Saturday, February 25, 2012

Babyfucker Blog Project: Jessalyn Wakefield

Urs Allemann's Babyfucker: A Reading
Jessalyn Wakefield

I read Babyfucker in one hot sitting while locked out of an apartment in LA. I sat on the back stairwell and waited for my friend to return. As I waited I read the book. As soon as I began reading, I wanted to hear the book spoken aloud. The text was a rapture, and part of the rapture was the clarity in which I could hear the words ringing in my head. It was spring in LA and it was bright. I was wearing a purple sundress. My shoulders were burned. During this time my daily diet consisted of a raw steak, a chocolate croissant, and a pack and a half of cigarettes. This woman, this woman with this big blonde hair and these big blonde lips and a pair of pussy-crushing jeans and thigh-high snakeskin boots kept walking in out the back gate, right past where I was sitting in the narrow stairwell. I guess she walked in the gate three times, and out the gate three times. And each time, she'd give me a little sneer with that big blonde mouth and a little sigh with those big blonde lips and I'd try to shrivel up and I'd think about being invisible so she could walk past me with greater ease. There were a lot of reasons she may have sneered so flagrantly. Maybe I stank of rotting cow flesh and cigarette butts. Maybe the stairwell was difficult to navigate in those tall boots with another person taking up most of the room. Maybe we were in LA and that's how people are. Maybe she could hear the words quietly begin to dribble from my mouth, to my own surprise and delight, I fuck babies. Therefore maybe I am.

Listen to Jessalyn Wakefield's reading of Babyfucker

JESSALYN WAKEFIELD lives on public lands and food stamps.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Babyfucker Blog Project: J.A. Tyler

A Textual Harold of Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker
J. A. Tyler

[Below is an excerpt from A Textual Harold of Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker. Read the entire piece as a pdf.]

A Harold is the Improv Olympic’s name for long-form improv, an exercise which consists of an opening volley, a middle point, and a resolve, is built by a variety of improv games across the span of a given duration, and in which the performers seek to create a unified, driven performance based on a single theme . To the best of our knowledge, there is no previously documented history or evidence of a Textual Harold, a game which would follow the same concept and approach but written instead of acted and created by one performer, the writer, instead of by a team of actors. The following Textual Harold was performed by J. A. Tyler under the unifying theme of Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker.

The Pattern Game (words or phrases associated with previous words or phrases)


Pig licker.
Girl’s skirt.
Lost in it.
Going downtown.
What is downtown?
Many girls.
All these girls.
Topless girls.


Are there babyfuckers?
People who do this.
Who fuck babies.
My wife says yes.
I say no.
There is no person who fucks babies.
Kids, yes.
Toddlers even, maybe.
No one could fuck babies.
We are not allowed.
Something in our systems.
In our minds to keep us away.
To stop us from that.


To fuck babies.
What is a metaphor for?
A pig.
A downtown full of pigs.
All these pigs.
And the girls.
The girls with the pigs.
But they don’t fuck babies.
Because something keeps that at bay.
A bay of pigs.
Or something else.

The Invocation (describe it, talk to it, worship it, become it)

Describe It

You are a vast book in tiny pages.
You are split into language.
You are two-sided in that way.
You use the sentence ‘I fuck babies’.
You call yourself a baby fucker.
You won a prize in a different language.
There was anger that came along with it.
You might have felt sad.

Talk To It

Did you feel sad when people challenged you?
I think your new version is beautiful.
I love how Les Figues does books.
I like the book that they made you into.
I am happy to have found you here.
I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Since I don’t read your language.

Worship It

There is vastness in your words.
You are mighty with angst.
You, perhaps sent to destroy our niceties.
To cave us in.
Or are you, Babyfucker, sent to teach us?
What is it that you seek to teach us?
I am listening.
I am ready to be taught.
To listen.

Become It

Read me even when you don’t want to.
Read me even if you are scared.
Read me though the words on this cover frighten you.
Why does this cover frighten you?
Don’t be appalled.
See the words for what they are: words.
These are only words.

The Monologue (tell a story related to the theme in one minute or less)

I told my wife of this project and she freaked out. We were driving our kids home from a trip to look at Christmas lights. We were in the middle of nowhere. We had looked at all the lights in town and the newspaper reported one more location on dirt roads between towns where no one goes but where they said were countless blow-up Santa Clauses and Elves and Reindeer, etc. We went and the roads kept leading to more roads and the only lights were the stars and a sort-of moon and the occasional house that we passed on our way down the roads that led to more roads, all of it looking horror movie or psycho killing. The check engine light was on, and I had this vision that the car would stop dead with our kids asleep in the backseat and we wouldn’t know what was wrong and we wouldn’t be able to fix it and we’d call someone to help but we wouldn’t know where to tell them to find us because we’d followed roads and roads and it was bitter cold outside and maybe we would freeze and or at least we’d be cold and lost and stuck and scared. Or I would be scared, because there is so little to do with being lost or a check engine light or a house in the middle of nowhere. My wife said That book sounds really offensive and horrible and maybe you shouldn’t write about it. I explained that the book wasn’t offensive, but she couldn’t get past the title, and I couldn’t say the words in the right order and we ended up fighting, with the kids asleep, eventually finding our way back to the world, to the normal streets with pavement and the Christmas displays we’d already seen, and we were home, and the fight died down, and we didn’t talk about it anymore.

The Martha (create an environment & a scene within it, one item at a time)

I am Paul.
I am Linda.
I am a garret.
I am a column holding up the garret.
I am the door that may or may not exist.
I am the window with bars or the no window at all.
I am Paul’s face as a vision.
I am Linda’s voice as a ghost.
I am a baby.
I am a baby.
I am a baby.
I am the act of fucking the babies.
I am the narrator.
I am the narrator’s voice.
I am what the narrator says in his words.
I am the sentence I fuck babies.
I am the basket, the creel.
I am the bed that the narrator beds down in.
I am the babies around the bed.
I am the babies in the creel.
I am the babies in the garret.
I am the letter that doesn’t arrive.
I am the slot or window that the letter doesn’t drop through.
I am the words in a letter that doesn’t exist.
I am the reading of a letter that isn’t.
I am how we guess at words.
I am language.
I am babies all around.
I am the garret and the creel and a lack of knowing.
I am what the narrator doesn’t.
I am what the babies don’t.
I am what is not.

The Rant (rant a story related to the theme in one minute or less)

My daughter says O shit when she drops her fork at the table, or when she spills her milk, or when a piece of food misses her mouth and becomes lodged between her tiny hips and the plastic booster chair. She is one. It is hilarious. My wife doesn’t find it funny. Occasionally she’ll smile when our daughter says it, especially if it catches her off-guard, but she thinks our daughter will grow up saying O shit at school or a doctor’s office or somewhere else and she’ll be embarrassed and I’ll laugh and we’ll look like faulty parents. But we are faulty parents. There is no denial. When my son was two he started saying to people We don’t say ‘shit’. He said it for the first time at a birthday dinner in a crowded restaurant with family all around. We were drinking and eating and everyone laughed, even my wife laughed. It was funny. But she was worried later that he would grow up to say We don’t say ‘shit’ at school or a doctor’s office or somewhere else and it would embarrass her and I would laugh and the world would think we were faulty parents. But we are faulty parents, we must be, everyone is. My parents are faulty. Their parents are faulty. Every parent I know is faulty down deep or on the surface or anywhere between those two points. Humans are fallible, steeped in hidden wishes, so making jokes about shit is like the slow opening of a balloon, venting. If we don’t vent, we’ll swell into actual monsters, pigs in a downtown city looking up girl’s skirts. Because we are pigs, all of us, underneath it, but we wear our clothes so nicely that we look preened and outwardly gentle, and embarrassment is the sign of crawling pigs beneath our skin. Our children say We don’t say ‘shit’ or O shit and it reminds us that language is malleable, and that we should hammer it into shapes sometimes, to remember what that looks like, to heft them as parade-floats in the stead of our pig bodies, instead of always and only and ever hammering those words back down our throats again so that no one remembers who we really are.


J.A. TYLER is the author of In Love with a Ghost (Lit Pub Books, 2012) and No One Told Me I Was Going to Disappear, co-authored with John Dermot Woods (Jaded Ibis Press, 2012). His work has appeared with Black Warrior Review, Redivider, Diagram, New York Tyrant, and others.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Babyfucker Blog Project: Lily Hoang

Disgusting Desire: Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker
Lily Hoang

Babyfucker is gross.
        It’s disgusting.
        As in, just looking at the cover – the word “babyfucker” swamped in bright yellow– reminds me of puke. It makes me want to puke.
        The word: it makes me screw up my forehead, my mouth automatically opens – to remove the bad taste, or maybe in preparation for vomit, or maybe just to exhale all that nastiness, throw it out of me, literally – the word makes me drop the book, or, get it as far away from me as possible, toss it, throw it, make it go away.
        I am so grossed out.

In Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust, Daniel Kelly explains my response:
“Behaviorally, disgust produces an immediate aversive or withdrawal response, wherein the disgusted person attempts to distance herself from the offending entity. This rejection need not always manifest as moving away, however, but can often result in motivation to get rid of the offending entity in some other way. The associated facial expression of disgust is known as the ‘gape face.’ It is characterized by the nose wrinkle, extrusion of the tongue and expelling motion of the mouth, and wrinkled upper brow. The gape face mimics the facial movements that precede or accompany actual retching” (16).
And this response is exactly what the book wants.

        It is impossible to separate Babyfucker from disgust theory. The book wants the reader to be disgusted. The words evoke disgust. The content evokes even more disgust. It goes against everything we think or know as moral. To fuck a baby is worse than murder.
        And the narrator fucks hundreds of babies. Or, maybe he fucks hundreds of babies. He says he fucks hundreds of babies, but what he says is questionable, unreliable, he cannot be trusted.

Disgust is unique though. It doesn’t work the way most emotions do. It moves beyond mere affect programming. When feeling disgust, we not only have an automatic physical reaction, the offensiveness is sustained.
        It stays with us. We are reminded of it. We cannot let it go. It clings.
        Allemann, page one, sentence one: I fuck babies.
        Allemann, last page, last sentence: Say nothing. Open Wide.
        Allemann taunts us. Not only does what he writes offend and disgust, but he does not relent. He demands our sustained disgust. With every sentence, it is renewed.
        And yet, does it work? Do we believe it?
        Yes, it is disgusting, and all our mores tell us that fucking babies is wrong, but somewhere within this narrative, we question what we are told. We must put our disgust on hold. We are forced to.
        Otherwise, we could not continue.

And then Kelly explains how one core component of disgust is contamination sensitivity. That is, we don’t want whatever disgusting thing near us to contaminate us with its, well, yuckiness.
        Imagine children. Imagine being a child. Imagine the fear of cooties. That’s contamination sensitivity. We don’t want someone else’s cooties touching us, or else, we will be contaminated and there’s no hope once you’ve got it. You’re fucked.
        But we’re not children anymore. We know better.
        And yet, I challenge you to take Babyfucker out with you. Put it on your table at a cafĂ©. Show people you are reading it. They will move further away.
        Once, before I’d read any disgust theory, I took Babyfucker on a plane with me. The woman next to me – a middle-aged moral lady, with her prim hair and layered make-up and gaudy pearls, her immaculate morality visible through her judgment of me: ick, an Asian sitting next to her on a plane, lordy, what has this world come to?, plus I probably smelled bad from a long day’s travel, disgusting, and then, jesus, I pull out this pretty pastel little book, it looks so sweet, and on the cover, in bold unapologetic letters: babyfucker. The woman recoils. She actually moves her body further away. Airplane seats are modest in size. Good thing she wasn’t very big.
        But that was fun, see? So I started taking it out with me more. I took it to parties. (Ok, that’s an exaggeration. I took it to one party, where I lent it to a friend, and the whole exchange was fairly inconspicuous.) I took it to coffee shops and parks. I would place it at the very top of my stack, forcing curious passersby to see the cover, read the word, and every time, their faces changed. They elicited the “gape face.” Then, they placed that judgment right onto me. Who would read that kind of book? Who would read that kind of book in public?
        They want to get away from it, lest I contaminate them with this thing that has contaminated me.

Before we even open the book, to simply look at the cover, we are disgusted – disgusted past the point of endurance. We open the cover, we read the first line, and we are even further disgusted. It is possible that the first line – I fuck babies – pushes us to the limits of our disgust. And Allemann continues, forges on, pushes us further and further, so far, in fact, that we must believe he is not telling the truth. The consequences of his honesty are unfathomable.
        Imagine: hundreds of babies in cribs and he picks one up and feeds it whiskey and fucks it.
        Imagine: a grown man putting his hard dick into a baby’s mouth.
        Imagine: a grown man putting his hard dick into a baby’s cunt.
        Imagine: a grown man putting his hard dick into a baby’s asshole. It’s just a baby.
        No, not a singular baby. Hundreds of them.
        Disgust is a far more complex emotion than sadness or happiness or whatever else. We can’t control our disgust towards things, our automatic responses, with disgust, we become automatons, mechanical, controlled.

But see, Allemann is just playing with us. It’s all intentional. He wants us to be disgusted. He wants that response, and the worst part about it: it’s involuntary. We are hard-wired to respond to disgust this way.
        What is striking, however, is that Allemann somehow compels his readers – or, me, at the very least – to forge on, to turn the cover and begin and continue and continue and finish. Because we are compelled. He has us under some kind of spell, surely. How does he do it? How does he make us ignore what our physiology warns us against? Well, it’s magic. It must be. That, or disgust – in that extreme dosage – becomes pleasurable, and Allemann has turned us all – in 125 delicate pages – into masochists.

LILY HOANG is the author of the books Unfinished, The Evolutionary Revolution, Changing (recipient of a PEN Beyond Margins Award), and Parabola (winner of the 2006 Chiasmus Press Un-Doing the Novel Contest). She serves as an Associate Editor at Starcherone Books, Editor at Tarpaulin Sky, and Prose Editor at Puerto del Sol. She teaches in the MFA program at New Mexico State University. With Blake Butler, she co-edited the anthology 30 under 30.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Babyfucker Blog Project: M. Kitchell

Notes Towards Urs Allemann's Babyfucker
M. Kitchell

Below is an excerpt from Notes Towards Urs Allemann's Babyfucker. You can view the full version here.


M. KITCHELL is the editor & publisher of LIES/ISLE and Solar Luxuriance. He is a contributor to HTMLGiant. A book, Slow Slidings, will be out in 2012 on Blue Square Press. He lives in San Francisco and thinks he might be a ghost.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Babyfucker Blog Project: Jon R.

Scoring Urs Allemann

Jon Rutzmoser


Using a standard word processing application, in a white font of your choice, transcribe all of Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker.
Once you are finished print the entire document.
Begin tearing the document into pieces.
As you tear, eat the pieces.
Continue until you have eaten all of the document.
Spend the next two hours researching the number of baby rapes that have occurred since the day you were born.
Light a candle.
Make yourself cough.


Babyfucker aloud with your right hand raised in the air.
After you’ve finished, put on William Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist.
Sit in a chair with your back facing the film.
Turn down the volume as low as it goes.
Sit like this in the dark for the entire film.


Lie alone on your back in the bed of a Chevrolet truck.
Piss yourself while trying to lick your own elbow.
Imagine yourself in a Mercedes-Benz.


Imagine the most awful image that you can.
Write a book in the first person exploring that image.
Make sure that your name is on every page.
Email it to every person you know.


Repeat the word “unproductive” three times while spinning around in the dark in front of a mirror at midnight.
Draw a self-portrait on someone else’s body.
Title it, Urs Allemann


Imagine the most magnificent image that you can.
Write a book in the first person exploring that image.
Make sure that your name is on every page.
Email it to every person you know.


Call your mother.
Tell her about the last person you called a motherfucker.
Call your father a motherfucker.
Ask your mom if your dad ever called her "baby."
Tell her that you are reading a book titled, Babyfucker.
Explain to her why this book is worth reading.

JON R is an artist, writer, and educator living in Los Angeles. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Integrated Media from CalArts. His recent writing appears or is forthcoming in
Joyland, DrunkenBoat, Prism of Reality, and X-TRA. He runs an experimental theater space with his partner in their Echo Park apartment.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Babyfucker Blog Project: an Introduction

Babyfucker Blog Project: an Introduction
Elizabeth Hall

When I interviewed Urs Allemann about his book Babyfucker in the spring of 2010, my family was outraged, and understandably so. Less than a month had passed since my mother divorced her husband, my stepfather of twenty years, after discovering that he had lived a secret life for almost the entire extent of the marriage, including sexually abusing my older sister throughout her childhood. It was not that my family opposed the idea of a book like Babyfucker so much as they could not understand why I would ever willingly associate myself with the words “baby” and “fucker,” especially only eleven months after learning about my sister’s abuse. Their approach was to get over “it” as quickly as possible. However, I was not so sure that this was something I wanted to move beyond; I didn’t want “it” to lose its shock value.

Excessive books like Babyfucker elicit excessive reactions. Excess, here, can be defined as that which is more than necessary, or desirable. Not only is the act of “babyfucking” an extremely rare occurrence in the realm of sexual abuse, the setting of the book is also excessive. In fact, it is all but impossible to imagine, except, perhaps, as a bad acid trip. The book opens: “I fuck babies. Around my bed there are creels. They’re swarming with babies. They’re all here. Always have been. Always will be.” As Allemann noted in our interview, “These sentences have no place in a realistic story [and] definitively exceed every notion of reality that claims to be adequate to reality.” More specifically, the last two “create a context that corresponds perfectly to the timeless present of the sentence ‘I fuck babies.’” As I was all too aware, nothing can be as it has “always been, always will be.”

Excessive responses to the book typically range from horror, disgust, and outrage to that other extreme, extreme insouciance, or denial, embodied by those who shrug off the very idea that they could be shocked by a book, no matter its content. A popular reaction to Babyfucker: “The author is merely trying to shock. So what?” However, if shocking behavior, i.e., writing something shocking, is nothing more than a shameless attempt to get attention, it is also an individual’s desperate attempt to be recognized, to be seen or heard. Allemann has suggested that the narrator of Babyfucker has lost the “certainty that he exists” and attempts “to catapult himself back into existence with an extreme sentence.” In this sense, I imagine the narrator as a kind of fanatic, stammering to himself in the desolate abyss of a dank attic, driven not by any specific appetite or longing, but by the absolute conviction that if he ceases, even for a second, to utter his sentence (“I fuck babies”), the very narrative of his life with dissolve, and he will be left only with the excessive frustration and confusion of his suffering.

The Babyfucker is helpless. His “extreme sentence,” and his belief in the power of it, is a kind of cure for his excessive vulnerability. That is, the vulnerability we all experience as animals who cannot easily identify what we want, and even if we can identify it, may not be able to get it, much less keep it. Worse: we may discover that desire, and its twin suffering, no matter how excessive, may lead us nowhere. “I fuck babies” is the narrator’s conviction, his fact, safe haven, which is to say, also a fantasy. One he must return to again and again, not because it gives him any identifiable pleasure, but because it keeps him hopeful in his very uncertain and meaningless world.

When I found Babyfucker—or rather when it found me—I was still actively grappling with the significance, perhaps even “meaning,” of the wild, roving ache I felt on a daily basis as a result of the dissolution of my family. Of course, during these months, I wrote next to nothing. (It was unfortunate that I was enrolled in an MFA program for creative writing.) As an avid reader, I was also horrified to discover that no book could hold my attention: they all felt so trivial. Every book, except Babyfucker. Since my pain was still too ripe, I could not dismiss it as “just a book” or “some pervert’s riff.” I was immediately intrigued by the beauty, the hypnotic elegance, of Allemann’s prose. It's true: the thing I found most interesting, initially, was not that Babyfucker served as a potent reminder of the “power of literature,” but rather, that “monstrosity can’t be beautified away by skillful prose pirouettes” (Allemann). That is—no amount of gloss or spin can sublate the horror of a monstrous act.

When Babyfucker won the second prize in the 1991 Ingborg Bachmann Competition, it became one of the biggest literary scandals in recent years. Some cultural critics claimed that the book was “inexcusable” and a “sexual perversion.” Over twenty years later, those are still words associated with Allemann’s text. As such, I had to be careful when soliciting authors for the blog project—asking only those authors who I knew would not be offended by the invitation. These writers were [redacted], Lily Hoang, M. Kitchell, Jon R, JA Tyler, and Jessalyn Wakefield. Their responses represent a variety of approaches to the text from playful poems to string theory. However, as google searches are many professional authors' “second CV,” there is always the looming threat that a future employee, student, or family member will discover one’s connections with those two terrible words. “Imagine children. Imagine being a child. Imagine the fear of cooties. That’s contamination sensitivity,” Lily Hoang writes in Disgusting Desire, her response to Babyfucker. “We don’t want someone else’s cooties touching us, or else, we will be contaminated and there’s no hope once you’ve got it. You’re fucked.” In this sense, the Babyfucker Blog Project is also an invitation for you, the reader, to be contaminated, to join the conversation.

Each day this week, a different author’s response will appear on the Les Figues blog in this order:

Monday, February 20: Jon R
Wednesday, February 22: M. Kitchell
Thursday, February 23: Lily Hoang
Friday, February 24: J.A. Tyler
Saturday, February 25: Jessalyn Wakefield

Les Figues Press is also pleased to announce that Babyfucker is now available as an e-book, which can be downloaded from amazon or itunes.

ELIZABETH HALL lives in Los Angeles where she is currently finishing her first book, I HAVE DEVOTED MY LIFE TO THE CLITORIS, a study of small things.