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All in Good Fun
Sovereign House, Delicious Tacos, Dasha's slap, cuckold fascism, symbolic violence, spontaneous feminist uprisings, the necessity of illusions
It’s the first day Tai is back in New York after a month on the west coast and I’m catching up with her at Seward Park a few hours before we plan to see “The Monsters of Alt Lit” do a reading at the new VC-backed Dimes Square event space called Sovereign House. I can’t think of a better way to welcome her back to the Big Apple. She hasn’t really missed much scene drama in the past month. I haven’t even been to Manhattan since the opening of that angelicist portrait exhibit at No Gallery. I’ve had a sort of internal vacation of my own out in Brooklyn, lindywalking around Crown Heights, listening to Bob Dylan, editing the manuscript of Caroline Calloway’s upcoming book SCAMMER (more on that to come in future posts). But Tai’s back now at a good time, for our purposes—in the span of a week there’s this “Monsters of Alt Lit” event, and then there’s the angelicism film01 screening, and then the Praxis Society (venture capitalists trying to reverse the decline of the west by building a Mediterranean Dubai for “based” expats) has a week of parties called “Little Praxis” (some of them at Sovereign House) that seems a bit like a repeat of last year’s Urbit Week. Anyway, this will be my first time at Sovereign House, which I’ve previously been told will be “the new Beckett’s,” but more luxe and legitimate.
I’m briefing Tai on the mission for tonight. The big headliner for this event is a writer who goes by the pen name “Delicious Tacos,” and I want to meet him. He’s been on my radar for a while, from my pre-NYC era. I don’t even know what he looks like. Delicious Tacos is from LA and he fits the genre of “incel literature,” kinda like Chateau Heartiste with some Houellebecq thrown in. His brand of misogyny has an air of sophistication about it, and all the downtown cool kids love his work. Peter Vack is starring in a project to adapt a Delicious Tacos story to film, it’ll be directed by Asher Penn, founder of Sex Magazine, with a soundtrack by Negative XP (musician who also used to go by the stage name “School Shooter”). There’s definitely going to be a lot of bigshots there tonight, so a lot of people are going to be watching us very closely and suspiciously. The two other readers are familiar downtown scene personalities: Jordan Castro, author of The Novelist: A Novel and former editor of New York Tyrant Magazine; and Matthew Davis, another autofictionist on the dissident right poetry reading circuit and Dasha Nekrasova’s boyfriend.
Tai and I talk for a bit at Seward Park and then walk over to Sovereign House close by on East Broadway. There’s a crowd gathering out front and I already recognize a bunch of familiar faces—from Beckett’s, from the De Vere Ball, those kinds of settings. I spot Dean Kissick first, and I have this sudden thought that maybe the evening will run smoothly because nothing insane ever seems to happen when Dean is around, his presence typically indicates a relatively civil function, we shouldn’t have any trouble getting in. I watch Harrison Patrick Smith approach, and I’m certain he’s pulling up to this too, but then he just keeps on walking down East Broadway.
We’re still hanging around out in front of the place chatting when we see JM pulling up with his girlfriend Alice. I introduced JM in “A Fistful of Cuties”—leftist crust punk dude who hates everyone in the scene, dresses like a hypebeast poison dart frog, has some tech job that gives him the money to purchase tons of theory books, was part of the scene that originally inspired Gasda’s Dimes Square play, abject and unpredictable “schizo” that better embodies what all the network-spirituality posers are trying to channel with their “schizoposting,” willing to challenge Crumps for seeming insufficiently committed to radical politics, is convinced that there is some untapped revolutionary potential in this little New York world of ours. His girlfriend Alice is just as insane, she’s this real white trash lumpenproletarian sex worker, she’s seen some shit living in the margins of society, they’re both crusty as hell, like to the extent that it’s this visibly clashing statement against the rest of the aristocratic court here. Alice and JM both call themselves “mystical materialists,” but they take different approaches to what that means. Alice calls herself a “somatic situationist” and is “constantly developing an epistemology of trauma.” They are aligned with Tai and me in that they’re genuine leftists (as opposed to just being like all these reactionary social democrats who just want to bring Red Scare back to what it was in 2018) and their idea of praxis includes stirring shit and fucking with the Dimes Square people in the form of art. But, as I said before, they aren’t as savvy, they don’t yet have an established vehicle of their own to do that (something like the Crumpstack), and they often try to start beef with people that (Tai and I think) really aren’t worth fighting. Next to Alice and JM, Tai (who has this belligerent Maoist bitch internet persona) appears incredibly measured and diplomatic, she becomes almost like just any other proper Dimes Square bourgeois socialite, sort of like me. I guess you could say that Tai and I offer “critical support.” We suspect that at some point Alice and JM could turn on us again if they think we aren’t moving fast enough with our own revolutionary actions. As soon as they arrive they start talking loudly about how they just fucking hate all these fascists here, and we’re like, “ok, we feel you, but keep it down a little.” We all talk for a few minutes and then Tai and I decide to go inside.
The doorman asks if we’re on the list, and I say that we aren’t (I hadn’t seen any ticket price on the flyer), so he asks my name and I tell him my name and then he says no, you’re not on the list can’t let you in. I don’t know the doorman, so I’ve got no good angle to persuade him, and notoriety alone isn’t going to work. About 15 yards away on the sidewalk I see Nick Allen—venture capitalist investor, either owns the Sovereign House venue or just runs it, familiar face from Beckett’s scene and Praxis Society and other downtown events, fellow Virginian and child of the deep state—he’s the guy to convince. Nick seems to notice that I’ve been turned away at the door and am eyeing him to get me in, he floats away a little bit and then turns the corner, so I end up practically chasing him around the block, “Yo Nick can you get me in to this I’m not on the list,” and he starts responding with unmistakable irritation, tells me he can’t do anything because I’m not on the list and that I should’ve RSVP’d and that those are the rules, and I tell him I’ll remember that in the future and push a little more. This is the “alt-lit” event after all, I tell him, it’s pretty much my beat, and this would be the most appropriate for me to attend out of all the things they could host at Sovereign House (which he had previously talked up to me). He says it’s not his problem I’ve made a bad reputation for myself, and sure, he’d let me in when it’s his own events he’s throwing—but when other people are hosting, they have every right to keep me out. I understand that, I say, but I don’t think I’ve even been banned from this one yet. As far as I know I’m on good enough terms with everyone reading. Jordan is like this Christian anarchist who’s stuck around since the alt-lit first wave Tao Lin era, and even with some rightist cultural inclinations (and presumably some ambivalence to my project) he seems friendly to me; Delicious Tacos I’ve never met but I know he follows me on Twitter and has written favorably about my writing to his (admittedly otherwise hostile) audience; Matthew’s writing I’ve described unflatteringly but he’s also like this troll comedian type himself who seems to play along with it. It might as well be a Forever Mag reading lineup, so the host of this, whoever they are, probably would be disappointed if I didn’t show up to roast them a little. Alright, Nick says, want me to just go ask them if you’re cool? Sure, I say, thanks. And if they’re still like, “fuck Crumps he’s not allowed in,” then fair enough, of course. Nick says ok and goes inside, leaving Tai and I outside with JM and Alice, who (I think) aren’t on the list either.
Nick comes back just a few minutes later, and he’s brought others with him. Standing right there is Dasha Nekrasova, fresh from a trip to Japan, big devilish grin on her face like she’s been expecting me to get shipwrecked right here. I’m caught off guard for a moment, but of course it would be her. We exchange awkward greetings. Nick and Dasha are also accompanied by a tall gray-haired man in a slim-fitting suit, who shakes my hand and looks strangely eager to meet me, but I don’t catch his name.
“Alright Crumps, here’s the host,” Nick says, gesturing to Dasha. “Now give us your pitch. Sell it to us. Why should she let you in?”
“Yeah, convince me,” Dasha adds coyly. “What are your intentions?”
The uneasy tension I had before with Nick has now suddenly transformed into this weird forced flirting with Dasha. I shrug and mutter something noncommittal about how they should know me pretty well and that I’m up to the same shit as always. It’s pointless to try to conjure some more deferential lie, something that obscures our true relation as enemies in some meta-theatrical war of illusions (“waging people’s war on the cultural plane,” as Tai puts it), in which a bunch of bourgeois theater kids in the imperial core try to humiliate/fuck/kill each other with the art they make. I doubt Dasha even wants to hear that herself. She cuts to the chase: I can enter if I let her slap me. She’s told me before that she’s been wanting to slap me the next time she sees me, something I then mentioned in the Substack. But she’s now decided that this slap will be open-fist (whereas before she had said closed-fist punch), which is probably more tender, symbolic. I guess she’s been thinking about doing this for several months.
“Yeah, sure,” I say. Like Odysseus, like she’d turn us all into hogs had I refused, snorting and grunting among all the rest of the swine in her menagerie. That’s easy, and I had already told her she could. I don’t know what she would even gain from it herself, other than the literal physical satisfaction of making me an object of her jouissance. It would just make it seem like she wants to fuck me (I had already suspected this anyway, but now I’m like, actually convinced), and that’s useful for my broader project, it makes me look more credible, like I’m the scene psychoanalyst. Hitting me would just come across as a childish gesture of transference, and transference is love.
As if a bit disappointed by the ease of access to her object of desire, Dasha keeps asking if I’m sure it’s ok to hit me and I keep saying yes, it’s fine, go ahead. It’s funny that she’s so concerned with getting my consent for this. As the moment approaches, JM starts filming the scene with his phone camera. Dasha rebukes him with a casual obscenity about the lynching of Jordan Neely, “stop filming, this isn’t the subway,” and JM puts his phone down. Both of Dasha’s men are recording the scene themselves. Dasha finally winds up and—midsentence as I’m telling her I’m ready for it—gives me her little kiss. Then we go inside.
“There you go, Crumps. Now you have something for the Substack.”
We walk down the steps from street level and into the vestibule of Sovereign House, where there’s an open bar. Beyond the vestibule—past faux-classical paper-mâché columns pilfered from Beckett’s—and down a few more steps is a much larger space where readings and other events are held. In the back of that room is the door to a small backyard. The place is packed tonight with the celluloid heroes and villains of this Substack.
Tai and I get drinks. Alice and JM disappear. I talk to some people I know inside and tell them about the slap from Dasha, half my face now red. Nick Allen approaches again, sort of checking on me to make sure I’m all good, which I am. He tells me that he wants Sovereign House to be seen not as a far-right space but as one that hosts a wide range of opinions, he gestures at the bookshelves and says they include selections from all corners of the political compass, he wants it to host “the scene” like they’re doing tonight, but he’s got too much money invested to be totally comfortable with all the drama and gossip and instability that often comes with it. There’s more that happens here than just these parties. He doesn’t want to attract Molotov cocktails. I sort of take this to mean that he’s noticed the way I’ve been dialing up the tension with the bomb fantasies and wild west motifs in the latest Beckett’s pieces I’ve written and is warning me not to try anything like that again. Nick floats away.
Dasha comes back again and sort of apologizes for the slap—though it’s really more of a wink than an apology. I tell her that Tai and I appreciate the gesture of symbolic violence. We want to make art that kills, so Dasha shouldn’t worry about a little slap. Dasha says she likes violence too, “it’s all in good fun, right?” And then she heads off.
JM and Alice come back. He says that they just had a strange encounter with “Fasha Nekromancer’s boyfriend Matty D.” His story is as follows. He and Alice had gone to the backyard outside area to smoke, and on the way they encounter Matthew Davis, and JM calls out to him, “Yo Matty D,” or something condescending like that, and Matthew recognizes JM from some beefing they had done on Instagram. (Two weeks ago, JM had made a post on Instagram with the following text in the image: “The No Agency vibe is so fucked up. It’s supposedly satirizing the sleazy male photography industry but, BUT, the models that they choose are their rich friends. Working class models/sex workers still have NO AGENCY when having to sell their bodies for money. They are clearly MAKING FUN of people that actually have to sell themselves. It’s white supremacy. Guess who’s involved? All of these fucked up reactionaries, incl. [Peter] Vack, Matthew Davis, and his fucked up gf Dasha Nekrasova. Fuck those fucking fascists.” JM tagged all the people he mentioned in the post, which started a back-and-forth with Matthew and some others. As of now the post has 20 likes.) Matthew starts pressing JM on why he’s here at this thing tonight, “you aren’t going to pull any antifa bullshit, are you?” and some other friends catch wind of this and start crowding around them. Things get a little tense, JM is outnumbered, he’s already blown his cover, maybe he and Alice are about to get thrown out? JM says he’s not antifa, he’s actually a fascist, he points to the Carl Schmitt book (Political Theology) and the psychiatric meds that are conspicuously visible in this transparent plastic tote bag thing he’s wearing. Not antifa, just very deep meta-irony. Matthew and the others are still suspicious. They tell JM that if he’s a real fascist he would say the n-word. And so JM does that, and they’re surprised, but impressed, and they ultimately ease off a little. Huh, this JM guy does appear to be a genuine schizo freak, not some normie wokescold, and Peter Vack did like that Instagram post he made, so perhaps Peter knows something we don’t? They should be safe now, no true antifa operative would say the n-word. Besides, if he tries to pull anything, they can always tell everyone that this guy said the n-word, the word of immense Amerikan jouissance, the word of death, so no one should pay attention to what he says. JM tells Tai and I this story and I’m like, “ok, that’s interesting,” and then JM and Alice float away.
The readings are starting. Dasha is the master of ceremonies. Jordan Castro is the first to read. His poems are pretty innocuous, I think in one of them he literally asks himself how he got here, how he got to having this crazy right-wing extremist audience, something like that. Then Dasha introduces her darling Matthew. Matthew’s piece is this satirical autofiction about life in the downtown scene and what it’s like to date a white woman who has transformed herself into the embodiment of the spirit of Reaction. His narrators always have these cuckold ideations, tonight there’s this punchline of his about imagining his partner with “many different men of many different races,” and I’m immediately reminded of the time I was hanging out with him at Baby’s All Right at this Perfectly Imperfect party several months ago (I think that’s what it was), and he kept trolling me trying to get under my skin, saying all this racist stuff and being like “Crumps I bet you really care about all those black and brown bodies” and stuff like that (since it’s obviously so cucked to be disgusted by racist killings), talking about Steve Sailer and FBI crime statistics, repeating the phrase “black and brown bodies” in this particularly grating way, but I was just laughing along with him, nothing made me mad, I’m just shrugging and being like “you know me, I’m Crumps, I’m woke, I sure love those black and brown bodies,” I’m chainsmoking this entire time and I accidentally keep blowing smoke in his face and it annoys him, and then he’s telling me about Dasha’s insatiable lust, how neither of us could ever possibly hope to satisfy her, “you can try, Crumps,” and I believe him, her desire is a mass grave, black and brown bodies, many different men of many different races, and after a while he’s like “Crumps, you’re alright, you’re not so bad,” and then the next day I get a DM on Twitter from Dasha, “so I heard you met Matthew” and I’m like “haha yeah he’s quite the character.” I felt a mix of revulsion and amusement. Those two probably deserve each other. Matthew’s writing does have some wit to it, after all he’s someone that hangs around all these successful podcaster-comedians, but he’s categorically incapable of actually satirizing this world, so the audience for his writing is limited to the already-initiated, and the punchline is always some variation on “look at how racist my weird, mean friends and I are.” Thankfully, this audience tonight fits those criteria, for the most part. He delivers his story with a deadpan Nathan for You affect and the audience is laughing along on cue as he delivers such lines as: “On a small stage, a transgender woman was playing the flute and I overheard one of the anonymous Twitter users say that they liked this particular transgender woman because she quote ‘served’ ‘c-word’ and was not only ‘based’ but also ‘keyed’ on something called ‘the JQ.’” None of this surprises me anymore, so now even I’m chuckling along, as if hypnotized by his dogwhistle lullaby.
Suddenly I’m shaken from that trance by a commotion in the audience. It’s Alice and JM. They’re already detonating their vests. Alice throws her drink cup at Matthew and starts shouting about how this whole thing is fascist, racist, sexist, antisemitic, whatever, it’s a fucking joke and fuck all you here supporting this fascist shit, and so on, it’s this pure unhinged spontaneous outburst. JM and Alice are standing on the steps leading from the vestibule to the larger event room, so they are positioned in a way that literally upstages Matthew. She’s waving her arms like Liberty leading the people. Everyone seems caught off guard. I’ve never seen anything like this happen at any downtown scene event I’ve attended. No one in charge is sure how to react, so Alice just keeps shouting. JM joins in, shouting his support for Alice’s action. Matthew looks sheepish on stage but Dasha starts screaming at them, “who the FUCK let you people in???” Some people in the audience are cheering, presumably for Dasha (Dasha and Alice are like diametrically opposed to one another, in a political sense), but it’s not actually clear. Alice and JM are forcefully dragged out of the place as Dasha and some others shout classist and ableist things at them, stuff about how they’re disgusting smelly schizo homeless sex worker freaks, and so on, maybe with some more slurs that I can’t remember now. After they’re gone, Dasha asks out loud again, “who let those losers in?” and Matthew now says that he let them in himself, adding that they said they wouldn’t pull any antifa stunt like this, and that JM said the n-word and everyone heard it. “Yeah, I heard him say the n-word, too,” Dasha says. Some others also confirm that they heard JM say the n-word, as if to make sure that I get it on record. Matthew resumes his reading. At first he sounds pretty shaken by the commotion, and it takes a few minutes for his voice to regain the usual confidence it has in this setting. Tai turns to me, “white women are on one tonight.”
As soon as Matthew’s reading ends, Nick Allen and the doorman from earlier come up to us looking mad as hell. “What the fuck was that?” Nick demands, and I say that it wasn’t us. “We know you’re bullshitting, you came in with them!” I have to explain to him that, no, I came here just with Tai, JM and Alice are just these weird people we know that showed up around the same time, they were just orbiting us when you came out with Dasha, they’re crazy, unhinged, they knew the address of the place from someone else, we didn’t plan anything with them, I understood your warning and Dasha’s slap and knew not to try anything like this. They aren’t convinced, but it’s enough to avoid getting thrown out ourselves.
Delicious Tacos is up next. I now realize that Delicious Tacos is the gray-haired man in the slim-fitting suit who came outside earlier and filmed Dasha slapping me. He’s a handsome guy—like a twink who became a silver daddy without experiencing twink death—which may come as a surprise to some, considering all the incelcore motifs prevalent in his work. He writes candidly about his sex life and fantasies, and those things are often “problematic.” He writes about Asian women in a particularly sus way. As expected, his reading is very raunchy, but his delivery doesn’t have the same ironic tone as Matthew’s (living in LA means fewer opportunities to practice these readings, I guess), so it comes across like this fairly normal SoCal accent adult guy voice reciting the depraved fantasies of some hideous incel, it’s out of joint somehow, something is lost in the jump from the screen to IRL, and the audience doesn’t seem as sure how to react. The Delicious Tacos reading proceeds without any interruption.
After the readings, the party. A bunch of different people tell me that the Alice/JM stunt “seemed staged,” “a little too perfect,” “maybe a psyop?” Delicious Tacos approaches again and introduces himself. We talk with him for a bit about California, mentioning the trip that Tai and I are planning. He is very friendly. I encounter Nick again and he says that he doesn’t think Tai and I are responsible for the Alice/JM stunt (Nick had found out that those two are also familiar to plenty of others here, so it no longer seemed like they were just total randos who only showed up because I brought them). I tell him that he does seem to have succeeded in creating a space where interesting things can occur.
On the way to the bar to get another drink, Matt Donovan (downtown podcaster and Columbia academic, not worth explaining his full backstory here) catches us and introduces us to his friends who are visiting from Montreal. Two women, one white one Asian, both rather stylish and attractive, they look like they fit in well enough. Matt Donovan looks relieved to see me, he introduces me to them as “a writer that’s critical of this scene.” (I think he sort of floats away after that.) The Quebecois women are very suspicious of what that means. They came to this event with absolutely no context about any of this at all. Just a poetry reading in New York City. They ask if this sort of thing is normal in New York and I say that it is for a specific bourgeois countercultural milieu, but that this milieu is itself incredibly strange and fucked, and that they are essentially the vanguard of making white supremacy hip in New York. They ask if we think all the sexist and racist stuff is good and normal and we say no, that’s the stuff we think is bad. They ask how we can go to these parties and hang out with these people and laugh and applaud along with them if that is the case, how we can experience all this and do nothing, and I try to explain as simply as possible the long, strange game I’m playing in my writing. I tell them that I’m actually pretty hated and feared by most of these people, and I can only stay around because I criticize particular influential figures in this counterculture so well that they want to fuck me, and so they keep me around to flatter them, to reflect their true hideousness back at them by elevating it to the status of myth, and then they lash out at me like the maenads devouring Orpheus. This is all completely unbelievable, of course. But Tai backs me up, “no, really, this guy actually is hated and feared, he had to let the host slap him before she’d let us in,” but even that makes it seem like I’m in on it all. The Quebecois women said they were disturbed by seeing all the mindless applause for these fucked-up readings, they felt like they had lost their minds—is this all normal in New York, and we’re just crazy, or worse, provincial? Trust us, Tai and I tell them, your instincts are entirely correct.
A while later they start doing a Q&A session with Delicious Tacos. Most of it I miss, or it’s unremarkable, until Matt Donovan asks a meandering question about accusations of fascism in the downtown scene and mentions my name and stuff like that, and Delicious Tacos easily slips out of it by essentially saying that he doesn’t care, he doesn’t care much for democracy and he doesn’t care much for its opposite either, sort of the standard boilerplate antipolitical stance, he cites Houellebecq, and then he starts moving on. Then suddenly one of the Quebecois women now has the microphone and she’s grilling him, it’s real talk, something to the extent of like, fuck you white man what gives you the right to say all this racist sexist bullshit, and she has a lovely accent. Delicious Tacos is too much of a nice-guy type to power through this encounter with the raw force he’d need to shut these women up; he’s gotta know that this is the normal response from normal educated women to his work. But some Asian dude in the audience looks like he’s about to start throwing punches at the Asian Quebecois woman, and she’s squaring off with him. Delicious Tacos mumbles through a response (unlike Matthew earlier, he doesn’t have a text he can read), and then the hecklers are ushered out of there (more gently than with Alice and JM) before any more mayhem can occur.
It’s getting late by now, and the crowd has been clearing out. Tai and I scan the scene and don’t see anyone left who’s likely to launch yet another spontaneous feminist uprising, so we’ve probably caught all the real drama of the evening, and we head out. (I learn the next day that there were, in fact, more fights after we left, but sources say that it was mostly just standard uninteresting drunk-guy stuff.)
Tai and I are at some bar debriefing afterward. I’m scrolling Twitter. Delicious Tacos has posted the video he took of Dasha’s slap, with the caption “Dasha smacks Mike Crumplar at the reading.” Dasha quote-tweeted it with the caption “Welcome to the downtown NY fascist avant garde.” Most of the replies seem confused—the audience knows that they’re supposed to hate me but the contextless video seems to indicate that Dasha and I are both in on the joke, whatever that’s supposed to be. Dasha’s also been tweeting a bunch of other things: a picture of a puppy standing over a tiny kitten, as if protecting it; a quote-tweet of that puppy/kitten picture with the caption “Me protecting Matthew from the antifa super soldier/future homeless person who accosted him while he read fictional prose”; a bunch of tweets about Maoism (she must be confusing Alice/JM with Tai); retweeting a tweet from Pariah The Doll (aka Salomé, introduced in the De Vere Ball piece) with screenshots of selections from Matthew Davis’ prose that he read tonight, but without specifying the author. A bunch of the replies seem to think that it’s my writing, and that it sucks because of that. I almost feel bad for him. As for Dasha, well, I’m actually a little disappointed she’s getting so spun up over the evening. Maybe I did think it was kinda hot when she slapped me and said she liked violence—I mean, it’s all in good fun…