Dead Doll Humility by Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker
Copyright (c) 1990 by Kathy Acker, all rights reserved.
_Postmodern Culture_ vol. 1, no. 1 (Sep. 1990).

IN ANY SOCIETY BASED ON CLASS, HUMILIATION IS A
POLITICAL REALITY.  HUMILIATION IS ONE METHOD BY WHICH
POLITICAL POWER IS TRANSFORMED INTO SOCIAL OR PERSONAL
RELATIONSHIPS.  THE PERSONAL INTERIORIZATION OF THE
PRACTICE OF HUMILIATION IS CALLED _HUMILITY_.

CAPITOL IS AN ARTIST WHO MAKES DOLLS.  MAKES, DAMAGES,
TRANSFORMS, SMASHES.  ONE OF HER DOLLS IS A WRITER
DOLL.  THE WRITER DOLL ISN’T VERY LARGE AND IS ALL
HAIR, HORSE MANE HAIR, RAT FUR, DIRTY HUMAN HAIR,
PUSSY.

ONE NIGHT CAPITOL GAVE THE FOLLOWING SCENARIO TO
HER WRITER DOLL:

As a child in sixth grade in a North American school,
won first prize in a poetry contest.
In late teens and early twenties, entered New York
City poetry world.  Prominent Black Mountain poets,
mainly male, taught or attempted to teach her that a
writer becomes a writer when and only when he finds his
own voice.

CAPITOL DIDN’T MAKE ANY AVANT-GARDE POET DOLLS.

Since wanted to be a writer, tried hard to find her own
voice.  Couldn’t.  But still loved to write.  Loved to
play with language.  Language was material like clay or
paint.  Loved to play with verbal material, build up
slums and mansions, demolish banks and half-rotten
buildings, even buildings which she herself had
constructed, into never-before-seen, even unseeable
jewels.

To her, every word wasn’t only material in itself,
but also sent out like beacons, other words.  _Blue_
sent out _heaven_ and _The Virgin_.  Material is rich.
I didn’t create language, writer thought.  Later she
would think about ownership and copyright.  I’m
constantly being given language.  Since this language-
world is rich and always changing, flowing, when I
write, I enter a world which has complex relations and
is, perhaps, illimitable.  This world both represents
and is human history, public memories and private
memories turned public, the records and actualizations
of human intentions.  This world is more than life and
death, for here life and death conjoin.  I can’t make
language, but in this world, I can play and be played.
So where is ‘my voice’?
Wanted to be a writer.
Since couldn’t find ‘her voice’, decided she’d
first have to learn what a Black Mountain poet meant by
‘his voice’.  What did he do when he wrote?

A writer who had found his own voice presented a
viewpoint.  Created meaning.  The writer took a certain
amount of language, verbal material, forced that
language to stop radiating in multiple, even
unnumerable directions, to radiate in only one
direction so there could be his meaning.

The writer’s voice wasn’t exactly this meaning.
The writer’s voice was a process, how he had forced the
language to obey him, his will.  The writer’s voice is
the voice of the writer-as-God.

Writer thought, Don’t want to be God; have never
wanted to be God.  All these male poets want to be the
top poet, as if, since they can’t be a dictator in the
political realm, can be dictator of this world.
Want to play.  Be left alone to play.  Want to be
a sailor who journeys at every edge and even into the
unknown.  See strange sights, see.  If I can’t keep on
seeing wonders, I’m in prison.  Claustrophobia’s sister
to my worst nightmare: lobotomy, the total loss of
perceptual power, of seeing new.  If had to force
language to be uni-directional, I’d be helping my own
prison to be constructed.
There are enough prisons outside, outside
language.
Decided, no.  Decided that to find her own voice
would be negotiating against her joy.  That’s what the
culture seemed to be trying to tell her to do.

Wanted only to write.  Was writing.  Would keep on
writing without finding ‘her own voice’.  To hell with
the Black Mountain poets even though they had taught
her a lot.
Decided that since what she wanted to do was just
to write, not to find her own voice, could and would
write by using anyone’s voice, anyone’s text, whatever
materials she wanted to use.

Had a dream while waking that was running with
animals.  Wild horses, leopards, red fox, kangaroos,
mountain lions, wild dogs.  Running over rolling hills.
Was able to keep up with the animals and they accepted
her.
Wildness was writing and writing was wildness.
Decision not to find this own voice but to use and
be other, multiple, even innumerable, voices led to two
other decisions.

There were two kinds of writing in her culture:
good literature and schlock.  Novels which won literary
prizes were good literature; science fiction and horror
novels, pornography were schlock.  Good literature
concerned important issues, had a high moral content,
and, most important, was written according to well-
established rules of taste, elegance, and conservatism.
Schlock’s content was sex horror violence and other
aspects of human existence abhorrent to all but the
lowest of the low, the socially and morally
unacceptable.  This trash was made as quickly as
possible, either with no regard for the regulations of
politeness or else with regard to the crudest, most
vulgar techniques possible.  Well-educated,
intelligent, and concerned people read good literature.
Perhaps because the masses were gaining political
therefore economic and social control, not only of
literary production, good literature was read by an
elite diminishing in size and cultural strength.

Decided to use or to write both good literature
and schlock.  To mix them up in terms of content and
formally, offended everyone.
Writing in which all kinds of writing mingled
seemed, not immoral, but amoral, even to the masses.

Played in every playground she found; no one can do
that in a class or hierarchichal society.

(In literature classes in university, had learned
that anyone can say or write anything about anything if
he or she does so cleverly enough.  That cleverness,
one of the formal rules of good literature, can be a
method of social and political manipulation.  Decided
to use language stupidly.)  In order to use and be
other voices as stupidly as possible, decided to copy
down simply other texts
Copy them down while, maybe, mashing them up
because wasn’t going to stop playing in any playground.
Because loved wildness.
Having fun with texts is having fun with
everything and everyone.  Since didn’t have one point
of view or centralized perspective, was free to find
out how texts she used and was worked.  In their
contexts which were (parts of) culture.
Liked best of all mushing up texts.
Began constructing her first story by placing
mashed-up texts by and about Henry Kissinger next to
‘True Romance’ texts.  What was the true romance of
America?  Changed these ‘True Romance’ texts only by
heightening the sexual crudity of their style.  Into
this mush, placed four pages out of Harold Robbins’,
one of her heroes’, newest hottest bestsellers.  Had
first made Jacqueline Onassis the star of Robbins’
text.

Twenty years later, a feminist publishing house
republished the last third of the novel in which this
mash occurred.

CAPITOL MADE A FEMINIST PUBLISHER DOLL EVEN THOUGH,
BECAUSE SHE WASN’T STUPID, SHE KNEW THAT THE FEMINIST
PUBLISHING HOUSE WAS ACTUALLY A LOT OF DOLLS.  THE
FEMINIST PUBLISHER DOLL WAS A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN A ST.
LAURENT DRESS.  CAPITOL, PERHAPS OUT OF PERVERSITY,
REFRAINED FROM USING HER USUAL CHEWED UP CHEWING GUM,
HALF-DRIED FLECKS OF NAIL POLISH, AND BITS OF HER OWN
BODY THAT HAD SOMEHOW FALLEN AWAY.

Republished the text containing the Harold Robbins’
mush next to a text she had written only seventeen
years ago.  In this second text, the only one had ever
written without glopping up hacking into and rewriting
other texts (appropriating), had tried to destroy
literature or what she as a writer was supposed to
write by making characters and a story that were so
stupid as to be almost non-existent.  Ostensibly, the
second text was a porn book.  The pornography was
almost as stupid as the story.  The female character
had her own name.

Thought just after had finished writing this, here
is a conventional novel.  Perhaps, here is ‘my voice’.
Now I’ll never again have to make up a bourgeois novel.
Didn’t.

The feminist publisher informed her that this
second text was her most important because here she had
written a treatise on female sexuality.
Since didn’t believe in arguing with people, wrote
an introduction to both books in which stated that her
only interest in writing was in copying down other
people’s texts.  Didn’t say liked messing them up
because was trying to be polite.  Like the English.
Did say had no interest in sexuality or in any other
content.

CAPITOL MADE A DOLL WHO WAS A JOURNALIST.  CAPITOL
LOVED MAKING DOLLS WHO WERE JOURNALISTS.  SOMETIMES SHE
MADE THEM OUT OF THE NEWSPAPERS FOUND IN TRASHCANS ON
THE STREETS.  SHE KNEW THAT LOTS OF CATS INHABITED
TRASH CANS.  THE PAPERS SAID RATS CARRY DISEASES.  SHE
MADE THIS JOURNALIST OUT OF THE FINGERNAILS SHE
OBTAINED BY HANGING AROUND THE TRASHCANS IN THE BACK
LOTS OF LONDON HOSPITALS.  HAD PENETRATED THESE BACK
LOTS WITH THE HOPE OF MEETING MEAN OLDER MEN BIKERS.
FOUND LOTS OF OTHER THINGS THERE.  SINCE, TO MAKE THE
JOURNALIST, SHE MOLDED THE FINGERNAILS TOGETHER WITH
SUPER GLUE AND, BEING A SLOB, LOTS OF OTHER THINGS
STUCK TO THIS SUPER GLUE, THE JOURNALIST DIDN’T LOOK
ANYTHING LIKE A HUMAN BEING.

A journalist who worked on a trade publishing magazine,
so the story went, no one could remember whose story,
was informed by another woman in her office that there
was a resemblance between a section of the writer’s
book and Harold Robbins’ work.  Most of the literati of
the country in which the writer was currently living
were upper-middle class and detested the writer and her
writing.

CAPITOL THOUGHT ABOUT MAKING A DOLL OF THIS COUNTRY,
BUT DECIDED NOT TO.

Journalist decided she had found a scoop.  Phoned up
the feminist publisher to enquire about plagiarism;
perhaps feminist publisher said something wrong because
then phoned up Harold Robbins’ publisher.
“Surely all art is the result of one’s having been
in danger, of having gone through an experience all the
way to the end, where no one can go any further.  The
further one goes, the more private, the more personal,
the more singular an experience becomes, and the thing
one is making is finally, the necessary, irrepressible,
and, as nearly as possible, definitive utterance of
this singularity . . . Therein lies the enormous aid
the work of art brings to the life of the one who must
make it . . .
“So we are most definitely called upon to test and
try ourselves against the utmost, but probably we are
also bound to keep silence regarding this utmost, to
beware of sharing it, of parting with it in
communication so long as we have not entered the work
of art: for the utmost represents nothing other than
that singularity in us which no one would or even
should understand, and which must enter into the work
as such . . . ”  Rilke to Cezanne.

CAPITOL MADE A PUBLISHER LOOK LIKE SAM PECKINPAH.
THOUGH SHE HAD NO IDEA WHAT SAM PECKINPAH LOOKED LIKE.
HAD LOOKED LIKE?  SHE TOOK A HOWDY DOODY DOLL AND AN
ALFRED E. NEUMAN DOLL AND MASHED THEM TOGETHER, THEN
MADE THIS CONGLOMERATE INTO AN AMERICAN OFFICER IN THE
MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR.  ACTUALLY SEWED, SHE HATED
SEWING, OR WHEN SHE BECAME TIRED OF SEWING, GLUED
TOGETHER WITH HER OWN TWO HANDS, JUST AS THE EARLY
AMERICAN PATRIOT WIVES USED TO DO FOR THEIR PATRIOT
HUSBANDS, A FROGGED AND BRAIDED CAVALRY JACKET, STAINED
WITH THE BLOOD FROM SOME FORMER OWNERS.  THEN FASHIONED
A STOVEPIPE HAT OUT OF ONE SHE HAD STOLEN FROM A BUM IN
AN ECSTASY OF ART.  THE HAT WAS A BIT BIG.  FOR THE
PUBLISHER.  INSIDE A GOLD HEART, THERE SHOULD BE A
PICTURE OF A WOMAN.  SINCE CAPITOL DIDN’T HAVE A
PICTURE OF A WOMAN, SHE PUT IN ONE OF HER MOTHER.
SINCE SAM PECKINPAH OR HER PUBLISHER HAD SEEN TRAGEDY,
AN ARROW HANGING OUT OF THE WHITE BREAST OF A SOLDIER
NO OLDER THAN A CHILD, HORSES GONE MAD WALLEYED MOUTHS
FROTHING AMID DUST THICKER THAN THE SMOKE OF GUNS.  SHE
MADE HIS FACE FULL OF FOLDS, AN EYEPATCH OVER ONE EYE.

Harold Robbins’ publisher phoned up the man who ran the
company who owned the feminist publishing company.
From now on, known as ‘The Boss’.  The Boss told Harold
Robbins’ publisher that they have a plagiarist in their
midst.

CAPITOL NO LONGER WANTED TO MAKE DOLLS.  IN THE UNITED
STATES, UPON SEEING THE WORK OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER ROBERT
MAPPLETHORPE, SENATOR JESSE HELMS PROPOSED AN AMENDMENT
TO THE FISCAL YEAR 1990 INTERIOR AND RELATED AGENCIES
BILL FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROHIBITING “THE USE OF
APPROPRIATED FUNDS FOR THE DISSEMINATION, PROMOTION, OR
PRODUCTION OF OBSCENE OR INDECENT MATERIALS OR
MATERIALS DENIGRATING A PARTICULAR RELIGION.”  THREE
SPECIFIC CATEGORIES OF UNACCEPTABLE MATERIAL FOLLOWED:
“(1) OBSCENE OR INDECENT MATERIALS, INCLUDING BUT NOT
LIMITED TO DEPICTIONS OF SADOMASOCHISM [ALWAYS GET THAT
ONE IN FIRST], HOMO-EROTICISM, THE EXPLOITATION OF
CHILDREN, OR INDIVIDUALS ENGAGED IN SEX ACTS; OR (2)
MATERIAL WHICH DENIGRATES THE OBJECTS OR BELIEFS OF THE
ADHERENTS OF A PARTICULAR RELIGION OR NON-RELIGION; OR
(3) MATERIAL WHICH DENIGRATES, DEBASES, OR REVILES A
PERSON, GROUP, OR CLASS OF CITIZENS ON THE BASIS OF
RACE, CREED, SEX, HANDICAP, AGE, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN.”
IN HONOR OF JESSE HELMS, CAPITOL MADE, AS PILLOWS, A
CROSS AND A VAGINA.  SO THE POOR COULD HAVE SOMEWHERE
TO SLEEP.  SINCE SHE NO LONGER HAD TO MAKE DOLLS OR
ART, BECAUSE ART IS DEAD IN THIS CULTURE, SHE SLOPPED
THE PILLOWS TOGETHER WITH DEAD FLIES, WHITE FLOUR
MOISTENED BY THE BLOOD SHE DREW OUT OF HER SMALLEST
FINGER WITH A PIN, AND OTHER TYPES OF GARBAGE.
Disintegration.

Feminist publisher then informed writer that the
Boss and Harold Robbins’ publisher had decided, due to
her plagiarism, to withdraw the book from publication
and to have her sign an apology to Harold Robbins which
they had written.  This apology would then be published
in two major publishing magazines.
Ordinarily impolite, told feminist publisher they
could do what they wanted with their edition of her
books but she wasn’t going to apologize to anyone for
anything, much less for twenty years of work.

Didn’t have to think to herself because every
square inch of her knew.  For freedom.  Writing must be
for and must be freedom.
Feminist publisher replied that she knew writer
was actually a nice sweet girl.
Asked if should tell her agent or try talking
directly to Harold Robbins.
Feminist publisher replied she’d take care of
everything.  Writer shouldn’t contact Harold Robbins
because that would make everything worse.
Would, the feminist publisher asked, the writer
please compose a statement for the Boss why the writer
used other texts when she wrote so that the Boss
wouldn’t believe that she was a plagiarist.

CAPITOL MADE A DOLL WHO LOOKED EXACTLY LIKE HERSELF.
IF YOU PRESSED A BUTTON ON ONE OF THE DOLL’S CUNT LIPS
THE DOLL SAID, “I AM A GOOD GIRL AND DO EXACTLY AS I AM
TOLD TO DO.”

Wrote:
Nobody save buzzards.  Lots of buzzards here.  In
the distance, lay flies and piles of shit.  Herds
of animals move against the skyline like black
caravans in an unknown east.  Sheeps and goats.
Another place, a horse is lapping the water of a
pool.  Lavendar and grey trees behind this black
water are leafless and spineless.  As the day
ends, the sun in the east flushes out pale
lavendars and pinks, then turns blood red as it
turns on itself, becoming a more definitive shape,
the more definitive, the bloodier.  Until it sits,
totally unaware of the rest of the universe,
waiting at the edge of a sky that doesn’t yet know
what colors it wants to be, a hawk waiting for the
inevitable onset of human slaughter.  The light is
fleeing.
Instead, sent a letter to feminist publisher in
which said that she composed her texts out of ‘real’
conversations, anything written down, other texts,
somewhat in the ways the Cubists had worked.  (Not
quite true.  But thought this statement
understandable.)  Cited, as example, her use of ‘True
Confessions’ stories.  Such stories whose content seemed
purely and narrowly sexual, composed simply for
purposes of sexual titillation and economic profit, if
deconstructed, viewed in terms of context and genre,
became signs of political and social realities.  So if
the writer or critic (deconstructionist) didn’t work
with the actual language of these texts, the writer or
critic wouldn’t be able to uncover the political and
social realities involved.  For instance, both genre
and the habitual nature of perception hide the violence
of the content of many newspaper stories.

To uncover this violence is to run the risk of
being accused of loving violence or all kinds of
pornography.  (As if the writer gives a damn about what
anyone considers risks.)

Wrote, living art rather than dead art has some
connection with passion.  Deconstructions of newspaper
stories become the living art in a culture that demands
that any artistic representation of life be non-violent
and non-sexual, misrepresent.
To copy down, to appropriate, to deconstruct other
texts is to break down those perceptual habits the
culture doesn’t want to be broken.
Deconstruction demands not so much plagiarism as
breaking into the copyright law.
In the Harold Robbins’ text which had used, a rich
white woman walks into a disco, picks up a black boy,
has sex with him.  In the Robbins’ text, this scene is
soft-core porn, has as its purpose mild sexual
titillation and pleasure.
[When Robbins’ book had been published years ago,
the writer’s mother had said that Robbins had used
Jacqueline Onassis as the model for the rich white
woman.]  Wrote, had made apparent that bit of politics
while amplifying the pulp quality of the style in order
to see what would happen when the underlying
presuppositions or meanings of Robbins’ writing became
clear.  Robbins as emblematic of a certain part of
American culture.  What happened was that the sterility
of that part of American culture revealed itself.  The
real pornography.  Cliches, especially sexual cliches,
are always signs of power or political relationships.

BECAUSE SHE HAD JUST GOTTEN HER PERIOD, CAPITOL MADE A
HUGE RED SATIN PILLOW CROSS THEN SMEARED HER BLOOD ALL
OVER IT.

Her editor at the feminist publisher said that the Boss
had found her explanation “literary.”  Later would be
informed that this was a legal, not a literary, matter.

“HERE IT ALL STINKS,” CAPITOL THOUGHT.  “ART IS MAKING
ACCORDING TO THE IMAGINATION.  BUT HERE, BUYING AND
SELLING ARE THE RULES; THE RULES OF COMMODITY HAVE
DESTROYED THE IMAGINATION.  HERE, THE ONLY ART ALLOWED
IS MADE BY POST-CAPITALIST RULES; ART ISN’T MADE
ACCORDING TO RULES.”  ANGER MAKES YOU WANT TO SUICIDE.

Journalist who broke the ‘Harold Robbins story’ had
been phoning and leaving messages on writer’s answering
machine for days.  Had stopped answering her phone.  By
chance picked it up; journalist asked her if anything
to say.
“You mean about Harold Robbins?”
Silence.
“I’ve just given my publisher a statement.
Perhaps you could read that.”
“Do you have anything to add to it?”  As if she
was a criminal.
A few days later writer’s agent over the phone
informed writer what was happening was simply horrible.

CAPITOL DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE ANY DOLLS.

How could the writer be plagiarizing Harold Robbins?
Writer didn’t know.
Agent told writer if writer had phoned her
immediately, agent could have straightened out
everything because she was good friends with Harold
Robbins’ publisher.  But now it was too late.
Writer asked agent if she could do anything.
Agent answered that she’d phone Harold Robbins’
publisher and that the worst that could happen is that
she’d have to pay a nominal quotation rights fee.
So a few days later was surprised when feminist
publisher informed her that if she didn’t sign the
apology to Harold Robbins which they had written for
her, feminist publishing company would go down a drain
because Harold Robins or harold Robbins’ publisher
would slap a half-a-million [dollar? pound?] lawsuit on
the feminist publishing house.
Decided she had to take notice of this stupid
affair, though her whole life wanted to notice only
writing and sex.

“WHAT IS IT” CAPITOL WROTE, “TO BE AN ARTIST?  WHERE IS
THE VALUE THAT WILL KEEP THIS LIFE IN HELL GOING?”

For one of the first times in her life, was deeply
scared.  Was usually as wild as they come.  Doing
anything if it felt good.  So when succumbed to fear,
succumbed to reasonless, almost bottomless fear.
Panicked only because she might be forced to
apologize, not to Harold Robbins, that didn’t matter,
but to anyone for her writing, for what seemed to be
her life.  Book had already been withdrawn from print.
Wasn’t that enough?  Panicked, phoned her agent without
waiting for her agent to phone her.
Agent asked writer if she knew how she stood
legally.
Writer replied that as far as knew Harold Robbins
had made no written charge.  Feminist publisher
sometime in beginning had told her they had spoken to a
solicitor who had said neither she nor they “had a leg
to stand on.”  Since didn’t know with what she was
being charged, she didn’t know what that meant.
Agent replied, “Perhaps we should talk to a
solicitor. Do you know a solicitor?”
Knew the name of a tax solicitor.
Since had no money, asked her American publisher
what to do, if he knew a lawyer.

WOULD MAKE NO MORE DOLLS.

American publisher informed her couldn’t ask anyone’s
advice until she knew the charges against her, saw them
in writing.
Asked the feminist publisher to send the charges
against her and whatever else was in writing to her.
Received two copies of the ‘Harold Robbins’ text
she had written twenty years ago, one copy of the
apology she was supposed to sign, and a letter from
Harold Robbins’ publisher to the head of the feminist
publishing company.  Letter said they were not seeking
damages beyond withdrawal of the book from publication
[which had already taken place] and the apology.
Didn’t know of what she was guilty.
Later would receive a copy of the letter sent to
her feminist publisher from the solicitor whom the
feminist publisher and then her agent had consulted.
Letter stated: According to the various documents and
texts which the feminist publisher had supplied, the
writer should apologize to Mr. Harold Robbins.  First,
because in her text she has used a substantial number
of Mr. Robbins’ words.  Second, because she did not use
any texts other than Mr. Robbins’ so there could be no
literary theory or praxis responsible for her
plagiarism.  Third, because the contract between the
writer and the feminist publisher states that the
writer had not infringed upon any existing copyright.
When the writer wrote, not wrote back, to the
solicitor that most of the novel in question had been
appropriated from other texts, that most of these texts
had been in the public domain, that the writers of
texts not in the public domain were either writers of
‘True Confessions’ stories (anonymous) or writers who
knew she had reworked their texts and felt honored,
except for Mr. Robbins, that she had never
misrepresented nor hidden her usages of other texts,
her methods of composition, that there was already a
body of literary criticism on her and others’ methods
of appropriation, and furthermore [this was to become
the major point of contention], that she would not
sign the apology because she could not since there was
no assurance that all possible litigation and
harassment would end with the signature of guilt,
guilt which anyway she didn’t feel: the solicitor did
not reply.
Not knowing of what she was guilty, feeling
isolated, and pressured to finish her new novel, writer
became paranoid.  Would do anything to stop the
pressure from the feminist publisher and simultaneously
would never apologize for her work.
Considered her American publisher her father.
Told her that the ‘Harold Robbins affair’ was a joke,
she should take the phone off the hook, go to Paris for
a few days.
Finish your book.  That’s what’s important.

WOULD MAKE NO MORE DOLLS.

Paris is a beautiful city.
In Paris decided that it’s stupid to live in fear.
Didn’t yet know what to do about isolation.  All that
matters is work and work must be created in and can’t
be created in isolation.  (Remembered a conversation
she had had with her feminist publisher.  Still trying
to explain, writer said, in order to deconstruct, the
deconstructionist needs to use the actual other texts.
Editor had said she understood.  For instance, she was
sure, Peter Carey in _Oscar and Lucinda_ had used other
people’s writings in his dialogue, but he would never
admit it.  This writer did what every other writer did,
but she is the only one who admits it.  “It’s not a
matter of not being able to write,” the writer replied.
It’s a matter of a certain theory which is also a
literary theory.  Theory and belief.”  Then shut up
because knew that when you have to explain and explain,
nothing is understood.  Language is dead.)

SINCE THERE WERE NO MORE DOLLS, CAPITOL STARTED WRITING
LANGUAGE.

Decided that it’s stupid living in fear of being forced
to be guilty without knowing why you’re guilty and,
more important, it’s stupid caring about what has
nothing to do with art.  It doesn’t really matter
whether or not you sign the fucking apology.
Over the phone asked the American publisher
whether or not it mattered to her past work whether or
not signed the apology.
Answered that the sole matter was her work.
Thought alike.
Wanted to ensure that there was no more sloppiness
in her work or life, that from now on all her actions
served only her writing.  Upon returning to England,
consulted a friend who consulted a solicitor who was
his friend about her case.  This solicitor advised that
since she wasn’t guilty of plagiarism and since the law
was unclear, grey, about whether or not she had
breached Harold Robbins’ copyright, it could be a legal
precedent, he couldn’t advise whether or not she should
sign the apology.  But must not sign unless, upon
signing, received full and final settlement.
Informed her agent that would sign if and only if
received full and final settlement upon signing.
Over the phone, feminist publisher asked her who
had told her about full and final settlement.
A literary solicitor.
Could they, the feminist publishing house, have
his name and his statement in writing?
“This is my decision,” writer said.  “That’s all
you need to know.”

WROTE DOWN “PRAY FOR US THE DEAD,” THE FIRST LINE IN
THE FIRST POEM BY CHARLES OLSON SHE HAD EVER READ WHEN
SHE WAS A TEENAGER.  ALL THE DOLLS WERE DEAD.  DEAD
HAIR.  WHEN SHE LOOKED UP THIS POEM, ITS FIRST LINE
WAS, “WHAT DOES NOT CHANGE/ IS THE WILL TO CHANGE.”
WENT TO A NEARBY CEMETERY AND WITH STICK DOWN IN
SAND WROTE THE WORDS “PRAY FOR US THE DEAD.”  THOUGHT,
WHO IS DEAD?  THE DEAD TREES?  WHO IS DEAD?  WE LIVE IN
SERVICE OF THE SPIRIT.  MADE MASS WITH TREES DEAD AND
DIRT AND UNDERNEATH HUMANS AS DEAD OR LIVING AS ANY
STONE OR WOOD.
I WON’T BURY MY DEAD DOLLS, THOUGHT.  I’LL STEP ON THEM
AND MASH THEM UP.

For two weeks didn’t hear from either her agent or
feminist publisher.  Could return to finishing her
novel.
Thought that threats had died.
In two weeks received a letter from her agent
which read something like:
On your express instructions that your publisher
communicate to you through me, your publisher has
informed me that they have communicated to Harold
Robbins your decision that you will sign the apology
which his publisher drew up only if you have his
assurance that there will be no further harassment or
litigation.  Because you have requested such assurance,
predictably, Harold Robbins is now requiring damages to
be paid.
Your publisher now intends to sign and publish the
apology to Harold Robbins as soon as possible whether
or not you sign it.
In view of what I have discovered about the nature
of your various telephone communications to me, please
contact me only in writing from now on.
Signature.

Understood that she had lost.  Lost more than a
struggle about the appropriation of four pages, about
the definition of _appropriation_.  Lost her belief
that there can be art in this culture.  Lost spirit.
All humans have to die, but they don’t have to fail.
Fail in all that matters.
It turned out that the whole affair was nothing.

CAPITOL REALIZED THAT SHE HAD FORGOTTEN TO BURY THE
WRITER DOLL.  SINCE THE SMELL OF DEATH STUNK, RETURNED
TO THE CEMETERY TO BURY HER.  SHE KICKED OVER A ROCK
AND THREW THE DOLL INTO THE HOLE WHICH THE ROCK HAD
MADE.  CHANTED, “YOU’RE NOT SELLING ENOUGH BOOKS IN
CALIFORNIA.  YOU’D BETTER GO THERE IMMEDIATELY.  TRY TO
GET INTO READING IN ANY BENEFIT YOU CAN SO FIVE MORE
BOOKS WILL BE SOLD.  YOU HAVE BAGS UNDER YOUR EYES.”

CAPITOL THOUGHT, DEAD DOLL.
SINCE CAPITOL WAS A ROMANTIC, SHE BELIEVED DEATH
IS PREFERABLE TO A DEAD LIFE, A LIFE NOT LIVED

ACCORDING TO THE DICTATES OF THE SPIRIT.
SINCE SHE WAS THE ONE WHO HAD POWER IN THE DOLL-
HUMAN RELATIONSHIP, HER DOLLS WERE ROMANTICS TOO.

Toward the end of paranoia, had told her story to a
friend who was secretary to a famous writer.
Informed her that famous writer’s first lawyer
used to work with Harold Robbins’ present lawyer.
First lawyer was friends with her American publisher.
Her American publisher asked the lawyer who was
his friend to speak privately to Harold Robbins’
lawyer.

Later the lawyer told the American publisher that
Harold Robbins’ lawyer advised to let the matter die
quietly.  This lawyer himself advised that under no
circumstances should the writer sign anything.
It turned out that the whole affair was nothing.
Despite these lawyer’s advice, Harold Robbins’
publisher and the feminist publisher kept pressing the
writer to sign the apology and eventually, as
everything becomes nothing, she had to.
Knew that none of the above has anything to do
with what matters, writing.  Except for the failure of
the spirit.

THEY’RE ALL DEAD, CAPITOL THOUGHT.  THEIR DOLLS’ FLESH
IS NOW BECOMING PART OF THE DIRT.
CAPITOL THOUGHT, IS MATTER MOVING THROUGH FORMS
DEAD OR ALIVE?
CAPITOL THOUGHT, THEY CAN’T KILL THE SPIRIT.