The Dream Faculty
Original title: Drömfakulteten
Albert Bonniers Förlag 2006
Translated by Marlaine Delargy
The Dream Faculty is not a biography, but a literary fantasy based on
the late American Valerie Solanas’ life and work. Little factual
information is known about Valerie Solanas, and this novel does not
take even this information into account. All the characters who appear
in the novel must therefore be regarded as fictional, including Valerie
A hotel room in Tenderloin District, the cod district of San Francisco. It’s April
1988 and Valerie Solanas lies dying of pneumonia on a filthy mattress and
urine-soaked sheets. Pink neon signs flash outside the window, and the beat
of the porn music goes on day and night.
On April 30th her body is found by the hotel staff. The police report states that
the deceased was kneeling by the side of the bed (was she trying to get into
bed? had she been crying?). It states that the room is in perfect order, neat
piles of paper on the desk, the clothes folded tidily on a chair by the window.
The police report also states that her body is covered in maggots and that the
death presumably occurred some time around April 25th.
A few weeks earlier, according to the report, one of the hotel staff saw her
sitting by the window, writing. I imagine the piles of paper on the desk, the
silver coat on a hanger by the window and the smell of salt water from the
Pacific, I imagine Valerie in bed, feverish, trying to smoke cigarettes and
make notes. I imagine drafts and manuscripts all over the room … sun
perhaps … white clouds … the loneliness of a desert …
I imagine I’m there with Valerie.
Pages 74 – 101
VENTOR, FEBRUARY 1951
THE AMERICAN STATE IS CARRYING OUT TEST EXPLOSIONS IN THE
NEVADA DESERT CLOSE TO LAS VEGAS
The sun is shining and panting and it has been a feverish summer of running
away and reconciliation. Dorothy has chased through the nights and
Bambiland. The trees are dark and serious and her dead desert animals are
rotting behind the house. Moran roams from room to room when she
disappears, he weeps and longs for her return and then he sits around all day
leafing through her farewell letters. The place stinks of unwashed underwear
and old preserves and corpses and at last Dorothy rings you one day, her
voice quivering on a crackling poor connection from the town. This time he
tried to smash her face against an oil drum.
DOROTHY: I’m so stupid, darling. I should have realised long ago he’s an
idiot. I look terrible. My whole face is blue. My eyes. My dress, the white one,
he cut it to pieces.
VALERIE: Hi Dorothy.
DOROTHY: I’m so stupid, I’m so naïve.
VALERIE: Yes, you are.
DOROTHY: I’m thinking of going away. And I’m taking you with me.
VALERIE: I don’t want to stay here.
DOROTHY: Can you look for my white dress. I don’t want to leave dressed in
my nightgown. It makes me look like a mental patient.
VALERIE: But you said the white dress was in pieces.
DOROTHY: Damn. I forgot about that. I hate him. I’m nothing.
VALERIE: You’re smarter than Moran.
VALERIE: It’s not that difficult to be smarter than Moran.
DOROTHY: Come to the ocean, darling.
VALERIE: When shall I leave?
DOROTHY: The dress. You can bring along a different dress, can’t you. And
VALERIE: You stupid little cow. Have you only got your nightgown on?
DOROTHY: (sobbing and snivelling): I think so … I look ridiculous. A
nightgown and boots. No handbag, nothing. Sweetie. My little sugar lump.
Bring some things for yourself too. Bring a book. Bring plenty to read. I’ll buy
you some new books. I’ll buy you whatever you want. I’ll sort out some money
by the ocean.
ALLIGATOR REEF, FLORIDA, MARCH 1951
THE BEACHES, THE FLAMINGO PARK
At Alligator Reef, the sky has a dazzling, healing light that works its way into
dresses and handbags and hair. Helicopters circle above the beach and you
stay close to the pink bathing tower below the flamingo park all the time.
Dorothy builds your night shelter beneath the bathing tower each time
darkness falls and the beach empties of bathers and the starry sky that settles
over you is like a dark blanket.
The bruises fade on Dorothy’s arms and she is far out in the waves, she dives
and dreams of being changed by the ocean. When she returns to the shore
she is freckled and happy. The white dress has been mended and is lying by
the shoreline, bleaching in the sun. There’s sand in your sandwiches and
Dorothy’s main occupation here is sweeping the area with her gaze like radar,
looking for attractive strangers, and yours is eavesdropping on your forays to
the nearby beach mats, when you’re not looking for crocodiles and sharks and
Dorothy is at her most beautiful on the beach and your books crunch with the
sand and warp with the salt water when Dorothy forgets them on the
shoreline. Sand blows into your eyes and your hair is salty and tangled. But
the only sharks you find are wearing tennis shirts, driving dark cars and
cruising slowly along the promenade. Dorothy looks at you with fire in her
DOROTHY: Tell me about something.
VALERIE: I’m reading.
DOROTHY: Tell me something about Ventor, Valerie.
VALERIE: Take your sunglasses off and I’ll tell you. You look like a giant fly in
DOROTHY (laying her head on your knee, the parasols fluttering in the
breeze): You know what I think about flies, darling.
VALERIE: Once upon a time there was a shitty little hole full of assholes,
bandits and con men and small town tarts and small town pricks. And then
there was a little girl called Dorothy. And another little girl called Valerie. The
sun just shone and shone, they laughed and smoked cigarettes. Dorothy
worked on her tippets. Valerie wrote her books. The men in Ventor were a
bunch of hairy apes who hung out in the bars and looked after their egos and
their clenched fists and their small penises. Tiny little penis animals. There
was a desert and a little house and a bathtub. The desert was full of girls. Or
they wished the desert was full of girls. There was Dorothy and Valerie …
VALERIE (running her hand through Dorothy’s hair): Are you asleep?
DOROTHY: I’m listening.
VALERIE: You’ve got blood in your hair again.
DOROTHY: I’m asleep.
The ocean crashes around you, your words drown in the waves, and the
white, dazzling light changes into something duller. The sky and the sand turn
a dull pink, and the beach is being abandoned once again by the bathers.
Dorothy opens her eyes.
DOROTHY: What happens next?
VALERIE: Then all the evil people disappear. Somebody operates on them
and takes away their brains and their nervous system and their penises.
Dorothy and Valerie and all the girls and the foxes and the books and the
typewriters go up to Alligator Reef. And they all live happily ever after. They
never go back again.
DOROTHY: I love you Valerie. So much it breaks my heart.
VALERIE: And Moran?
DOROTHY (her gaze is somewhere on the horizon) I’m never going back to
DOROTHY: I swear on my mother’s grave I’m never going back to him.
VALERIE: You don’t have a mother, Dorothy. You can’t swear on something
you don’t have.
Beneath the blinding sun, beneath the screams and looping flight of the gulls
you walk along the beaches looking for shards of glass and shells while
Dorothy is out in a car somewhere in one of her mentally-ill dresses. Outside
the flamingo park is a boy made of silk, selling photographs of sharks. You get
a picture of a dead tiger shark and a Polaroid of his sandy shins. The stones
in the sand look like birthmarks and there are new kinds of cloud above the
ocean every day. One morning there’s a coloured ribbon lying on the sand
when you wake up.
VALERIE: What’s this?
DOROTHY: Open it up, then you’ll see.
VALERIE: For me?
DOROTHY: Come on, open it. Or I will.
VALERIE: What’s this?
DOROTHY: It’s a coloured ribbon for a typewriter.
VALERIE: What typewriter?
DOROTHY: I’m going to get you a typewriter.
DOROTHY: As soon as I can afford it. Rich men in rich cars.
VALERIE: I don’t want a typewriter from some rich car.
DOROTHY: But I’ve nurtured a little author at my freckled breast. And I have
to take some responsibility for that.
Dorothy has never read a real book. She reads magazines and cake recipes
in cookery books, although she doesn’t like baking and is useless at cooking.
At Alligator Reef she has another birthday, it could be a dark day, but she lies
about her age even more, is always officially just under thirty, and every
birthday she gets younger and younger. On her birthday by the ocean you go
to a bookshop. Dorothy is to choose a birthday book, the bright shadows of
the palm trees and the clouds follow you along the promenade like huge,
uneasy animals. The salty winds change direction at the end of the beach,
and when they return they’re hotter and saltier and it has to be something
simple, says Dorothy, like a film, like a lipstick, like Marilyn.
The book is thick and pink and Dorothy carries it like a jewel through the
ocean, along the promenade and through the hotel complexes. Then she
spends whole days lying on the beach flicking through it, but she doesn’t read.
The sounds of the ocean are soporific and the Atlantic bewitches her, the
ocean is a deep blue solace. She moves uneasily in the sand, her hand
searching hopelessly in her handbag, and time and time again she empties it
onto the sand to go through her possessions.
DOROTHY: What are you reading?
VALERIE: I don’t know, mine didn’t have a cover on it.
DOROTHY: I’m taking my book to the bar for a while. It might be easier to
VALERIE (with her eyes on her book): Good idea, Dorothy.
DOROTHY: I’m not going to the telephone kiosk today. I’ve nothing to say to
him. We’re not going back. End of story.
VALERIE: You swore on your breasts.
DOROTHY (looking down her cleavage): I know.
VALERIE: All or nothing.
DOROTHY (eyes and eyelashes flicking back and forth in the sun):
Everything. I choose everything. I mean I choose you. End of story. Full stop.
End of book. I’m going to the bar now. I think it’s interesting, really important.
This business with books. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. It might seem as if I’m
not interested in books, but I am. I’ll concentrate. Everything isn’t the way it
seems, Valerie … Valerie?
VALERIE: I know, Dolly. Off you go now. I’m reading.
You carry on reading your books, warped by the salt water, Dorothy carries on
disappearing behind her sunglasses, she carries on forgetting. Her cigarettes
lie there in the sand, burning down. She always falls asleep while she’s
smoking, and her dreams are invaded by black underwater trees and black
phosphorescence, falling and falling, and when she falls asleep on the
beaches at Alligator Reef she dreams about the woman who didn’t want to be
anyone’s mother any longer and she wakes up every time with a drowning
heart and wet salty knots in her mouth. Her hand moves in the sand and in
the dream and the land underwater there is no stuck-on foal that knows that it
must die, but refuses and continues to cling fast to its mother, letting itself be
kicked away every time for the warm taste of her milk like a watermark on its
coat and its mouth full of black ants. She picks up her book and tries to read,
but the ocean takes away her concentration, and mostly it’s her little handbag
mirror and the nail file and her cigarette and most of all her way of sneaking a
look over your shoulder at your book the whole time.
DOROTHY: You just keep on and on reading. You must have learned so
much by now you’ll burst one of these days.
VALERIE: Dorothy, it’s just a novel.
DOROTHY: I wish I could concentrate like you. I’m thinking about other things
the whole time. The letters start to flicker on the page. My heart starts
pounding in a really peculiar way.
VALERIE: You’re never going back to him?
VALERIE: You’re sure?
DOROTHY: I swear on my mother’s …
VALERIE: You’ve got no mother, Dorothy. She abandoned you in the desert.
DOROTHY: I promise, darling. I’m not a stupid cow.
VALERIE (laughing and touching her hair): Oh yes you are!
DOROTHY: Yes, I am. But I swear on my hair and my breasts and my legs.
VALERIE: I’m not going back to him.
DOROTHY (a smiling little sun): Me neither. Wherever you go, I go.
Her hair keeps blowing into her eyes. Then she’s over at the bar again. It
keeps on blowing, and on the news there are reports of typhoons and
hurricanes and shark attacks. Dorothy sits in the beach bars in the evenings,
glued to the TV screens. The wind blows away her hairstyles and her good
intentions, the sand and the salt and the sun are both soothing and
invigorating, and in the end the ocean will have destroyed every bit of make-
STATE SUPREME COURT, NEW YORK, 13 JUNE 1968
MARTIN LUTHER KING HAS BEEN MURDERED IN MEMPHIS,
ROBERT KENNEDY HAS BEEN MURDERED IN CALIFORNIA
The State of New York and Thomas Dickens give notice of proceedings in the
case of the State of New York versus Valerie Solanas. You’re riding in a
police car through the suburbs of New York and it’s a really pretty trip with
shrinking, bloody clouds and a sky without self-respect and you offer yourself
in order to pay for the ride, you’re used to paying, ten for a fuck five for a blow
job two for a hand job. But the State of New York is paying for the sightseeing
tour this time, thanks a lot Mister, a fantastic trip to hell and back.
STATE SUPREME COURT: The description of the alleged crime is as
follows: The plaintiff, Andy Warhol, is alleged to have begged on his knees:
No, no, Valerie. Don’t do it. Please Valerie. The suspect also shot Mr Warhol’s
colleague, Paul Morrissey. After various requests from the witness Viva
Ronaldo, she left the location in the elevator, without saying a word. A few
hours later she turned herself in to William Schmalix, a traffic cop on Fifth
Avenue. Andy Warhol is currently on a respirator at the Columbus-Mother
Cabrini Hospital. It is still unclear if, and when, and in what condition he will
regain consciousness. It is still unclear whether the charge will be attempted
murder or murder. Miss Florynce Kennedy will represent the accused instead
of the lawyer previously appointed by the state. Miss Kennedy is defending
Miss Solanas without any remuneration. Miss Solanas neither denies nor
admits the charge.
STATE SUPREME COURT: Will defence be calling the accused in court?
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: No. The accused is not responsible for her actions.
VALERIE: I am responsible. I’ve never felt more responsible.
FLORYNCE KENNEDY (whispers): I know you are, but that’s not going to
help you win in court.
VALERIE: Win or disappear altogether.
FLORYNCE KENNEDY (to the court): Could you just give us a moment,
please, Mr Dickens …
VALERIE: Did you say that judge was called dick?
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: His name’s Dickens, Valerie, in court he’s called
Dickens and nothing else.
VALERIE: In my court he’s called the dick.
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: I’ve asked you not to speak in court. He’s called
Thomas Dickens from now on, Valerie.
VALERIE: Just remember I’m the only woman here who isn’t crazy.
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: I know, Valerie. You’re one of the most important
spokeswomen of the feminist movement.
VALERIE: Are you related to that Kennedy, Kennedy? Marilyn’s Kennedy?
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: Quiet now, Valerie.
VALERIE (whispers): - - - d i c k – d i c k – d i c k ---
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: I demand that Valerie Jean Solanas, born 1936 in
Ventor, is declared unfit to plead.
VALERIE: I’m not sick, Kennedy.
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: I know, Valerie.
VALERIE: Why are you letting him say that?
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: Because I want you to be free, Valerie.
VALERIE: Sick isn’t free. A hospital isn’t free.
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: A hospital is better than a jail.
VALERIE: But this isn’t an illness.
FLORYNCE KENNEDY: This is the law, not justice.
VALERIE: The law is anywhere but on my side.
STATE SUPREME COURT: Granted, Miss Kennedy.
STATE SUPREME COURT: The proceedings are adjourned.
The state of New York and Judge Thomas Dickens declare you unfit to plead.
Henceforth you will be regarded as incapable of making your own legal
decisions, and will be transferred to Elmhurst Psychiatric Hospital to await
trial. At a later date you will be indicted on charges of attempted murder,
assault and illegal possession of a gun.
ALLIGATOR REEF, APRIL 1951
DOROTHY’S BOOK CONTINUES, THE ATLANTIC KEEPS ON GOING
The ocean is dark mirrors. Dorothy holds your hand as she sleeps in the
shade of the parasols. Salty waves reach out for the shore, the sea birds
scream out their hollow cries, ten thousand embrace the waters of the ocean
as they hiss and whimper. The beach book (the pink one) lies open, there is
sand and wind and salt water in it. The pages are warped by the water and
bleached by the sun, and on some pages the salt water has destroyed the
text. Dorothy is still only on page eleven. First of all she reads the end, and
discovers that the lovers split up because of a misunderstanding; she is
inconsolable, thinking the book is about her, and then she can’t read any
more. Instead she tosses her hair and her scarf and her eyes flicker even
more rapidly between the ocean and the sky.
The silk boy passes by down by the shoreline with a young flamingo tucked
inside his sweater, it’s escaped from the flamingo park, he sits on the sand
beside your beach mat for a long, cool afternoon listening to you reading from
your notes. Afterwards your clothes are covered with flamingo feathers.
Rotten seaweed and shimmering green shells float ashore, on some days the
discharge from the textile factories makes it impossible to swim. Swimming
costumes smell of chemicals and rotting seaweed. And for a few weeks now
Dorothy has been shuttling between the telephone kiosk and the beach bar.
She stands there for hours talking to Moran, slams down the receiver and
calls him up again, the telephone kiosk is misty with desperation, and she
sobs loudly into the sleeve of her beach wrap. Once again she begins to burn
herself on candles. The sleeves of her dresses always have black edges.
Once again she gets thrown out of cars with bruises on her upper arms, and
torn underclothes. Your skin is pink and sore after all those hours in the sun.
Dorothy continues to forget things, first of all she forgets her promises, then
she forgets her child, the sunburned angry child who thinks only about books,
and in the end she forgets herself. Moran comes driving into Alligator Reef in
a stolen Mercedes and his hands are wild animals again, roaming through her
hair. Dorothy runs along the promenade like a deer. She forgets her name,
she forgets the long happy spring by the ocean, all she remembers is their
underwater scream from Ventor, all she remembers is his dead roses, his
tongue and his warm stomach against hers. And she forgets her book in the
sand, an abandoned rectangle of pink paper about lost love at the edge of the
ocean. The wind turns the pages a few times, the stars read it one night
before it disappears into the ocean.
Moran is wearing a suit and his eyes are clear, he’s drenched in cheap
aftershave and his hands are shaking when he says hello to you. Dorothy
gets a new bone-coloured dress and on the back seat is a package wrapped
in shiny paper with a ribbon round it, it’s a pale blue typewriter. A Japanese
Royal 100 and the Mercedes drives along empty roads, through forests and
deserts, the sky is pale and still between the tree tops. The seats are hot and
cracked by the sun and Dorothy tosses her hair and laughs her desperado
laugh in the cigarette smoke as if there were no dangers. You tap away on
your typewriter, the sound is the sound of happiness and the pages are
beautiful and mystical as they lie there like fans in the window above the back
seat and you love that typewriter far too much to give it back. It’s the 9 th of
April 1951. It’s your fifteenth birthday.
Happy birthday, little Valerie.
ELMHURST PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, NEW YORK, JULY 2ND 1968
Doctor Ruth Cooper is sitting dreaming behind her white lace curtains in the
therapy room at Elmhurst Psychiatric Hospital. She is dreaming of Andy
Warhol and his unconscious, hairless body on the respirator and she is
dreaming of a world without demanding, weeping psychiatric patients. Her
hair is arranged in blonde unassailable waves on her head and she takes your
hand in her cool one with no wedding ring and holds it for a long time as you
talk. And there are so many questions when Doctor Ruth Cooper is there, all
the silence in which you have wrapped yourself for the last few weeks ends in
your conversations and you assume that’s her intention. Why did you do it,
Valerie? What were you thinking, Valerie? Do you realise that Andy Warhol is
One. Don’t know.
Two. Don’t know.
Three. I don’t know what dying means. We’re all dying, you know.
The patients sitting and waiting in the hospital corridors all look as if they’re
already dead – bloated, pale creatures with flickering eyes, drowning
creatures who masturbate with the help of the hospital equipment, old women
who stink of urine and faeces – you could tell all these lost individuals that
nothing will ever happen to them again, that their turn will never come, the
doctor will never have time, their visitors will forget it’s visiting time, you could
tell them the mental hospital is their final destination, their final residence.
And while you wait and hope, the drowning that it will be their turn and you
that it won’t be your turn, you recite out loud from memory from Up Your Ass
to a little group of the shipwrecked outside Doctor Ruth’s office. The only one
who listens properly without his eyes flickering to and fro is a new arrival with
blue eyes and freshly washed hair and you wish so that your heart bleeds that
they could understand that the reception area is not the way out, that the way
out of Elmhurst is not via the Therapy Room, the Diagnosis and the Doctors.
VALERIE (on the way in to Doctor Cooper): You have to pull yourselves
together. You there with the bird’s nest hairdo, quit fucking with the
equipment. Okay, I know it’s hotter than fucking with a guy, but you still have
to quit if you want to get out of here. And you over there, quit smelling of piss
and vomit, it’s a crap strategy if you want to get out of here. Get yourselves
some soap and a bit of self-respect. Remember, girls, sex is just a hang-up
and we don’t have time to throw away on meaningless sex. Remember that
SCUM is the future. Remember that the future is already here.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Hi Valerie.
VALERIE: Giving up is not the answer, fucking up is the answer.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Sit down.
VALERIE: You’ve got yourself a nice room, Doctor Ruth Cooper, my
congratulations. But you don’t look as if you’re completely up to speed with
the situation out there in the waiting room. I don’t know if you’ve been there, I
presume you go out the back way, or maybe you prefer to lower yourself from
the window using the curtains rather than be confronted by the dregs out
there. All they want is to come in here and receive your blessing and your
forgiveness and your permission to carry on being ill. I don’t know how you
define clinical death, but I’m sure you went into it in detail during your training.
Living death, apparent death, brain death etcetera etcetera.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Sit down, Valerie.
VALERIE: Have you been out there and looked at the patients? Maybe you
should schedule a study visit in your diary.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: My name is Doctor Ruth Cooper, and I’m going to
be looking after you here at the hospital.
VALERIE: Thanks for nothing. At least Up Your Ass makes them laugh.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Up Your Ass?
VALERIE: My play.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: I understand. What’s it about?
VALERIE: It’s about Bongi. A panhandler who hates men.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Is the play about you, Valerie?
VALERIE: Are your case notes about me?
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Tell me about your play.
VALERIE: It’s not bad art, it’s just my brain bleeding to death. I don’t think
she’ll ever come back.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Who?
VALERIE: Bongi. My text. My play. My life.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Okay, Valerie. Let’s talk a little bit about why
you’re here. You know that Andy Warhol is still in a coma at the Mother
Cabrini Hospital. It’s still not clear whether he will survive. As far as I
understand it, you hit him in the chest, stomach, liver, spleen, oesophagus
VALERIE: I’m sorry I missed. It was immoral. I should have practised more.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: We’re talking about a human being here. We’re
talking about a human being who’s dying. Why did you do it? Why did you try
to murder Andy Warhol?
VALERIE: We’re all dying. Mortality in this country is one hundred per cent,
we’re all condemned to death, the only permanent thing is annihilation, we’re
all going to disappear, death is the conclusion to every story. Death will
conquer even you, Doctor.
ELMHURST PYSCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, JULY 13TH 1968
There are sessions with Doctor Cooper the whole time to try and reach the
“Diagnosis” the court in Manhattan is waiting for. I don’t want a diagnosis, I
have my own training from Maryland, I’ll fix my own diagnoses. My diagnosis
is as follows: Fucking cursed. Fucking furious. Prostitute. Panhandler. Man
hater. It’s a nightmare waking up in hell every day.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: Why did you try to murder Andy Warhol?
VALERIE: Is Andy still in hospital playing dead?
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: His condition is still critical, which makes your
own situation critical, to say the least. It’s not looking good for you, Valerie.
VALERIE: I was a pretty child. I was the prettiest nine year-old in America.
The fastest surfer at Alligator Reef. I was the star student at Maryland.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: And why did you shoot Andy Warhol?
VALERIE: Have you never shot anyone, Doctor Cooper?
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: No.
VALERIE: Never wanted to shoot anyone?
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: No, never.
VALERIE: I don’t believe you.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: This conversation isn’t supposed to be about me.
Why did you shoot Andy Warhol?
VALERIE: And they keep on asking her: Why doesn’t she leave straight away
when he’s crushed her dreams time after time and cut her favourite dresses to
pieces? A more appropriate question is: Why does she leave? If there are
women who climb out of their dresses that have been cut to pieces instead of
trying to mend them, then that’s who you should be studying. Study the
species refugees. Study the laboratory mouse that falls outside the scope of
the experiment time after time. The laboratory animal that leaves its species
because of a conviction regarding not-belonging or alternatively alternative-
belonging. The mammal metamorphosed into a space creature. The animal of
the future. The possibilities of transcendence are infinite.
DOCTOR RUTH COOPER: I think we’re straying from the matter in hand. We
were talking about Andy Warhol. We were talking about why you shot him. I
want us to stick with that for the time being. Later on you’ll have the
opportunity to talk about yourself and your childhood.
VALERIE: I am talking about Andy Warhol and the way he’s pretending he’s
been injured in a shooting, the way he’s just attracting more attention to
himself. The question is wrongly phrased. It should be: Why doesn’t she
shoot? Why in the hell doesn’t she shoot? All her rights were under attack. A
state consisting of young females and adult females that have been raped.
And why don’t they shoot? I don’t actually know, Doctor Cooper. If I knew, we
wouldn’t be sitting here. Half a civilisation on its knees and an arms industry
that turns over more each month than the entire debt the Third World owes to
the corrupt world. And that’s not including the porn industry.
THE BRISTOL HOTEL, APRIL 13TH 1988
NARRATOR: What kind of material is it?
VALERIE: Freeways. Trucks. America.
NARRATOR: Anything else?
VALERIE: Material about the ocean.
NARRATOR: Tell me about the ocean.
VALERIE: Alligator Reef. White sand, white stones. The surface of the water,
so bright, made of steel and mist. Rockweed. Parasols. Tourists. The beach,
mine and Dorothy’s. Then Dorothy’s in the desert. She never finishes her
NARRATOR: And then?
VALERIE: Then there’s the little male seahorse, roaming around the beaches
with his camera flashing. There’s him and me and the pounding of the waves.
NARRATOR: Tell me more about this material.
VALERIE: The material is called SHE ISN’T COMING.
VENTOR, JUNE 1951
Dorothy and Moran are lying spread out in the flowery bedroom. Dorothy is
sleeping her heavy sweet-wine sleep, she chews her way through the nights
as if her dreams were always about food, her nightgown has ridden up above
her sex, which is dark and swollen. Moran’s hamburger-hand is lying on her
stomach like a stone. Her liver-spotted skin is a curtain covering the sky and
all the trees. You take all the money you can find, a few clothes and some
photographs, a bottle of wine, a packet of cigarettes, your notebooks, a dress
that belongs to Dorothy, the transistor radio. And your Royal 100.
The wallpaper is yellowed by time and the sun, by despair, happy days with
dirty windows and bad food, all the years, all the flies. Dorothy’s warm hands
on your face. Dorothy’s face between the great shadows of the trees. Dorothy
lying in your bed full of sweet wine in the afternoons when you get home from
school. Dorothy with her strips of fly paper and her desperado voice: I don’t
want to choose, Valerie. I don’t want All or Nothing. If I have to choose, I’ll
choose All. I choose you, Valerie. And I choose Moran, Valerie.
The smell of wine and sweat and their burning bombed-out horror-film love
surrounds them like a stinking wall as you take your things and disappear.
The sky outside is burning pink, there are stars everywhere in the garden.
Glasses and bottles by the hammock, the veranda drowning in the morning
sun. You close the door to the house for one last time, and walk through the
desert for the last time. The desert where Louis disappeared, where the rivers
have been poisoned and where Dorothy has hunted and burned the sleeves
of her dresses, where the two of you zig-zagged hand in hand beneath the
sky. You tell Sister White about it later:
I got lost in the desert. I never found my way home. Everything was
cold blue sharks. I was a sick child. I longed for Louis. Longed for that
electricity, that fizzing feeling in my legs and arms. It was impossible to
love me. I was walking through the desert. It was light and white and
lonely and I took my things and disappeared. Everything was
screaming inside me, my heart, Dorothy, the light was flickering. Soup
bowls and bottles from the night before were still on the table, wine
stains, a grubby cloth, Dorothy’s pink letter, the insects chasing one
another across the plastic cloth. There was the smell of rain and water
and petrol and stale wine. In Moran’s old whisky glass a lizard stood
staring at me. It was windy that day. I put the lizard inside my sweater
AMERICA, ROAD MOVIE
MAY 1951 – OCTOBER 1952
The sky is a skin-coloured curtain falling over you and Georgia.
You’re on your way to nowhereinparticular, just away. There are freeways and
desert and trucks and forests and after Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Florida,
Philadelphia and you go from truck to truck begging for lifts and money for
hamburgers. The flowers of the exhaust fumes flicker past at the side of the
road and sometimes Ventor flickers past with its tin-plate huts, wrecked cars,
mud tracks and the stench of gas and the freeway. The winds are muted
outside, the jeans are dirty, and you try to concentrate on your typewriter
instead of America, passing by outside with its shut-down towns, all those
housewives and churchgoers behind their white lace curtains. Atlantic City.
Baltimore. Washington. Richmond. Norfolk. Portsmouth. Wilmington.
Charleston. Jacksonville. Key West.
In the White House new wars are being planned, new family programmes, the
President is sitting at his big desk dreaming of America. Dorothy continues to
send him her fan letters from the desert. The sky is cold and sparkling and
when you wake up in the mornings at the gas stations, pull-ins or motels
somebody has always put a soda or a sandwich in your hand. The drivers
don’t particularly want anything from you, they like your company and don’t
care where you come from, they let you sleep and work in peace for three
hundred miles and three hundred versions of America. Sometimes you give
one of them a hand job, sometimes you let one of them jerk off into your
panties and onto your pants, it’s never more than that and it’s of no
importance. The best time is when you’re waiting at the truck stops before you
get thrown out; you can organise your papers there and wash in your washing
machine, a tin containing soap and the hot water for the tea, you always make
sure your hair is freshly washed. And when you fall asleep in the truck at night
your dreams are always full of sand and rose-covered wallpaper. In your
dreams it is Dorothy who carries you through the desert, Dorothy who chases
after you across America, weeping, Dorothy who finds you and brings you
home. The most beautiful thing is that this Dorothy has had her old surname
tattooed on her upper arm as a car sticker, and your name on her left breast
like a cry for help inside her dress. Valerie. Sea bird. Solanas.
Pages 318 – 322
A. Political machines. Political paradoxes. I had my fluffy silver fox fur. White
high-heeled boots. I missed all the manifestations and the demonstrations.
B. The amendment to the constitution. The treaty factory. The White House.
The white president. Certain things will not be changed. Certain things will
never be changed. You must stand still when I’m talking to you, you must
close your eyes and open that horny little mouth of yours. That horny little
hole in your face and between your legs. Sexual politics. Everybody else in
the world should have loved me now.
C. They were just false promises. There never was any amendment to the
constitution. They walked through the streets of Chicago in their white skirts.
They spilled their tears on the asphalt, hundreds of thousands of handbags
D. August 26th 1980. Sarah Weddington. Eleanor Smeal. Florence Howe.
Bella Abzug. Somebody chains themselves to the fence outside the
Republican party’s headquarters in Washington. The second stage. Betty
Friedan sucks cock in the White House. The white architecture. The white
witch. Sex in itself is sublimation.
E. I walk through New York in my bra and girdle. Welcome to happiness. Who
is the President of America? I actually have no idea. The lavender hotel. They
throw their bras and girdles in The Freedom Trashcan.
F. Remember I’m sick and I’m longing to die. Remember I’m the only woman
here who isn’t crazy. The feminine mystique. Self-proclaimed revolutionaries.
Sickness in every thought. Patriarchal hegemony.
G. Paranoid associations. They dreamed of being allowed to publish
manifestos, they dreamed of a feminist sanctuary. Time passed, the
publishers kept their brothel wallpaper, their vocabulary became overgrown.
Women’s rights became an embarrassing bad joke in Washington. The first
wave came and went. The second wave washed away all ideas.
H. The Equal Rights Amendment turned into a social club, ex-suffragettes
came forward with their confessions. Emma Goldman was thrown out, the
incidence of mental illness increased, tuberculosis, diabetes, various
unpleasant cancerous growths on the body of society and the mother of
society. Obviously I knew they were lying to me. Obviously I knew nothing
was for real. That novel. That play. The manifesto, the satire. They laughed at
me like a flock of desert creatures when I walked away.
I. They were only superwomen. That was the other way. They were all
courageous, they all loved sucking cock. Passion. Obviously I knew they were
all laughing at me.
J. The suffragettes. One after another they ended up beneath the earth.
Lung cancers, heart attacks, shark attacks. The investigations were never
concluded. The formalities were not observed. The area around the house
became overgrown. There were no longer any people left in the old house in
Washington. Former headquarters. Women’s Party. The suffrage movement.
K. It was no game. These were no toy demos. Miss Pankhurst chained herself
to a lamppost. The troublemakers burned themselves on the street, went on
hunger strike, were imprisoned. The future. Future generations. They’re dead
now. Miss Pankhurst. Clark Gable. The moon.
L. The need to perform in those girls. Pseudo-radicalism. The biological
relationship between woman and man. They kept on coming back to that all
the time. Sexual love between men and women without martyrdom. Welcome
M. We chained ourselves to lampposts, we went on hunger strike, women
died in demonstrations, strangers sent shit and sperm through the post. They
put us in jail, we came out again, they put us in jail, we were back on the
streets. Fuck you Miss Pankhurst. The white blouse. It was 1913. I’d seen her
on Fifth Avenue. The summer after that she died from her injuries at the horse
N. Atlantic City was emptied of tourists and casinos and demonstrators. The
Freedom Trashcan stood deserted on the promenade. The underclothes were
destroyed by the rain. Obviously I knew they were all laughing at me.
O. There wasn’t a problem I could put my finger on. But I was still in despair. I
wandered around my garden for whole days. Couldn’t do anything.
P. It was after the revelation of the feminine mystique, after Watergate, after
Agent Orange. They worked in their gardens on Long Island, they didn’t come
to the demos any more. Sexual politics. You dreamed of a revolutionary in
every bedroom. You dreamed of occupying and eradicating all bedrooms.
Afterwards they said: It wasn’t political at all, it was merely personal.
Afterwards they said: It wasn’t our enemies that frightened us. What
frightened us was our violent sisters.
Q. I was dressed in a fleeting white fur. White high-heeled boots. I didn’t fit in
anywhere. My pockets were full of dirty knives. Muzak in my ears. Sham
artists and other sharks were screaming (jerking off pissing weeping) in my
face. I wanted to go home. I was calling out for someone like you.
R. The meetings were lonely white fields. The laboratory mice would have
wept if they’d seen you there. Samantha would have wept. Women’s
movement. They were no Amazons. It was a mixed gathering. An experiment.
It’s never too late to change.
S. The suffragettes shunned all forms of male company. I’m the only woman
here who isn’t crazy. The little songbird flew out of the doll’s house. The future
proved her right. The white blouse. She threw herself in front of the King’s
racehorse. The white blouse was spattered with blood afterwards. Her skirts
ripped to pieces. After the funeral they decided to co-operate with the men,
they decided to use peaceful methods. Mixed demos. You can’t fight
communism with perfume.
T. I had to stand completely still to avoid going to pieces.
U. There were no stars. There were only crystal nights, crystal clear thoughts,
a concentration of human fluids. Take everything from me, do it, I want you to.
I should have learned to say no. Take everything from me, do it, I want you to
do it. It didn’t mean anything if he’d been drinking. A different coarseness.
Coarseness of the kind I don’t want to remember, can’t remember. The sky
was so violent that night. There was an emptiness I could relate to. Sitting
there trapped in the reality of a lunatic and enjoying it.
V. Sexual politics. Intimate structures. Organising love. Organising rape. Red
light districts. Certain areas in the city grew. Take everything from me, do it, I
want you to.
W. National Organisation for Women. We decided right from the start that we
wanted to co-operate with men. Without men, no women’s movement.
X. Blue smoke between the trunks. Frost on all the trees. White burning
witches. Millet. Atkinson. Brownmiller. Firestone. Solanas. Davis. Morgan.
Steinem. Dead pot plants in every window.
Y. The founders of NOW. Kay Clarenbach looked after her three kids in a
corrugated iron hut in the desert while her husband went to Columbia. Muriel
Fox had a man who was a brain surgeon (God, how unhealthy, no wonder
she was a junkie). During the first meeting he waited with the children in a
hotel room not far away. The TV screen was flickering when she got back.
Z. Politics. Sexual politics. Why bother about future generations? Why bother
about what will happen when we’re dead?