If I were Kevin Killian how would I write this introduction? Kevin’s work is as infinite as Amazon’s breadth of products. For days I was stumped. I went on a power walk listening to Kylie Minogue, singing along to “La, La La, I just can’t get you out of my head,” then discovering the song “Sexercise” for the first time. I felt seduced inside Kevin’s poems, plays, novels, and short stories, gleefully avoiding such realities as housework. Those mirrors you try to clean but they only get more dirty! Kevin’s voice became implanted like the New Narrative CIA, telling me to read his effortless seeming satire. Extreme honesty is the route to delight. Did Killian title a poem “Genital Emotion”? Why, of course! I was laughing so hard I was crying like a baby, then I jerked around the bend to feel sorrow about “the rainbow flag” Killian laments as “all stripes of one sepia.”
Kevin enters names of the living and the dead, whether they are celebrities, friends, lovers, or muses, like walking in to a big costume, large like a collapsible jungle gym. You can remove the shrink-wrap and blow it up like a raft, getting faint in the head for not having a pump other than your lungs. These oversized costumes of characters lure you to swing around in Killian’s odd subjectivity, your shirt pulling up to expose your midriff and you are grinning with revelation. The structures of one’s life are so bendable. George Kuchar literally walks into Small Press Traffic (when it was a bookstore) looking “like a human slinky.” A voice from Tweaky Village admits “I’ve got a vulgar mania for citation,” and I can’t help but wonder if this is a salute to the sticky proper nouns that grow like magic mushrooms in his work.
Time is always shaken up for Killian. A snow globe has replaced the quill pen. What is Sam D’allesandro doing with a laptop? If we take Kevin’s never-ending question from the essay “Poison” inside Biting the Error: “what portion of one’s personality is a fiction?” and trace it with our pointer finger through the spine of his work, there is always a refreshing risk in characterizations of self and the imaginary selves around you. Nothing is off limits; everything is about trespassing. It is a sugary dissolution of the boundaries of pain in reality.
In Spreadeagle, Kevin’s recent novel from Publication Studio, we meet Danny Isham, a rival of Armistead Maupin, as he oft gets confused with the other famous gay novelist. Armistead is way more PBS than Isham’s kitschy Rick & Dick series, that are of course based on Isham’s life and relationship with Kit Kramer, a semi-retired ACT-UP activist who finds amusements in projects such as boy-toying a lanky dweeb chugging along at his undergraduate degree in performance art. Kit dramatically shaves off the Dweeb’s “soul patch” in a tiny café bathroom with hand soap and a cheap razor. And poof, Avery becomes a porn star! Of course Eric Avery couldn’t believe his soul patch equated to a ratty security blanket dangling around in public, but he really couldn’t believe Kit & Danny invited him to move in to their Pacific Heights palace of gay consumer absurdity.
Fandom is a sultry universe in Kevin’s work and he takes this fascination on from all its angles of glory and eyesore. Kevin narrates in Tweaky Village the experience of arranging for a writer friend from out of town to meet a choice artist in San Francisco, “You took pictures of him and me, he took pictures of you and me, I took all the other pictures we would ever need as the sun sank into the ocean.”