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Posts Tagged ‘lamination colony’

More than just about anybody, it was Blake Butler who inspired me to reach out toward a larger literary community  with his blog posts, his journals, his books and stories. So, I am particularly thankful that Blake took the time to chat with me about his role as a writer, editor, and publisher.

Q: A few years ago you wrote a blog post on the idea of literary citizenship. I’ve always found it an eye-opening and inspiring post–in part because for a long while I believed that a serious writer or artist should focus entirely on creating art–somewhat out of fear of being distracted or writing for the wrong reasons and somewhat because for me writing was always something done behind closed doors and when my parents weren’t looking. Was this idea of being a literary citizen natural for you? Has being an active part of a larger group of writers influenced your writing and your idea of being a writer?

A: I don’t know about being a literary citizen, but the idea of being open to ideas and motions and building off of other people in not a creative way but an energy kind of way came naturally, I think. Primarily because of it being online, and that you could do it from home on your ass, which is conductive to me because I’m bad at being motivated physically to correspond as often, particularly about books. The main value the internet has for me is this way of being able to connect with people who like the same shit you do, so why not use it and build a kind quasi-structure in this way, like the way one would in a quest videogame. If anything, it’s a wish to destroy the ego that has often surrounded literature and made it seem like a classroom rather than the yard around the school.

One thing I’m particularly interested in and impressed by is that all of your output–from journals you edit and publish to fiction to non-fiction to things like tweets–seems to share a remarkable consistent and distinctively “Blake Butler” voice. Do you have a particular voice or tone you are looking for when you begin a journal or edit an issue? Or are you just accepting work you like or soliciting writers you enjoy?

As an editor I think the common element of what I want is that it be raw: that is, not sloppy necessarily (though sloppiness can be used effectively at times), but more so a concision of vision and power that kind of ignores why it’s being made or what is being made and instead is the thing itself. A lack of formality, maybe, though as well a formal tone can be used in the manner I most like. Something that burns, perhaps, or operates out of a destructive center, where destructive can also mean becoming larger than the thing itself. I like to not fully understand, and I like things that feel full already: if I have to make suggestions or edits or something, I’m less interested, even if the edits are copy-based: I like typos and weirdism and mess ups when they contribute to that center. It should almost be as if the thing were published before it were even written.

Do you have any concerns about opening things up too much? Maybe not for you, anymore, but for younger writers or writers who are working their way up. I mean, there are benefits to being obstructed, right? To having an authority at the front of the room saying “this is how you should do things”?

Yeah I mean it’s easy, particularly online, to come off sounding like a snot no matter what you say. I think particularly early on in typing into these places I would just blather off at the head however it came on, and even if I thought I meant it at the time, and even if I meant it all with the implied “no one really knows anything about anything I’m just a fuck,” it definitely can end up blowing up in your face or seeming like too much. No tone online means people will often assume the worst about you as a person, and I guess I’ve made splashy sounds that made others think I’m some kind of Mussolini in my mind when really I think everyone is the same person. So, the longer I’ve been around it, the more careful maybe I’ve become about knowing when is the right time to spout off, and when to just keep it to myself, or to return to the truest thing for me, which is just sitting quietly and listening and doing what you need to do in silence.

I can certainly see that as a common thread in your work and in the work you publish–and it was certainly something I found particularly compelling when I discovered it.  I wonder where that moment of perception happens that there is a beauty in mistakes and weirdisms. After all, as writers we spend so much time learning how to polish and being told to polish and reading the most polished type of writing.

Did this interest in and openness to ‘raw’ writing come from editing or was it something formed out of your own work or maybe another medium?

I guess it came from having had a certain kind of excited feeling about creation when I first sat down at the machine for years, and writing basically alone without these online forums much and just banging the buttons and working in a kind of nowhere of my mind. When I went to MFA school, and the more I was around the mind of a certain kind of literary journal culture, which I became obsessed with, I went through a phase of trying to ‘act like a real boy’ or something, to try to clean away what now I think of as my best strengths because they didn’t seem to fit this idea of what things are supposed to be, based on this very specific sect. And as the online world took off more and I started doing my own journals and finding more in my own original spirit of doing it for yourself and letting things fall where they lay, and just feeling way more at home and open and free in the original spirit of working in my own mind but now paired with this kind of open void spirit place where things both had no stakes and therefore had a totally different kind of brain to it, which thereby at the same time ended up turning me further inward, in my own work, and further outward, in the approach and in the milk of other people. So it was kind of just an inherent, fleshy reaction, like when one contracts a terminal disease, in this case one where the symptoms require, in my body, prolonged periods of sitting and staring into a light, and eruptions of control in the lymph and fingers.

Where is American literature going at this point, as an industry and as an art? Where do you see the future and what should our goals as writers, editors, and publishers be?

I have no idea where it’s going. I don’t see the future. I see a hole. Our goals should be to break shit without moving.

I think you’d run an interesting press. Have you ever put any thought into starting a press of your own and publishing books? And, building off of that, have you ever thought about publishing your own work?

Shane Jones and I put a book out together last year. Kristina Born’s One Hour of Television. (http://www.laminationcolony.com/LIQUIDATOR/born_ex.html). If I had more energy I’d do it again. It’s a good feeling. I don’t know what I’m doing with my mind anymore. I’ll probably end up publishing my own stuff one day, sure. I have a couple novels on my hard drive that wouldn’t probably come out any other way, but I’ll more likely just let them sit there and remain published only among the community of their peers: the jpegs and the spam. Every day I say things out loud I might do to see how it feels to say them. I do like 1 out 1,000. The one that is most inside the hole.

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