November 9, 2010

all I need's a mirror and I'm a star

Mark Bradford, 2004

* From an oldish Interview of Arthur Nersesian, whose books include The Fuck Up, Manhattan Loverboy, Unlubricated, and Dogpark:

Interviewer: You were profiled in the latest issue of FHM. It was all about how writing a novel is not worth the time, and how you should want to do something more useful. Did you feel exploited by this journalist?

Nersesian: I spoke to the interviewer for a while, and he used what he wanted, and threw away the rest. I feel exploited by you too. But it's controlled exploitation. You have to understand that in FHM Magazine you are going to get that whole wacky tongue-in-cheek tone throughout. I respect that. They should be making fun of people who got a degree in Literature in college.
Interviewer: Who are some of the writers who inspire you? There was the Kafka feeling with "The Sweet Smell of Success."

Nersesian: I loved that movie. There was no deliberate mimicking of any writer on this book, but I heard many comparisons. I didn't think that I was following any writer consciously. My greatest influence until the day I die will be and always has been [New York] city. I write against the city. I try to absorb all the shit around me and then squeeze it into fiction.

Interviewer: How different is Manhattan Loverboy from the early novel, The Fuck-Up? The thing about you writing I like is its unpredictable nature. You're always pulling the rug under the characters and the plot.

Nersesian: It's different in style and tone. The Fuck-Up is somber and I tried to be fairly social realistic. The new book is slightly surreal and off the wall. As far as the plot goes, if you can see the end coming up and can predict it, there's no point in reading it. If can anticipate where you are going, then it's pointless. To that end, I don't over-plot or over-outline my novels. I have a general idea where I'm going, and I try to stop until I get there in the writing, and check out my options. I always try to find something unexpected and yet consistent with the ideas and the story, and whatever I'm dramatizing. But I really want to surprise myself. If I can't do that then no one will be surprised. What's the point?
Interviewer: I noticed that you don't make much reference to music and bands in your novels? Is that a deliberate choice or do you not follow music very closely?

Nersesian: That's a sore point for me. I always lived in lower Manhattan, and I lived on 16th Street and 3rd Avenue since 1973. The point is that this is a very musical area for Indie bands, CBGB's, The Academy of Music, and so on. I never really got into that. I saw rock and roll as a homogenized factor for American teens, and absorbed them from what would be an intellectual and literary culture. Initially I had some hostility towards that. Most teens perceived rock and roll as a form of rebellion, and I guess still do, but nowadays seeing a punk is like seeing a hippie back in the 1970s: it's such a cliche. It's not a rebellious act anymore. It's just so sad to see a punk rocker who has a leather jacket and spiked hair today. You might as well join the Republican party. It was a cliche twenty years ago. Music is a small part in my work. I usually celebrate the lamest love songs in a mocking way. It's what I hear in the background at cafes where I write. Most people just ignore it.

Interviewer: Do you write full-time now or do you work another job to support yourself?

Nersesian: I just got fired from my crappy job of ten years. I was teaching in the South Bronx, which was a noble chore, bringing light to the darkness. I too have Irish ancestry on one side as does Frank McCourt. I write pretty steadily. That's all there's left for people like me. I'm not invited to any parties. I've been excised from the community very slowly. I used to collect string and stack stones, and now my pastime is writing novels.

* "The farther a man follows the rainbow, the harder it is for him to get back to the life which he left starving like an old dog. Sometimes when a man gets older he has a revelation and wants awfully bad to get back to the place where he left his life, but he can't get back to that place-- not often. It's always better to stay alongside of your life." --Jane Bowles


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