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Why Sequins? (Manifesto)

1.) Because a literary pop star is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Because literature is not popular and neither are the people who write it. Because I want to inhabit a contradiction, to materialize as a walking oxymoron. To walk into a dive bar in feathers, with giant shoulders, with my backing tracks on my jump drive, and sequins glued to my face and have people be like: THE FUCK?

2.) Because everybody was asking: How do we make live readings less boring? How can they accomplish something for writers similar to what live performances accomplish for musicians?

3.) Because in the Fall of 2009, I published a short story about pop star Adam Lambert. Because shortly thereafter, I dressed as Adam Lambert for Halloween. For the first time (hard to believe, considering I was once a theater fag), I applied my own makeup, and was like, I love this. I want to do it again, but on my own terms. Because shortly thereafter, I became obsessed with the “club kids” of the late 80’s and early 90’s, their makeup, their costumes, their art, because former club kid James St. James is  a surprisingly distinctive prose stylist.

4.) Because I am attracted to camp aesthetics. Because I experience some variety of liberation when I take the trivial very seriously. Because I want to enjoy pop culture joyously, not just critically, not just detached, not just ironically. Because I like what Dodie Bellamy says Bob Gluck once said about Kevin Killian’s writing: That Kevin is different than the other new narrativists, because Kevin’s work has no bottom line. That when Kevin blurs distinctions between highbrow and lowbrow, he gives few clues where he stands in relation to the material, he just keeps heaping on more dayglow cliches, more breathless goo.

5.) Because I am looking for permission to unleash a part of me that is totally fucking superficial. Because I have always taken my politics and my writing so fucking seriously. Because superficiality can be claimed as a Queer politic.  Because Queerness is associated with excess, the bacchanal, the disposable, the unproductive, Queers do not always reproduce, do not give birth to happy pliant workers for the capitalist chain of production, etc.

6.) Because when I was five year old, I wanted to be a rock star, and I put on concerts for my grandparents, songs I made up on the spot. My outfits were always planned in advance.

7.) Because when I was an undergraduate at DePaul University, while I was studying Queer Theory, I declared my new gender would be faggot rockstar, and I spent the next two-three months walking around campus in giant glittered sunglasses, tiger stripe hair, giant scarves and sarongs. My rockstar name was Noah Vale.

8.) Because I want to explore hybrid and feminized masculinities. Because gay misogyny fucking pisses me the fuck off. Because in the excellent web-based documentary series 50 Faggots, Jamin Ruhren, who performs as Acid Betty, says when he dresses up, he’s in control of the reason why he doesn’t fit in. Because I want to feel rooted. Because I want to inhabit my skin.

9.) Because I went to a Vanessa Place reading where Vanessa Place asked, Why are we so attached to our subjectivity? And immediately after the reading, Nell Taylor said, So the last time I talked to you, you said you wanted to create Tim Jones-Yelvington merchandise to sell at readings, as an extension of your rockstar persona, have you done that yet? And for a moment I felt crass and obvious and stupid and unschooled in literary theory, and I sulked home sheepishly, thinking, I am too much EGO, I am too much ME, my practice is insufficiently grounded in the rejection of authorship, but then on the bus, I thought: Really, Vanessa Place? But part of why I’m drawn to you, Vanessa Place, is your formidable presence, your materiality, your iconography, your lips, your hair, your suits, your voice, and isn’t the tension between your swagger and your conceptual project(s) part of what makes you so compelling? And isn’t the performance of hyperactive ego one mechanism for critically engaging with our unstable selves, perhaps particularly where gender and sexuality are concerned?And is there really such a thing as a writer who isn’t on some level driven by ego? And isn’t there a creatively fertile space in the tension between the compulsion to publicly self-declare and self-examine, and the prioritization of text over authorship (And what about making my own body the text? What if I walk onto the book fair floor at AWP in my sequined hot pants with giant letters stitched across my ass that say, THIS IS A TEXT?) And when I get onstage and I say, Tim Jones-Yelvington is not a person. Tim Jones-Yelvington is a verb. To Tim Jones-Yelvington is to unleash whatever is inside of you: YOUR guts, YOUR gore, YOUR glamour, YOUR whore… ishness onto a still unsuspecting and unprepared world, a world more in need of Tim Jones-Yelvingtoning than ever before, that tension between ego and its deconstruction is right there, embedded in my new verb, as, on the one hand, I attempt to transform my name (myself?) into an action that can be performed by others, a term they can also appropriate and disseminate absent my involvement, to forfeit my identity, to disperse myself by gifting myself to a collective, while on the other, I am performing quite possibly the most egotistical act I can imagine by attempting to insert my name (myself?) into the vernacular, the ultimate measure of a diva’s singularity, her timelessness: Remember my name… FAME!

10.) Because what about the hard work marginal people have done to collectively create our own subjectivities and identities? Shouldn’t a distinction be made between destabilization and annihilation?

11.) Because even though I don’t believe in “authenticity,” I want to be authentic. Because I like Dodie Bellamy’s way of thinking about authenticity when she says, What I long for in writing is the authentic, whether it’s collage, porn, or Alice Munro. By authentic I’m not necessarily talking about verisimilitude or naturalism. Authentic doesn’t need to mimic “real” life. In Bush-hostaged America, “real” life needs to be questioned at every turn. Something can be highly contrived and still be authentic, if it’s upfront in its contrivance. I’m drawn to writing that touches core human issues, how we categorize the world, how we survive the chaos that engulfs us…When the ground shifts beneath the reader’s feet, even the teeniest bit, this is good. The ground is already shifting. We need to start feeling it.

11 thoughts on “Why Sequins? (Manifesto)

  1. I’ll be there, Tim. (Even it the reading’s at a shitty bar that brings back memories of clueless undergrad-ism.)

    You haven’t seen Trecartin? Man, you are in for it. Your whole holiday might be screwed now.

  2. Right on, that’s awesome. Noah Vale, love it. Funny, I think I saw Vanessa read at an FC2 thing here in Chicago at AWP, where she just read the copyright page or something? Could that be true? It was awesome. Keep on doing what you’re doing, Tim. Hope to catch you at one of these Quickies!, LDM, Featherproof things.

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