Jacob Wren’s latest book, Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed, is pretty awesome and you should know about it. It came out last year from Pedlar Press and is a really fun read. He is also the author of Families Are Formed Through Copulation, a book that is supposed to convince you not to have children. I sent Jacob a 10 sentences assignment and he obliged. Remember 10 sentences? I don’t know, maybe you don’t since it has been a while. (After the jump there is a short interview with Jacob, also.) Enjoy.
1. A sentence that involves poison, an emdash and at least five prepositional phrases.
About to take poison, several pretentious thoughts lash through my mind: that life is a betrayal against which there is no remedy, like this cyanide I ordered on line, looking out the window then as I continue to do now, where little can be seen apart from a bird, a car, a dog – the dog is asleep on his bed (but of course the dog is not asleep on his bed, this is simply one of the examples I found when I googled ‘prepositional phrases’) and, realizing I am unsure whether or not I have reached five, I take the poison, still watching the bird and the car upon which no further grammatical games will be played.
2. A one-sentence answer to a question the speaker would rather not talk about but is tired and answers anyway.
No, I didn’t masturbate yesterday and am not masturbating right now as I type this.
3. A one-line ode to the last inanimate object that you touched that is not your computer.
I read too many books, they are the only objects that give me genuine pleasure, but it is a pleasure tinged with melancholy, the melancholy of being more than a little sick with life.
4.A sentence that someone might call ‘deranged’ which includes the word ‘omelet’ and ‘hallucination.’
Fucking an omelet is, technically, not a criminal act, I thought as I continued to pound away, also wondering if I should have let it cool first, howling in pain but, like so many things in life, unable to stop, just fucking and fucking and fucking, the pain surging through every molecule of my body to the point where I realized I might, at any moment, pass out, and began to wonder if me, the omelet, everything that surrounded us, was merely a hallucination.5. A sentence that uses three commas splices and a common spelling mistake.
Upon first considering the possibility of engaging in the exercise ‘ten sentances’ I thought why not, and yet with every new word, sentance, item of punctuation there were doubts, like a road one travels in darkness, the road becoming something else, a time of confusion, thoughts as black as the surrounding night, continuing to walk.
My father will never read this.
7. A sentences that uses two or more clichéd phrases.
Some of my favorite clichéd expressions involving birds are ‘as the crow flies’ and ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, while some of my favorite clichés not involving birds are that artists are pretentious, writers mediocre, while musicians are merely horny, stupid and more popular.
8. A sentence about the future that uses the word ‘tactile’ and a semicolon.
We can imagine the distant future but are almost always mistaken; our thoughts lacking some necessary tactile quality, perhaps because we are not sufficiently aware of the materiality of the world that currently surrounds us.
9. A sentence that begins ‘And furthermore’ spoken by someone who you have had an uncomfortable conversation with while at some event or party you wished you hadn’t attended.
And furthermore you are a ghost, since I murdered you this morning, and if you continue to believe you are still alive it is only because you are extremely stupid.
10. The most disturbing possible sentence you can write about a person cleaning a floor.
Literature will die, as will the universities, and everyone who has every written for HTML Giant will spend the rest of their natural lives cleaning some floor or other for minimum wage.
Catherine Lacey: Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed has this backdrop of a disenfranchised political movement, which was so dead-on. Was this based working as an activist of some sort? If not, what spurred the decision to have a book set in this way?
Jacob Wren: I’ve had a little bit of experience with activism and in the anarchist community, mainly when I was much younger, but that wasn’t exactly what made me write about these things (though it most likely affected my take on it.) In some ways Revenge Fantasies, and my previous book Families Are Formed Through Copulation, are both responses to the shock of the Bush years, to my feeling that the world was sliding into some new kind of fascism (perhaps I was over-reacting but I’m still not sure, time will tell) and there seemed to be so little one could do. I kept reading the papers, wondering what was possible, how to fight against everything that was happening. I continue to feel so pathetically overwhelmed by the injustices that rule the world: the ever-growing chasm between rich and poor, the ways in which our daily consumer choices contribute to the evisceration of the natural world (of which we are in fact only a small part), more prisons and more profitable prisons, the pure evil that is Monsanto, wars being fought for corporate gain… all right, when I write such lists I basically feel like a fucking dreadful Marxist bore. Everyone knows and then what can you do? Well, the obvious solution is to get together with large numbers of other people and fight. But how to find the common purpose and solidarity, and how exactly to fight, is by no means easy or clear.
And then I started thinking about fidelity. The fight will be long, difficult and often painfully discouraging. It requires something like an infinite patience and overwhelming fidelity or conviction. Well, fidelity has never been my strong suit. In that respect I’m of my generation: a bit ADD. And I started comparing different kinds of fidelity: fidelity to a political cause versus fidelity within a romantic relationship. (I’ve never been called upon to test my fidelity to a political cause but I have experienced questions of fidelity in and around romance.) Somehow, along this path, I ended up with a love triangle, some strange kind of juxtaposition between a more political question (fidelity to a cause) and a classic soap-opera device (broken fidelity to a lover). What happens to the fidelity of the original relationship in a love triangle, how does it evolve, disintegrate, become more paradoxical? And how is this analogous, or completely different, from fidelity to a political cause? I wanted to write about these questions in ways I had never seen them written about before – full of doubt, confusion, curiosity, precision, cynicism and joy.
Catherine Lacey: While writing it, did the direction the book ended up going surprise you at all?
Jacob Wren: Yes, as I wrote, most of the time I never really knew where it was going (and even now that it’s done I’m still not quite sure I know what it is.) There were so many times when I was completely stuck. Most often the way it came unstuck was I would spontaneously write something so terrible and unexpected I couldn’t help but follow it a bit and see where it led. (I now think a lot of this ‘being stuck’ was simply being hampered by various unexamined notions of good writing and good taste.) Sometimes I felt the trick – like some sort of fucked up alchemist – was to magically transmute the bad taste into good taste, and that this alchemy had something to do with what it means to write about politics today, though I’m still not sure exactly what. I love it when I’m writing and something completely unexpected comes out. There are also a lot of things in the book I ripped off, but hopefully ripped off in such a perverse way they have also become something new.
Catherine Lacey: What’s next for you? I know you’re in Lisbon (and I’m jealous); what’s that all about? Are you working on something set there?
Jacob Wren: Over the past year I have had writing residencies in Denmark at Hald Hovedgaard, in Belgium at Passa Porta and currently here in Portugal hosted by the festival Alkantara. I have been trying to finish a new novel called Polyamorous Love Song. I am very excited about it, I think it is some of the best writing I’ve ever done, and yet, as I’ve been working on it steadily for the past four years, I was starting to worry I might never manage to finish it. I’m just starting to realize that my life is considerably busier than it’s ever been before and I needed to find a way to carve out some additional time to write. These writing residencies were my first attempt at a solution and I honestly can’t believe how helpful it’s been. The new book doesn’t have anything directly to do with Denmark, Belgium or Portugal, and yet, undeniably, all of these places, and the people I’ve met while there, have now influenced it. If you’re curious, here is my first attempt at a description:
Polyamorous Love Song is a novel concerning the relationship between artists and the world. Shot through with unexpected moments of sex and violence, it is written within the strict logic of an absolute dream, a dream that is both the same and opposite to the world in which we live. It is a novel of many through-lines. For example: 1) A group of people who wear furry mascot costumes at all times fighting a revolutionary war for their right to wear furry mascot costumes at all times. 2) A movement known as the ‘New Filmmaking’ in which, instead of shooting and editing a film, one simply does all of the things that would have been in the film, but in real life. This movement has many adherents. 3) A group of ‘New Filmmakers’ who devise increasingly strange sexual scenarios with complete strangers. They invent a drug that allows them to intuit the cell phone number of anyone they see, allowing phone calls to be the first stage of their spontaneous, yet somehow scripted, seductions. 4) A secret society that concocts a virus that only infects those on the political right. They stage large-scale orgies, creating unexpected intimacies and connections between individuals who are otherwise savagely opposed to each other. 5) A radical leftist who catches this virus, forcing her to question the depth of her considerable leftist credentials. 6) A German barber in New York who, out of scorn for the stupidity of his American clients, gives them avant-garde haircuts, unintentionally achieving acclaim among the bohemian set. And yet such stories are only the beginning.