The Eternal Return

“The terrible thing about having New York go stale on you is that there’s nowhere else.”
-John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer

An excerpt from John Kolchak’s forthcoming novel, The Eternal Return

THE SITTER

Before any of the following happened I strongly believed that autobiographies are for the most part worthless unless one has lived through exceptional times or was oneself an exceptional individual. I can’t claim either. That percentage among us is infinitesimal. Most of our lives, I had come to feel, are utterly pedestrian no matter how alternately “touching” or “tragic” or “funny” they may seem to us, or how unique we think we are or were. For each individual who survived war, famine, the Holocaust, gulags, grotesque personal misfortune, there are millions who experienced the same fate but lacked the skills, the ambition and most importantly, the vanity to actually put pen to paper. And so vanity and a little bit of skill combined to show us the experiences of only a tiny percentage. Mankind, I firmly believed, was not even the proverbial anthill, but something more akin to a parasitic, self-reproducing fungus, laying down replacements for ridiculously short lives in an almost sadomasochistic manner and one would need to set the bar rather high to warrant writing about oneself. After the following happened, I changed my mind a bit and decided that whatever I wrote would be worthwhile somehow. Although the nature of existence still continued to pose a logical problem, my mental illness eventually came under control and I broke the promise I made to myself to never compose an autobiography.

I will die soon, or maybe not terribly soon, no one knows when —but by writing down what transpired that certain summer, that season in hell and bliss —recommended to me as a form of therapy by my doctors, I have now finally found a modicum of bittersweet peace. I am now back in California, my adopted land on the edge of the earth where I have come back to the safety of warm weather and more importantly the safety of sitting, precisely where and how this story began, when I was The Sitter, several years ago.

Back then, after living in California for over a decade, I had come to the conclusion that my lot in life is mostly to sit. It is, after all, something I am quite good at, and in this late stage and all, it would prove way too difficult to move my arse towards bigger and better things. This understanding was not provoked by a failed visit to a prostitute, an unsuccessful attempt at assassinating a politician, or humiliation by colleagues or former classmates, it was a gradual process of giving up. Sitting has many noble qualities about it. For one, it hurts no one, except yourself if you develop hemorrhoids. Two, one is obviously in the perfect position to reflect. Reflection is something you simply cannot perform when you’re running, and I don’t mean running solitary, but trying to outrun the pack. Consider the Buddha, or Saint Simon the Stylite who sat on a Greek column in the desert eating leaves from the adjacent tree, shitting green off the side of his Corinthian tower, did they not both manage not only to achieve enlightenment but also managed to fight off demons? All this simply through the process of sitting.

So there, I’ll say it once more: inactivity, be it by fate, circumstance, or volition is in itself noble or so it seemed to me before I started on this journey. Certainly the world has its pecking order but the Hindu castes were not created for the purpose of putting people down. Rather, as an extension of the natural order of things, it helped create a Dewey system of cataloguing each according to their particular skill – or vice. Each has its place within the mill, within the anthill, even us sitters, of course. It would be foolish to compare a panther to a snail, to see who is more noble, and even more foolish to compare a carrot to a panther, or a turnip to a hippogriff. And thus, I, in my personal carotene splendor also feel that I have reached enlightenment at times, or at least have come close. But there is still much more sitting to be done, though sometimes even the vegetables scream when they see how pointless it all is. The words of Maxim Gorky: “Man is destined for happiness the way birds are destined for flight”, I have paraphrased to my own means and experiences as such: “man was destined for happiness, the way a hippopotamus is destined for flight”, and that is why I sometimes dream that I have indeed become a panther, only to wake up in my garden variety garden yet again. After some feeling around in the dirt to make sure I’m here among the worms and the moles I know, I reach for my bottle of liquid pesticide – it helps keep both intruding bugs and unpleasant thoughts away – and begin to contemplate further.

It wasn’t always like this, of course. Back in my salad days, (oh pardon the puns, there will be more to come), as a seedling, I knew nothing, but as I formed into shape, I’d watch the springs and summers with delight and too wished I could grow higher, bud into a sunflower, look straight at the sky or maybe sprout legs and pull myself out into the world. Alas, the limbs I grew were as useless as those of a mandrake and like the mandrake I would scream when fate would trip me up, or pull me around by the hair. When did I become stone arse? For I did possess so much ambition once, misguided, natch, but looking towards the stars dammit, not the dirt in the navel. I will now try to retrace my steps.

The catalyst behind it all was Betty. Poor Betty with an arse made of even heavier stone than me, for she was immobile. But let me start a bit earlier, back in the smoggy, beer colored glow of Los Angeles, before I embarked on my “sentimental journey” only to return and return, eternally…

Dining with Derrida

I occasionally write a satirical/surrealist blog about food and restaurants called Dining with Derrida from the perspective of a narrator who may be an academic scholar, a madman, a conspiracy theorist or any combination of the three.

“If you enjoy Foucault, food, fun, philosophy, dining, Derrida, wit and Wittgenstein and the semiotics of Jersey Mike’s then you will love my pal, John Kolchak‘s, fun philosophical dine and deconstruction of a blog, it is one part Yelp review and one part genius. As Wittgenstein said,”If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.” John does silly and delicious and leaves you hungering for more. Bon appetit!!! ”

—Tracey Cleantis, bestselling author of “The Next Happy”.

Dining with Derrida

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News

Film

Next Year in Jerusalem
A Film by Mimi Hasslof aka Eye Con Mimic

Haymarket Square
A Film by Mimi Hasslof aka Eye Con Mimic

 

My First and Last Film
A Film by John Kolchak
In February 2001, aspiring filmmaker Johnny Zhivago was discovered dead in his Queens, New York aparment, a suicide by hanging. Also found was the strangled body of actress Nicole Mitzell, with whom he had a brief romantic affair.  Further investigation of the crime scene uncovered approximately thirty hours of video footage Zhivago had been accumulating for the last six months of his life.

My First and Last Film is a feature-length motion picture compiled out of that footage.

Part 1 – View the entire 10 part series here

 

 


Mud

A Short Film by John Kolchak
A prologue to a feature that was never made, which nonetheless reappears in “My First and Last Film” and in the book “The Eternal Return”.

Mud from Geraldine Baum on Vimeo.

Next Year in Jerusalem

“John Kolchak is one of a dying breed: a thought-criminal after your own heart.”
-Cintra Wilson, NEW YORK TIMES, S.F. EXAMINER

“Set somewhere in the arid wastelands between Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ and Gore Vidal’s Julian, Kolchak weaves a Hobbesian Palestine where the life of a man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutal, and short, especially in terms of faith and law. A lurid, intense work… a gospel in its own right, even as grim as it is and as it should be.”
-Burke Gerstenschlager, BLEAK THEOLOGY

“John Kolchak is deconstructing the Bible. He took the book apart at the seams and sliced and diced the words til blood red and midnight black ink gushed all over his hands. He licked his stained hands, and the “word of God” made his tongue tingle and his soul writhe. He saw the truth… This is an interesting, thought provoking book.”
Jeffrey Keeten, GOODREADS TOP REVIEWER

“Kolchak revels in subversion and profanity, turning many of the most famous New Testament stories on their heads and creating an immensely sympathetic character in Yeshua along the way. This is a challenging book… but a very rewarding one as well.”
-HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY


Click here to read a sample chapter

A brutal re-imagining of the Gospel story, Next Year in Jerusalem follows the footsteps of Yeshua Bar-Yosif—an illiterate, epileptic, bastard son of a Roman soldier on his ill-fated life journey through a land racked by terror.

As first century Judea bleeds from the oppression of Roman rule and the violent uprisings against it, Yeshua, tormented by familial guilt for abandoning his mother, eventually forms his own family of travelers who preach for peace and compassion in the face of internecine savagery. Their wanderings lead to encounters with false prophets, assassins, and a rapidly growing movement of extremist rebels whose leader Bar-Abbas’ mission is to expel the Romans and establish an ethnocentric theocracy.

Chance sends both Yeshua and Bar-Abbas to the court of Pontius Pilate—the dipsomaniac Governor obsessed with leaving a name for himself in the scrolls of history—and the outcome of that meeting alters the fate of the world for the next two millennia.

With urgent parallels to contemporary issues of religious war, this book is both a lament and a warning. It is also a story about the passage of time, the nature of memory, and mankind’s inherent yearning for life everlasting.




Next Year in Jerusalem
A Film by Mimi Hasslof aka Eye Con Mimic

About

John Kolchak is a Russian-born American novelist, screenwriter and poet. He is the author of “Haymarket Square” – a novel-in-verse about post-Soviet Russia which made New York Times columnist and culture critic Cintra Wilson christen him as “one of a dying breed … a thought criminal after your own heart.” “Haymarket Square” was listed as one of The Guardian’s best reader recommended self-published books.

“Next Year in Jerusalem” is a fictional account of the gospel story and is a tale about the rise of Christianity as it parallels the ascent of the brutal Islamist movements of today.

He is also the author of “The Man in the Brown Suit” – a series of interconnected poems about the nature of memory and the immigrant experience which forms a prelude to his current novel in progress, “The Eternal Return”.

He lives in Los Angeles.

 

Books

HAYMARKET SQUARE is a novel in verse and a re-telling of Alfred Doblin‘s monumental  “Berlin Alexanderplatz“, re-set in post Soviet Russia by author John Kolchak. The book is illustrated by artist Scott Corkern.

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Haymarket Square

Haymarket Square
Haymarket Square: : The Story of Alex Bobrov
Published January 2012 by Ward Six Press
222 pages, 6 x 9 inches

PURCHASE HERE

HAYMARKET SQUARE is a novel in verse and a re-telling of Alfred Doblin‘s monumental  “Berlin Alexanderplatz“, re-set in post Soviet Russia by author John Kolchak. The book is illustrated by artist Scott Corkern.

This novel, written entirely in verse (and mostly in rhymed meter), concerns the fate of Alex Bobrov: a petty criminal and former pimp who was imprisoned for ‘accidentally’ murdering one of his tricks. Having served out his entire sentence without witnessing the collapse of the USSR and the subsequent radical transformation of society in the fledgling Russian Federation, Alex desperately seeks to fit in this new world he exited out onto.

At first pledging to himself to become a truly ‘honest man’, Alex’s dreams and attempts to acclimate and assimilate to his new reality are repeatedly shattered when fate keeps biting him in the rear, over and over again.

Eventually, Alex falls in with his former criminal associates, who have now grown wealthy and skilled in the tricks that  “Weimar Russia” of the mid 1990s afforded them.

While at first Alex accepts the return to his criminal past, when love enters the picture it sets the wheels in motion for Alex to pay for his past crimes in a way he had never imagined.
Sordid, vulgar, colloquial but at above all honest and true to Doblin’s original mix of sociological observation and Dostoyevskian psychology, HAYMARKET SQUARE is both a lyrical panorama of the tremulous post-Soviet times and a first person perspective into that area in history through the eyes of a marginal yet unforgettable character.

There is an apocryphal statement attributed to Stalin: “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”

HAYMARKET SQUARE is a human face ripped out, warts and all, both from the ledger of the police station and the big book resting on a podium at the entrance to the Pearly Gates.

The Man in the Brown Suit

The Man in the Brown Suit
The Man in the Brown Suit:
Conversations with the Devil about the New World
Poetry cycle
2013 Ward Six Press

PURCHASE HERE

 

A mnemonic journey through place and time – from New York to California, interspersed with flashbacks of Russia – as related in a conversation with a demon who appears as the “Man in the Brown Suit” on the East Coast and who reinvents himself as the “Man in the Seersucker Suit” on the Pacific.

“Now would you like a sucker, sucker?”
He grins his sparkling new teeth,
the filthy little fucker, pulls up a chair and glass,
and guiding burnt out eyes towards the horizon,
murmurs, snot nosed: “Look and see! No better place
on earth for you” and hissing, adds “Or me!”
We lift up sunglasses and squint
and struggle to believe Pink’s lies that
this is actually our home and listen to
his used car salesman’s technique
when he assures us that the ocean’s warm.

Next Year in Jerusalem

“John Kolchak is one of a dying breed: a thought-criminal after your own heart.”
-Cintra Wilson, NEW YORK TIMES, S.F. EXAMINER

“Set somewhere in the arid wastelands between Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ and Gore Vidal’s Julian, Kolchak weaves a Hobbesian Palestine where the life of a man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutal, and short, especially in terms of faith and law. A lurid, intense work… a gospel in its own right, even as grim as it is and as it should be.”
-Burke Gerstenschlager, BLEAK THEOLOGY

“John Kolchak is deconstructing the Bible. He took the book apart at the seams and sliced and diced the words til blood red and midnight black ink gushed all over his hands. He licked his stained hands, and the “word of God” made his tongue tingle and his soul writhe. He saw the truth… This is an interesting, thought provoking book.”
Jeffrey Keeten, GOODREADS TOP REVIEWER

“Kolchak revels in subversion and profanity, turning many of the most famous New Testament stories on their heads and creating an immensely sympathetic character in Yeshua along the way. This is a challenging book… but a very rewarding one as well.”
-HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY

Click here to read a sample chapter

A brutal re-imagining of the Gospel story, Next Year in Jerusalem follows the footsteps of Yeshua Bar-Yosif—an illiterate, epileptic, bastard son of a Roman soldier on his ill-fated life journey through a land racked by terror.

As first century Judea bleeds from the oppression of Roman rule and the violent uprisings against it, Yeshua, tormented by familial guilt for abandoning his mother, eventually forms his own family of travelers who preach for peace and compassion in the face of internecine savagery. Their wanderings lead to encounters with false prophets, assassins, and a rapidly growing movement of extremist rebels whose leader Bar-Abbas’ mission is to expel the Romans and establish an ethnocentric theocracy.

Chance sends both Yeshua and Bar-Abbas to the court of Pontius Pilate—the dipsomaniac Governor obsessed with leaving a name for himself in the scrolls of history—and the outcome of that meeting alters the fate of the world for the next two millennia.

With urgent parallels to contemporary issues of religious war, this book is both a lament and a warning. It is also a story about the passage of time, the nature of memory, and mankind’s inherent yearning for life everlasting.




Next Year in Jerusalem
A Film by Mimi Hasslof aka Eye Con Mimic

Soul Origami

Soul OrigamiSelected poems 2008-2013
Ward Six Press

[Excerpt]
Oh Lord, please fold me into pieces,
it is your right then, after all.
This is my prayer to you.
It’s all I’ve known, all I’ve been through.
Keep folding me in smaller and
much smaller segments.
Compartmentalize me, make me small.
Make my life tiny, my soul even more so,
something that can be rolled between
your thumb and the forefingers
of my fellow humans, not just you.
Your Highness, drop me
in your pipe and smoke it,
fold wine stained paper, blank for
there’s no writing on it, just lemon
ink about what I had wished to do.
Excellency, see, answer and say:
What is the final shape
you’ll have for me?
In your infinite wisdom and compassion,
And flawed folding techniques, your
hands span galaxies but souls are tough
and brittle: about as hard to fold completely ‘
as it is to catch a flea.
Which is why we…
You know quite where I am going.
Shall I stop?
Very well, then.
I’ll tone it down and go like this:
Your highness, what I do know
are your mysterious ways,
the way you flirt with us from up on high.
No one can know them, so I’ll suppose that
maybe you are folding me
into a crane. If so, then I could
stand so graceful on the river bank,
elegant in ballet pose and even travel
through long distances but paper wings
are clipped, the fish are few,
far in between, but all about
that joke I knew
before you folded me.
I know you wouldn’t make me into the crane’s
cousin, old grey stork, the shape’s the same but
since you are all knowing and you know me,
you are aware that at this point I wouldn’t nest but
rather squawk
“Abort! Abort!”
and warn the worms and sods of bringing
babies into this, your swamp of a creation,
and for this protest
you folded me into the
shape of a toad.
I’ve never had a say in how you handled me.
But were I given say or choice about my
final form, I’d wish you’d fold my
little spiny soul into
a tiny little neutron bomb.
Too bad that paper can’t explode.

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Ward Six Press
PO Box 852
Pasadena, CA 91102

EMAIL: jk@johnkolchak.com

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