Monday, September 15, 2008

Camp Concentration 002 - Notes on Camp

(First hardcover edition, 1968)

I notice that the usual English name for prisoner camps, like those maintained by the Nazis in WW II, is “concentration camp”, not “camp concentration”. The former suggest “a camp which is used to concentrate a number of people in a single place”. The latter, “a concentration, i.e., a large density of… camp”.

What is “camp”? The first thing that comes to mind, as “camp”, is the aesthetic of everything artificial, exaggerated, effeminate – movies like The Rocky Horror Show and Barbarella, and everything pop that also borders on kitsch.

This is not (I believe) the case of Camp Concentration. But in 1966, two years before Disch’s novel, Susan Sontag published her essay “Notes on Camp”, in which she gives a list of “items which are part of the canon of Camp”. The list includes such SF mainstays as the King Kong film by Cooper & Schoedsack and the Flash Gordon comics by Alex Raymond. She also mentions “Japanese science fiction films (Rodan, The Mysterians, The H-Man) because, in their relative unpretentiousness and vulgarity, they are more extreme and irresponsible in their fantasy - and therefore touching and quite enjoyable.”

I don’t think I ever read any comments by Disch on his novel; maybe he has already discussed the book from this angle (maybe just to dismiss this theory as preposterous). But…

QUOTE: “Write it as though you were trying to explain to someone outside this… camp… what was happening to you”. (CC, p. 22, June 3 entry)

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