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Lydia Tomkiw: Like Royalty in Exile by bart plantenga

Lydia Tomkiw: Like Royalty in Exile “Father warned me that I’d explode and I did.” • Lydia Tomkiw, “Friendly Manifesto” ----

by bart plantenga ---originally appeared in Fringecore 9, which I cannot find anywhere

I first   met   Lydia   Tomkiw   shortly   a4er   Reagan’s   corona:on.   I   was   struck   by   how   her   face   and   words   embodied  that  tenuous  femininity  known  as  tough  fragility  —  a  teacup  balanced  on  a  G-­‐string.  She  could’ve   been  Catwoman’s  stunt  double,  Theda  Bera’s  lost  sister,   or  Sylvia  Plath’s  ghostwriter.   Flickers  of   defiance   flared  up  around  her  robust,   redhaired  countenance  as  she  nego:ated  between   femme  fatale  and  femme   tragique. For   a  long   :me   (in  pop   years),   she  and   ex-­‐husband,   Don   Hedeker,  reigned  as  alt-­‐pop   royalty   as  Algebra   Suicide,  when  “everything   in  this  world  seems  drunk  ...”  and   they  felt  “like  celebri:es  —  we  /  sway   and  the   crowds  scaTer  ...” Before   “Spoken   Word”   or   “Performance   Poetry”   there   was   Algebra  Suicide.   When   their   singles   first   hit   stores   and   radio   sta:ons,   nobody   knew   where   to   s:ck   them:   pop,   alterna:ve,   art   rock,   experimental,   performance  art,  COLLEGE   Alterna:ve?  They  were   almost  all  alone  (the  excellent   Longshoremen  also  come   to  mind).  And  by  the  :me  “Spoken  Word”  became  a  Billboard  chart,  they  were  long  gone. This  began   as  a   “whatever-­‐happened-­‐to”   story   —   a4er   crowds  stop   scaTering,   remembering   or   buying.   Sure,  fame  has  built-­‐in  rewards:  “The  best  part’s  being   recognized.  To  realize  you’re  more’n  just  a   drop  in   the  ocean.  I  once  arrived  in  [NY]  by  bus  and  this  East  Indian  girl,  si`ng  on  her  suitcases  said,  ‘you’re  Algebra   Suicide;  I   saw   you  perform  in  Chicago,’”  remembers  Tomkiw.  But  what  happens  when  you  become  “stuck  to   the  wall,  a  flash  in  the  pan  ...”  Lydia’s  “He’s  Famous  Now”  prognos:ca:ng  her  own  fate:  “if  you  squint  in  the   distance  /  You  can  see  him  lumbering  toward  the  horizon  ...” Fame  harbors   a  virus  called   disposability;  pop   economics   con:nually   (re)manufactures  anxie:es   through   the  perpetually   new;  and,  although  new   is  nothing  new,  those   begging  to  be   considered  alive  today  must   consume  what  flaTers  them   most.  My  job  as  re-­‐revisionist?  Squeeze  “the  human  heart,  so  ugly   yet  exalted”   under  a  microscope  and  look   for  squiggly   signs  of   why  Algebra  Suicide’s  reign  as  poetry  band  emeritus  was   so  long. Tomkiw   hales   from  that   stretched   yawn  of   territory   wedged  between   the   two   coasts,   where   most  great   American  music  —  blues,  jazz,  garage  —  seemingly   emerges  from;  that  vast   social  tundra   of   parking  lots,   where  people  meet  at  stoplights   or   in  7-­‐11   checkout   lines   instead  of   cafes.   America’s  midwest:   haughty   mediocrity,   internalized   terror,   “a   silence   that  ...   eats   holes   in   the  dark,”   —   where   humans   meet   fellow   travelers  between  the  lines  of   each   other’s  journals.  Midwesterners  may  confuse  dreams  for  life  and  vice   versa  —  but  that’s   not  psychosis,  that’s  survival  here  in  Henry  Miller’s  “air-­‐condi:oned  nightmare”  where,   Lydia  no:ces,  “winter  chews  up  my  life.”   Algebra  Suicide’s  first   single,  the  surreal  “True  Romance  at   the  World’s  Fair,”  describes  it  as:   “dog   collared   loneliness  [where]   the   world  is  not   a   wild   place.”   Trenchant   words  pegging   boredom   and  terror   as  high   crimes.   Lydia  “set  out  to   answer   ques:ons”  about  heroic  escape,  reinven:ng  reality  through  impassioned   curiosity;  offering   escape  hatches,  even  decadence  as  a  reprieve  from  everyday  life  where  “there’s  nothing   to  dance  to,  nothing  to  signal  an  impending  good  :me.”  Escape  from  “this  season  [that]  has  numbed  us  like  

a fly   in  an  ice  cube”  comes  in  many  forms  in  her  songs:  you  can   “remove  my  breasts  /  so  I  can   slip   through   the  gates,”  or  become  “chainsaws  under  the  stars.” In  “Recalling  The  Last  Encounter”  she  wants  “to  become  hydraulic:  Hit  the  newsstands!  /  Na:onal  exposure!   Feel  the  world  crawl  into   me  ...”   And  for  awhile  Algebra  Suicide  “hit  the  newsstands.”  I  remember  my  ex-­‐ radio  sta:on,  WFMU  (NY/NJ),  receiving   their  single,  “ True  Romance...”  with  its  clairvoyant  lyricism  swaddled   in  Hedeker’s   post-­‐garage-­‐sonic  gouache,   earnestly   pricking   hearts  like   other   great  songs  of   resistance  to   ennui,  i.e.,  Pa`  Smith  &  Lenny  Kaye’s  “Piss  Factory.” Like   other   divas   of   her   :me   —   Nina   Hagen,   Diamanda   Galas   —   Lydia   resembled   some   late   century   re-­‐“vamp”-­‐ed   mirage  of   ero:c/exo:c   intangibility:   part   BeTy   Page,   part  Dorothy   Parker.   Intrepid   college   radio  listeners  took  her   to  heart,  mind  and  elsewhere  up  the  charts.  Sly  and  seduc:ve,  yet  never  connivingly   brazen   like   Master/Slave  Rela:onship’s  Deborah   Jaffe;   she   seemed   to   dictate  poetry   from   some   mythic   sa:n-­‐sheeted  4-­‐poster.     By  1986,  Algebra  Suicide  was  in  demand  and  described  as  “Joy  Division  with   a  sense  of  humor,”  and  Tomkiw   as   a   “female   Lou   Reed.”   (She   s:ll   likes   that   one.)   Her   wry   self-­‐effacing   wit   and   art   =   fun   convic:on   sweetened   her   s:ng  and  groomed  her  as  a  kinder  Lydia  Lunch,  a  subtler   Pa`  Smith,  a  more  earnest  Laurie   Anderson.   The   daughter   of   Soviet   refugees;   Lydia’s   father   worked   the   US   Steel   mills   while   her   mother   was   a   clothingstore  saleslady  beloved   by  drag   queens  “she  could   dress  to  the  hilt.”   They’d  moved  to   Humboldt   Park,  a   blue  collar   Chicago   neighborhood,  northwest  of   “The   Loop,”  where   white-­‐flight  le4   them   in   the   minority.   “By  the  :me  I  was  13  it  was  overwhelmed  by  gangs  and  violence.  The   park  was  large  and  visually   beau:ful,   but   two   gangs   fought   over   it   as   territory   to   sell   drugs,   guns   ...   Needless   to   say,   I   became   a   ‘housegirl,’  I’d  stay  in  the  house  to  avoid  ge`ng  hurt.”  This  is  where  she  “used  to   get  visions,”  drowning  out   the   dolorous   Slavic   folk   records   her   parents  played   with   Top   40   radio   while  entertaining   various   escape   tac:cs.   Although  feeling   trapped,   Tomkiw   “always  sensed  there  was  a  way   out,  something   bigger   ...   more  loving,   safer   and  fun  and  that   judged  on  effort   and  ideas  rather  than  who  was  stronger  ...  I  think  I  always  knew  to   get  to  that  place  was  through  brains  and  crea:vity.” Guns  were  common   but   most   gangs   preferred   knives  and   “karate  s:cks.”   “When   my   brother   and  I   heard   about  possible  rumbles  —  they  usually  ended  with  stabbings   or  shoo:ngs   —   happening  a4er   school,  we’d   fake  throwing  up  to  leave  early.  I  stayed  on  the  good  side  of  girl  gangs  ...  when  I  was  a  hall  monitor  and  La:n   Queens  came  in  late  with   a  bloody  scalp  or  black  eye,   I’d  look  the  other  way.  By  8th  grade,  drugs,  especially   heroin,  were  everywhere.  Lots  of   the  boys  died  before  finishing  high  school,  and  almost  all  the  girls  dropped   out  because  they  had  kids  some  died  too.  I   think  isola:on  —  countless  hours  listening  to  radio,  watching  TV   —   presented  this  ‘window’  into   other   kinds   of   lives,   that   there  was  something   else  out   there  beside  this   violent   power   struggle  in  this   liTle   neighborhood.   I  dreamed  of   being   on   the   Brady   Bunch  and   having   a   conver:ble   full   of   friends   and   surf   boards   ...   I   also   fell   in   love   with   reading   and   I   wrote   short   pieces,   fantasies  about  having  fun  and  glamour  without  danger.” Chicago   is  the   midwest’s  capital.  Its  glorious  temples  proclaim   the   hegemony  of   venture  capital  but   they   house   no   one;   meanwhile   most   Chicagoans   reside   in   ramshackle   :nderboxes   in   drab   neighborhoods.   Chicago’s  major   byproduct   is  corrup:on   and   biggest   export   may   be  crea:ve   types.   Those  who   survived   fused   their   resolve,   bought   guitars,   stole   books,   kept   journals,   ploTed   escapes   —   metaphysically,   psychotropically   or  physically,   if  not  all  three.  Jerome  Sala,  Carl  Watson,  Bob  Rosenthal,  Barbara  Barg,  David   Sedaris,  Rollo  Whitehead,  Jim  Feast,  Deborah  Pintonelli,  Sharon  Mesmer,  and  many   others  emigrated,  like   Hemingway,  Lardner,  Dreiser,  Sandburg,  Wright,  Farrell  and  Algren  before  them.  Most  never  returned.   Tomkiw  considers  poetry  her  life  blood  “because  no  one   ever  listened   to  me  un:l   I  started  wri:ng;”  words   nego:ate,  if  not  alter,  reali:es.  She  remembers  being  singled  out  in  primary  school:  “My  2nd  grade  teacher   saw   my   crea:vity,   and   while   other  students   did   penmanship,   she’d   take   me  to  the  back   with   paper   and   paints  and  tell  me  to  ‘go   for   it’.  It  was  heaven.  She  also   sensed  I  could  write.  I  wrote  my  first  poem   in  her  

class, and  about  15  years  ago,  she  mailed  it  to  me  —  ‘Why  My  Father  Should  be  Father  of  the  Year.’  That  she   kept  it  since  1967  was  touching.  If  even  one  person  believes  in  you,  you  have  gravy.” “In  [high  school]  I  discovered  Gerard  Manley  Hopkins  —  a  priest  who  wrote  like  wild  and  could  almost  make   me   cry.   I   took   [his]   clue  —   you   can   name   things   that   have   never   been   named   before  and   write   about   them  ...  Bill  KnoT,  Frank   O’Hara,  are  major  influences  ...  Pa`  Smith,  Lou  Reed,  too.”  She  kept  wri:ng,  and  at   the   University  of   Illinois  “the  love  of  language  took  over  ...  I  wrote  and  wrote  and  found  out  I  was  good.  Or   else  I  got  convinced  I  was.” She  met  Hedeker  in  mid-­‐1980.  Don  was  twanging  guitar  in  his  band,  the  Trouble  Boys,  in  Jamey’s  Elsewhere,   a  dive  owned   by   an   ex-­‐stripper   “where  you’re   more   likely   to   find   a   cockroach   in   your   drink   than   meet   anyone  date-­‐able,”  There  were  5  people  in  the  audience  that  night  and  only  one  was  female  —  Lydia. A4er   the  gig,   Don   offered   her   a  ride  home,   saving   her   from   the   lecherous   advances  of   a   fellow   band   member.   Lydia   invited   Don   to   a   poetry   reading.   Don,   arriving   late   to   avoid   feeling   out   of   place,   complimented  her  poetry   that  evening  because,  Lydia  noted,  “he’d  heard  it  was  good.”  They   began  da:ng  in   July  1980,  married  in  1981,  shortly  a4er  his  new  band,  the  Psycho  Capones,  fell  apart.   But  he  never  stopped  strumming  his  guitar.  One  night   she  got   the  idea  to   “get  my  poetry  out  and  see  what   happens.”  She  sat  down  and   began  reci:ng  to  his  :nkering.  It  clicked,  and  a4er  bickering  about  what  to  call   themselves,   Don   gallantly   li4ed   “Algebra   Suicide”   from   “Last   Encounter”:   “:ght   clouds   that   wriggle  like   Army  worms:  a  form  of  Algebra  Suicide  ...”   Although  Lydia  o4en  dreamt  of  rock  stardom  she  knew  she  was  no  nigh:ngale;  she  wasn’t   even  allowed  to   sing   in  church  choirs.  On  later   discs  you   can  hear  Lydia’s  deadpan  twang  lured  into   singing  by  Don’s  Orphic   harmonies.   But   Lydia  usually   came   to   her   senses  and   out   of   considera:on   for   others,   kept   her   words   unsung,  refusing  that  goopy  realm  where  poems  mutate  into  lyrics/poetry-­‐lite. Don   played   his  Les   Paul   in   the   raggedly   concise  NY   style  —   Branca,   Verlaine,   Thunders   —   cloning   their   distorted  textures,  while  minimizing  Lydia’s  vocal  limita:ons.  Lydia  describes  it  as  an  “integra:on  of   text  and   music.”  But  it’s  more  like  a  forced  handshake,   or  unresolved  sibling  rivalry   because  some:mes  the  music   contradicted  her  poe:c  deadpan  perched  between   recita:on  and  song   —  her   A’s  opening  up  to   AH,  as  in   “blAAAAAAHnds,”  verbally  mimicking   the  flaaaaatness  of  the  plains,  digging  deep  furrows  along  the  way.  In   “LiTle  Dead   Bodies”   (their   1983  cult  hit)  Don’s  lovely  Velvets’  shimmer  avoids  her   morbid   preoccupa:ons   with   “100   pounds  of   flesh   about   to   go  bad,”   —  call   it   accommoda:ng   tensions,  to-­‐and-­‐fro,  Romulus  and   Remus,  John  and  Yoko  ...  Imagine  LoTe  Lenya  (also  a  nonsinger)  due:ng  with  Thurston  Moore.   Four  :mes  a  week  they’d  drive  to  Don’s  dad’s  garage,  where  they’d  knock  back  ideas,  sounds  and  huge  cans   of   Foster’s   Lager   deep  into   the  night,   huddled   around   a   spaceheater,  with   a  “piss  bucket”   in   the   corner.   “When   the  beer  was  gone  we   were  done,   although  some:mes  we’d  hang   out,  play  cover   versions   and  I’d   threaten  to  sing  Rolling  Stones  or  punk  stuff.” Algebra   Suicide   first   played   at   soirees;   their   first   paying   gig   was   the   University   of   Chicago   auditorium.   Excluding   friends,   most   early   audiences   were  totally   bewildered.  In   6  months  they   had   22   songs.   At  this   point  “we  grew  antsy,   asking  ourselves  ‘what’re  we  doing  this  for?’”  They  produced   their  first  2   EPs  on  a  4-­‐ track,  one  take  each;  sent  out  over  200  promos  to  radio  sta:ons  and  were  ready  to  release  their   first  album,   The  Secret  Like  Crazy.  At  this  point,  I  thought  I  was  listening  to  the  sequel  to  Coal  Miner’s  Daughter.   They   con:nued   working   separately;   she   never   waxing   poe:c   to   his   composi:ons   and   vice   versa.   Meanwhile,  Lydia  read  in  the  poetry   scene  which  “was  in  such  a  lull  that  it  was  hard  to  kick  anything  over.”   Then  a  bar  everyone  forgets   the  name  of  held  the  first  boxing   match-­‐style  poetry  event  and   arguably,  the   Poetry  Slam   —  for  beTer  or  worse  —  was  born.  Subsequent  “protoslams”  began  happening  in  Tut’s  where   they  built  a  boxing   ring   in   which  poets  would   pound  out  pugilis:c  poe:cs,  punchline  for  punchline.   Local   Chicago  newspaper  journalists  served  as  judges.  It  lasted  four  matches  before  organizer  Al   Simmons  took   the  “protoslams”  to  New  Mexico.  

Lydia’s first  appearance   was  against  a  nude  photo-­‐model.  She  lost.  But  defeat  offered  instruc:on:  her   hack   opponent’s  “self-­‐proclaimed  poetry”  made  Lydia  realize  quality  had  nothing   to  do  with   this   racket.   Today   we’re  beholden  to  the  no:on  that   marke:ng  solves  all  problems  —  including   ones  of  quality.  Poetry  slams   fit  right  in,   serving  as  literature’s   auxiliary   marke:ng  medium,   with  a   game   show  parody   format  that  best   serves  people  whose  a`tudes  masquerade  as  philosophies,  and  opinions  masquerade  as  ideas. In   1984,  Mark  Smith  modified  the  Slam  concept  to   its  present  format  at  the  Green  Mill  Lounge.  Chicago’s   intrepid   verse-­‐maven,   Bob  Holman,   would   later   carry  the  slam  virus  East,  to   NY’s  Nuyorican   Poet’s  Cafe,   where   it   inf(l)ected   en:re   genera:ons   of   poe:c   kine:cs   at   around   the   same   :me   the   crack   epidemic   emerged.  Meanwhile,  to  Lydia  slams  were   like  “a  thousand  canaries   engaged  in  one-­‐upmanship.”  Tomkiw   was  too   busy   anyway,   working   full:me   at   Columbia  College,   going   to   grad   school,   band   rehearsals  plus   managing  the  business  end. Their   early   singles   set   performance   standards:   clearly-­‐enunciated   poetry   way   forward   of   seduc:ve   backingtrax.   Lydia’s  :niest   preoccupa:ons  opened  up  immense  worlds   underneath,   like  fanciful  “what-­‐if”   sonograms  probing   the   incongrui:es  inherent  in  our  dominant   culture.   In  “Praxis”:  “An   unborn   baby   will   press  its  face  up  /   against  it’s   mother’s  womb,  thinking   it   a  window.   /  It  must  be  why  children  look   like  /   Distor:ons   of   their   parents.”  Her   obsessions  —   flesh,   mortality,   escape   —   became   palpable  reveries.   In   “LiTle   Dead   Bodies”   Lydia   theologically   pursued   the   body–soul   split   —   deciding   suicides   are   impolite   because   “there’s   something   le4   for   someone   else   to   clean   up.”   She   contemplates   her   own,   politer   departure:  “convenient,  leaving  no  mess,  as  if   vaporized  while  taking   a  shower,  as  if   I  moved  to  Antarc:ca,   leaving  no  forwarding  address.” In   the  late  ’80s  Tomkiw  performed  with  her  naugh:er  doppelgänger,  Lydia  Lunch,  at  Chicago’s   Club  Lower   Links   —   the   performance   was   called   “Lydia2.”   But   somehow,   they’d   reached   a   lull,   the   ini:al   high   evapora:ng   —   “then   nothing   nothing   nothing.”  Then,   just   as   despair   was   descending,   they   received   “a   miraculous   call   ouTa   nowhere”   from   the   German   label,   DOM,   and   then   three   days   later   from   the   MassachuseTs  label,  RRR,  and  Secret  was  born,  followed  by  Real  Numbers.   Trouser   Press   named   “True   Romance”   one   of   the  best  indie   singles   of   the   last   10   years;   a4er   editor   Ira   Robbins   called   with  the  news  they   danced   dervishly   around   their   apartment.  It   also  appeared   on  ROIR’s   Best  American  Underground  compila:on.   They  made  many  other  “Best-­‐of”  lists  —  including  the  Sun  Times   and  OpGons  —  many  profiles  and  radio  interviews  followed.  In  1987,  they  were  nominated  for  a  Grammy  in   the   new   “Spoken   Recordings”   category.   The   Trouser   Press   Record   Guide   went   so   far   as   to   wonder:   “Is   Algebra  Suicide  on  the  verge  of   finding   a  way  to  infiltrate  the  mainstream?”   They  were  feeling  the  queasy-­‐ ecsta:c  rumblings  of  something  about  to  explode.   A4er  a  CD-­‐release  party   for  Real  Numbers  where  Big  Black’s  bassist,  Dave  Riley,  jammed  with  them   on  stage   in   1988,   they   began   touring,   venturing   away   from   home,   stretching   their   repertoire   —   Cleveland,   PiTsburgh,  NY  and  points  east.  In  Greensboro,  NC,  they  “basically  played  for  the  mice  and  roaches”  at  this   Chinese  Restaurant/club  —  nobody  showed.  The  road’s  humility  schooling  had  begun. Undaunted,  they   “got  ambi:ous”  and  arranged  a  15-­‐city  European  tour,  in  1990.  They  designed  installa:ons   and   post-­‐hallucinogenic  painted  slides.  But  as  early  as  their  first  gig   in   Munich,  Lydia  began  sensing   that  all   was  not  right.  She,  for   instance,  thought  the  concert  went  spectacularly  while  Don  was  so  upset  for  missing   a  few  notes,  he  took  to  smashing  his  guitar  backstage.   They  played   Antwerp’s  suburbs,  Düsseldorf  and   Köln,  where  fans  sang   along,   and  Bordeaux,   where  stage-­‐ edge  fans  yelled,  “‘LEEdia,  we  love  yOO!’”  Glowing  reviews   and  feeling   ...   appreciated,  especially  because   “people  didn’t  even  always  understand   the  language   but   s:ll   they  loved   us.  This  does  plenty   to  alleviate   depression  when  you  realize  life’s  more’n  just  survival.”   In  Paris,   where  I  lived  at  the  :me,  they  played   the   recordstore-­‐cavern,  EPE,  Établissement   Phonographique   de   l’Est,   and  there  I   witnessed  their  efficiently   inspiring   show  firsthand.   White   costumes  converted   them   into  scrims  catching  the  abstract   paTerns,   disembodying  their  stage-­‐presence,  as  parts  of  them  melted  into   the  background  and  forced  the  audience  to  find  and  then  reassemble  them  over  and  over  on  stage.  

Back home,   in   1991,   the   beloved   ramshackle   Club   Lower   Links   was   going   bankrupt.   Lydia   and   several   partners  bought  it.  Lydia  did  bookings,  helped  organize  readings  and,  of  course,  Algebra  Suicide  performed   there.  They  were  si`ng  preTy  at  that  scene’s  epicenter.   By   the   :me  their   1991   European   tour   reached   Paris,  Tomkiw   was  mastering   the   performer’s   art   of   self-­‐ imposed  trances  “like   ge`ng  high  on  automa:c   pilot.”  She  thought  they   were  hi`ng  their   stride:   fun  and   success  merging.  “ They  were  working   vaca:ons.  In   Europe  they  put  you  up,  feed  you,  appreciate  you.”  But,   the   limelight   that   gloriously   jus:fies  living   also   contains   a  performer’s   undoing.   Their   11-­‐year   marriage   began   unraveling,   the   1992   tour   never   materialized   and   by   1993   they   divorced.   While   Don   became   a   university   sta:s:cs   professor,   Lydia,   who’d   put   so   much   into   this,   refused   to   believe   it   was   over.   She   persevered,   sold   her   share  of   Lower   Links  to   avoid   losing   even   more  money,   and  when  Tongue   TwisGng   appeared,  Algebra  Suicide  toured  again  —  a  painful  experience. Summer  1993:  she  doggedly   began  recording  material  with  other   producers  she  respected,  like  Edward  Ka-­‐ Spel  &  the  Legendary  Pink  Dots.  Incorporated,  the  collec:on  of  post-­‐Hedeker  produced  poems,   is  her  swan   song  cum  escape  from  Don’s  signature  sound.  But  it   s:ll  sounds  like  Algebra  Suicide;  Lydia’s  smart  poetry   lunging  out  of  rich  atmospherics  like  a  bee  emerging  from  a  flower,  full  of  nectar.   Incorporated  however,  fell  on  deaf   ears.  In   1994  she  fled  ghost-­‐ridden  Chicago  for   NY  where  she  dealt  with   self-­‐doubt,  anonymity,   survival.  She  couldn’t  sleep,  couldn’t  stop  the  thinking  with  drinking,  couldn’t  absorb   NY’s   insistent  distrac:ons.   She  was  “scrambling   for   any  job   to   pay   the  bills,”   going   from  temp   agency   to   endless  interviews  and  typing  tests.  She   was  either  overqualified  or   not  sprightly  enough   for   office   jobs.  “I   had  recurring  stomach  viruses  and  horrible  headaches  —  I  think  it  was  psychosoma:c.”   Other   tragedies   followed:   a   dog   aTacked   her   in   her   East   Village  apartment   hallway,   requiring   some  70   s:tches.  Then,  one  night   she   heard  rustling,  turned   on   a  light,  and   there  she  was,  face-­‐to-­‐face  with   a  rat.   She  eventually  stalked  and  killed  it  with  a  hammer  to  the  head  in  her  bathtub.   She  seemed   to   stop   wri:ng   but  never  stopped  telling  people  she  was.  She’s  survived  this  slump   and  is  again   “wri:ng  like  mad  but  I’m  scared.  Wri:ng  makes  me  feel  worthwhile  ...  If  I  was  told   I  could  never  write  again,   I’d  be  a   shell  of   a  person.  I  can’t  understand   why   brilliant   people  I  embraced   don’t  write  anymore  ...  but   then  again,  I  sort  of  know  why.” She’s  working   on  a  novel.  “Ugly  Kids   is  about  4  friends  who  grew  up  in  dysfunc:onal  families  and  eventually   made  something  of   themselves.  They  cover  up  their  insecuri:es  with   obsessions.  One’s  enslaved  to   drink,   another   sex,   another   shopping   and   another   success.”   Her   novel   promises   to   illuminate   the   muddled   complexi:es  of   the   contemporary  heart.  I’m  wai:ng  for  the  completed  manuscript  in   the  mail.  I’m  certain   it’ll  contain  her  many  “worlds  that  worry  god.”

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Lydia Tomkiw: Royalty in Exile  

Article originally published in FRINGECORE 9 in 2000

Lydia Tomkiw: Royalty in Exile  

Article originally published in FRINGECORE 9 in 2000

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