Letter from Uzbekistan: Sex Tourism

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Stockhom Terror

Dear Rick,

Iv’e been anxiously waiting your letter fixing my letter to President Donald Trump about the centerpiece of our vamp (vamp is right?) tourism. And I have to admit to you Ricky that I was maybe a little angry because you were so slow. Then this horrible truck driving in Stockholm. I tell myself maybe Mr. Harsch knows more than he tells me or maybe Rick is right to wait, to move slowly. You are very wise. Please if you could make the letter bigger enough that you can expose yourself to Mister President Trump that this terrorist is a bad actor. He was a pimp who overbeat girls and one even could have died (his name is in other registered envelope–youse your own discreet). Yes, boiling alive is bad. But is it better to beat alive to death? Mr. Trump should know two things: one, that in concordat with his policy of exluding bad actors this perp (is good, no?) was only recently shown Ubekistan door, denied visa from United States (Bravo Mr. Trump), and now look what is happening to liberal country with open door policy? Of course you see how very much we are in alinement with Trump policies and ideas and desires.

Thank you and looking forward to your letter,

Arslan Levantinov

                                                          Minister of the Interior,                                                                Uzbekistan

Letters from Uzbekistan: Sex Tourism

Dear PresidentTrump,

First, old business. We have photos of the subjects your representative mentioned at every border in the country and have closed all taxi access pizza parlors. (Note to RH: parlors is ok here?).

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Quickly on to new business, and happily so. Our offer has expanded ten-fold since the false revelations regarding a practice that has already been, we would like to think, brought to its highest level of artistry in our country, what we call the ‘Gulna Torrent’. Historically the art has had many names.

We have also taken your advice and expanded the range of our offer so that we now have the utterly (Rh: absolutely?) exclusive (Presidential Primo, Corporate Cameo, Diplomat Dip) all the way down to the, as your man said to me in private, which I am sure is on the tapes, the ‘freestreet’. Our Pigalle!

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We have also revised our slogan to a more globally, yet nationally appropriate verse. As I explained to your man, Uzbekistan is geographically endorheic, which means that what flows in never flows out. So try this: What Spurts (RH: drips? seems, you know, weak. Maybe you can think of something else?) in Uzbekistan Stays in Uzbekistan!

Mr. Mirzyoyez looks forward to your visit, which can be arranged to coincide with that of any other state leader!

Best,

Arslan Levantinov, Minister of Tourism

(Note: I received this letter just a few days ago and have yet to get to the changes. RH)

 

 

 

Letter to Arslan of Uzbekistan

 

 

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Dear Arslan,

 

Well you’re certainly in a pickle, aren’t you? Of course I will respect your wishes to refrain from publishing your missive…your massive missive, if I may. But some of it will be…elicitable from this response, of course. And you’re right, the day filled with its minutefull hours is quite long, especially given the ticking seconds of those old fashioned clocks that clutter the whorehouses of Tashkent as well as, apparently, your government offices, while history moves like a hurricane. In this case Hurricane Islam. How could you be prepared? Good question, yet you are prepared. By a series of accidents, sure, but prepared nonetheless. And please do not use the word extraction again, for that is from the movies, and I have no such powers. I am what you rapidly figured me to be—a relative nobody with a particular interest in your country and in you. I have no special powers but to reach virtually every country in the world with the good news of the thriving sex industry in your country. In the last week, word has reached, aside from the usual US, Canada, and Slovenia, Indonesia, Sweden, Chile, Venezuela (yes, finally some inroads in the lower half of that hemisphere!), India, UK, Australia, Poland, Uzbekistan of course (sorry my statistics don’t have breakdown by region or city), United Arab Emirates, Switzerland!, Nigeria, Bahrain, Italy, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Finland, Saudi, France, Norway, South Korea, Oman, Greece, Croatia, Tunisia, Vietnam, Somalia!, that mysterious European Union(?) (probably Luxembourg—rich, corrupt, and horny—moyen indeed ladies!), Kuwait, Spain—All in one week, Arslan. Do you think they visit my page for my comments on dictators? Only you my friend, only you. They are grasping at…forget the metaphor. They come for the sex that you and yours provide. They don’t give a rat’s anal about boiling: take any burger of the Lux and tell him she’s yours for 200 shekels but tomorrow she boils and you’ve got yourself a deal.

Your position, I mean to say, is unassailable. No shake up is going to shake you up. No, Karimov’s touch was no golden wand, but the golden wands of the tourists are indeed tapping your noggin. Your position is secure. And I will do whatever I can to secure it, write whoever, open my books: you will see, Arlsan, there is no doubt: they come for the sex. Yes, a very few come for the literature, particularly the Vietnamese, bless their memories and intransigence. But the rest come for you and your Open City, your ten thousand Uzbeki Anna Magnanis.

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So don’t fear. As for the rest, THE question. No Hague for Karimov, but as you imply, what sort of Hague, what sort of lonely cells, without Kissinger, Bush, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Bolton (I’m actually not sure what he is guilty of besides that moustache), Wolfowitz, Powell, Clinton, Cheney, Cheney and Cheney, Obama, and…you get the idea. You got the idea. And besides, had it turned out differently, were this another world (silly flash: Condi Karimov!), they would have mocked him in the game room even though he could beat them all at chess, and even though he would have been able to teach them bridge. Or not. Tall order. Cheney maybe, but a born cheater. Powell? None too bright. Clinton? Yes. But you need a fourth. Obama. Wouldn’t be able to keep his mouth shut. Kissinger? Couldn’t teach him war and he’d throw the cards first time he lost at uno. Yes, the world would be better off if only…And we may still hope, though my friends ridicule me for my unflagging (entendre double) attempts to get Henry on a plane for the lowlands. But the Boiler is now in a better place, and let us leave it at that, shall we?

All my love and support, dear Arslan (Levantinov! Long die the ich!),

Your friend in bad times and good if they arrive,

Rick

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I like this photo because to me it depicts his slow fall…

 

3 Novels from Rick Harsch now available on Amazon. Read Harsch’s Adriatic and Balkan novels–prices quite low, if I may say so…

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SKULLS OF ISTRIA
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Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HNAXX62
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01HNAXX62

Kramberger-version2

KRAMBERGER WITH MONKEY
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Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HMZE6OG
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01HMZE6OG

Adriatica

ADRIATICA DESERTA
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Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HMZ30XE
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01HMZ30XE

About these novels:

 

In his USAmerican books, Rick Harsch examined the miasma of the lost souls adrift in empire. In his Indian books, he explored the nature of the foreigner gone deeper into the philosophical chaos of India than any known predecessors. Now in his Balkan/Adriatic books, he finds universals in the thrumming persistence of the harmonics of history, perpetual conflict, and delirious outbreaks of calm.

In Skulls of Istria, a tavern confession novel, a tale told by a brilliant defrocked historian whose first step into the Balkans finds history an active volcano and relates his story in an Adriatic seaside tavern to a man whose only shared language is that of drink, a story that ranges from the Spanish Civil War to seduction and the recent Yugoslav wars.

His recovery he recounts in Requiem for a Suicide, Volume 1, called Noir Slovenia, in which language itself, the Inert, and absurd action suggest a way out for the lost man of the deserts beyond post-modernity – though the second two volumes of the trilogy – works in progress – will perhaps find otherwise, as they will seek to buttress the most extreme notions of their characters, who long for an end to history while forced to search for its very beginnings.

In Kramberger with Monkey, a comedy of assassination, Harsch proves that innovative, experimental fiction can be more entertaining than detective stories, depending largely on the fate of the narrators perhaps, as he probes the surface of humanity’s darkest of jokes only to find the nexus of simian predecessors and exalted artifice.

Adriatica Deserta, an absurdist fable that brings together a mix of eccentric strangers in Zadar, Croatia, is concerned with the more recent politically lurid, occurring during the early days of US war in Afghanistan, an oddity that is perhaps explained by some simulacrum of an eternal fascism, if indeed that is what we are to take from the mysterious tale of the South American fascist Nestor Falco that intrudes on the simpler narrative of a man who has come to take up a position at an office on a street that doesn’t exist.

If there is a palpable thread connecting Harsch’s Balkan/Adriatic books, it is their unpredictability in regard to his delight in the bizarre, his range of expressions of rage, and the tendency throughout for the narration to find purchases on odd excrescences of universals, all of which leave readers space for much laughter and a choice as to degrees of chagrin.

The books can be read in any order, though it is suggested that Skulls of Istria be followed by Requiem for a Suicide Vol. 1. Volumes 2 and 3 of that trilogy are forthcoming, volume one will be out in the Fall.

 

 

Letters From Uzbekistan: Tashkent Nights

 

 

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Dear Rick,

Thank you so very much for all you have done for me and my agency and the nation that owns it. Since your efforts to promote our country we have received evidence of increased interest (and actual investment) in visiting our country, particularly Tashkent. A total of 19 European nations have shown interest/booked flights and hotels, including one secret one that goes by the moniker »E. U.« Isn’t that strange. (Here’s another odd one: We had a group from Puerto Rico fly in and they were listed separately in the computer from the United States yet carried United States passports. I guess you can imagine how long they were clearing customs…) 18 Asian/Middle Eastern nations showed increased interest and actual investment as well, even within Uzbekistan. We had five caravans from Karakalpakstan alone in April and the first half of May! None going the other way, but I attribute that to the season. Australian visits are up nearly 50% over last year, and we received our first governmental delegation of ‘Kiwis’, I hope it i sall right to call them. In a big city, of course, there will be some problems and perhaps over time we will be sufficiently savvy in tourist matters that we will never put the Kiwis with the Indonesians again. I know Geography about as well as the next person on a flight were I on a flight, but I never realized they shared an island with Indonesia! And apparently unhappily. Wait—oh, my assistant, L., points out that the Puerto Ricans actually never did clear customs and were sent on the first flight back. I have so many questions for you, Rick, and let that be one of them, if you could shed light on that. But primarily I write to thank you, tell you how well the work is going, how happy my superiors are with me, and finally to ask you to allow me to withdraw my permission to be in your novel or any novel you may write. And please do not ‘fictionalize’ me. I ask this as your friend, knowing I could never stop you no matter how many favors our Montenegrin guests come to owe me (astonishing how much like Russians these people are, and I mean that they share the finest qualitites!).

Of course, things may change,

And until then, or before then even, I will remain

Yours,

Arslan Levantinovich

P.S. If you post this on your blog, please consider ‘Tashkent Nights’ and if you could use the attached photo we would much appreciate the gesture.49105-tashkent-nightlife-tours

The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman (excerpt)

All dogs long since asleep, I sleep until the dogs are small like rats and when I wake it’s a rat I remember. He had climbed up the drainpipe into the second floor bathroom, where I sat one dysenteric night. When I saw the rat I stood slowly, my lungi collapsed limply at my feet. He was cornered near the door; I was between him and the drainpipe. We approached each other warily, intending no harm, each choosing the wrong direction in a brief, panicked dance of evasion, leaping at the same instant, meeting in the air, fangs withdrawn, violence far gone into fear. He fled down the drainpipe, but we could still feel each other, where our bodies met, and I was surprised how quiet it had been. And I sit in this bloodred chair in which Sushila loved to sleep, her legs drawn up, her chin resting on her knees, a cup of heavily sweetened coffee on the arm. Sometimes her brother Gautam would be playing his guitar. I sit and look at Kali and try to feel Sushila’s warmth beneath me, but it is the rat I feel, and then I refuse not to imagine myself as I once did, a plague rat carrying the disease I desperately fled, unaware that it as well arrived before me to those shores radiating from a Madras throbbing in the heat. Perhaps the series of fevers and dysenteries left this wretched self-image, rendered me incapable of sequential reason, clarity of memory—still, I look back and I do not see much of a man.

The rats flee with a rat’s health, leaving fever. I left here in deliberate pursuit of fever, that Sushila might find me accustomed to her land. I would then wait for Sushila, who could have come here only for me; Sushila, who had left her mother—and her mother, who was not looking for an orphan, an exile, a son; her mother, who unfolded herself like Maya, opening before me a universe of delirium, which Sushila had tried to prepare me for by chanting a mantra of coconut groves, by burning away in her passion the remaining accretions of my own civilization. Now I beseech Mother Kali to take me back, to return Sushila to me. I had had a taste of fever and it was like drinking of desire, like jewels located in a dream held in the palm under the last light of the moon before coming fully awake, the dream gone, the mind still in its sway. Perhaps I left Sushila for Madras certain that in a land where the malady is fever one wakes from the dream without having returned its gifts. Alas, fever is not so generous to strangers. My fevers began almost immediately, increasing in their intensity until the profusion of images that pleased me were flattened into a shifting, hallucinatory dimension, until in the fumbling hands of a more capricious time and space all my nights became a day, a hot day in which past and future were compressed and then stretched to rising horizons enveloping the sky; a drenched, tumid day of temperamental gravity, of faltering geometry, that would burst out of itself like flowers of madness; Sushila’s cool lips covering my burning eyes, shh, she said, like Mother, her susurrations expanding like an approaching train into a roar trapped against the walls of my skull, and she was gone, and the walls of my room mocked me, held themselves at impossible angles, leaning, laughing, in league against me, Sushila again 10,000 miles away; and as I concentrated, endeavoring to focus in vain attempt to take the first immeasurably short step toward comprehension, another day or two passed, a letter arrived from America in response to the one I had sent with the maid that morning, the maid returned, set the letter by the window, then stood before me, her vermilion sari a garment of blood, remaining in flames when she left the room. How may times in those days of fever her face loomed before me, my head oppressed by the weight of the sea, how many times I longed for Sushila’s face, my mind lightened by the attenuation of the desert.

I don’t know how many days were burned up by the sun inside me before the proximity of the sea prevailed, before the sea lifted and a distant, profound will put the smell of salt into the miasmic air of my room, luring me like a sleepwalker from the resignation of fever’s hot equilibrium. The burning was so well attuned to the sultry days and nights, it may never have occurred to me to rise again had it not been for the nearby Bay of Bengal. The waves playing against the coast exerted upon me the influence of a second world, or third, one in which a man could drown or be devoured rather than wither dishonorably in a bed of his own effluvia. I lay in bed, far from Sushila, and the sea was telling me that the death I was ready for was not ready for me.

Insect Arms, My First Two Critics, parts I and II

 

2.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D3Y2LLK

 

 

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the appearance of death to a hindu woman….2.99 at amazon.com

INSECT ARMS:  My First Critics

After events unfolded during the 1990 in India that inspired the novel The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman, I found myself adrift in the United States, seeking work to support my writing. I became a taxi driver, a job that did not allow space and time for writing. Seeking a solution, I found that friend was willing to support me with $3,ooo so that I could go to Mexico, where I would settle on the coast north of Merida and get down to writing my novel. In the mean time, a different friend told me about the bizarre phenomenon of writing workshops, places attached to universities where writers could go to learn how to write. Naturally I balked at the thought, hearing him out while trying to get the attention of the bartender…but eventually he got through to me that the elite writing school, the Iowa Writers Workshop, was just four hours away from where we were and that if I went there with financial aid I would have two years to earn a master’s degree in fine arts, or, as I thought of it, two years to write my India novel. Weighing the two options, I decided I would indeed apply to writing schools, and I did so, to five of them, including the University of Southern Mississippi, which is where I wanted to go, entirely in consideration of the climate. And the did accept me, but with limited financial aid. So I couldn’t afford it. As it turned out, it was the Iowa workshop that offered me enough money to live and write for two years, an odd bit of luck I did not recognize at the time. I had sent them 100 pages of a novel called Taxi Cabaret, the Adventures of a Fat Nihilist, and apparently it attracted much attention. The university contacted me as I was driving the cab, and when I put the caporegime of the workshop on hold—something I later found out one generally dare not do—and she understood I was in a taxi as we spoke and she found it exhillarating in the way royalty quaintly does a peasant juggling five cats, good for a few minutes amusement.

I quit the taxi driving as soon as I  could afford to and began intensive reading in preparation to writing the novel. I had written paragraphs here and there that are still in the novel, but had been unable to sustain the writing, just to think it through. As a consequence a guide to the unwritten book was laid like railroad track in my subconscious, awaiting the preparatory work of deepening the necessary knowledge if Indian myth and philosophy.

I arrived in Iowa City, to live on Iowa Avenue, to attend the State of Iowa’s university and its Iowa Writers Workshop—I arrived as a rube. I never thought of myself as a rube, being suburban raised, but I had an old-fashioned view of literature, how it was written, what it was, where I fit in its schemata. And I expected great things of the workshop; not of the actual teaching/learning, rather assuming that I would meet terrific writers and spend two years among them, all of us inspiring each other toward greater writings. I had no idea what the process was really like.

To a degree, my highest expectations were met in that more than a few people were indeed excellent writers and generous artistic souls. Not that it matters, but they were in the minority. The majority fit in many ways between those folk and the two I will describe, my first two critics of the India novel, which I first submitted about thirty pages of, though it was after I had already learned that a workshop was a seminar held in a garden of pettiness, jealousy, and itinerant spite.

These two were quite remarkable:

I think I referred to the guy as the bloat-headed midget with insect arms. [Homonculus!That’s what it was–ever since I wrote that I had this feeling something wasn’t quite right, yes, the bloatheaded homunculus with insect arms! what a relief!]His real name was J.C. Luxton. He was indeed short, had a pretty big head, and with his elbows drilled into their pivots on the table his arms from the elbow down (up, actually) seemed all he had to swivel about; so yes, the short arms may well have been an optical illusion. None of this would have disturbed me enough to bundle it into some laughs had he not been such a shit. His outstanding characteristic as a seminar conversant was the inability to reform his persona in the face of overwhelming evidence that the jokes he was laughing had been but partially uttered and were not funny to anyone else, so that he was a self-alienating little arm-waver whom others treated politely by, as with ephemeroptera, allowing him to go about his privacy in our presence as long as he desired. More painful was the fate of his mate, another shorty, Amy Charles, who was equally condescending, though less comic a presence, sitting like dark contagion in her seat, who when speaking rapidly dimmed to a hushed tone that only once lured ears closer, for the success of such manipulation must be earned by interesting content and those at the table were instead quickly trained when she opened her mouth to lean further back, stretch their legs, and make noises no one actually heard that were yet louder than her commanding, emptied auditorium voice.

Writers and other artists are often asked to spread their emotions to the pubic, perhaps to atomize them into a consumptive mist that settles into the lungs of the needy. When a work is very personal, autobiographical, the question is often asked, dog tongues dripping drops of droop: how hard was it for you, etc. The answer is: please go look elsewhere for torment. When I was writing about a rather important personal period in my life, my India love and loss, I was working on a novel, not suffering a loss. The worst was over. And I suppose had the worst been all that bad I wouldn’t have been able to work on the novel. All this by way of saying that I was not the least sensitive about the material of the novel, much to the chagrin of the feckless sadists of the workshop.

J.C. and Amy were feckless sadists. How the process worked was copies of our writings were piled up in an office, where class-mates (colleagues! Fellow artists!) would pick them up so they could read and mark them before class, where the author was by rule to sit quietly as the class and at some points an officially stamped writer was to speak of the work before them. Our writer of note, was Marilynne Robinson, and she was in a terrible mood to judge by that semester—during which of approximately 30 review sessions, two student writers per week, she spoke positively three times. She did not speak positively of my first public efforts. Yet that part of the experience was not difficult or even memorable, but for one point she made, which was that we need to be very careful with our words, for at one point in the hallucinogenic flow of my words I had written something that upon a bit of reflection made no sense. She was right; so I remembered that. The rest was abstruse or vague, something like a spell of moderately poor weather is to a busy worker.

The fun part, then, was after the seminar, when we had a pile of our own work that had been marked by 14 other ‘writers’ to take home and sift through. I remember that one of the first things that Luxton wrote was ‘Yoy! Dialogue!’ That, because my excerpt went eight pages without. Already you can see what a demented, nasty little turd he was. The first book to my left that I noticed just now is Middlemarch—seven or eight pages before dialogue. Yoy. The Idiot: I don’t even have to look, dialogue on the second or third page. Green Henry (a Swiss masterwork, less known that one would wish): about fifteen pages. Yoy! and again Yoy! The rest of his remarks escape me but for those that were echoed by the woman he would soon couple with, Amy Charles. She ws more pompous, more condescending, more unconsciously hilarious, than her slightly taller friend: big words. I used big words. Latinate words. She wrote a short essay on my piece, at the end of it, about writers who, and this part was the key to the hilarity of the whole, fall in love with Edgar Allen Poe and thus with big words. I was 34 years old at the time. I recall that Catch-22 had a lot of words I was unfamiliar with in it when I first read it. I suppose Ulysses had a few. Cortazar perhaps. I don’t really know. Catch-22, for some reason, is the only one I recall recalling used ‘big words’ which I defined as those I did not know the meaning of.

So recently I went through The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman, preparing it for e-printing. I hadn’t read it for at least 16 years. I was eager to see what those words were. I knew it had to be somewhere near the beginning of the book. And as it turned out I could not find it. The only words I would guess might give a reader trouble were Indian words—the book may or may not require a glossary if it is ever printed. But Latinate words? Yes, we all use them all the time. Big words? I’ll look again, but I would expect that most of my friends know most of the words in the book, and for every one of those they don’t know, they do know one that I do not know. By now, J.C. Luxton probably has a ruler tattooed to his forearm, for I find it unlikely he has changed, and by now he’ll need proof that a word is too long. And I won’t apologize for that last sentence, which had five words too long in it. As for Amy…I made her cry one day. I’m not proud of that fond memory. It was the second year, by which time my novel had been crowned a success by Marilynne Robinson and James Alan McPherson, while she was rooting about for something better than she was capable and had confirmed her place in literature already as one who would never make it, who had not the calling, who had not even the verve to fake it. She saw me out walking and asked me something about my writing that seemed to invite comment on her comments over the past year and few months. I simply told her that her comments were among the least valuable I had ever received, the least helpful, the most misguided and perhaps spiteful. And genuine tears leapt from somewhere behind into her eyes.