I have bade farewell…

end of the beat

Henceforth there will be no letters to answer; I have bade farewell to first performances and the literary and other discussions which come from them.
Jules Massenet

The-Beat has closed it’s doors.




Keeping the Beat

Jack kerouac

 Originally reviewed in May 2002 at the Thirteenth Street Repertory.)

The wistfully lyrical “Jack Kerouac — Last Call” is really meant for Beat Generation fans only, but if that’s you, it will reward you well.

We see Kerouac sitting alone next to a bottle of Johnnie Walker and a plastic cup, doing what he did best in the later years of his life — drinking and brooding. Approaching the end of his life, he’s visited by his past and his future, as it were — the past in the form of literary pals Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg, the future in the form of two biographers deciding how to portray him for posterity.

The play is more about impressions of Kerouac than revelations about him. It conveys some sense of his passion for life and people, his free-associative, jazzlike writing style, and his alcoholic breakdown. Even more, as he spars with his writing pals over the past, we get a feeling for how he bridged Cassady’s free spirit and Ginsberg’s intellect without ever equaling either one in these respects. We’re meant to see the “On the Road” author’s achievements and originality through the melancholy perceptions of a sad and dying middle-aged man.

John Jordan does a capable job as Kerouac, while Kyle Pierson plays the more macho, adventurous anti-intellectual Cassady and Gavin Smith is nebbishy as Ginsberg. It helps to have a little knowledge about the characters involved (at least you should know that Ginsberg was openly gay, the other writers were not above sleeping with one another whether technically bisexual or whatever, and Kerouac is well known to have drunk himself to death while living miserably with his mother). The play is not likely to stimulate an interest in the Beat writers in audience members who don’t know them, but for those who do, it tries to give a deeper feeling for their most prominent member’s life, death, spirit and what he’s left to us today.

MAY 16, 2002


The Joke’s Over: Memories of Hunter S. Thompson


On the 20 February 2005, a gunshot rang out on a farm in Colorado that echoed around the world. Dr Hunter S Thompson had committed suicide. His final piece of writing: the word ‘counselor’ typed on an otherwise empty page. Thompson’s unique brand of invective-laced journalism, Gonzo (like Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism, but more renegade), discarded traditional reporting rules in favour of a subjective, free-wheeling narrative in which he was the star player. An acute chronicler of America, he was a countercultural icon (particularly at the height of the Watergate era). The “cunning bastard checked out before he had to,” writes Ralph Steadman, “leaving behind a battlefield of unexploded land mines, unused ammunition, guns, powders, salves, several bottles of the cheapest whiskies a self-proclaimed connoisseur would ever want to be seen dead with, uppers, downers, loofahs, quaaludes, a treasure trove of hilarious prose … but he left it to others to clear up the glorious mess.” 

If you’ve never read a book by Hunter S Thompson – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hell’s Angels, The Great Shark Hunt, The Rum Dairy, Better Than Sex – aside from being ashamed of yourself, you can at least comfort yourself with the fact that you’ll be familiar with one of his well-honed mantras: “When the going gets weird, the weird turned pro.” But thank god for small mercies like Ralph Steadman, partner-in-crime for over thirty inglorious years, whose reflections on his time with Hunter keeps the Gonzo spirit alive. His take on Thompson will serve you well as a bluffer’s guide, a Brodie’s Notes if you like on one elegant thug of a wordsmith and a great American man who stood, as Steadman says, as “the antidote to the New Dumb.” From their first assignment together for Scanlan’s Monthly on the 1970 Kentucky Derby (though Pat Oliphant was HST’s first choice), Ralph Steadman was Thomspon’s “hired hitman”, his “psycho-artistic vomit[s]” bringing Hunter’s “exceeding personal, desperately brilliant writings” (as Kurt Vonnegut writes in the introduction) to life. Steadman’s first meeting ended with Thompson macing him in the face, but it was to be the start of a beautiful and twisted friendship. For Steadman, Thompson was “a different animal. He seemed to gain strength from rakish marathons..he learned the balance between living out on the edge of lunacy and apparently normal discourse with everyday events,” convincing “those around him that they were the ones who were mad, irrational or just plain dumb and he was behaving as a decent law-abiding citizen.”  

That get-together made the Kentucky Derby look like Hogarth’s Gin Lane, “the gristle, the blood-throbbing veins” of the crowd, a “savage binge” in the genteel South. Their next, the America’s Cup, was “a defining moment in the evolution of Gonzo,” then it was downhill from here on in. Hunter S Thompson broke all the rules, shitting on everything until his rebellious inclinations were honed to fever pitch for a Rolling Stone assignment, an assignment that was supposed to cover a cop convention and the “fabulous Mint 400” but mutated in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Steadman wasn’t with him on that trip, but:  “It was as though I already knew the story. I had been there before. Not the same place, not the same story, not even in the same skin, but a shock of recognition from a suppressed well of personal experience and personal dread. An exciting resonance with something suicidal emerged and I settled down at my ink-stained drawing board in the back bay-window of our living room on the slightly raised first floor of a Georgian terraced house at 103, New King’s Road, Fulham, London SW6. I dipped my steel pen – now a lethal weapon – into a blood-black cauldron of bile and began, accompanied by beer and brandy chasers, the therapeutic exercise of expunging from my mind all those trapped demons that lay in wait for their mark of recognition, so that they might emerge blinking and grimacing into the harsh daylight of reality. I was there to give them life in whatever form they chose for themselves, like a theatre costume department handing out wigs, gelatine masks and rudimentary skin-tight costumes for each to play its role, as it saw fit.” 

In his introduction to The Joke’s Over (a phrase Thomspon repeated to Steadman a lot over the years, but never more as biting as when he followed it with, “You’ve sucked on my back long enough”) Kurt Vonnegut compares the relationship to a marriage, and like most marriages, things weren’t always peachy between the two men. Steadman is honest about this, claiming “thirty-five years of verbal abuse and criminal usury.” Thomspon was a notorious letter writer (he later moved to fax), and Ralph shares with the reader with some of the wild and angry broadsides the pair exchanged. Writing to Hunter for advise on parenting, Ralph, a “snivelling, hypocritical bastard” according to Thompson, is comforted with: “What the fuck do you think we’ve been doing all these years? Do you think you were getting paid for yr. goddam silly art? No, Ralph. You were getting paid to smash windows. And that is an art in itself. The trick is getting paid for it.” Taken in and flogged like a stray dog (like many who knew Hunter), Steadman came to realise that Hunter was “more into deals than personal affection.” The first cinematic outing for Thomspon was Where The Buffalo Roam (with Bill Murray as the Doctor), a film that attempted the unthinkable: “to catch the abandoned pure essence of Gonzotic madness which can only happen in uncontrolled conditions.” Steadman was stiffed on this project, told by director Art Linston that it was Hunter and Oscar’s relationship that was “an integral part of what’s been happening in American politics since flower and up to Watergate.” In fact, Steadman was kicked repeatedly in the nuts over the years – from being shut out on the copyright deal for the Fear and Loathing drawings (“Where is Winnie the Pooh without its illustrations? Where is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas without its Gonzo drawings?”), to having the drawings stolen ’til, with The Curse of Lono, he realises that the bigger the Gonzo legend grew, the less Steadman was required. In the Eighties his drawings had become baggage to Thompson. Philosophically Steadman writes, “Quite by chance I became a part of this man’s life, more as an infection than a friend. I fooled myself that there was something in me that he found important. Actually, as time went by, he hated the very idea that something as putrid as a cartoon drawing could ever capture the essence of what it was he was trying to describe.” 

Thompson never wrote an autobiography – he didn’t need to, it’s all there in his work:  “He was his own best story.” Yet, despite being the “Mark Twain of the late twentieth century” (an amazing writer), there was plenty of bullshit around Hunter S Thompson. “The gun nut and drug user and heaver consumer of grain alcohol” [Kurt Vonnegut], his ball-breaking displays of boyish high-jinks, Hunter “allowed people to fit into his world in the Owl Farm kitchen as bit-players in a grander scheme of his own design,” people like John Belushi  who “tumbled through one weekend, reeking of fatigue and rocket-fuel adrenaline.” Steadman says: “Shady people of the shadiest kind fascinated Hunter and, like a fly detecting a heap of shit, he would alight, to the manner born, on such a dump. ‘All part of the job, Ralph. You will never learn anything, or stay ahead, unless you mingle, otherwise the dump’s on you.'”  Steadman’s memories of Hunter are a unique insight into not only Steadman’s work, but  the work of Thompson’s and the very essence of Gonzo itself, that “strange kind of magic that appeals to the beast that lurks in the dark heart of most of us.” The letters, drawings and photographs that litter the text in The Joke’s Over serve as battlefield exhibits of the carnage. Playing Sancho Panza to a man that wanted to wake up the world, who lived his live in the fast lane and was “in revolt against life itself all his life,” Steadman is more “just another fish wrap who got lucky.” “Don’t write, Ralph. You’ll bring shame on your family,” Thompson once told him. But Ralph’s “gibberish” (as HST was so prone to calling it) is a berserk, warts-and-all record of an American legend and last word goes to Ralph Steadman: “Let me say it here and now. For all Hunter’s mindless self-indulgence, which is legendary and crude, he always impressed me with his blind, selfless urge to cut out the crony bestiality of modern society and political calumny that scarred that era. He was, for God’s sake, one of us. I believed him, was inspired by him and allowed him in his crusade to do what was necessary. He never let me down and as far as I know, when we were on that ride, whichever one it was, he got from me as good as he gave.”

Susan Tomaselli

SAM TAYLOR-WOOD – The Last Century, 2005

Posted On November 10, 2006

Filed under adult, Beat, Blogroll, books, jesus, poetry, review, short stories, tech

Comments Dropped 3 responses

DVD. Duration 7 minutes 12 seconds.

by: Sam Taylor-Wood


Bram Stoker’s Chair VI, 2005

C-print. Image size: 48 x 38 in. (121.9 x 96.5 cm).

by: Sam Taylor-Wood

Peter Bagge interview

 peter bagge

 Peter Bagge interview

Any plans on having a “Bagge” art exhibition in the UK? Similar to the Robert Crumb exhibition?

That would have to be someone else’s idea — someone in a position to pull it off, that is, since my wanting something like that to happen wouldn’t be enough to pull it off. If someone did want to exhibit my work in the UK I wouldn’t be opposed, though

Did you have any in-put on the design of the HATE mini punk toys?

Yes, I drew and designed them all, though I had to keep the art confined into the very odd shapes they come in.

If you were to release a HATE music compilation CD, what would your first 5 tracks be?

They whole thing would probably sound just like my “Rockin’ Poppin’ Favorites” CD comp EMI put out a few years ago.

How have you evolved as a writer with your continued work on HATE?

Jeez, that’s a tough one. I’m more concise and thoughtful now, and less angry and manic than I used to be. Whether that’s a change for the better is a matter of opinion. It’s all a reflection of my age more than anything else.

What is your ideal story, or rather, what makes a good story?

No ONE theme makes for an ideal story, anything that’s grounded in a realistic setting involving people conflicting and overreacting to their situations seems to work best for me. That’s my most successful “formula.”

From the point of view of an indie comic creator, where do you see the comic book industry heading?

Right now it’s getting away from the relatively cheap periodical format and switching to the more expensive square bound book format. Getting comics into more bookstores is great, but I don’t like seeing the traditional format fade away, since I much prefer it myself.

How would it feel to have one of your projects made into a movie?

It’d feel fine, esp. if it turned out well and made me lots of money.

Will we ever see a one off special based on Buddy’s next-door neighbor – Jimmy Foley?

I doubt it. He’s too repulsive to have his own comic.

You once recommended Ward Suttons – ink blot – & Marc Bells – The Mojo Action Companion. Anyone else new on the scene we should know about?

Johnny Ryan’s ANGRY YOUTH COMICS and Lorna Miller’s WITCH. Those are two good ones.

Given unlimited time, money, and materials, what would your ideal project be?

A comic book.

What has been your favourite experience in your drawing career?

Getting to make my own comic books.

If you could no longer be an artist , what would you choose as a career?

A landlord.

How are things going with “The Action Suits”?

Ha! I retired from the music biz 8 years ago, and the Actions Suits Ended about 7 years ago.

Can you think of anything else I might have missed?

Just tell everyone to go to my website (http://www.peterbagge.com) and read all about my many new and on-going projects!

Just FU@#ING DO IT!!!

send us your work!!!!

We need your reviews!!!! Send your words over to sean@the-beat.co.uk clearly marked “orthogonal review” you know it makes sense!!!

also vist: http://www.winamop.com/

Winamop; conceived on a whim, run on a shoestring, ignored by the many, loved by the few; has continued unabashed since 2003.

Very cool site!

and since you cats, dogs and hairy off-beat rebels are clicking like a bat out of…….Birmingham??? visit: http://www.blowbackmagazine.com/

:blowback has become a term of art acknowledging that the unconstrained, often illegal, secret acts of the United States in other countries can result in retaliation against innocent American citizens. The dirty tricks agencies are at pains never to draw the connection between what they do and what sometimes happens to those who pay their salaries.  

Culture Capital of the UK!!

Please visit Birmingham

Welcome to Birmingham!! Culture capital of the UK!!

A Conversation with Corey Mesler ~ Lisa Zaran

Lisa Zaran

“Once I gave myself permission to be a novelist, it is all I want to do.” 

Recently, I was lucky enough to begin a correspondence with Corey Mesler. What started out as a “tete-a-tete” to quote Mesler himself, bloomed into a full fledged interview.

And what an engaging man he is.

The owner of one of the nations oldest independent book stores, Burkes Book Store located in Memphis, Tennessee, Corey is also a novelist, poet, devoted husband and father, music lover, agoraphobic and avid reader.

Basically, the perfect man.

Do not try to compete with Corey Mesler. His output to date includes eight poetry collections, two prose chapbooks, two novels and close to one thousand individual pieces in magazines, journals, lit zines and anthologies.

It is difficult not to be jealous of someone with such a creative handle on literature. Everywhere I turn I find something with his name attached to it, whether it be a poem, a short story, a novel, or simply a blog entry, the entire world is in love with Corey Mesler.

How difficult is it to write a novel? Did you begin writing to be a novelist or a poet?

When I was younger I wrote nothing but poetry, bad poetry. I never thought I would have the confidence to write in whole paragraphs. Then I read Raymond Carver and was blown away and I thought, ok, I can try that, the 2 or 4 page story. So I did. And the first one got published. So for years I said I would never have the patience, nor the talent, nor the creativity, nor the smarts to write a novel. Then I sort of backed into one by writing my first all in dialogue. Then I sort of backed into it again by making my second a collage-novel. Now, lo and behold, I have written 2 straightforward narrative novels (I am working still rewriting the 2nd and the 1st is with my agent). So, just recently I have started to answer to the moniker Novelist. Not that I’ve given up my old moniker Chucklehead.

What do you spend more time doing?

Typically now I write prose and I’m always in a novel or short story. In between bouts of doing that I write poems. The poems just keep coming, the product of my leaky head which never shuts up.

It is through your poetry that I know you best, but recently I came across a piece in Turnrow, an excerpt from Following Richard Brautigan. Tell me a little bit about this. Will this become a book?

That is the first section of my unpublished 3rd novel of the same name. It is with my agent if my agent actually exists which I often doubt.

After its appearance in Turnrow it won the Plan B Press Beat Writing Chapbook contest and was published by them in a limited edition chapbook with a cover picture which was meant to echo the cover of Brautigan’s great novel, The Abortion, a photo shot by my friend Alisa. And to all I wish to say that since that cover photograph I’ve lost 20 pounds. Really.

How often do you write?

I write literally every day. Where did this discipline come from? I have no idea. I am not this steady in any other aspect of my life. There is nothing else I show up for religiously like this, except perhaps televised Tiger basketball games. But, somewhere in middle age I became the living embodiment of Uncle Ben Franklin’s dictum, Early to bed, early to rise. I am up between 5 and 6 every day so that I get at least a couple hours at the keyboard before the world intrudes. Anne Lamott says that if you write at the same time every day and in the same place your body will make itself ready at that time and your brain will fire if it is meant to fire. I find this for the most part true.

Do you sit down with the intention to write, with a specific idea in mind, or do you just allow it to come naturally?

I sit down without preconceived things to write unless I am in the middle of a short story or novel. I am most comfortable in the middle of a novel. It is a place of comfort like being in, say, the middle of good dream, the kind where the person who spurned you in your wanton youth is suddenly transformed by night-magic into someone who cannot do without you. That kind of dream. Wait. What was I saying? Oh, yes, being in the middle of a novel is a lovely way to start a day and I rarely—knock on wood—experience writer’s block. My friend Tim, who is a painter, says he cannot imagine working on the same thing for over a year. Formerly I couldn’t either. But now that I’ve gotten my Novelist Badge in the mail (it’s quite nice, something between those “Hello I’m—“ plastic convention badges and the great ones you used to be able to obtain as a member of the Man from UNCLE fan club). Anyway, once I gave myself permission to be a novelist, it is all I want to do. Yet I still have short story ideas and poems still rain down like mental hail storms. Poems I write in between-times. They are more the kind of inspiration that you just pray for, the kind that hits you when you’re peeing, for instance, or in the middle of the night. Poems, for me, start with a line, a conglom of words that somehow, through glottological alchemy, spur one to go on, to go on talking. What was the question?

When in a rut, what, if any, types of writing exercises are you fond of?

A rut for me would be a morning I don’t physically feel well. Even some of those I’m still able to write. It’s like, forget the pain in your lower back, what did Jim say to Marsha?

Do you read others’ works to fuel your inspiration?

I do keep handfuls of poetry books beside my keyboard and, dipping into them is inspiring and often jump-starts the poetic side of my brain. For instance, right now I have this great anthology called Contemporary East European Poetry which is so deep and rousing that I may be lost in it for months and my poetry may suddenly be about pogroms and shtetls and such. I also have the City Lights edition of the poems of Jacques Prevert called Paroles.

Who, among your contemporaries, do you admire? I am especially interested in those who are following the same vein of online publication.

I have the world’s worst memory and really don’t recall names very often. I do love Ward Abel’s work. I’ve liked some things by Julie Bolt, Doug Hoekstra, Jeff Crook, Mark Yakich, Whitney Pastorek, Amy Gerstler, Steve Almond, Lyn Lifshin, Tom O’Connell, John Sweet, John Amen, uh, you…….I’m gonna forget some names so I won’t even try to be all-inclusive. I’m gonna miss saying some of my friend’s work.

Are there any modern, web-based authors whose work you are impressed with or inspired by?

I guess I just answered that except for the why. The why is that their words stopped me in my browsing like a three-headed dog at the entrance to Hell. What does Cerberus say? He says, “Now, just wait a minute-”

Favorite book? And why.

I have to say Ulysses even though immediately that will provoke eye-rolling and smirks. But, really, it’s the richest novel I’ve ever read and it lives inside of me like no other book. Ulysses is a city once visited can never be forgotten. Joyce was from the future. Oh, and by the way, I’m typing this answer on Bloomsday. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Favorite movie and why.

I wanna keep my egghead reputation alive and say something like Godard’s Band of Outsiders, a movie I find indescribably delicious. But, honestly, my favorite all-time film is Annie Hall. Woody Allen is our second-most important American director (you gotta say Altman is 1st) and Annie Hall is his best film. It’s funny and funny is very important to me and it also dissects romance the way no other modern film does. Like Chaplin, Allen is able to combine comedy and drama smoothly and brilliantly.

Favorite musician, etc. We talked previously about how we share music as a source of inspiration.

Who inspires you most? Meaning, what music or musician or song writer causes you the most glee?

Oh well it all starts and ends with Dylan. I named my son after him for Godsake. Like the Bible, you can dip into Dylan’s lyrics and pull out a plum every time. He is tapped into ancient knowledge, arcane mysteries, the world before the world. But when writing I listen to all kinds of things. I like background noise and write best when loud music is on. I listen to a lot of 60s psych-pop this way. Andy Warhol used to paint with the Rolling Stones blasting and he said it was to clear away conscious thought and let unconscious do the painting. And to that I say, uh, yeah, that sounds about right. Also, I have to mention here The Beatles. They are joy distilled. When I need Joy Distilled I put any Beatles album on. Kurt Vonnegut said, “I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did’.”

It is imperative that I respond to this. So much in common, you and I. It does all start and end with Dylan. You state it very eloquently. I could pirouette forever through his songs. It is an unfair question, and one that has been asked of me many times, but if forced to choose, what is a favorite Dylan song and why?

Favorite Dylan: you probably assume that I will not be able to give one answer. My first impulse, so perhaps this is the truest answer, is “Visions of Johanna.” Because of the way he sings it and because it, to me, is his purest poetry. Lines like “Inside the museum infinity goes up on trial” are just too good. They rattle around in your head like loose screws. But I would have to hedge and declare, on another day I might just as readily say, “Tangled Up in Blue,” for lines like “There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.” Which make you wish Dylan would write a novel. And, to let that hedge grow more branches, I am also religiously partial to the dada period of The Basement Tapes (the original still bootleg-only version and even Robbie Robertson’s cleaned up version.)

I extend this question with The Beatles. Perhaps with them, who do you love more, John or Paul?

John, of course.

Favorite Beatle song, John: “Tomorrow Never Knows” because of the line “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying.” Part of which I appropriated in my hippie novel. Cryptic John is as good as cryptic Dylan. Or how about “Happiness is a Warm Gun” or how about “I am the Walrus?” I mean, “Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe” is cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Favorite Beatle single (Paul, of course): either “Lady Madonna” (the line “Though she feels as if she’s in a play she is anyway” is smart like few song lyrics are) or “Paperback Writer” because it is, natch, about books.

What is your goal with writing?

What is the goal of writing always? To make sense of the senseless, or even of the insensible. A fool’s ambition, or, as it’s more commonly known, fool’s goal.

In ten years where would you like to be? As a poet, novelist or otherwise.


Alive. Unafraid to travel. (This is the agoraphobe’s truncated life-wish, to be able to stretch that tether so that I can move freely more than 10 miles away from home base.) Watching the movie version of my novel Talk on TCM with Hope Davis and Scarlett Johansson and Campbell Scott. Well, not watching with them but…well, you get it.

Agoraphobia is commonly misunderstood as a fear of “open spaces”. But this isn’t necessarily true is it? It could also be severe anxiety in situations where the sufferer is afraid of losing control, their fear is so high they begin to avoid either situations or places. Many agoraphobics become housebound. You are not a housebound agoraphobic correct?

Literally, it means “fear of the marketplace” and this is closer. In my case I have panic syndrome and the fear of leaving my house stems from that, a fear of having a panic attack outside the house, and a panic attack, friends, is absolutely the worst thing I can imagine happening to me. A panic attack is often mistakenly called fear of dying but, no, it is more a vision of the void, a quick glimpse into the hole in the center of being. A dark abyss. Emphasis on the dark. As if one suddenly, but irrevocably, sees the utter meaninglessness of existence. I cannot make light of this (or even acknowledge that pun) because it flat out scares the shit out of me. Even writing about it here gives me the collywobbles.

How far do you travel? Is it with great difficulty?

I can go out by myself on good days for a quick jaunt to the video store or the corner grocery. On bad days I am housebound. And on many days I can go with my wife, who in the vernacular of the literature is my “safe person” almost anywhere in town. Can’t leave town of course. That would be certain death.

How long have you suffered from agoraphobia? Was it something you believe you were born with or did certain events cause it?

According to my therapist I have been building my agoraphobia my whole life. There’s a committee in my head telling me bad things and the chairpeople of that committee are the bullies I endured when small. In his terms, I have internalized and become those bullies and I continue to believe their bleak assessment of me.

If all this makes me sound childish, believe me, that’s exactly how it feels. The fear is the same fear I felt walking into first grade for the first time. A gut-level dis-ease. Fear at its purest, with no relief seemingly in sight.

Where do your ideas come from? Mainly, the ideas for your stories. Does each character represent some aspect of Corey Mesler?

After Talk I had to have a t-shirt made that said, “I am not Jim,” its protagonist. Whatever bit of my life I use to germinate a character that character is never me. It is an aspect of me because I wrote it down and no one else did. But I think my characters are sprung from my story ideas and those story ideas come from hither and yon. Lately mostly yon. Or sometimes my characters create the story. It’s never one way or another. I think, often, that it’s odd that I don’t take more characters from real life, from people I know or have known. I guess in this way I am a fabulist, though that’s such a fancy term I couldn’t, in good conscience, claim it. Sometimes characters come from my readings. Not characters stolen from other books, mind you, but characters inspired by ideas from those books. Sometimes they come in the mail like sweepstakes winnings and sometimes they come from friends who know I am character-challenged.

How’s the bookstore business? If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say tough. I admire you. The world you are ensconced in makes me think of a small drop of water in a very large pond. How do you compete with the conglomerates?

We are losing the war. Which is to say that America is losing the war. Soon, there will only be Big Box Businesses in all areas, not just bookstores. And then the country will be as boring as Television. And then people will stop reading and only play video games. And then sooner they will stop going out to get food, and then stop eating and mating and hence perish as a race. Or that’s how I see it. It seems a natural declension to me. Say goodbye, friends, anti-intellectualism won out. These are the end-days.

You are a lovely, intelligent, and forthright man Corey Mesler, tell me, what are your immediate plans for the future? This question does not relate to the “where would you like to be in ten years”, I mean immediate future. Tomorrow. Next Friday.

Thanks for the nice adjectives. I want to finish the novel I am now writing. For some reason, lately, I’ve been feeling that I will not live long enough to see this novel published. I don’t know why. Because I think this one has more commercial potential, a phrase I’m not really very comfortable with. Which is causing intimations of mortality. And that’s driving me to finish it and at least give it its shot at being loved.

The worry you have about dying before the novel is published. Do you think this stems from a fear of success? Perhaps the novel is “that” good. Soon you’ll be on Oprah’s Recommended book list.

Yeah, that’s it! Honestly, it is the best thing I’ve written. So, perhaps, yes, I am afraid I couldn’t handle its success. Or that I don’t deserve it, though I don’t want my therapist to read that last bit.

Off the top of your head:

Best friend? My brother.

Most significant moment? The births of my kids.

Happiest memory? Ditto.

Biggest accomplishment? Ditto.

Disappointment? When Sports Night was cancelled.

Obviously, writing is a permanent goings-on in your life. Without the rhythmic hammer and drive of writing, what else could you see yourself doing, artistically?

Seriously, nothing.

I would trade every other talent I have to be a musician but I didn’t get that chip. Whatever it is in humans that makes music they forgot to put in Corey. I was the only kid in my 4th grade class who didn’t learn to play the tonette. Which perhaps is why I am such a fan. Music is, then, to me, magic. Who wouldn’t want to make magic?

What I’ve read of your work, I am most often amazed at how easily you can cement an idea. How real your characters/their lives are. Is it the life of each character and what they think the point you are trying to get across? Even in your poetry I have found your words to stand up off the flat page, or in the case of internet publications, dance across the screen.

I would be the last to know why they do that. I want to believe you that they do.

In Fifth-Watch Bells, a poem recently published in Ducts.org you write:

Fifth-Watch Bells
No longer beautiful
I eschew beauty.
No longer patient
I eschew patience.
Once, when I was young
and golden,
women came to me in
pairs, promising
things they would
later deliver.
This I called love.
Once, when I was young
and golden,
I examined my heart
and found it
to be full of joy.
This surprised me,
even then.
No longer the late night
poet, I eschew
the changing of days.
How I went before is not
how I now go.

This is an extraordinary poem to me because not only does it strike the nail home with aging, we all age and so every one of us can feel the pulling sadness of: “No longer beautiful/I eschew beauty.” You as the poet have chosen to make this poem bleakly honest. “No longer the late night/poet, I eschew/the changing of days.” As a reader it is an aching statement because I too want to avoid too much change yet this is one of life’s blows we all have to deal with. The final two lines “How I went before is not/how I now go.” The impression I get here is that the poet has chosen to go now with an almost “thought-free” mind. He knows he is no longer young or beautiful, perhaps senses that even his patience, joy and other once-natural tendencies are fading too. By avoiding everything, especially those golden days of youth, he is free.

Have I understood the poem the way you meant it to be understood? Perhaps I’ve blown it way out of proportion, but isn’t that what great writing does? Causes the reader to wrap themselves around each word and make them their own?

It is the most complete and intelligent reading of anything I’ve ever written by anyone who has ever read it. Really. Thank you. The thought-free mind, yes, I aspire to because my therapist was a Zen Buddhist. This poem is rather nakedly autobiographical, isn’t it? Well, here’s my philosophy. Feel free to start a cult around it. We are all gonna be worm-food one day so it’s important that while we’re still corporeal that we make some attempts to communicate with each other, however difficult, however impossible, and that we talk about real things, about how we really feel and, in the end, even if they’re as dangerous as Pandora’s box, to go ahead and let the emotions out. Would you please tell me I’m lovely again?

By the way, there is a dialogue poem on your site that I particularly admire. I wish I’d written it. It’s called “The Difficult Suitor.” The rhythm of it, particularly, is hypnotic and it seems to speak about what we were discussing about the writer’s self, how much of it is in what he or she writes, how much of the voice is the writer’s voice. It’s a really fine and multifaceted and mysterious piece of work. As you know I have written extensively in dialogue and admire greatly when it is handled well and so poetically.

When I read something I really liked or enjoyed, whether that enjoyment arose out of excitement about the writing or despair in the writing, I feel like the work never leaves me. Certain poems, certain stories, certain songs are always with me, in their own way, my life will never be the same, or as it was prior to hearing or reading. Do you feel this strongly about literature and/or music? If so, can you elaborate?

Oh, in spades. It’s why we go back to these things. Especially literature—it works in us like tiny time pills. I carry around in me lines and ideas from things I’ve read and they enrich the everyday, which, let’s face it, needs enriching.

Do you think it takes a certain maturity to “get” your work? Say, could a 15 year old understand and accept a poem or story you’ve written?

It takes a certain maturity because parents are warned not to give my stuff to their children. Writing, mostly, NC-17 fiction I have created a gap between me and the youngsters. (Though I do have some children’s stories actually, which I would love to have published.)

But, I think what you mean by the question is perhaps, do I think what I write of a certain sophistication that inexperienced readers might struggle with it? To which I say, I ain’t sophisticated. And I also say that one doesn’t want to shut anyone out. Writing should be like a good church and open its doors to everyone, even those who want to nail their own declarations on those doors. But, the writer is grappling with something complex and hence, at times, the methods must be complex. Does that make sense? Nothing is for everyone, I guess is the appropriate writer’s shilly-shally.

Also, what I read, and what I am influenced by is, for the most part, experimental writing, the great po-mo movement of the 1960s and after, Barth, the Barthelmes, Pynchon, Vonnegut, Gilbert Sorrentino, Thomas Berger, Gaddis, Gass, DeLillo, David Markson. And the surreal poetries of James Tate and Frank O’Hara and Terry Stokes.

So, to that extent, sometimes my poor attempts to please these Literary Gods might veer toward the – what’s a good word for it – pretentious? experimental? investigational?

In an effort to understand life, its ups and downs, trials and tribulations and so on, what makes you happy? And this is a silly question because I don’t believe in a state of happiness myself, but if such an idea were possible, to reach a state of happiness and remain there for more than a fraction of a second, can you explain what or who it is that can, if not give, then at the very least show you happiness?

My family makes me very happy. Hitting a good writing jag makes me happy. Sex, reading, watching movies, listening to music. Just about in that order.

When not writing or running your bookstore, how do you like to spend your time?

Thinking about writing and running the bookstore. I am trapped in my own head.

Sam Taylor-Wood ~ Artist





I happened to stumble upon a book featuring a series of colour/BW photographs of male actors crying, and surprisingly STW actually captures that moment when a “man” has dropped that emotional guard and looks like any another normal person.

Visit: http://www.artnet.com/artist/16443/sam-taylor-wood.html


Sam Taylor-Wood

Conversation with Johnny Ryan

Posted On September 20, 2006

Filed under Beat, Blogroll, poetry, review

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Johnny Ryan

Conversation with Johnny Ryan

Bio from his website: http://www.johnnyr.com/

Originally from the site http://www.the-beat.co.uk

John F. Ryan IV was born in Boston MA on November 30, 1970. As a child, he had a Prince Valiant hairdo, orthopedic shoes, and was occasionally chased with BB guns by neighborhood bullies. His teen years were spent doing homework and watching “Night Flight”. He studied English Literature at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he had no girlfriends to distract him from making the Dean’s List every year. The disgruntled, post-collegiate Johnny began drawing comics and sending them to his friends, who encouraged him to go legit with his badly scrawled (yet hilarious) artwork.

Over the next few years, he honed his craft in his self-published title Angry Youth Comix, which was picked up by Fantagraphics Books in 2000. There have been nine issues of AYC since, as well as two book collections (Portajohnny and What’re You Lookin’ At?!). AYC has earned multiple Ignatz, Harvey, and Eisner nominations in the years since. Johnny was also a guest of the Festival International des Bande Dessinee in Angouleme, France in 2002, where he presented Will Eisner with an award during opening night festivities and had artwork featured in the festival’s accompanying gallery show. His comics are published in Spain by La Cupula, and have been reprinted in Brazil as well.

Johnny is also the creator of a weekly comic strip, “Blecky Yuckerella”, which appears monthly in VICE magazine and weekly in The Portland Mercury (as well as online). A book collection by the same name was published in 2005.

Johnny’s unmistakable and hilarious drawings have appeared in MAD, LA Weekly, National Geographic Kids, Hustler, Cool & Strange Music, The Stranger, and elsewhere. His artwork appears in nearly every issue of Nickelodeon magazine, wherein he has also collaborated with acclaimed artist Dave Cooper under the pen name “Hector Mumbly”. The two also collaborated on a “Wonder Woman vs. Super Girl” story for the DC Comics anthology Bizarro. He also collaborated with Peter Bagge in both AYC and Bagge’s Hate Annual, in addition to penciling and inking two stories for his DC series Sweatshop. Johnny has also done work for clients such as Nobleworks greetings cards, Rhino Records, and FOX television.

Johnny currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jenny and their two cats, Kang and Kodos. In September 2005, he will be featured in Rolling Stone’s annual HOT LIST issue, to the bemused delight of all who know him.

Are you ever influenced with what’s going on in the news or do you tend to stick with whatever you feel like? 

Sure, sometimes. I did a story called “Islamic Terrorist Spring Break” that was inspired by 9-11. In fact, 9-11 makes several guest appearances in my comics.

How do you go from drawing for the National Geographic Kids and then Hustler? 

Actually, it was the other way around. Doing stuff for kids is pretty much the same as doing stuff for adults. I just have to exchange the sex and violence and profanity for boogers and pizza and Christmas.

Do you still think you’re the most under appreciated person in comic books today? 

I just think humor in general is pretty under appreciated in comic books today, not just me.

Totally random question: Favourite TV show: “Curb your Enthusiasm” or “24”? 

That’s tough! “24″ may be my favorite at the moment. I’ve been watching a lot of DEADWOOD lately, too. I love that show.

Any hints or tips for our budding indie comic artists? 

Get a real job!! Just kidding. I would say that if you want to be a comic artist you need to draw as much as possible, and put out as many comics as you can. That’s the best way to develop your skills and get people to notice you.

What is your ideal story, or rather, what makes a good story? 

Lots of big tits.

From the point of view of an indie comic creator, where do you see the comic book industry heading? 

I have no idea! I live in the NOW, man!!

Any new artists we should know about? 

I just guest edited the comics issue of VICE magazine and I put a few of my favorite new artists in there, like Sammy Harkham, Ted May, Dan Zettwoch, Vanessa Davis, Kaz Strzepek, etc…

If you were to fight any artist dead or alive who’d it be? 

You mean have a physical fight? Probably John Callahan. Kicking his ass seems like a sure thing.

So what’s next for the infamous Johnny Ryan? 

I have to work on a couple of jobs for Nickelodeon Magazine and MAD today. And later I’ll probably watch Judge Judy.

Thanks Sean!

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