This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.
I can’t tell you how often people approach me on the street and say, “Dennis DiClaudio, I have no idea who you are, but I can’t help wonder what writers have influenced your short stories that I’ve never read.” My ready-made response is usually, “You’ll just have to wait for the first volume of my autobiography.” However, I feel that writing for Maud’s blog is a pretty special occasion, so I’ve decided to give a brief peek behind the curtain.
From The Churchill Wit:
When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent him two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: “Bring a friend, if you have one,” Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: “You and your play can go fuck yourselves.”
From The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist:
Perhaps I can allay your misgivings by briefly describing the composition I have in mind. Your face will be a still-life delicately balancing a clay pipe, a deck of Tarot cards, a bowl of tangerines and a dead grouse; your neck will be given to religious subjects such as “The Annunciation,” “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian” and “The Old Rugged Cross” to name but a few…your shoulders and breasts will be covered with scenes of Pagan Mythology which I won’t go into at this time; your midriff and loins will be done in landscapesÃ¢â‚¬â€picturesque windmills and the like; your buttocks will be devoted to lyrical themes such as “Fortitude Slaying Avarice with the Lance of Sagacity”…In any case, the whole thing shall be set off by the stirring Motto emblazoned on a flowing banner: “BORN TO LOSE!”
Before I was even aware of who he was, Michael O’Donoghue had been a huge influence on me.
Most people know O’Donoghue as Mr. Mike, whose horrifying children’s stories–full of sex, suicide and mutilation–were a mainstay on the first few seasons of Saturday Night Live. I think, for that reason, most people discount him as a one-trick ponysketch comedy guy if they even think enough to discount him at all. But he was an incredible surrealist and social commentator. (O’Donoghue supposedly kept a portrait of Charles Starkweather above his SNL desk, claiming him as a folk artist.) He was a poet, playwright and screenwriter. He helped shape the tone of two of the most influencial journals of modern history, The Evergreen Review and National Lampoon.
At first, I just thought his SNL sketches were funny and absurdist (he wrote The Claudine Longet Invitational and The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise among many others). But the more I read about him and went hunting for his various projects, the more I became enthralled. He helped me reconcile that there doesn’t need to be a disconnect between what is funny and what is well-written. His sometimes painfully harsh sense of humor is completely inseperable from his obvious pull toward “straight” writing in even his most fey offerings.
From The Dynamite Museum:
…after it happened, all these things we found in the ruins.
a mirror composed of white flesh.
3 zinc centipedes.
a blind fish.
another blind fish.
another zinc centipede.
a hand-painted virgin.
a broken grasshopper and a mallet to keep it that way.
I think it’s really ridiculous that his writings haven’t been collected into a single publication and made available for people to buy. Even his magnum opus serialized comic book, The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist (in which the heroine, usually naked, is subjected to an insane number of tortures and deaths at the hands of psychotic tattoo artists, sociopathic Nazi officers, plotting Red Chinese) is out of print and almost impossible to track down. (If anybody knows where I can get a copy, please email me.)