"Writers these days are never 'just' writers," a friend told me recently. First-time novelist La JohnJoseph is a living embodiment of that. He has a background in performance, having performed at The Royal Opera House, London and San Francisco's MoMA, among others, and is fresh off a stint playing a trans Duchess of Malfi. She also sidelines in music, performing pop music in the role of her "twin brother" Alexander Geist. Entertained yet? Wait until you read the book.
Everything Must Go is a queer Pynchonesque adventure that sees its intersex, pregnant protagonist on a quest to end the world, dogged by the homicidal bush that threatened her violent family home. Renaissance man/woman/whatever-who-cares JohnJoseph combines sexual liberty, violence and religious devotion into a soup blender of pop culture and history where tedious restrictions such as time, place and social categories simply aren't necessary.
Less concerned with representing reality than creating her own new version of experience, La JohnJoseph has fashioned a wonderland of depravity that perches somehow outside of all four dimensions. And what's queerer than that?
Everything Must Go Extract (courtesy of Itna Press)
The two of us revved up the bumper car and rode around trying to find something to wear to Valentino’s funeral, which was taking place in the next day or so. We had been told to keep an eye on the cover of Vanity Fair for an announcement and planned to spend the intermediate time getting together just the right ensembles. We started out in a butcher shop where we picked up a great sinewy length of pig intestine for Candy Bar to wear as a boa. I myself selected a reddish brown lamb chop to wear as a hat, and we left, heading straight next door to Cartier for the jewelry. (L.A. is such a convenient city when it comes to these things.)
Maria Felix was smoking a menthol, wearing Capri pants and stroking a crocodile, screaming at the jeweler, who was slumped over the glass counter dead with a knife sticking out of his back. We said, “Good day,” and helped ourselves to the stones and metals, prying open cabinets with a crowbar and delving into the sludge of jewels, a pick’n’mix for the world’s most opulent, and now, for us.
“Darling,” purred Candy Bar, “don’t you think these opals will just look ravishing against my offal?”
“Divine!” I had to agree. It was a flawless match, and I picked up a handful myself.
“No, not for you,” hollered Maria Felix. “Rubies for you.” She slung me a string across the room, and I tried them against my hat, held them against my bleached bones. She was right, of course. How could I have ever doubted her?
For shoes, we rummaged around in trash cans; I pulled out the most marvelous pair of emerald-green slingbacks, and Candy found some perfectly serviceable army boots in a deep red; so she was shod in ox-blood, and I, in viridian. To test out our new bottines we strolled down an alleyway and kicked a sleeping tramp to death. All that was left for us to find were purses, and I knew just the place.
As a child I had always wanted to eat at fast-food restaurants, but my father had refused to take my brother and me on the grounds that it would be bad for our health. Even after Tom killed himself, I was still forbidden. Now I had the opportunity to prove my total independence; my rebuttal of the Electra complex would take place over a hamburger and fries in a little cardboard cartoon box, which I would then carry to the funeral of Rudolph Valentino as an evening bag.
“Very symbolic,” Candy Bar nodded solemnly, and I realized that I had been talking aloud, and in a rather grandiose voice.
Thus attired, we were free to relax for the rest of our vacation. We chose to drive the bumper car to the outskirts of the city, where Candy Bar had remembered the red-light district was situated. We were both as horny as Hell (a place I always imagined to be full of sexual tension). As whores ourselves, we were entitled to a substantial discount from others of our kind, and we were sure to carry our customer loyalty card with us at all times. Candy Bar really just wanted to find someone we could bathe in champagne, and all I wanted to do was get naked and make out—and really, was that a lot to ask for?
We headed toward what seemed like the city limits; only we didn’t find any prostitutes, just a group of small boys in the street devouring the remains of a dog. I guess they could have been prostitutes, but if that was the case, they weren’t what we were looking for; I have always preferred the aftereffects of puberty. Candy Bar, too, and on that she was insistent.
Having passed the bloody little boys, we were soon in amongst an endless golden meadow, a field of dreams flourishing on a mass grave, the very last souvenir of the great war crimes committed during the revolution by the outgoing regime, or the incoming government, or the intermediary administration. Nobody could really say, despite the newspaper men being positive that five or twenty thousand people went missing, were mutilated and had their heads posted on spikes in a ring around the city.
Flora has a magnificent tendency to bloom at unprecedented rates upon great heaps of decomposing flesh. They say that in France, after the fabulous First World War, the land formerly known as No-Man’s flourished as a vista of poppies, an opiate tribute to those who would never be forgotten, until they were. And then, after the sexy Second World War, all the concentration camps in Poland were entirely overtaken by bright yellow tulips, the seeds of which had blown in from Holland. I suppose it’s something to do with all of that delicious nitrogen being released so richly in such high quantities and qualities into the soil to nourish the roots and bulbs of new blossoms. Flowers are greedy, hungry for your death.
We lay down to sleep (which is a lot like dying, only not as merciful) on the grass, between the skulls and the daffodils, with Aloysius squashed between us. The air was thick with dragonflies passing about us, an electric current on the breeze still hissing my name. We collected rocks for pillows and snoozed. With our heads together, Candy Bar’s dreams leaked into mine and mine into hers and we ran through dark houses together, terrified, sleeping fitfully under the midday sun. In Los Angeles it is always midday, it is always too hot to think and everybody travels everywhere on roller skates, which makes daydreaming an impossibility. Little moths, Acherontia Lachesis, settled on us in great numbers, smothering our faces with their folded wings, forming a golden brown carpet over our barely breathing bodies. They departed before we awoke, and we dreamed on, undisturbed. We only know of this occurrence because we watched the replay later on CCTV when we took jobs as night watchmen at the mall.
The next morning, if it is to be believed that we slept through the night, we headed straight to the newsagent to peruse the appropriate magazine covers for news. There wasn’t any.
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