing the following gem, the most suicidally offensive passage in his whole pugnacious oeuvre. Here the author himself, with his usual monumental indiscretion, apostrophizes the divine being whom the extreme rightists consider to be the father of their proud and pure nation-race —
Tom whittles a banana-sized forefinger at the funerary portrait of moldering Hirohito, whom the noodle-Nazis literally worship as a god. Over the music that blasts nowhere but inside his own brain, his mighty voice thunders cheerfully, in fluent Japanese, for the Paraclete has descended like a tongue of flame upon this gaijin’s head.
“Shame! Shame on you Ojii-chan! The blood of millions oozes between your stubby fingers! Guilty as charged! Get thee to a proctology clinic! Living god, my pink and delightsome ass!” Tom grabs that body part and waddles like a goose. Four bars later, he turns and wiggles it in the deceased sovereign’s face. “Cannibal god! Buck-fanged Moloch! Sink your yellowing dentures into this! Whoo-whoooo!”13
If the Yakuza will settle for slicing my subject’s left ventricle in two while counting to ten, the denters of that piece of sovereign Chinese territory won’t rest till they’ve group-whacked him with their samurai swords, Nanjing 1937-style, and group-whacked him again, and group-whacked him some more, till Dr. Tom Bradley is nothing but a red film of single atoms underfoot, not even a scent left to linger.14
Furthermore, these codgers won’t need to congregate in our path and fall in with us, “trotting and waddling alongside on their Jiminy Cricket legs.”15 They’re everywhere already, with eyes on flexible lubricated stalks slithering from the perforations of every manhole cover in the Pacific Rim. My ankle just got tangled in one. It mucked up my sock. No doubt Shinto-fascism is already well, and invisibly, represented at the tavern we traipse to.
* * * *
We enter a soporific zone, doldrums, Osaka’s horse latitudes. Like Dorothy and Toto and those other three stupid cunts stumbling into the field of Afghanistan-import opium poppies, our pace and our jaws are slackened. What is it about this strange neighborhood and puts lead weights on the eyelids? We hear snores and mouth breathing rather than the usual city sounds. Ah, yes, that’s it. We are passing some huge crappy “Imperial” university or other, slumber’s domain, the warm milk teat upon which our author has been known parasitically to fasten himself.
You’re not supposed to ask for homework, or any other kind of work, from these zombies. College is the only period of repose they get between the cradle and the crematorium. They’re not expected to learn anything. It’s considered inhumane to ask them to do more than sleep or chat on their walkie-talkies with coevals across the corridor.
The companies that will enslave them upon graduation pay attention only to the numerical standing of the universities that churn them out. The employers assume, correctly, that their new recruits know absolutely nothing, and simply train them from the ground up, starting with proper groveling techniques…16
Forget about the Mormons and the Papists and the Bozos and the Yaks, and even the Heil Hirohito maniacs. What if a bunch of his students wake each other up, fill their veins with methedrine, and come to collect their due? They have serious cause to bring the house down, genuine grievances: parental tuition moneys flushed down the squatty-potty; hour upon hour of their irreplaceable youth wasted watching this outlander-goon lounge around the professorial podium and scribble mean lies about them and their civilization. For entire semesters they never once hear the sound of his voice.
Yes, my roll book is full of kids conditioned to be content to live in second-world conditions in the middle of one of the world’s richest economies, looking forward to an adulthood of working sixty-hour weeks and scrimping so they can afford the insane college tuition (much more than Harvard), to send their own zero-point-five children through the same absurd cycle of waste, to be exposed to barbarian pedagogues like me, and watch us write in silence.17
In preparing to undertake this reporting assignment, it was not easy for me to choose between my steel-toe engineering boots in anticipation of diving into the guaranteed brawl, or my sneakers for a speedy exit. Now the varsity squad’s taking up our rear, I’m glad I chose the latter. I’m preparing myself mentally for a headlong scramble back out the tavern door. Where in the fuck is the People’s Liberation Army, or the Ohio National Guard, when you need them?
The only reason I don’t turn tail right here and now, elbow through the ranks of my posse, and scurry back whence I came, is the not unreasonable hope that, for all the English he’s taught his pupils, they haven’t been able to read a word of his stuff. Particularly this unapologetic trope —
Jean Cocteau exhorts us as follows: “Whatever the public blames you for, cultivate it: it is yourself.” I have cultivated “myself” to a perverse degree.18
* * * *
For those reciters born with at least a normal budget of animal vigor, it’s advisable to be drunk… You’ve placed your person at the service of the characters and situations in your novels, and you must do whatever’s required, even if it means scaring shit out of people in the front row.
Thus, in the bible of American scribblers19, does the doctor lay out his invasive procedures for “How to Give a Rousing Reading.” But he prescribes that formula for occidentals, such as hang around the taverns, glory holes, flop houses and other typical lit venues of places like Des Moines and Dublin, where frank talk and natural behavior is encouraged. How will scaring shit out of people in the front row play here in Nippon, a society seesawing on a needle-sharp fulcrum of forced politeness, over an abyss that brims with Nanjing-1937 gore, ready to slosh and boil over at the slightest nudge?
I pick up the pace, in spite of the crackling knees and arthritic ankles of our superannuated Buddhist contingent, hoping to arrive early and stake out a position for myself near the exit with my back against the wall.
* * * *
Finally we come within belly-crawling distance of the target tavern. The outward aspect of tonight’s venue will have to go undescribed in this gig report, because a pair of sounds are issuing from inside which occupy my entire sensorium and blind me. I’m all ears.
The first sound is that of the man himself. He seems to be swapping brain seizures with someone, at the top of his lungs. Appetized by the rumbling racket, the members of my party surge forward with a blood-lustful unison grunt, wanting to get on with the sacrifice. But just as they start to clamber up my spinal column, the second sound comes and stops them cold. And what a doughty sound it is: another voice, with an East German accent, yet. That Teutonic tone does what Father Itchy-Nookie’s mad imprecations could not. It casts out the paranoid phantasms, expells Moloch’s minions.
My Ambit-ogling Jesuit, my two Latter Day etceteras, my Buddhistic witches, my bozos, my Yak-yaks, even the doc’s own aggrieved pupils — all of them evaporate. Poof, like that. Their last few vestiges dissipate over the pavement like a handful of single-flutter farts with mediocre hang time. Even the rightists’ eye-stalks wither and withdraw back into the manhole covers, with gooshy sounds.
Whose voice has chased away all badness? Who could this sonorous Kraut be? I screw my orbs back into their sockets and peek inside the drinking establishment.
I see Dr. Bradley, looking even more sociopathically tall than expected, looming over the bar, holding what I presume to be a book — though I can’t be sure. Any tome, even the 677-page Killing Bryce, looks like a pamphlet in that gorilla mitt. He’s alternating high octane espressos with some sort of tawny distilled spirit, and yelling at the possessor of that Leipzig lilt. But it’s nice yelling, not mean.
In the rare event that Dr. Bradley approves of someone, he comes on like a kapok-stuffed anaconda who wants to be your boa. And he definitely approves of the person with whom he drinks and screams now. As I’ve amply demonstrated this evening, the doctor is well supplied with yellow bile; but he can also exude yellow honey from every pore, if you please him. Japanophiles tend to latch onto his pugnacious bits and forget his tender depictions of this archipelago’s lovable inhabitants: the Filipina sex slaves20; internally exiled AIDS victims21; ethnic Korean bomb babies22; and, at the extreme opposite end of the social spectrum, royal prisoners of the Togu Palace23. His literary criticism consists entirely of raves about authors whose fiction and poetry make him ecstatic.
I suspect this German is a writer, and a good one. My suspicion is confirmed when he happens to glance over his shoulder in my direction and reveals himself to be none other than the great underground movie impresario, Johannes Schonherr.
All of a sudden, he, or maybe Dr. Bradley, or maybe both of them at once, slam down their booze and begin to declaim, at a high howling bellow, this coincidentally pertinent passage from Herr Schonherr’s excellent book, Trashfilm Roadshows:
A thousand times GG [Allin] had claimed that one day he would commit suicide on stage and take with him as many people in the audience as he could… As tended to be the case with all his shows, GG whipped up the crowd until they exploded with violence and fought back… GG retreated, naked, shit-smeared and bleeding from wounds all over his body… The next morning, GG was dead.24
That’s not persecution-fantasy genre fiction. And by no means is it veiled autobiography inflamed with thanatotic wish fulfilment. It’s straight reportage of verifiable fact. You see, unlike certain guys in this tavern, Johannes Schonherr does not flaunt his own wounds, and does not schematize his own disease. He grabs other people’s wounds and diseases and runs with them. Johannes Schonherr does not make his own movies, but takes other people’s movies from one locale to another, actual places with latitudes and longitudes, findable on maps that not only he, but anyone with eyes can see. Johannes Schonherr transports tangible material artefacts, firmly emulsed on palpable celluloid, in vehicles made not of idiosyncratic brain waves, but of metal and rubber. His life program, his business plan, presupposes an awareness of the Newtonian mechanics and thermodynamics which a schizoid fantasist can ignore.
Johannes Schonherr road-shows trash films in hovels and alleys and back staircases stuffed with flesh and blood and bone, genuine folks physically incapable of evaporating at the first sound of his voice. This fearless and resourceful modern-day Siegfried, on null budgets, fetches Consenting Children, Penis Puppets, Piss Mission, Sins of the Fleshapoids, Whoregasm, and other such solid reels, to places like Pyongyang, Moscow, the “senseless killing neighborhoods” of the Lower East Side, and, even more appallingly, Delta, Utah. He lives for the sake, and in the hope, of inciting the very sort of audience mayhem that I’ve only been fretting and trembling about, and — yes, I admit — fantasizing about, like the M half of an S & M liaison.
Johannes Schonherr doesn’t merely settle for titillating his own unfulfilled Christ complex by secretly hoping and publicly fearing that fascists with eyeballs on lubricated stalks will surveil his shows. No, he has actually been besieged by the real unhallucinated thing: for one especially horrifying example, the dreaded Fascho Feministinnen of Nuremberg,25 whose unfeigned savagery he not only didn’t fear, but taunted and incited and coaxed. They stormed his event with eggs and red paint, thundering in on horrendous unshaven thighs and splattering pamphlets everywhere: nightmare images of splenetic dames with eye patches, and hardly any lip gloss at all.26
Johann Schonherr, unlike Tom Bradley, operates in a godless world. Blasphemy and sacrilege are redundant, non-sequitur, in a universe where they have no target. He doesn’t need to fabricate Jesuit exorcists and Mormon missionaries and curbside shrine haunters. Prophylaxis is redundant in surroundings already disinfected of theism’s virus.
So real is the aura and influence of Herr Schonherr, so magnetic his utterly bullshit-free personality, that his big new pal makes a last-minute change on tonight’s program. Dr. Bradley chooses to recite about a real country. On the spur of the moment, he removes his gorilla-sized thumbnail from the Jappy bits of Fission Among the Fantatics, and flips, instead, to Chapter Four. It’s about an unfeigned place where, for the first and last time of his life, he, too, was engaged, every bit as perilously and intimately as Johannes Shonherr is engaged, with humanity —
In the land of Mao Zedong I had real students and an actual subject matter (literature, not EFL), and I came to know what teaching is, how walking into class is a pleasure you anticipate all week, and walking out you feel shot full of methedrine (and your students are likely to be shot full of lead).27
Like jazz musicians, tonight’s star performers start trading fours. Johannes responds with something logical-positivistic and three-dimensional that he came bang-up against in another real country, also peopled coincidentally by commies —
The North Korean Godzilla flick was produced by the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il himself… Godzilla starts out as a little figure formed from half-chewed food by an old blacksmith in prison… A drop of blood falls on the figure, causing it to come to life. It immediately starts to eat all the iron it can find. The more it eats, the bigger it becomes. Of course, this being a North Korean film, the creature is soon helping the poor in their fight against feudal lords.28
Someone arrived at this tavern not much more than a semi-masticated glop. Then he got anointed by mundane blood, and it made him gigantic. What else can I conclude about the awesome aspect of this Nietzschean pair of Great Blond Beasts, yoked and roaring, chomping iron? King Kong and Godzilla happy-fuck all over this tavern. And if I weren’t Jewish, and therefore oriental myself, I’d swell with western pride, instead of puckering like the prepuce of which I was deprived at parturition.
Frankly, before tonight I never understood why authors give public readings, when the money they blow on trains and planes and gasoline and caffeine and booze could be more economically invested in a sheaf of promo posters pasted strategically in bookstores. It’s impossible to imagine two fields of endeavor more diametrically opposed than private writing and public reading.
But now I get it. It’s good for the Dr. Bradleys of this world to get out once in a while. Out of the maze of formalized paranoid-schizophrenia that is the groundwork for good fiction. Out from under writing’s rock and into the sunshine of talking, where, paradoxically, the very self one has been solo-spelunking suddenly opens up and becomes clear —
“These ashes mean nothing to you, Dr. Bradley. You gorge on Chinese rice and puff up your resume with Chinese publications. And you pray for the personal fame which the declining bourgeoisie crave as a substitute for the self-respect that capitalism fails to provide. Soon you will return to your country and lay your head down in peace. But we have to stay here and try to keep from smothering each other. This is your forty days in the wilderness. For us it’s been forty centuries.”29
If such are the wholesome effects of getting out of the house for one night, imagine how rude his health would be if he got out of Japan forever.
up2“How to Give a Rousing Reading: Advice from an Amplified Author,” The Practical Writer, Penguin Books (NYC), 2004 (ISBN-10: 0142004006, ISBN-13: 978-0142004005), pages 189-194; unexpurgated excerpt.
up3Ibid., page 192.
up5 Ibid., pages 281-5.
up6 Ambit Magazine, Issue 189, Summer 2007 ISSN 0002-6972 (London), page 84.
up7Ibid., page 86.
up8Critical Appendix, Fission Among the Fanatics, pages 309-10: Philo the Jew must have been right: the air is indeed full of spirits. There seems to be a scarcely imaginable number of varieties and ranks and orders–undines, sylphs, gnomes, you name it. The unseen universe resembles nothing so much as one of those promotional scuba diving videos which the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s Tourism Ministry shoots at the Gulf of Aqaba… Through the agency of one of these inhalable phocidae, Dr. Bradley has bestowed a whopping dose of terminal lung cancer on some unhappy local slob… In most cases no such effect could be achieved by any other means than the sort of left-handed black occultism that would be karmically fatal to anyone who employed it on purpose. But Dr. Bradley’s role in this slow, smelly murder resembles an air traffic controller’s more than a sorcerer’s. The demon has been summoned in blameless unconsciousness on our man’s part. He offers his own strictly maintained ignorance of formal conjury as proof of his innocence.
up9 Newtopia Magazine, Issue 8, “Ethnic Narcissism and Infertility in Japan,” featured at Arts & Letters Daily, whose editor, Denis Dutton (“among the most influential media personalities in the world,” Time Magazine 14 June 2004, U.S. edition), blurbs as follows on the back cover of the book which the good doctor might read from tonight, if he’s feeling especially indiscreet: Tom Bradley is one of the most exasperating, offensive, pleasurable, and brilliant writers I know. I recommend his work to anyone with spiritual fortitude and a taste for something so strange that it might well be genius.
up11“Home of the Brave,” Writers of the Information Age, Cross Connect, 2002 (ISBN 0-9651450-4-2), page 32.
up12Ibid., page 34; see also Cye Johan in Exquisite Corpse: Tom Bradley risks having his liver bisected at any moment on the street with the shorter version of the samurai sword, the wakizashi, which is used for suicide, and is also concealed about the person for sneak assassinations. Beheadings, random frenzied amputations, and other such military exercises, as in Nanjing, are generally effected with the longer and more illustrious katana blade. (Just a little background on Japanese culture there.)
up13Fission Among the Fanatics, page 18.
up14Cye Johan, op cit: Even though [Hirohito] undeified himself on the radio quite a while ago, he and his male issue yet retain a substantial and powerful number of fanatical worshippers who respond murderously, preferably with swords and knives, to blasphemy and sacrilege.
up16Fission Among the Fanatics, page 255.
up17 “Turning Japanese”, adapted from Chapter Nine of Fission Among the Fanatics, “…dumbed-down, of course, politically corrected, and given a vulgar title, as per that swanky magazine’s editorial policies. All in return for five hundred whorish bucks…” (private correspondence from the author).
up18Poets & Writers Magazine 2001 (NYC): volume 29 issue 5, pages 83 ff.
up20Kara-kun, Flip-kun, passim.
up22Kara-kun, Flip-kun, passim.
up24Johannes Schonherr, Trashfilm Roadshows, Headpress, 2000 (1-900486-19-9), pages 62-3.
up25Ibid., page 17.
up26Ibid., page 19.
up28Trashfilm Roadshows, page 142.
up29 Fission Among the Fanatics, pages 99-100.
[Tom Bradley’s Fission Among the Fanatics was 3:AM‘s Non-Fiction Book of the Year for 2007.]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barry Katz is a wandering Jew from Jaffa where as a kid on a kibbutz he picked green grapefruits.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, June 2nd, 2008.