Thursday, February 11, 2010


I’d like to talk about what’s happening to writers, and consequently what we’ve come to view as art. With the multi-national conglomerates taking over the publishing industry their over-riding, one might say all-consuming all-driving all-motivating ethos has become a virus which has infected everyone it touches. That corporations are about making money is nothing new, but now they have restructured art itself until it’s become an objective money-making enterprise intractably governed by the bottom-line; an unchanging, immutable “round hole” into which all the “square pegs” must be reshaped in order to fit. We’ve abandoned the Muse in favor of a kind of Capitalist Socialist Realism where the artists have adopted the role of the state/corporation, measuring their “art” by how it will sell, and adjusting it accordingly to fit the prevailing guidelines of commerce. The best most vital most dangerous most life-affirming life-changing art out there now is that which is being made in spite of this omnipresent mindset, and is consequently ignored to the point of invisibility. We are engendering and supporting a generation of “Capitalist-Socialist-Realist suck-ups to the man” in the name of “art” while simultaneously giving birth to, and ignoring once again, a generation of Van Goghs who labor in obscurity, monetary oppression, and constant rejection because their art is defiantly rejecting the status quo mentality. The struggle of the artist today, specifically the writer, has become especially perilous. The paramount challenge is no longer to be a good writer, nor is it to be published and recognized. Rather, it is to avoid the self-censoring and thought control dictated by the bottom-line driven corporate publishing conglomerates, for the sole purpose of getting published and maintaining a livelihood and a career. “What’s selling?” is the question today’s writer asks himself, and he promptly answers, “So that’s what I’ll write.” And the cost is true creativity, originality, and art itself as it’s redefined; as it becomes nothing more than Socialist Realism as in the old Soviet Union, with the artists and writers censoring themselves. And where is the truth of the artist’s vision, its uniqueness, its voice, if it is merely an echo of the officially-sanctioned and acceptable “truth and vision” allowed by corporate publishing? As T.S. Eliot once said, “The artist is the only genuine and profound revolutionist.” I pray that there are still some of us out there who believe this.

Monday, February 1, 2010


So how would you define this?
This what?
This novel.
Why must it be defined?
You know how people are.
And how’s that?
They like things to be defined, spelled out…
Now you’re being…
What, cynical?
Some might say that.
But not you
I’m a journalist, I…
You’re unbiased.
Well, yes, I… I try to be fair and balanced.
(laughs) So why don’t you define it then?
But isn’t that one of the things you rail against?
People who are unqualified to judge passing judgment?
More like passing gas...
Would you define that as a “cheap shot”?
(laughs) Mea culpa.
So if you had to offer a definition…
I already did.
I didn’t catch it.
See what I mean!
All right, how ‘bout this… an “involuted-nouveau-roman-postmodern-fabulated-anti-meta-novel”.
Say that three times fast!
But it’s ridiculous, I mean
It’s like jazz, what jazz is supposed to be. A mode of expression that’s wide-open, unlimited… before Kenny G and a million “Autumn Leaves” copy bands got a hold of it! It’s the same with the novel.
Before Stephen King and the mega-bestseller got a hold of it.
Well, yeah.
So you’ve called it a “manifesto”, a “declaration”…
Do you know Coltrane’s “Meditations”album?
John Coltrane? Um, no, I…
What they tried to do in that… (shakes head) they wanted to take music to a place where music-as-we-know-it didn’t exist. (pauses) But that’s where it exists most fully, do you understand?
I think so. It’s like a Zen thing.
I want to write a novel in which all other novels are possible. Where there’s nothing to limit you.
Except the definitions.
(laughs) Exactly!
Or the marketplace.
Well, yes, there’s always that...
So you want a literary “free-for-all”, is that it?
Freedom with responsibility.
That sounds good, but is it possible?
What do you mean?
I mean, it can so easily become artistic anarchy, like that painting of the crucifix smeared with human feces. Or that artist who put his own shit in a Mason jar and exhibited it as art.
Doo-Doo as opposed to Dada
(laughs) So this brings us back to how we define art…
More definitions...
Otherwise we’ll have everyone shitting in Mason jars and calling themselves artists!
We already have that! (pauses) It’s a… (pause)
But you discussed this at length in Blood of the Sun, the question of internalized standards and authenticity. And if we no longer have this, then…
What? We need the “art police”?
Well, if there are no more internal standards then they must be external, right? Otherwise…
But there must be something more than just extremes.
Like Finnegans Wake and Doprah’s Book Club
But wouldn’t you say this book of yours was more on the Finnegans Wake side than that of Doprah’s Book Club?
I’m saying why can’t a single novel contain elements of both? And everything in-between? If a novel is about life then by definition it’s about everything, or it could be. So why do we try to limit it?
Through definitions…
Yes, and money’s another definition.
So we…
Throw away the lights! The definitions!
What’s that?
Wallace Stevens… And say of what you see in the dark that it is this or that it is that, but do not use the rotted names
That’s nice.
(laughs) Nice, yeah. I mean, it’s not like these ideas are brand new
About expanding the novel, exploding form and style, abandoning conventions.
Literary conventions…
You just don’t like any definitions, do you?
Coltrane didn’t like the word jazz, but that’s the section where you find his albums. I mean, think of Interstellar Space
Interstellar Space?
It’s a later album of his. It’s just him and this drummer, him improvising to free rhythm. No chords, no keys, no tonal center. It was taking music to that other level, where the definitions no longer apply.
Yeah, but can you dance to it?
So why do we always seem to take the easy way out, I mean...
Ya gotta put food on the table, right? I mean, did you ever apply for a grant? Talk about when paradigms collide!
What do you mean?
The nexus where the artist and the non-artist meet! The impenetrable morass, the swamp, the labyrinth.
So it’s convoluted?
(laughs) The thing is, that the rich for some reason want to align themselves with what they think of as art and artists, to validate their lives or something: to give it meaning beyond money. I don’t know. I mean, who can understand the rich, right? (laughs) Maybe it’s just a tax write-off. (smiles) But the problem is, that instead of them learning the language of the artist they force the artist to speak their language. I mean, here’s an example… If I admire a painting it might inspire me to paint myself, right? To become a painter and see if I had what it took. So I’d go out and buy a set of paints and brushes, canvases, an easel maybe. You know, the works. And then I’d see what I could do, which of course implies a long hard process of honing one's craft until it becomes art, until the art and the craft are linked, until they play off of each other. Not to mention the soul-searching required in order to get to that deep place where art lives. I mean, we’re talking about a life’s work here, being an artist.
Or a writer… or a musician…
I mean, any creative artist. But the rich, what do they do? They like a painting by Van Gogh, right, so do they buy the paint set and learn how to paint themselves, to seek what the artist sought? No, they buy the painting for 50 million and hide it in a safe in their mansion. And meanwhile, the Van Goghs out there can barely make rent, and when they try to apply for a grant they decide that it’s easier to cut off one of their ears!
(smiles) But I notice you have both of your ears.
Latex foam rubber.
So what do you think is the foremost problem that we face today?
Self-deadening our senses.
What do you think of the Internet?
Infinity and Nothingness.
(laughs) So how do you want to be known?
What did they say… Know thyself? That’s how I want to be known.
So how do you want to be remembered?
Do you think Van Gogh gives a shit that his paintings sell for 50 million now? I mean, when you’re dead you’re dead. (laughs) You don’t need to eat anymore. You’re eaten.
So who do you like better, the dead or the living?
I like the reality of the dead.
And the reality of the living?
I’m still trying to figure that out.

--excerpt from the novel "angrynastyhostile", by Kevin Postupack