The Big Other Interview #87: William Gillespie (Oh what a tangled webwork we weave!)

11/11/10 is not only Armistice Day/Veterans Day, but the day the world-as-we-know-it ends—one year before it happens—in William Gillespie’s stunning new novel Keyhole Factory.

The novel’s intersecting narrative structure draws from the “webwork” plot composition method of all-but forgotten mid-twentieth century writer Harry Stephen Keeler, and is perhaps the most fully realized postmodern version of the method.

A few of the novel’s 22 sections, or themes contained therein:

“The Bad Poet”—a fierce academic satire of overstuffed conferences keyed into the argument between earnestly literary poetry (good poetry) and a “mechanical approach to the art” (bad poetry).

“Morpheus Biblionaut”—a poet astronaut speeding to Alpha Centauri and back, also offered on the delightful CD-ROM companion);

A perhaps Monsanto-sponsored super-virus that liquefies like something out of Naked Lunch: the Pandora virus.

“Keep the Change”–a six-page narrative splits into an additional column on each succeeding page, tracing six initial victims of Pandora.

Crazed test monkeys escaping from their cages.

A convict who remembers the future and so becomes a test subject for the virus.

An inoculated population of scientists and government elites who spend the post-apocalypse inside a Blade Runner-like pyramid city.

A society of free farms operating on near-Luddite socialist models, terrorized by a distraught killer from the inoculated elite, exiled from the pyramid, who makes “art” through his elaborate staged murders of the commune dwellers.

In short, this is the most exciting book I’ve read since Steve Tomasula’s VAS: An Opera in Flatland.

So forget Franz Ferdinand, the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance, and surrender—as Gillespie has, when we met in a sort-of-café the where sort-of-intellectuals might gather—to the trench warfare known as The Big Other Interview.

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