…about the most important influence on your writing career. Person or book, feeling or storm.
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20 thoughts on “Tell us…”
Edward Abbey and Charles Bukowski – I have always considered them the male/fatherly examples in my life. Mainly because of their passion and no-shit honesty.
Georges Bataille, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and post-genre cinema.
post-genre cinema taught me basically everything I’ve ever needed to know about fiction
bataille showed me that it was possible to write intellectual smut, and then later his philosophy/theory basically made the entire world a bit less opaque and significantly more awesome
robbe-grillet demonstrated how narrative tropes can be divorced of political context and thrown into writing experiments for the use of play as well as showing me the joy of generative methods
What is post-genre cinema exactly? How did it teach you?
It’s probably easiest to demonstrate post-genre cinema rather than to try to describe it, and this list basically works as a post-genre canon (at least until I fine-tune it to actually be a canon instead of just a list of my favorite flicks):
Post-genre takes tropes from genre films (specifically the genres of horror/porno/action/exploitation/science fiction but also the genres of avant-garde cinema & “the arthouse” film) and refuses to let those tropes stay generic, basically. It’s a better term for what I set out to establish with my Esotika Film project, which in the next year will be reformed as a “journal of post-genre cinema”, which I always grouped under the subtitle of “sex, art, horror and experimentation in world film.”
But, basically, post-genre cinema taught me that character development doesn’t have to matter at all, the fiction is inherently artificial (which paved the way towards my hatred of “realism”), that atmosphere can be enough to make a work of fiction exist as an experience, that extremity is beautiful, and that all five senses matter.
Thank you Mr. Brutal. I’m underviewed, only seeing the Lynch films.
I guess I could put the Gass story in this company – the atmosphere making fiction exist as experience. What other authors I wonder? Edson, I don’t know. Where is Jameson?
Edson would be good one to reference here, I think. “The Taxi” and “The Pilot” particularly come to mind, though I’d maybe argue there is a lot of character development in “The Pilot,” but he weaves it so well with the atmospheric development that both are equally present and important to the poem.
Kavan & Robbe-Grillet, with their glissements, strike me as more about the experience of reading than characters (despite Kavan’s insistence upon the interior psyche, though refracted through abstraction, in her shorter pieces). The comics of Martin Vaughn-James often eschew characters all together, Hans Henny Jahnn’s The Ship ends up feeling more like an atmosphere than anything to do with characters (though there “sort of” is character development there), Artaud’s “writing” in general, when ostensibly “fiction” (or poetry or whatever you want to call it) is experiential, as is (and thus is the point) of virtually all the Tel Quel novels (Roche, Sollers, Guyotat), Tony Duvert’s Strange Landscape, the short stories of Thomas Ligotti, Roussel, to an extent, is more about play than character (obviously), which results in an entirely different experience than character-driven fiction (and in the realm of the more fantastique, Mario Mercier’s Roussel-ian novels take this route too), and I’ll stop for now….
I find it exceedingly easy to get behind any list that includes The Seventh Victim,
Serene Velocity, Two Lane Blacktop, In a Year with 13 Moons, The Silver Globe, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Outer Space, and Kairo, all of which I rank among the finest films ever made. But I tend to shudder at Top # lists, having never really understood the concept. And I can’t help but note: yet another list where every director is a man of primarily European descent. (Which helps explain why so many of these movies are about looking at, and doing violence to, beautiful women.)
Personally, I think we’ve always been “post-genre,” in a broad sense if not the one you mean. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to find pure examples of any genre. Look at something seemingly simple, like the original Star Trek series: even that is a blend of 1950s TV Western set in space, “high (philosophical) SF,” and late 60s hippie fashions. And of course all of those things came from somewhere else themselves: the Summer of Love aesthetic inherited a great deal from the Art Nouveau. (…Crazy, huh? It blows my mind that both the Brothers Quay and the Grateful Dead found so much inspiration in fin de siecle Czech typography.)
And Star Trek didn’t stay stuck there; it’s since very busily adapted to the times, transmogrifying to include whatever’s been most in vogue. (Witness that 2009 abomination.) I’m not claiming that Star Trek fits your specific concept–the series is mostly devoid of anything arthouse (thank god) (although it is increasingly horrific and gory)…but it seems to me that “post-genre” might not be the best term for the group of films you’re describing. (Please note, however, my general disdain for any term beginning with “post-“.)
It also seems to me that this grouping of films kinda already exists. (I’ve sometimes seen it called “Eurotrash.”) You’re skimming some of the finer works off the top, and pointing out the bunching’s affinities with 1970s structuralist experimental cinema (like Gehr and his descendant Tscherkassky)–and that’s good, I think–but I’ve long seen discussion of the affinities between Anger, Franco, Fulci, K. Kurosawa, Lynch, Meyer, Ruiz, Tourneur, Zuwalski… As well as works by Chantal Akerman, Michael Almereyda, Maria Bava, Ingmar Bergman (his late 60s films), Catherine Breillat, Luis Buñuel, Donald Cammell, Vera Chytilová, Brian Di Palma, Abel Ferrara, Peter Greenaway, Michael Haneke, Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Werner Herzog, Alfred Hitchcock (his later works), Derek Jarman, Alejandro Jodorowski, Takeshi Kitano, Guy Maddin, Dusan Makavejev, Takashi Miike, Gaspar Noé, Nobuhiko Obayashi, Nagisa Ôshima, Sergei Paradjanov, Roman Polanski, Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell, Sally Potter, Takashi Shimizu, Seijun Suzuki, Jan Svankmajer, Quentin Tarantino, Shuji Terayama, Shinya Tsukamoto, Edgar G. Ulmer (who of course studied with Murnau), Paul Verhoeven, Josef von Sternberg, Erich von Stroheim, Lars von Trier, Kôji Wakamatsu, and even Orson Welles himself (late career). Among many others. See, for instance, the September 2009 issue of Sight & Sound.
Actually Dore O is a woman, so the list is not entirely male.
When I was around 3, I was out west on a family vacation. I was eating a bowl of cereal beneath the awning of our RV, and it started sprinkling.
“It’s raining,” I said.
“No, it’s just sprinkling,” one of my cousins replied.
“No, it’s not. It’s raining.” I didn’t know what sprinkling meant.
“Sprinkling is what it’s called when it’s barely raining.”
I didn’t know before then that there were different words for the same things. If there is a flash of memory when I die, this will likely be the memory I see. Please don’t tell my wife or any future kids I might have.
This seems like a great flash of memory to have Chris, better than in that Tobias Wolff story – Bullet to the Brain or something.
Also that dialogue reminds me of the dialogue at the end of Sex, Lies and Videotape. Are you Soderberg’s script doctor?
It’s those little moments huh?
Ha. Yeah. They is, they is, they is.
I’ve actually not seen Sex, Lies and Videotape (coincidentally, I was just talking about that movie yesterday with my friend Rima who has a celeb crush on James Spader), but if Soderburg is looking for a script doctor who meshes, tell him to give me a call. I’m sure it pays more than freelancing for the local Indy alt-news rag.
Little moments, indeed. I usually cite this as my “first memory,” though it might not be. There’s a smattering of memories from that family trip, and I don’t know any particular chronology of them. But you know–non-fiction–make shit up.
thanks for the rain.
hahaha. it is raining.
some years ago my friend matt kirkpatrick (we were just college punks then) told me his idea of pre-cinema: everything is a movie-to-be-made.
Riot grrrl, fairy tales, and this total headfuck girl who broke my heart a few years ago.
Which fairy tales Kristy? What did the girl do?
I remember pictures from Hansen and Gretel, indelible. Words floating atop images.
She didn’t do anything that dramatic, just general mind-games. I guess a lot of people like the excitement of that, but I find it unpleasant. Still, I got a lot of stories out of her. Heartbreak is good inspiration.
And just fairy tales in general. I love the more familiar Western European ones (Cinderella, Snow White, Tom Thumb) and also Inuit ones (Sedna is a favourite) and Nordic ones (as well as stories of gods). Such imagination in those stories.
i ate up those beverly cleary books when i was like 7 or 8. ramona, henry & rigsby, that stuff. really i don’t think i’ve read that much of one author since.
wish i could write characters that people freakin remember.
maybe none of that has influenced my writing career.
my mother did post-graduate work in children’s literature and fed me well with wonderful books. Tom’s Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce), Bambi (Felix Salten), much Dr. Seuss, Edith Nesbit, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle.
i am grateful to every poet and storyteller that came to my elementary school–they would come in to class or to an assembly, read to us, lead workshops. one a year, 4th through 8th grade i think. one older gentleman poet shared a poem about his father, something about staying his hand as he reached to touch a rattlesnake when he was a young ‘un. an eight-year-old me was amazed that it was a poem, but it didn’t rhyme.
those two experiences got me hooked, and to this day i am inspired by children’s literature.
Denis Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son” lightning bolted my head about four different times and then I was just sitting there, with my head all split open, a complete dummy. Johnson always has the reader in sight in that book. Always. He will not forget you are there, even when you want him to. He indicts everyone. The reader is no longer just a reader; she is a culpable player within the narrative. That’s astonishing to me. This book made me think more complexly about where I am, as author, in relationship to the story and, then, the reader. I began to truly understand that even the most made up stories are true, and that characters who never walked the Earth are as real as you and me.