Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, new edition
432 pp., 5 x 8 in,
- Published: April 26, 2022
- Published: April 26, 2022
The first collected edition of legendary writer, actress, and adventurer Cookie Mueller's stories, featuring the entire contents of her 1990 book Walking through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, alongside more than two dozen others, some previously unpublished.
Legendary as an underground actress, female adventurer, and East Village raconteur, Cookie Mueller's first calling was to the written word: "I started writing when I was six and have never stopped completely," she once confessed. Mueller's 1990 Walking through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, the first volume of the Semiotext(e) Native Agents series, was the largest collection of stories she compiled during her life. But it presented only a slice of Mueller's prolific work as a writer. This new, landmark volume collects all of Mueller's stories: from the original contents of Clear Water, to additional stories discovered by Amy Scholder for the posthumous anthology Ask Dr. Mueller, to selections from Mueller's art and advice columns for Details and the East Village Eye, to still "new" stories collected and published here for the first time. Olivia Laing's new introduction situates Mueller's writing within the context of her life—and our times.
Thanks to recent documentaries like Mallory Curley's A Cookie Mueller Encyclopedia and Chloé Griffin's oral biography Edgewise, Mueller's life and work have been discovered by a new generation of readers. Walking through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black: Collected Stories returns essential source material to these readers, the archive of Mueller's writing itself. Mueller's many mise en scènes—the Baltimore of John Waters, post-Stonewall Provincetown, avant-garde Italy, 1980s New York, an America enduring Reagan and AIDS—patches together a singular personal history and a primer for others. As Laing writes in her introduction, Collected Stories amounts to "a how-to manual for a life ricocheting joyously off the rails... a live corrective to conformity, conservatism, and cruelty."
Cookie Mueller wrote like a lunatic Uncle Remus—spinning little stories from Hell that will make any reader laugh out loud. She was a writer, a mother, an outlaw, an actress, a fashion designer, a go-go dancer, a witch doctor, an art-hag, and above all, a goddess. Boy, do I miss that girl.
People fall in love with Cookie when they read her stories (I loved her first!). As she did, the stories move through different worlds, from heavy drug use to writing a health column (at the same time); from go-go dancing to art criticism to film and theater acting, from boyfriends and girlfriends to S&M and marriage, etc., etc., etc. With Cookie there was no boundary between hersef and her writings. Which isn't to say she didn't work hard on her stories—she did, the same way she worked on her hair. She was a matchless beautician of the word.
Richard Hell, author of I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tram
Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black is a cult classic for writers... the reissue's new (to us) pieces demonstrate Mueller's artistic process. They also map out her singular approach to life.
Mueller's unflappability, her refusal of stasis and self-pity, her hunger for beauty, her readiness to find it where few else would look—all of it adds up into a singular code for living, in which the worst thing a person could do is flinch.
The New Yorker
Her chronicles of the last days of American countercultural life New York's downtown scene bursts with energy.
It's not just the stories that are exciting, it's the revelation they contain—that we might allow such wildness to stumble on to our own paths, even just for an afternoon. I love her for reminding me, with gentle pressure between the lines, to go out tonight, to see what happens, to live a little harder.
Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, a newly expanded collection of her complete stories (some true, some not, some in between), provides many opportunities to fall in love with Mueller.
Los Angeles Times
Every art writer girl in New York wishes she was Cookie Mueller, even if she doesn't know it. Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, published after Mueller died in 1989, collected the essays and short stories of the woman beloved from the Haight-Ashbury to Mudd Club to Capri. Semiotext(e)'s reissue, out April 26, more than doubles the text, including her Dr. Mueller advice column, a novella, and four recently discovered, previously unpublished works. It is a guidebook for a life lived freely but with care, fleeting but sublime. If a vibe shift toward hedonism is real, then total surrender to adventure—as in, not just taking pictures of friends smoking cigarettes inside, but actually breaking the rules—should be the blueprint.
I love Mueller the actress, but I return to Mueller the writer. Her writing makes me feel the way many of her contemporaries did about her: hypnotized by the generosity she afforded others and how quickly she found humanity in mayhem.
Cookie's writing is like hearing American slang echo in the marble halls of a Florentine museum. Every sound is magnified. And there's no room for squares. Read her for all the drugs you'll never take, for all the people you'll never fuck. Read her as a reminder to seek out those beyond the church gate, the artists, alley dwellers, and freaks. She will take you for a ride on her Moto Guzzi and crush you with the will to live.
Los Angeles Review of Books