Death of the Author


So, this is fun:

Okay, so, the author no longer exists once the work is published and out there in the world -- to be read and interpreted.

Heck, even the writing of the book (which was seemingly an original act) is suspect because everything the author has ever read, seen, or experienced potentially informed the work, and it's merely a slap-dash combination of all these influences that produced it.

Furthermore, without the author there to walk each and every reader through the text (and probably even if the author WAS there to do it), the reading becomes a kind of attempt to decode its meaning...

But, of course, meaning isn't the meaning of the text, but rather whatever meaning the text offers the individual reader, what is memorable about the text to that reader, what the story becomes, the lessons that stick -- if even any!

And the process is every bit as ephemeral and individual for each and every reader...of each and every book! All of it filtered through our own perceptions (-aka- prejudices and predispositions)

So there you have it, writers and readers: none of it matters, and nothing is real!

Considering the current state of affairs, I find this all very comforting! It dovetails nicely with my "pale blue dot" philosophy/approach to living...which is to say most of what we do doesn't matter beyond whatever tiny little circle of folks we have, that everything we do has value only in the doing, and in the giving of it, rarely beyond that, and that chances are all human effort, save whatever space-junk we blast beyond our tiny galaxy, will eventually be devoured by the expanding, exploding sun...(if not by humanity before that!)'s be as happy as we can, do our best to live lives we can be proud of, love as many people as well as we can, and do our level best to try not to worry too much!

Now go watch THIS, and laugh! And think.



Wonders Never Cease...

So, how about women the world over getting together in peaceful and purposeful protest of any and all threats to their progressive and inclusive platform and suddenly being responsible for the biggest one-day protest in U.S. history? As ever, you ladies amaze and delight me with your strength, poise, and unconquerable spirits.

In other news: Chicago's most beloved rapscallion, Ben Tanzer was kind enough to put And Turns Still the Sun at Dusk Blood-Red... on his list of stuff he loved in 2016. He's got a new book out soon, Be Cool. He'd be happy (& I'd be happy for him) if you gave it a try!

My name came up when Jared Carnie interviewed Joseph Ridgwell about his ever-growing body of work. You can read all about it HERE. Joe has a new short story, "Mexico," out in a beautifully hand-made edition from Pig Ear Press. It's the third such offering from them, and only 50 copies can be had, so get yours while the gettin' is good.

And lastly: I woke Monday to a unique email, from a kind woman, Leslie, in Tupelo, Mississippi. She said:

"I am in a play this weekend...titled Cicada..."

Those familiar with my work know that my poem of the same name, originally published by The Guerilla Poetics Project (newly rebuilt website HERE!), has bounced around social media in many surprising ways. As it turns out, Leslie found it while looking for a small gift "for the cast and crew for their opening night."

"I immediately saw your poem with the drawing of a cicada," she said, "and I fell in love with it..."

So, after a quick back and forth, she decided to print the poem "on a 5x7 tan-colored card stock" and "put in a frame for each of my theater cohorts on opening night, along with a little package of Fig Newtons, because my character, Granny Duvall, met her death by choking to death on half of a Fig Newton, 'because no one was home to fish it out of her throat!'"

Now if that's not a fine, fine way to start a work week, I don't know what is! So if any of you are in/near Tupelo and in want of something to do, why not take in a show?

Cicada• By Jerre Dye
Tupelo Community Theater
January 26-28, 2017

Written by Amory native, Jerre Dye, this highly acclaimed drama set in rural Mississippi is a coming-of-age ghost story deeply rooted in the life of a small southern family on the verge of transformation. The unrelenting July heat presses in on seventeen-year-old Ace and his mother Lily as they dig their way out the past. It’s a story about letting go and shedding what is no longer necessary in a world full of secrets, ghosts, and memories that hold on tight.

Okay, okay -- enough for now. Until next time,

Toxic Masculinity

With recent films like Goat, and Moonlight, and so much pre-election discussion of the real world dangers of toxic masculinity, I felt sure that now was the right time for my debut novel, Chinese Gucci. It seemed we were finally on the verge of a meaningful cultural examination.

Post-election, though...not so much.

After the election, I stopped submitting queries to agents, and seriously considered shelving the project indefinitely. It seemed that the mindsets the book set out to indict (toxic masculinity, flippant racism, sexism, white privilege) had not only re-emerged but were once again running rampant. America's history is stained by exactly these same mindsets -- a fact that deeply compromises our nation's otherwise glorious aspiration (however imperfect) of democracy and greater equality.

In short, I didn't feel like fighting.

Hell, it didn't feel like it was a fight that, as a species, we were actually interested in winning. Humans, I think, don't actually care about the "pursuit of happiness," or "liberty, and justice for all." No, no...most just want "happiness" and "liberty" and "justice" for themselves...and maybe a few other folks they know.

And that's dogshit.

I foolishly expect better of us. So, like it or not, feel up to it or not, we have to fight. Not eventually...we have to do it now. And however that fight looks for you, embrace it, do it, push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and help your part. Lock arms with those who share your vision, and stand up for the world you foolishly believe might one day exist.

To that end, I sent out another query last night. I'll keep pushing on Chinese Gucci, and everything else -- hoping to offer up something new for you all to read in 2017 and beyond.


P.S. -- For anyone interested, here's something of a sneak-peek at the kind of kid Akira (the character at the center of the novel) is. Or at least who he pretends to be...

The Novel as Cultural Criticism

The first thing I want novels to do is entertain. Ask the Dust. Post Office. Hangover Square. All terrific. I smile as the pages flip.

And after that, I want them to make me it novels as cultural criticism. It makes for a pretty fascinating lens to read a yarn through. Beyond the narrative, Catcher in the Rye can be seen as post-war distrust of "traditional American values," or a rally-cry of individualism in the face of conformity; Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath as an anti-capitalistic screed; To Kill a Mockingbird as the not-so-color-blind scales of "justice"; On the Road as the bellwether for the American counterculture; The Sun Also Rises as a study of PTSD and the wounded masculinity of life post-war.

So, without overplaying my novel's hand too much, let me just say that THIS INTRIGUING ARTICLE has much to do with some of the underpinnings in what I hope is Chinese Gucci’s subtle cultural critique. It was a pleasant surprise, moving from draft to draft – learning that I’d started out writing about someone fake, only to discover just how much it all had to do with me personally and my life’s experiences. See, when I first tried writing novels, I figured you just made up a bunch of stuff.

Not so.

If you're doing it right, I now think there’s no way to avoid writing about yourself. Hopefully not in an obvious way – as the characters in the book are nothing like me. And yet: there is something familiar in all of them...something my Jungian shadow responds to, those rusty little hooks hiding in the subconscious! Novels are nothing if not an extraordinary vehicle for both learning about ourselves, and for exacting revenge in some literary way! On the surface, hopefully it’s a story that is unique and surprising enough to keep you turning pages – and beneath that, a deep, cold ocean. Think of it as a long-form debunking of all those lousy things about the world that I’ve foolishly always hoped I could fix!