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Portrait of Jacques Rigaut by Man Ray

Portrait of Jacques Rigaut by Man Ray


Jacques Rigaut’s Happiest Birthday: A Dada Bedtime Story

In my August 12 post, I talked about how I stumbled across the figure of the French dadaist, gigolo, addict, and suicide, Jacques Rigaut and presented an excerpt from his appearance in my novel (in progress) Housebreaking the Muse. Some years ago, having “discovered” Rigaut, I worked up his spirit in a short story, “Jacques Rigaut’s Happiest Birthday: A Dada Bedtime Story.” The story ended up, with a hypertext fiction treatment, in SUNY Albany’s online journal, Little Magazine, and on the CD “Gravitational Intrigue: An Anthology of Emergent Hypermedia,” also published by SUNY Albany. To some extent an experiment in Dada and Surrealist techniques, it bears little resemblance to my current work, but I thought I’d make it public here as an artifact of the novel’s origins (with apologies in advance for any typos remaining in a text that started long ago on a manual Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter, then was input to a Mac Performa 550 after which it passed through several anonymous PCs before winding up on my current iMac G5!):

So much blew away over the mud, so much horse tripe: steaming, bloated garlands strewn over culverts strangled with the detritus of Marshal Foch’s articulate rebuttal: choked rivers of men, belching jalopies, panicked mules scrambling from rotted planking to groan and despair in the deep, sucking mire, petrol fumes and smoke: footnotes in the slow plow to Verdun, Ypres, Chateau Thierry, Tierra del Feugo, wherever-the-hell to dig a trench, grit teeth, shrug shoulders, abandon hope, stagger home. Rigaut, full of it, knelt down in the mud, the tattered hem of his trench coat absorbing stench and stain, and filled his canteen with the culvert’s nectar, diffidently sweeping away the flies swirling above it, drunk on the culvert’s vapors. This was the way he made his way home to Paris: palpating for an ultimate alibi, for paradis artificiels, for nourritures terrestres. I am an apprentice-warrior, he thought, and then dwelled for several moments on the image of Max’s exploding face, on the way the brains felt as they splattered his own face and neck: the luke-warm patter of rendered chicken fat and splintered porcelain. Max who had no fiancée, who loved his mother and father, photos of whom he was nevertheless loath to display; Max, the surrogate older brother who didn’t have time to flinch when the shell struck him above the left eye, erasing the disgusted smirk that so often condensed his expression when the Lieutenant’s whistle signaled “Over the top, boys!” Boys. Max, I’d already come to the point of not giving a shit the day your brains decorated my face. Dada.

Read the entire story. [PDF]

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