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1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
Homage to Hariette Surovell PDF E-mail
Homage to Hariette Surovell

I met Hariette in 1984 when I sat next to her at a Chinese restaurant where my publisher, Bill Zavatsky, took a whole gaggle of us after reading and signing my "Selected Poems" at Books & Co (no longer there, alas). I couldn't eat anything because I'd smoked a powerful joint with my pal Mike Golden before the reading, plus Hariette's amazing tits kept blocking my view of all my other appetities. I didn't know who she was, but when she asked me why I wasn't eating, I said, "Because I'd rather eat you." Well, that was that, goodbye China, Bill, and Mike, and all the rest of you, people of 1984. Hariette and I became friends, and when I discovered what a great writer she was, I never stopped publishing her in my new rag, Exquisite Corpse. Throughout the Eighties and the Nineties, Hariette's career as a investigative journalist and columnist in Penthouse, really took off. She was meant to be, in my opinion, a great American writer who was taking necessary sidetrips to making a living in journalism, but she never quite got to where she should have gotten, which is where Mary Robison or Mary Carr or any number of female or male writers did. Part of it was bad timing, and part of it was an unfortunate love affair with a very influential editor who could have done wonders for her work and reputation if he hadn't been a prick. He's dead now, so we'll let him rest, but be assured that if Hariette ever gets a hold of him in the other world, she'll tear him a new one. Through the years, I was Hariette's confidante, correspondent, and just good friend. She wrote me letters that make most contemporary writing sound like lukewarm piss. She was an epistolary genius. I'm sure there are others who can attest to that. Fearless red-diaper baby and sterling New Yorker that she was, she never let anything go if it looked significant to her, and she consequently drove a lot of people crazy with her amazing inquisitiveness. She could also be amazingly oblivious, as when she told Laura and I the story of a girlfriend who stole her coat, during an entire drive from New Orleans to Baton Rouge; we tried, in vain, to point out things like Lake Pontchartrain ("Look, Har, the 10th biggest lake in the world!"). She could care less until she was done with her story. I can write a book about Hariette Surovell, as indeed could most of her friends, but that's for another time. Right now, we are celebrating her writing, with this lovely selection (mostly from Exquisite Corpse) by Cynthia Cotts and DeWitt Brinson, DeWitt, who knew her only through the mail and through her writing, ended up a good friend. Cynthia tells her own story, but one thing's for sure: wherever Har was, in writing or in person, there was soon a story to tell. She died way too fucking young! What the hell's going on?

Andrei Codrescu
 
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