Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Give An Author a Damn Chance

This is a guest post from Caleb J Ross, author of the chapbook Charactered Pieces: stories, as part of his ridiculously named Blog Orgy Tour. Visit his website for a full list of blog stops. Charactered Pieces: stories is currently available from OW Press (or Amazon.com). Visit him at http://www.calebjross.com.

All it takes is one story to seed an obsession. Brian Evenson’s “The Eye” did me in. Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths,” too. Steve Aylett’s “Gigantic.” Amy Hempel’s “The Harvest.” Stephen Graham Jones’s “Halloween.” Of course, the kind Mel Bosworth’s “Leave Me as I Lessen.” And on the list grows, almost daily.

The bait is not always the first experienced story. What is amazing about this phenomenon is that should the bait be a second, third, or twentieth story, often once the reader is hooked, the previous stories suddenly seem relevant, as though the reader has befriended the author in a way that allows understanding and appreciation. My first Tom Waits listen was the Rain Dogs album (which is definitely story in terms of arc, voice, and character). I didn’t “get” it. Years later, with his Real Gone album, I fell in love. Now, Rain Dogs is practically the air in my house. And of course with someone like Tom Waits, the persona often enhances the work’s appeal.

Strange the way artist becomes art and art becomes artist. I blame (credit?) behind-the-scenes DVD extras. We have come to expect the making-ofs and not-fit-for-final-reel moments that make up the end product. With that in mind, I give you “Author Note on Story #2 (My Family’s Rule) In Hopes That You’ll Learn About Me Intellectually and Donate to My Pocket:”

My Family’s Rule is a story about a family unit built around destruction, but collectively oblivious that they themselves are falling apart. The origin of the story lies with my childhood spent destroying things. My friend’s father did construction, and often as a trade-off for getting to stay the night at his house we were charged with working at the sites. Small stuff mostly: picking up nails, sweeping debris. But those laborious hours forged a stronger relationship, not just with my friends but with their father. I, never having had a father, am interested in father/son relationships from an intellectual perspective, likely more-so than would be someone with a father. My Family’s Rule is an extension of that.

Your homework: ponder the following, then comment below. 1) What initially repulsive stories did you eventually love due to further exploration of the author’s work? 2) Why are an artist and his work so often inseparable?


Caleb J Ross said...

Thanks for the couch space here at Eddie Socko.

Mel Bosworth said...

My pleasure. Care for a complimentary sock?

Unknown said...

I'm not sure if "repulsed" is the right word, but I always tend to be turned off by "media darlings". So when Douglas Coupland first broke big with Generation X, I refused to read it. I think once he passed out of the hands of hipsters and off the radar (so to speak), I found a copy of Miss Wyoming. I grew up in Wyoming, so the title piqued my interest. I can't say that I've found all of his writing indispensable, but I do consistently enjoy his work now.

As for question #2, I think it's just relevant to the fact that the artist is a lens to a different world view. When you find a perspective you enjoy, it's always nice to go back for another look. When someone breaks from their routine, even if you don't like it (see Coupland's All Families Are Psychotic, for example), you'll still find situations where you think, boy this is really a situation out of a ____ novel. Or you'll see something on the news and instantly hear a song in your mind...

pela via said...

I like Michael's answers to both questions.

To the second question -- I think art is what comes when the soul is squeezed, so, when done right, it's a materialization of one's soul. I don't see why the two (art and artist) could or should ever be separated. ...unless the artist is a weirdo. ;)

ps. Nice blog, Mel.

Unknown said...

To further that thought, I think if you CAN separate art from the artist, it probably means they're doing something fairly passe, a la cloning Dan Brown/Tom Clancy/Chuck Palahniuk/The Matrix/whatever. If the work in question is mundane or interchangeable, it may still be enjoyable for fans of that style or genre, but it wouldn't necessarily be something you'd associate with a particular artist.

Caleb J Ross said...

Good call with Coupland. The first I read of his, Hey, Nostradamus, still stands as one of my favorites of his. Because that first book was so good, I keep going back to him, hoping for something great. Unfortunately, that greatness didn't come for me until The Gum Thief. But because I grabbed on once, I keep trying again.