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Literary Prestidigitations on Display

15 Questions: An interview with Chuck Richardson


Chuck Richardson is the author of three novels, SmokeSo It SeamsDoes the Moon Ever Shine In Heaven? A Tale of the Bardo Plane, the collections Dreamlands: 3 Fictions and Trust Me [& other fictions], all from BlazeVox [books]. His short-fiction, poetry, socio-political-economic rantings, etc., have appeared in Thieves Jargon, eccolinguistics, ReconfigurationsAtticus ReviewBlood Lotus Journal, Crisis Chronicles, Countercurrents, The Kafka Project and elsewhere. Follow him at his blog:
1. Tell me about your work.
I write fiction to see what I think and poetry to articulate my feelings and make them more precise. I explore my thought-feelings by getting out of their way. For instance, I try very hard to plumb those areas where there's a voice inside my head screaming you can't write that. Because that voice is the mind's gatekeeper. If I feel embarrassed, I must be on to something. Being adopted, I need to un-cover myself and see what's actually there…who and/or what I might really be…I can't help it. And having PTSD has forced many re-discoveries and re-cognitions. As soon as I think I really know myself, I know I actually don't. Writing is my effort to peg this wildness and corner the terror of it all.
2. What influenced Trust Me and other Fictions?
An inability to attain the acceptance stage of grief. I get there briefly once in a while, then something else always occurs to me. Having an overactive imagination doesn't help. I think another, rather obvious influence on this book are my biological and adopted mothers. Each haunt and agitate the narrative voice into expression…the difficulty of the male-female coupling when the psychic connections don't match where they should…resulting in a sense of profound alienation, both on the part of the man and woman…the inability to truly connect…to get through…the fundamental fact of aloneness.
3. Where does this book fit into your career as a writer?
It's the end of the first of three phases or stages if I'm lucky enough to live long and well enough to get the work done. It's likely the last work by Chuck Richardson. Ziggy Fumar narrates phase two, which is poetry. Chuck Richardson explores what he thinks through fiction. Ziggy Fumar explores his feelings via poetry. Phase three will be narrated by John Andrew Blake, my birth name, the person I otherwise might have been. Blake will blend thought-feelings with fiction-poetry. Blake and Fumar are already hard at work on their projects. Chuck's wrapping up his work and ready to further dissociate himself from their reading-writing. Hopefully, Chuck will now be free to meet a woman he can live, work and play with to make their final years livable. As you can tell, my identity isn't a solid one. I'm not sure, but I think Chuck might be my superego, Ziggy my ego, and Blake my id. Or maybe Chuck's animus, Ziggy's anima, and John's syzygy. Ziggy was originally intended as a play on syzygy, but it's not in the proper evolutionary position to attain the necessary mindful capacity to function on that level…So believe me, in many ways Trust Me represents the best of my thinking…I know Chuck just shot Ziggy in the foot, but John won't realize It until much later. Maybe this is what Kathy Acker meant when she said she was "fascinated by the Situationists" and had assumed as her primary goal the "exploding of duality." I think a tripartite psyche might demonstrate such a situation if it makes dualism impossible. No more questions on that…we'll just have to wait and see…
4. If you had to convince a friend or colleague to read this book, what might you tell them?
If you want to read things from an alien perspective, this book and my others will interest you. Human beings aren't the center of the universe. The universe exists to its own ends on its scale[s]. So do we. Of course, this is all between the lines, but that's how my friends and colleagues read anyway. Basically, I'd just say this is fresh material. You won't read anything else anywhere remotely like it. It hails from parts unknown.
5. Tell me about the last literary reading you attended.
I recently read, along with you and several other BV writers at 100,000 Poets for Change at a certain location. I can’t name that location because the Buffalo International Film Festival told me to cease and desist using the name of that place on FB because they own the name [if not the place itself]. Also, the Big Night readings have ended for some reason at WNYBAC. It seems that there’s some encroachment into the local literary scene of a certain capitalist, ownership mindset that forms cliques and divides things up in order to control, or keep down, any kind of revolutionary or counter-cultural happenings that might begin to gain steam and cause serious problems for the political-economic status quo. All I’m saying is that I sense things are getting a bit frayed on the local lit scene as certain changes appear to have taken place. I miss Mike Kelleher’s cohesiveness, the way he brought people together. I’d like to see a big party where all the major and minor people get drunk together and decide to party on a regular basis. And if they feel like reading to each other along the way, great! That’s the way to grow things, not saying this is mine and that’s yours so you better watch out, cease and desist, etc. Good god. Love your brothers and sisters. Share. I mean, why can't you walk into Talking Leaves or Rust Belt Books and see prominent displays of Starcherone and BlazeVox? Why don't these stores and others do more to promote the local literary scene? Why are they so hepped up on the Capitalist top-down regime of marketing and sales? Let the corporations hawk their stars. The locally owned stores and lit groups, libraries, colleges, universities, et al, should show much more support for the local scene, which is more and more also part of a global scene, thanks to media these dinosaur outlets and organizations seem rather slow to, er, capitalize on…That said, readings too often seem geared toward self-promotion and the hope of selling a book or two in a top-down model…this motivation too often defines the social framework of the reading…I just can't get excited about such things. Most readings are boring as hell. That said, I'd go see Kent Johnson or Michael Basinski perform their work anytime. They're anything but boring.
6. When did you realize you were a writer?
When certain people started introducing me to strangers that way.
7. Tell us about your process: Pen and paper, computer, notebooks…how do you write?
I'm constantly trying to figure that out. I use all the above media and more. The main thing is to throw everything you got onto the page, get say, a hundred-thousand words, then begin carving out the 30,000 that seem to make their points most succinctly. And then once I discover those points I try to find an appropriate way of placing them or ordering them to construct a text that precisely states whatever it's saying, exactly performs what it does. The main thing is nothing happens if you don't show up. I write four hours a day, six days a week. I read four hours six days and eight on Sunday. I keep notes that become points, refined constantly by re-writing them. And it's all intuitive. Whatever I think feels right [whereas Ziggy's poetry is whatever he feels thinks right]. Each book requires a different method. Each book must express its truth its own way. Each project is its own dot, being comprised of many dots, etc., scaling up and down and all around. I have no agenda regarding the truth, only a method stabbing at various forms of discovery.
8. How do you handle a bad review of your work?
I don't care. It's to be expected. Oscar Wilde said "criticism's the best form of autobiography." The critic reveals more about herself than the texts she reads…I don't expect anybody to get it. I know I don't, and that's the motive—to find out what It is, and what It's actually doing. In fact, I think if I had a work that answered its own questions I wouldn't publish it. The only reason to publish is to possibly hear other, equally or more plausible answers to the hopefully unanswerable questions it raises. A bad review would be written by someone unable or unwilling to figure something out about it, but then again, that bad review might actually be a good one.
9. Which writer would you most like to have a drink with and why?
Melville, because I think he was a rather lonely guy hungry for contact with other writers. I can imagine sitting by a bonfire on a cool autumn night, getting ripped with Herm and playing devil's advocate, hopefully getting him to riff on all the mysteries in his work…Oh man, the mind's beginning to swirl round the savage spirits. This may become something…I should say more, but would prefer…
10.                What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a writer?
Thinking there was even just a tiny bit of money to possibly ever be made anywhere writing necessary things. There isn't. Nothing is necessary.
11.                What’s the worst advice you hear authors give writers?
How to get published and market yourself. Who cares? If you do what the work itself requires, things will happen. Otherwise, you're just adding more shit to a giant heap of crap.
12.                What scares you the most?
The fact I can't protect my loved ones from death forever…that we won't be together forever…that this time we share is finite. It's why I write fiction and poetry, The Fact scares the shit out of me. Fiction helps me think about it, poetry helps me feel the best way I can about it…each re-cognizes the situation, hopefully transforming the dying into something survivable…and the fact we're all Quixote saddens me most…perhaps.
13.                Where do you buy your books?
SPD, directly from the publisher, Rust Belt and Talking Leaves. Also at readings, whenever I go I buy the reader's book. I try not to put a nickel in a corporation's pocket, but of course that's impossible these days. It seems my life's filled with impossible dreams and tasks.
14.                Who are you reading now?
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt, From Absinthe to Abyssinia by Rimbaud/Spitzer, North by Celine, re-reading Dante's InfernoTyrant Banderas by Ramon Del Valle-Inclan,Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century by Patrik Ourednik, A Question Mark Above the Sun by Kent Johnson, My Body in Nine Parts by Raymond Federman, [[there]] by Lance Olsen, and my vocabulary did this to me: the collected poems of Jack Spicer. Right now, most of my other reading of articles, essays, etc., are part of the necessary research for a future novel, tentatively called Rapture of the Ziggies Fumar, which I envision as the story of Earth's most heinous invasive species—the human being.
15.                What do you want the world to know about you? Make it juicy.
I want the world to believe the lie about me. I am not the voice on the page.