Harold Jaffe interviewed by Jim Miller
From New Novel Review, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1997
Jim Miller: Why write? Particularly now, in this era of ever-diminishing returns and the hypercommodification of all our social/cultural/personal space.
Harold Jaffe: In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna the warrior gazes across the battlefield to see that he will be fighting against friends, even relatives. His inclination then is to withdraw from the impending bloody battle. But then his charioteer is transformed into Lord Krishna who proceeds to educate Arjuna about the necessity of Dharma. Briefly put, the idea is that Arjuna is a warrior and hence must battle "disinterestedly" even as a priest ministers disinterestedly, and presumably a writer writes disinterestedly.
My strengths are primarily imaginative and expressive and when I began writing professionally some twenty years ago, writing was still a viable context for those strengths. The situation has deteriorated rapidly since then, and now writing seriously imaginatively is like being fastened to a dying animal. If I were alive in the Middle Ages I might have been an oneiromancer. If I were living in northern India during the time of Buddha maybe I would have been a monk. If I were coming of age now, who knows? I might have become a computer hacker, or a pornographer, or a script writer for Beavis and Butthead. As it is, I'm an imaginative writer in a dazzlingly degraded time, and so I do the best I can. Which to me, doesn't mean sticking my head in the sand and writing as I wrote a decade ago, but making adjustments, employing aspects of the degraded culture as a stalking horse behind which I say what I feel needs to be said. Because I have wide interests and some expressive ability, making these adjustments has not been technically difficult. The greater difficulty is adjusting to the mental/emotional degradation that characterizes our period.
JM: Say a bit more about what you mean by "disinterested." Isn't this eastern notion a little bit at odds with the project of a writer? What I mean is that the goal of the Hindu/Taoist/Buddhist is to get beyond words, whereas a writer, particularly a politically engages writer like yourself, must "cling to the world," cling to the suffering and degradation. How do you deal with this paradox?
HJ: "Disinterested" as I employed it has nothing to do with words per se. It has to do with acknowledgement of givens and realistic appraisals. Writing "on behalf of" may mean "clinging to the world," but is more salutary when it means responding to the circumambient pain without clinging. As you know, disinterested does not mean uninterested; rather it means a more balanced interest, proportionately more light than heat, but not heatless.
JM: With regard to the degradation of culture, has the written word suffered more than other artistic mediums, or is the whole artistic landscape in equally bad shape?
HJ: I think writing is in the process of undergoing a more fundamental transformation than, say, music, visual art or film. Words and books are about to be almost wholly preempted by the profit-influenced electronic media. In a decade or so being literate in traditional ways will probably be as rare as being trained in classical languages is today. But the other artistic mediums are also under assault, especially in the US. Visual art has moved from a, for the most part, emphasis on manual dexterity and intuition to a largely electronic medium with emphases on calculation and computer facility. Virtually every visual artist I know is working largely, even entirely, with electronic vehicles. Beyond that, private sector patronage has become crucially important with the dismantling of state and federal funding agencies. And private sector patronage is inseparable from current capitalist values.
Serious music in the US is in a similar state: increased dependence on moronic theme-park values, increased reliance on electronic know how. For their part, film-makers have to deal with monopolistic distributors and movie chains which of course propound the same very moronic, profit-centered theme-park values.
JM: Do you think other writers have their heads in the sand?
HJ: This is a bit complicated. If other writers have their heads in the sand it is not so much because they are blind to the circumambient realities, as for other reasons. They distrust an "aesthetic" medium that makes any claims to politics; or they cater to the debased criteria which govern the official appraisal of art; or they want to avoid as much as possible the emotional toll which comes with resistance to the institutional blandishments and punishments. Disinterested resistance does not have much current validation.
JM: What's changed since the late sixties that makes you, as an imaginative writer, feel like you are "fastened to a dying animal"? Are there any important trends in the culture you could point to? How has your writing been shaped by and/or responded to those changes?
HJ: All or nearly all of the "important trends in the culture" since the sixties that I see are negative. Cooptation, which famously preempted much of the charge of both the inner ("Spiritual") and outer (political) manifestations of the sixties, transforming content into image has become virtuosic. That is, via the far-flung communications network, official culture transforms and debases whatever is out there that has potential charge. The Frankfurt School wrote about this early on, of course. Related to this is the infection by official culture of our consciousnesses. If what we create is officially approved it is transformed into product. If it is not approved it is rejected or un-distributed, which is equivalent to stillbirth.
The factor on which this is predicated is the technology that now permeates our culture from Alpha to Zootsuit. It is a seamless-seeming net of mostly invisible, or transparent, circuitry, but it isn't entirely seamless. And my self-imposed task has been to find whatever seams I can, plant a mine, and slip away to do it again. In the process I've naturally had to learn something about how technology functions.
Which leads to the final point. The sixties posited wilderness, both outside the mind and within, a place to which one could retreat for connection and centering. Except for the very rich, that wilderness is gone or has been transformed into theme parks. Similarly culture has been transformed into schlock which is equivalent to product. As a writer in the world, I've had to divest much of my writing of "high" culture in order to employ schlock against itself. I've been more fortunate than some other writers, I guess, in that I've always been interested in pulp and schlock and "popular" culture.
JM: You mention the Frankfurt School with regard to cooptation and the rap on the Franfurt School is that thinkers like Adorno saw little room for resistance outside of negation and condemnation of mass culture. On the other hand, you also discuss making use of mass culture in order to subvert it. I would go further and suggest that your writing also comes closer to answering Fredric Jameson's call for "cognitive mapping" (helping to situate people with regard to class and other power relations in the postmodern world) than most other current political writing. There seems to be a tension here between a kind of mourning of the loss of the modernist ideal of subjectivity and your hope that a kind of neo-avant-garde project of revolutionary art (perhaps with fewer grand pretensions) can still succeed in subverting hegemonic ideology via defamiliarization and other sorts of retooled and refined avant-garde strategies. How would you respond to this?
HJ: What I "mourn" but, particularly resent, is the official infection of wilderness both outside and in the body. Even dream has been stripped of its affect in the process of being transformed into a bio-chemical reaction.
Jameson's "cognitive mapping" is, in the main, a fair characterization of what I've been trying to do in my recent writing. And my methods have included a retooling and refinement of certain earlier avant-garde strategies such as Dada, Surrealisn, the Situationists, Fluxus.
At some juncture art might re-seize its revolutionary potential. That juncture is not now. I think that people (I'm talking principally of Americans) will have to live and breathe the new world order for some time longer before they come to realize (if they ever do) that what they're experiencing is strangulation rather than the succoring they're told they're experiencing. The point is that the new world order is so encompassed with complex-seeming technology, sound-bites and "expert" opinions, that inundated, overworked, anxious Americans have almost no leverage to sort out what's happening to them, let alone act on it. There isn't then, in my opinion, a contemporary audience for "revolutionary art" as such. This doesn't preclude smuggling anti-institutional images and bits of counter-ideology into people's coffee, of course, and that may bave some usefulness in defamiliarizing hegemonic ideology.
If art is currently hamstrung, other anarchistic or "libertarian" avenues appear open. Computer hacking, "patriotic" militia response, the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo, the Unabomber. There's only one recent "artistic" response I can think of that has conveyed revolutionary potential, though not in the sense you were referring to, and that is Pierce's novel The Turner Diaries, which is, as I understand it, a kind of bible for many Neo-Nazis, Klansfolk and militia.
HJ: Mole's Pity (1979), Mourning Crazy Horse (1982), and Dos Indios (1983) were written for the most part according to a "high modernist" template. Namely, they were transcriptions of experience which included at least as much dream and contemplation as they did day-to-day phenomenology, so to speak.
Questions of audience, ready accessibility, and any kind of extra-imaginative calculation did not figure. The notion was that if a reader didn't recognize a reference s/he would accept it at face value or look it up. All of this posited the primacy of the imagination and to some extent an "auratic" writer, or at least a writer who possessed a privileged access.
Each of these three books was written between the mid-seventies and very early eighties. Beginning with Beasts, which was written in the mid-eighties and appeared in 1986, I began to write more calculatingly, vetoing certain "high-culture" references, commenting "fictionally" on current events, directing the politics. This is not to say that I relinquished intuition; rather I synthesized calculation, discourse and intuition.
With Madonna and Other Spectacles in 1988 and the books that followed, I altered the proportion still further in the direction of currency and political intervention. AIDS and the massive ideology surrounding it kicked in around 1985, and soon as I got a sense of the political lay of the land, I employed AIDS and the body itself as an important trope in Madonna. With Eros Anti-Eros and Straight Razor, as well as the partially published Queen of Hearts, I have paid closer attention to the body as a site of struggle, and I have continued to mine aspects of pop and pulp culture in order to use them against themselves, or more specifically, against the culture that employs them as blandishments and smokescreens.
My formulation of fiction as a form of guerilla writing came in the late eighties. It was a hopeful formulation and perhaps had less potentiality in the current context than I chose to believe. In any event, it had some small degree of potentiality, and I believe that it still does. But only if events conspire in the direction of a more urgent awareness.
JM: You mention that your work has become more overtly political in recent years. How would you describe your politics?
HJ: Progressive anarchism is probably the best capsule description. I use "progressive" to distinguish myself from various liberation-type factions which populate the landscape. Although I distrust orthodoxies and hierarchy, I am in favor of smaller collectives, as I try to spell out in "Guerrilla Writing." In the past I've described my politics as Buddhist anarchism and I still like that notion. It reminds me, among other things, of Schumacher's ideas of "Buddhist economics" and intermediate technology.
JM: In "Guerrilla Writing" you suggest that an oppositional artist must know the "interior of the country" in order to "find a seam, plant a mine, and slip away." What sort of mines are you planting in your latest book Straight Razor?
HJ: Knowing the "interior of the country" refers these days to knowing contemporary culture, technology and ideology, all of which are largely synonymous.
The "mines" I refer to are counter-ideological; for example, countering repression and the displacement of desire; countering the official validation of fascism (or at least fascist responses); countering the piously angry cultural orthodoxies which fit into the rubric "Politically Correct."
How then do I lay these counter-ideological mines? I look for a juncture or a seam that is relatively unguarded, or less rigorously policed; I plant the mine and scuttle away.
My technique is to work from the inside-out, and my inside deliberately contains (seemingly) the same gestures, mind-sets, language, and banality of the official culture. What I have conceived is actually a modeled, hyperreal version. Still, rapid or careless readers (that includes most people, of course) won't notice the difference from real-time official culture. In any case, it is easy enough within the context of my pastiche to insert something heterodox, even violently heterodox. This insertion might have to do with repositioning language, inverting categories, unhinging, hence problematizing, signifiers such as law and order, government-for-the-people, corporate capitalism, benign technology, deviant sexuality, etc.
An ongoing stratagem in this volume and others is to smuggle passion (not the Xeroxed, designer variety) into the texts. Again, the indeterminacy of my structures and usual miscellany of language and event permit me the kind of access I need. I am committed to passion as I'm committed to the claims of dream and the unconsciousness, all categories that have been assaulted, even hamstrung, by instrumental-mad official culture, jealous as it is of even the most marginal interiority, which it reduces to chemical imbalance.
One of the reasons that the comedy in my work, though funny, is unpredictable, even uneasy, is that the general reader sense of purchase. Out of nowhere, two talking heads appear laying some kind of shit on each other--whether about "deviant" sex, serial killing, getting stoned, or something equally squalid--and by the time the general reader gets into a kind of groove with the characterizations, the characters alter, mouth incongruous words, morph into their apparent opposites, then sometimes change back into a version of their original shells.
This pastiching form (which should be distinguished from the satire which is more rationally targeted) I employ to underline the provisionality of our actions, the variability, verging on roboticization, of our "image," and the endless lies and contradictions in the inundation of information.
I also want to deprive the reader of any catharsis; leave her pent rather purged so that she might carry these contradictions and indeterminacies home with her. And do what with them? Well, what to do is another crucial question, but doesn't quite apply here.
I deal in Straight Razor with extreme behavior because I am mirroring (while stylizing) contemporary real time. Moreover, extreme behavior like serial killing, violent gender payback, terrorism, body mutilation, carjacking, transsexualism, and so on, allow me a more dramatic segue to official culture, which is largely responsible for the deviations I cite while producing and refining its own licit, murderous, inclusive deviations, such as the Persian Gulf War, the imposed invisibility of the poor and homeless, the calculated erosion of the middle class, the ongoing propaganda and disinformation from the mainstream media . . .
JM: Both "Latex Glove" and "Sex Guerrillas" deal with the body/pleasure as a site of stuggle but also as an ever-more-mediated space. In "Latex Glove," the sexual encounter you outline is hyper-mediated to the point where there is no skin contact and in the "Sex Guerrillas" the pleasure-terrorists are rounded up and gassed in the end. Are you hopeful about the possibility for unmediated pleasure today or do you see the body as just polluted as everything else?
HJ: Although official culture has encroached on the body with its poisonous mix of repression, disinformation about disease and PC-generated sexual politics, the sensual body is not dead. "Latex Glove" and "Sex Guerrillas" were deliberate extensions of the official encroachment on the body. They were prophetic caricatures, as it were, of what could happen if we permit it to happen.
Note that these days "erotic" is cited much more than "sensual," and that's because of official culture's vilification of the body. The erotic depends on resistance; it is common in prisons; the erotic was even a feature of Nazi concentration camps.
Because of the fundamental charge of the naked passionate body (though this too can be officially modified, obviously), the sexual body, the power of the orgasm, and open sensuality can be to some extent reclaimed. But at this grievous juncture, only at the margins of our repressive culture.
JM: Earlier you mentioned how many of the texts in Straight Razor juxtapose extreme acts of violence with institutionalized violence. Say a little about how this works in the title piece and a text like "Carjack" where it seems as if the victims--an executioner in "Straight Razor" and a limo full of executives (among others) in "Carjack"--deserve what they get to some degree. What's at work here?
HJ: The point is that licit, or "lawful," violence is structural and so tends to be invisible or transparent. This official violence is often a kind of tele-violence, legislated from afar and dependent on data or statistics which of course are cooked beforehand. Like a smartbomb.
My notion in Straight Razor (the volume) is to roll the screen away and expose the money manager in flagrante. The mock statistics in "Carjack" which appear to tally the inner-city carjackings are an example of foregrounding the licit violence, as of course are the details about the limo full of senior executives who gaze at their monitors as they are being thumped.
Important to note that I don't usually give the "rebels" a free ride. True, they are infinitely preferable to the managers, but they share our despoiled earth and so have their own responsibilities. Hence I distort and pastiche the punks in "Straight Razor" and the female serial killers in "Serial/Cereal," and the Dahmer ghoul is only a little worse than the buffed-body cop in "Necro," and I jibe Earl and Shirl in "Camo, Dope and Videotape," etc. I come closest to the sew guerrillas because they have the right idea.
JM: The hipsters in "Camo, Dope and Videotape" are rebels only in terms of style/fashion, otherwise they're pretty much Baudrillardian screens--getting off on the urban squalor as they tape it with their vid cam on the way too and from the "bare ass" rave which is more vanilla sex than anything else. Even their drug use is safe and consumer oriented. Are you trying to say something about the simulacrum of rebellion here, or are you suggesting, in the same way that Jameson does, that commodified urban decay leads to our experiencing it with a sense of hallucinatory "euphoria," hence we need to rethink the way we respond to it?
HJ: In "Camo, Dope and Videotape," Earl and Shirl have networked on to the shared delerium. And there is also the strong suggestion of hyper-experiencing, the socially-induced infinite mediations that Baudrillard cities. The rave Earl and Shirl go to is not meant to be exclusively vanilla. After all there's fucking, sucking, golden showers, lots of golden showers.
JM: In "Stalker" you matter-of-factly detail the routine of a serial killer who watches "pro brool" on TV, checks his voicemail, goes to the convenience store, picks up a "mark," kills him/her at the "Murder and Mayhem" christian theme park, and goes home to watch more TV, etc. The straightforward detailing is interrupted toward the end by this quote "This is no longer the society of the spectacle. The types of alienation which 'spectacle' implied do not exist. Media themselves are no longer identifiable as such." Say a little both about how you see this sort of narrative "rupture" functioning in your texts and how the quote itself reflects on the story and the collection as a whole. Are you suggesting that we are beyond alienation?
HJ: I waited as long as I did to insert the late-Debord quote into "Stalker" because I wanted the reader to get enmeshed in the dramatic illusion. The insertion immediately signifies artifice and the author's hand, which in turn edges the reader outside the illusion into a thought mode. "Stalker" more than most of the other texts in the volume is a claustrophobic, minute-by-minute slate of [hyper]realism, so that the rupture should provide a bit more of a jolt than the insertion would tend to do in a less "realistic" context.
My use of rupture in general is meant to keep the reader fruitfully off-balance, so that the narrative interfaces (at unpredictable junctures) with the crucial terrain of being alive and, by definition, collusive in our collective endgame.
Yes, the suggestion in the quote is that at least in the urban West we are beyond alienation. Close to that "euphoria" Jameson cites. Though I would weight it differently.
JM: In "Counter Couture" you mimic/mock the Geraldo show in a way that reminds me of Heartfield's photomontage attacks on the Nazis. How is the kind of mimicry of the media and/or public figures that you are doing different from what Heartfield and others have done?
HJ: I'm glad the virulent comedy in "Counter Couture" evokes Heartfield. In my method I sometimes feel close to him, and Grosz too. The difference is in the direction of pastiche rather than satire per se. That is, not positing a norm against which the degradation might be measured. It's true that in Grosz (more than Heartfield) his entire represented world seems more Nazified, beyond the pale. But my method differs from Grosz even at its darkest, in that my characters are unstable and morph into each other unpredictably, so that the reader is rarely on terra firma. The postmodern paradigm guiding me is instant replication, advanced circuitry, modular body parts, infinite prosthesis, so that the reader is made incapable of separating the real dick from the state of the art strap-on.
I distinguish myself from a writer like Ballard, whom I admire, in that he often posits a complete infestation, sheathing our brain stem, occluding our consciousness. I still maintain a residual regard for consciousness, at least in principle. That Gramsci quote again . . .
JM: The rap against pastiche in much of the current theoretical discourse is that it is an uncritical form of borrowing devoid of the biting edge of satire or the kind of mimicry that Heartfield engaged in, but clearly you don't see your work as uncritical. Linda Hutcheon has described postmodern parody as lacking the 19th century sense of ridicule, but not at all unironic. Would you accept this categorization of your practice or would you stick to the term "pastiche" to describe your work? Would Jameson's "homeopathic strategy" fit better?
HJ: My use of what I still elect to call pastiche is as virulently intended as Swift or Rabelais; the primary difference is that in my work I make it deliberately difficult, even impossible, to infer a norm against which the satire is being measured. Which relates to Debord's quote about our being beyond the duality of spectacle and spectator, beyond alienation. That is the postmodern paradigm I was citing in my last answer, with its infinite replications and lack of distinction between "real" and prosthetic.
It is true that other writers, the language school for example, employ exactly that weightless sort of pastiche that progressive critics of postmodernism would derogate. Defamiliarization appears to be the end-all of the language-centered writers' interrogations. Me, I mean to destabilize as well. At least that's my intention.
What Jameson calls "homeopathic," I'm calling pastiche, but we're mostly talking ad hoc definitions here. Pastiche by definition aligns, integrates or merely dramatizes incongruous-seeming voices and scenes, which is certainly a part of what I usually do. The difference is in the weight of the mockery and degree of poison in the arrows. I don't mind the homeopathic description because it describes what I'm doing-swallowing the poison in order to reconstitute it as antidote.
JM: Many of the texts in this volume--"Straight Razor," "Serial/Cereal," and "F2M" for example--deal with gender discord and/or gender bending. What's your interest here?
HJ: A crucial reason for the Gingrich forces' success in slashing social programs and the in general dismantling of the so-called democratic constituents of the US capitalism, is the impassivity of the left. Much of this impassivity should be attributed to the identity, or separation, politics which have been reinforced in the last several years.
Several years ago I thought that HIV positives and their mostly gay allies would be the next revolutionary vanguard in the US. What I didn't anticipate was how balkanized gay rights would become: homosexuals and women on one side; white male heterosexuals on the other.
The stigmatizing of white male heterosexuals without regard to their politics must be attributed in good portion to the fanatical-minded segment of the women's movement. From there it has metastasized through the "PC" regiments.
Understand, I am not for a moment denying the fundamental claims of the women's movement. I'm referring to the overstatement, stigmatizing and caricature-like self-righteousness which have contributed to the balkanization of the left. What we need now is an inclusive politics which suspends contempt and finger-pointing to concentrate on the broader issues. It may already be too late. In any case, given the deep stratifications among so-called progressives, it may not be possible.
What I've done in "Serial/Cereal" and elsewhere in the volume is foreground the caricaturist aspects of women-bonding-heterosexual-male-hating, so that readers can respond to it away from the usual contextual blandishments.
Needless to say, I also ridicule the other side, the entrenched, institutionalized oppressions.
JM: When you're talking about factionalizing segments of the women's movement I assume you're talking about the likes of Dworkin and MacKinnon whose anti-sex position has aligned them, ironically, with the Christian right and other strange bedfellows. What do you think of the kind of feminist position taken by social constructivist feminists who aim at deconstructing gender positions rather than attacking "essential" maleness, or the pro-pleasure positions taken by women like Annie Sprinkle or Susie Bright?
HJ: Certainly I mean Dworkin/MacKinnon, but I also mean the mostly nameless repressive feminists who make academic decisions and serve on museum cultural boards, and I mean fellow-traveler opportunist males (non-white or white) who follow suit. I mean in short that not inconsiderable element of separatist, repressive "feminism" which has become institutionalized.
Annie Sprinkle strikes me as an engaging combination of polysexual-pleasure-freak-careerist. She resembles Carolee Schneeman as well as that nude cellist, Charlotte Moorman, both associated with Fluxus and the Sixties pleasure revolt. My labeling of Sprinkle as a careerist, incidentally, isn't meant to be negative as such. We're all put in the position of seizing the moment, thrusting ourselves forward; it's the way the official culture constrains us to respond. I'm just suggesting that Annie Sprinkle is better at it than other writers and artists are, she manages it with a kind of joie-de-vivre.
So too, Carole Vance, Carol Becker, Dion Farquhar, Linda Williams, several of the women associated with Caught Looking, along with Bright, Sprinkle, and others might all be cited as anti-repressive feminists who write and work against repressive fanaticism.
JM: Starting with Madonna and Other Spectacles, you've been appropriating science fiction strategies and motifs in your work. In Straight Razor you continue this, especially your own particular brand of extrapolation which takes the reader "twenty minutes into the future." Why do this?
HJ: When sci-fi was committed to extra-terrestrial technology in the distant future, I was only mildly interested. But things have changed in the last fifteen years or so. One, the future is now. Many of the extremist sci-fi fantasies are either realized or realizable, given the headlong advance of technology in the last few decades. Additionally, some of the best sci-fi writers (J.G. Ballard, P.K. Dick notably) altered the emphasis from macro- to microcosm, from the stratosphere to the mind and spirit.
Above all, sci-fi, for me, is a strategem; once established that I am writing a fiction that is set in the future (even 20 minutes into the future), the reader permits me more leverage. Which means I can do my shit without the usual resistance, such as the reader charging me with being "didactic" or "political." Sci-fi then is a stalking horse. In fact I am writing about the present, stylized.
JM: You along with quite a few other contemporary writers (DeLillo, Pynchon, Reed, Acker, etc) have incorporated the language and/or themes of contemporary theoretical discourse into your fiction. What would you say is the relationship between your writing and contemporary theory in the broadest sense?
HJ: Regarding modern and contemporary theoretical discourse: it's become a king of lingua franca among the educated. A parallel might be the employment of psychoanalytic themes and jargon in the cultivated discourse of the 1920s and '30s. Later existentialism made a similar but less enduring impact. And of course there is Marxist discourse which, though, was used familiarly only by certain segments of the left.
The difference between psychoanalysis, existentialism, Marxism, and the current theoretical discourse, is the, in general, greater level of abstraction in the current discourse. As if the theory were to be read and admired on its own merits, without any potential connection to praxis. Naturally I object to this last arrogance, and part of my intention is to align the high-sounding theory with the coarse day-to-day. That alignment of "high" and "low" can work interestingly on several levels: meaning, texture, tonality. Moreover, the combining of theoretical and coarse plain speech, when successful, can function as a kind of interrogation of theoretical discourse, especially that discourse which bills itself as progressive.
JM: Say a little about your increasing use of unsituated dialogue. How would you characterize it? Why use it?
HJ: In a fundamental way, unsituated dialogue probably relates to some schizoid cleft in my consciousness. But it also happens to relate to that imposed cleft in people's consciousness--that distance between their legislated day-to-day, and their unlegislated dream. Moreover the unsituated dialogue refers to and sometimes mocks the influence of electronic media with its emphasis on talking heads.
Because the technique features people talking, about whom the reader usually knows very little, it allows me more leverage to alter, reverse, and morph characteristics from one speaker to another. That is, I can destabilize the narrative transaction more readily than if I were committed to traditional plot and characterization. And destablization featuring reversal, ambiguity, and character morphing is one way to interrogate official culture.
Finally, I do it because it appeals to me compositionally; I like the spareness, the open spaces on the page.
JM: Where do you see yourself/your work going in the future? Are there any new obsessions brewing?
HJ: What kind of writing will I be doing in the future? I can't say, expect that it will surely have to do with subjugation; that is standing with subjugation against its legitimated oppressors. For as long as the body is under assault, I'll continue to write about it, directly or indirectly, as the projected Pain issue of Fiction International illustrates. I have a continuing interest in colonization, including the colonization of language; that is, combating official culture's ongoing redefinition of any number of words-as-concepts: sensuality, democracy, peace and war, fame, art, interactive . . .
Rather for looking as subjects as such, I tend to look for structures, ways of embodying. The only thing that has so far interrupted my work is depression. Depression is always a factor for me, but I can usually work within it, even employ it. When, though, the depression becomes deeply entrenched, I tend to cease and desist. Much of the depression has to do with being a serious writer in this unspeakable period.
JM: If you could have your readers take away one thing from your work, what would that be?
HJ: Hey, you're sounding like Roy Firestone on ESPN. I'll respond in kind. "One thing to take away"? That I came to play every day. That I was a gamer.