Illegal Dances, by Dominic Fox, 08/20/2011 - 22:30

Patrick Mullins, wayward and occasionally vexatious spirit of these and many other parts, has written a book, Illegal Dances of New York City. Graphomanic, self-absorbed and perplexing, it composes a kind of textual mirror-world out of personal anecdotes, cake recipes, opaque glosses on film and dance, fragments of online interactions with various pseudonymous interlocutors, and a kind of insistently bizarre fan-fiction centred on an elusive introject named as "Saint Nick Land".

The first section was once rejected for publication by the editors of the journal Collapse, who described it as "execrable". In a sense they were right, at least by their own lights: the instinctive reaction of any cohesive theoretical body to the kind of text Patrick has produced would be to try to expel it, to shit it out. Illegal Dances is frequently concerned with "crawlspace", with places of refuge from systematically articulated thought and living. Crawlspace makes room for accumulations of junk and clutter, chimerical assemblages of totems and fetish-objects, erotic strange-attractors, items of sentimental value (among the curios exhibited in Illegal Dances is a poem of mine that Patrick liked and that I gave him permission to include; I couldn't say exactly what it's doing there, but it doesn't look out of place as such). Of these, the book attempts to extract the "efflorescences and nectars".

Is it a good book? It's beautifully put together, a credit to its publisher. It is also a record, an inscription, of the continual involution of "outer" into "inner" life, of time into image and place into crawlspace. It will not appeal to everyone's sympathies, but it should be understood as a genuine, if obscure and singular, work of art.