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Carol Novack & Tom Bradley

 

an excerpt from

Felicia's Nose*

by Carol Novack
(1948–2011)

 

*annotated by Tom Bradley

illustrations: Nick Patterson

 

ANNOTATOR'S NOTE

 

At the end of her life, Carol Novack was doing what must eventually be done by everyone who's strong enough: she was squarely facing certain aspects of herself, her family, and her heritage that were not precisely excruciating, but, as she said, were "interesting and worthy of painstaking examination."

Even before the cancer diagnosis, she was tallying up her life's debits and credits, in particular the wheels and deals with Muter. The penultimate chapter of Felicia's Nose is a confrontation between the eponymous heroine and her female parent, ending with something like a Pandora's box being stashed under a bed. It's unopened, and bursting with what we all know is inside.

Being a writer, Carol's method of self-excavation was literary, and she recruited my help, two shovels being better than one. She liked the way I'd glossed Kane X. Faucher's sextuply schizoid impersonations in Epigonesia (BlazeVOX, 2010). That giant book fascinated Carol as the rarity of rarities: a new genre, something like a superficially nonfictional Pale Fire, taking place in real time as the primary text alternately rides roughshod over, and is sapped and subverted by, the critical apparatus.

She wanted me to do to her what I did to Kane X. Faucher in Epigonesia: to dig under her characters and situations, to dissect her names, numbers, references, to turn her allusions, both deliberate and unconscious, inside-out. Carol wanted a running commentary that furtively pursued—she cringed at the word—psychoanalytical strategies. She envisaged an infestation of ten-point type skittering along the bottom of her novel like army ants underfoot

"We need a literal subtext!" she cried.

The relationship of a novelist with her annotator is a bizarre admixture of banter and intimacy. As we worked, certain passages of her novel began to emit unexpected, sometimes appalling reverberations. But Carol never failed, with surprising courage, to reassure me that we were on track—or at least we were groping along an alley in a not excessively dark and horrendous inner city.

Carol died before we could finish Felicia's Nose. In what neither of us knew would be her last chapter, she comes forward and speaks in her own voice for the first time. She shouts encouragement directly down to me, where I toil in cackling paranoia at the bottom of the final page. Carol's thinking about all the strange and possibly happy directions our book will follow next, and she says, "I can't wait to see..."

She didn't wait. I'll never know what she saw.

Tom Bradley
tombradley.org

 

 

Felicia de Rathbaum,1 descended from a wayward line of bellicose German, American, and Italian barons consumed by a ravenous envy of lords, is at present sensually incarcerated by the ghastly ashen scent of hoary black bear,2 the beast out of sight but threatening unconsciously the temporary obliteration of consciousness, not to mention sub-. She gasps, barely able to breathe. Into her royal aquiline3 nose goes the cure: a bouquet garni of herbs and May flowers, adorned as a headcape.4 Under a flow of succulent, satiny water filtered from the perpetual spring5 of the delapidating6 estate of her fathers and mothers in memory, the prematurely late Baron de Rathbaum X, the estranged muter7 in the west wing, etcetera (who settled on this mountain in Asheville, North Carolina8 in 18189). Felicia hies, disrobing to the orgasmic orchestration of Lieberstrom, a rare recording by Pesquanini. She immerses her copious, dream-pink corpus10 with nose in the flow and ebb of the Wagnerian tsunami and forgets the host of unseen, odorous animals11 that disrupt the melodies of her senses. She invents yet another baron of her own, for her lumpy feather bed, reaches the high C of her expansive imagination at the concept of his sublime equanimity. Above all, Felicia desires … PEACE. She needs the man of her desires,12 or a reasonable facsimile,13 to rid herself of the need for him. Biological aches must be quelled.

Her trysts with Adrian the gardener14 amount to nothing more than postponements and there are more pressing matters. The country is in a state of shell-shock, its residents paralyzed with fear and impotent rage.

It is well known by those who wish to know such trivia that the bane of the baronesses of this line has always been a sense of smell sufficiently acute to render its subjects comatose, whether it be hideous beyond description (words are inadequate to delineate the experiences of the nose) or (as in the mind's eye) extraterrestrially delicious, like a bouquet of newborn (fill in your favorite flowers).

Felicia's Nose Cover

   ________________________________________________________________________________________________

1   German-Jewish surname: Rat (German), "council": Baum (German), "tree." The Council Tree (Ficus altissima) produces inedible figs. Its Levantine cousin was cursed and sterilized by Christ, as follows:

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
—Matthew 21:18-19

The range of the Ficus altissima (categorized by the USDA as an "invasive" species) is coextensive with the borders of Florida, elephant graveyard of numerous postmenopausal (withered and fruitless) bearers of the Rathbaum category of specification.

In this sufficiently esoteric context, the bare mention of any tree whatsoever suggests the Qabalistic Sephiroth, or, alternatively, the Tree of Knowledge, of whose morally inedible fruit Adam ate. The Book of Reziel depicts the latter apologizing to YHWH for said trespass, whereupon the eponymous angel, whose occult designation is Keeper of Secrets, appears in the quality of Councillor of the Tree of Knowledge, to instruct the First Man.

Our (barren?) baroness, begins by evoking her own esoteric alias, clearly claiming avatarship of that Promethean angel. She hereby presents us fallen first men with her felicitous book of accursed wisdom—which, after these more or less pious preliminaries, will presently degenerate, or apotheosize, into a grimoire. (See note 28, on the notorious Sefer Raziel HaMalakh.)

2   The Chaldeans and the Egyptians (from whom Moses adopted the Cherubs in their animal form) symbolized Reziel's peers alchemically as follows: the Lion (Mikael); the Bull (Uriel); the Dragon (Raphael); the Eagle (Gabriel). The Bear was assigned to Thot-Sabaoth, who here, quite lawlessly, gives place to Reziel.

3   Special attention needs to be paid to the modifier aquiline as applied to our anti-Reziel's nose. Gabriel's functionality may be similarly usurped in the pages to come. This insult to the astral hierarchy points out the left path nature of the present volume.

4   The ancient Thaumaturgists made an especial study of the physical and moral reactivity of perfumes and incense. In their baneful conjurations they found it necessary to provide a material vehicle for the manifesting demon. Quantities of the appropriate incenses were burnt, so that from the haze of heavy particles a physical body could be constructed. Felicia's nose is the Jacob's ladder in an airborne Frankenstein operation.

According to Israel Regardie, benzoin and sandalwood were used for Venusian spirits, mace and storax for Mercurial. Saturnians found sulphur congenial, while solar forces preferred galbanum and cinnamon.

It remains to be seen—or, rather, smelled—in subsequent pages, to what nefarious purposes this tome's eponymous nose will be employed.

5   See note 8, on the occult efficacy of "living" or spring water.

6   Deliberate heterography (in the pre-"linguistic" nineteenth-century sense) is but one of the hoary hand-sleights by which grimoirists can insinuate extra layers of perversity upon their liturgies and recipe books. And, of course, far from betraying subliteracy, these seeming solecisms are invitations for alternative etymologizing, as follows:

To de-lapidate, presumably, is to perform the salvific service that Christ, in the eighth chapter of John's gospel, rendered unto the "woman taken in adultery," aka Magdalen: the Levantine Kali-Avatar, the Tantric Initiatrix—and, of course, this transgressive text's presiding spirit.

Alternatively, de-lapidation could signify the retrieval of an entity from petrifaction, the reversal of the crone Medusa's chore. Or the apparent barbarism can be interpreted simply as the first categorical transformation in the Zoharic scheme: "First a stone, then a plant, then an animal, then a man, then an angel, then a god." Depending on the extent of their hubris, the baronial estate to which the de Rathbaums ascended would correspond to one of the upper rungs of this ladder.

7   Felicia will soon find herself simultaneously playing the roles of Electra and her estranged muter Clytemnestra. (See notes 26 and 78.)

8   Asheville is the City of Ashes. Here the city can only be The City (Jerusalem), and it follows that the ashes must be those of a red heifer—i.e., the powdery prerequisites of the Third Temple's impending apocalyptic construction.

The Mishnaic tractate Parah in Seder Taharot sets out the procedures and recipe for the Red Heifer Ceremonial. The requisite moisture must be "living" water drawn from the Spring of Shiloah by a race of children, bred and reared as it were in hermetic isolation to prevent their incurring ritual taint through proximity or contact with corpses.

In the pages to come, any juvenile manifestation will require the most exacting attention. The student of this transgressional genre known as grimoire can predict, even now, that the strange youngsters will appear juxtaposed with cadavers, or some other morally corrupting influence emblematic of spiritual death. (See note 42.)

9   "Baphomet" (aka The Sabbatic Goat—see notes 69, 72, 79 and 80) first appears in English in Henry Hallam's, The View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, which appeared in the significant year of 1818. Thus, in occult circles, this "brace of trebled sixes" carries the highest Gematrical value.

10   copious, dream-pink corpus: the baroness here assumes the floridly bovine attributes of the red heifer. Like any competent sorceress (and/or authoress), she offers herself up sacrificially.

11   These would be the lower disincarnate centers of inchoate consciousness that gather like moths around the glow of arcane workings—

...our Gnomes, our Undines, Salamanders, Sylphs,
our Elementals and their mighty ilk.
—Epigonesia
, p. 186, note 169

12   desires...desires: see note 28.

13   The modifier “reasonable” couldn't be more ironically intended in this quasi-alchemical context, with facsimile's intimations of the mud-engendered golem, the fetiform teratoma, the fetus in fetu, the homuncular embryo manufactured with messianic potential, molded of mischief, "asphaltick slyme," and other carbon-composed depravities—but deficient of spirit and soul as of pineal and pituitary. (See note 45.)

14   See note 1, pertaining to a different misdemeanor committed in another garden, by way of quelling biological aches.

 

 

 

 

1   German-Jewish surname: Rat (German), "council": Baum (German), "tree." The Council Tree (Ficus altissima) produces inedible figs. Its Levantine cousin was cursed and sterilized by Christ, as follows:

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
—Matthew 21:18-19

The range of the Ficus altissima (categorized by the USDA as an "invasive" species) is coextensive with the borders of Florida, elephant graveyard of numerous postmenopausal (withered and fruitless) bearers of the Rathbaum category of specification.

In this sufficiently esoteric context, the bare mention of any tree whatsoever suggests the Qabalistic Sephiroth, or, alternatively, the Tree of Knowledge, of whose morally inedible fruit Adam ate. The Book of Reziel depicts the latter apologizing to YHWH for said trespass, whereupon the eponymous angel, whose occult designation is Keeper of Secrets, appears in the quality of Councillor of the Tree of Knowledge, to instruct the First Man.

Our (barren?) baroness, begins by evoking her own esoteric alias, clearly claiming avatarship of that Promethean angel. She hereby presents us fallen first men with her felicitous book of accursed wisdom—which, after these more or less pious preliminaries, will presently degenerate, or apotheosize, into a grimoire. (See note 28, on the notorious Sefer Raziel HaMalakh.)

2   The Chaldeans and the Egyptians (from whom Moses adopted the Cherubs in their animal form) symbolized Reziel's peers alchemically as follows: the Lion (Mikael); the Bull (Uriel); the Dragon (Raphael); the Eagle (Gabriel). The Bear was assigned to Thot-Sabaoth, who here, quite lawlessly, gives place to Reziel.

3   Special attention needs to be paid to the modifier aquiline as applied to our anti-Reziel's nose. Gabriel's functionality may be similarly usurped in the pages to come. This insult to the astral hierarchy points out the left path nature of the present volume.

4   The ancient Thaumaturgists made an especial study of the physical and moral reactivity of perfumes and incense. In their baneful conjurations they found it necessary to provide a material vehicle for the manifesting demon. Quantities of the appropriate incenses were burnt, so that from the haze of heavy particles a physical body could be constructed. Felicia's nose is the Jacob's ladder in an airborne Frankenstein operation.

According to Israel Regardie, benzoin and sandalwood were used for Venusian spirits, mace and storax for Mercurial. Saturnians found sulphur congenial, while solar forces preferred galbanum and cinnamon.

It remains to be seen—or, rather, smelled—in subsequent pages, to what nefarious purposes this tome's eponymous nose will be employed.

5   See note 8, on the occult efficacy of "living" or spring water.

6   Deliberate heterography (in the pre-"linguistic" nineteenth-century sense) is but one of the hoary hand-sleights by which grimoirists can insinuate extra layers of perversity upon their liturgies and recipe books. And, of course, far from betraying subliteracy, these seeming solecisms are invitations for alternative etymologizing, as follows:

To de-lapidate, presumably, is to perform the salvific service that Christ, in the eighth chapter of John's gospel, rendered unto the "woman taken in adultery," aka Magdalen: the Levantine Kali-Avatar, the Tantric Initiatrix—and, of course, this transgressive text's presiding spirit.

Alternatively, de-lapidation could signify the retrieval of an entity from petrifaction, the reversal of the crone Medusa's chore. Or the apparent barbarism can be interpreted simply as the first categorical transformation in the Zoharic scheme: "First a stone, then a plant, then an animal, then a man, then an angel, then a god." Depending on the extent of their hubris, the baronial estate to which the de Rathbaums ascended would correspond to one of the upper rungs of this ladder.

7   Felicia will soon find herself simultaneously playing the roles of Electra and her estranged muter Clytemnestra. (See notes 26 and 78.)

8   Asheville is the City of Ashes. Here the city can only be The City (Jerusalem), and it follows that the ashes must be those of a red heifer—i.e., the powdery prerequisites of the Third Temple's impending apocalyptic construction.

The Mishnaic tractate Parah in Seder Taharot sets out the procedures and recipe for the Red Heifer Ceremonial. The requisite moisture must be "living" water drawn from the Spring of Shiloah by a race of children, bred and reared as it were in hermetic isolation to prevent their incurring ritual taint through proximity or contact with corpses.

In the pages to come, any juvenile manifestation will require the most exacting attention. The student of this transgressional genre known as grimoire can predict, even now, that the strange youngsters will appear juxtaposed with cadavers, or some other morally corrupting influence emblematic of spiritual death. (See note 42.)

9   "Baphomet" (aka The Sabbatic Goat—see notes 69, 72, 79 and 80) first appears in English in Henry Hallam's, The View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, which appeared in the significant year of 1818. Thus, in occult circles, this "brace of trebled sixes" carries the highest Gematrical value.

10   copious, dream-pink corpus: the baroness here assumes the floridly bovine attributes of the red heifer. Like any competent sorceress (and/or authoress), she offers herself up sacrificially.

11   These would be the lower disincarnate centers of inchoate consciousness that gather like moths around the glow of arcane workings—

...our Gnomes, our Undines, Salamanders, Sylphs,
our Elementals and their mighty ilk.
—Epigonesia
, p. 186, note 169

12   desires...desires: see note 28.

13   The modifier “reasonable” couldn't be more ironically intended in this quasi-alchemical context, with facsimile's intimations of the mud-engendered golem, the fetiform teratoma, the fetus in fetu, the homuncular embryo manufactured with messianic potential, molded of mischief, "asphaltick slyme," and other carbon-composed depravities—but deficient of spirit and soul as of pineal and pituitary. (See note 45.)

14   See note 1, pertaining to a different misdemeanor committed in another garden, by way of quelling biological aches.

Tom Bradley's latest books are Family Romance, a novel illustrated by Nick Patterson (Jaded Ibis Press), A Pleasure Jaunt With One of the Sex Workers Who Don't Exist in the People's Republic of China (Neopoiesis Press), Bomb Baby (Enigmatic Ink), Vital Fluid (Crossing Chaos), Even the Dog Won't Touch Me (Ahadada Press), Hemorrhaging Slave of an Obese Eunuch (Dog Horn Publishing), My Hands Were Clean (Unlikely Books) and Put It Down in a Book (The Drill Press), which was named 3:AM Magazine's Non-Fiction Book of the Year. Further curiosity can be indulged at tombradley.org. Contact author.

Tom's collaboration with Carol Novack, the novella, Felicia's Nose, will be released by MadHat Press, Mad Hatters' Review's imprint arm, later this year. Please keep on the lookout for further details.

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