Perceptions of a writer :
Many facets of fiction
Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Pablo D Stair
Literature has many facets. Those facets may be found expressions in
their diverse genres and tropes employed by different writers. Yet, what
is primary is the message that is encoded in the creations rather than
the manner in which individual writers approach it. However, in
commercial terms, skin as well as flesh of a creation is important to
win over a readership and to establish a creation in the literary
market. After all, beauty of a creation may be skin-deep but the flesh
or substance would make it an enduring literary legacy In this exclusive
interview with Montage, American author Pablo D’ Stair discusses diverse
authors, literary genres and his encounter with their distinctly
Question: There are a number of authors published by your label BBP
whose works capture the Indie genre in a very strong urban US context.
I’d like to begin with one of them, David. S Grant. His work Emotionless
Souls presents very introverted in terms of narrative style. And the
tour the reader is taken through is a very vivid account of
descriptivism both topographically and the speaker’s response to such
environs and phenomena. How is Grant’s work received amongst the Indie
lit readerships in the US?
Answer: This might be a different answer than you were thinking to
get, but as we’ll be speaking of Grant (or around him) for awhile, here,
I’ll answer in this broad way, because to do otherwise would be a
In my experience with the Indie lit scene, there is little concrete
reception to work—and frankly what concrete reception (within the scene)
there is should always be taken with a grain of salt. I’ve gone so far
as to label the scene “incestuous” in other interviews and while this
sounds harsh, it’s fairly true. My view of Indie is that a publisher
should be an entity to allow artists a resource to spring forth into the
community at large—that’s what BPP was about, what KUBOA will be about,
so I’ve never had much interest in keeping tabs on the reception of
writers, certainly not in analysing it or quantifying it.
Further this (and likely losing even more friends by doing so) I
would say that if an artist—an artist—is to be seen as really taking
themselves seriously, reception from within the community is pretty much
null, at best moot.
It isn’t to be trusted and often strikes me as contrived or
else…light hearted…when reaction, response, review (which is
fundamentally a waste of time) is undertaken in the scene (mainstream or
I leave it to the artist to partake of the general reception however
it is they’d like—I also consider everyone I publish artists (whether
they do or not) and consider their work Art.
The only concrete answer I can give regarding reaction to Grant’s
work is that when I first read it—a single piece, The Dublin Trip—I
solicited it to publish in a journal, then solicited a collection, then
a novella, then another collection, because to me it seemed (while borne
of contemporary influence) earnest and representative of a type of
literature I find intriguing, which I think we will touch on with these
Q: Grant’s collection of short stories/vignettes in Lost Souls offers
a different tone and pace compared to Emotionless Souls, yet has a
somewhat similar structure that reflects something of a James Joyce
approach. Amongst the US Indie writers is this mode opted for by many?
A: Well—I actually have an answer, but first need to clarify
something. I find the approach or the content (or whatever we are to
call it) of Grant’s work and work like it to be very anti-Joycean. By
this I mean that a distinct characteristic of Grant’s work is that it is
less concerned with “actuality” or the delving into the intricacies of
“tangible people/reality” and seems more concerned with delving into and
compartmentalising, analysing, breaking down into component the “unreal”
people that seem to populate literature—or better to say populate the
literature that Grant’s work seems to have grown out of the influence
For example, there is much superficial marking of influence from
Brett Easton Ellis, a well known American novelist, in Grant, but the
imperativeness, the actual, personal, genuinely-lost-and-searching
gravity which I find in Ellis is not present in Grant, nor does it seem
to be something Grant is trying to ape—one of the attractions of his
work, to me. So, in opposition to Joyce, who I think was little
interested in anything “strictly artificial”, Grant attempts to humanise
as much as possible (and seems well aware to “fully humanise” is
impossible) sketches, caricatures, (and even at times to build from
something genuine) and see if structure, expectation, rhythm can denude
the particular out of it, make it a shell—hence, I felt and still fell,
the insistence on titles like “emotionless” and “lost”—not in the usual,
personal intonations, but in the sense of these fragmentary identities,
hopeless to ever be total, being explored and, through hyper attention,
revealing their void.
Now, as to the part of the question concerning whether collections of
styles similar to Grant’s are evidenced in other contemporary Indie
I’d say (unfortunately) that seven-out-of-ten times things in this
vein fall flat (one man’s opinion) and become just riffing for the sake
of riffing, “little kids scribbling” rather than any sort of (conscious
or unconscious) mature developing of an art piece, but the
three-out-of-ten times that good things come of it lead to incredibly
interesting, almost meta-literary reading experiences.
It’s almost a genre, itself, the things Grant does—stories and books
that have no illusion to be anything but stories, yet aren’t just
“fluff” or “escapism” and aren’t literary to the point that they
reference themselves as being such (as would say Vonnegut).
Power of dialogue
Q: Grant’s novella The Last Breakfast is something very engaging and
banks a lot on the power of dialogue. The end is somewhat shocking as
the scene ends in a close range shooting with the death of Ordel. Do you
think the work offers a good window from a socio-cultural point of study
to a non-US reader?
A: I think it leads to an interesting point of study as far as
literature—or even just “entertainment-at-large”—goes and certainly
would be a fine case study for the overlap of cinematic headspace with
The Last Breakfast is an unrelenting folding out of one inevitable
thing leading to another easily foreseen, also inevitable thing—it won’t
start well, it won’t get better, it won’t end well. The inertia is the
thing, and the inertia is one that lends itself to dialogue and quick
visuals, that lends itself to relentlessness—were it to slow down,
address itself, regard its content something of great beauty and value
would be lost.
Grant’s work always struck me as all about this—and again, hence I
would say anti-Joycean—it is literature meant to be experienced with the
immediacy and absoluteness of cinema when the book is over, it is done,
input stops and the format and style do not so much lend themselves to
flipping back through, the same as the experience of a film (largely) is
not one that was ever meant to allow for rewinding and still framing and
There’s something very beautifully contra-literary about it all and
something I think would be easy to overlook—Grant’s stuff easy to lump
in with boring nonsense that somewhat superficially looks like it.
Q: Moving on to another prolific writer represented by you
–Constantine Sult. Sult has authored a number of works –Candour, The man
who killed the Alphabet, Carthago Delenda Est are some of them. I would
like to draw attention to The Murder of Linen. Has the graphic
narratives of sex may seem jarring to somewhat conservative readers I
suppose. What are your thoughts on this based on the readerships for
A: Oh, Sult has no readership. Haha! Nobody knows what to do with
Constantine Sult. But, I must say, you hit on one of the nerves about
The Murder of Linen in particular, so now you’ll get my two cents.
Yes, the sex is explicit (true to the title and nature of the novel)
but, the sexual depictions are (almost to the word count) measured out
in exact equality to the other elements of the novel. Sult in general,
and certainly in Murder, has a tendency to “write in time” meaning that
there is a measure to how long something is written about, how long an
incident takes and this is equal to everything. To wit, while the sex is
undeniably pornographic and dwelt upon for say, seven pages at a time,
elsewhere in the novel the central character sitting in his office
trying to come up with a better way to craft a particular summary for
the publication he writes for is dwelt on for seven pages, as well—it is
(as Sult would say) equally as explicit, a pornographic depiction of
someone sitting there thinking about a paragraph.
And the sex described would (in the real world) last maybe ten,
fifteen minutes, so the thinking scene would last ten-fifteen minutes.
As would the scenes of getting place to place, the conversations, the
meandering thought processes.
That the explicitness of the sex is present is, really, only because
the explicitness of everything else is present—and of the very, very few
people who bother reading Sult it is always the sex (which, yes, is
graphic and…unrefined) that is discussed, as though the novel is a
“novel of sex” or “about sex” while really it is, to Sult, about
Indeed, Sult is a writer whose work is almost irresponsibly
subtextual—to him, it’s a book about a poet, but precisely because not a
single word of it is spent on the subject of poetry—the central
character is identified as a poet, but the events of the novel happen to
cover three days worth of time in the life of the poet/individual
wherein he does not think or write or do anything having to do with his
art—so how does an audience respond to him as a poet? Simply because he
is briefly identified that way?
In reality it’d be the same question as narrating T.S. Eliot working
in the bank and using the toilet and being a nonsense to his first wife
etc. He’s still T.S. Eliot.
To Sult, this man is a poet, but in the modern world this is so
incidental—probably always should have been—to the point we must be
confronted with the question “Does the working, sleeping, wandering,
f…king, boring nature of him efface considerations that he is something
I love the book. I’ve read everything by Sult, but I’m probably the
only one who has.
Limits of sanity
Q: The storyline in Sanitarium by Angela Alsaleem, is rather
disturbing. It questions the limits of sanity and, I suppose one could
say, creates the dilemma of what is true, real? It comes as something
very darkly psychology. How is the response from your resderships to
works of this nature?
A: Alsaleem is another writer I first came across while doing a
journal—published one of the sections (as a stand alone story) of
Sanitarium, later was thrilled to put the novel out.
Sanitarium to me is an example of genre done especially right—it’s
horror, it moves in the tropes of horror, but it delves properly into
the intricacies of it.
It doesn’t take long—or didn’t for me—for the internal logic of the
piece to assert itself, absolutely, which is largely due to its
attention to the psychological underlyings of even things grotesque,
Because (especially to me) horror is such a particular fruit,
something that if it’s good is brilliant, but if it’s bad is absolute
run-of-the-mill, lowest-common-denominator—horror as a genre should be
perhaps the least escapist of any, but it’s the trickiest to keep from
drifting into imaginarium and pointless, in-referenced drivel.
Frankly, I don’t know how I’d expect audiences in general to respond
to it—my gut is to say “Not well” but to explain this with the fact that
the finest of a genre like horror is usually the most overlooked—no one
knows what to make of it, because the actual effect is not “to scare” or
“to gross out” but to disquiet, to unhinge.
My wish for the title (relatively new to the world as far as knowing
how it’s responded to) is that it find a pocket of receptive minds who
adore it and that it be derided and ignored by the rest of the world,
even hated—this would be the truest measure of success for horror work
in my opinion. Horror is Art at it’s most confrontational, so it
shouldn’t have a lot of friends wanting to give it a pat on the back,
(To be continued )