After the Flood
People have been asking me what I’m going to do now
A lot of people have been asking me what I’m going to do now, since the humiliation ritual piece seems an obvious climax to my NYC downtown scene Substack arc. I had expected things to move slower this summer—I had planned for a long polemical campaign against Angelicism, for instance, but once I was ready to start it seemed like the popular mystique around Angelicism had already collapsed, and I was told that it was “so last year” and there wasn’t any point anymore. The mood was completely different as recently as this past March, according to the people I talked to back then. In theory, Angelicism reminds me of myself in some ways—the geographic outsider writing irreverent Substack criticism of the downtown scene, the continental philosophy background, the poetic violence, stuff like that. But he calls for Dimes Square to be “Columbined,” and I talk in grand Napoleonic visions, which are actually bloodier by orders of magnitude, and closer to the delusions of the true ur-incel. This is also why I had to defeat him, even though that inflates his importance more than he deserves, because doing so would help define myself in contrast. I take similar influences and go in the complete opposite direction. I think I’m about 15 years younger than he is. I was even brushing up on Derrida to prepare for the campaign, the campaign against his reactionary boomer incoherence. Writing about Honor Levy’s occasional friendliness to me seems to arouse his jealousy. Angelicism is a foil, or he would’ve been, at least. He is supposed to be in the upcoming issue of Sex Magazine. He wrote a now-deleted Substack post responding to the humiliation ritual piece called “ISSEY MIYAKE IS DEAD AND YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT MIKE CRUMPLAR'S LACANIAN MENTOR DANIEL TUTT” where he claims that my role in the scene is to embody the “vibe’s autocide” in a way that obstructs its self-analysis and distracts from the real extinction of the world (as if he has anything to say about apocalypse that’s distinct from generic Fox News screeching):
What ‘Crumplar’ really means is nothing but the profound need for a hate-fix powerful enough to take away all cultural sense of an actual end of the world. The more we feel that end, the more we will have to push it away in the form of extravagant gestures of misdiagnosis. Examine for example the idea that the main problem in culture right now is Peter Vack’s film rehearsal in July 2022 and not the 6th and final mass extinction event on a possibly-one-in-a-quintillion Planet Earth.
Anyway, a lot of people have been telling me what I should be doing with my writing now. Some people have told me that I need to disengage with this world entirely, because the scene has been vanquished and there’s no reason to keep giving it attention. But people have been saying this all along though, even before I came to New York, when I was surveying the post–alt-lit landscape from Virginia by reviewing things like the latest Tao Lin book (all those pieces are paywalled now—they’re mostly fine but come from the internet critic perspective I had before I really “spawned” IRL). I’m not even really doing criticism at all anymore, thank God. I’m just living my life and keeping a diary. Christian Lorentzen wrote a funny Substack post addressing me, called “Letter to a Young Critic,” in which he tells me what “critical vices” I should avoid. His list is as follows: “gratuitous self-dramatization, moralizing, name-calling, unnecessary and distorting personal contact with your subjects, and self-pity.” He’s right that my “distorting personal contact” has already made it almost impossible to write an “unbiased” review in Harper’s or The New Yorker or The Drift of, say, the upcoming Dean Kissick or Honor Levy books. But I’ve already moved on to something better and more interesting than that. Dean and Honor, and Lorentzen himself for that matter, are now characters in my own narrative fiction, which initially took the form of “criticism” to build up the momentum to carry itself on its own. Lorentzen drops a bunch of famous intellectual names—Edmund Wilson, Susan Sontag, Christopher Hitchens—as if I have anything to do with any of those people. I sent the piece to Leila and she said she felt like she was being lectured by someone from n+1 in 2005. Leila and I are both trying to be like Bolaño in our own ways, but her writing is more truly Bolañoesque. She is probably my closest confidant as a writer, partly because of how disconnected she is from the New York bourgeoisie. She’s a traitor to our shared class/race/gender background, which makes her more lucid about the connection between eroticism and power, and her advice to me is usually to make my writing more ruthless, hallucinatory, and imaginative. I think I have to become such a traitor myself, somehow, eventually, on my own journey. Or in other words, she writes “écriture féminine,” which I see as a personal horizon of liberation.
The week leading up to the Peter Vack movie filming had already given me enough to write about, and I had an entirely different Substack piece in mind before everything got sidelined by the humiliation ritual. The piece centered around this event at the sports bar Hair of the Dog in the LES where Blaketheman1000 was premiering a music video for a song called “Dean Kissick,” and they commandeered maybe about half of the TVs during the Mets game to play this video in which Dean nods along to Blaketheman1000’s rapping. It was a very unusual venue, and Blake told me it was selected precisely for that reason. There were a couple other scene-chasers—Helen Holmes, who writes for The Daily Beast, and Tyler Bainbridge, who writes for the Perfectly Imperfect Substack, which I’ve been told is “the pipeline to getting a profile in GQ”—and we discussed our different approaches to covering the same events and people, like we were portrait artists comparing paintings of the same aristocratic patrons. I also talked to Dean for the first time in a while, and I asked him what he thought about now “being a character in my fictions.” He said he liked the Warhol piece I had just finished but was annoyed and offended by some of the previous ones where I portrayed him more unflatteringly, especially when I called him “the ambassador of Angelicism in New York.” I might’ve been imprecise—Walter Pearce is probably Angelicism’s true ambassador, whereas Dean is the curator gathering all the howling internet freaks, including myself, into his menagerie. And Angelicism was a difficult specimen—Dean said that the guy kept him awake at night last year with his writings, calling Dean a “retard” and demanding that the Drunken Canal people be shot, and now I was doing the same by hyperstitionally comparing Dean to Jacques-Louis David, which was like an ambivalent-approaching-derogatory way of saying that he survives vibe shifts. I tried to reassure Dean about my project, about the necessity of the conflict that animates the interplay of these niche internet microcelebrity personalities, about how that conflict hopefully exposes some nuanced “social reality,” and that he was far too important of a character to be killed off disgracefully. We talked a bit and then left with the rest of the people I’ve mentioned to go to The Magician, where we met the rapper Bladee and his crew of fellow Swedes. I should’ve asked Bladee this directly, but I think that he and the other Swedes say it “Blade-ee,” and I definitely remember the Americans just calling him “Blade.” Dean and Bladee dapped each other up like they were already familiar with each other. In his characteristic extravagance, Dean said something about how The Magician is one of the most beautiful bars in the whole Lower East Side, if not all of New York. Tyler hoped to get Bladee on Perfectly Imperfect, and Blake showed Bladee his music, pulling up the Blaketheman1000 page on Spotify. Bladee said he never uses Spotify, only YouTube, so Blake pulled up YouTube. Afterwards Dean and I ran into Christian Lorentzen, who wasn’t at the music video release party earlier and must’ve just randomly been at The Magician that night. Dean and I shared some of Lorentzen’s cocaine while Lorentzen told me not to use drugs while I’m “on the job” experiencing the things I write about. It was exactly like being inside Gasda’s play. Lorentzen said that he was about to go to DC for a few weeks where he would cover some political stuff for some magazine, and that he would spend most of August there. He seemed somewhat excited for it.
And that was about it. My Substack piece would’ve included a bunch of other details about that evening and the other weekdays I’m not writing here, but overall it was quite mundane. Just another Tuesday night. No brutal atom-splitting political critique or particularly psychedelic descent into hell, which readers have perhaps come to expect. But its hard to keep cranking those out multiple times a month, although I feel compelled to keep trying. My Substack subscribers have increased tenfold in the past five months, which is exciting but also terrifying because I’m obsessed with the idea of decadence and stagnation—and switching things up to keep my writing fresh essentially requires being in a permanent state of annihilating my own subjectivity, a state of “continuous revolution.” I guess that’s why the whole harrowing struggle session, ironically with its own quasi-Maoist resonances, was such an intoxicatingly empowering experience—because it did all the self-annihilating work for me, in the sense that psychedelics could be said to do the work of years of meditation in a few hours. I can only hope that doesn’t set the bar too high.