Monday, September 28, 2009

"What's It About?"

Whenever I'm socializing and someone mentions I wrote a novel, the inevitable question "what's it about?" arises, and I never have a good answer. Frustrated, I decided to type out the whole conversation I always have later in my head, when I'm saying I should have said...And what I've done with it is put it in 8 pt. font so it fits on a single page, print out copies, carry a couple in my wallet, and when someone asks...So far I've given three away...

How would you describe Smoke and So It Seams?

As apocalyptic, magically real, eco-political-economic-post-future-SciFi-psychological-horror novels in the ecstatic mode. Where the first seems minimal, the second seems maximal. Together they form a kind of disequilibrium that seems to be trying, I hope, to maintain itself in ether and print. They’re informed by chaos theory, string theory, M-theory, deep ecology and my own alienated experiences. In other words, I imagine them as rather comical.

What are they about?

Smoke is about the incineration of de facto American ideals like the pursuit of happiness at a time of peak everything. The old forms of joy no longer deliver. What does one do about it? And then, how is one treated by those who support the status quo whenever one pursues their happiness in an alternative, untraditional way. It also displaces the human being from the center of textual reality in favor of something infinitely larger and smaller and more complex…something like “God” as Nature’s ego function, which allows for shapeshifting once one’s precise seam within the flow of things is discovered. The patterns of smoke seem to represent our phase space trajectories’ patterns, that is to say there seems to be a recursive symmetry informing the way human lives take shape, and the “writer” of these forms is most likely non-human, or beyond human, or sur-homo, or meta-sapient or something…some divine It wise enough to keep Its ego out of Its own way…

So It Seams continues in this vein, with some characters from Smoke appearing here as well, suggesting an overlapping of multiple worlds vis a vis intertextuality. The novel’s final words, “God’s mistakes seam this world, or not,” sum up the general idea that consciousness evolves [sews/stitches/sutures/seams] via error…and that error is perhaps a form/type/aspect/dimension of natural selection…and that these errors or flaws allow for the individualities within seemingly infinite patterns, and rather than being grotesque it’s actually an arabesque, which is to say rather than being ugly mistakes they are aesthetic. So It Seams is an arabesque techno-fetishization of cosmic error highlighting the crises of our perceptions as we seek the beautiful…an enlightenment of the Enlightenment…a neo-meta-enlightenment, perhaps…enlightenment as a movement toward Calvino’s idea of lightness and away from brainiac radiation, maybe…I’m digressing into aesthetics, at war against the ugly, which ironically seams the point…or particle-wavelength…

How do you account for the religiosity of these two novels, especially So It Seams?

By my long-time feeling that the old myths, as Joseph Campbell once said, no longer worked and that if the human superorganism is to continue evolving, new myths will takeover. One can’t stop this from happening. It’s something deeply programmed into us on the species level. Individually, we may debate the old myths, believe in Jesus, make choices, etc., but the number of compromises we have to make to continue existing in a world that no longer reflects the challenges those religions faced in surviving make new beliefs emerge. The traditional forms of Abraham’s beliefs make less and less sense as time goes on. New myths emerge from our dreams to take their place. Federman writes somewhere that he’s not a spiritual medium, but an artistic medium. The artist who knows his ego gets in the way of the larger work of allowing the subconscious mind to express itself, to find its human form without repression—much like an ideal democracy that overthrows its despotic leaders who formed then functioned as the political system’s ego—will be a conduit for these forms so they can appear in whatever medium the artist is working in. You channel a zeitgeist, a universe of forms, through the shape of your human mind, and hopefully what appears on the expressed end is something conveying some kind of vibrating multiplicity forming oneness to another human being. Someone once said that consciousness plus meaning equals spirituality. As I search for new meanings in this mess of a world, new and old meanings come and go through the course of time. The novel is an extended form of this passage and the shear accrual of the comings [sic] and goings [sic] of these meanings may take on the vestige of something spiritual over the course of the novel, which is too often mistaken for religious. For me, religion is the institutionalization of “God.” Spirituality seems about setting “It” free. The spirit is a holy thing and anything that provides meaning to what we experience feels sacred, relatively speaking. That said, if one were to read The Tibetan Book of the Dead, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, The Book of Revelation [from a Marxist perspective], Black Elk Speaks and Thoreau [all of it, including a couple good bios], one might get a feel for where I’m coming from with regards to the holy spirit.

What about all the sex?

It’s impossible to do what I’m trying to do in my work without much of it taking a sexual form. The essence of our shared membrane of reality is friction, it’s this rubbing up against that makes the world go round, that psychologically torques us…and there’s nothing like sex to reveal just how small a role the “ego” plays in all the really really big stuff in our lives. Something much deeper and bigger makes us approach each other with stirrings in our loins…Sex is also rather funny and ridiculous and violent and absurd and pathetic…There’s nothing quite like two people humping as Rome burns…and it’s perfectly natural to do so. Why? What’s reason or ego got to do with it? Sex is very spiritual because its meaning is beyond reason, and we get that meaning, whether we like it or not, every time we have sex with something capable of having sex itself. Take that where you may or where you will. That’s part of the psychological horror and, I hope, comedy of my fiction: the ways sexual acts recurse themselves throughout every situation…this seems maybe some kind of pan-sexuality akin to Freud, a truly frictional fiction, though I hope not too much.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reading This Saturday at Western New York Book Arts Center

Nathan Graziano, Ted Pelton (Starcherone Press), and Chuck Richardson (BlazeVOX) will read at the Western New York Book Arts Center, 468 Washington St., Buffalo, this Saturday, October 3, as part of the closing reception for the exhibition Writing Pictures. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Five Postulations [as if I were some big time philosopher or literary theorist or something]:

1. A common recursion functions across scale, aspect, dimension whenever cognition seams together a membrane.
2. This common recursion is Itself a complex system, exhibiting the same interior functions as its exterior functionality…certain necessary “flaws” excepted.
3. Language is an aspect of this recursion, reflecting the same interior symbols as its exterior symbology…certain initial “misunderstandings” excepted.
4. Grammar is Karma is Mind—Each standing for something else like it in every direction, signifying transdimensional ripples in its signified aspects…certain aesthetic bifurcations seaming, understood.
5. We exist as the seemingly necessary flaws and effects of this universe’s cognitive aspect.

Watching the film Pi inspired this short list. This complex statement totals 216 letters, the sum postulation comprises 144 words exactly, averaging nearly 3.14 obligatory words per clause…


I’d like to thank Thieves Jargon for publishing a piece of my short fiction, “I Love You, Too, Sweetheart.” It’s a tender tale about the tales we tale our chirren. God bless us all.

And a special thanks to Geoffrey Gatza, publisher of BlazeVox[books], for agreeing to publish my next novel, So It Seams, sometime next year. Geoffrey’s the bravest publisher I can think of, a bona fide ubermensch of contemporary American literature…a working person’s book-maker and one of the best poets out there…or in here inside the internets.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Summer Reading/Autumn Writing: The Afterlife, or something like it…

One hasn’t found the singular until s/he’s discovered its in-forming complex system. That’s something I knew but found out all over again recently when trying to write a review of Joshua Cohen’s A Heaven of Others, which, if accepted, might appear in the next issue of Mayday Magazine.

How to boil the novel down not just in words but to the very essence of “my” reading of it proved, as it always does with writing I love, an obsession. My late Aunt Cookie used to collect art she called “conversation pieces.” They made people discuss them, and by discussing them begin discussing themselves. When I read a really good book, the same thing begins happening inside my head, and more often than not I end up in a different mental place than I was before.

Examples that come to mind: reading Slaughterhouse Five in 1983 on patrol aboard a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine; reading On The Road on acid in community college in 1985 while taking a basic composition class so I’d have a chance at succeeding at that academic level; reading Naked Lunch poolside while broke and unemployed in Van Nuys; reading the rest of Kerouac and Joseph Campbell while living in Hollywood, Ca., living on Greenpeace income; reading Samuel Beckett and Robbe-Grillet and John Hawkes while studying under Federman at UB; reading Walden while working a temp job in customer service at Cell One; reading Underworld while driving a taxi on winter nights in a small, depressed town; reading Gravity’s Rainbow and 100 Years of Solitude in the throes of creative dyspepsia, working overnights in a group home.

Reading Cohen’s novel hasn’t precipitated or coincided with a particularly dramatic period in my life, or changed my way of thinking—nor has it left it unchanged [nor is this a particularly un-dramatic time in my life]. Yet it’s a deep novel with complex mythological twists that took me nearly two weeks of writing to have something readable with quite a few footnotes [as a means of suggesting the internal conversation and struggle A Heaven of Others inspired]. I went to the trouble not only because the novel merits the effort and a friend asked me for something, but because it seems to fall in with a few other novels either published or about to be published with a similar flavor, one I find as having great appeal for imaginative writers of a, perhaps, delightfully morbid ilk: the afterlife or something like it. These novels seem to be emerging from the idea that something is dead or dying, yet life will continue. The sense seems to be that things are changing in ways that we can only begin imagining. These novels all seem to focus on what the perceiver of this situation might do or think…how they might come to terms with their own death, and by extension, perhaps, the dying of their species. They seam philological searches for what to do, what not to do, of how to be properly concerned for one’s self at a time of peak everything…if one’s self actually exists as a singular, which leads back to the first sentence: One hasn’t found the singular until s/he’s discovered its in-forming complex system. It’s not what we say or write; it’s “how” we say or write. These are novels examining the seaming dynamic at the root of speaking, a self-aware speaking in the face of death. All the works I’m talking about seek themselves out amidst complex conversations, discovering in the process not only how they are voices but voicing us, humankind, and how we’re all facing…

In the months ahead I plan to write and publish, and if not publish, post here, reviews of Goro Takano’s soon-to-be-released With One More Step Ahead, Raymond Federman’s The Carcasses, Lance Olsen’s Nietzsche’s Kisses and Donald Breckenridge’s You Are Here [not necessarily in that order]. Then I’ll have an essay about them if I can sort things out well enough.

Stay tuned [if you’re interested]…and may the conversation begin :))) [I'm double-chinned].