Sunday, June 10, 2012

Theatre of the Absurd

This scan of a clipping advertising Slava Tsukerman's Liquid Sky (1982) triggers memories that had been buried under the sediment of later experiences. Liquid Sky really took off in 1983, right around the time I began working in the small offices of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, attached to the building in which was housed the Chapel Hill Newspaper -- published by the tyrannical Orville Campbell and his fretful crew.

Oddball characters were always coming and going from Algonquin Books, anything from authors, editors and publishers to art designers, book jobbers and friends of the main instigator of the whole enterprise, Louis Rubin, Jr., a volatile man who, in between shouting matches or dictated letters asking for more money from the board of directors, dramatically took naps on a cot in the back office. Whenever he threw tantrums -- which was fairly often -- I imagined him morphing into a rabid owl until he scrambled off for another nap.    

Every once in a while, an English professor named Dougald MacMillan flitted in with some madcap idea. He ran his own independent publishing outfit called Signal Books in nearby Carrboro, and one idea he bandied about was a book of poetry and artwork created by children dying of cancer. Sounded awfully depressing to me, but what did I know? Another time he asked me to pack up a stack of British pound notes along with a mansucript he was shipping to someone in Scotland, for what reason I didn't know, or ask. Finally, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, he scrawled "PHOTOS" on the outside packaging, then added with a flourish, "DO NOT BEND." Dougald, though he was originally from Arkansas, was mad about Irish literary folks, particularly James Joyce and Samuel Waiting for Godot Beckett. One day I had to deliver some materials to the Signal Books office, which was tucked along the railroad tracks behind The Station, an old Carrboro train station converted into a bar-eatery where bands like R.E.M. cut their teeth; in this case as in some of his Chapel Hill visitations, he was accompanied by another Beckett enthusiast, Martha Fehsenfeld, who had intense, almost bulbous eyes. 

All that from a Liquid Sky artifact!  

Today's Rune: Signals.      


Charles Gramlich said...

a lot of cool people are "originally from Arkansas." :)

Erik Donald France said...

Charles, of that there is no doubt ~~ and you're one of them ~!

jodi said...

Erik, Liquid Sky? On the rocks or with soda and lemon? Cheers either way!

the walking man said...

I have been to Arkansas.

Ah memory and the triggers for it! How would we ever know of anything we have done without those triggers?