-Newest issue of Dogzplot.
-Jack Boettcher is the author of Theater-State, the second book from Blue Square Press and he recently had a killer piece published in the ongoing SLEEPiNG FiSH ix, check it out.
I finished Spook Country last week, it was OK, but Pattern Recognition is a masterpiece. I'm interested in how Zero History will taste. I'll get it from the library soon.
(Q & A Lifted from www.wiredpen.com)
Q: Tomorrow is the first day of high school around here, and I’ll be teaching 14-and 15-year olds language arts. I was just wondering [what] you would say to young people about the importance of reading…
A: Oh, dear. [Audience laughter.] Well, it’s difficult. That’s a good question, a tough question. It’s … such a huge thing for me, that it’s really a stretch for me to imagine its opposite. And that makes it difficult for me.
Think kids. These black marks on this white paper? It’ll make you have really intense CG-like experiences [audience laughter] in your head. But only when you’ve learned to interpret them within an extremely rigid and complicated [set of] rules. And you’ll then have to be introduced into the cultural nature of enjoying this ancient but vivid platform which I’m hoping you will take up and cherish. [Audience laughter & applause.]
You can both buy and read an excerpt from the novel(la), here. Or you can win a copy by answering the question at the bottom of the interview.
BS: What is it like when you dream?
Sasha Fletcher: Honestly I don't really know. It's sort of like a fever I think. It's an awkward jumble of real life and worrying. I think. I don't really remember my dreams.
BS: WHEN ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED has the very noticeable feelings of sadness, worry, and uncertainty that feels like anxiety, but also discovery and ruin. How did you come up with the idea for the book? Did it start as a feeling or feelings?
SF: It started actually as the Lamination Colony piece WE ARE GOING TO GET PAID AND THEN WE WILL DRESS FOR THE WEATHER. I wrote about two other pieces like that one and then strung them together. Overall, the ideas came as feelings, and sometimes pictures.
BS: You mention a lot of people in the acknowledgments section. What were some of your influences?
SF: The acknowledgments section contains all the people who I forced to read over early versions of the book and give me notes. The influences for the book: I was reading VACATION by Deb Olin Unferth and also THE BATTLEFIELD WHERE THE MOON SAYS I LOVE YOU by Frank Stanford and I was reading the numbered stories in Shane Jones's I WILL UNFOLD YOU WITH MY HAIRY HANDS. I read some other things too, but those were the ones that kept showing me things I wanted to do.
BS: Do you like Blade Runner?
SF: I do! I got that new version but I haven't watched it yet. I am waiting for a rainy night, I think. Good lord do I like that movie.
BS: When did you start writing?
SF: When I started drawing, which was as soon as I could. But mostly, when I was in third grade. I broke my right wrist, and so I couldn't learn cursive with everyone else, and so I had to turn in book reports, and I think about halfway through I just started making up the books and the stories in them.
BS: What are you working on now?
SF: I am working on a bunch of poems that will be my thesis that will then be a book. They are mostly written in lines as opposed to prose, which is weird for me, but kind of exciting.
BS: One of my favorite lines in the novel(la) is “I wanted to wear you like a skin” (52). If you could wear someone like a skin who would it be?
SF: Damn that is a really good question.
BS: The ocean or outer space?
SF: The ocean.
BS: Did you play Super Nintendo games?
SF: I was not allowed a Super Nintendo, but at various times we rented a Nintendo 64 from Blockbuster. Mostly to play Mario Kart.
BS: What was your writing process for WHEN ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED like? Where were you when you wrote it? What is your intent in your use of language?
SF: The house I was living in from 2008-2009 in Philadelphia played a huge part in WHEN ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED and also a book of prose poems called EVERYTHING HERE IS OK. It was a strange space with a basement and a kitchen with a tin ceiling and a roof with a bench on it that had a view of the whole city. It took a while to be able to leave that space and I feel that since then it's been hard to root the work somewhere. Which has been interesting. The world ends a whole lot in the new stuff. Like all the time. Sometimes several times in one piece. I try at times to intend things with my language and to let the sound drive things when it can. Often my girlfriend points out that what I wrote makes very little sense and that it's great for me to think about that, but that if I could think of a way to do that and have it make sense, that'd be great too, and it is, because she is right. She probably edits almost everything I write at this point, and I'm the better for it.
BS: Do you think that sound driven pieces are better suited as flash and poetry?
SF: I think most things are better suited to what they are as opposed to what we want to make them into. I think, honestly, that the best works are marriages of sound and sense.
BS: What are you reading right now that you would recommend?
SF: Ben Mirov and Emily Pettit. I just finished 31 Poems 1988-2008 by Dean Young and some of those were fucking incredible. But mostly everyone should read anything they can by both Ben Mirov and Emily Pettit. And everyone should read VENTRILOQUISM by Prathna Lor and BOOK by Ken Sparling.
BS: What are you looking forward to?
SF: I am looking forward to Blake Butler's novel THERE IS NO YEAR. I am looking forward to THE CLOUD CORPORATION by Timothy Donnelly. Shane Jones just finished writing a new book and I really really wanna see it. I am probably most looking forward to DADDY'S by Lindsey Hunter and MUSEUM OF THE WEIRD by Amelia Gray.
BS: Did Internet journals change how you approached writing?
SF: Yes. Completely. I kept sending shit to Bear Parade and Gene Morgan would calmly and patiently tell me, submission and after submission, that this wasn't going to work out for me. But after the fourth or so, he told me I had some good poems and should send them around and he gave me a list of places that might like them. The guy is a goddam sweetheart. I don't know. The internet just opened up this world of people who seemed so much closer to me than, well, someone who'd gotten a book published. They were all trying to figure out or had figured out what sort of writer they were. It's exciting. I mean, sometimes it sucks and sometimes it seems you read the same piece over and over in every journal. But that's how journals work. But the point of this is that the Internet changed my approach to writing. I realized if I wanted to get into Bear Parade I had to think about what it was that I was trying to do and to sit down and do it. I read a book by Tao Lin with that Miranda July blurb that said he wrote out of boredom and confusion. I realized I was bored and confused pretty much all the time, and that to not write when I felt that would be a lie. It seemed really important and really interesting to try to write as a means of feeling something. Of feeling anything. Of writing of and through and into boredom and confusion. Also, yknow, happiness and awe and that sort of thing. Awe seems important. Anyway, doing that felt, and still feels, incredibly important. At least to try to do that.
BS: What excites you?
SF: Damn. My girlfriend. Dinner. People doing things well. Donald Barthelme. The way the sun comes in through the front windows of our apartment and just bathes over everything. Well-designed books. The way books smell. The way things taste when you really need them. Feelings. Books that make me feel things. Movies that make me feel things. Deadwood. The first season of Friday Night Lights. I'm still figuring out my feelings towards season 2. Bodies of water. Sitting in the sun. Playing Tennis. Cooking. Seeing my friends. Cheap drinks in New York City. Good art. The Phillies scoring nine runs in the seventh last night. Mostly I think I am pretty excitable.
Sasha and I are holding a contest. On page 52 of WHEN ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED is the line, “I wanted to wear you like a skin.” Leave a comment answering the question: if you could wear someone like a skin who would it be? And we'll choose our favorite answer/ response. The chosen favorite will be shipped a brand new copy of Fletcher's book. The winner will be announced on 9/17.
"...the problem with the term 'postmodern' is that people don’t really agree about what it means anymore (if they ever did). It gets tossed around to describe writers as varied as chaotic Kathy Acker and sober Don DeLillo, as cyberpunk William Gibson and Oprah-supported Toni Morrison."
What does the term "postmodern” mean? We're taught, but the word has inflated. Is it the importance of the sentence? The tight description of waste and decay. The beautiful Russian winter. The “experimental,” a term that's as widely used/ abused as “postmodern.” The separation and removal of story. The importance of narrative. Sound alone? Only images. Only language.
Do you know it when you see it, hear it, read it?
I don't have the answer.
"Postmodern," "genre-bender," "fabulists," etc.
Is Evenson "postmodern," or is he a "genre-bender?" Both? What is Steve Erickson?
Is it the fuck between flesh(s)?
What is the distinction between "experimental" and "postmodern?" Do they go hand in hand? Is Peter Markus both? Is The Singing Fish experimental? I'd recommend it.
I read William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and loved it. It's intelligent, "genre-bending," thought provoking, beautifully written, timely (he invited the word cyberspace). "Postmodern?” Maybe it's just Sci-fi.
"What do readers expect? It may be that having a Pynchon blurb on your first book is as much a curse as it is a blessing. For Erickson, the result was certainly mixed; it categorized him as 'postmodern' and ensured that wherever he was mentioned, Pynchon’s name wouldn’t be far behind."
Do blurbs associate authors with one another like parasitic twins? A tall shadow like the Twin Towers photoshopped into your recent trip to NY.
Example: I only had a passing interest in Peter Straub until I read Evenson's blurb for his novel A Dark Matter. I'd been aware of their association for along time but never gave him a read until then. What does that mean? Did I expect Straub to be similar to Evenson? I think I did. And they are, in tone, but not so much in approach. Both are literary, dark.
But that's not always the case.
"And, since the term ['postmodern'] is general enough, it allows for Erickson to be seen as the successor to DeLillo and Pynchon, two writers as different from one another as each is from Erickson."
What does "company" matter anyway?
And here is the problem:
"Literary culture likes its artists, particularly the artists that it elevates to the status of cultural icons, to be particular sorts of creatures. Erickson is a few years too young to fall into the DeLillo/Pynchon generation—he’s the secret heir, after all, and the heir only gets the inheritance once the monarchs have been deposed. At the same time, Erickson, fifty-three, is too old to be part of the generation that includes Rick Moody and David Foster Wallace, writers equally likely to be seen as the heirs of DeLillo and Pynchon. Erickson may well have had the bad luck of being born too close on the heels of his predecessors, so as to seem an upstart younger cousin rather than a groomed successor."
Literary culture. Literary Internet culture.
Born at the wrong time. Generational intersections, loops, connective skin sharing. Writers feeding off each other, or born under the same moon. More labels.
"As a result, Erickson defies reader expectation more thoroughly than DeLillo ever does. If he’s the secret heir of DeLillo, he’s also the not-so-secret heir of Doctor Who, Jean-Luc Godard, and David Lynch."
Between the influences of your peers, or transmogrifying those influences into not just your voice, but into your own.
"'Where do we go from here?' is the question Erickson asks from book to book, though the question he asks first is, 'Where exactly is here?'"
From book to book. I find a lot of writers carry thematic questions from novel to novel, or story to story. Is that a sign of the "postmodern?" The unanswerable question?
"Erickson is expert at creating places where familiarity is slowly gnawed away."
This is something I'm particularly interested in. The waste-away of McCarthy's The Road.
In Lynch's Inland Empire the viewer experiences a distortion of time, light, body-- all of which I believe are part of the "experimental" and the "postmodern." It's a sinking feeling that tugs at the viewer. The "slowly gnawed away." In Philip K. Dick's Scanner Darkly, the drug culture, the confusion, the paranoia, and the “genre-bending”-- all slowly gnaw away at the characters and the reader. Or in Beckett, sound-fueled-- the reader experiences emotional tugs in flowing non-sentences, “experimental” and “postmodern”-- language all gnawed away, elevated.
“If you were to peel away the odd surroundings, what remains is a story of love, family, and belonging. Erickson’s brilliance is his ability to create a fantastic world that influences and becomes integral to human relationships. At once a romantic and a futurist, Erickson seamlessly manages to fuse real emotional concerns with an odd landscape. The result is haunting, unironic and authentically human.”
This is essential. This sort of family, belonging, love, sinking and blending the real and the unreal. The authentically human is key in creating a story that can resonate with the reader, however surreal or experimental. When a person can bleed, we can relate. When surrounding is stripped away there is still, fear, sadness, paranoia, love, whatever.