13 Questions with Arthur Graham

by HST UK on April 11, 2012

I must confess I am a rather prudish man, and politically I lean conservatively. Reading Arthur Graham’s ‘Editorial’ was therefore a real jolt to my mesolimbic pathway. Mr Graham kindly took some time out of his schedule to speak to HST….

HST: I don’t really know where to begin with ‘Editorial’, a book that is equal parts genius and insanity, a fatal blend of futuristic highbrow and mundane gutter witterings. How have readers unfamiliar with Bizarro fiction responded to the book?

The overall response has ranged from “I don’t get it…” to “I think I get it!” with very little middle ground between. Familiarity with bizarro fiction (or the lack thereof) probably isn’t all that relevant, although I do suspect that fans of bizarro fiction may be better prepared to accept some of the book’s wilder claims….

I almost hesitate to call Editorial a “true” bizarro book, and I’m sure there are others who’d agree. It’s definitely a very bizarre novella (published by Bizarro Press, for fuck’s sake), so I won’t act as if the label doesn’t apply. It’s just that, from what I’ve gathered, a large portion of bizarro fiction seems to be more focused on traditional narrative (character, plot, etc.) than my own writing.

While my flavor of bizarro might taste a little “arty” in comparison, this isn’t to say that it’s superior in any way. It definitely sacrifices some laughs and thrills for the sake of more cerebral stuff, and its lack of linearity definitely makes for a more challenging read, which isn’t always fun. Come to think of it, Editorial probably isn’t a very fun book at all, unless of course your idea of fun is being mentally molested by an experiment in postmodern literary fiction. Maybe instead of “bizarro” we could call it “pomosexual” instead?

HST: Speaking of Bizarro fiction, you’re playing in a cult field. Is it nice to operate in a literary genre seemingly without any restrictions?

While there aren’t many restrictions in terms of subject matter, most readers still expect at least some kind of storyline. Still, bizarro stories tend to be really fucking weird, and purposeful weirdness seems more appropriate to the genre than random, unconnected weirdness. In this sense, Editorial just barely makes the grade, because it’s very light on plot (as you know) while also quite absurd at points.

Anyway, that’s just my theoretical understanding of it. But yes, with some of the weird shit I write, it’s nice to know that I at least have something I can call it, which others might recognize.

HST: ‘Editorial’ is an uncomfortable journey for the reader, was there any point where you thought to yourself – this is a bit too much?

Did my book make you uncomfortable? I wonder why…. Let’s see, there’s the incest, blasphemy, bestiality, dolphin rape, anti-Americanism, general misanthropy, transsexual biker bears… I could go on, but I don’t want to give away too much of the plot.

Admittedly, there are some scenes that go for shock value, but these are clearly not the focus of the book, and most of them work to reinforce some thematic element or another. Frankly, including this stuff was all I could do to keep readers from falling asleep!

HST: Snakes feature prominently in the book, shedding skin, leaving trails, copulating, even eating themselves. What fascinates you most about these reptiles?

The cover about says it all. Ouroboros represents infinity — this constant running around in circles we’re pleased to call “progress”. Clearly that’s a sham, and Ouroboros proves it by eating his own tail forever and ever. People worry about this “2012” cataclysm we’re supposedly due for, but what they forget is that the world is constantly ending, while also constantly being reborn. As we go about trying to make sense of all this, the act of writing/editing (fiction, history, etc.) becomes an integral part of that cycle — one of the reasons why Editorial moves in the spirals that it does.

HST: There is an obvious Kurt Vonnegut influence evident in ‘Editorial’. I think about the first time I read Slaughterhouse-Five. Given that it was the first Vonnegut book that I read, I expected Billy Pilgrim to remain within a Second World War timeframe; instead he becomes unstuck in time, a prisoner on the planet Tralfamadore. This reminded me a lot of time unraveling within ‘Editorial’, where we travel forward and backwards thousands of years. You’ve dedicated the book to Vonnegut, how did you first encounter his work?

I was a relative latecomer to Vonnegut, actually, having never read any of his books until I was already at university. I think the first book of his I ever read was Timequake, which prompted me to check out some of his earlier stuff (Breakfast of Champions, etc.) as well. Slaughterhouse-Five is one that I still haven’t gotten round to, actually.

Galapagos is probably my all-time favorite book of his, which I put right up there with Cat’s Cradle. The evolutionary and apocalyptic themes in Editorial were probably most inspired by these two novels, but I think you’re right that his work in general has had a noticeable influence on my own.

HST: The characters in ‘Editorial’ are nigh on impossible to connect or identify with. Were they deliberately written this way, to further underline what is ultimately lost in time?

I don’t think I deliberately wrote the characters that way, but as the book progressed and I discovered what it was I actually wanted to write about, I simply realized that it wasn’t them. In one review of the first edition, somebody said that there “wasn’t enough emotional investment in the characters.” This seemed a bit unfair to me, because as far as I could tell, there were never any actual characters to invest in. It’s just not that kind of book, and I was hoping this would be clear from the outset.

It just goes to show how a reader’s expectations influence their reading experience. If you’re the type of humorless, by-the-book twat who’s incapable of getting into any story that isn’t wrapped up nice and neat with a bow on top, then I’m sorry but I probably can’t help you!

That said, I think it’s understandable why readers have such a hard time abandoning their expectations. I can accept bad reviews just as readily as good reviews, because both work in tandem to attract/repel the right/wrong kind of readers in the future. It’s the 3 star reviews you have to wonder about….

HST: References to masturbation are fairly frequent. Is writing the ultimate act of self-pleasure?

If you gave me a box of pens and a box of tissues, then locked me in a room with nothing else but skin mags and blank notebooks, I’d be lying if I told you that I’d run out of ink before tissues. Still, the nice thing about writing is that you actually get to share it with other people when you’re done, which usually doesn’t go over so well with spent bodily fluids. Ideally, though, you don’t want readers walking away from your book with the suspicion that they just spent three hours of their lives watching you masturbate.

HST: Do you foresee a woman becoming US President within your lifetime?

Unfortunately, if a woman ever does become President, she will have much more in common with the rich white men preceding her in office than most American women — just as our current president has much more in common with his privileged predecessors than most African-American men. It may sound cynical to say, but nothing in the entire history of the human species would suggest a more probable outcome.

HST: ‘Editorial’ was initially self-published, then later published by Bizarro Press. How did the original version differ to this one?

The first edition was just brimming with all sorts of amateur garbage. I think I may have tried to be a little too clever, which predictably resulted in the opposite effect. The BP edition essentially does away with most of the red herrings, pointless asides, and other shit that was previously bogging it down. Nowadays, when readers rate it poorly, it’s more often with the excuse of “not my cup of tea” than “this is absolute rubbish!”

HST: Let’s speak about your experiences as an editor. Your first editing job didn’t exactly bring home the bacon. In another interview you stated that you had to return to working manual labour jobs. Tell us about this time?

There are times when I’m sitting in my cubicle, longing for the days when I had a more physically active, outdoor job. This usually only lasts for the second or two it takes to recall what it was really like digging ditches and filling sandbags for nine hours a day. Then I lean back in my ergonomically designed desk chair, surf the Internet for a spell, and start thinking about where I’d like to go hiking/biking after work.

HST: I was walking down the Street last week and witnessed a young fellow drop his Kindle on the pavement. Smash. It was ruined. My friend had his iPod nicked late last year, a whole collection of music gone. Are you a gadget guy? Do you keep up with the Joneses? Do you worship the almighty Steve Jobs? Do you keep your gizmos wrapped in cotton wool?

I’ve never even owned an iPod. I do most of my writing on an iMac computer these days, but that’s really just because the cost of ink ribbons is so prohibitively expensive. As for Steve Jobs, I imagine that he has a special place in Hell, Chinese sweatshop workers slowly roasting him on a spit while they wait for Bill Gates to join the party.

I probably flirted with the idea of getting a Kindle at one point, but then I realized that all the electricity they burn is probably worse for the environment than harvesting trees for paper. Until they start producing solar-powered Kindles, your carbon footprint will only continue to grow with each YA paranormal romance download….

HST: How much is a pint in your neck of the woods? In England a pint of beer costs nearly a fiver in some drinking establishments, which works out roughly to eight dollars.

Alcohol is a bit overpriced in the state of Utah as well, mostly on account of the heavy taxes levied by our Mormon lawmakers. The way I figure, it’s just the church’s way of getting us nonbelievers to pay our tithing!

I’ve yet to encounter an $8 pint, but I’d say they run between $2.50 for piss and $5-6 for decent quality ale?

HST: To end somewhat randomly, I was listening to an interview with Clint Hill on the Opie and Anthony show yesterday and they talked about the JFK assassination. Who do you reckon shot JFK?

The Illuminati-Anunnaki-Military-Industrial-Complex. Fuck, I don’t know…. Let’s forget it and go grab a pint instead.

Visit:

My Goodreads profile:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5772959.Arthur_Graham

My Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Arthur-Graham/305337313581

My publisher:
http://www.nxebooks.com/

If you are interested in answering HST’s 13 Questions then hurry up and email us at: aprilmaymarch777@yahoo.co.uk

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