The first lines of the Author’s Note in Derek McCormack’s new book Judy Blame’s Obituary: Writings on Fashion and Death state simply:
“Fagginness is what I write about. I focus on things that fags love: fashion and death. Think about it: all fags wear fashions—I’m wearing some! And all fags love death—I’m dying!”
In 2012, McCormack was diagnosed with cancer, and given five years to live. Ten years later, he has released a collection of essays, spanning his career and focusing of his work in fashion, and ruminations on death—two subjects which seamlessly intermingle in McCormack’s world.
Published by Pilot Press, a young, independent publisher based in London, UK, Judy Blame’s Obituary marks McCormack’s thirteenth published book since his first in 1996. Its title refers back to an obituary McCormack wrote—originally appearing in Artforum—for the legendary UK-based designer, stylist and fashion icon Judy Blame. Blame passed away tragically in 2018, leaving an immense cavity in the world of British fashion, after serving as a source of vital inspiration to the author and creative people internationally.
McCormack credits the torment of growing up as a young homosexual in a rural Northern Ontario town as the driving force behind his work. The disgust directed at him by the general public is a two-way street. In his work, he documents the palpable disdain directed towards him by normals, jocks and filthy heterosexuals—a disdain he continues to gleefully savour in his often confrontational, yet consistently humorous work.
The new book steps away format-wise from his novels of late, such as 2015’s The Well Dressed Wound, and most recently, the concept-heavy, scatological sick-fest that is 2020’s Castle Faggot, both via avant-academic American publisher Semiotext(e).
McCormack’s books unfold like the mirror mazes he describes encountering on the fairgrounds of his youth: warped, horrific and hilarious.
His world is populated by glamorous ghouls, fanged fashionistas, and of course, haunted hillbillies. In this world, Dracula, a life-long love and frequent character in McCormack’s work, somehow comfortably inhabits the same space as the ghost of country legend Hank Williams.
McCormack’s preoccupation with death may come off as macabre, which of course it is, but his delivery of all things deadly is a type of sinister slapstick, filled with wordplay and vaudevillian folly. He’s the goth haunting the halls of the old school.
Judy Blame’s Obituary serves as a totem to the writer’s history not only in regards to his work, but forms an inadvertent autobiographical portrait of the author himself.
We sat down to chat with McCormack about how the book came together, and how it feels to unexpectedly and simultaneously mourn and celebrate his work up until now.
Read the full Q&A after the jump!