The varieties of Heaven

…it occured to him that he had, quite literally, been resurrected. But resurrected into what? he wondered. His life had become unfamiliar to him, cold and disquieting. He felt as if time as he knew it had flickered to a close. The world had ended. The oceans had climbed their shores, the buildings had burst out of their windows, and all the old meanings had fallen away. It turned out that the world at the end of time was just like the world at the beginning: a single set of footsteps printing the grass, everything lit with its own newness, a brighter and much, much emptier place.

Κέβιν Μπροκμάιερ, The Illumination

Ένα τετράδιο γεμάτο ερωτικά γράμματα μιας πρότασης αλλάζει χέρια στο Illumination του Κέβιν Μπροκμάιερ (ο οποίος συμπεριλήφθηκε στους καλύτερους νέους Αμερικανούς συγγραφείς σύμφωνα με το Granta)· κάθε κεφάλαιο του βιβλίου παρακολουθεί έναν διαφορετικό άνθρωπο που έτυχε να συναντηθεί μ’ αυτό το τετράδιο [1]. Όλα αυτά σ’ έναν κόσμο που έχει μια σημαντική διαφορά από τον δικό μας: ο σωματικός πόνος είναι φωτισμένος, αφού ανεξήγητα, μια μέρα τα μικρά και μεγάλα τραύματα και οι ασθένειες των ανθρώπων άρχισαν να αναδίδουν φως.

Από συνέντευξη του συγγραφέα για το βιβλίο:

One of the things that attracts me to your writing is the blending of literary fiction with genre elements. There’s often a sci-fi/magical realism bend to your work. Why is that? What inspires you to do that?

I think of myself as working within -or at least aspiring to work within- the very particular tradition of writers whose books I happen to love. Many of those writers are realists, but many others are fantasists, though it’s a toss-up as to whether you’ll find their books shelved with the literary fiction or with the science fiction and fantasy. All of them, though, regardless of their genre affiliations, are authors of tremendous vision, great craft, and a complex and absorbing sense of what it means to be alive. All of them write the kind of books that inspire me to emulation.

Aside from that, I suppose I turn to the fantastic or the magical or the strange or the uncanny so often because I’m the kind of person who sees more clearly when he views the world at a tilt, but also because such methods have provided me with a number of metaphors that seemed potent and beautiful to me, because the imagery of fantasy allows me to write certain kinds of sentences I enjoy writing, and finally, frankly, because I grew up reading a lot of science fiction and there are certain kinds of oddity that simply excite my imagination.

In The Illumination, there’s a beauty to suffering. Since everyone can see what is ailing even the strangers around them, pain is no longer a private and hidden option. It’s exposed and shimmers. Some teenagers even go so far as to deliberately cut themselves so they can see the light. Do you think pain is something that can be beautiful?

I don’t know. What I can tell you is that the book -whose working title was Wounds, until my editor and my agent convinced me that no one would buy a book called Wounds– investigates exactly that question: what if the world suddenly revealed that pain, disease, illness, and injury -all the uglinesses of the human body- were faceted with beauty, like jewels? What if our pain was the most beautiful thing about us? How would that change the way we perceived life and death and one another? How would it change the greater functions of society, or would it change them at all?

At one point in the book, you write: “Everyone had his own portion of pain to carry. At first, when you were young, you imposed it on yourself. Then, when you were older, the world stepped in to impose it for you. You might be given a few years of rest between the pain you caused yourself and the pain the world made you suffer, but only a few, and only if you were lucky.” Are we living in a society where pain is more prevalent than ever?

Honestly, I don’t know that our times are all that different from those that came before. I suspect that the world has always been composed of pain and pleasure, bliss and agony, contentment and discomfort, and in roughly the same proportions as it is today. More to the point, perhaps, before I wrote The Illumination, and while I was working on it, I myself was experiencing more pain -physical pain- and in a less remitting way than I had before. I used the fifth section of the book, Nina’s, to investigate my own encounters with illness: years and years of mouth ulcers that made it painful for me to talk, eat, drink, laugh, and smile. I tried to bring as much lucidity, accuracy, and honesty to Nina’s observations of her malady as I could, and although her story is not really my own, that one aspect of it is. You can consider all the self-pity, querulousness, and desperation she expresses a peculiarly intimate form of journalism.

Μια πρόταση από το βιβλίο, εικονογραφημένη στο πλαίσιο του πρότζεκτ Single Sentence Animations του Electric Literature:

She watched them flare and shimmer through their skin, their bones going off like bombs, every limb a magnificent firework of carbon, phosphorus, and calcium.

Κι ένα τραγούδι από το σάουντρακ του βιβλίου, όπως το κατέγραψε ο Μπροκμάιερ στο μπλογκ Largehearted Boy: το This Could Be My Last Day του Ντιουκ Σπέσιαλ (οι παλιοί θαμώνες του μπλογκ ίσως θυμάστε την δουλειά του Σπέσιαλ για το Book of Illusions του Πολ Όστερ – έγραφα σχετικά εδώ).

A Chronological List of Statements People Made to Me at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 1995-1997 | An Illustrated History of the View from Kevin Brockmeier’s Head | Περισσότερα ερωτικά γράμματα της μιας γραμμής στο λογαριασμό που έχει στηθεί για το βιβλίο στο τουίτερ και εδώ | O τίτλος του ποστ είναι φράση από το βιβλίο

[1] Πολλά πρόσφατα βιβλία χτίζονται με μια παρόμοια δομή διηγημάτων που συναποτελούν ένα μυθιστόρημα· πέρα από το Cloud Atlas του Ντέιβιντ Μίτσελ (μια ματριόσκα μυθιστορημάτων, με τον ήρωα του καθενός να διαβάζει με κάποιο τρόπο την ιστορία του προηγούμενου – θα μπορούσε επίσης στην ίδια κατηγορία να υπαχθεί και το ακόμα παλιότερο Ghostwritten του Μίτσελ), το Let the Great World Spin του Κόλουμ ΜακΚαν παρακολουθεί ένα πλήθος χαρακτήρων καθώς διασταυρώνονται στη σκιά της βόλτας του ακροβάτη Φιλίπ Πετί πάνω σε ένα σχοινί μεταξύ των Δίδυμων Πύργων· στο Great House της Νικόλ Κράους, ένα γραφείο λειτουργεί ως συνδετικό νήμα των ιστοριών ανθρώπων διαφορετικών ηλικιών και καταβολών, ενώ κάθε κεφάλαιο του A Visit from the Goon Squad της Τζένιφερ Ίγκαν λειτουργεί ως διήγημα που παρακολουθεί έναν διαφορετικό χαρακτήρα για να αφηγηθεί την ιστορία του κεντρικού ήρωα, που ξεκινάει πανκιό και καταλήγει μάνατζερ, και το The Imperfectionists του Τoμ Ράχμαν αφηγείται την γέννηση και την παρακμή μιας ιστορικής αγγλόφωνης εφημερίδας στη Ρώμη μέσα από τις ιστορίες διαφόρων εργαζομένων της, ακόμα και μιας αναγνώστριας· προσθέστε, επίσης, το Things We Didn’t See Coming του Στίβεν Άμστερνταμ, με τα διηγήματα-κεφάλαια να καταγράφουν επεισόδια από την ζωή του κεντρικού χαρακτήρα καθώς προσπαθεί να επιβιώσει σε έναν κόσμο μισοκατεστραμμένο από τον ιό της χιλιετίας· φυσικά, είναι πολύ πιθανό να υπάρχουν κι άλλα παραδείγματα που ξεχνάω ή δεν έχω διαβάσει.

Send the work out there naked

Ο Πέρσιβαλ Έβερετ σε μια παλιότερη συνέντευξή του με αφορμή το Wounded (2005 – ελληνική μετάφραση, από τον Λύο Καλοβυρνά: Πληγωμένοι, εκδόσεις Πόλις, 2008, και εδώ ό,τι δικό του κυκλοφορεί στα ελληνικά):

You’ve sent up academe and publishing, using satire as a way to examine, among other things, race relations in American culture. How do you manage to keep satire engaging, funny, and relevant without veering into the didactic realm?

I think the way to make satire easy is to keep as close to the truth as possible. We choose things because they bug us, and they bug us because of the way they really are, and when you really start to examine theses things, they’re just funny.

One of the most ironic things about some of my satire is that I’m fairly earnest about it. There’s a lot of irony in the fact that I take the things I’m talking about seriously. I actually like literary theory, for example, so to write my novel Glyph, I had to believe I understood enough of it to write about it, and to make fun of it. I found that I had to respect it. It doesn’t mean I agree with it. I just think that it’s funny.

So, you train mules. You write an average of a book a year. I’ve also read that you are a fly fisherman, a musician, a painter.

I used to be a musician in college. I played jazz guitar.

Did you study painting?

No, not formally. I look at a lot of paintings. I paint in oil.

Και από άλλη συνέντευξη, αυτή τη φορά με αφορμή το ακυκλοφόρητο στα ελληνικά βιβλίο του Έβερετ και του Τζέιμς Κινκέιντ, A History of the African-American People (Proposed) by Strom Thurmond, as told to Percival Everett & James Kincaid (2004), μιλώντας για τη δυσκολία κατηγοριοποίησης της δουλειάς του:

How do you categorize yourself as a writer? Do you work within the constraints of a particular fiction category? Your works are so all over the map.

No, whatever the particular work is, that’s what it is. I don’t put myself in a camp. I want to write what works for the story at hand. I serve the story, basically. I don’t think that as the author I’m terribly important, and I don’t want to be. I want to disappear. If anybody’s thinking about me when they’re reading my work I’ve failed as a writer. The work is supposed to stand by itself. I’m teaching you to fly. When you have to go solo, hey, I’m not there.

Η συνέχεια είναι επίσης ενδιαφέρουσα:

I have a couple of questions about your style.

Style schmyle.

Your style, or lack thereof. (laughter) Do you have a predominant style?

Style is a tool. The work will dictate the style.

So you write in a manner that suits the work.

The only reason I would want a particular style is so that people could identify every work of mine as mine. There’s nothing at stake for me in having people recognize the work because of stylistic consistency.

You tend to blend styles a lot.

Well, I play with styles. I think they’re amusing. I think that anybody who thinks they have a style—it’s like watching punk rockers get ready to go out. It must take you two hours to get that look. How many safety pins do you need? To me there’s a wonderful irony in that. To work so hard to dress your work. Send the work out there naked.

Περισσότερα για τα βιβλία του Πέρσιβαλ Έβερετ, με πιο πρόσφατο το Assumption που μόλις κυκλοφόρησε, εδώ. Δείγμα γραφής εδώ.

LYF

[Πρόχειρα σκίτσα, αντιγραφές από αλλού (δεν θυμάμαι από πού για να δώσω πρωτότυπα) / Currently reading & re-reading / Στα έξι τετράδια που έχω γεμίσει από όταν τέλειωσα το δεύτερο βιβλίο ίσως –ίσως– έχει αρχίσει να διακρίνεται το περίγραμμα ενός τρίτου βιβλίου / Καινούργιος Μουρακάμι στο Κιντλ / Σάουντρακ]

Look and understand

O Αρτ Σπίγκελμαν μιλά για τα μυθιστορήματα χωρίς λέξεις του «πατέρα του γκράφικ νόβελ» Λιντ Γουάρντ (με αφορμή την έκδοση του Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts από τη Βιβλιοθήκη της Αμερικής – περισσότερα για την έκδοση εδώ):

All novels require some mental adjustment in order to understand a writer’s meaning. But yes, in Ward’s books you have something that has its own operating system. This requires slowing down to understand it. Come at it from one angle and you’re looking at a bunch of incoherent, unconnected pictures. From another angle you see a very tightly woven narrative that rewards contemplation and a revisiting of how it’s told as well as what’s being told. Each of his books teaches itself. As you’re reading you understand better how to read each book—the speech and rhythms of what one can find as one revisits a picture. As Susan Sontag pointed out in her essay “On Photography,” pictures are scary because until they are actually contained by words their meanings are not containable. The words that describe what’s happening in a news photo actually refocus you to not look. The whole point of Ward’s work is to make you look and understand.

Η εικόνα από το Vertigo (1937).

REAMDE

Ο Νιλ Στίβενσον σε συνέντευξή του για το καινούργιο του μυθιστόρημα, REAMDE:

Why start the conflict in an online role playing game? Do you play games like World of Warcraft?

I hesitate to say I’m much of a gamer, because every time I go online and try to go up against the average ten year old boy, I get my butt kicked so hard that it becomes clear I can’t lay any claim to that title. But I certainly do my share of game playing, and I’ve been aware of the gold farming phenomenon for a number of years. I always thought it was kind of an interesting feature of that universe, and in this case it happened to dovetail quite naturally with the plot.

T’Rain takes the idea of gold farming even further –everyone who plays contributes to a complex economy, and can easily convert their labor into real money. Do you think online role playing games are headed in that direction, that they’ll be designed for commerce?

Well, it’s undoubtedly happening right now on an informal level all over the place. A huge amount of money is changing hands, and the thing that prevents it from coming out into the open and working the way it’s depicted in the novel is a number of legal and regulatory hang ups. These are things that I was able to just sort of dispense with as a novelist, and pretend that they didn’t exist –the people who actually run companies like this obviously don’t have that ability. So I think the question of could this really happen is strictly a matter of is it going to be legalized.

People who play online role playing games are often painted in a negative light, like they’re alone in a dark basement for years at a time. But the characters in your novel are very healthy gamers. Was that a conscious decision, to say it is not some freaky thing?

I’m just trying to reflect the reality of what I see in the world of gaming. Sure there are the pathological cases, people who have an out of control addiction. But these games are also quite widespread among people who do not fit that stereotype at all. It’s something that they do as a form of entertainment. Instead of going to a movie or reading a book they’ll just sit down for a couple of hours and do a quest in Warcraft.

Οι πρώτες σελίδες του REAMDE εδώ. Στα ελληνικά κυκλοφορεί ο Υδράργυρος, το πρώτο μέρος του Κύκλου Μπαρόκ.

Follow them in secret

It seems to me that one life is actually many lives, and that they add up to something surprisingly long. My life then was nothing like my life now.

W.: “We’re stupid, we need to be led”. Didn’t we long ago decide we could redeem ourselves only by creating opportunities for those more capable than ourselves? – “It’s our gift”, says W., “we know we’re stupid, but we also know that stupidity is not”. We ought to throw ourselves at their feet and ask them to forgive us. We always stop short of this, of course. We have to remember not to tell them, each of them, that they are our new leader. It would only frighten them off, W. says. No one should ever know he or she is our leader, we agree. Only we should know. And we should follow them in secret.

Λαρς Άιερ, Spurious