October 15th, 2003

MUT003

The Textbook Tapes
Gabe Boyer and The Thousand Eyes

CD | Enhanced with book | $10.00 | Now Available

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

I was sitting in a midtown cafe with these two chameleons in shark-skin. At least that’s how I saw them at the time, tired from years of broken dreams and shattered hopes, but as they spoke this initial impression erased itself from my forebrain and found me gawking at their open maws. They were gonna turn my book into music, make the words into nodes and lick them. That’s what they said. To create harmony out of the giggling whiplash I’d experienced some twenty years previous.

 

As I saw it, the words themselves were whole. They were large buttons you press when you can’t sleep at night. But these guys wanted to turn it into butter and pour it into people’s ears. I sat down. They sat down. We gathered round the half-sized pianette in the corner of Gabe’s Manhattan townhouse and Mal brought on the charm in the form of a B#.

 

But I jest. I really have no idea what key it was, but whatever it was it made me forget all the years I’d sacrificed to the sentences inching along like soldiers across my field of vision. The years huddled next to the stove with the pot boiling overhead, filled with a mixture of calamari, olives, chives, and ketchup. Thinking, “Tea… Ketchup… Tea. Ketchup.“ Tapping out the syllables on the kitchen floor.

I thought the book was terrible. It had no structure. No vision. No creative impetus, or natural force. It was, on the whole, a disaster. The year was 1976. I was working on the last chapter of The Manikin Textbook, and I was beginning to think that there were maybe two paragraphs out of the last forty chapters that made sense, that I’d have to re-write them all. Then it came to me.

The book was not some paltry attempt to grab the reader’s attention and turn it into cash. It was a visionary quest. I was a zulu warrior walking head-on into the den of the lion and I had to strangle my own convictions before firing through this thing and coming out like a shot in the dark on the other side. I left for Vermont the following morning.

My uncle had a cabin there, and let me move in for a few of the colder months of the year. I brought Dorothy with me. My chimpanzee. I wrote daily and constantly. My fingers clacked at the typewriter with the wild abandon of a forest on fire or an astronaut in the womb of the universe. I took off and touched down on a moment to moment basis, sharing a beer with Dorothy. That crazy chimp loved beer.

The day I finally finished the book started out in the hammock we kept on the porch. I was bundled up in six layers of flannel and two sleeping bags. Dorothy had stolen the bed again. I woke to her out front. I hoped up, slipped the sleeping bags from my emaciated form, and followed her towards the woodshed. We were intercepted by a dove-tail fawn, who seemed to be just waking herself.

The fawn was innocence in fur. Dorothy approached it. She held out her hand to the fawn, her hand full with the granola she’d stolen from my rucksack, and the fawn approached nervously. In my decaffeinated state, I was honestly touched by this moment of primate selflessness. Then, just as the fawn was within a nose of Dorothy, the chimp leapt back and with a maniacal cackle taunted the fawn with its jangling hand. It repeated this several times, and I have to say I found myself laughing as well.

Then my laughter turned to self-loathing. Myself and that chimp were both mocking nature. She was Johnny Carson and I was her viewing audience. In that single moment all of my book is summed up, and it was then the final line came to me.

But back to the townhouse, and Mal and his B#. I had met them a week earlier when they explained the concept. I guess in those lost and troubled years after its completion, the book had developed a small following of fans, spread across America, and beyond. It seemed preposterous, but Mal assured me that he had grown up with the book always at the ready, and now that he is a major player in the American music industry he had the wherewithal to fulfill his “dream“ of setting the novel to music.

(An excerpt from the liner notes by Colin Jacks)


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