Tuesday, May 21, 2019

An Interview with bibles Appropouture -- Author of THE BETTER FACE OF FASCISM (Expat Press): " I acknowledge that it's my responsibility to harness language skillfully to accomplish the primary task."

Give me a little bio of yourself. When did you know you wanted be a writer ? Did you always write? What was the first book that captured your imagination ?

I don't recall always wanting to be a writer. It's been a constant undercurrent, but I've wanted to be a few different things in my life. The one that I remember most is an actor. That's the one that transitioned into being a writer. I wanted to not just be Tom Cruise; I wanted to be Ethan Hunt. I wanted to be Captain Kirk. I wanted to be Harry Potter. I figured that I could write my life and inject it with narrative power. I think that I've done that to a degree. I can't just hop into space, and I have no intention of being the first man on Mars, but through writing, or at least through thinking like a writer, I can drive my ship to some desert around here and scamper with the coyotes like aliens and tarantulas in the dark at my feet.

Writing has always been the easiest, most natural way for me to channel the supernatural power of art. I remember feeling free from the obligations and responsibilities of adulthood because I was going to be a writer. My dad would try to impart his patriarchal wisdom onto me, or offer me a job at his steel shop, and I would object because I was going to be a writer; I was going to be famous, and being famous gives a person star power. Star power is more powerful than wealth because it has fame attached. I was going to be richer than my dad. He was just around to help me survive until I rose into my own. He'd failed at art, and I saw it as my destiny to fulfill that dream of his.

The first book that captured my imagination was probably Jurassic Park or Goosebumps or The Boxcar Children. I liked Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, but then I remember trying to grow as a reader and picking up a copy of Brothers Karamazov and reading Moby Dick. I was blown away by the energy of these books. Kerouac changed things for me. Bukowski. Celine. I'm definitely of that school as far as what I am continuing, but I also really thought that I was going to be in The Tour De France because I was obsessed with Lance Armstrong and his book. I'd ride my bike thirty miles a day, and I got really skinny. And then I read A Course on Miracles, and I thought that I could be like Jesus. Don't even get me started on The Book of Mormon. That Had to be the first book to capture my imagination. My parents would sit us down in front of the TV and think that they were fulfilling their spiritual destiny by having us watch cartoons about the battles of Nephi and Moroni.

Right from the beginning, your novel, “The Better Face of Fascism” (Expat Press) reminded me a lot of Tropic of Cancer.

We might have spoke about this on Twitter, but have you read much Miller? I feel you belong to the same school — writers that create a distinctive voice to tell personal stories that are woven into a myth until the truth and the fiction are all intertwined.

I have a soft spot for confessional/first person writing like that because it takes a special talent to just “rant” for 200 pages and keep your reader hypnotized not so much because of the story but a vibrant narrative voice that could read off a shopping list and turn it into literature.

I remember watching a Henry Miller documentary on YouTube where he’s walking through this old neighborhood in Brooklyn and he’s telling all these great stories about his life back then — and that’s who he was, a guy who liked to talk, a great conversationalist, telling anyone who would listen stories about his life. And he just happened to start putting them down on paper.

Did you like telling stories as a little kid, and having long conversations into the morning hours?

I realize now that when I was a kid, way before I even put anything to pen, I was always lying. Always telling these crazy lies to anybody who would listen. They were, for the most part, innocent lies but I now can see that it was storytelling.

Henry Miller, as an American writer, stands out as one of those great authors to transform his life experiences into art by "somewhat" honestly examining his own life through his failures. Not much censorship of his thoughts and feelings and desires. I love the idea of examining yourself, or maybe even being your own therapist.

Was bibles born from that same desire to examine yourself ?

I don't particularly love talking. I talk a lot though, and I'm usually chastising myself after wards. I come home and squeeze the guilt and motive behind my conversation onto the screen. Miller, I have read a lot of. My friend was into him before I was, and I wanted to be like my friend, so I gave Miller a shot. What struck me was how much like a painting his writing was. I loved how he would be on and then off. I could let my brain ride his books, and it naturally would hold on and focus and then release and relax. In this way, I've been able to create a window into worlds within and beyond the world. I have always felt that if I'm going to write, I'm going to do it in a way that is not simply spitting out the skeletal map of a movie. It's a sacrifice that I'm making. It had better be worth it. It is my path to God. Growing up Mormon, I was taught to take my talent and nurture it. It becomes the tree of life. Selling it is the worst thing a person can do - next to giving it away. I miss the church in some ways. Bearing my testimony is one of those ways. My writing is a way for me to clean my soul. When I confess, I am able to let emotions out of me. My problems can become something external to me. They are the true enemy, whatever the actual sin may be. It's case work. It's progress. Victory is a hot shower. Nothing colors battles better than writing. Paired with music, you can extend or contract your moments and reach deeper through them than many understand possible. 

Can you talk more about growing up as a Mormon, and how it has informed your writing in any way?

Growing up Mormon could be the best thing that ever happened to me. It kept me safe, and it blessed me with the priesthood. We are talking about the Lord's secret service. They are called to people's lives through their homes. For all they know, they're saving souls. They can't be called Mormons anymore -- You can't even call them LDS. The proper term is members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It's something that the prophet announced a few weeks ago. No more pageants either. There's something rotten in Denmark. Today's Mormonism is quite different than it was at its founding. Joseph Smith died, and things moved to Salt Lake. Brigham the builder got to work. I'm living in a church state. It's something that I tend to forget as I churn Guns n' Roses through the shop's speakers, my book dangling like it's my balls, out and over the counter, baiting someone to write a negative review. I'm holding the doctrine in my hands, the living light. I'm putting it in yours, and I'm saying, "It's okay. You're relieved. You can sit back. You can unpeel. I'm working us into negativity. I'm aiming for obliteration."

Calling myself bibles wasn't arbitrary. I live in a religion that has a few. Joseph Smith was a long way back, and God is still among us. How does a person capture the holy ghost? Become the worthy vessel? We can't be dealing in terms that we're familiar with. These different religions aren't aiming to understand a facet of the whole; their name's a stamp for the truth. Everyone not within the sphere will be forever shed into eternal darkness. The choppy waters that drown coldly. That's what my future holds. All for trying to save somebody. True prophets in today's LDS church. This city of saints. A hole on the map at the bottom of which is a gunfight. Standing there taking fire. Hunching over. My back / the vertebrae / further expanded. I'm dragging myself through the days. I need to touch the electricity. I have cured baldness. We're programmers, bro.

What is your writing schedule like? Do you listen to music? Do you do it via computer? Do you think about a book a lot before you start writing?

Also, I wanted to tell you I love the title of your book: The Better Face of Fascism.

It reminds of
 Chilean writer Roberto BolaƱo. It feels like a title he would choose.

I like titles that make you wonder what the book is about before you read them like: Catcher in the Rye, A Confederacy of Dunces, and Tropic of Cancer.

I feel your title can go right up there with these others.

How did you come up with the title for this book?

My writing schedule is out of whack. It's been like that ever since the baby came. Right now, one of my goals is to get more sleep, but I used to stay up and write deep into the night. I need to be alone. I'm the sole provider. I have a full-time job. My wife is a stay at home mom. Back when I was writing more straight forward fiction, it wasn't such a problem. Now, when I talk about having sex with babies, or I bitch about my work, I've got to be alone. So, I'm writing on my lunch break, but my coworkers keep popping up behind me, and my brain starts to fray as I flip tabs like a porno watching pubescent swiveling the kitchen TV's turntable of American Pie away from my mom. I have also been writing in the mornings, before work. Another reason to go to bed earlier. It's not going great. Maybe the quality is up. Hard to say when I'm sitting here, groggy, trying to rapidly pump posts onto my Telegram, which is the first stage. Quick, constant, current. That's something that my dad taught me. 

I don't remember what caused me to land on the title. I remember throwing it on the doc, and then feeling it stick to a bunch of aspects. People think that the book is a kind of manifesto; if it is, then it's in the undercurrents. So, yes, to answer the music question: I do. AI, grace, and the randomness of curation all contribute to the revelation of the holy ghost. I think about a book like a person thinks about a math problem or a crush or a killer. It's a case to me. Writing the book in the structure of a book, this last time, was a challenge. I've got machines working to collate my scattered documentation as I progress. The problem is that sometimes setting those machines up becomes a distraction, and I'm all about ridding my process of distractions. So, a book is a box, and it's wooden. Not a lot of stuff is made from wood anymore. I love it. It's artisanal; but it takes a carpenter woodworking to fit something the scope of literature within a coffin like that. At times you have to clip wings or crush dimensions to make the thing fit. Those are the laws of physics. I can't help feeling like I've been there, and I know that we as a species have, so I work a different medium.

But we can call cases books. They're just different. I don't want to get bogged down in those details. I acknowledge that it's my responsibility to harness language skillfully to accomplish the primary task. I don't think much about the book until I'm in the book. The book seems to start when I'm in it. A person shouldn't go looking for ideas. I understand that we have to work. It's just that there are books hanging from our inboxes all the time. To me, it's a ringing call approaching through peace. You follow it to its end. You get it to shut up. You kill it before it kills you. 

That seems to be the life of the working writer — finding the time and energy to write.

The pressure of your main character to write no matter what is boiling over. He has a baby on the way, he has to work, has to deal with a whole new responsibility and yet most of what he thinks about is writing and how he’s going to get the book done.

I felt the spirit from Tropic of Capricorn beaming from the main character.

It hits home, that moment when he’s realizing he just has to get it done — the act of writing it down- it’s no longer a holy, spiritual thing where he has to go to a private room and write in peace for a few hours. He doesn’t have that luxury. He has to write in any little moment he can find or else he will never finish anything.

Do you feel like writing helps with your spirituality? Has it replaced your “religion?”

For many writers it’s a Holy act that must be done no matter what.

What other works of art inspired this book?

Writing has replaced religion for me. You're right about there not being a holy sanctuary. My desk is gone. The baby's crib is connected to it. If I type, she wakes up. I'm a factory, vaping like a steam engine. Pardon my crankiness, by the way; I'm detoxing -- running on fumes. Weed costs so much. It's a major chunk of my paycheck. I haven't told my wife that I'm running low. I'm trapped like the last samurai in front of a TV. The cable is a feeding tube pumping babysitter gas into my mind. I watch too much. My wife loves it, and we're not talking The Criterion Collection. We watch 90 Day Fiance. Jonas Brothers. Bear Grylls. It's a prison, and she's keeping my eyes propped open. I'm telling her that I want to put on some music. She's crushing my playlists with PinkFong. She's bored. She wants me to brush her hair. Two hands. Full attention. Search for a white. That kind of thing.

Every moment that I can, I have to pull out the machine. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: it's an LMG. Typing into my phone constricts my soul. When you've got to do it, you've got to do it. Twitter is about all that I can handle, and that's fine. Here I am though, now, with you, at home, fending off soul death by letting off some steam, filling up the screen, adding to the scroll, handing over my password and saying -- here you go New Pop Lit -- here's the stupid author that you were looking for. Your Tiger Woods. Ernest Hemingway. Jack Kerouac. I just want to be like, let 'er rip. Let it out. Let it be free. I'm finally dead. Make a bot. Keep it going. That sort of thing. But obviously Celine is a major influence. This is what I'm talking about when I'm talking about Henries though. I mean, like, idols, others. Glued to the Neutral Spaces chat to see if someone is holding me to the flame. Trying to keep on because I haven't shaved my face in weeks. Stupid asshole. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow. I'm supposed to be going to my parents' or my sister's (who has a house, unlike me, even though she's the younger of us two children, and we both have the same amount of children (1) even though she's got another one inside of her, and I found out that she miscarried not long ago, which is something that my wife and I (should I call her Musette here?) have never done).

Writing can be thrilling. That's what I like about it. I don't have time to read. I can't be inconvenienced to pull out a book on the train. I'm supposed to be keeping up a Goodreads account, praising Atticus as I roll through his book, and Homeless, but I can't. I'm not like the rest of the lit crew. Makes me feel like a podunk. I don't have everybody's latest copy. Why should they buy mine? Pointing at me and calling me illiterate is what I feel like they're going to do. They're in my head. The henries, or the horde. Hard for me to tell the difference, but we are talking about Henry Miller, so those types get a higher podium position -- obviously. They're billed into the credits. We feel for them. They have stories. They're Negan or Glen, and I'm Rick Grimes, impaled by the white horse, popping shots from my LMG into the jungle. Cigar between my teeth, monkey on my back. Helicopter explosion at the bridge. Ride on Space Cowboy. That sort of thing.

I do listen to music though. I try to capture the sensation of an author's experience, doing what I can to bring that as close to the audience as possible so that we can experience it together; but music is a gateway drug. It's bringing me closer to the blood of myself, which is where we connect on a cellular level. You can listen to music while you read, and your music will do something to you like how my music does something to me. It's a shared personal experience. Forget about movies for a second. The Criterion Collection, etc. We're not talking about Ninety Day Fiance anymore. What we have here is a man with his struggle, just like you, even if you're a woman, or I honestly don't know all of the things that a person can be, and please, just let that be okay for me. My doughnut is already on the ground. The neon war is in the works. It's in the dishes. The baby in the crib. Our desk connection. As we lift higher together, our stations in tune (which is what I call the holy ghost or the grace of God). PayPal is ringing even though the book says the N-word, and I am white -- in case you were wondering. Just because Billy Ray Cyrus can get away with it doesn't mean that I can. I can't, however, deny that I see myself in him. The black community knocking at my notifications. I'm pissing my robe, homophobic, transphobic, agoraphobic, et al. Little white boy bitch, spitting on prison cliques, praying for suicide without wanting to die, trying to write because it seems like God is the only one that can save me, and I'm sitting here in this interview. You're saying that I'm Henry Miller. I'm saying that I've got to kill him because this is the age of bibles. The phase that we're in. My phase anyways. To you, I'm an NPC, but I'm not trying to kill you. I'm not trying to kill any of the other people who are dancing on my mind either. I'm just trying to kill the version of them that's actually doing it so that I can go on to dance within other people's minds, having a mind of my own, a hero -- not a zombie.

The Lit world, not matter which one you may be referring to, does have that kind incestual quality about it.

It’s hard to keep up with all the books and presses — which there are so many great writers from independent publishers now.

it’s about your own tastes and what you’re into.

But I remember watching the Oprah Interview with Cormac McCarthy, and he told her that he doesn’t socialize with writers. He prefers scientists and folks from other industries. I found that really interesting and it made sense to me.

The reading/writing is a tricky thing and I see your point.

I don’t feel like you have to read a whole lot of stuff.

You have to know how to read the right books and be able to identify what it is in those books that will be useful in your own work.

You can learn a lot from rereading your favorite novel every year.

But writing is a narcissistic craft in the way that a writer is falling in love with their own voice, so other people can fall in love with his/her voice as well.

How did you land on that voice from your book? Did it come naturally? Did you have many false starts?

Your writer’s voice is natural and captivating that even your answers to these questions feel like good prose.

What’s your advice for writers looking for their own unique voice?

And last question, Bukowski has on his tombstone — “Don’t Try.” 

What would you like written on your tombstone when it’s all said and done?

I as well am of the opinion that there's a lot of great writing out there. The presses are blowing up with it. I can't take it in. I'm not one of those who's going to bash this or that writer. Most of what I read, I enjoy. My main problem is that I don't have the time for damn near any of it. I'm unable to answer the question of whether I'm worse for it. I spend a lot of time on my phone. I get distracted away from the television because I'm scrolling Twitter or some chatroom, waiting anxiously for more content to appear. I'm focused on that aspect of the lit world. I deal with books all day, everyday. Shelving them and protecting their jackets. A beautiful book is a thing to behold, but I'm not that guy. I'm the guy who is up late at the coffee shop with cigarettes. I stare and I think -- not for long though. My connection to this life is carnal. People are threatening my family. I have to move through the bureaucracy. I am a cow in the grinder. The drama, the narrative, the where are we going? What's going to happen? How can I get this across to someone without the story losing its magic? That sort of thing is what I'm trying to bring forward.

If anything, my tombstone will say "I tried." It can't be said that I didn't reach for the needle. I've been as present as I could be. I have tried to disconnect my attachments to the past. I've been looking for a way to go further. So much of what I have been seeing in the lit scene has been a scraping against a ceiling. I am concerned with the other side, the sky and space. Flying is easy. It just feels impossible, and you get frustrated when you find yourself stuck to the ground. It requires a dreamlike atmosphere, which we are provided with in this realm of imagination. Here, in the future of the past that we left behind with the skins of Henry, we are beyond simply a showing over telling; now we're really doing it. Even from where you're standing, we can do things with what we've done.

In answer to your other question, I found my voice not by adding what not or ever to the atmosphere and saying, "Look, I've got a face!" I felt the voice running around inside of me, and like me, it wanted to pop through. We knew that we needed to team up. Sure, I'm being sliced from the bone, but tomorrow I'm diluted into the season of abandonment where men shouldn't be unless they're divorced, or they never got married or had that kid that I'm always talking about. Truth be told, I've become a patron saint for parents. It was never my intention -- as such, I can tell you that life is so much harder and more frightening once you've pulled an organ that runs wild to get hit by cars or has its pussy murder sliced by a fan of all the handsome Bundy fame.

YOU CAN BUY THE BETTER FACE OF FASCISM @ Expat Press's site: https://expatpress.com/shop/  & a review by Anthony Dragonetti at Neutral Spaces