Thank You, and Farewell


As of 9PM, at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia on Wednesday, February 11th, 2015, Whimsy will perform a final reading from his Affected Provincial’s Companion, lie down on the velvet-draped plinth, and then pass through this veil of mud and tears, once and for all. Tonight I finally depart Whimsy Island, my course set for some far-flung shore, where I will scuttle the ship and take with me whatever is still useful. Much of what you may have enjoyed of my work in the past will come with me. My pen name will not be among them.

Now that I’ve finally laid all of my Whimsy-related affairs to rest, it’s time to move on. Had things not gone so surprisingly well, I would have moved on sooner. Mainly, I had to wait out the ongoing developments with the four consecutive film options that Johnny Depp and his production company so generously bestowed on me. There were also some dealings and doings regarding a possible television project, but that too has now run its course. I remain grateful for the experiences and opportunities, but having all of that behind me comes as a relief.

I still have a backlog of unpublished Whimsy material, and I would have liked to have published a second volume, but circumstances prevented that from happening, and the window of opportunity passed. At this point, the impulse has expended itself. Frankly, I’m amazed that Bloomsbury published the first volume at all; the possibility of anyone releasing such a weird little book in today’s publishing world is slim to none, as far as I can tell. Even if I did trim off the more idiosyncratic edges and clunky excesses, there remains the matter of there being just so much of this kind of “modern gentleman” stuff floating around, now. Too much, really. I preferred the subject when it was a bit more marginal and fresh.

This project began as a lark, but ended up becoming an occupation: the mask became a hat. Over time I began to feel like an odd sort of clergyman: a witch doctor with a necktie. Throughout the years of being Whimsy, I often felt like I was hiding in plain sight: even I don’t know just how much of the real me was ever on display—probably much more than I care to admit. Suffice it to say that we sometimes become what we pretend to be.

I’d like to sincerely and humbly thank those of you who followed my blogs, corresponded with me, and bought my books over the years. I’ve learned a great deal from all of you, and I hope you’ve had as much fun reading my nonsense as I’ve had making it. There will be more nonsense to come, albeit with less velvet (even old Oscar had to ditch the knickers, eventually). My next incarnation will be something far less shrill, and far more sustainable over the long term–but it will still be good fun. So keep checking in, I’m working on it. I can be found here if you’d like to follow my most recent projects.

Again, thank you and farewell. Vive la bagatelle.

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A Conversation With James Howard Kunstler

As a kind of last hurrah, I recently spoke with James Howard Kunstler on his podcast about my thirteen-year tenure as Lord Whimsy, as well as the state of our society and where it may be heading.

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Lord Whimsy Drops Dead

The dilettante, fancy-man, and tin grandee known as Lord Whimsy is inviting the public to what he calls a “Jar Opera” at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art on Feb 11th, from 6:30 to 9PM. He and his friends will be hosting an evening of masquerades, freak sermons, and belletristic sorcery.

This will be His Lordship’s final farewell, and so this evening is a funeral, albeit a rather unusual one: nature is going out of business and everything must go, including Whimsy.

Filmmaker David Kessler will present a film of bizarre animated lifeforms, and Ben Warfield will don his celestial robes to play his spacey brand of ambient electronic music. Sip tea, sup on healthy treats, and create your own takeaway terrarium with landscape designer Kate Farquar and artist Kaitlin Pomerantz (jars and plants provided).

Guests are encouraged to come dressed in their finest attire, or as the animal or plant of their choosing. The wilder, the better! Let art, nature, and hot tea be your FREE antidote to winter bleakness.

(Poster by the talented fellows at The Heads of State)

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Peak Dandy

I know an awful lot of people who will be upset with this pugnacious little article, but I’m not one of them.

My own brief stay in Dandyland (2004-2007) was an exercise in persona, a foray into the performative, oratorical side of writing (or in my case, carefully-crafted bullshit), which to my mind had been neglected in writerly circles where a strange fixation on authenticity–whatever that means–still holds sway.

I’ve largely kept my distance from the neo-dandy demimonde for almost a decade now (I’ve never been to the Jazz Age Lawn Party events: I’d moved on by the time they came around, and nostalgia was never more than a dirty weekend for me, anyway). However, I do think these kinds of articles are going to become more frequent, because the media probably hit “Peak Dandy” about a year ago. My own early efforts in this realm are all but forgotten (thank goodness), but a few of my friends have helped raise the profile of this trend. And I’m very happy for them: they’ve worked very hard on documenting the denizens of this little world, and have created a beautiful artifact. Their accomplishments are well-deserved.

But this “scene” has probably now reached everyone that could possibly give a damn about it, and I think this passing interest in neo-dandyism is on the far side of the bell curve now–which of course is great news for the real dandies. The general public, who are distracted by petty things like survival, will be oblivious to this momentous rise and fall.

Some rare hothouse flowers will doubtlessly stick with the trend as it declines, in hopes of another ascendancy in the future. The romanticism of such a gesture is somewhat touching, but personally I’ve never been interested in living out my life as a pumpkin growing inside of an empty bottle. There’s a self-amputating severity to dandyism that continues to fascinate me, though. (Not that this article I’m talking about is really about dandyism, mind you. I’m just making hay, as usual.)

I’m hoping for too much out of our beleaguered times, but I’d still like to see alternatives to modern male frumpiness that offer something beyond barbershop quartet costumes, “men’s magazine” luxury douchery, and Pee Wee Herman gear. It’s all good fun, but as a lifestyle it’s all pretty hard to take seriously.

Behind the harsh tone, this article makes a sensible point: express yourself, but don’t wear a costume because it’s corny. Unless your living depends on the continuation of this fad, there’s no need to be defensive. She’s right: it would be nice to have a long-term, everyday alternative to the clownwear on either end of the spectrum (thug chic vs. fop chic). To me, both extremes of this spectrum are expressions of childish decadence.

True-blue eccentrics and practitioners of the grand tradition of Camp should completely disregard this article (you’re glorious), but normal guys wearing an eccentric’s uniform should probably listen up. This article is a bit of tough love: big boy pants are the hot item this year.

Alright: back to things that actually matter. I wish you all a great summer.

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Weird NJ: Interview With the Whimsy

(Photo by Ryan Doan)

In anticipation of my new book, Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself (Tin House), the folks at Weird NJ have been kind enough to open their ancient vaults to release this rather comprehensive interview from July 2008. It has never been published until now. Quite a time capsule, at least for me. My sincere thanks to Joanne Austin, Ryan Doan, and everyone at Weird NJ.


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Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself

This is in part why I’ve been so scarce over the past eighteen months: here is the trailer for my upcoming illustrated edition of Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself”. The entire 256-page book is written out and illustrated by hand. My publisher Tin House is releasing it on May 13. Pre-orders of the book can be made here. Hope to see you on the book tour.

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Childe Quentin, A Tale of Grift

Here’s an old animation that I slapped together from old artwork lying around the studio, sometime around 2002, I think. I’m finally getting around to getting these old Flash animations into Quicktime format and uploaded onto YouTube. This one seems the most appropriate for readers of APC I, so here you are. Enjoy.

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Head Shot for Tin House

Been very busy making preparations for my book’s launch in May. This week I painted a canvas banner for the book tour; it served as a handy backdrop when I needed a head shot for my publisher’s PR department today (this is my “smug furniture designer” photo). The vermillion color really brings out my veins.

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The Importance of Audience

If you want to hear an interesting theory about the folly of democracy in culture (society is another matter), and why the use of wit in writing is now such a hard sell in American publishing circles, go to the 19-minute mark of this video.

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Metrolit Verlag’s Edition of The Affected Provincial’s Companion Vol. I

The German edition of my first book arrived today. It’s quite handsome: Metrolit Verlag did a beautiful job with the crisp design. My thanks to Barbel and everyone at Metrolit!

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