Katelan Foisy’s Three Favourite Authors
2nd Mar 2011
What a treat we’ve got in store for you today! A very special guest post from the one and only Katelan Foisy; artist, author, model and all-round queen of New York…
I was born in 1979; the year Sid Vicious overdosed on heroin and disco officially “died”. I grew up with typewriters, rotary phones, letter correspondence, and tape recorders. I feel rather fortunate to have been able to witness technology as it was changing, as well as experiencing popular culture without the internet.
My mom is a director of a library as well, which meant I had the entire library system at my fingertips anytime I needed it. I was young when I fell in love with literature, and by the time I was a teenager I had formed my tastes, and discovered the writing techniques of my heroes. The Beat generation really did it for me, as did the thought of artifice. Put together there was a phantasmagorical landscape unfolding before my eyes.
1995 marked a pivotal year for literary stimulation. It was the year I fell in love with William S. Burroughs. Uncle Bill opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking and writing.
“I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing.I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and manoeuvred me into a life long struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.”
It’s no secret William S. Burroughs lived a fascinating life. Between his drug use, sexual exploits, friendships with brilliant artists, and sordid criminal record including the culpable homicide of his common law wife Joan Vollmer, during a drunken game of William Tell, Burroughs own life and history played into his genius with the written word.
Most of his work was semi-autobiographical. From the drug use and inner demons of Junky and Queer, to the surrealist nightmare of automatism that formed Naked Lunch, and the occultism that inspired the trilogy Cities of the Red Night, The Place of Dead Roads, and The Western Lands.
Burroughs became one of the most prolific artists to hit the century. Completing eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays, as well as at least five collections of his interviews and correspondences over the years.
When I moved to NYC, I was lucky enough to be befriended by Orien McNeill a brilliant artist, whose father Malcolm had worked with Burroughs for years on the comic series The Unspeakable Mr. Hart and moved to the US in 1974 to complete graphic novel Ah Puch is Here (aka Ah Pook is Here).
During my first years in New York, Malcolm would fill me with stories on working with Burroughs, Brion Gyson, the cut-up technique, and Burroughs own movement into the art world with his gun splatter paintings and experimentation with spoken word.
Orien and I were fascinated, or perhaps I was enamored, Orien you see had lived it. His mother lived in in the old apartment and Burroughs was his self-appointed Godfather. We’d talk endlessly of the Beat generation and lived out Burroughs-esque scenarios (think William Tell).
It was a brilliant, inspiring, albeit dangerous time and really paved the way for many projects and artistic interactions including my typewriters in dive bars social experiment.
The 90’s were a magical time for my literary heroes. While on a trip to Seattle I was able to see both Jim Carroll and Patti Smith on tour together. Oh, did my little heart flutter. It was the year The Basketball Diaries became a movie and Jim was a featured speaker at Bumbershoot, a four-day music festival in Seattle.
The Basketball Diaries was my first introduction to this literary genius. His descriptions pulled me into the streets of NYC and into the mind of young boy dealing with sexuality, drug use, and loss. His language was visceral and gritty. It blew my mind that a thirteen-year-old boy could write like this, and I knew I was holding something incredibly important in my hands.
I started gathering his poetry, starting with Living at the Movies, published in 1973, and Fear of Dreaming, which came out in 1993. Jim’s poetry was a lot like what flowed past his lips in a random conversation.
He’d go back and forth creating a rhythm and dance from past memories and present situations. Seeing and meeting Jim in Seattle was pre-eminent to how my life would play out in the next few years and how I would document it in the future.
After humbly asking Jim to sign my diary, he asked to read it. Too scared to say no I let him flip through the pages. “You better make a book out of this one day.” he said to me. We met again back in my home town and he reminded me once again. Those beginning journals paved the way for what would become my own memoir published last year.
Viking Books recently released the last work by Jim before his death, The Petting Zoo. Patti Smith wrote the intro and spoke at a tribute to him last November. “This was the book Jim wanted to be remembered by,” she said, tears forming in her eyes.
It’s a beautiful haunting work of art depicting one artists personal growth and spiritual quest. In all, Jim wrote six books of poetry, three works of prose, and seventeen spoken word, collaborations, and soundtracks.
College brought about a different muse and I spent days looking at black and white photographs of Paris and New York, dreaming of a network of artists to drink wine with.
Artifice had crept it’s way into my life. Here I was living in the bad part of town, making $6.50 and hour while dressing in gowns and spraying myself with Jean-Paul Gaultier daily. No one ever knew.
“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvellous has power over me.
Anything I can not transform into something marvellous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”
I must admit while reading through Anaïs’ work, I was much more drawn to the journals than the fiction. It’s the lives of people that inspire me, and during the time I was heavily influenced by Incest and Henry and June from A Journal of Love.
It wasn’t just the background of the journals, but the rich imagery and emotion involved in them. There were stories intertwined with stories and real journals disguised as fake ones.
Even though she made no apologies for the affairs she had, including the romance with her father, there is that sense of sadness and longing, looking for that person that feels like home, and understanding that sometimes you love someone even though they’re not the right person for you.
If anything the artifice can be found within the journals. Glamour often hides the reality of a situation. She was not living for the mundane existence but the romantic.
This is evident from her first journals where she talks of learning French, not only to reach out to her father but also because English wasn’t a beautiful language.
House of Incest may be her most interesting work of fiction as it delves into the themes that were prevalent during most of her life as well as her interest in surrealism and psychotherapy.
Like Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, House of Incest reads like a surrealist painting where you must peel away the layers in order to get to the core of the book.
(Photo courtesy of Vlad Kenner)