Point/Counterpoint is a beloved feature that first appeared in the fall ’72 Telex edition of the Weeklings. PC/P is the product of an intellectual tradition hearkening back to storied Oxford debate squads and the golden age of radio, in which two authors match wits over random subjects while being forced to choose a side and defend it on the fly. Readers are advised to stand back, as the heat can get intense. This week’s arm wrestle involves acclaimed novelist, leader of post-punk noise outfit Suckdog, publisher of iconic fanzine Rollerderby, and all-around maven of fabulousness, Miss Lisa Carver.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on the clock.
Knowing Nothing About the Kimye Vogue is Vastly Superior to Knowing Something About the Kimye Vogue–
Point (Carver): Yes, it is. Pretty lady, pretty dress, black man’s head peeking over her shoulder, that’s a cover. What people know that they don’t like for fashion is that the model’s mother “whores out her children,” the model is “vapid and talentless” and did a sex tape, and the guy “bought” the cover. Some of my best friends are vapid and talentless and did sex tapes; people used to make their kids work on the farm all the time and it was good for them—I’m sure to the Kardashians working on the show is historically normal and everyone wanting to kart kids off to school for two decades and no relevant contribution to the family are the weirdos; and what makes anyone think Vogue gives the cover to the highest bidder? That’s silly. Everything people think they know about the Kimye Vogue cover is nosy and I bet you’re a bad friend.
Counter-Point (Beaudoin): I’m the kind of friend who eats your last Hot Pocket and then leaves the empty box in the freezer. I’m the kind of friend who forgets your favorite leather-fringed jacket at a party and then swears it was stolen. I’m the kind of friend who tells you that you have egg salad breath. I’m the kind of friend who doesn’t tell you that you have egg salad breath. I’m the kind of friend who slides your tip in front of my espresso. I’m the kind of friend who secretly voted for Romney. I’m the kind of friend that leaves you alone in the woods mid mushroom-rush and goes back to the car and listens to Zappa. I’m the kind of friend who insists they don’t believe in lactose intolerance. I’m the kind of friend that gets you smoking again. I’m the kind of friend that did that sex thing behind your back and more or less ruined all our lives.
Female Stand-up Comics-
Point (Beaudoin): Sarah Silverman is funny. Lisa Lampanelli is the opposite of funny. Both are women.
Counter-Point (Carver): No comics are funny. This is a misunderstanding. I did standup comedy in Austin. I did an all-covers routine. Richard Pryor, the guy who played Kramer, I forget who else, but they were all men. I memorized all these insulting sports jokes that I didn’t understand, and said n*gger a bunch of times (I was quoting), and talked about mouth-rape very often. That’s what it seems like men talk about when they get onstage with a mic in their hand. I went on Youtube and typed in “standup meltdowns.” No women came up in my search. Women just aren’t that angry, I guess. That’s why there aren’t so many female comics. Comedy is about being pissed off and broken. After I finished my routine, everyone just stared at me. It was awful.
Life Was Better Before the Internet-
Point (Carver): This demon told Solomon if you unchain me and let me hold your signet ring (with the name of God on it) for a minute, I’ll tell you things. So Solomon unchained him, and the demon took the ring and flung it into the sea and hurled Solomon far away from his homeland, where he went from king to lost and homeless beggar. That’s the reverse of what the Internet did for us. I was always getting lost and crying before I had GPS and smartphones (I’m going to lump that in), and I couldn’t find easy answers so I made stuff up. I think that’s a better life, because what you find or make by accident instead of going or doing as you planned is, like, interacting with fate. That demon DID tell Solomon things. I got rid of my Smartphone and I saw all these people driving and walking and partying looking at their screens instead of the life. I know everyone always says this, but it’s really shocking!
Counter-Point (Beaudoin): Solomon also once took a weekend trip to Nephtoah to party with some Canaanites, and there a demon came lo and unto him and said “In approximately 2033 years, leverage your flock to the hilt and acquire a dominating position in Apple just prior to the IPO. We’ll cash out and split the pre-tax earnings later.” Solomon did not listen, and instead spent all his bullion on prostitutes that looked vaguely like Salome, and spent his pouch of seeds on false idols, and even hocked his many-colored dreamcoat for a few goatskins of a really pretty mediocre Cabernet. The point being that I sort of liked it when there were only four television channels, and you had to go out of your way to find new bands and then order their recordings in the mail and wait a few weeks for them to come. I miss the anticipation. I miss silence. I miss not being surrounded by people having disembodied conversations. I liked how a knowledge of vinyl and guitars and rare books represented a usefulness that could not be immediately trumped by Bing.
The Fact That Raymond Carver is Lisa Carver’s Uncle Has Given Her an Unfair Advantage That All Other Authors Should Resent Her For-
Point (Beaudoin): When your first book, Will You Please Squat in a Litter Box Onstage, Please? came out I thought, sure, that could be a coincidence. It’s a big world and there’s lots of novels in it. Then, when you got that massive six-figure advance for What We Fuck About When We Fuck About Love, I started to get a little angry. I wouldn’t call it stalking but yeah, I followed your career. “That Carver,” I thought, hunkered down behind my dial-up connection as you garnered accolade after accolade, “she really gives nepotism a bad name.” I mean, I could barely steal my dentist’s waiting room New Yorker or therapist’s Paris Review without seeing some mention of your minimalist poems about French electronica, or your delicate short stories about hunting in the dappled Oregon woods. I could barely splice and divert my neighbor’s basic cable without seeing some E! Behind The Prosody episode featuring you hanging out with Robert Altman and Gordon Lish. But I guess it was when I heard you won the National Book Award for So Much Urine, So Close To Home that I finally decided to stop pretending “to write” and get serious about indexing my collection of Vogue from 1993-1998.
Counter-Point (Carver): My uncle Raymond Carver never molested me, and he took his glass eye out at Thanksgiving dinner and rolled it west down the table to where we children congregated. My uncle Raymond Carver left me a single pearl when he died. My uncle Raymond Carver kicked the little dog and kept his $5,000 profit when my father got caught and he didn’t. My uncle Raymond Carver ran over his son’s ear with the ride-on lawnmower; people said it was an accident.
Mixed Martial Arts
Point (Carver): I interviewed some of those guys out back at an event. The best manners of all the people I’ve ever interviewed in my whole life, which is probably more people than Gene Simmons has had sex with (I also interviewed Gene Simmons). I think they were so decent to me because unlike everyone else, they weren’t trying to prove anything to me. They already prove it. In the cage. (“In the cage” sounds dorky, like I’m an eleven-year-old boy fantasizing, but when you actually get in that cage, no dork.) My MMA guys were also surprisingly short. I’m supposed to give you something to argue with. Okay, I also think they’re smarter in general than people who don’t train and fight. Because without training we’re all flappy and at odd ends.
Counter-Point (Beaudoin): I admire nothing so much as the single-minded pursuit. The translator of Minoan scrolls. The collector of pre-war license plates. The painter of tiny canvases, each a photorealistic depiction of Pez. Why not train obsessively in order to deliver certain lethal knee strikes and socket-crushing elbows? Why not learn Muay Thai grips and the rear naked chokes and the Kimura? Why not build the body, tear the muscle, knit the fiber, drain the fat, cut the weight, and turn your ears into scar-tissued monstrosities? I love MMA. It’s real. Two people, one wins. Wrestling destroys karate. Striking kills Judo. Takedown defense trumps boxing. Jui-jitsu can turn a losing position into a brilliant counter stroke, arm bar or triangle. I don’t know if harder equates to smarter, but I definitely think the impetus toward brute Spartanism is greatly preferable to chubby pacifist laissez-faire.
Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church Just Died
Point (Beaudoin): Even six years ago I would have posted something on Facebook about Phelps and what he did or didn’t deserve, the damnation he was or wasn’t plummeting into the hellfire of. I would have come up with an equation solving for the cubic volume of eternal torment +/- an inverse quotient of hate spewed. Or some other self-righteous bullshit. But now, on this side of forty, I don’t have the stomach for that kind of thing anymore. I can’t celebrate anyone’s death, even implicitly. Also, I am convinced that people like Phelps do a lot more for the cause of open mindedness and rationality than a dozen earnest non-profits. We like to galvanize around things that are patently wrong and clownish. Nuance escapes petitions and donations. The day that Prop 8 passed in California, I was in the backseat of a car packed with a bunch of outraged co-workers. I said “don’t sweat it, this will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to gay rights.” The response was dead silence. And, possibly, my firing two weeks later. Or maybe that was the embezzlement. In any case, without Prop 8 we’d be five states behind in marriage equality. On some level, even if it’s just the impetus for a vague tisking superiority over glasses of cheap Merlot, we will all come to miss Fred Phelps.
Counter-Point (Carver): I just can’t care about this. I celebrate everyone’s death. Human beings are a virus. I can’t wait to die.
Self-Publishing is the Province of the Unbowed-
Point (Carver): It’s true that in writing a proposal and getting yourself in shape for your agent to shop you, you have to, more than bow, hogtie yourself naked. More than that, you have to lie. There’s nothing I feel more violent about than The Hook. You could say it’s part of your job. But why? Everyone has to agree to something for it to keep going like that. Just don’t agree! Be hookless. I also hate endings and transitions. And I hate legal.
Counter-Point (Beaudoin): I love the sham of the proposal and synopsis. The love the mutual, unacknowledged lie of it. I have never once lived up to what I promised, never once delivered the manuscript as described before it was written. Maybe publishers don’t actually want them to evolve. Maybe they hope for them to be produced in just the barrenly creative, industrial fashion only a near-desperate ten pages can deliver. There are maybe 100 people in the United States that are actually authors. The rest of us are hustlers, professional perjurers, thieves. Because we have to be. Because unless you are comfortably frontlisted, that’s what’s required. When you get paid to tell stories, you tell stories. Mostly for free.
Counter-Counter-Point (Carver): You convinced me! I reverse my position. I love liars.
The zine movement of the ’90s was the second great literary Renaissance-
Point (Beaudoin): Well, this is bullshit. Most zines were insanely dull. Just like most paintings are bad, most dancers can’t dance, most singers can’t sing, most writers can’t write, most chefs can’t cook, and most poets can’t poetaster. We revere things that are exceptional, and rightly so. It’s true that there were some genuinely exceptional zines, cultural artifacts as vital as anything else that was produced that decade in any medium. But there’s a difference between a renaissance and a Xerox machine. There’s a difference between Caravaggio and a stapler. Or wait, maybe there’s not. Maybe that’s the whole point! Why in hell didn’t I realize that 20 years ago? In any case, the best thing about the zine movement was that the audiences were tiny, there was zero money to be had, and almost everyone who made them was resigned to a creeping low-level hopelessness–but obsessively cranked them out anyway.
Counter-Point (Carver): Bullshit on your bullshit, Beaudoin. Unlike other art forms and literature, zines were just talking to people, which is what communication used to be about, low art. It’s only right and natural that they were often dull, because one’s friends are in general. I love you, friends!
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the finish line of this week’s Point/Counter-point. Thank you once again for participating. The votes are being tallied and will be released to the public after they’ve been verified J.D. Powers and Associates, as well as the Washington State Attorney General.
Lisa Carver has written eight books. She’s working on two new ones. She can’t stop. “Sean said I should tell you I peed in litter boxes onstage with Suckdog in the ’80s and published Rollerderby in the ’90s.” Money’s Nothing is available on Amazon, eBay, and Suckdog.net