Patricia Lockwood has a brain seemingly designed to blow up Twitter. Her feed is full of cartoon tween j/o bait and hyper-fantasy sexy stuff like “I am a living male turtleneck. You are an art teacher in winter. You put your whole head through me,” and “I go up to heaven and open God's Bible. It contains only a single sext: ‘Im hard.’” From the same brain now erupts her first book, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, which is covered in nude Popeye dogs walking calmly in a blue horde. The book is equally rigorous and insane, squashing deep into the squishy curves of the unconscious, where all that childhood cartoon sound and whale-sized dreams of death are housed. It invokes something nameless about why we try to create things, how those things we create feel about us, and the bizarre architectures in between.
Here’s some more about Patricia:
Blake: Favorite cartoon/show as a child?
Patricia: GUMMI BEARS, which I watch to this day. What you have to do is get the reddest juice you can find and put it in a salad cruet and then GULP IT at the exact moment the Gummi Bears drink the Gummiberry juice and then you get a great feeling like you have done something exactly right for once in your life.
Favorite cartoon/show now?
DuckTails, because even though I do not like money I want to touch millions of a thing at once and be touched by millions of a thing at once and only Scrooge McDuck in his little bathing suit seems to need that as much as I do.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Always a writer. Though at one point I got the idea that that was impractical and decided to be “a voice actor” instead, which lasted until I realized what a truly terrible saxophone I had for a voice.
What is your favorite part of anatomy?
Cowlicks are the most textual to me.
What is your favorite planet?
Trick question? The moon, idiot.
What position do you sleep in?
Completely facedown like I'm trying to sink into the center of the Earth.
Song you remember for a particular reason?
“Knees Up Mother Brown,” by Raffi. What's going on? Is Mother Brown a prostitute? I just have no idea.
Do you like candy?
I do NOT like candy and the people who eat it deserve their sticky nasty hands. And I hate them.
What book have you read the most?
I've read The Berenstain Bears' Trouble at School probably 100 times because there's this really mysterious moment in it where Brother Bear walks into the woods with his grandpa and his grandpa shows him a wagon that he pushed into a swamp a long time ago because he "made a bad decision." It makes no sense. Why would he push a wagon into a swamp? Little tiny Swamp Thing fingers are drawn all over the wagon grabbing every part of it and refusing to let go and gothic slime is hanging everywhere and it doesn't even LOOK like a wagon anymore because it's been transformed by the horrifying hug of the swamp. Brother Bear looks at it and somehow learns a lesson about how he shouldn't make bad decisions. It's so good. I read it again and again because to me there is no other moment in books that is so completely closed to my understanding.
Do you have a recurring dream?
I DO. I have a dream every month where I'm trapped in a mansion with all my high school friends and a serial killer in a leather jacket with fringe is picking us off one by one. The fringe swings. He shoots us. I've had that dream since I was 15 years old. It gave me a strange sense of houses.
Excerpt from Balloon Pop Outlaw Black
It is the house of your childhood: rooms hide, merge, relocate, paint themselves during the night. The same route never works twice—you are the force that sends a live hallway shooting out of another hallway. There is a never-ending bowl of oranges in the kitchen, always the same oranges and never the same oranges; the oranges section and eat the weeks. The dog’s markings—black on white ground—change whenever we want them to. Some seasons the lawn disappears out from under you like a tablecloth, and you’re replaced so fast you hardly feel it. And it is the house of your childhood because she lives here.
In the kitchen, one cupboard refuses to open. It thinks it is another place, it thinks it is the land of spices.
A house in Kansas is made of Kansas. A house in the jungle is made of the jungle. The house here is made of there, is made of the air that a house displaces.
Her garden flourishes: a row of little signs that say pumpkin, a row of little signs that say lettuce, a row of little signs that say radish.
When she wants to pick one, she gets down on her knees and grasps the name with both hands, and tugs, and it will not come, and tugs, and it will not come, and in the other world her son cries “Carrot!” and she feels the taproot go tense and then snap.
It is a good place to grow things; the thermometer on the front porch registers always a human temperature.
Last thing she knew he lived in the west. When his name appears in her mind, it is written in lasso.
He always liked a good lie about storms, so here, when it thunders, a stampede of horses is flattening her son.
And in the morning her trails are washed away. The ground here is a dapple animal, it won’t stand still long enough to let her pull a bridle path over its head.
And where is the west now? She tugs down the map to look and it flies up again like a windowshade.
At the edge of the desert, she discovers a rich vein of Detroitite—a “stone” made of the layered paint that streams away from car factories. She takes a pickaxe and a shovel and begins to dig. She dynamites the color deeper and deeper. She lives away from home, she rides a gray donkey down, she eats sandwiches in the mine at night. It is her Grand Canyon, and she sleeps in a long silver river at the bottom. Above her, new layers keep arriving; they will run here from the other world as long as there is somewhere to go. Then the vein is inside out, and she wakes up one morning in her own bed again. The house is suddenly one floor deeper, she feels a room of basement rocks below her.
One shop appears when she needs it: a model train store. It sells everything a town needs, from portable tunnels to instant road, but she lingers most over the miniature “You Are Now Entering ” signs. They have one for every city you can think of, piled together in a clear glass jar. She slips one in her pocket and lets it burn a hole there. When she wants to travel, she sits on a bench in the middle of nowhere. The scenery train pulls out. The scenery train pulls in. When her ticket is right, she will leave on it, and ride to the end of the line.
She is always on the lookout for lines here; the line is her only natural predator. If she let it, a line would swallow her whole and then lick the corner of her lip, and lay in a black earthquake on her floor, and draw itself in black boxes all over her calendar. It would ride out to her yard and draw a tree full of grasshoppers until there was not a leaf left, and still not be full. The line says, “When I draw a stomach around all of it, then I will have eaten.”
Her son keeps a line, she remembers, and feeds it a mouse once a month. As soon as the mouse is fully digested, it appears here in her house, a long tail snaking behind it. Sometimes a line disguises himself, and goes house to house with a paper and pen asking for signatures. She refuses to answer. He raps, then knocks, then threatens to put a shoulder through her door.
She sends her son a book, with her pop-up house between the pages. He sets it aside and lets it gather dust. She raps, then knocks, then threatens to put her shoulder through the door, but still he does not open it.
She brought all her books with her, too many books. She makes bookends to hold rows of them together: geodes the size of her head, sawed exactly in half, all gray crystals on display.
The line would like to cut her up and hang her from the ceiling. If he did, you
would see a clean white portal in each piece, like a hambone. She is tempted to
let him do this—like all good cartoons, she believes in an Afterimage, where
her colors will become their cool opposites. Where her hell-colored ham will
become the blue sky.
Previously by Blake Butler - Considering Roberto Bolaño and 'Woes of the True Policeman'