AD Jameson - Stories like dreams, leading the reader into an alternate universe, but also back to the author as a mysterious and malignant force
AD Jameson, Amazing Adult Fantasy, Mutable Sound, 2011.
"A D Jameson, quaint and childish, tired ex-wife of a rodeo angel, owner of an antique tortoise-shell comb, nice-mannered, respectable, having been seen crawling quickly across the dinette set, destined to someday become a vice president at the bank, and whom you long ago bought and sold, is nodding off. If you let him, he’ll fall fast asleep on the unread page in your lap. He’s still wearing the camisole that you gave him, the one embroidered with his initials. He still has the cameo that you stuck in his Christmas stocking.
His hands were too clumsy. He’s sorry about how clumsy his hands were, the butter he handled you with for a while. He didn’t know better. He didn’t know otherwise in those days, in the obsolete past, about how his ascot became unfastened, about the way his suspenders snapped, about how his penny loafers were always scuffed and broken. He couldn’t help that his fedora was missing a feather, or that his appearance was rendered old-fashioned by passing years. He’s still amazed that you let him touch you, that you submitted to his caresses. He wasn’t amazed when you finally flinched and said, “OK now, man, that’s enough.” And when you left him without any warning, his feelings weren’t ruffled. His feathers weren’t left out of sorts in a huff.
Since then, he’s tried to become more refined. He’s tried to shape up. He might have become a rodeo dancer, or maybe a college graduate—we’ll never know. To hear the tales, he might have entered a program at Harvard, then finished the program. But we can’t be certain about those tales: when questioned, he tore up his diploma and ducked out the back.
Because he was feeling hungry for Thai food, he moved to Thailand. He stuck the two halves of his degree in a steamer trunk, and he set out at once. He learned where to go to get the freshest coffee in Bangkok, the freshest pad thai. He scouted the neighborhoods there for two years, just asking questions, just riding the buses. Just keeping his mouth shut, taking in heat and humidity. Just learning to keep both his buttery hands to his little old lonesome.
He missed you while living there, missed you terribly. He talked with his neighbors, and swam and rode every bus in Bangkok. He wrote an essay about how it felt to live in Thailand, and live there without you. He knew you were waiting for that essay, that you were checking your mailbox each morning. But he’d forgotten the look of the English language, its punctuation and letters. He got angry about how the characters looked on the page. He tore that essay in half every time he tried to write it, and crumpled those halves, and stuffed those torn and crumpled halves in his steamer trunk.
He tried to forget you. He took the liberty of buying you a coffee; he remembered how much you like coffee, and how you bought a cup every morning. He took the liberty of dropping a red and white peppermint in it; he remembered how much you like red and white, and how they filled your Christmas stocking. He’s kept that peppermint coffee warm for you ever since, inside a Thermos that he bought at a weekend market.
While he was in Thailand, he became friends with a passing gumball for a while. He befriended a passing tortoise, also. He ate the tortoise when it begged him to, when it cried and forced its chewy fins in his mouth. He placed the gumball inside a locket, a scuffed antique with a broken clasp, which he scotch-taped together and wears round his neck to this very day.
Now he lives in Chicago, has been spied living there for four years. He wasn’t corrupted, not very much; he isn’t easily corrupted. He still has the money that you lent him, the shiny new hundred. He’s turned down his many chances to spend it. He’s felt little pressure. He’s found he can get by with very little. He can get by on no more than a tortoise’s winter rations.
Ever since then, he’s been hanging around here, half-asleep, his hair combed, his eye out for your arrival. He’s still in love with you; he loves people just like you—kind souls who can handle his minor corruption. A little corruption might be precisely what you will need—you can’t be so certain.
As soon as he spies you, he’ll smile and wake up and say, “Hello and good morning to you.” The moment he sees your oblong face and remembers your name, he’ll fold his hands and bow and whisper, “Sawasdee krap.” He’ll say, “While sleeping, I wrote a book of short stories for you—accounts of the dreams that I had while I missed you, while living in Thailand. I hope that you like them.”
Until then, feel free to take a closer look at him. You can stare. You can take a long gander. He’s resting his head on that dream-laden book; he’s using its stories as a pillow. He knows that you’re destined to return at any moment; he’s foreseen it. He’s dreaming about you. His lips shape your name. He expects you to be back at any minute." - www.mutablesound.com
"We’re in an unimaginative period when many readers prefer memoirs to fiction. Perhaps there’s something in Canadians and Americans that demands fiction to mirror life, to provide a perspective on how to live, like one would download an app designed to locate chain restaurants in foreign cities. Imaginative writing, so newspaper reviews would lead one to believe, has its best home in science fiction and fantasy titles. The serious novels—written by Philip Roth and James Ellroy, for example—don’t stray far from realism, unless you’re Spanish, South American or Salman Rushdie. When was the last time you picked up the local paper and saw a long review of a book that didn’t pretend to tell you exactly how this or that occupation was carried out in the 1540s, or describe minutely the way clothes were worn in 19th-century Wales? When was the last time an author’s style, above all other elements of a book, received praise in that same paper for its vocabulary, fresh metaphors, complex sentences, and the use of adverbs and adjectives, without once mentioning plot?
In the first volume of his four-volume set of criticism, Sheer Fiction (1987), Paul West has an essay titled “In Defense of Purple Prose,” and in it he says:
Certain producers of plain prose, however, have conned the reading public into believing that only in prose plain, humdrum, or flat, can you articulate the mind of inarticulate ordinary Joe. Even to begin to do that, you need to be more articulate than Joe, or you might as well tape-record him and leave it at that. This essentially minimalist vogue depends on the premise that only an almost invisible style can be sincere, honest, moving, sensitive, and so forth, whereas prose that draws attention to itself by being revved up, ample, intense, incandescent or flamboyant, turns its back on something almost holy, and that is the human bond with ordinariness. . . . Surely the passion for the plain, the homespun, the banal, is itself a form of betrayal, a refusal to look honestly at a complex universe, a get-poor-quick attitude that wraps up everything in simplistic formulas never to be inspected for veracity or point. Got up as a cry from the heart, it’s really an excuse for dull and mindless writing, larded over with the speciously democratic myth that says this is how most folks are. Well, most folks are lazy, especially when confronted with a book, and some writers are lazy too, writing in the same anonymous style as everyone else. How many prose writers can you identify from their style?
Based on this first book of fiction pieces by A.D. Jameson, I can say that though I think he could write like a realist, he has greater ambitions than devising a plot (though now and then one pops up) or developing a character you could care about. In fact, it would go against everything in the mood and nature of Amazing Adult Fantasy if a reader invested himself in what happens to the swirls of black on white that make up Ota Benga, Melissa, Nok Yai, and other figures. The opening piece, “Fiction,” occupies only one page but promises much, while addressing certain illusions we might have about what fiction ought to offer: “Fiction may be the worst thing about the 21st Century. Nobody likes it. Everyone has better things to do than pretend to care about who does what to whom, considering that these people aren’t even real. You think we would have learned our lesson after the 1800s, definitely after the 1900s.” This concludes with: “It’s no shame that this book was lost soon afterwards in [a fire]. Still, everyone was terribly disappointed.” What will his magically recovered version of fiction contain, then, if what appeared in two hundred years of creative writing is left out? Not real people (or not precisely, as we’ll see), not rounded characters, little plot, no dramatic arc; instead, we’re given style and the kind of playfulness one feels in Raymond Queneau’s The Sunday of Life. No wonder people were disappointed.
There are 16 short pieces (some are job ads for waste extraction workers, others summarize a television series), and a seven-part sequence titled The Solar Stories. A good example of Jameson’s extravagant prose can be found in “Rock Albany!,” the fifth of the Solar Stories:
Rock laughed and shook his head, then dove into the lake far below. He swam easily to the far shore, where he dressed, then strolled down a path. He walked swiftly, with a loose, lazy expertness of motion. He walked down the long road on the sun, the sun’s only road. The sun was his home. He had lived there for seventeen years. Most men would die if they tried to live on the sun. They would burn up at once. Rock laughed at this thought. He found the sun charming. The sun, he thought, has been waiting here just for me. Waiting to be ripped apart by my dynamite and drill. Waiting for the new shape my hands will give it. He would paint it pigeon blue. He would install a Pekinese buttress. He would hand-raise pudgy canaries. Rock liked canaries. [italics Jameson’s]
It’s clear that we are far removed from fidelity to the world, from colorlessness, and from parsimoniousness imagery. We stop at one word in particular: if “most” men would burn up on the sun, then not all will, allowing an impossibility to be possible for a moment. Or forever, since multiple readings will allow us, theoretically, to entertain that conceit eternally. Both the possible impossibility, or impossible possibility, and its longevity, are qualities found in fantasy, myths, legends, and tall tales. Rock could be the Paul Bunyan of Sol. What we also see here is the cruelty we associate with gods, demi-gods, and those touched, or afflicted, by the gods. Rock has no second thoughts about dynamiting, pillaging, defacing, and remaking the sun. In the short pieces that precede these stories, Jameson has us meet Indian Jones, who bears a resemblance to a film character, yet his career and old age are not what we would have expected: “By now he’s a very old sculptor who can’t remember anything, who sits all day in a courtyard, drinking grappa.” His dog “feels like a goddess of memory on Olympus,” and “Indian Jones is God.” Not quite what the movies tell us, though of course there are movie gods (and screen sirens). Oscar the Grouch, who meets the narrator in many different ways (myths begetting littler myths, ad infinitum), Big Bird, and others who show up don’t do the things you’d expect, though their behavior isn’t entirely unfamiliar. They just seem to have wandered over to the dark side.
In Jameson’s multiverse, real people also float free of their tethers. This suits those whose stature is larger-than-life. In “Buzz Aldwin” Jameson riffs on Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (renamed “Neal”). As iconic figures go, these two are near the top, and you have to admire a writer who steps in to mess around with their lives, substituting surrealism and soap opera for factual biography and science. The result is a warped version of their lives that mingles mystery and despair with “odor-starved dogs” and “a ten-thousand-word typewritten love poem.” The figures don’t come across as cartoonish because they were never people to begin with. (It also might be that Aldrin’s achievements, in Jameson’s view, raise him above the level of the ordinary person.) In a similar way, fun is had in “Bonnie Raitt, I Am Coming to See You.” While there is a resemblance to the real-life musician, it’s doubtful she’s aiming to “master the art of ceramics, ceramic music” that her obsessed fan, verging on a stalker, insists is her next step. (Jameson doesn’t mention Raitt’s healthy love for the music of NRBQ, though, which is a shame.)
All the well-known figures populating Amazing Adult Fantasy, some whose achievements are part of history, some whose existence flickers in the mind as part of a soundtrack or a celluloid memory (including the casts of Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation), were mythical before Jameson wrote about them, but he transforms them, re-imagining them—“Waiting for the new shape my hands will give it” indeed—for his pleasure, and for our times. He does so with fresh language that catches you unexpectedly. Rock Albany has “the mouth of an executed saint”; Goths “stank of mirrors”; a young boy named Peter who’s an intuitive cook “makes the meats he uses look like a suicide.” Alternatively, in “7 Movie Reviews,” Jameson blandly presents the contents of movies, uses the same character names over and over, and only occasionally forces out a sell line, so that the lack of energy and invention become the very things that seem to be missing. It’s as if he’s saying, “Watch, I can rein myself in.” He can also be crude and stereotyping in reverse, as when, in “My Parents Tried to Make Me More Popular,” the male character complains his “nice Irish girl can’t get knocked up worth shit.”
Two things struck me about the fireworks, off-beat remarks and jazzy phrasing. First, Jameson’s craft hides the effort behind writing freewheeling prose and knowing what fanciful conceits to retain. Second, while the stories contain humor, they aren’t sunny, and the Muppet-inspired pieces certainly aren’t for children. For all its lighthearted exterior, a grimness rests inside Amazing Adult Fantasy. A phrase from “Big Bird and Snuffy” applies to this book: “hidden deep inside a forest . . . uneasy things enjoyed themselves.”
Those vague beings come out in the open suddenly, make their mark, and then retreat. Menace and foreboding help comprise the atmosphere of myths. But Jameson isn’t offering a glum view of the world because he isn’t offering the world at all. He’s written a book that places inventive writing at the forefront and come up with a work of fiction that looks breezy and contains much unpleasantness. His myths, in keeping with 21st century writing, don’t offer a lifeline to anyone. As Gilbert Sorrentino said, “Art cannot rescue anybody from anything” (The Moon in Its Flight), and I think Amazing Adult Fantasy is reminding us of that. There’s no life-changing message here, but perhaps by merging the poetic and the absurd we can tell our stories in new styles. Yet even that small solace is a source of tension, and may be denied by A.D Jameson when, on the last page of this fine book, a character who has gone through several adventures advises or warns of fiction’s follies:
But even still, before we knew it, our time had come and gone. Now, at the end, we have to admit that we haven’t enjoyed ourselves. No one has had any fun. Our lives haven’t turned out at all the way we planned. Our lives haven’t turned out at all the way we wanted. Our stories, we have to admit, have been the cause of all our problems. Fiction, I’d like to insist, has been to blame." - Jeff Bursey
"What does it mean to be a writer? Who are writers? What do they do?- For me, writing’s a form of thinking. It allows me to express ideas that I couldn’t express otherwise, because my memory isn’t good enough. And because writing possesses a logic all its own. It’s a meditative activity and a form of discipline that allows me to clarify some thoughts, and muddle others.
There exist more writers than people suspect, including all those whom “real writers” usually won’t acknowledge. There’s a disturbing tendency among high lit folk to not take seriously other writing, even if they enjoy it: genre fiction, commercial television, comics, children’s books, writing by actual children, zines, journalism. Also excluded: slam poets, performance poets, conceptual artists, and many others. This is elitist, short-sighted and unfair, not to mention a huge mistake. The people who wrote G.I. Joe and Star Trek are very much so writers. They wrote all over me! They wrote me!
Your stories seem a response to the current state of fiction. How would you characterize that current state? - My central complaint against fiction today is how insincere (and therefore inconsequential) so much of it is: so ironic, so commercially-minded, so abstract. Most of it slides right past me, unmemorable, unaffecting. If writing is thinking, then a lot of the thinking being done by writers today is poor.
For example, I have little patience for what I call “ironic realism,” which some might call hipster writing (but which extends beyond that). Irony has been stripped of its powers, because we live in ironic times. Such fiction may be clever and amusing, even entertaining, but it’s superficial and deeply unsatisfying. All it can offer is entertainment, and reaffirmation of shared, conservative values. It criticizes and complains out of habit, and it has nothing else to offer. As the Where the Wild Things Are movie demonstrated, when the ironic realist is stripped of his irony, he has nothing left save platitudes like “group hug” and “all is love.”
I’m also troubled by how naïve and nostalgic so much of today’s writing is. US culture is disturbingly self-indulgent and infantile. So when I found myself wanting to write about pop culture icons, I initially recoiled. I didn’t want to write ironic G.I. Joe stories!
Who or what are your influences? - First I’ll give the proper writer answer: AAF was influenced by Kathy Acker, Donald Barthelme, Guy Davenport, Steve Katz, Carole Maso, and Yuriy Tarnawsky. Katz exerted a particularly strong influence. Anyone who looks at his marvelous collections Creamy and Delicious, Stolen Stories, and Moving Parts will see how much I’ve pilfered.
But I was also influenced by popular culture of the 1980s and early 1990s, when I was a child and young adult. Like lots of geeky, friendless kids, I grew up reading G.I. Joe comics, X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I think the most conventionally “literary” thing I’d read by the time I was twelve was Lord of the Rings. And Michael Crichton.
Meanwhile, I watched Star Wars repeatedly, Star Trek, Indiana Jones — those were my religious texts. Between the ages of seven and fourteen, I wanted nothing more than to be a Jedi, or a ninja. As well as a mutant. I actually wondered what my mutant power would be, when I reached puberty. (Answer: the ability to suffer.)
So when I wrote, of course I imitated those things. I wrote a TMNT/X-Men crossover, and fantasy novels. I had a superhero comic series that I planned out in exhaustive detail. In junior high I drew a 350-page comic book adaptation of Mega Man II; I spent over five years working on it, using Bic pens and colored pencils and blue-lined Mead tablets. My love of awkward language comes as much from mistranslated Nintendo games as it does from Donald Barthelme’s “back-broke” sentences.
Is there something you are trying to work out in your stories? - All of my writing is rooted in some conflict, some tension that I don’t otherwise know how to resolve. The stories are a way of thinking things through.
I started some of the stories in the collection, the earliest drafts, in the late 1990s, right after I finished college — not too long, really, after I stopped wanting to be a ninja. By then I wanted to be a literary writer instead — a postmodernist, like Barthelme or Acker, my new influences. But all I really knew about was pop culture.
I was also reading a lot of fan-fiction then, so I decided to write “literary fan-fiction.” And my initial impulses were juvenile and ironic: to drag out the Star Trek characters and kick them around, to vandalize them. I can claim now that this was a Situationist impulse, or punk, but it was also hip and ironic. I ended up writing what were basically parodies: “Mario and Luigi’s Super Midlife Crises.” This kind of stuff is everywhere now, online. It’s cute, but it’s also easy and shallow.
It’s mostly impossible to vandalize pop culture, impossible to “take down” Indiana Jones, or TMNT, or Oscar the Grouch. Those things are much stronger than we are, much bigger. And the second you approach them ironically, thinking that gives you an edge, you’re really just capitulating to them. As a college professor of mine, Pat Trimble, wisely put it: whether you watch Friends or Simpsons or Star Trek or Twin Peaks, you’re still watching television; you’re still watching commercials. You’re still sitting on the couch, or behind your computer monitor, eating corn chips.
The moment I realized this (and it was a gradual realization), I realized that although I’d been through college, and had taken writing classes, and had supposedly outgrown those childish loves, I was still, in essence, hunched over my parents’ kitchen table, making a Mega Man II comic book. X-Men vs. Turtles.
The stories are initially very playful, but as the collection progresses that playfulness is increasingly overwhelmed by a larger eeriness. I became both confused and intrigued, facing a world that is neither real nor imaginary. - Well, what happened was that I put these kinds of stories aside for a while. I tried to focus on proper literary topics: adult relationships, the workplace, buying cars. Grandparents dying, pets dying, kids and spouses dying — the whole dead deal. But when I was honest with myself, I still wanted to write about my childhood. I didn’t know anything about adulthood. I knew only ALF!
And so I decided to acknowledge that desire, that the saddest thing I could think of was ALF dying. But at the same time I wanted to call myself to task, to admit how pathetic that was, how juvenile.
I returned to those pop culture stories, because I realized I needed to write them, to exorcise something. Amazing Adult Fantasy was my long dark night of the soul. Ingmar Bergman tormented himself over religion, and I, I agonized over — Kermit the Frog.
Your stories read like dreams, leading the reader into an alternate universe, but also back to the author as a mysterious and perhaps malignant force. What is the source of this? - If the stories are malignant, it’s because I tried to recognize how my desires are malignant. And how the pop culture forces are, before that, themselves malignant. Injurious and untrue.
The stories in the first half of the collection, in the “Fiction” section, are all fan-fiction. They’re about Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Oscar the Grouch… They’re about things I loved as a child, and still love, even if my love is conflicted and bittersweet. And they’re fantasy stories: fantastical, unrealistic.
Any fantasy, if it’s good, is also perverse. It asks you to believe in a world that isn’t true, an alternative to our real world. It’s escapist. This isn’t bad, per se — we need fantasies. We enjoy them. We use them for all sorts of useful things. But fantasy is particularly dominant right now in our culture — look at the movies out there, month after month. I can name every single one of the X-Men, summarize hundreds of issues of those comics. I’ve seen the Star Wars movies more times than tongue can tell. Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus are like real persons to me; they’re my childhood friends, as real as my downstairs neighbors (and not as loud). There’s something sad and terrible about this. And yet I can’t stop loving those things.
How does one get out of such a dilemma? Can one? - Another, more theoretical influence helped me come to some terms with this, to write through this problem: William H. Gass’s formalism, in particular his essay “The Concept of Character in Fiction,” and his 1970s debates with John Gardner. (So Gardner, too, was an influence.) Gass defined characters as linguistic constructs: proper nouns that other words “go to be about.” Gardner, meanwhile, took a more realist or illusionistic approach, arguing that characters are instead apparitions, dreams.
Their debates resonated very strongly with me. I agreed with Gass’s formalist approach, but I also felt great sympathy for Gardner’s view: the very problem I was having with these childhood pop icons was that they were apparitions. They were ghosts, haunting me. Or demons, in a very literal sense: divine beings that provide for us, and that determine our fates and fortunes. Attendant spirits.
After reading those debates and Gass’s essays, I found myself able to approach those dreamlike apparitions more abstractly, more as verbal constructs. Gass writes that the character is not real, but rather just a noun that other words modify. That insight helped me to see through some of the illusion.
So I tried sending other words to be about those characters, which in fact opened up a lot of room. These characters, these demons, are so well known, they’re so strong — that’s their appeal — that I found I had a lot of room to redefine them, and thereby deform them. So I could call Indiana Jones “Indian Jones,” and write that he now lives in Brooklyn, buying vanilla Cokes at the corner shop and squeezing the straws until they crinkle and tear. And at the start of that story he’s a young man, about to set out on his first adventure, about to become Indian(a) Jones. But he can also be an extremely old man, later on in the story, a man who “never found a single priceless artifact; instead he used his butterfly hands to become a sculptor.” Because Indian Jones, Indiana Jones, can be whatever I want him to be.
The first half of the collection is about redefining these characters, giving them new identities. This, too, is ultimately impossible, but I found it a better approach than mere ironic vandalism. The language could become something stranger and more troubling than guarded yet unabashed love letters.
The second half of the collection, “The Solar Stories,” is a rewrite of the first half — a dark mirror. The pop culture references disappear, replaced by a new, self-enclosed mythology. I think of the book as getting “older”: the first half is pre-pubescent, while the second half begins with puberty. The toys of childhood get cast aside, but not before they’ve been absorbed. And what replaces them is a much darker mythology, one more fiercely embraced. This dark reflection goes back to pollute the first half, I hope, and vice versa. The insular teenage fantasies are built on the naïve childhood loves, even if the teenage self won’t dare name them.
Do you follow any particular formal methods when writing, or would you call yourself more intuitive? - It’s a mixture of form and intuition. It was important to me that the structure played a meaningful role in the collection, organizing and commenting on the stories. And different stories in the collection used different styles and writing methods.
But I never want to sacrifice writing to adhere to form. If something feels right, then I’ll go with it. I want there to be tension, and form permits digression.
To what extent is media a guiding force? - The stories are mine, but saying that just calls into question what “mine” means. I’m definitely ceding some control in my choice of subject. And even as I wrote away from my sources, deforming those pop icons, I consistently felt a lot of pressure to return to their original concepts. The solution that worked best, I found, was to keep the characters protean. They’re endlessly mutating verbal constructs. So, for example, in “Oscar the Grouch” the title character is at first a radio broadcaster and successful poet, but a few paragraphs later he’s a neurotic young man, and very shy. And a little bit later he’s a lecherous, elderly Beat. But he’s also at the same time a disgusting, mangy creature who lives in a garbage can, like a bum.
Meanwhile, the narrator of that story, the “I” — that “I” is another character, too, another word that can be modified as well. And so the narrator, just like Oscar, also keeps changing: at first she’s a sickly little girl, then a student, then a groupie, then a teacher. She and Oscar continuously mutate around one another, defining and being defined by one another. And I hope that, when you’re reading that story, those transformations are pleasantly confusing, but also critical. Because who are you when you embrace Oscar the Grouch as your personal demon, as your totem animal? And how does that embrace deform you?
Claude Levi-Strauss said that we personify animals because, just like how some animals are “good to eat,” some are “good to think.” These stories look at those pop culture creations and ask how they are “good to think,” but also “bad to think.”
Are you opposed to pop culture? - No, certainly not. In some ways it’s too big to oppose. Can one ignore it? Condemn it? I don’t watch TV any more, and I read a much wider variety of literature than when I was a kid, and I have a lot of theory under my belt — but those pop stories, those characters, those franchises — they got their hooks into me before anything else. I was seduced at an early age: I can’t remember my life before Star Wars. The very first movie that I saw, when I was four years old, was The Muppet Movie. So I’ll no doubt always love Star Wars, and Kermit the Frog. And I’ve tried to be up front about that: “This before anything else.”
(A friend of mine was teasing me about these stories, arguing that I should just let my childhood go, like she did. She’s a sculptor who makes soft, animal-like fabric pieces. I asked her what kind of toys she’d played with as a child, and she said, “Oh, I had tons and tons of stuffed animals…”)
It’s important to resist one’s love for such things. We need them to some extent, but they were also the products of extremely pervasive capitalism — gimmicks for wresting cash from our parents’ fists (and then our own open hands).
The problem here becomes one of nostalgia, which is a kind of melancholy. Originally nostalgia was considered a disease: in the 1700s and 1800s, Swiss soldiers living abroad deserted in droves, because they couldn’t stand being so far away from the Alps. They were said to become particularly homesick when they heard the “Ranz des Vaches,” a farmer’s song. Their doctors and generals of course considered this a problem (they banned that song).
But today, nostalgia is a condition that we openly embrace. Our culture is very, very happy to sell our childhoods back to us. In my late teenage years, when I found myself at college, I struggled to cast aside the playthings of my youth. I stopped buying X-Men comic books, and action figures, and video games. I chose to stop going to see the new Batman movie, the new Star Trek. I wanted to have done with all of that, to move on. To no longer live like a child.
In some ways the culture helped: the more it insisted that I should care about the X-Men, the easier it made it for me to not care about the X-Men. George Lucas keeps tinkering with Star Wars, making it less and less like the Star Wars I remember — some people are upset because of that, but I’m actually somewhat grateful; I appreciate that alienation from Star Wars. The Batman that kids love today is not the Batman that Tim Burton gave me, the vision that he seduced me with…
…But this also makes nostalgia much more tempting. I actually bought some action figures one year ago: the NECO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures — because they’re based on the original comics version, you see, not the cartoon… And they just released a second series…
It’s difficult to get away from these things!
I took as my motto, “They will betray you.” They will never stay the same. They promise that they are divine, eternal, but they are the products of many different writers, of different places and times — which is part of their strength, but also part of their callousness, their injurious untruthfulness. They are greater than you; their masters are greater than you — and they do not know you, do not need you (just your paycheck).
This, then, is the tension that fueled the collection: my desire to write about these things, because I love them, and always will love them, but at the same time my very strong need to examine that love critically. And to hold myself accountable for feeling it." - Interview at Mutable Sound
A Sad Story of Factory Girls” (PDF, page 33)