Spike Marlowe’s Interview with Eric Beeny
by Spike Marlowe
Being a part of the New Bizarro Author Series is a dream come true. Not only do I get to see my book in print and share it with people, I also get to work with seven other incredible, brilliant, fun, fantastically weird-in-the-best-way authors.
Through March, each of the authors in the NBAS 2011-2012 will be featured on my blog at spikemarlowe.wordpress.com; each week a New Bizzaro Author will be highlighted. On Mondays, I’ll post a review of the author of the week’s book, on Wednesdays I’ll post an author interview, and on Fridays I’ll post an amazing piece of writing by the featured author.
What’s even better is that, each week, Bizarro Central will post exclusive outtakes from the interviews. These outtakes will give you a special look at each author’s unique personality and provide special insight into their books.
This week’s author is Eric Beeny, author of Lepers and Mannequins. Eric is incredibly intelligent; his interview outtake has the potential to start some amazing conversations. So, grab some pizza and beer, some of your most brilliant friends, and read what Eric has to say about writing, the economics of mannequin limbs, and how humans treat the “other.”
Lepers and Mannequin’s construction is poetic, purely on the structure of the sentence level. How does being a poet inform your prose writing?
Experimenting with syntax is a lot of fun. I like wordplay. I sometimes focus too much, I think, on just the line, the sentence and its construction, and how the projection of meaning is predicated on the inversion of words. I often have to snap out of it and remember there’s a lot more to do in a story or poem. It’s that balance between micro- and macro- that’s sometimes difficult to gauge, but I like when the micro- informs and shapes the macro-, when the small metaphors or plays on words transcend the sentence and are elevated into the wider spectrum of the work, carried off in the flow of the narrative so that the narrative becomes secretly about the play, like the artifice of the narrative itself is the fourth wall, or maybe a curtain on stage never drawn, fluctuating with the movements of the actors behind it, like turning an ocean on its side and the waves are made by actors’ hands swimming home from a capsized ship. I’m not really sure what the hell I just wrote.
Your book is being compared to Romeo and Juliet. In addition to being a powerful love story, it’s also a thoughtful examination of humanity, what makes us human, our relationships to our bodies, and what it means to be the other and how otherness keeps people apart. Would you like to speak to this?
The novel focuses on artifice (all politics is artifice), which we all use ironically to get closer to people (lying to get them to like us) but also to maintain our distance, our privacy (because we’re afraid of other people knowing too much about us, though our privacies are basically all the same). We want to feel like we belong to something, want to feel accepted and loved, even if it comes at the expense of those not admitted into the groups we hope to belong to: The “others”
Otherness has so many narratives already built in, like ready-made art. Alienation and suffering are universal. Race, gender, class… The narratives of those who do not belong to the dominant group (in literature and other media of the dominant group) are always labeled by some terminology designed to reduce the importance/relevance of their existence. Oddly, those in the dominant group are rarely the majority, they just have the resources to protect themselves: money to buy property, to pay police officers to protect that property, to fund an army ‘secure’ their overseas interests. Maybe that’s not answering the question. I feel the novel is socio-political (even economical, with the idea of mannequin limbs being a natural resource the lepers want to exploit), so I’m sorry I got going on that.
Humans want to feel accepted and loved but also have an innate desire to taxonimize, segregate and oppress. Individually, people are okay. Once they get into groups their behavior changes. They adopt the accepted norms of the group to fit in, to be accepted as valued members of the group—but this paradoxically reduces their individuality, as they use the group to define their identity. This, too, reflects the micro- and macro- aspects of the novel: Parts of a whole and their relationship to the whole—members of an organization, sentences of a book, limbs of a body, etc. The novel’s one-sentence paragraphs try to highlight the isolation felt by each member of the group (each limb of the body) while still serving some purpose only vaguely understood without the whole’s other parts.