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.


  1. Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?

  2. Thanks, sf...No, I'm not familiar with this version. I have an edition from Mystical Classics of the World translated by Barbara Stoler Miller. When I was at UB 20 years ago, I had another copy for a course on Eastern civilization. I had that for years, it was all marked up, then disappeared during a move. I got the one I have now for a good price. I'll check out the YogaVidya version when I get time. Thanks for the link.