Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kevin Killian and the Kona 10,000

Since I am the kind of reader who likes her literature on the wild side, I can only exhilarate over the newly published Impossible Princess by Kevin Killian. For me this is nothing less than the best collection of short stories from a San Francisco writer during the 42 years I’ve lived here, and everyone should therefore go and buy a copy at once.

The book features a number of over-the-top gay sex phantasies, related with a variety of clever narrative techniques and devices. The activities thus described are probably not likely to meet with universal acclamation, but I won’t conceal that I actually got a hard-on when I read the second story. Since at age 70 I must reluctantly classify myself a retrosexual, that’s hardly a soft endorsement.

The best story for me is Ricky’s Romance, in which an office worker cum small press editor gets his material, and then himself, entangled in a "Kona 10000" photocopy machine. A Latino janitor mistakes Ricky for an executive he has had his eye on, and the stricken Ricky finds himself forcefully taken from behind.

A strategic advantage of narrative literature is that the reader can make whatever associations s/he wants to with it, regardless of the writer’s intention or approbation. Thus the story strongly brought to my mind the wonderfully  funny Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, in which the overtly limned anal intercourse scene obviously prohibited any major box office success.

Kevin's story also reminded me that the vast majority of small press publications in the 1960's and 70's were run off on the sly using office copying machines. Thus I can’t help but think that there exists some kind of inscrutable ethos which unites copy machines with various representations of gay experience.

In 1968 there were no photocopy machines; rather each office had a mimeo machine for memos and the like, and a photo offset printer for larger jobs. Most underground small press poetry publications in that era were therefore mimeographed, as were some of my own minor efforts in 1967. But in 1968, my fellow postal-worker friend Phil Tutt connected me with Paul Steinman, an office printer who had a lovely top-floor apartment almost next door to the Castro Theater.

Paul's office, some kind of maritime insurance business, was located in the Financial District. One Sunday afternoon in 1968 we pulled up in an alley behind the office in a VW camper bus, entered the office with Paul’s pass key, and in three hours ran off a couple hundred copies of what was, as far as I know, the world’s first in-your-face, Gay Lib-style poetry magazine, called Sebastian Quill. Fearing apprehension by the police, we hastily handed the boxes of gay poetry out windows into waiting van, imagining the sound of police-car sirens in the distance.

[Impossible Princess was published 2009 by City Lights and can be purchased at Small Press Distribution in Berkeley. All the issues of Sebastian Quill, which featured very early work by Bruce Boone, Bob Glück and Aaron Shurin among many others, will appear in facsimile on Plainfeather's Blog later this year.]

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