Transcript: Jay McInerney and Kathy Acker | May 02, 1989

Violin music plays. In animation, a marble entrance with two columns floating on misty mountains opens up to reveal a small bookshelf. Book covers from the collection flash by, including Cat’s eye by Margaret Atwood and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.
The title of the show appears as a book cover with a picture of the marble entrance: “Authors at Harbourfront.”

The screen turns as if it were a book page and a male narrator speaks as clips of different authors speaking at Harbourfront flash by.

The narrator says THE FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS AT
TORONTO'S HARBOURFRONT IS ONE
OF THE WORLD'S FOREMOST
LITERARY EVENTS.
NOW ENTERING ITS TENTH YEAR,
THE FESTIVAL ANNUALLY ATTRACTS
50 OF THE WORLD'S BEST AUTHORS
TO THE STAGE, TO READ FROM
THEIR WORKS AND PARTICIPATE
IN INTERVIEWS AND DISCUSSIONS
WITH THEIR PEERS.
THIS PROGRAM FEATURES TWO OF
THE HITS OF THE 1988 FESTIVAL
OF AUTHORS.

The pictures of two authors appear on screen. Kathy Acker is in her thirties and has short red hair combed up. She wears a black blouse, black trousers and a black jacket with a pattern of grey geometric figures. A caption reads “KATHY ACKER. U.S.A.” Jay McInerney is in his forties, clean-shaven, with curly short hair. He wears a light pale green suit, a striped white and blue shirt, and a green patterned tie. A caption reads “JAY MCCINERNEY, U.S.A.”

The narrator continues JAY McINERNEY AND KATHY ACKER
ARE TWO YOUNG WRITERS FROM
NEW YORK, EACH WITH
VERY DIFFERENT STYLES.
FIRST, WE LOOK AT JAY
MCINERNEY,
WHO BURST ONTO THE SCENE
WITH THE BEST SELLER
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY.
HE FOLLOWED WITH
RANSOM
IN THIS PROGRAM, JAY
McINERNEY READS FROM HIS
LATEST WORK
STORY IF MY LIFE.

As the narrator mentions the titles, book covers appear on screen. The first cover shows a man in a black jacket seen from behind. In the background, skyscrapers and a sign with red neon lights reading “ODEON” appear. In red letters, the title reads “BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY.” The second book cover shows a colourful flamingo-like bird with its long legs partially under the water in a river. Behind the bird, two katanas floating on air reflect as a bridge on the water surface. In the background, hills and a bright moon appear. In violet letters, the title reads “RANSOM.” The third book cover shows a blond woman seen from behind. She sits on a sofa with her head against her right hand. In big yellow letters, the title reads “STORY OF MY LIFE.”
Guitar music plays. The screen shows a stage in darkness with a spotlight where a man in a white shirt and black jacket stands behind a lectern. He introduces the author, greets him as McInerney walks up the stage and leaves. Jay McInerney approaches the lectern and addresses the audience.

The man in the black jacket says NOW FROM UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA, PLEASE WELCOME
JAY McINERNEY.
[applause]

Jay says THANK YOU.
I'M GOING TO READ, TONIGHT,
FROM MY NEW NOVEL,
STORY OF MY LIFE.
I THINK ANY KIND OF
PERFORMANCE ALWAYS TAKES A
SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF.
THIS MAY TAKE A LITTLE MORE
THAN THE USUAL AMOUNT BECAUSE
STORY OF MY LIFE
IS WRITTEN
IN THE FIRST PERSON FROM A
WOMAN'S POINT OF VIEW.
AND I'M NOT GOING
TO READ IN FALSETTO.
[laughter]
STORY OF MY LIFE
IS
THE STORY, ACTUALLY,
OF ALISON POOLE'S LIFE.
ALISON IS -- WELL, SHE DESCRIBES
HERSELF AS 20 GOING ON GREY.
SHE'S AN ASPIRING ACTRESS,
AND I'M GOING TO READ FROM
THE FIRST CHAPTER.
SO I THINK THINGS ARE
PRETTY SELF-EXPLANATORY.
THE FIRST CHAPTER IS
CALLED, GETTING IN TOUCH
WITH YOUR CHILD.
THIS IS AN ACTING TERM
FROM METHOD ACTING.
I THINK IT'S EXPLAINED
IN THE BODY OF THE TEXT.
AND THIS IS
STORY OF MY LIFE.
“I'M LIKE, I DON'T
BELIEVE THIS SHIT.
I'M TOTALLY PISSED AT MY OLD
MAN WHO IS SOMEWHERE IN THE
VIRGIN ISLANDS, I
DON'T KNOW WHERE.
THE CHEQUE WASN'T IN THE
MAILBOX TODAY, WHICH MEANS
I CAN'T GO TO SCHOOL
MONDAY MORNING.
I'M ON THE MONTHLY PAYMENT
PROGRAM BECAUSE DAD SAYS
WANTING TO BE AN ACTRESS IS
SOME FLAKY WHIM, AND I NEVER
STICK TO ANYTHING.
THIS, FROM A GUY WHO'S
BEEN MARRIED FIVE TIMES.
[laughter]
AND THIS WAY, IF I DROP OUT IN
THE MIDDLE OF THE SEMESTER,
HE WON'T GET BURNED
FOR THE FULL TUITION.
MEANWHILE, HE BUYS HIS NEW
BIMBO, TANYA, WHO IS A YEAR
YOUNGER THAN ME, A
450 S.L. CONVERTIBLE.
ALWAYS GONE FOR THE YOUNG
ONES, HAVEN'T WE, DAD?
PLUS HER OWN CONDO, SO
SHE CAN HAVE SOME PRIVACY
TO DO HER WRITING.
LIKE SHE CAN EVEN READ.
[laughter]
HE ACTUALLY BELIEVES HER
WHEN SHE SAYS SHE'S WRITING
A NOVEL.
BUT WHEN I WANT TO SPEND
EIGHT HOURS A DAY BUSTING ASS
AT LEE STRASBERG, IT'S LIKE,
ANOTHER ONE OF ALISON'S
CRAZY IDEAS.
STORY OF MY LIFE.
MY OLD MAN'S 52
GOING ON 12.
AND THEN THERE IS SKIP
PENDELTON, WHICH IS ANOTHER
REASON I'M PISSED.
SO I'M ON THE PHONE SCREAMING
AT MY FATHER'S SECRETARY
WHEN THERE'S A CALL
ON MY OTHER LINE.
I GO, HELLO, AND THIS GUY
GOES, HI, I'M WHATEVER HIS
NAME IS.
I'M A FRIEND OF SKIP'S.
AND I SAY, YEAH?
AND HE SAYS, I THOUGHT MAYBE
WE COULD GO OUT SOMETIME.
AND I SAY, WHAT
AM I, DIAL A DATE?
[laughter]
SKIP PENDELTON IS THIS JERK
I WAS IN LUST WITH ONCE
FOR ABOUT THREE MINUTES.
[laughter]
HE HASN'T CALLED ME IN THREE
WEEKS, WHICH IS FINE, OKAY,
I CAN DEAL WITH THAT.
BUT SUDDENLY I'M LIKE A
BASEBALL CARD HE TRADES WITH
HIS FRIENDS?
[laughter]
GIVE ME A BREAK.
SO I GO TO THIS GUY,
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK
I'D WANT TO GO OUT WITH YOU?
I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU.
AND HE SAYS, SKIP
TOLD ME ABOUT YOU.
[laughter]
RIGHT.
SO I'M LIKE, WHAT
DID HE TELL YOU?
AND THE GUY GOES, SKIP
SAID YOU WERE HOT.
I SAY, GREAT, I'M TOTALLY
HONOURED THAT THE GREAT SKIP
PENDELTON THINKS I'M HOT.
I'M JUST A JALAPENO PEPPER
WAITING FOR SOME STRANGE
BURRITO, HONEY.
I MEAN, REALLY?
[laughter]
AND THIS GUY SAYS TO ME, WE
WERE SITTING AROUND AT SKIP'S
PLACE, ABOUT FIVE IN THE
MORNING THE OTHER NIGHT, WIRED
OUT OF OUR MINDS, AND I SAY --.”
THIS IS THE GUY TALKING.
“I WISH WE HAD SOME WOMEN.
AND SKIP IS LIKE, I COULD
ALWAYS CALL ALISON.
SHE'D BE OVER LIKE A SHOT.
HE SAID THAT, I SAY?
I CAN HEAR HIS VOICE EXACTLY.
IT'S NOT LIKE I'M
TOTALLY AMAZED.
BUT STILL, I CAN'T BELIEVE
EVEN HE WOULD BE SUCH A PIG.
AND SUDDENLY, I FEEL LIKE A
CHEAP SLUT, AND I WANT TO
SCREAM AT THIS ASSHOLE.
BUT INSTEAD, I
SAY, WHERE ARE YOU?
[laughter]
HE'S ON WEST EIGHTY-NINTH STREET.
IT FIGURES.
SO I GIVE HIM AN ADDRESS ON
AVENUE C, A RAT HOLE WHERE
A FRIEND OF MINE LIVED LAST
YEAR, UNTIL HER PLACE WAS
BROKEN INTO FOR THE SEVENTEENTH TIME,
AND WHICH IS ABOUT AS FAR
AWAY FROM THE UPPER WEST
SIDE AS YOU CAN GET WITHOUT
CROSSING WATER.
SO I TELL HIM TO MEET ME THERE
IN AN HOUR, AND AT LEAST I
HAVE THE SATISFACTION OF
THINKING OF HIM SPENDING ABOUT
20 BUCKS FOR A CAB, AND THEN
HANGING AROUND THE DOORWAY OF
THIS TENEMENT, AND MAYBE
GETTING BEATEN UP BY SOME
DRUG DEALERS.
[laughter]
PHONE RINGS AGAIN,
AND IT'S DIDI.
UNBELIEVABLE.
LIVE IN PERSON, PRACTICALLY,
AND IT'S STILL DAYLIGHT OUTSIDE.
I JUST WENT TO MY
NOSE DOCTOR, SHE GOES.
HE WAS HORRIFIED.
TOLD ME IF I HAD TO KEEP DOING
BLOW, I SHOULD START SHOOTING
UP, AND THEN THE DAMAGE
WOULD BE SOME OTHER
DOCTOR'S RESPONSIBILITY.
[laughter]
WHAT'S WITH YOU
AND WICK, I SAY?
I DON'T KNOW, SHE GOES.
I WENT HOME WITH HIM
A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO.
I WOKE UP IN HIS BED.
I'M NOT EVEN SURE
WE DID ANYTHING.
BUT HE'S DEFINITELY
IN LUST WITH ME.
MEANWHILE, MY PERIOD'S
LATE, SO MAYBE WE DID.
DIDI HAS ANOTHER CALL.
WHILE SHE TAKES IT,
I'M THINKING.
THE WHEELS ARE TURNING.
WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS.
DIDI COMES BACK ON AND TELLS
ME IT'S HER MOM, WHO IS HAVING
A MAJOR BREAKDOWN.
SHE'LL CALL ME LATER.
I TELL HER NO PROBLEM.
SHE'S ALREADY BEEN A BIG HELP.
I GET SKIP AT HIS OFFICE.
HE DOESN'T SOUND TOO
THRILLED TO HEAR FROM ME.
HE SAYS HE'S IN A MEETING,
CAN HE CALL ME BACK?
I SAY, NO.
I HAVE TO TALK NOW.
WHAT'S UP, HE SAYS?
I GO, I'M PREGNANT.
TOTAL SILENCE.
BEFORE HE CAN ASK ME, I TELL
HIM I HAVEN'T SLEPT WITH
ANYBODY ELSE IN SIX WEEKS.
WHICH IS TOTALLY TRUE, ALMOST.
HE GOES, YOU'RE SURE?
HE SOUNDS LIKE HE'S JUST
SWALLOWED A BUNCH OF SAND.
I'M SURE, I SAY.
HE'S LIKE, WHAT
DO YOU WANT TO DO?
THE THING ABOUT SKIP IS THAT
EVEN THOUGH HE'S AN ASSHOLE,
HE'S ALSO A GENTLEMAN.
ACTUALLY, A LOT OF THE
ASSHOLES I KNOW ARE GENTLEMEN.
DICKHEADS WITH A FAMILY
CREST AND A PREP SCHOOL
CODE OF HONOUR.
[laughter]
WHEN I SAY I NEED
MONEY, HE ASKS HOW MUCH?
A THOUSAND, I SAY.
[laughter]
I CAN'T BELIEVE I ASK
HIM FOR THAT MUCH.
[laughter]
I WAS THINKING 500
JUST A MINUTE AGO.
[laughter]
BUT HEARING HIS VOICE
REALLY PISSES ME OFF.
[laughter]
HE ASKS IF I WANT
HIM TO GO WITH ME.
AND I SAY, NO,
DEFINITELY NOT.
AND THEN HE TRIES TO DO THIS
NUMBER ABOUT MAKING OUT THE
CHEQUE DIRECTLY TO THE CLINIC.
AND I SAY, SKIP, DON'T
GIVE ME THAT SHIT.
I NEED 500 IN CASH TO
MAKE THE APPOINTMENT.
AND I DON'T WANT TO WAIT SIX
BUSINESS DAYS FOR THE STUPID
CHEQUE TO CLEAR, OKAY?
ACTING MY ASS OFF.
[laughter]
MY TEACHER WOULD BE PROUD.
TWO HOURS LATER, A MESSENGER
ARRIVES WITH THE MONEY.
CASH.
I GIVE HIM A TEN DOLLAR TIP.
GENIE COMES BACK SUNDAY
MORNING AT 9 A.M.
SHE'S A SHIVERING WRECK.
FOR A CHANGE, I'M JUST WAKING
UP, INSTEAD OF JUST GOING
TO SLEEP.
I GIVE GENIE A VALIUM,
AND PUT HER TO BED.
IT'S SORT OF A RIGHTEOUS
FEELING BEING ON THIS END
OF THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE.
I FEEL LIKE A
DOCTOR OR SOMETHING.
SHE LIES IN BED, STIFF AS
A MANNEQUIN AND SAYS,
I'M SO AFRAID, ALISON.
SHE IS NOT A HAPPY UNIT.
WE'RE ALL AFRAID, I GO.
IN HALF AN HOUR, SHE'S MAKING
THESE HORRIBLE, CHAIN SAW
SLEEP NOISES.
THANKS TO SKIP, MONDAY
MORNING I'M AT SCHOOL
DOING DANCE AND VOICE.
PAID MY BILL IN CASH.
NOW I'M FEELING REALLY GREAT.
IN THE AFTERNOON,
I'VE GOT ACTING CLASS.
WE START WITH
SENSE MEMORY WORK.
I SIT DOWN IN CLASS AND MY
TEACHER TELLS ME I'M AT A BEACH.
HE WANTS ME TO SEE THE SAND IN
THE WATER AND FEEL THE SUN
ON MY BARE SKIN.
HEAR THE VOLLEYBALLS
WHIZZING PAST.
NO PROBLEM.
FIRST, THOUGH, I HAVE
TO CLEAR MYSELF OUT.
THAT'S PART OF THE PROCESS.
ALL AROUND ME, PEOPLE ARE
MAKING STRANGE NOISES,
STRETCHING, GETTING
THEIR YAYAS OUT.
PREPARING FOR THEIR
OWN EXERCISES.
SOME PEOPLE, I SWEAR, EVEN
THOUGH THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE
TOTALLY SPONTANEOUS, YOU CAN
ALWAYS TELL SOME OF THESE
PEOPLE ARE ACTING FOR THE
TEACHER, EVEN IN THE WARM-UP.
LAUGHING OR CRYING SO
DRAMATICALLY, LIKE, LOOK
AT ME, I'M SO SPONTANEOUS.
THERE'S A LOT OF PHONIES
IN THIS PROFESSION.
ANYWAY, I DON'T KNOW, I'M
JUST LETTING MYSELF GO LIMP
IN THE HEAD.
THEN I'M LAUGHING
HYSTERICALLY.
NEXT THING, I'M BAWLING LIKE A
BABY, REALLY OUT OF CONTROL,
FALLING OUT OF MY CHAIR, AND
THRASHING ALL OVER THE FLOOR.
A REAL BASKET CASE.
SOBBING AND FLAILING AROUND,
TRYING TO TAKE A BITE OUT
OF THE LINOLEUM.
[laughter]
THEY'RE USED TO SOME PRETTY
RADICAL EMOTING IN HERE,
BUT THIS IS WAY OVER
THE TOP, APPARENTLY.
I GUESS I KIND OF LOSE IT.
AND THE NURSE SAYS, I'M OVER
TIRED AND TELLS ME TO GO HOME
AND REST.
THAT NIGHT, MY OLD
MAN FINALLY CALLS.
I'M LIKE, I MUST BE DREAMING.
PISSED AT YOU, I GO,
WHEN HE ASKS ME HOW I AM.
I'M SORRY, HONEY, HE
SAYS, ABOUT THE TUITION.
I SCREWED UP.
GOD DAMN RIGHT YOU DID, I SAY.
OH, BABY, HE GOES, I'M A MESS.
YOU'RE TELLING ME, I GO.
HE SAYS, SHE LEFT ME.
DON'T COME CRYING TO ME ABOUT
WHAT'S HER NAME, I SAY.
THEN HE STARTS TO WHINE, AND
I GO, WHEN ARE YOU GONNA GROW
UP, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE.
I BITCH HIM OUT FOR A WHILE,
AND THEN I TELL HIM I'M SORRY.
IT'S OKAY, HE'S
WELL RID OF HER.
THERE'S LOTS OF WOMEN WHO
WOULD LOVE A SWEET MAN LIKE HIM.
NOT TO MENTION HIS MONEY.
STORY OF HIS LIFE.
BUT I DON'T SAY
THAT, OF COURSE.
HE'S 52 YEARS OLD, AND IT'S A
LITTLE LATE TO TEACH HIM THE
FACTS OF LIFE.
FROM WHAT I'VE SEEN,
NOBODY CHANGES MUCH
AFTER A CERTAIN AGE.
LIKE ABOUT FOUR
YEARS OLD, MAYBE.
[laughter]
ANYWAY, I HOLD HIS HAND AND
COOL HIM OUT AND ALMOST
FORGET TO HIT
HIM UP FOR MONEY.
HE PROMISES TO SEND ME
THE TUITION AND THE RENT
AND SOMETHING EXTRA.
I'M NOT HOLDING MY BREATH.
I SHOULD HATE MY FATHER.
SOMETIMES I THINK I DO.
THERE WAS A GIRL IN THE
NEWS THE LAST FEW WEEKS.
SHE HIRED HER BOYFRIEND
TO SHOOT HER OLD MAN.
FAMILIES, JESUS.
AT LEAST WITH LOVERS,
YOU CAN BREAK UP.
THESE OLD NOVELS AND PLAYS,
THEY ALWAYS START OUT WITH
ORPHANS, IN THE END, THEY FIND
THEIR PARENTS, AND I WANT TO
SAY, DON'T LOOK FOR THEM.
[laughter]
YOU'RE BETTER OFF WITHOUT.
BELIEVE ME, GET A DOG INSTEAD.
THAT'S ONE OF MY BIG AMBITIONS
IN LIFE, TO BE AN ORPHAN.
[laughter]
WITH A TRUST FUND,
OF COURSE.
AND A HAREM OF MEN TO
COME AND GO AS I COMMAND.
GUYS AS BEAUTIFUL AND FACELESS
AS THE MEN WHO LAY YOU DOWN
IN YOUR DREAMS.”
THANK YOU.

Jay leaves the stage as the audience applauds.

An image of Kathy Acker on stage addressing the audience appears on screen. As the narrator speaks, three book covers appear on screen. The first cover shows turquoise outlines of palm tree like figures against a violet background. In big red letters, the title reads “LITERAL MADNESS.” The second book cover shows a colourful drawing in sharp lines. It depicts Don Quixote riding a horse. In pink letters, the title reads “DON QUIXOTE.” The third book cover shows a bright pink coloured picture of a topless woman covered by a blue flag with a skull and bones which appears across the book cover. In big yellow letters, the title reads “EMPIRE OF THE SENSELESS.”

The narrator says KATHY ACKER NOW
LIVES IN LONDON.
HER NOVELS, SOME
SELF-PUBLISHED, CONTAIN
SURREAL VISIONS OF THE
FUTURE, JUXTAPOSED AGAINST
THE HISTORICAL PAST.

The audience applauds as Kathy Acker approaches the lectern holding a book and some notes in her hands. She addresses the audience speaking to a microphone on a stand next to the lectern. As she begins to speak, she’s interrupted by a strange microphone sound.

Kathy says HI.
I CAN'T STAND BEHIND PODIUMS.
I'M TOO LITTLE, AND THEY
REMIND ME OF SCHOOL.
SO EXCUSE MY ECCENTRICITY.
WHAT I'M GOING TO READ TODAY,
IT'S SORT OF WORKING ON
WHAT'S REALLY AN ALTERNATIVE --
[bang]
WOW.
AN ALTERNATIVE, OR A
TRADITION IN LITERATURE.
AND I'VE BEEN WORKING ON
THE LIFE OF ARTHUR RIMBAUD.
SO I'M GOING TO BE
READING FROM THAT.
I'LL BE READING A SECTION
THAT'S FAIRLY FAR INTO THE
WORK, SO LET ME GIVE
YOU A LITTLE BACKGROUND.
RIMBAUD, AS I'M SURE YOU
ALL KNOW, WAS BORN IN
CHARLEVILLE, A VERY DEAD,
PROVINCIAL, FRENCH TOWN.
AND HE VERY BADLY
WANTED TO LEAVE.
HE DIDN'T KNOW HOW.
AND A FRIEND OF HIS SAID, I KNOW
A POET NAMED PAUL VERLAINE.
SO RIMBAUD WROTE A
LETTER TO PAUL VERLAINE,
WHOM HE DIDN'T KNOW.
AND THEN HE WROTE
ANOTHER LETTER.
AND, FINALLY, PAUL VERLAINE
SAID, COME TO PARIS.
PAUL VERLAINE WAS 27 YEARS OLD
AT THIS TIME, AND HE HAD JUST
MARRIED A VERY YOUNG WOMAN,
AN UPPER MIDDLE CLASS WOMAN,
ACTUALLY, AND BY NOW HAD ABOUT
A TWO-WEEK-OLD SON WITH HER.
BE NICE, MICROPHONE.
AND RIMBAUD CAME TO PARIS, AND
HE AND VERLAINE TOOK UP WITH
EACH OTHER.
THEY HAD A LOVE AFFAIR THAT
WAS VERY, VERY ROCKY.
VERLAINE, THERE WAS A GREAT
DEAL OF PREJUDICE AT THAT TIME
ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY,
EVEN AMONG THE POETS,
THE PARNASSIAN POETS.
OF COURSE THERE ISN'T TODAY.
[laughter]
AND THAT INFLUENCED VERLAINE.
HE WAS VERY SCARED OF
BEING THOUGHT OF PUBLICLY,
AS A HOMOSEXUAL, AND
RIMBAUD WAS, TOO.
AND ALSO VERLAINE
HAD THIS FAMILY.
AND THE AFFAIR WENT BACK
AND FORTH VIOLENTLY.
VERLAINE WOULD GO TO RIMBAUD,
HE WOULD SEND RIMBAUD BACK
TO CHARLEVILLE.
HE'D TELL RIMBAUD TO GET LOST.
RIMBAUD WOULD SCREAM.
VERLAINE WOULD GET SICK
AND RUN BACK TO RIMBAUD.
WELL, FINALLY, THEY LANDED
UP IN LONDON, AND THERE,
ACTUALLY THE SECOND TIME,
RIMBAUD STARTED TO WRITE HIS
SEASON IN HELL,
WHICH WAS
ABOUT HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH
VERLAINE AND OTHER THINGS.
AND WHAT I'M GOING TO READ
TODAY IS, WELL, A VERSION OF
ONE OF THE SECTIONS
OF
A SEASON IN HELL.
WHAT I'M GOING TO READ IS
RIMBAUD'S VERSION OF MEDEA.
NOW, WHY MEDEA.
I WAS ASKED, SORT OF BY THE
WAY, IN ENGLAND, TO WRITE A
VERSION OF THE TELLTALE
HORROR, WHICH IS THE STORY OF
A MALE MURDERER.
AND I THOUGHT, I'M REALLY
SICK OF MALE MURDERERS.
THEY'RE ALL OVER THE PLACE.
ESPECIALLY WHERE I LIVE.
AND WHAT I'M REALLY INTERESTED
IN ARE FEMALE MURDERESSES.
NOW WHO WAS THE FIRST FEMALE
MURDERESS IN MY CIVILIZATION,
THE GRECO ROMAN CIVILIZATION,
FORGETTING ABOUT THE
HEBRAIC CIVILIZATION.
AND I THOUGHT TO
MYSELF, IT WAS MEDEA.
OKAY.
SO HERE IS RIMBAUD'S
VERSION OF MEDEA.
“THERE WAS A KING IN GREECE.
AND HE WAS TIRED OF HIS WIFE.
HE DECIDED TO MARRY ANOTHER.
A YOUNGER WIFE.
THIS WIFE DIDN'T
LIKE THE FIRST WIFE.
SO SHE DECIDED TO MURDER THE
CHILD OF THE FIRST WIFE,
AND THE KING.
THIS WAS HER PLAN
TO MURDER THE CHILD.
SHE RUINED ALL THE SEED CORN
SO THE PEOPLE BEGAN TO STARVE.
WHEN THE KING ASKED THE GODS
WHY HIS PEOPLE WERE STARVING,
THE GODS, BRIBED BY THE
YOUNGER WIFE, REPLIED, THAT
THE PEOPLE WOULD STOP
STARVING AS SOON AS HE KILLED
HIS OWN SON.
THE KING TOOK HIS CHILD TO A
PLACE IN ORDER TO KILL HIM.
JUST AS HE WAS ABOUT TO MURDER
HIS CHILD, A GOLD MALE SHEEP
FLEW BY, SNATCHED UP THE
CHILD, AND TOOK HIM AWAY
TO COLCHIS.
FAR AWAY.
WHEN THE CHILD GREW UP, HE
KILLED THIS RAM AND GAVE HIM
TO THE KING OF
COLCHIS, AEETES.
KING AEETES'
DAUGHTER WAS MEDEA.
THE WITCH WHO WILL NEVER TELL
US WHAT SHE KNOWS, AND WHAT
WE SHALL NEVER KNOW.
NOW, WHEN JASON CAME TO
COLCHIS, IN ORDER TO STEAL THE
FLEECE OF THE DEAD GOLDEN RAM,
HE FIRST STOLE MEDEA'S HEART,
MADE HER FORGET HER FAMILY,
HER HOMELAND, HER DUTY.
SHE LIVED ONLY FOR
JASON AND HIS ADVENTURE.
SHE DEFEATED HER OWN FATHER,
KILLED HER OWN BROTHER AND
SCATTERED HIS CUT UP LIMBS
IN THE SEA AND HAD JASON'S
FATHER SLICED UP AND BOILED.
ALL FOR THE SAKE OF
WHAT JASON WANTED.
ADVENTURE.
SHE GAVE JASON TWO CHILDREN.
THEN, HE TOLD MEDEA HE WAS
GOING TO MARRY SOMEONE ELSE.
MEDEA COMPLAINED.
[laughter]
JASON, THE KING, TOLD
MEDEA THAT BECAUSE SHE WAS
PROTESTING HIS ACTIONS,
SHE WAS EXILED.
MEDEA WAS A BRAT LIKE ME.
SHE WASN'T GOING TO BE EXILED
AND BECOME NOTHING, AND
SUFFER ANY LONGER BECAUSE
OF LOVING A MAN WHO WAS
INCAPABLE OF LOVE.
BECAUSE OF LOVING A MAN
MORE THAN HE LOVED HER.
IN THOSE DAYS, IN THOSE
NIGHTS, HE WANTED TO BE
THOUGHT A CRIMINAL.
HE USED TO TALK A LOT ABOUT
DEATH WHEN HE WAS BEING TENDER.
HE WASN'T ABLE TO REALIZE
THAT HE LOVED UNTIL THAT LOVE
HAD DIED.
HE WASN'T ABLE TO REALIZE THAT
HE HAD LOVED UNTIL HE FELT
GUILT AND REPENTANCE.
IN A DIRTY HOLE IN THE CITY,
WE WOULD DRINK OURSELVES
DEEPER, AND HE WOULD
BEGIN TO PITY HIMSELF.
BACK ON THE PUBLIC STREET, HE
KICKED ME DOWN, THEN AGAINST
A TREE DOG PISS HAD STAINED,
THEN LIFTING UP MY BODY,
HUGGED ME.
IT WAS RAINING LIGHTLY.
THEN HE STRANGLED ME
UNTIL I PASSED OUT.
AND WHEN I CAME TO, BECAME
ANGRY AT ME FOR LETTING HIM
STRANGLE ME.
EVERY GESTURE OF HIS MUSCLES
REVEALED THE GENTLENESS OF
A GIRL AT HER CATECHISM.
THAT NIGHT, I FOLLOWED
HIM WHENEVER HE LET ME.
I HAD TO.
FOLLOWED HIM INTO STRANGE,
COMPLICATED ACTIONS, VERY FAR,
GOOD AND BAD ACTIONS.
I WAS NEVER ALLOWED
INTO HIS WORLD.
WHAT WAS I TO HIM?
A FANTASY.
I GAVE HIM ANOTHER IDENTITY.
WHENEVER I LAY NEXT TO HIM
IN A BED, AND IT WAS NIGHT,
I WAS TOO EXCITED
TO FALL ASLEEP.
TOO UNWILLING TO LOSE A CHANCE
THAT I MIGHT BE ALLOWED TO
ENTER HIS LIFE.
SINCE WHAT HE WANTED WAS
FANTASY, WHAT I WANTED
DIDN'T MATTER.
I ASKED MYSELF IF THERE WAS
ANY CHANCE HE WOULD CHANGE.
WOULD HE WANT TO TRANSMUTE
THIS FANTASY INTO REALITY?
NO.
CHANGE FOR HIM
WAS FANTASTICAL.
YET I WAS, AND I STILL AM,
A VICTIM OF HIS CHARITY.
I WAS IN HIM AS IF
HE WAS THE PALACE.
A DESOLATE PALACE.
THE PALACE HAD BEEN SHUT DOWN
SO THAT NO ONE COULD SEE
THAT A PERSON AS DESOLATE
AS ME WAS IN IT.
I DEPENDED ON HIM.
BUT WHO COULD LOVE THE
DEPENDENCY OF SOMEONE AS SAD
AND AS LONELY AS ME?
SO SADNESS IS ALWAYS RENEWED,
WHILE PERCEPTION DULLS.
I NO LONGER SAW THE WORLD.
THE WORLD FORGOT ME.
ONLY HIS CHARITY EXISTED.
WHEN HE KISSED AND HUGGED ME,
AS IF HE LIKED ME, I ENTERED
A SOMBER ROOM NAMED HEAVEN.
IN THIS ROOM, I WAS DEAF, DUMB
AND BLIND, AND I NEVER WANTED
TO LEAVE.
HERE, I TOOK THE HABIT.
WE WERE TWO CHILDREN,
FREELY WANDERING AROUND IN
AND MASSACRING THE
PARADISE OF SORROWS.
WE WERE TOGETHER.
BUT AFTER HE HAD PENETRATED
ME, VERLAINE SAID, ALL THIS IS
GOING TO AMUSE YOU
AFTER I'M GONE.
WHEN YOUR ARMS WILL NO LONGER
HANG AROUND MY NECK, WHEN
YOU'LL NO LONGER REST INSIDE
ME, WHEN YOUR LIPS WILL
NO LONGER TOUCH MY PUPILS.
BECAUSE I'M GOING TO HAVE
TO GO AND NOT COME BACK.
THERE ARE OTHER
PEOPLE I CARE FOR.
I HAVE DUTY.
ALTHOUGH THAT ISN'T EXACTLY
WHAT I WANT, DARLING.
I SAW MYSELF.
HE HAD JUST GONE.
SUICIDE.
I LOOKED UP AT VERLAINE.
I BEGGED HIM TO
NEVER LEAVE ME.
HE SAID HE WOULDN'T.
I MADE HIM PROMISE
THIS TWENTY TIMES.
I KNEW IT MEANT AS MUCH AS
WHEN I HAD SAID I DIDN'T WANT
HIM TO LEAVE HIS WIFE.
SOMETIMES, I FORGET THIS
INSOLUBLE MESS, AND I DREAM
HE'LL SAVE ME.
WE'LL TRAVEL.
WE'LL HUNT IN THE DESERTS.
WE'LL SLEEP ON THE PAVEMENTS
OF STRANGE CITIES, CARELESSLY,
WITHOUT HIS GUILT,
WITHOUT MY PAIN.
OR ELSE, I'M GOING TO WAKE UP,
AND ALL THE HUMAN LAWS AND
CUSTOMS OF THIS WORLD WILL
HAVE CHANGED THANKS TO SOME
MAGICAL POWER.
OR ELSE, THIS WORLD, WITHOUT
CHANGING, WILL LET ME FEEL
DESIRE AND BE
HAPPY AND CAREFREE.
WHAT DID I WANT FROM HIM WHO
HURT ME MORE THAN I THOUGHT IT
POSSIBLE FOR TWO PEOPLE
TO HURT EACH OTHER?
I WANTED THE ADVENTURES
FOUND IN KIDS' BOOKS.
HE COULDN'T GIVE ME THESE
BECAUSE HE WASN'T ABLE TO.
WHATEVER DID HE WANT FROM ME?
I NEVER UNDERSTOOD.
HE TOLD ME HE WAS JUST AVERAGE.
AVERAGE REGRETS,
AVERAGE HOPES.
WHAT DO I CARE ABOUT ALL
THAT AVERAGE SHIT WHICH HAS
NOTHING TO DO WITH ADVENTURE?
DID HE TALK TO GOD?
NO.
I SHOULD TALK TO GOD.
AND TELL GOD THAT I'M
LIVING IN AN ABYSS,
AND HERE THERE IS NO PRAYER.
AS FOR TALKING TO HIM,
HE MOCKS ME, AVOIDS ME,
DENIGRATES ME.
ONCE UPON A TIME, I WOULD SAY
TO HIM, YOU WERE AS WILD AS ME.
YOU THOUGHT THAT ALL STRAIGHT
MEN WERE THE PLAY THINGS OF
NATURE, IN A
GROTESQUE DELIRIUM.
YOU LAUGHED AT STRAIGHT MEN,
HIDEOUSLY, FOR A LONG TIME.
HIDING, YOU BECAME SO
PERVERTED, YOU HAD TO BECOME
STRAIGHTER THAN
A STRAIGHT MAN.
IF YOU HAD ACTED LESS
PERVERSELY, YOU WOULDN'T HAVE
HAD TO BECOME SO STRAIGHT, GET
MARRIED, AND WE COULD HAVE
STAYED TOGETHER LONGER.
YOUR TENDERNESS
TO ME WAS MORTAL.
YET, I'M A SLAVE TO YOU.
I'M MAD.
ONE DAY, PERHAPS,
MIRACULOUSLY,
YOU'LL DISAPPEAR, YOU'LL DIE.
BUT THEN, SINCE I DON'T
BELIEVE IN MURDER,
I'M GOING TO GO WITH YOU.
WHEN YOU GO TO HEAVEN,
I'LL BE THERE TO WITNESS
YOUR ASSUMPTION.
OURS IS A STRANGE
KIND OF MARRIAGE.
THESE ENDED MEDEA'S WORDS.
MEDEA KILLED THE WOMAN
JASON WAS ABOUT TO MARRY.
AND THEN SHE KILLED THE
CHILDREN THAT JASON
HAD GIVEN HER.
BUT SHE COULDN'T KILL JASON.
AS SHE SAT ON A PALACE ROOF
AMID FLAMES AS FIERCE AS HER
LOVE, A CHARIOT OF SNAKES
CARRIED HER AWAY FROM JASON
AND INTO SAFETY.
JASON WANDERED HOMELESS FROM
CITY TO CITY, AND EVERYONE
HATED HIM.
MEDEA DIDN'T DIE, BUT BECAME
IMMORTAL, AND REIGNED IN THE
FIELDS OF HEAVEN.
BUT I, RIMBAUD,
I LOVE VERLAINE.”
THANK YOU.
[applause]

Violin music plays as the credits roll against the backdrop of the marble entrance with two columns floating on misty mountains and the title “AUTHORS AT HARBOURFRONT” in big white letters.

Produced and directed by TRACEY FISHER.

Audio, DOUG KAYE.

Music composed by KIRK ELLIOTT.

Narrator, FRED LANGAN.

Computer animation, LINDA PROSH.

Edited by MICHEL LEBRUN.

Special thanks, GREG GATENBY AND THE FESTIVAL STAFF AT HARBOURFRONT, THE PREMIER DANCE THEATRE STAFF AT QUEENS QUAY TERMINAL, DAVID MIRVISH BOOKS – BOOKS ON ART, TVO ONTARIO, CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON, MICHAEL BROWNE, ELIZABETH LOWRY.

Executive producer, MICHAEL VAUGHAN.

Produced by TV ONTARIO BY TIER ONE COMMUNICATIONS INC.

The logo of TVOntario appears on screen.

Copyright, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority, 1988.

Watch: Jay McInerney and Kathy Acker