Eileen Myles

  • The Book(s) I Want

    I’D LIKE TO DESCRIBE AN ORDINARY ENCOUNTER WITH GENDER. Which is fiction. I walk into a hardware store and I ask where the spray bottles are. He directs me. He-seeming person. I grab one and walk back to the register. I shove it toward him and he goes “three-oh-mmph.” I don’t know what the mmph is. I say what. He says if you give me four cents (as I hand him a five) I can give you back two dollars. I know how it works I explain. He hands me the two dollars and then says thank you ma’am. Now I bet many male-seeming people might not describe that exchange as gendered.

    Yet he took my what as not

  • culture November 18, 2020

    Everything Is Puppets

    Now I would like to acknowledge that I also feel a responsibility to write for puppets. I have five puppets in my life, they are not ten feet from me in two small cardboard boxes on my desk. They deserve better.

    Their names are Oscar, Bedilia, Montgomery, Crocky (the crocodile) and Casper.

    I am writing on the kitchen table at this moment which is pretty much a desk too. A desk with fruit. A desk with vitamins, legal paper, a Christmas postcard from David Beebe & Hilary, newlyweds, and their dog Duane who happily is giving us profile. Let’s face it everything is puppets. Certainly in my view.

  • Comedy of Heirs

    TRISTRAM SHANDY sailed into eighteenth-century literary history alongside such bawdy picaresques as Tom Jones. But unlike the rest Laurence Sterne’s creation is an antinovel: It starts and stops, has entire pages that aren’t even text—blank or solid black or marbled or filled with lines and swirls that indicate the wayward shapes of the narrative (at such moments it seems like what Sterne really is is a concrete poet). On the occasions when the author doesn’t want you to know what naughty thing he’s saying (though he quit being a minister to write, Sterne was still a modest man) there are

  • Pleasure Principles

    SAMUEL R. DELANY'S work is dense. It's like wriggling through consciousness itself and it's so much about writing, about philosophy, and always about sex. He's the genius who once said in an interview that all sexual relations are class relations, which if you think about it is true. That's probably the greatest difficulty with Delany's writing. It's true. So you can get your foot stuck in it for a while. And his protagonist only wears one shoe, a sandal.

    Each time I picked up Dhalgren (which is 879 pages long and was published in 1975) I thought period piece, I thought ehh too dreamy for

  • Missive Impossible

    Nineteen years ago, at the age of twenty-six, Qiu Miaojin, a much-lauded Taiwanese novelist, killed herself. At the time of her death she was living in Paris—leading a lively and queer intellectual life very much like the narrator of this 161-page epistolary novel. The sensational quality (and here I mean the sensations one feels when encountering a book by an author who killed herself upon its completion) of its content in relation to its seeming parallels with Qiu Miaojin’s life is an inextricable part of the reading. The book is an entirely postmodern act. It is as if Goethe killed himself

  • Inside the Tour

    One of the things I’ve always noticed about movies about writers is that nobody knows what writing actually looks like. Usually the author is shown failing to write, balling up pieces of paper and throwing them in the wastebasket. I remember a movie about Lillian Hellman where she actually threw her typewriter out the window. I think language is the problem. Since our tools are the same ones most people use (language, a computer), there’s a suspicion we might be doing nothing (except maybe being crazy—remember Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining), and then a book appears like a secret

  • culture December 23, 2009

    Incantations: Songs, Spells and Images by Mayan Women by Xpetra Ernandes, Xalik Guzmán Bakbolom, and Ambar Past

    As Ernesto Cardenal asserts in Incantations, poetry has a wider latitude for power in a culture where it is understood to be "the first speech." It proposes joyfully that what’s read this afternoon at the Bowery Poetry Club shares a magical link to this book's poems by illiterate women in Chiapas. The urgency of such a connection (for them and for us) is what animates for me this inaccrochable collection of poems by Mayan women.

    Some history, perhaps? In 1973 Ambar Past, an American woman in her twenties, traveled to Mexico to live in mud huts for thirty years collecting poems and stories in