The Scorned Genius of William Kotzwinkle or, Why the Human Race is Sucking Satan’s Cock.

by Joe Pachinko

If you become famous in the U.S., I mean really famous, they’ll put your name on the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk and people will walk on it. For all eternity. Dogs will shit on it, drunks will throw up on it. Cigarette butts will be squashed out on it, some may even kiss it. Why anyone would want this is a mystery. The career of American Novelist William Kotzwinkle is less mysterious but no less sad.

Author of 32 novels, seven short story collections, seven or eight childrens’ books and a handful of screenplays, William Kotzwinkle began in the late 1960’s as a revolutionary genre bending fantasist with style to burn. “The Fan Man”(1974), a hilarious post-Beat tale of a hippie navigating his own truth through 1970’s New York has the pizzazz of Kerouacs’ “On the Road” and ten times the laughs. “Night Book”(also74′) is arguably the best comic-erotic fiction ever written in English and in addition to being completely unclassifiable genre-wise, is tragically out of print. “Fata Morgana”(1977) is a 19th century magical realist detective story, easily one of the best written novels to come out of America in the 20th century, and along with the other titles mentioned, considered a “cult” novel. “Dr. Rat”(1976), the story of a world wide animal revolt, won a “World Fantasy Award” in 1977. Again ghettoized as a “Sci-Fi/Fantasy” “cult” book. These and his many other early-mid 70’s novels are unlike anything else written before or since, genre busting masterpieces of craft and imagination, critically ignored, many out of print. Yet again we have the tired cliche of the “genius” artist (Edgar Allan Poe, V. Van Gogh) who is inexplicably ignored in their own lifetime while lesser artists and works are lauded to Jupiter on tiptoes, etc. etc. tragic, etc. Shit.

There is, of course, another path in the public arena of art and fame, and Kotzwinkle took it. In 1980 he published “Jack in the Box” which unfortunately was not an expose of the vile and poisonous fast-food chain, but a “coming of age” story that could have been written by 100 orangutangs with laptops or maybe 11 or 12 MFA in Literature grads. When that didn’t work, he employed the final option, he offered Satan a blow job(All possible apologies to the Late Great Bill Hicks). In 1982 he wrote the “novelisation” of the Steven Spielberg movie “E.T. the Extraterrestrial”. This AFTER the movie came out, was a huge smash hit, big box office, marketing blitz, E.T. dolls, toys, candy, furniture, sheets, underwear,….in short, a veritable “E.T.” commercial blitzkrieg . Lo and behold, the book was such a hit that Kotzwinkle wrote a sequel, “E.T. The Book of the Green Planet.” One can only hope that he made a buttload of money from this as there is no other acceptable excuse for writing this kind of bugfucking tripe.

Years after the media hype had died down I accidentally saw the movie of E.T. in a motel in Louisiana and had to throw up three times. It was like watching turds erupt out of the T.V. set. I felt a creeping slime, a putrid bat fungus of cheap sentimentality oozing over my being. Outside of every Disney cartoon made since “Fantasia” I had never seen such a patronizing, sickening, artificially cutesy brain deadening, manipulative cesspool of projectile vomiting propaganda in my life. “E.T. phone home.” How about “E.T. suck my dick.” No, make that “E.T. don’t suck my dick.” And this is hailed as a “childrens’ classic.” And some of us wonder why modern art and literature and music is such souless, spiritless, sterile, repetitive nothing. Works of inspired intelligence and beauty are too difficult to market, they have a complicated demographic, they are unfamiliar, and the profits are not obscene enough to tempt the controllers. A country with a crushed spirit will produce art with a crushed spirit, or an imitation of it. And so on.

Kotzwinkles’ output continued to be prolific. “Superman III”(1983) screenplay(a sequel???) and he scored a critical success with “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”(1996). A story of a bear who finds a manuscript in the woods and becomes a New York literary sensation. Satirical yes, readable? Interesting? No. Unfortunately, that and the “E.T.” novelisation became his best known and appreciated works. His childrens’ book “Walter the Farting Dog” was likewise successful, spawning five sequels. It’s a fun childrens’ book, he obviously understands how hilarious anything involving farts is to children(and adults). And it’s hard to blame Kotzwinkle for wanting to make money, even to the point of selling out his earlier standards of excellence. The tragedy here is this, if his earlier, unorthodox masterpieces had received the acclaim of say, “E.T.”, what might he have created? What have we lost to the oppression of “conventional success”? He lives, he still writes, yet we lost William Kotzwinkle long ago when he sailed off into that gaping black hole of mediocrity, pursuing riches and fame. Yet again we come up against our old friend, that hard Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk. When artists are rewarded for bad art, they never go back. And most artists, no matter how talented, or untalented, will do just about anything to get one of those stars.

Joe Pachinko

Camp Climax California, July 4th 2012

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