An author of a novel directly influenced by film (You With Your Memory Are Dead, written during a 2-week-marathon viewing of Begotten) asks another author of a novel directly influenced by film (Squeal For Joy) some questions about making monsters.
What’s this I hear about you being labeled the Tokyo Frankenstein?
My novel SQUEAL FOR JOY applies a method I’ve created called monstrosism (or perhaps jelluloid, or something else, as the terminology is still a work-in-progress) – taking two separate source materials, viciously mutilating each, then sewing them together while they’re still squirming. It took me awhile to develop this method. I started by experimenting with video footage, watching a ten-second clip and forcing myself to write three or more sentences about it. I first did this with stuff I’d filmed, just footage of hanging out with friends in Tokyo or whatnot. Watch ten seconds, pause the video, write…watch, pause, write…watch, pause, write…etc. The only rule is you can’t use proper nouns –no names, only pronouns or bluntly descriptive nicknames. You can either describe what’s happening in the scene or the emotion it inspires in you, or if it triggers some memory or series of thoughts…etc. It’s OK to go beyond three sentences, but I usually cut it off after four or five and continue on to the next ten-second bit. I really liked the resulting text so I thought I’d like to try it with more sophisticated, atmospheric source videos.
Do you have rules relating to the types of raw video materials used?
No, I think any source material is open game. In the case of SFJ I took a sparse, old, arty, black-and-white movie and an ultra-hip, violent, sexy, gore movie and pitted them against each other. I didn’t just want to use one movie because I thought that was giving the source material too much influence on the novel. And I’m very interested in unlikely juxtapositions, so I chose two ostensibly opposite films. When I had watched the entire movies, scrutinizing each ten-second segment, I had pages of text on movie A and pages of text on movie B. Then I cut both texts into blocks and presented them in alternating fashion in the final work, each block about a third of a page. So page one is A,B,A…page two is B,A,B…page three is A,B,A…etc. I think it fit together really cool, characters always fading in and out of the final text, staggering around and punching each other, licking each other, whatever. The old, black-and-white movie turned out to be pretty violent too (I hadn’t seen it before), so I ended up writing a rather violent book. Oh, one more extremely important thing about this method, you must watch the movies without sound or subtitles, the less you understand what’s going on the better. So it’s best to choose movies you haven’t seen or don’t remember well.
Monstrosism would appear to offer huge adaptive scope. Where do you see it going?
Since there is an essentially limitless number of movies to choose from, the possibilities for monstrosist novels are endless. Though it’s important to keep the titles of your chosen movies to yourself if you don’t want to blow the mystique. Obscure movies are probably best, nothing too recognizable (though SFJ may flirt with this at times). One could write shorter pieces using Internet clips: professional wrestling vs. the birth of a puppy, a Looney Tunes cartoon vs. a murder trial, an ear operation vs. fetish porn…etc. It’s all at our fingertips.
When can we pet your first monster?
The first work of monstrosist literature is SQUEAL FOR JOY. It will be released by Jaded Ibis Press later this year or early next year. It’ll feature Kawori Inbe’s stunning photography throughout the entire book. I think the photographs and the text really feed into each other nicely. Her work is very sexy, lonely and unsettling. She’s become quite successful recently. I’m honored that she worked with me on this book.
Why are your teeth not painted black?
I used to have a reoccurring dream where I’m pulling out my teeth one by one, so perhaps in the dream world I’m toothless. PAINT YOUR TEETH is a live event I organize in Tokyo once every few months. It’s avant-garde performance art and live music (please check out the PYT documentary). It sprang from my fascination with music scenes and artistic movements. I wanted my own scene. I wanted something with the loyalty and enthusiasm of, say …the black metal scene. But instead of impaled animal heads, we have pink frosted donuts with sprinkles. PYT has really attracted an amazing group of artists, please check out Alex Paillé’s short films PAINT YOUR TEETH the movie! #1 and PAINT YOUR TEETH the movie! #2. I’m very proud of what PYT has become.
Any new news on your firstborn?
My novel BURN YOUR BELONGINGS (JIP 2010) has been out for a few years. It’s a city of stick figures all plotting to rip off each other’s heads. It’s very clinically laid out, has the feel of extracted teeth in a metal dish. People seem to have really connected with it, I’ve gotten a lot of nice feedback. I was especially pleased when Davis Schneiderman chose it as a course text for his Creative Unwriting class at Lake Forest College last year. Dr. Schneiderman shared with me some of the students’ written responses to the book, it’s nice to see that BYB is making a life for itself. The book includes the mind-blowing visual art of legendary noise musician Yasutoshi Yoshida.
David F. Hoenigman is the author of BURN YOUR BELONGINGS (2010 Jaded Ibis Press) and SQUEAL FOR JOY (2014 JIP). He’s the founder and organizer of PAINT YOUR TEETH, an avant-garde live performance event regularly held in Tokyo. He’s an associate professor at Meikai University and also writes for The Japan Times. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he has lived in Japan since 1998. He’s currently working on his third novel MAN SEES DEMON.
Gary J. Shipley is the author of numerous books of various sizes. Currently at the editing stage, his latest, You With Your Memory Are Dead (introduction by E. Elias Merhige), tells of his prolonged exposure to Begotten. His work has appeared in The Black Herald, Gargoyle, Paragraphiti, nthposition, elimae, >kill author, 3:AM, and others. More details can be found here.