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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 different creations.

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 mistake.

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 Indie).

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 further questions.

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 of.

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 writers—absolutely.

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 written-word headspace.

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 skipping around.

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.

Prolific writer

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 Sult’s work?

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 everything but.

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 else?”

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, other-worldly.

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, right?

(To be continued )

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