Monday, 25 January, 2021 in Book Reviews, Books

Into Books: An appreciation of David Keenan

Book: Xstabeth
Author: David Keenan
Publisher: White Rabbit Books

Xstabeth – An appreciation of the work of David W. Keenan by George Paterson (SR|SIF) DPsych – Incomplete

By 1994, I was in the deepest sleep. I’d made it my business to experiment at that time so maybe I wasn’t dreaming at all. It didn’t feel like sin either. I took a holiday to St Petersburg and met with two old friends; Grigori, an infamous, imposing, self-styled sexual mystic with the eyes of a bear and the infamouser Bobby, a wise fool whose constant flailing and spinning acted as a distraction from the uncomfortable truth that he may or may not have featured on the recordings that made his ‘name’. We sat in the park looking out towards the Gulf of Finland and drank vodka and Imperial stout. While Bobby danced, Grigori drew his knife and told the story.

On a green oak by the sea, a learned cat walks back and forth on a gold chain. When the cat walks to the right, he sings – to the left he tells stories. David Keenan is one far out cat, Grigori said. He first heard that voice at a book reading, drawing a bourgeois crowd of vegan Drakeists out of their cosy lilac time and into a state of hypnotic, lustful paralysis with tales of Belfast, bloodied sex and Perry Como.

Keenan disappeared soon after before returning with an incantation about the town we were in.

Xstabeth wasn’t real, said Grigori with some certainty. I have the record. I’ll play it for you later. She was a God, replied Bobby. Or a muse. A dead soul, tricked by the devil. The devil does not exist, said Grigori. She just God with a gun. The baby was real though, right? Grigori didn’t answer.

You should look him up when you get home. He might golf.

I returned to Scotland and feverishly read everything that Keenan had ever written. Pushkin eloping with Gray while Nabakov bust a fat nut over David Peace. I became a devotee, keenly studying his work, his style and his rhythms. He was truly Sui generis; a class of his own. By the time, I found the courage to approach him, he was already gone. They say it was suicide but that’s what they said about my friends Grigori and Bobby, both of whom died in St Petersburg on the very same day, December 30th, ninety-four years apart. I wasn’t there. There was so much I wanted to ask him about Xstabeth. Like, where the fuck did Jaco go? Perhaps he was Tomasz and Aneliya was her own mother? Then that would make the child Aneliya herself? No. One finger good, three is the rapture? In time, I’d learn to live with my own interpretation.

So every night, just before I sink into my own dense haar,  I say my prayers and I think of my wife and my children. But I dream of Xstabeth. Because if you believe in magick, sometimes, out of nowhere, the truth might drop, like a Penfold Heart on a grey Perthshire day.

Xstabeth by David Keenan, published by White Rabbit books and is available from, The Portobello Bookstore and a host of reputable independent retailers.

George Paterson

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