Larry McCaffery.

The Velvet Rims of Derek Pell's X-Textual "Hod Rod"[1]


Larry McCaffery

                                    ‑For Ron Sukenick

Never feed your sexual appetite leftovers.

—Doktor Bey, in Derek Pell's Doktor Bey's Handbook of Strange Sex

Just wrap your arms 'round these velvet rims
and strap your hands across my engines!"

—Bruce Springsteen, "Born to Run"

Derive, he said.[2]

In order to ease the sense of discomfort reported by some readers during their initial textual encounter with his previous books, Derek Pell has asked me to greet you here in this introductory parlor (as it were), where I will offer a few words about his background and provide some information about the sort of literary "ride" he'll be taking you on in just a moment in X-Texts.  Lest there be any misunderstanding,  you certainly should not mistake me for one of those zoot-suited literary pimps who hang around in front of  establishments  spouting the usual blurbabel about the naughty pleasures awaiting you inside this or that  text,  or how happy this or that writer is going to make you, etc. etc..  Rather, my role is merely that of someone already experienced in "the pleasures of the X-Text" (to paraphrase Barthes) who now can offer you a relaxing Intro-aperitif[3] and who will then escort you directly to "Aphrodite Aviary"—the doorway (as it were) to Pell's custom-built "hot rod" that is gassed up and waiting to take you to realms of X-Textual pleasures you never dreamed even existed.

Derek Pell: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Happy Hooker

     If by literary "prostitution" one refers to making a living by helping  readers "get off," then Derek Pell has been an active “member”; (so to speak)  in good standing of the world's oldest literary profession since the heady days of the late 60s, when he left a brief stint at Chicago's Art Institute and began publishing the first of his scandalous unclassifiable text-and-collage works, which were soon quietly circulating among discriminating readers of magazines and journals.[4]  By the late 1970s Pell’s “Doktor Bey”; books began to appear from commercial houses.[5]  These works—which included his first major meta-pornographic book, Doktor Bey’s Book of Strange Sex—began to attract for Pell a devoted following among readers whose taste in text ran towards something a little more kinky, transgressive and playful than the kind of linearly organized, missionary-positioned, slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am experiences they endured at home with traditional realism. 

The reactionary, sexually repressive Reagan years, however, found mainstream publishers "cleaning up their acts," and Pell, along with many other writers deemed textually "promiscuous" or "literarily incorrect," were rounded-up en masse and told to either get outta town or sanitize their works so that "decent readers" would no longer have to be solicited by "morally and aesthetically reprehensible" authors every time they took a stroll through their neighborhood chain bookstores.    For a writer like Pell—whose very essence as a performer had to do with exciting his customers with textual acts that  reeked of the very sense of shock, irreverence, and liberating energies now being deordorized by an 80s culture increasingly dominated by a humorless political correctness and safety-fascism—the choice was very obvious:  he found alternative ways to textually excite and delight  audiences in less publicly visible haunts.  That there was some legitimate grounds for certain readers regarding Pell's textuality as being "perverse," "painful" and "disgusting" is undeniable; that  others could just as accurately describe their responses as "excruciatingly pleasurable" remains an ongoing vindication of Pell's refusal to revoke his commitment to  polymorphous textuality.

 Thus began an odyssey of nearly a decade in which Pell found himself mostly plying his trade once more on the pages of the strange underground world of small presses and  literary journals.  From a personal standpoint these must have been frustrating years indeed for Pell; ironically, however, having to perform for a much smaller but more aesthetically experienced and demanding audience also pushed him to further refine his skills (albeit regressively so) as a writer, visual artist, and satirist.[6]   

This “regressive refinement”; is evident in a number of pieces included in X-Texts —for example, "Aphrodite's Aviary,”; "The Kama Sutra of Rabelais,”; “The Nonsexist Sutra of Vatsanaym,”; “Sox,”; “Lolita Over the Hill,”; “The Elements of Style,”; “Up Fanny Hill,”; “Tropic of Crater,”; “Sexlus,”; “Anais Nin’s Architecture of Desire,”; “Lady Chatterley’s Loafer”; and several pieces that might be termed “strip tease”; performances.  In these works Pell intertextually provides his audience with a glimpse of a series of texts by several of the most venerated and respected authors associated with “serious”; pornographic representation—Nabokov, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Sade, Rabelais, Jean Deberg, Stein, Burroughs, Nicholson Baker, etc. Liberated from the uncomfortable “proper”; narrative garments which usually cloak  pornographic discourse in a deceptive veil of  logic, rationality, causality, and rhetorical “high seriousness,”; they are verbally retrofitted by Pell in garish, outlandish costumes and then pushed out onto the page-stage; there, sternly “disciplined”; by Pell’s choreographed word-play, they perform a ribald series of naughty and nutty skits that  display their  charms in a manner that most readers should find both delightfully absurd and perversely sensuous.

At any rate, the blend of aesthetic anarchy, black humor, social commentary, and irreverence found throughout X-Texts confirms for me that  Derek Pell is  1.) almost single-handedly keeping satire alive as a serious art form today and 2.) currently the most wickedly funny writer in America—a country that suddenly seems to have lost its sense of humor.

[EDITOR'S 'DETOURNEMENT': Autonomedia's Editors in consultation with Derek Pell and Norman Conquest have concluded that  Prof. McCaffery's obsessive reliance on "hot rod’s," “member’s,”; “droopy nub’s,”; and other phallocentric motifs—not to mention the imagery relating to sexual perversion, rape, date-rape, and of course the central “writer-as-prostitute”; trope—has already grown wearisome, offensive, and counterproductive to introducing X-Texts  within the kind of serious moral and aesthetic context it deserves.  Moreover, it gets worse! the final section of  LM's introduction—“My Blind Date (Rape) with Derek Pell: A Personal Detournement”;— actually raises the ante of offensiveness to such a degree that we've decided to fold—thus sparing readers the necessity of LM displaying his cards (so to speak).  Unfortunately, contractual obligations make it impossible for us to delete LM's conclusion entirely, but we have been able to copy-edit his conclusion so that most of the offensive material is removed (or no longer recogniziable).  This textual operation  insures that LM's  “personal detournement”; functions in the spirit that Debord originally intended it—viz., LM's earlier citation: “the reuse of pre-existing artistic elements in a new ensemble."  While LM is busy being "deriven" out of town, we strongly urge that our readers take their own “detournement”; at this point by going directly to the first page of "Aphrodite’s Aviary”; which opens Pell’s X-Texts.

But to show we haven't lost our sense of humor (this should be obvious—after all, we invited Prof. LM to write this introduction!), we'd like to conclude—and in the same spirit of egregiously bad puns and adolescent word play that LM so obviously relates to (a "professional interest," we're sure)—by saying to LM that we hope that  giving you "the hook"  instead of the hooker you so obviously were hoping for, isn't too disappointing.  Better luck next time?[7]]

My Blind Date (RAPE) with Pell: A Personal "Detournement"

  I'm sure readers have all  x-perienced a "blind date" (as it      ) with a   xt you've never met before.                                                          I fondly recall

ack in high school,          loss of my own textual virginity          back seat of a car        when I came across:

Samsa awoke from uneasy dreams, he was startled to discover that he

                       who could resist a "cum-on"         ?   Somewhat later,         my second   xteual seduc    when I came across     ollowing:

                                         member that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice —Gabriel G

         Actually, in the case of Pell     first textual encoun        not “blind  ate”; but could more accurately be described as a "blind date rape" since      

                                                hand,         not painful at all, "lubricated" (as it were) by the   arxian lit-crit "jelly" that  Pell used to insert                                      for me has turned into a life-long love affair.     ondly recall responding

                 sweet  caress of Pell's opening lines I found myself word-drunk, head-over  eels, eager to follow this seductive trail of words to                              (     earlier  asterpieces as         and "Foucaul-  xt" (!)

          At                             by the mid-80s grown bored with the pick-up-opening-lines and other aesthetic come-ons that unscrupulous use to             in between the "sheets" of their books. Oh, occasionally I'd            hoping to  x-perience the once-familiar delicious swelling in my imagination's groin                         x-ample, I was accosted one evening                    SF-in-go-go-boots!         yberpunk   assic:

            above the port was the color of a television tuned to a dead channel

Regrettably,                    a case of premature ejaculati   than a fully satisfying literary  orgasm "virtual sensations" reported by amputees                      —whereas your real dick                into some hospital garbage pail awaiting incineration!

       short,  my literary antenna            worn down to a  roopy nub

   a happy ending, however        oon in 1986   prepared to         tack of manuscripts  Fiction International (                                  stack of unap  tizing ms's           "body" of the   xt          by the innocuous-looking brown envelope           .   Mysteriously I found my                             stirring once more          had already been "undressed" by my co-editor, Harold Jaffe (we frequently          toget 
     okingly         as "menage a twat”;). Jaffe had   ribbled  some cryptic notes  "gives great meta-critical anal    Jameson on acid!"    Undeniably aroused by now,         delicately lifted the manuscript out of its protective covering

           already beating fast as my eyes ran over the page

opening line seemed almost to  ump out     coyly  staring up     cu-hither look best 
  paraphrased as "Dear  Editor, Insert your imagin     into my black word-warmth and                    

           Eeve  today I can   ill quote     verbatim[8]:     

"(Con't from pg. 187)"[9]

     sheer bliss                            rest of that first brief tex-tual tryst  with Pell's "The Topsy-Turvy World of Edward Hooker,"[10]                  vous giggles     covorting delightfully ell's inflamed rhetoric,                   the shadows deepened in my office             outer garments of "Topsy" fell away               its sensuous semiological  "undergar    (a voluptuous Marxian anal    turned "upsidedown" by capitalism)         troublesome               ruth is I never     how to    nap a bra),             but                

            trollable shrieks of       as Pell            (proof that  reports of the "death of the author"        greatly  x-aggerated)           "whipped" me into       , as it were).    During the second go-round       my  mouth unerringly found its way to the   xt's wondrously formed epigraph                I had initially failed to notice.[11]    Finally (thi          after  the janitor's departure,                   only the sounds of                             tented sighs. 

But now you, shy readers, who are preparing                loss of virginity with Pell, let me ass    you

not  to be dreaded or       asha        of       but  a  badge of honor proudly
            But to insure that your first mom            x-tex-tual intimacy     as  lissful as mine were,

     won't  insult  Pell or my readers by

reverse alchemical proc     whereby the gold of verbal magic is turned into the shit of dull, jar   -laden paraphrase. But I   ill, however,       supply you with   analy    that you can apply                                      (male readers who may                applicator     luded in my           arks    garding Pell's “Foucaul-  xt")

Bu    upon  loser   spection, "(Con't from p. 187)" is actually a kind of "haiku"  

        "x-  xts" in the back seat    hot rod" meta   I invoked earlier                   than a car meta hor!                     what Roland Barthes would term "the  rain of Pell's voice," include:

x-tuality that         less satiric than satyric

"joking" (if I may be per     Dr. Johnson's formulation) with violence            horically here, not literally, of course)                                                     Pell's anal     of Hopper's upsidedown image               

retrofitting of         x-hausted rhehetorical context; the metafictional and metavisu      implic           to a prior text (the mysterious absence  luded to by "p. 187";      missing-text motif is  art of a larger pattern                  aesthetics of   sappearance and erasure that Pell's "stealth" program  species of meta-inter  x-tuality!  Pell’s     kable ear for mimickry,  scholarly termin             —"Con't" rather than "continued," for  x-ample
              As my  arting offering                         suggestions should make your first x-tual encounter not only "x-rated," but  linger in your memory long after          oment has gone.                                                            will forgive the "disciplinary tone,"  but I am sure you  ill agree                         

forced to comply  actually increases  x-tual  x-citement.

First, turn to    rodite's Aviary" but read only the first sentence.  Once you have regained your compos   ,         retu        diately (no diddling!) to await further instructions.  Don't  worry, I'll still

having  a  moke.  Ready?  GO.  . . .

You've returned?   So soon?  And I see you're    arrassed.  Well, don't be—plenty of other first-time Pe             have soiled their breeches after               hit the   x-tual beaches of earlier           
               Your reaction was  uzzlement over the              in the  story's title            x-tual "hors"( of the d'oerves variety) before but not      equivalent of a bull's pizzle!               slightly  tale fragrances asso        with  Aphrod of  Greek legend hard  "tit-il                     but now found yourself reeling—and being reeled-in               bait    "Spanish fly" Pell has  lipped into your cognac!          
      You feel you have made a terrible mistake                —as if  you have voluntarily handed over the keys to the BMW your imagination usually tools around in to                    with Pell as your "literary       chauffeur" (he seemed reliable enough on his   plication form but                    through  the  den     
 aze of      pears to be pot   moke!                    not a stone abut    , as you first feared, but a "wall of sound"          urst earrdrums       front seat,9                        But why ask why?" You've
 ost all         hibitions while you hurriedly                                               corset of literary x-pecta  
    barassed by   irling   tassels         ipples,           x-tended "detournment”; you won't soon forget!     

                   driver is now laughing idiotically as         un x-pectedly veering off             
    fortable x-tual Interstate              (it is "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"!)      as           crash              J. G. Ballard as it seemed!),  then plowing through roadblocks                     did that cold can of Bud get                        song  keeps  rifting through your   ind

  Driver, where are you taking us?

Where indeed?   But before we  each the  limax, I have three final sugestions       (      commands"          apolo               bull's pizzle again!—but             thank me later).

FIRST:  Remove                          but  slowly, so I     lip on the furlined condo   by Perll's alter -ego,    mon Conq        .   ho cares?                        all hang out!  but                    member, despite                       Pell knows this semiological terrain         back of his hand  (if                his lap!)

SECOND: Go ahead        deep slug of that beer.       "X-tasy" or   quaaludes but              arrogant stupidity of the   vernment  makes achieving Rimbaud's  tematic derangement of the senses" quite  impossible.     

FINALLY (all "yoking" aside),         naked, yes— but     mon sense dic           ever else you do, buckle up!

Works Cited

Debord, Guy.  "Detournement as Negation and Prelude."  Situationist International Anthology, trans. Ken Knabb.  Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981.

Guy Debord.  "Theory of Derive." Situationist International Anthology, trans. Ken Knabb.  Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981.

[1] A somewhat different version of this forward appeared in Derek Pell, X-Texts (NY: Semiotexte, 1994)

[2]Derive and detournement are terms used by Guy Debord and the French Situationists to describe methods that allow people  to experience trips through familiar territories (i.e., places both literal and artistic)  in new, liberating ways (for example: consider the ways that Chinese students were able to temporarily transform the "meanings" associated with Tiananmen Square in the Spring of 1989). Debord defines derive as "a technique of transient passage through varied ambiance's . . . [a] playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psycho-geographical effects" in which persons "drop their usual motives for movement and action . . . and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there" ("Theory of Derive," 50).  Detournement is described as "the reuse of pre-existing artistic elements in a new ensemble," directed at negating the previous organization of expression, from which position the "detournement bloc" can itself be made available for reuse in other arrangements to "express the search for a vaster construction" ("Detournement as Negation and Prelude," 55).  I would argue that these  two principles can be usefully applied to  Derek Pell's central aesthetic strategies; further, the fact that they can be punningly employed in my own  sex/car/ "hot rod" conceit—i..e., Pell's X-Texts operating as a kind of "pink Cadillac" which "derives" and "detournes" readers on an exhilarating literary journey past familiar literary terrain (i.e., pornography) that normally produces a very narrow range of response and awareness (i.e., sexual excitement)—is meant to demonstrate the kinds of options that consciously applying Pell's use of puns, coincidence, mistranslation and other accidental associations that are everywhere evident in his X-Texts.  However, I should immediately point out that despite the extended motif employed here of Pell-as-literary-prostitute or Pell-as-chauffeur-of-a-travelling-bordello, his "deriving" performance in X-Texts is really a species of 'meta-pornography" whose primary aim is not to arouse but to examine (and in many cases, mock) the usual rhetorical devices associated with pornography.

[3]Readers have surely noticed that the introductory cocktails served at most textual establishments are typically bland concoctions made from pedestrian ingredients and preparation-methods.  For readers thirsting for something to provide an alternative to parched lips and  grotesquely swollen, purple tongues, I recommend the following recipe: mix two parts critical overview to one part authorial background,  blending until discourse seems settled,  then flavor with relevant personal asides, ironic parodies of the usual critical jargon, and vivid metaphorical analogies to taste.  Salud!

[4]Among Pell’s earlier meta-smut pieces which anticipate X-Texts’ irreverent, satiric treatments of pornographic representations are "Naked Postcard" ([poem]Frock Purge, 1969—one of his earliest publications), "Peeping Toms" ([photograph] New York Times Magazine), "The History of Sex #23" (Newrite, 1981)"The Joy of Celibacy" (Playboy, 1986), "S.O.A.P.: An Informal History of the Society of Artistic Pornographers" (1980), "Tropic of Crater" (Ins and Outs, Amsterdam, 1980), and ""The Erotic Adventures of Zippy McCode" (The Best of Screw, 1982) .  Also of interest is Pell's seminal essay, "Remembrance of Bookshop Orgies" (Kick Ass, 1969).  A selected bibliography of Pell's works will appear in Larry McCaffery, Strings in the Tragic Distance: Interviews with Radically Innovative Fiction Writers  of the 90s (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming, 1994)).

[5]These  included Doktor Bey's Suicide Guidebook (1977), The Book of Morbid Curiosities ( 1978), Doktor Bey's Bedside Bug Book.  (1978), Doktor Bey's Book of Brats (1979), and Doktor Bey's Book of the Dead (1981), as well as Pell's first book-length work treatment of pornography, Doktor Bey's Handbook  of Strange Sex (Avon, 1978).  All the Bey  books, as well as Pell's first non-commercially published book (Assassination Rhapsody , Semiotext[e], 1986), use the same deconstructive aesthetic principles of intertextuality, appropriation, "derive,"  and "detournement" found in X-Texts  (the elaborately conceived "Doktor Bey" pseudonym also anticipates other disguises and alter ego's—most notably Norman Conquest—adopted by Pell in part to mock the notion of authorial originality).  It should be stressed that these  aesthetic strategies have more than mere parodic intent;  rather  the silliness, lunacy, surrealism, and parodic impulses found in  Pell's best works are aspects of a fiercely moralistic, darkly humorous, and ultimately deeply pessimistic personal vision—a gaze (often an exaggerated version of the "male gaze") that unmasks a wide range of social and literary hypocrisies and pretensions.  In the interests of good taste, I will leave it to the reader to imagine the obvious  metaphors of sexual perversion—voyeurism and exhibitionism, sado-masochism, etc., etc.—that could be appropriately developed at this point.

[6]I.e., "Refinement"  not in the usual sense of "sophistication" and "maturity" (features which Pell, like Rimabud, the dadaists and surrealists, and his chief avatar, Alfred Jarry, was highly skeptical of) but more in the nature of regressive refinements—as in making his works less  mature,  more aggressively childlike in their rejection of traditional notions of "authority" and "seriousness," more openly irrational  and playful.  

[7]Since it appears that I am about to be "deriven" into silence by Pell, his big shot buddy NOr-MAN CUNT-QUEST, and the other members of the Auto-NO-MEDIA Censorship Gang, I want to alert the readers to 1.) IGNORE the AutonoMIDIOTS hypocritical gesture of allowing me to speak my piece (right—but only if spoken down HERE in a tiny font size, at the bottom of some easily overlooked footnote!); this is a painfully obvious attempt to use my own words as a semiotic smokescreen to cover their own getaway (note their recommendation that you leave the scene of their crime).   2.) In these last (compressed) moments before my brief textual candle is "snuffed out" (or "copy-edited," as these mental MIDGITIOTS euphemistically described it) so that I will no longer be able to strut and fret my poor hour upon the page (diminished in size though it is), let me point out to DREK PILL and his Big Shitiot friends that by giving me the hook they have unwittingly turned themselves into  happy hookers!!   3.) Finally, a plea to those readers who have followed me down here towards (the nearly invisible) period that will mark  my official extinction at the hands of those who would silence the the voice of resistance, please PROTEST this outrageous behavior  by joining me on my blind date-rape with [Okay, Mac—you're history.  —The Ed's]

[8]           rest of public safety, I                       "safe sex" totally incompatible                     alternative, put one of Norman Conquest's fur-lined condom's on your "pipe" (       "in"     ipe  ill     quit  a   urprise!!!)  and                         your own risk!

[9]Derek Pell, "The Topsy-Turvy World of Edward Hopper," Fiction International  17:1 (Spring 1987): 60-1.

[10] Printer, I see the typo in my citation of the painter, but un          tances, let it           erect monument to

[11] “            hung             Matisse upside-down for forty-seven days before they discovered their mistake."    I mention  my subsequent  failure to notice        pants down around my       when

    janitor's arrival              followed by an embarrassed flurry of tugging's and explanations on my part

            a sly wink on his.   

9         reasonably sure that Phil Spector had nothing to do with

Spineless Books.

spineless books            spybeam books