10/29/11

Robert Kloss - A language piece, with the long strings of doomsday words doing the work of prophecy: How in those days we insulated the walls with hair, bones of children, farm animals dead. Entire horse carcasses often warmed the children within. Under the shadow of our aircraft a schoolyard of children become a river of tar


Robert Kloss, How the Days of Love and Diptheria, Nephew of Mud Luscious Press, 2011.
robert-kloss.com/



“Love & Diphtheria, yes: here Kloss does creation & destruction as it must be: in the same breath, a magnificent, unblinking act of remembrance & retribution, aimed at we who despite the skinless horses and burning bears would still go on, would deign to say anything at all with all this fire bursting out of people and the weird ground, and which from also comes a light.” – Blake Butler

"Let’s just get this out there: I think Robert Kloss is one of the most exciting writers to emerge from the indie world in the last few years, period. His language-heavy, seemingly-contradictory-but-it-works-perfectly-somehow-post-apocalyptic histories read like a tinted silent film: black and white with the faintest blush of something warmer, stranger. Read Kloss once and you’ll think him a pessimist; read him again and you’ll realize he’s a bit of a romantic, too. If not optimism, there is a certain bitter hope in most of his pieces, and there is almost always a mangled, broken, bloody, but very vivid kind of love.
How the Days of Love & Diptheria is Kloss’s first book, and love and hope are woven throughout its bleak nightmare-scape. Kloss paints a world ablaze, in which fires never really burn out. They just smolder on, reducing houses and families to ash. Our shifting protagonist, a boy and a kind of boy-golem are killed, rot, rise, travel, love, and mature in a way that almost seems to equate puberty with a kind of death and rebirth. This is a world in which the dead always return to trouble the living.
Surely it is no coincidence that the second father is blind: for this desperate attempt to save memories and dream them as people involves a great deal of willful blindness, eyes shut to the blackened skin, wasted muscles, clotted blood in the throat. Families start out as man and women, innocent as Adam and Eve, and end up slothful and rut-stuck as a sitcom family. But then those families give way, make room for new children, new families, and the cycle continues.
As I read Diptheria, I started to feel the same dread that I felt while reading On the Road, or Scorch Atlas, or William Gass’s “The Pedersen Kid”. Indeed, the sinister figure of death trailing and being trailed throughout the book (and boy as prey and preying) reminded me of the killer in Gass’s short story. Kloss makes brilliant use here of the long sustained note, this death-presence and the threat and the child-as-outsider all part of the taut note of dread sustained and sounded throughout the text, like the soundtrack for Eyes Wide Shut:
How the mother undressed and the shape of her figure, her pink brassiere, through the lighted window. How the boy thought she would taste. How she would look strewn. The way the family who was not his family would look cut and severed. How the boy watched from the hillside and considered the voices and what you would do to this house, erected in the flickering shadow of all he loved.
By the end you don’t know which you’re more afraid of: that the terrible thing will happen, or that nothing will happen after all.
Diptheria, like all of Kloss’s work, is primarily a language piece, with the long strings of doomsday words doing the work of prophecy for the reader. The gorgeous, edible phrases and sentences paint a vivid, shifting landscape in muted grey, sickly green, scarlet splashes and brilliant orange blazes. Frame-worthy sentences like these one abound, the mundane made sacred: “Now a woman vibrated into shadow. Now her fluids gone into steam.” Or this one: “The man gestured to the skies, Under the shadow of our aircraft, he said, a schoolyard of children become a river of tar.”
Kloss makes fantastic use of sing-song and repetition to give Diptheria a kind of fabled quality, the long-ago-and-far-away of fairy tales inherent in the action-through-description method he mostly employs in the book. Many of the sentences begin with “How the,” and yet even as this delivers us into storybook land, it simultaneously draws us closer to the tale and the characters, as though these events are our own personal recollection, snapshots of memory held close to the chest and examined from time to time in a different light.
Motifs of birth and sacrifice and rebirth run through the text, but distorted; birth in a broken mirror. The distortions of natural processes, of family and nature, reminded me of Aase Berg’s poetry a little. This prophecy-driven passage seemed especially a mirror to the nature-as-catastrophe:
How deer, skittish and blind, ran through shop windows and into cars while goats, half-burned, and herds of black sheep once white, lay smoking and blind. How coyotes seemed the hunched figures of bears, and how bears sweltered into deer, and how deer fell with tongues pink and burning, men tripping over them, lamenting the terror visited upon moose. How scorched kittens licked the charcoal bodies of dogs, beavers, goats. How these animals mewed into the vibrations, moaning and melting. How they wailed.
A personal note: everyone knows I’m insane for cats, so it won’t be too surprising that I adored the curve ball in the “dog-as-loyal-companion” trope that Kloss throws by making that a “cat-as-loyal-companion.” The cat is a symbol of loyalty, love, hope. But because it isn’t that known quantity, the dog, but the more mysterious, secretive cat, love/loyalty/hope become a thing of mystery rather than of comfort, of intense emotion rather than known feeling. And since the cat is still a bit of a portent of doom, that sense of the black cat, the unlucky cat lingers and hangs a big question mark over the loving feline’s head.
No doubt How the Days of Love and Diptheria is not something book clubs across America are going to read. But I wish they would. After all, at its heart this is a gorgeous book about a simple and universal idea: the decay and destruction of love, and the weird thing that lingers on in its place. It is a book with a broken heart. And to read it is to break your own, in all the ways that pain equals love equals endings. Beware." - Amber Sparks
"Via the Facebook, I told Robert Kloss, "I am reading your book right now. It is goddamn beautiful. And I might have squealed 'oh my god now he gets a cat companion' at one point."
Kloss replied, "I don't think I could put 'love' in the title w/out a cat companion."
For me this cat companion is what Kloss’s How the Days of Love & Diphtheria hinges upon. Sure, the book is dark. Maybe a bit brutal. Disturbing in parts, you know, disturbing like that horrific scene from a movie you still remember and are frightened by even though you saw the movie ten years ago? The whole book is that feeling. That feeling of vomiting out of fear and then being forced to sit with your vomit. Spend time with your vomit. Maybe get to know your vomit and learn to appreciate it. A thing that’ll follow you everywhere and be disgusting and between your teeth and make you feel like shit.
But, you don’t have to feel this bad. You don’t. Because -- there’s a cat companion. A beautiful white mewling kitten that’ll sleep at your feet and understand you and keep you safe. I read this book much more comfortably once the cat companion was introduced.
I’ll admit I worried about the cat. I thought, What if Kloss kills this cat? I read sentences slowly. Each page, very slowly. I thought that if I read it slowly enough, the cat would remain safe. If I crept up on the words very quietly there’d be no way for Kloss to surprise me, killing the cat. I thought, if Kloss kills the cat, I am not going to be his friend on facebook. And I needed desperately for Kloss to keep this cat safe. I wish could have spoken to him while he was writing this book and told him how important this cat’s safety was to me.
I worried maybe Kloss would sneak into my house, skin my cats and then they’d be shamed, running through the house as pink-furless cats. Kloss makes me nervous, but I don’t have to meet Kloss in real life. We can be friends on the Internet, where my cats feel safe.
And I can assume and hope (from photos on the Facebook) that Kloss is also a cat lover and this cat companion’s life was important to him. I liked to think keeping the cat safe among such danger and ruin was hard work.
How the Days of Love & Diphtheria is a beautiful object composed of thoughtfully and artfully written sentences. It amasses to much more than its parts and though it’s small, just fifty pages, the motherfucker weighs a ton." - Brandi Wells

"Robert Koss’s HOW THE DAYS OF LOVE & DIPHTHERIA is the third installment of the Nephew imprint offered by Mud Luscious Press. It’s a right handsome little book weighing in at about fifty pages divided into four chapters. I feel as though there is a little less white space involved than I have become accustomed to seeing from Mud Luscious books, though overall readability is not negatively impacted. Oddly, I was not readily familiar with Kloss’s work prior to reading this book, nor was I very informed on exact details regarding the bacterial disease known as diphtheria. Though the former isn’t a necessity to enjoy the book, I highly recommend a quick overview of the latter if you aren’t up on your disturbing medical ailments, particularly the kinds that swell necks and leave gaping craters in the flesh of their victims.
As an unapologetic lover of the work Mud Luscious (and particularly Nephew) produces, I found HOW THE DAYS OF LOVE & DIPHTHERIA to be an extremely difficult work to take in at times. Don’t misunderstand me. It wasn’t because the writing was subpar—it most certainly is not. Nor was it because the movement wasn’t there—on the contrary, it certainly is. Rather, the trouble was simply that HOW THE DAYS OF LOVE & DIPHTHERIA is a dense canvas of a particularly dark and intense kind. Its pages are rife with death and disease; with flesh and with fire; with ghosts and distrust; with the weight of destruction, longing, suffering, and absolute love in the face of all of this, coexistent on every page. Kloss is, as Blake Butler put it, “doing creation and destruction,” and he doesn’t hesitate to spill blood all over the text from the very outset:
“Few stories as old as the story of the boy whose family you killed. What authors of ruin, you with your black masks, your knives. Few stories so sorrowful as mother and father and how you left them strewn, cut apart and opened, how the birds and barn cats crawled within and slept, how they seemed under the wide light of the house you set ablaze. How your horses thundered the hillsides, clouds of dust and soot, the long green grasses gone black in your wake. How father was washing the car and then your knives slid into his throat. How father slept in his hammock and then before him, your black masks and long teeth.”
and:
“How in those days we insulated the walls with hair, bones of children, farm animals dead, he said. Entire horse carcasses often warmed the children within.
This is not to imply the book is a reckless or gratuitously violent work. In fact, if it were such a work, one would likely find it much easier to remain safely detached. One could feel safe enough in knowing it is only a book. One could feel free to disengage, eat dinner, and forget the faces. Instead, Kloss’s sentences build and stack upon each other in such compelling ways that the reader is perpetually drawn deeper and more attached to the faces and landscapes as the story unfolds. And that’s just it: It becomes quite clear early on that neither the faces nor the landscapes will fare well in the end, and their chances are only diminished as the text plays out:
“How a light flashed and the horizon rumbled with animals. How the boy held his daughter on the back porch and how in that moment he knew what he had lost a thousand years before, and how only now did he ache for what had been. How the sky opened and hummed and the boy knew enough to say with his final sound, ‘I love you’ rather than what he knew, ‘I should have killed them.’ How she could not hear within the sky, broken into lights and impossible colors. How their ears popped and clogged with pus and they were forced to imagine the impossible roar.”
The reader is cast in the loathsome role of one who exterminates to cleanse, whose job it is to set fire to and destroy a town and people ravaged by terrible, incurable disease. However, as a reader, it becomes impossible not to invest emotionally in, and become equally, the boy, the mother, the father, the man, the woman, the son, the daughter, the husband and wife—the town and its eradicator, all at once. Our hearts become the hearts of the entire cast, of whom no one is spared, not even those in peripheral view:
“In those days our women died by childbirth or by the flames. How many women we found as if tarred, sprawled out on front lawns, within pantries. Yes, so often an unwed mother became a living wick, and her condition was cured by the long blue flames—.”
I should emphasize that I have not aimed to dissuade by any means. In fact, I highly recommend a reading of HOW THE DAYS OF LOVE & DIPHTHERIA, but I don’t recommend you do so lightly or without preparation for full engagement. Kloss’s words are wreckage and destruction; the kind that is beautiful, which resonates; the kind that haunts and uproots the very room in which it is read; the kind you don’t quite shake even after you’ve reminded yourself it is only a book. In Kloss’s scorched earth vision, even the reader becomes a ghost that leaves part of itself within the pages:
“How the boy said, ‘mama, I’m going to die,” and how she knew enough to say, “no you aren’t honey, no you never will.’ How this boy could only stare back at his father and mother and why they lied.”
Almost immediately upon finishing the book, I sent a note to MLP kingpin J. A. Tyler containing the words I feel summed my reaction up well: “Man, this book is disturbing. I mean, it’s amazingly well done. It just flows. It’s mercurial in that it reminds me of the tiny vials we used to find sealed in thermostats as children, the way it moves—grotesquely reflective, fast and heavy.”
Mercury in a tiny vial; beautiful and potentially poisonous. These are phrases I feel accurately reflect the words contained in Robert Kloss’s disturbingly exquisite work. How thin or how thick the barrier of glass depends on us individually as readers, though I won’t recommend it as a literary bedtime snack.
Hell of a little monster, Mr. Kloss, and one giant hell of a book. Your very words have affected me so." - David Tomaloff


We begin in the dust of the valleys, in the long days and the sounds of your generations, digging and constructing and fighting, the hollow slapping of their fists against the meat if the men they beat into the dust. The stray dogs that lapped their spilled blood, while flies hummed and flickered along their mangy skins, their bulged ribs.
So begins The Alligators of Abraham, the debut novel by Robert Kloss and his second release from MudLuscious Press, which is surely the coolest press of its size and kind. My favorite, anyway, and this novel is their best. Not only is it my favorite book by MudLuscious or even my favorite book released in 2012, but it is my favorite thing I have read this year by anyone, from any time or place.
How the Days of Love & Diphtheria is a verbal assault and one of the strongest pieces of prose I had read in a long time. I read it a few days after meeting Robert Kloss at AWP and then I read it again on the bus home. Before meeting Kloss, I had no idea who he was but after reading How the Days, I knew I was sold on just about any words he was planning on putting anywhere. The Alligators of Abraham does not disappoint. The prose is strong and poetic and grotesque but it is also very readable. Where How the Days’ prose sometimes built a barrier between me and the narrative, The Alligators of Abraham invites us into this surreal nightmare of an America that was and was not.
The Alligators of Abraham is historical magical realism set in the lead-up to the Civil War and carried on through Reconstruction and into the 20th century. Told in three parts, it begins with realism and moves towards a world where hordes of alligators swallow america. While this novel begins as a Civil War novel, it is so much more than that. It is a story of father and son, of man and country, of money and power, of love and death, of death and living, of love and disappointment, and the lengths a son will go to be a man the father will look at. Of all that is in The Alligators of Abraham, of all the glory and awesome that I want to proclaim on its behalf, where it hits deepest and hardest is its examination of family, of father, of son.
I simply cannot say enough good things about this novel. Kloss is descended from the Faulknerian line of American prose rather than Hemingway’s, which is the rarer and infinitely more interesting one. This novel, The Alligators of Abraham, it will swallow you and take you and you will be knee-deep in this fever dream of America’s past and you will never want to let it go. Even when it hurts. It is the King James Bible dreamt by Cormac McCarthy, written by Faulkner, edited by Terrence Malick, and set in America’s tragic brother war.
This is the first of its kind by a man whose name will be a part of the American literary canon. You probably do not know who Robert Kloss is yet, but you will, and you will wish you could have been there at the beginnings, with the alligators and the Civil War. - Edward J. Rathke





E x c e r p t:

Now this boy and how he lived under the soil while you—. How he mewed and dreamed under your hooves and vibrations, how he lived and slept under the burning house, the sirens. How he lived in a land blacker than your blackest masks, blacker than the sky you built from the soot and ash of his house. Now this boy, pale and ribs and trembling. How he dreamed his father’s heavy voice. How he dreamed his mother, the rip of her hair pulled, the clumps of skin dangling from roots. Now this boy and the cool damp of their world of soil. How he clawed and dug and buried and tunneled at the sounds of horses rampaging and snorting. No rivers but rivers of worms below the only world he ever knew. Now no women in robes the way he dreamed, their hands cold along his groin, the way he dreamed their dead-blue lips against his neck. How he dreamed them in gowns, amorous and rigid for the fumes. How no women but the flesh of the dead he dreamed beneath the ground. How you hunted for him with your horses snorting and kicking at the soil. How your long teeth dripped for the boy you could not find. How the blood of his mother, the blood of his father, on your knives and teeth. How the vibrations of your rampage shook his skin. Your horses and their wild greased hair, their dripping slather. How this boy and a world of soil and the excavations that followed. All the trucks and men with shovels. All the shirtless men, their burned skin flaking like sheets of Bible paper. How they dug with shovels and spades and their blazing knotted muscles, their sharp dried throats. These men and how they dug trenches. How they called the boy’s name into holes. How the house burned white behind them. All the grasses of the valley gone black and the sky filled with soot and smoke. The rumble of trucks digging into the soil. The boy who would not be found."


Interview by Tara Laskowski

Birds of Prey blog

PLUMB: A Cultural and Arts Blogazine







Robert Kloss, The Alligators of Abraham, Mud Luscious Press, 2012.



“In this amazing, collapsed-time text, I’m led along dark alleys of American history by an all-seeing voice-over narrative that reports on things from a great height and in an ultra-factual way. Familiar events of war, sorrow and struggle are seen anew, as if on a slide under a microscope.” – David Ohle

“In The Alligators of Abraham, Robert Kloss drops us into the darkness of the Civil War, showing a culture perpetually on the edge of extinction. Yet out of that murky world, hazed and fogged, rise the clear and distinct shapes of a people not ready to surrender to their own haunting. A novel as lyrical as it is precise in its depiction of the struggle to maintain dignity.” – Adam Braver

“Robert Kloss’s words gnaw into the collective-dark-underbelly-unconsciousness of the 19th century which, in many ways, we’ve never entirely gotten over in America. They get how the ‘you’ of America is both masculine and tender, how it’s powered by craziness and wounds, and how it longs to liberate and yet remains enslaving and enslaved. They understand how war roils in the guts. There is a terrible, terrible movie in which Shirley Temple meets Abraham Lincoln. This book is a gristly bloody opposite of that; it reeks of the truth. Thank you Robert Kloss.” – Rebecca Brown


Now a voice spoke low from the face of the deep.

Rarely before have I read a first sentence from a book that so adequately set the tone for everything to follow than this opening sentence from Robert Kloss’ Alligators of Abraham. Of course the great openings we’ve all come to know so well spring to mind, if I might so bold as to make the comparison. And who’s to say this one may not well join those in time?
This voice from the “face of the deep” takes you by the ear and sits you down in the gloom of an ancient campfire and never eases its grip, and never, not ever, spares both the beautiful and the brutal details.
You could say this book is about the Civil War in part, about family relationships in part. But as Harry Crews so famously said, this is what happens in this remarkable novel. Crews would lean in close and perhaps say, yes, but what is this book about?
And the distinction is one of the most important aspects of truly effective literature. It seems Kloss has a unique understanding of this concept, giving us a historically-grounded novel that presents the “Brothers War” in superb prose and a three-book structure about loss and resurrection, about history, true history told from a timeless, all-seeing narrator who dares you to look away while the story rolls out in a series of “Ands” that never becomes labored.
If you’ll indulge me a somewhat lengthy series of quoted paragraphs, allow me the pleasure of sharing Kloss’ use of “Ands” to create a rolling thundertrain of storytelling.
And we begin in the miles of their construction, of digging with peeled backs and brows, with spades and pickaxes and shovels, and the lines of wagons obscured for the dust they inspired, the clouds that seemed a warning or a foreboding and arrived with tins of peaches, of beef and ham, of beans and beets, with shovels and beams and guns and tarpaulin and miles of wire, spooled.
And those men were called brutes when they worked with vigor, and they were called dogs when they lagged. Those men lashed until their backs striped with blood while the others stood by with sullen eyes. “Let this be a lesson to you men,” it was said by officers who spat into the blood pools, “I will not indulge your idleness.” Those lines of bloody sneering men, those men of your generations, those men of your father’s generations, and those generations long prior, and those generations ever after.
And when the distant smoke spiraled and flickered in the waves of heat, there was a man who told your father, “The bastards are smoking us out” and by this he meant the natives would burn them to death. Your father who obscured the sun with his hand and saw nothing but smoke, and yet he felt wise in those moments, saying, “New life is born from the fires of the plain.”
And in the dust of once mountains and the ashes of prairies fled the dusty figures of your fathers, their marches along those smoldered roads and valleys, your fathers tanned by the dust as if men of leather, their eyes alone, winking and alive.
This energy Kloss has caught like bottled lightning never lets up over the course of the entire book. A combination of what must have been exhaustive period research and then the level of deftly executed prose, sentences so carefully crafted, is this novel’s heart, the conduit through which Kloss unfolds a tale unlike anything I’ve yet read and rarely enjoyed so thoroughly.
At times, I thought of my father, a Civil War buff who kept pictures of Robert E. Lee (we are from the South after all) on the walls of his bedroom and countless books on the subject scattered across his bed, on nightstands, the floor. I went into Alligators of Abraham wondering if there could possibly be a story, fact or fiction, which could engage me considering the level of exposure I had been subjected to from my old man.
Those concerns were put to rest as the novel unfolded and became, among other things, about a father and son, and a tragic father at that, fallen from some grace in the distant past and transformed into a grieving shadow of his once strong self by loss and the search for eternal life in the most fascinating means imaginable. I related in the most profound way possible.
Alligators of Abraham is an ambitious novel that does not disappoint, with Kloss stripping the paint from the canvas of history with a fluid but respectful hand to somehow retell the story of us all anew and with an honesty both refreshing and entertaining. - Sheldon Lee Compton



Robert Kloss, The Revelator, Unnamed Press, 2015.
excerpt
excerpt


Conquistadors arrive in the new world, slaughtering and enslaving all those in their way. Centuries later, Manifest Destiny continues to drive American expansion westward, building an early 19th century society with genocidal brutality. This is the context that frames The Revelator's protagonist: a young orphan named Joseph who escapes certain death and arrives in a new town. Reared on nights spent carousing with drunks and con men, after days spent loitering near the traveling preachers' tents, the young protagonist dreams of something more, even as he is taken in by a well-meaning merchant who loves him like a son.
He begins to preach, and abandons the merchant. Soon he takes a young wife, to the horror of her father, a butcher. They depart for the wilderness where Joseph's visions, haunted by a dark Beast - take hold of his life. Husband and wife nearly die of exposure, and upon their return, Joseph begins to build his congregation, built on the discovery of the golden plates that deliver the Almighty's message.
As his congregation grows, Joseph builds a settlement, takes multiple wives, and negotiates multiple betrayals and intrigues with his followers, his wife, and even his suspicious and distant son. Persecuted by society at large, and on the US government's watch list, Joseph takes his people further and further west to meet their destiny, and to satisfy the dark Beast that never never stops following him.
Written in the second person, author Robert Kloss's prophetic voice functions as 'revelator,' demonstrating the macabre and gruesome consequences of 'manifest destiny' and the conflicted motivations behind the creation of a religion that boasts 15 million members today.


"I'd be hard pressed to think of a young novelist I admire more than Robert Kloss. An heir of Melville, Faulkner, and McCarthy, Kloss stands unflinching before conventional history, rich with ambition and aesthetic daring. To read one of his books is to be thrilled anew with the possibilities of contemporary fiction."Matt Bell
    
"THE REVELATOR leads us through the life and times and beyond of its title character, from orphan to prodigal to itinerant preacher to prophet (and purveyor of dirty jokes), in a narrative that reads like the gospel of an alternate universe, but as awash in fury and carnage as our own."Eugene Marten
    
"THE REVELATOR is the sort of book that leads to troubled sleep and haunted dreams. Kloss channels the spirit of American brutality and cunning in this dark tale of a 19th century conman turned preacher named Joseph and his multiple wives (starting to sound familiar?) while rewriting the myths of our collective past and questioning the legends we tell about ourselves. I was sucked in from the very first page."Emily Ballaine
   
Our country has had its eccentrics, and one must surely be Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism and the subject of this dark, bold novel, which is nearly as eccentric as its subject.
In his second novel, Kloss (The Alligators of Abraham, 2012) chooses an unusual style—second-person narration, biblical language—to tell the story of an orphan born to a savage wilderness, his wanderings as a young man, and the visions that resulted in him leading people to what became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Kloss riskily re-creates, in grisly close-up, an atmosphere of blood-soaked desperation that is his vision of the settler’s life in early America in order to show how its hardships and horrors might lead to religious fanaticism. That he succeeds to some degree does not make this novel pleasurable reading. It opens in a bewildering horror show of violence, which is like starting Heart of Darkness at its climax. And it goes on from there, with babies dying and bodies rotting beneath suicide ropes, using language and imagery that evoke Cormac McCarthy on an absinthe jag. The second-person narration is difficult at first but becomes appropriate as you slowly realize you’re in the bedazzled mind of a religious fanatic who believes he is hearing signs and being spoken to from on high, so “you” makes sense. But it is also relentless and tiring. When Smith’s story begins to emerge, the remembered outlines of that narrative propel this story forward, but it gets mired in uninteresting relationships (like Smith’s with his associate, Harris) and repetitive scenes with Smith’s long-suffering, faceless wife. There are many passages of powerful writing, but in other places the prose is marred by poor grammar; e.g: “unmoving in the snow you laid, hearing only the sound of her screams.” It's hard work to stay with this narrative.
Fans of McCarthy and filmmaker Terence Malick may enjoy Kloss’ stylistic and tonal experiments here, but for nearly everyone else, this novel is tough going.—Kirkus Reviews
    
"Robert Kloss writes with the passion of a young Cormac McCarthy, fearless in both scope and the possibilities of language, and blessed with an innate ability to parse the light from any darkness. It's rare such an eagle eye emerges among Americans. He should be savored."Blake Butler    

"Robert Kloss is quickly building a blazing reputation as a literary perfect weapon: He is a sentence-architect like Gary Lutz, yet at the same time, he’s also able to spin intimate, oddball yarns in the vein of William Gass and Shelley Jackson. THE REVELATOR showcases these unique skills. Go all in on Kloss now before he’s buffing his Pulitzer."Joshua Mohr
    
"The Revelator carries traces of Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, and the rattling bones of Bill Faulkner. I'm serious. I felt transported mind, body and soul to some weird liminal space where a prophet can emerge from the dirt and speed of things, from the darkness in us all brought forth by a ready-made zealot who can turn on a dime. Read it and weep--because this novel turns us inside out in the best way."Lidia Yuknavitch
    
"His new novel THE REVELATOR takes as its central character a man who graduates from assorted low-level crimes to founding a religion in the mid-19th century. Here, too, are surreal visitations, violent clashes, and the rise of fanaticism–it’s a searing and often phantasmagorical work."Tobias Carroll


In 1842, Adolph Peter Adler, a pastor living in Denmark and onetime friend of Søren Kierkegaard, claimed to experience a divine revelation commanding him to burn his previous books and promising that God would dictate to him a new work. That new work, published in 1843, was titled Several Sermons; in 1844, Adler was dismissed from his post as a minister and afterwards wrote that he had been mistaken about his revelation, that perhaps revelation was “too strong an expression.”
Kierkegaard visited Adler following his supposed revelation, and Adler read to him from his work, using a strange, whistling voice to indicate that certain passages were divinely inspired. Kierkegaard concluded that his former friend was almost certainly mad. But the whole affair raised a difficult question for Kierkegaard: what does it mean to have a revelation? What is the difference—if any—between revelation, genius, and madness?
The same year Adler was dismissed from his post, a young man named Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, was killed by an armed mob while imprisoned for treason in Nauvoo, Illinois. Smith, too, had experienced a revelation. In 1823, he was visited, or believed he was visited, or claimed he was visited, by the angel Moroni, who revealed the location of a book of golden plates containing revelations written in an ancient language. The translations of these plates, dictated first to his wife and later to a man named Martin Harris, became the Book of Mormon—a history of the people who predated European settlers in the Americas, and a continuation of the Biblical Old Testament.
The protagonist of Robert Kloss’s novel The Revelator is not that Joseph Smith, although there are enough similarities that you’d be forgiven for thinking so. This Smith also claims to be the owner of a set of ancient golden plates, revealed to him by a messenger of God; this Smith was also aided early on by a man named Martin Harris, who like his namesake was responsible for the loss of a large portion of the original translation. This Smith, like the other, rises to power as the head of a new church. This Smith and his followers are run out of one town after another; this Smith, like that one, dies at the hands of a mob in a jail cell somewhere in the Midwest.
And yet they are not the same. As in his previous novel, The Alligators of Abraham, Kloss takes as his material historical events and remakes them to suit his purposes. The result fits comfortably neither in the genre of historical fiction nor alternate history: it is unconcerned with portraying the facts as they were, but neither is there some primary difference that can be pointed out to separate the book’s reality from our own. Rather, there are numerous, tiny modifications to the world as we know it, like little scratches on the mirror. Some deliberately estrange, such as the burnt offerings offered by the churches opposed to Smith, and work to make Kloss’s dark American landscape a little more alien. Others, such as Martin Harris’s early death or Joseph’s childhood as an orphan, might easily pass unnoticed by readers unfamiliar with the details of the historical Joseph Smith. In more than one case I discovered afterwards that something I would have sworn was the author’s invention was, in fact, historically accurate, such as Smith’s early career as a treasure seeker, during which he attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to find lost items or buried money with a divining stone.
In the early, brutally violent America of The Revelator, Kloss has found both a subject and an approach that lets him explore a language deeply indebted to the rhythms and sentence structures of Melville and the King James Bible, while still allowing postmodernist moves that would be at home in the work of John Fowles or William Gaddis. This productive aesthetic tension is evident from the novel’s first paragraph:
They drifted for months aboard a ship they called the Spotted One, locked between the vast, merciless blue and the withering sun. Their faces blistered and their minds bleached and weary. They conspired in the shadows, drew plans in the sawdust. They grew confident and foolhardy. Finally, the Admiral consulted his god and ordered them shot through the skulls, their bodies weighted with lead and dropped to the depths, with neither forgiveness nor prayer.
The Spotted One is one possible translation of the Pinta; the Admiral, of course, both is and is not quite Christopher Columbus. Columbus’s story, which bookends the narrative, seems to indicate that Joseph Smith’s prophecy and violent life shares something fundamental with the history of America itself, a land that has always marked itself off as exceptional, sacred, a revelation.
The Revelator’s Joseph is a cypher: he is at various points a drunk, a gambler, most likely a cheat, unquestionably a bigamist. But is he a prophet? Whenever this question is raised—whenever the book touches on the revelation itself—the narrative is staunchly indeterminate, answering, perhaps infuriatingly: both. Joseph is prophet and con-man; the Creature of God that speaks to him is at once epiphany and delusion; the plates exist and the plates do not exist. When Harris takes a sample of Joseph’s “holy symbols” to a professor of ancient languages, we are told:
And there are those who say this professor marveled over the ancient script, soon issuing a certificate . . . And there are those who say the professor ‘guffawed himself red and tearful’ before proclaiming the language to be ‘insensible squiggles’ and ‘mere stupid illustrations of plants and animals.’ And there are those who insist the professor told Harris, ‘I worry over you, man,’ for he was convinced your ‘plates’ were little more than a confidence game.
Joseph is always referred to, as in the above quotation, in the second person, a narrative device that creates a Joseph-sized hole that stretches tunnel-like through the course of the story. Though he is the protagonist, he is nevertheless in some important sense missing. We have no direct access to his thoughts or experiences. He is not contained within the book; instead the book indicates something beyond: you.
Of course, this is exactly the point. Revelation is by its nature a kind of absolute gap in our common knowledge. It cannot be reasonable. If there were any way to reason from some set of real-world premises to the substance of the revelation, then there would be nothing divine or miraculous about the revelation, and it would remain, however brilliantly, within the realm of possible human insight. David Hume understood this when he argued that to believe in the truth of a miracle, even if one has experienced it oneself, is irrational, since any miracle must oppose the combined weight of human experience.
And Kierkegaard understood this when he confronted his former friend, wild-eyed, whistling as he read. Kierkegaard could conceive of the possibility that Adler had experienced a revelation. But if Adler had, he had subsequently forsaken his responsibility towards the revelation, disclaiming it once the demands it made on him were too great; and if he had not, he had either lied or was the victim of delusion.
Kierkegaard concludes that he cannot judge the truth of the revelation itself, but only what comes afterwards. The Revelator leaves us with the same question, as regards not only Joseph but American exceptionalism as well: what has come afterwards? - James Tadd Adcox


The problem with using words like mesmerizing, outstanding, and powerful to describe a novel is that a few generations of lazy reviewers have rendered them almost meaningless. That being said, if we go back to the dictionary and apply their original meaning minus the damage caused by overuse, they perfectly describe Robert Kloss’ The Revelator. At once a poetic exploration of religious fervor/madness and a fictionalized retelling of Joseph Smith’s life and the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Revelator is an impressive, hyperviolent, emotionally gritty narrative that drops readers in nineteenth-century America and then drags them through the mud and blood that Smith and his followers went through and spilled.
The Revelator kicks off when Joseph is a young orphan growing up on the streets, where he spends his time among drunks, prostitutes, and con men before finally being taken in by a butcher. Despite seemingly enjoying the nights and vices that came with these wild days, he dreams of something better, so he begins to preach. As his small congregation works, Joseph marries the young daughter of the butcher with whom he’d been working and living. The young couple runs away and enters the wilderness, where Joseph’s bizarre visions, especially one where he sees and hears a dark Beast, soon dominate his thoughts and give him a sense of purpose. When they rejoin civilization, Joseph once again begins to preach and builds a relatively large following of people who believe the golden plates he claims to have are delivering the Almighty’s message to him. From there, the preacher’s followers multiply, he builds a settlement for them, convinces them that taking on multiple wives is the what the Lord wants, and deals with varying degrees of success with the individuals and groups that rise against him until the violence becomes too much.
The first thing that makes The Revelator a standout novel is the mixture of brutality and the sense of proximity that comes from the second-person narration, which is something that was risky to begin with and Kloss somehow pulled off brilliantly. The biblical language gives the narrative a strange beauty that brings to mind Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner, but the entire novel is full of a viciousness and gore that McCarthy only delivered in short bursts. Furthermore, Kloss keeps his story at the verge of surrealism via the visions of the Beast and the mysterious black mountain that can always be seen in the distance. This makes everything that happens simultaneously very real and slightly tinged with something impossibly darker and more menacing:
You woke alone, as a cold wind blew through the opened tent. Your wife laid before the tent, bloodied and nude from the waist down, lines of soot drawn across her throat, her chest, while her eyes glazed with a child’s simplicity and confusion. Her clothing slashed away and cast to the snow. You gathered her into your arms and you did not scream and you did not sob. Inside the tent you wrapped her in blankets and skins. And she cried for her child, so you returned to the snows, and there the cord, shriveled and cut away, coiled in the red-soaked snow. There you dug until your hands numbed, raw and blood dripping. And you saw no bloody tracks of man or animal. And no wailing cry did you hear, and no child did you find.
Having a religious zealot as the main character was a move as risky as the second-person narration, but it works just as well. Joseph is an unlikeable character whose flaws are constantly on display. He’s a mediocre father, an awful, misogynistic husband, and a man who seemed to embrace much of what was wrong with the society he was brought up in. In a way, he embodies the vilest characteristics of the desperate hunger for expansion and ruthless thirst for domination that came with adhering to Manifest Destiny. However, the gruesome events he has to endure and the small victories he enjoys make him bearable even when all of what he preaches against were the same things bigots preach against today:
And you preached against all other preachers and prophets and teachings. And you preached against those who worshipped the trees as gods. And you preached against those who shook and foamed and refused His commandment to multiply. And you preached against those who preached in churches and in temples and you preached against those who called for the liberation and elevation of women, and you preached against those who called for the freedom of the African slave.
In a way, Kloss frames the life of settlers in harshness and the kind of blood-soaked desperation that makes religious fanaticism almost understandable, as if it was the only option other than suicide or madness. In this context, Joseph is a figure that doesn’t differ much from those around him except for his visions and talent for preaching. This last element is what ultimately turns The Revelator into one of the best novels published in 2015:
There will be earthquakes and fires and there will be plagues, and bodies will swell fat with blackness and cough blood as thick and putrid as oil. And whatever man has domesticated will turn against him and assault him. Now man will fall against the gnashing of his hounds and his horses and his mules and his oxen, coughing blood and broken teeth beneath the furious trample of their hooves and teeth. And the creature of the Almighty will sharpen its horrid sickle. And bodies will fill the streets. And ships and will drift with the dead weight of entire crews. And mothers will forsake their children. And wives will denounce their husbands. And entire populations will be sought out and murdered as scapegoats. And men will lash themselves with iron-spiked whips, spreading the ground with their blood, crying out, “Mercy! Mercy!” and “Peace! Peace!”
Despite doing many things right, The Revelator is not an easy read. Pervasive brutality, dead babies, bloated corpses, and the plethora of instances in which humanity is shown at its most unflattering, animalistic, cruel moments can make this a tough read, but those uncomfortable moments are a very small price to pay for reading such an outstanding novel. - 

Violent Histories: An Interview With Robert Kloss, Author Of The Revelator
A Polar Wind: Robert Kloss and Matt Kish in Conversation
Novels Don’t Lie: A Conversation Between Robert Kloss and Colin Winnette by Colin Winnette & Robert Kloss

Ryan Call - The weather is the biggest character of them all: a lot of broken skies, miraculous clouds, killer storms, fantastical happenings; a new city that will harness the power of the weather, people who use the wind as a weapon upon the battlefield


Ryan Call, The Weather Stations, Caketrain, 2011.



“When travel writer Alexander Frater wrote lovingly of his father’s fascination with weather, ‘he measured and recorded it, noting down items like precipitation, hours of sunshine and wind speed and direction,’ he might just as easily have been writing about Ryan Call. Call’s narrative consciousness chases clouds and storms the way paparazzi chase stars: not to quarry them but to worship them, ancient gods and goddesses that they are. In the story ‘My Scattering,’ a character asked to describe a storm cloud says, ‘I remember thinking I could nearly reach out and touch it, so low did it hang in the sky. It seemed to have come for me, selected me for the taking.’ In capacious tales of mythic scale, Call tends to the delicate yet sometimes brutal relationship between us and nature. The Weather Stations is a record of humans ravished by Olympian thunderheads and carried off to live among the clouds. As in the paintings of Odd Nerdrum, this art has a timeless shape, a pure adoration of archetype, and yet it also has compassion, wry humor and awe. There’s so much depth and precision in this debut collection that it reads like the culmination of a life’s work. What wonderful providence for us that it’s a beginning.” - D.A. Powell

“For all its breathtaking, vividly imagined terrain and astonishing meteorological phenomena, what you’ll remember most about The Weather Stations is Ryan Call’s keen rendering of human grief and longing and the struggle to survive in a fragile world where the sky is quite literally falling.” - Matthew Derby

“You’d have to look to such masters as Norman Lock to find language so purposefully and satisfyingly well treated. Call does not pose. Scenarios that we think are fantastical are depicted in such sympathetic, bone-simple human language that they seem completely reasonable—and resonant—aspects of worlds we know.” - Kathryn Rantala

“There is a lot of weather in these stories—a lot of broken skies, miraculous clouds, killer storms, fantastical happenings. In thick, muscular, meticulous prose, Ryan Call provides a beautiful and troubling forecast. The people in the crumbling worlds of The Weather Stations do what they can to survive and bear witness, and we, as readers, are the better for it. Stock up on canned goods and read this book.” - Robert Lopez

"These stories are at once startling and beautiful. The world(s) of these stories is/are weathered… the characters face trying emotional and physical battering, and the weather itself behaves as a character, a deliverer of conflict, or as the element in the stories that interrupts, brings forward, gives resistance. These stories remind me of Don DeLillo at his best — though I think Ryan Call exceeds DeLillo’s talent… the language here is just so excessively beautiful. My heart breaks over and over again in the reading, and yet my lips hurt a bit from also smiling. A beautiful collection!" - Moriah L. Purdy

"The Weather Stations is best described in images: balloons of hot air or helium, steam hurling out a burst pipe, bubble baths and foam, how similar the rustling sound of large trees to that of sea waves, the blowing about of debris and sand and small seashells and stray feathers, the billowing of lace curtains and of bright superhero capes, the magic of houses made of cards or of long rows of dominoes tumbling, the tragedy of stepping on a sandcastle, the way parts of it collapse into meaninglessness while parts of it stay impersonating the façade of a castle.
Colors I think of when I think of The Weather Stations: mint green, strawberry ice cream pink and rusty vanilla. The dusty golds and creams of the architecture in Barcelona. The brown of horses’ eyes. Crayola's burnt sienna and pine green crayons. That scary cutting silver of lightning and the millions of grays of the skies over London.
My copy of The Weather Stations was dedicated to me by the author. In it, he says he likes that this book came to England to see me and I believe that is entirely apt. There is something about British weather that you can't fully grasp until you've lived here. Talking about weather in London is not making small talk, it is more like necessary venting about this important, all-encompassing aspect of daily life. The clouds seem to always hang so low and so full you can feel them warm and moist about your ears. It's this kind of feeling in all its variations of wind, clouds, sky, rain, etc. that Call's book pays sweet attention to, that it honors.
Birds I think of when I think of The Weather Stations: Crows, owls, wrens, bluebirds, magpies, robins, pigeons, so many other birds whose names I don't know. There are things you see in literature that you never forget. They can be said to traumatize you. In one of my favorite stories in the book, ‘Consider the Buzzard’, a young boy and his sisters and their mother end up having to let wild birds from outside into the shelter of their house:
As children, we learned to gauge the temper of the local weather by observing the various ornithological activities in the trees and the air above our heads. A wedge of sky devoid of crows demanded caution of us as we traipsed around the neighborhood, a rosary of starlings perched along the power lines or the soft twitter of tumbling swifts in our chimney freed us from the confines of our home, sent us rushing to the abandoned factories to play among the tangles of razor-wire, and in the din of shrieking, crying birds southbound for caves outside the city, we knew to lock the shutters and huddle quietly in our rooms.
And the beginning to each story in the book is foreboding like this – because these stories are told by those who remember, so they presage the happenings much like the calm that announces the coming storm, though when it finally hits, we are still awed by its force and magnificence. What happens inside that house later continually flutters in my memory like a dream.
This is but a small illustration of the kind care and attention that must have gone into these stories' many rich layers of imagination and complex emotion. It is almost hard to accept that stories so naturally beautiful are essentially about death. In that, The Weather Stations is exactly like nature." - Ani Smith

"So far 2011 has been host to an unnerving sequence of “black swan events.” We have witnessed revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the Gaddafi regime’s assault on its own people, and a horrific earthquake that rocked Japan and set into motion a gruesome nuclear crisis. During strange times like these, the premise of Ryan Call’s debut collection of short stories, The Weather Stations, is surprisingly easy to imagine. The fantastical world Call creates is a world in which the weather is humankind’s ultimate enemy. These ten stories are set in a place rife with “dust devils,” where toads “entombed in dirty blocks of ice” fall from the sky and civilians lather their homes with protective coatings of “anti-cloud foam.”
The opening story, “How We Came to Live in the Sky,” depicts a city that retreats underground until the treacherous weather subsides. With this clearing of the skies, the mayor declares that their city will be rebuilt, but not on the ground. This new city, reminiscent of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, “will raise up into the sky… a cloud city, a city of air currents… a city that will harness the power of the weather.”
Another standout, “Consider the Buzzard,” is a tale about a family whose observations of birds serve them as a weather gauge: “a rosary of starlings perched along the power lines…freed us from the confines of our homes,” and “in the din of shrieking, crying birds southbound for caves outside the city, we knew to lock the shutters and huddle quietly.” The weather worsens and the birds, too frightened to fly, are seen en masse idling in fields and front yards. The family saves as many birds as possible, bringing them into their home, an act of kindness the birds later repay.
In “Windswept,” a wicked family collects violent squalls of wind to sell for profit to “men and women [who] made use of wind… as weapons upon the battlefield, as a force to enslave and manipulate others.” The final story of the collection, “Our Latitude, Our Longitude,” an allegory of the global warming debate, is about a once well-respected meteorologist who is ostracized for his predictions of the ghastly weather to come.
B.R. Myers’s October 2010 review of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, published in the Atlantic, criticized not only Franzen, but also a certain faction of contemporary fiction writers, for creating worlds in which “nothing important can happen.” These lackluster worlds, Myers theorized, are created by use of “strenuously contemporary” subject matter and overly “matter-of-fact,” “juvenile” prose.The Weather Stations serves as a testament that there are indeed contemporary fiction writers who fashion worlds where remarkable things can and do happen. Call’s decorated, fanciful prose has a nostalgia to it that recalls a time before the onslaught of blogs and 140-character tweets. Occasionally, the ornate sentences seem a touch overwritten and would have benefited from a scrupulous edit, however this is just a small fault. Perhaps the prime shortcoming of the collection is its portrayal of women. As the prose feels from another time, unfortunately so do the lives of the women who inhabit Call’s stories. Many of the women are, disappointingly, resigned to the duties of wives and mothers.
Despite its minor blunders, The Weather Stations shows incredible promise for such a young writer. In our turbulent times, these stories can be read as cautionary tales, imploring us to take heed, as our little planet continues to experience alarming bouts of ominous weather." - Kianoosh Hashemzadeh

"Most of the characters in the ten stories in Ryan Call's The Weather Stations are unnamed. I believe only three actually have names and two of these are soldiers named Termite and Anvil. Which leaves us with many characters names simply as "he" or "she" or "my husband" or similar words. At least when we're dealing with human characters. But that would leave the collection's most prevalent character out of the discussion. The weather, which is routinely referred to as such, is the biggest character in the collection.
The weather not only appears in each and every story, its presence looms over every other character. And it's not weather like we think of - it might rain today, it's sunny out, we should have wind or snow or hail - but instead the weather is an active participant. It's deciding what it will do, not simply resulting in some cause of cold fronts or high barometric pressures.
From "Our Latitude, Our Longitude":
Our joy dissolved to grief at the commencement of the weather's violent era, which issued forth across the skies and shocked us with its wildness, its cunning, and its unending hunger, assaulting indiscriminately both our land and its people.
From "How We Came to Live in the Sky":
Finally the weather withdrew its hostile presence, and we emerged from the damp caves and tunnels of our age of refuge to celebrate the miracle above our heads.
From "Consider the Buzzard"
They still fled to the caves in the south when they could, but more often than not, cloudbanks swiftly cut off their escape route, trapping the birds on the ground, in tree limbs, and against the sides of buildings, where they suffered, flattened one on top of another beneath the impressive force of thunderstorms, windstorms, tornadoes and hail.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of Call's stories is that he makes them seem so believable. Sure it's sunny outside as I type this, but when is the weather going to decide that it has had enough of being passive, that it would like to choose its own path? Beyond making the scenarios reasonable, Call also truly puts that weather, prevalent as it may be, in the background. Yes, it's wreaking havoc on the world, and yes, it's something that we as readers are fascinated with, but it's the people in the stories, those poor, mostly unnamed, bastards trying to cope that we end up caring about.
The people coming out from the caves when there is a break in the weather. The family worried about the birds that are ending up in their yard, suffering underneath various types of storm. The couple floating above the storms. Each and every story has a human component that Call has written with such care, with such straightforward language, that we cannot help but get pulled in and root for them while they battle elements so much greater than they have the capacity to truly battle. They are doomed to lose and we know it, and they know it, and we know that they know it, but still we care and we root and that says a lot for the abilities of Ryan Call." - Emerging Writers Network

Some stories from the work:

Our Latitude, Our Longitude


The Architect’s Apprentice

A Conversation with Ryan Call By Brad Green





Ryan and Christy Call, Pocket Finger, Publishing Genius, 2008.


Read it


"Wow. POCKET FINGER represents a new level of ‘wow, fuck’ from Adam Robinson, the Publishing Genius. Insane and beautiful enfolded images from the clearly new and intricately spare imagery of Christy Call, meshed with bro-for-life Ryan’s knack to meld the everyday of fathers, fishing, and tradition with some tonally-wicked phrasing.
Read the shit out of this." - Blake Butler

"Publishing Genius does these pretty great PDF chapbooks and the newest is "Pocket Finger" by Hobart 8 contributor Ryan Call, with art by his sis, Christy. I'm not even sure what exactly to say about it other than the presentation, between art and text is beautiful and the writing kicked my ass and reminded me of everything that I love about the little of Ryan's work that I've read. It includes my newest favorite sentence:
Years later, after all of this had happened, I began to understand her words, why a worm will wrap itself around the same hook that stabs its body, why a fish will inhale fully a barbed lure." - aaron at Hobart

"I finally got a chance to sit down and read Ryan and Christy Call's fantastic Pocket Finger, which was released last week by Publishing Genius as part of their This PDF Chapbook series. It's a stunningly good short story by Ryan, with illustrations by Christy. Here's the text from the first page:
Our diet then consisted of whatever misshapen fish Father managed to bring home from the polluted estuary by our neighborhood. He had grown worried at the inconsistency with which the government delivered our rations, and so one night I found him out in the yard, his head under a decayed log, night crawlers knotting themselves together in the beam of his flashlight. These he pocketed when he saw me peering at him from beyond the vinyled side of the house. I asked him if he planned to eat them all by himself, but he only shook his old fishing pole at me and disappeared down the dirt path.
Later, as my sister I bathed sick, sleeping Mother, I whispered that I hated to imagine what went on beneath the surface of the water, the quick choreography of a strike and all it entailed. My sister thoughtfully dipped her sponge into the bucket and then asked me why.
Because neither of them have a chance, I said.
That's the beauty of it, she said. That's something worth imagining.
Year later, after all of this had happened, I began to understand her words, why a worm will wrap itself around the same hook that stabs its body, why a fish will inhale fully a barbed lure. When you have hung long enough at the end of a wire, you tend to forget that the force traveling along its length belongs to a life not your own.

So, so good - I needed to read something great today, and this was exactly the right sort of thing. Christy's illustrations are great as well, really complementing the disconnected mood of the story." - Matt Bell

"A lot of the new fiction I read online these days does good work with language and image, but not good work with character or story. Sometimes it's simply bad work, these things haven been lately short-shrifted in a, oh, post-whatever world. Call me old-fashioned, but when I want language and image I can go to poetry. I want my fiction to take me somewhere and show me some people I don't know and let me spend enough time with them that I can watch how something happens in their lives that makes me reconsider me own.
I also want brilliant sentences, and all of the images to be inscrutable. Too much to ask?
No! says Ryan Call, a buddy of mine who just released this great chapbook illustrated by his sister, which is appropriate as the story is about two siblings living quietly in the margins around a sick mother and a very sullen and terrifying father. I think what makes Ryan's book work so well is that he's (or his narrator's) directing all his best sentences, all his close watching and description, at this father and not at himself, and so what results is this close relationship between the observer and the otherwise distant observed, which the goings-on of the narrative then work to develop:
What Father had suffered during his brief absence, what he had inflicted upon others in his derangement, my sister and I could only imagine. We each held for his abilities a newfound, horrified respect, and with this respect we carefully guided him away from the estuary when he grew distraught by his failure to draw a single bite. [. . .]
My sister distracted him by locking her thumbs together and flapping her delicate hands softly about his face to coax him onto the pathway home. And I pressed lightly my tiny head into the small of his back and motored him along, occasionally losing my footing in the fetid mud, sobbing, filthy." - Dusty Myers

RYAN CALL: Funnel as Paranormal Conduit

10/21/11

Crispin Hellion Glover - I’m an auto-manipulator, I play with myself, I’m a masturbator, I’m so happy that I be a man, because I’ve got the whole world in my hands

Crispin Hellion Glover, Oak Mot, Volcanic Eruptions, 1991.

"Glover has written between 15 and 20 books. Oak-Mot and Rat Catching are featured prominently during his Big Slide Show presentation, and are presented as visual art as much as written art. He constructs the books by reusing old novels and other publications which have fallen into public domain due to their age (for example, Rat Catching was constructed from an 1896 book Studies in the Art of Rat Catching, and Oak-Mot was constructed from an 1868 novel of the same title). He rearranges text, blacks out certain standing passages, and adds his own prose (and sometimes images) into the margins and elsewhere, thus creating an entirely new story. Four of his books have been published so far, through his publishing company, Volcanic Eruptions. Other known titles include The Backward Swing, A New World and Round My House." - wikipedia

"The second book by actor-turned-fringe culture-icon Crispin Hellion Glover. As in his first, 1988’s RAT-CATCHING, Glover has photocopied the pages of an ancient tome, in this case a musty 1868 novel called OAK-MOT, and none-too-subtly reconfigured it by whiting or blacking out text and adding his own handwritten inserts. The technique is primitive in the extreme, which Glover makes no effort to hide; indeed, the book all-but flaunts its rudimentary tackiness.
The overhauled OAK-MOT is, in Glover’s own words, “a story of epic proportions involving pride and prejudice.” It’s also confounding, perverse and demented as fuck.
As for the “story,” it involves Adry, an androgynous, artistically inclined youth, and his twin sister Prosy. Their quiet existence in the country vista Oak Mot is shattered by the arrival of the “New Uncle.” Adry has grandiose, fascistic ideas regarding humanity, and finds a kindred spirit in the New Uncle. But Adry is shot while hunting and eventually dies. The New Uncle leaves to resume his former profession (of caring for an elephant “somewhere else”) while Prosy immigrates to Germany in 1926. There she takes up with a certain “Mr. H,” whose messianic streak reminds her of her deceased brother’s...

Of course, deciphering the hows and whys of OAK-MOT’S faux-narrative will only take you so far. Sentences like “Now the only thing in the world Adry was was his hands” and “Adry thought ‘I kill her dead, and perhaps it is better I should’” don’t exactly lend themselves to linear interpretation.
This book works best as an exercise in dark surrealism of a type the book’s original author (whose name is obscured) could never have envisioned. Anyone wanting evidence of Crispin Glover’s peculiar genius need only read RAT-CATCHING or view his self-directed films WHAT IS IT? and IT IS FINE! EVERYTHING IS FINE. OAK-MOT is in its own way every bit as ingeniously strange as those works.
Note the way Glover’s hand-written additions to the initial book grow increasingly pervasive, and by the end all-but overwhelm it (the relocation to Germany is something that clearly wasn’t part of the 1868 version). He also has fun with select phrases of the original text, particularly the rather mundane sentence “If you brand too deep, the worms will get in.” Those last five words are central to Glover’s OAK-MOT, which doesn’t work as a straightforward novel, but excels as a primo chunk of luminescent derangement." - fright.com

"Wherein all action takes place on the Virgin American prairie around the year 1868, save for the end which takes place in the year 1926.
Oak Mot is a tale of epic proportions involving pride and prejudice.
I wouldn't really classify Oak Mot as a book, but more of a labor of ludicrosity (I know, that's not a word, but it seems to fit). Composed by Hollywood uber-oddball Crispin Hellion Glover, who's probably most famous for his portrayal of the hopelessly nebbish George McFly in Back to the Future (1985), but has made less noticeable, but more satisfying appearances in films like River's Edge (1986), Rubin and Ed (1991), Bartleby (2001), and Willard (2003).
Oh sure, it was a book at one point, originally published back in the early 19th century, but, as he did with Rat Catching, Glover has taken a previously published work, and modified it extensively, adding drawings, photos, and his own writings to transform this fairly obscure book into something...something that defies description. Is it art? I dunno... but I like it.
I wish there was a picture posted of the book, as it's really nicely put together. The dimensions of the book are 7 ½ inches by 5 ½ inches. It's hard bound, with a dark green cover with gold/orange inlay on the cover and back cover. Both covers feature a black and white western-style print of a barely discernable man standing behind a large herd of sheep making their way through a smoky valley. The book contains just under 50 pages, and does not utilize the source material in its' entirety as original page numbers are present, but often indicate the absence of numerous pages. The pages themselves are of a thick and glossy nature, indicating a certain amount of expense in the production of the book. Also, the copy I have has what appears to be an original signature by Crispin Hellion Glover near the front, done in thick, silver marker.
As far as the actual content of the book...well, as I said before, it certainly doesn't conform to the normal definition of a book. One will notice what appears to be some of the original text, mixed in with scrawls, gothic writings, drawings, pictures, and various squiggles and what not, effectively confounding and confusing the unwary reader. While I, myself do not entirely `get it', I can certainly enjoy it, but I feel many people would probably dismiss this as the work of a nut, instead of artistic conceptualization. To get the full effect, if one is interested, you must take this in context with a CD Glover released back in 1989 titled Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be. Which contain selected readings from not only this book, but also Rat Catching, along with some really odd songs (check out his unique rendition of Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made for Walking).
Is Mr. Glover a beatnik for the new generation, or just a looney loner with too much time on his hands? I'd probably say somewhere in-between..." - cookieman108 "cookieman108®"

Crispin Hellion Glover, Rat Catching, Volcanic Eruptions, 1988.


"You likely know Crispin “Hellion” Glover best as a crazy actor who’s appeared in quite a few movies over the years (including BACK TO THE FUTURE, CHARLIE’S ANGELS and the WILLARD remake), but he’s also a filmmaker, musician and author. I use that last word sparingly, as you can’t say Glover “wrote” RAT CATCHING, although it’s very much a product of his twisted mind.
It is in fact a book published in 1896 entitled STUDIES IN THE ART OF RAT-CATCHING. It appears to have been a dull-as-dirt educational treatise (on the capture and disposal of plague-carrying rodents) that Glover has twisted into an exercise in surreal distortion.
Glover’s aims are similar to the famed Cut-Up method of William Burroughs, referring to prose that was literally cut up and then pasted back together in seamless new configurations. The difference is that Glover’s methodology is anything but seamless. He’s actually photocopied the original book and blackened or whited out select words, sentences and paragraphs, often filling in the gaps with his own handwritten notations.
It’s impossible to tell how the book might have read in its intended form, but here’s a sample of Glover’s modified text: “Discretion will not rule. I have faced a lion about being bad a young nothing from having rat. Such beasts had for a bad, slow spirit and not profitable.” And another: “We thought that was the end of the big show. But no! once more it rises from its bed like some agonized, dying thing.”
Not exactly easy reading I will admit. It’s probably best to visualize Crispin Glover reciting from the book himself in his inimitable drawl--something I was fortune enough to witness at two live readings. I guess that’s a large part of why I like this book. I wouldn’t call it “good,” but it’s definitely a work of singular dementia.
It also features copious photographs, some of them part of the original book and others culled from elsewhere. These include a dissected cow’s head with all its various parts identified, a guy with a cut-open stomach, a skinned lamb, a man’s leprosy afflicted face, and a row of seal pelts (which are followed by an entire page taken up with a single handwritten word: “Almost”).
Like all the great surrealists, Glover has the rare ability to render the inner workings of his subconscious intact on the page. There’s a genuine streak of cockeyed genius at work in RAT CATCHING, even if it often looks like a textbook defiled by a madman--which truth be told is precisely what this book is." - fright.com

"I really wish Azon had a picture of the book to display on their website, as it's quite attractive. It's a smallish, hardbound book with black and gold inlay on a deep, red cover with a silhouette of a prancing rat.
As other reviewers have stated, this is not really a book in the normal sense, one that you would sit down with in your reading chair and pour over, but more of a piece of conceptual art. What Mr. Glover has done is take a book originally published around 1896 about a study in rat catching and modify it with edits, artwork, and pictures. Many times the artwork and pictures will obscure some of the text, which can make reading of the book difficult, but it could be that this book really wasn't meant to be read, but just experienced as a visual form of expressionism.
The book ties in with a CD released by Crispin Hellion Glover called 'Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be.' in that he reads passages from the book, with music by Barnes and Barnes.
An interesting book from an interesting artist, but I would be hard pressed to recommend this for everyone. It's not that I don't think people would understand it, even though I don't quite get it myself, but then that's part of the appeal to me. I don't have to understand something to enjoy it. By the way, the copy I got from Amazon has Glover's signature (I'm pretty sure it's his, as it ain't mine) near the front, in gaudy silver paint marker." - cookieman108 "cookieman108®"

Crispin Hellion Glover, Concrete Inspection: A Family Story Where a Mother Is Looking for Something & Finds It, Volcanic Eruptions, 1992.

"Subtitle of Concrete Inspection by Crispin Hellion Glover: “A Manual of Information And Instructions For Inspectors With Standard And Typical Specifications.” Actually it’s a collage telling the story about the narrator’s mother (among other things). Even though it’s a black hardcover with copper engraving (I think maybe engraving is the right word), it feels very zine-ish ’cause of its cut-and-paste approach. Funny that the story would be about the narrator’s mother (and we realize you should never assume the narrator is the author), since when we call the publisher (Volcanic Eruptions) to place reorders, we’re pretty sure that we talk to Crisin’s mom. We’re not 100% sure on this one, but well, pretty sure. Maybe." - quimbys.com

Crispin Hellion Glover, What It Is, And How It Is Done, Volcanic Eruptions, 1998.

"A few years ago, I was on a Crispin Glover kick. I watched the majority of his movies, got his album on cd AND vinyl, and bought each of his books that were published and made available to his fans. But even in that fanboy state, I could see that his books weren't anything too special. What It Is and How It Is Done is probably the least interesting of his 4 main books. Yes, the cover makes it look like you're in for a visual treat, but that's about as far as it goes. Also keep in mind that the picture here is of the second printing. The first printing has a standard hardcover with metallic graphics, while this one uses an image from one of the pages. There's also a slight size difference between both versions for some reason.
So what's the book about? It's mostly a collection of 'weird' pictures with some text here and there. Basically, this is supposed to be art, and it's up to you as to whether or not it's interesting. A lot of the pictures presented aren't that odd, and I kept hoping for something as weird as that of the cover image's. While Rat Catching and Oak-Mot were original books that Crispin edited into works of his own, this is just pictures (both photographs and illustrations) with text here and there. It's nice to look at once in a while, but that's it. The only people that are going to be giving this thing 5 stars are those who think everything Crispin does is brilliant (they obviously never watched Charlie's Angels and its sequel), and won't listen to anyone who thinks differently. It doesn't help that the book isn't very long either, so it's not like you're getting a really big collection of pictures either.
Since the book was so limited, it tends to go for very high prices, even with the reprint. I actually can't believe I paid just a few dollars shy of a Ben Franklin for this book in 2004. If you can get it for a lot cheaper (like 1/5 of that), then you can bump the rating up a star. Otherwise, you're not missing anything by not having this book. There are photo books out there that are MUCH more interesting for a fraction of the price." - Armando N. Roman


Crispin Hellion Glover, The Big Problem... The Solution = Let It Be [CD], Restless Records, 1989.

"When shrunken down to Crispin Glover, the name rings hells bells. Crispin Glover is the legendary eccentric character actor of a lot of classic 1980s and 1990 movies. In 1984, he was termed a “dead f*ck” and slaughtered by Jason Voorhees in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER, and a year later played ultra-geek George McFly in BACK TO THE FUTURE. His best 80s role was a scorching performance as Layne, a drugged-out small town loser who’s an accessory to murder in 1987’s RIVER’S EDGE. Since then, he has appeared in many a supporting role in films like THE DOORS, THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, LIKE MIKE, BARTLEBY and the CHARLIE’S ANGELS films. But recently, Glover was the lead role in the deliciously weird remake of WILLARD, as a young man who finds a friend in a white rat named Socrates and foe in a giant brown rat named Ben.
But Crispin Glover was not just limited to acting…oh no! He could sing too! In the credits of WILLARD, he did a stirring and bizarre solo rendition of “Ben,” the classic Michael Jackson theme to BEN, the 1972 sequel of the original film. This drew me to obtain a copy of the classic 1989 debut album called THE BIG PROBLEMąTHE SOLUTION, THE SOLUTION= LET IT BE, wherein he spoke fragments of his books “Oak Mot” and “Rat Catching” as well as unleashed several musical numbers, a few of them faithfully warped covers. Glover is also a director as well, and not only did he direct a music video for “Ben,” but he is also working on a trilogy of theme-based movies.
With THE BIG PROBLEM…, he signed up with Restless Records and enlisted the musical help of Barnes & Barnes. You remember them, don’t you? “Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads!” Robert Haimer and Bill “Will Robinson” Mumy offered production and performing techniques to much of the album, as well as a cameo by a world-famous accordion-playing satirist I wouldn’t dare spoil for you). So this album comes to the road of total novelty, but that doesn’t mean Crispin Glover can’t be entertaining in his own oddball way. A lot of actors actually try to convince you they are musicians, whereas Crispin Glover simply just wants to show you just how crazy he can be on record as well as off-screen. He comes close to eccentricity the likes of King Missile, and avoids any belated criticism as a result.
The album opens with an Overture, surprisingly enough. It suitably sounds like something that would make an impact in 31 seconds, with The Beat Brothers employing dramatic horns and percussion/drums barging out a play on a great classic movie introduction. Crispin decides to let you get ready for his show, so here is his introduction. Proceed with caution…
Next is Selected Readings From RAT CATCHING. Against upbeat music which seems fitting for an old Warner Bros. cartoon shot, Crispin speaks out a string of dramatic readings from his classic novel, which twisted his own dark vision with one of a vintage children’s book from the 19th century. Crispin spins a warped array of stories about dissecting rats and lambs as well as an anecdote about the Sand-pit Man and his child. Crispin really tears into his material here, and for at least 3:53, he offers an appetizingly strange sample of his classic 1987 Volcanic Eruptions release.
Sometimes I feel as though I might fade away. Then, I remember my work. I once killed a rat inside a church. I found it during a long sermon, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what that sermon was about.”
The New Clean Song opens with a lone, spoken introduction before throbbing synths and a hypnotic acoustic guitar melody set a darkly appealing backdrop for Glover’s echoed, droned vocals. In this song, Crispin attempts to start over fresh, after witnessing his dreams, his words, answering machine and sink become soiled in some way. It rolls by at a brisk 2:15, so we can promptly get to the next number.
“Yesterday, I had my birthday. Everyone wished me good luck, so I got up on the table.
When I came back home, everyone had left messages on my machine
I felt very clean, I felt very clean
I erased all the messages on my machine, and the tape was clean
And the tape was clean.”
If that seemed odd to you, wait until you get a load of Auto-Manipulator (written by Glover and Charles H. Frieder), which opens like this:
“Women are sweet, and girls are honey, but beat your meat and save your money.”
If you like the sound of beat-box rock-laced hip hop a la Run DMC, then here’s your song. Crispin does an insane rap set to mad drum beats and processed guitar riffs, and it’s all about the all-American past time: jerking off. Crispin Glover does these jerky shifts of tone throughout, from gruff to whiny and natural, as he details his exploits with his wang. It’s absolutely hilarious and offers a nice chance for Crispin to go crazy for 4 minutes. You have to be thankful he didn’t take it a step further and add masturbatory sound effects to go along as well.
“I’m an auto-manipulator, I play with myself, I’m a masturbator
I’m so happy that I be a man, because I’ve got the whole world in my hands.”
Clowny Clown Clown sounds like Weird Al for much of this song, which is set to a acid-popping carnival melody of loopy calliope and clashing drums. Crispin spins a story about his experience discovering a clown and making friends with it, and eventually discovering after his untimely death by illness that maybe he wasn’t as happy as he thought he was. Definitely a strange fable, but cackling Crispin keeps it fresh and wild.
“Thinking back about those days with the clown, I get teary eyed
And really… SNIDE! I think that deep down, I HATED THAT CLOWN!
But not as much as Mr. Far, I think I’m gonna go smoke a cigar…
Want a cigar? It’ll get you real far, like Mr. Far…get it? Mr. Far
SEE WHAT A CIGAR WILL DO! Clown.”
Getting Out Of Bed is an attempt at synth-pop/new wave with strange vocal waves, bell sounds and the most weird lyrics of the entire album. He loses his bedmate and gets jilted, rails against races forming an alliance, and tries to overcome to nervousness of making his bed afterwards. Very peculiar, but nonetheless quirky and appealing like the majority of the album.
“Am I Don Johnson or Swanson and Swanson? The sheets are heavy.
The races must (not) form an alliance.
Where is my concubine? Nervousness is fine.
The sheets must be lifted carefully, from ends of the corners evenly…
If only there was just some lubrication”
His take on Nancy Sinatra‘s These Boots Are Made For Walking is a complete riot. What happens if the jilted lover decides to sing his frustration and anger out? Well, Crispin answers that question by crying and whining and screaming his sad little heart out. The upbeat drum beats and horns only get buried by Crispin’s outlandish delivery, but only until the end, when the horn riff repeats itself crazy until fade out. A definite highlight of this CD, it shows no mercy and is absolutely hilarious.
“You keep playin' where you shouldn't be PLAYIN’
And you keep thinkin' that you´ll never get BURNT... HAAA!!!
I just found me a BRAND NEW box of matches
Yeah and what it knows, you ain't got time to learn!

These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll DO!
And one of these days these BOOTS are gonna walk… all… over… you.”
The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze is that traditional number written by George Leybourne, but Crispin takes this seemingly innocent kiddie’s song and turns it into a sadistic, mad joke. Wistful orchestration throughout, Crispin croons and swoons the first moment, turning a jilted young man into a perverted fiend with pent-up frustration, which he unleashes by turning married women masculine and sending her on the flying trapeze herself. Unnerving, but it shows the vocal chops which would be resurrected over a decade later with his cover of “Ben.”
“I play with the miss like a cat with a mouse, 
eyes would undress every maid in the house.
Perhaps I am better described as a louse,

But still people come just the same…

I float through the air with the greatest of ease,

The daring young man on the flying trapeze;

My actions are graceful, all girls I do please,

And his love I purloineth away.”
Never Say “Never” To Always is a tribute to Charlie Manson which is sung like a church chorus number with additional whistling and crying child effects in the mix as well. It runs 56 seconds, so it is also a slight diversion to precede the next big epic spoken word section…
We begin with Selected Readings From OAK MOT Part 1, a tale about a family on the prairie that is suitably dark and drab, with spooky background instrumentation throughout. The drum machine thumps out with anger, and keyboards and guitar help build the ominous tone. He starts with a reading of an abridged version of Chapter 1, introducing the atmosphere of the Oak Mot place, and the introduction of a character that is wheelchair bound and looking strangely precocious. Then he jumps over to Chapter 5, about the arrival of the new uncle and Adry’s anger over the desire for one single leader. Crispin goes into hysterics for this part of the reading, before finally confiding in the worms and Adry’s mental picture from the porch at Oak Mot.
“Oak Mot! What a queer name for one’s place! But how beautiful they are, those groups. See what lovely shadows they cast. Suppose it is because the air is so clear, but everything is so bright somehow! And all round it is the same, all around and around.”
It continues for Selected Readings From OAK MOT Part 2, which is a 2:04 spoken reading (set to an acoustic guitar backdrop) of a Chapter 8 segment where Adry wakes up to see the uncle, who compliments him on his hands. In the end, Adry does this bizarre hand gesture which, as Crispin says, “speaks for itself.”
Selected Readings From OAK MOT Part 3 has a more insistent, throbbing synthesizer arrangement. Crispin splices together situations from Chapters 8 and 9, including the moment where Adry encounters a bear and places his head directly in the range of his uncle’s rifle. He then goes on with the result of what happens, bringing us into Chapter 10 and concluding: “The worms will get in.”
Finally, it’s Selected Readings From OAK MOT Part 4, a 25-second piece where in the character Hubert confides in his feelings on the situation, only after 25 seconds, it continues on and segues into an unlisted track 14. Glover actually sings the readings this time (in particular the Mr. Long dialogue), against a flavorful country backdrop, with that special guest I mentioned on accordion.
There are two more unlisted tracks here. First of all, on 15, he comes onto the finale with Chapter 13, talking about the legacy of Adry. With track 16, he sings a German paean to Adry for the span of a minute, before the CD finally comes to an end. And with the arrival of the end, you are supposed to dawn onto the realization of “The Big Problem.” I have a few hunches, but I won’t even try considering that this record was released nearly 15 years ago and probably doesn’t exist now. All you can do is breathe deeply, and be thankful you aren’t even close to the level of bizarre genius as Glover is. At least you know the solution is to “Let It Be.”
As I said before, I had my faith in Crispin Glover restored on account of WILLARD, and now I can look at his debut solo album without having to think directly of George McFly. I will just think of him as Crispin Hellion Glover." - deadmilkboy

Crispin Hellion Glover, What Is It? [film], 2005.

"What Is It? is the name of a 2005 dramatic film written, starring, funded and directed by Crispin Hellion Glover. It is described by IMDb as "The adventures of a young man whose principal interests are snails, salt, a pipe, and how to get home. As tormented by an hubristic, racist inner psyche." As of 2008, the film has only been shown at independent theaters, typically accompanied by a question-and-answer session, a one-hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated books-slideshow, and meet-and-greet/book signing with Glover.
The film boasts an eclectic and unusual cast. Porn stars Kiva and Zoryna Dreams, as well as several other women, appear nude wearing animal heads. Most of the principal actors have Down syndrome (though this condition is not addressed in the film). Fairuza Balk lends her voice to a real snail, and Glover's role in the film is officially described as "Dueling Demi-God Auteur and The young man's inner psyche." The film includes images of a painting of a prepubescent Shirley Temple in the nude, and songs by cult leader Charles Manson and segregationist balladeer Johnny Rebel, and deals with many types and symbols of racism and prejudice. Glover defended his choices of imagery in a 2005 interview: "It's a film to help start these kinds of discussions. What is taboo, and what does that mean for the culture itself when taboo is ubiquitously excised in corporately funded and distributed film? A culture will die a death of stupidity if it doesn't have different points of view and questions that are raised." Glover made clear when touring with the film that he had no plans to sell it to a major studio nor release for home viewing.
What Is It? is the first in a planned trilogy, to be followed by It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! and It Is Mine." - wikipedia

“Crispin Hellion Glover, auteur, is a force to be reckoned with.” - Laura Kern

"Glover... puts impenetrably odd and tender poetry on the screen." - Bill Stamets
"It's unlike anything I've ever seen before...the unrestrained id of an artist at full frenzy, unafraid to mount onscreen what others would judiciously edit out. Glover's film is like that of the fever dream of a crazy person. " - Dennis Dermody
"Scenes with naked women in elephant masks, Shirley Temple, Glover being lowered deus-ex-machina style into a Maxfield Parrish scene...It's like Fellini on psychedelics -- wildly creative but completely twisted."- Jane Ganahl

"ABSOLUTELY the most uncompromising and original thing I've seen. People try to compare it to the likes of surrealist hero Luis Buñuel and trailblazer Werner Herzog, but I say Glover has transcended even them. " - Kelly O


Crispin Hellion Glover, It's Fine! Everything Is Fine [film], 2006.

"Although Paul's speech is unintelligible to us, each of the women he meets understands exactly what he says; they often find him wildly attractive. This is Paul's fantasy, of course, and what he is saying within it is painful, honest, awful and makes "It Is Fine!" as much a psychological horror film as it is an exercise in midnight movie madness.
The statement Stewart makes in his script -- that handicapped people can not only be as sensitive as everyone else, but just as horrible -- is made eloquent, if bizarre, via Glover and Brothers' otherworldy vision, rendered via elegant cinematography and a pronounced sense of the strange.” - John Anderson

“Glover's co-director- David Brothers' art direction create streets and apartment interiors of hallucinatory luridness. That, mixed with the thunderous soundtrack of Beethoven, Smetana and Tchaikovsky give the movie a relentless nightmare quality. What Diane Arbus was to photography, Crispin Hellion Glover is swiftly achieving as a filmmaker. Training his sardonic eyes on the strange and afflicted he achieves a mad dark poetry on celluloid.” - Dennis Dermody

“Glover and Brothers force you to see this crippled person as a suave leading man. To say the film is weird would be cliché, it's way beyond that the film drew laughs and gasps from the audience. The odd thing about it all - it works. It's actually refreshing to see someone who actually has cerebral palsy in a film rather than some actor playing someone with cerebral palsy…" - Chris Goret

"Glover's aim is to show that people with less-than-perfect bodies are as human as anyone else. It's a worthy and so-far successful crusade." - V.A. Musetto

"Those who can tolerate sexually explicit psychosexual weirdness will enjoy this cinemutation, the second directorial effort by the demented Crispin Glover. Featuring the late Steven C. Stewart, a Cerebral Palsy-afflicted man, the film is deeply weird, confrontational and often off - putting - but average it definitely ain’t!
For those who don’t know, Crispin “Hellion” Glover is an eccentric actor (best known for his appearances in the first BACK TO THE FUTURE, RIVER’S EDGE, the WILLARD remake, CHARLIE’S ANGELS and most recently BEOWULF) and all-around weird-media sultan. IT IS FINE! EVERYTHING IS FINE is the second entry in Glover’s self-directed IT trilogy, which began with the surreal 2005 shock fest WHAT IS IT? That film, headlined by real-life Down syndrome patients, featured the wheelchair-confined Steven C. Stewart, who went on to write and star in the succeeding film. Stewart, who speaks in an incomprehensible babble, wrote the film after a lengthy stay in a nursing home, and the script reflects both his idealized fantasies (he gets to have sex with quite a few pretty women) and oppressive reality (his character is a deranged misogynist). He passed away within a month of the completion of filming.
Crispin Glover refashioned Stewart’s lengthy screenplay to suit his own nutty sensibilities, with a fractured narrative chronology and quite a few surreal interludes. Glover also financed the film himself (from his CHARLIE’S ANGELS salary) and somehow managed to entice a few name actors to lend their talents, including onetime Rainer Werner Fassbinder regular Margit Carstensen and HOSTEL 2 star Lauren German. As for the film’s release, Glover handled that chore himself via roadshow-style weekend bookings at various theaters across the US (including Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, where I caught it) together with an hour-long slide show and a lengthy Q&A session. Glover used the same approach distributing WHAT IS IT? and will do so with the final film of the trilogy, so don’t expect these films to show up on DVD any time soon!
Paul is a cerebral palsy-afflicted man confined to a wheelchair and prone to feverish, sexually-tinged fantasies. Bumping his head on the floor of the nursing home where he’s confined, Paul imagines himself a suave ladies man with a fetish for long hair. In this fantasy he meets a woman at a cocktail party and quickly weans his way into her life. But Paul’s dark side asserts itself one night, and he strangles the woman to death in her car. From there he seduces the lady’s twentyish daughter, strangles the gal and then violates her corpse.
More women pass through Paul’s fractured existence, all attracted to him and all mysteriously able to understand every word of his mumbled speech patterns. There’s a wheelchair-bound brunette who blows him off and a haughty blonde cocktease who ends up drowned in a bathtub. Other victims include a too-willing prostitute and a sweet lady with a paralyzed leg, who performs onscreen fellatio on Paul before checking out. But all this is, again, mere fantasy, with Paul stuck, apparently permanently, in the confines of a Hellish nursing home.
Although the film was co-directed with David Brothers (an experienced art director who designed the sets for WHAT IS IT?), it’s very much a product of Crispin Glover’s disturbed psyche. Viewers of WHAT IS IT? will recognize quite a few touchstones, including the harsh, lurid lighting, the noisy, asynchronous sound design, the succession of seemingly unmotivated fades and dissolves, and the cast comprised of handicapped folks of various stripes.
It’s also a rare movie featuring a handicapped protagonist that doesn’t present him as an optimistic, asexual hero. Steven C. Stewart in this movie is portrayed as a psychopath, has much full frontal nudity (something I probably could have done without) and performs in two startlingly graphic sex scenes that cross the line into out-and-out pornography. Some will call the proceedings exploitive, yet Steven C. Stewart himself wrote the script--as Crispin Glover has suggested, maybe it was Stewart who did the exploiting!
It’s that certifiably loony script, incidentally, with its oddly charming naïvete and dark, obsessive air that makes this the delirious, authentically deranged piece of work it is. The film often feels like a maniac’s home movies with its blatantly artificial sets, histrionic silent movie-style performances and goofy soap opera-esque dialogue (“You may be crippled, but you’re still a man!”). It all adds up to... something." - fright.com


"It comes as a great honor that we at Soiled Sinema bring you this insightful interview with modern day Renaissance man Crispin Glover.  Although best known as an actor and for playing standout roles in films like Back to the Future (1985), River's Edge (1986), Charlie's Angels (2000) and Willard (2003), Mr. Glover is also a distinguished filmmaker/screenwriter, author, recording artist, and publisher.  In this interview, Crispin discusses his It? Trilogy and his extremely exceptional and fruitful career.
Soiled Sinema: How did the tragic premature passing of It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE writer/actor Steven C. Stewart affect the conclusion of the trilogy you both set out together to complete?

You had also mentioned that Steven C. Stewart was subject to cruel
 abuse which bled over into much of the work you two created. Care to
 elaborate?
Crispin Glover: Steve Steward only wrote “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” I incorporated Steve in to What is it? to make his screenplay a sequel and part of the trilogy. Steve did not have any involvement in writing “What is it?” or “IT IS MINE.”

Steven C. Stewart wrote and is the main actor in part two of the trilogy titled It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. I put Steve in to the cast of What is it? because he had written this screenplay which I read in 1987. When I turned What is it? from a short film in to a feature I realized there were certain thematic elements in the film that related to what Steven C. Stewart’s screenplay dealt with. Steve had been locked in a nursing home for about ten years when his mother died. He had been born with a severe case of cerebral palsy and he was very difficult to understand. People that were caring for him in the nursing home would derisively call him an “M.R.” short for “Mental Retard”. This is not a nice thing to say to anyone, but Steve was of normal intelligence. When he did get out he wrote his screenplay. Although it is written in the genre of a murder detective thriller truths of his own existence come through much more clearly than if he had written it as a standard autobiography. As I have stated, I put Steven C. Stewart in to What is it? When I turned What is it? in to a feature film. Originally What is it? Was going to be a short film to promote the concept to corporate film funding entities that working with a cast wherein most characters are played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. Steve had written his screenplay in in the late 1970’s. I read it in 1987 and as soon as I had read it I knew I had to produce the film. Steven C. Stewart died within a month after we finished shooting the film. Cerebral palsy is not generative but Steve was 62 when we shot the film. One of Steve’s lungs had collapsed because he had started choking on his own saliva and he got pneumonia. I specifically started funding my own films with the money I make from the films I act in when Steven C. Stewart’s lung collapsed in the year 2000 this was around the same time that the first Charlie’s Angels film was coming to me. I realized with the money I made from that film I could put straight in to the Steven C. Stewart film. That is exactly what happened. I finished acting in Charlie’s Angels and then went to Salt Lake City where Steven C. Stewart lived. I met with Steve and David Brothers with whom I co-directed the film. I went back to LA and acted in an lower budget film for about five weeks and David Brothers started building the sets. Then I went straight back to Salt Lake and we completed shooting the film within about six months in three separate smaller productions. Then Steve died within a month after we finished shooting. I am relieved to have gotten this film finally completed because ever since I read the screenplay in 1987 I knew I had to produce the film and also produce it correctly. I would not have felt right about myself if we had not gotten Steve’s film made, I would have felt that I had done something wrong and that I had actually done a bad thing if I had not gotten it made. So I am greatly relieved to have completed it especially since I am very pleased with how well the film has turned out. We shot It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. while I was still completing What it? And this is partly why What is it? took a long time to complete. I am very proud of the film as I am of What is it? I feel It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. will probably be the best film I will have anything to do with in my entire career. People who are interested in when I will be back should join up on the e mail list at CrispinGlover.com as they will be emailed with information as to where I will be where with whatever film I tour with. It is by far the best way to know how to see the films.
 After Charlie’s Angels came out it did very well financially and was good for my acting career. I started getting better roles that also paid better and I could continue using that money to finance my films that I am so truly passionate about. I have been able to divorce myself from the content of the films that I act in and look at acting as a craft that I am helping other filmmakers to accomplish what it is that they want to do. Usually filmmakers have hired me because there is something they have felt would be interesting to accomplish with using me in their film and usually I can try to do something interesting as an actor. If for some reason the director is not truly interested in doing something that I personally find interesting with the character then I can console myself that with the money I am making to be in their production I can help to fund my own films that I am so truly passionate about. Usually though I feel as though I am able to get something across as an actor that I feel good about. It has worked out well.
 SS: Do you see yourself -- years from now -- after all of the legendary tours have become history, releasing the films for the public in any sort of home format?
CG: Right now I have no plans to stop touring. The tour is the way people should see the films. People can find out where I will be touring by signing up for my newsletter on CrispinGlover.com
SS: At a past Big Slide Show, you mentioned how you initially happened to make the acquaintance
of Steven C. Stewart. Would you care to reiterate this story for Soiled Sinema
readers? How did this personal relationship develop into the creation of the It? Trilogy?
CG: When I was 19 I was acting in a film made at the AFI called The Orkly Kid. The character I was playing was based on a person the director had made a documentary about when he was working on a television show in Salt Lake Utah. He was friends with another filmmaker from Salt Lake named Larry Roberts who had made a documentary on Steven C Stewart when Steve was still not able to get out of the nursing home. When Steve got out of the nursing home he told Larry that he wanted to make a movie. Larry was an interesting filmmaker, but was older and doing other things and he introduced Steve to another younger Salt Lake filmmaker that was making unusual movies and said maybe they could work on it together. I had also been shown some of David Brother’s films by Larry and the director of the Orkly Kid. It was around this time that I had been wanting to make a movie from one of my books and I had very much liked David Brother’s movies he was making on video. So I met up with David Brothers and we started making a movie of one of my books called The Backward Swing. We started shooting this on video in 1987. Actually this will be the next movie I edit together as the films took over. In any case while we were working on The Backward Swing David showed me the script for Everything is fine! and as soon as I read it I knew it was a movie I had to produce.

Steven C. Stewart’s own true story was fascinating and then the beautiful story and the naïve including his fascination of women with long hair and the graphic violence and sexuality and the revealing truth of his psyche from the screenplay were all combined. A specific marriage proposal scene was the scene I remember reading that made me think “I will have to be the person to produce/finance this film.”
 SS: Would you say there is a connection (whether it be aesthetic, idealistic, or otherwise) between elements of your films and your concept album The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be?
CG: My films, books and album “The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be?” contain questions or let people come up with their own questions.
  SS: Is it safe to say that most true artists are competent in a variety of mediums?
CG: It is possible and it is also possible that many artists are far better at one medium than another, but I have noticed that many good artists are good in multiple mediums.
 SS: Your father, Bruce Glover,is in the second film of your trilogy It is Fine! Everything is Fine.. How was the experience of directing your own father, who we can assume had much weight in steering you towards your current occupation?
CG: My father was easy to direct in “It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” My mother is also in the film. When I was born she retired as an actress and primarily a dancer. “Steering” would be the wrong word to use about my choice of profession. My mother did want me to become involved in dance when I was a child. I went to one dance class that she taught and she said “Alright girls... and... boy.” and I never went again.
So my parents were not really able to steer me in an occupational direction.
I am very satisfied with my profession/professions. The one thing I wanted to be before figuring out that it would be a good idea to enter in to acting professionally at age 13, was a geologist. My idea of the profession was that I would find geodes and fascinating geological rocks and formations. I then realized that a geologist at the time I was thinking about it, which was the 1970‘s would probably need to work for a multinational oil corporation finding oil deposits. That did not seem as interesting to me. I am glad I continued on doing what I do. I still have great interest in the tectonic plates and volcanoes and geological formations. My publishing company is called “Volcanic Eruptions”

My father is what I would describe as a blue-collar or working-class actor. I witnessed my father’ struggles as an actor and did not look at the business in a glamorous way.
I made a pragmatic choice to pursue acting as a career when I was quite young around 11 or 12. I got an agent when I was 13 and got my first professional job that year. Having grown up around the business it seemed like something that I would be able to do. My father also teaches acting and has since before I was born. I never formally studied with my father but I am certain that hearing him speak about things had influence. I would say that my personality type is not that of a standard actor’s personality type that would more be someone who enjoys attention for attention’s sake. That in fact makes me rather uncomfortable. For me it is important to have an idea that can be supported with performance or even for media publicity. Because of this I believe that if my parents had not been in the business and I was born with the personality type that I have, I probably would have pursued a very different career path.
> I became a professional actor at age 13 by my own choice. I emphasize that because there is a large difference in that from when a child is forced in to acting by parents who choose that career for a child. I began studying in a professional acting class at age 15. At age 16 I viewed many revival films of the 1920’s through the 1970’s at the revival theaters that were popular in the early 1980’s before the advent of VHS competition that led to most of the revival houses closing. While watching many of the films and being in acting class I began to understand film and acting as art.
 SS: How does your father feel about your ambitious taboo-breaking cinema?
CG: My parents have come to see the films and live shows on multiple occasions and are supportive of both the live shows and films.
 SS: Censorship and context are both reasons for your choice in creating and controlling the screenings and distribution of your films.  How would you imagine a general audience perceiving your film if it was promoted and released like your typical Hollywood Blockbuster?
CG: I love showing at museums, universities, cinematheques and vaudeville theaters. As I tour through the world it is apparent that as much as multiplexes and home theater has become ubiquitous that the single screen cultural center is absolutely vital to a specific audience that is looking to have a thoughtful experience at the theater be it live or by film. Museums can attract particularly thoughtful crowds. The forums are greatly appreciated by audience members. In vaudeville there was an energetic exchange between the performers and audience. The audience is part of the experience as opposed to merely being an audience that has no interaction when alone at home. The Q and A portion of the shows are extremely helpful with the films, particularly “What is it?” which can generate a particular amount of demand from the audience in forms of questions.
All currently corporately funded films by US film ratings must be made for the viewership of children. The reason for this is that when the NC-17 rating came about to replace the X rating multiplexes had become a norm. In the 1960’s and 1970’s films like A Clockwork Orange and Midnight Cowboy were given the X rating in the US. At that time it was easy to control if children were able to get in to a single screen theater or not. When multiplexes came in to being and X was changed to NC-17 the corporations that ran the multiplexes became concerned that a child could walk down the hall and easily enter in to an NC-17 film and they could be sued. So they stated that they would not show films rated NC-17. Being that multiplexes had become the main source of recoupment for the film distributors it was no longer viable to distribute NC-17 films. Without viable distribution of an NC-17 rated film no corporate entities would fund films they cannot recoup on. So at this point in time corporate funding and distribution entities in the US will only fund films that are rated G, PG, PG13, and R. R means under 18 accompanied by an adult. Therefore all corporately funded films in the US must be made with concept that those under the age of 18 are able to view the film. This means all corporately funded films in the US are made for the eyes of children. There is certainly nothing wrong with films that are specifically made for children, but it certainly is questionable when there is not a corporately funded film company that will fund and distribute films that are specifically for the eyes of adults.

Unfortunately I see the corporately funded and distributed films industry currently as having a hugely propagandizing effect on the US population at large. It is an enormous topic. I recently read the book “Propaganda” written in 1925 by Edward Bernays. Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and utilized his uncle’s understanding of the subconscious and became the literal founder of the “Public Relations” industry. Bernays came up with the word combination “Public Relations” to replace the word propaganda. The book is not an expose but an instruction manual for the monied and privileged class through psychological “Public relations”/propaganda techniques to get the lower class masses to serve the privileged class with the disguise of democracy. I feel like this book should be mandatory reading for everyone in high school so people in the US would have a better understanding of how things genuinely work in the media.

Stanley Kubrick made some of the most beautiful, thoughtful and questioning cinematic films ever in the corporately funded and distributed studio films system. He is fascinating to study. The culture ebbs and flows and waxes and wanes in terms of how much questioning can happen in media. We are in a particularly restrictive time right now with what will be corporately funded and distributed. Questioning could become even more restricted or less restricted. It sort of depends on how much people become concerned about the restrictions. Most current media that is corporately funded and distributed now is designed to make people not question.
I am not against the basic concept of corporations, but I have come to notice a similarity to the “Occupy Movement” and what “What is is?” is essentially protesting. It seems that the “Occupy Movement” is protesting business interests having an influence in what has basically become a legalized form of bribery by corporate/business/banking interests in politicians/political elements which is of course against the concept of basic democracy.
Relatedly “What is it?” is a protest to the corporate corporate/business/banking interests in the content of film/media which ends up leading to corporate/business/banking interest’s propaganda. 
 SS: For as long as I can remember, River's Edge (1986) directed by Tim Hunter has been one of my favorite films. Naturally, it goes without saying that your performance as Layne is for me (and most other fans of the film), one of the most (if not the most) potent and memorable aspects of the film. How did you prepare for the role of Layne and what are your personal thoughts on the character?
CG: The way the character was written made me think of a certain regional dialect that I had grown up hearing. I am proud of that film. There was an intention change in the character from the way it had been written. The character could have been played as a person who sincerely wanted the best for the murderer character. But I made the choice to play the character as a person who wanted people to believe that intentions of the character were sincere in order for positive attention to be put on to himself.. That is a different intention than what was written. The dialogue was not changed but the intentions was changed. There was a certain dynamic that this brought about in the character within the film. I like my performance in that film and I like the film as a whole.
 SS: You mentioned the mainstream media’s influence on Columbine High school massacre killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in your article What Is It? Would you consider Layne a "proto-Columbine killer" of sorts?
CG: The repressive culture brings out troublesome actions. The character in River’s Edge and the film itself is not a repressive film but an explorative film and film that brings up questions which is healthy for the culture. I think right now most films are not explorative and unfortunately are more dictatorial in the approach as to how the audience is approached as to how to think about the subject matter. The business interest’s control on how they want the culture to work for their own benefit. I would say that sort of media control can bring out negative repressed actions from people.
 SS: How/when did you get interested in writing/designing books? 
CG: The live aspect of the shows I perform before the films I tour with are not to be underestimated. This is a large part of how I bring audiences in to the theater and a majority of how I recoup is by what is charged for the live show and what I make from selling the books after the shows.
For “Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show” I perform a one hour dramatic narration of eight different books I have made over the years. The books are taken from old books from the 1800's that have been changed in to different books from what they originally were. They are heavily illustrated with original drawings and reworked images and photographs.
I started making my books in 1983 for my own enjoyment without the concept of publishing them. I had always written and drawn and the books came as an accidental outgrowth of that. I was in an acting class in 1982 and down the block was an art gallery that had a book store upstairs. In the book store there was a book for sale that was an old binding taken from the 1800's and someone had put their art work inside the binding. I thought this was a good idea and set out to do the same thing. I worked a lot with India ink at the time and was using the India ink on the original pages to make various art. I had always liked words in art and left some of the words on one of the pages. I did this again a few pages later and then when I turned the pages I noticed that a story started to naturally form and so I continued with this. When I was finished with the book I was pleased with the results and kept making more of them. I made most of the books in the 80's and very early 90's. Some of the books utilize text from the biding it was taken from and some of them are basically completely original text. Sometimes I would find images that I was inspired to create stories for or sometimes it was the binding or sometimes it was portions of the texts that were interesting. Altogether, I made about twenty of them. When I was editing my first feature film “What is it?” There was a reminiscent quality to the way I worked with the books because as I was expanding the film in to a feature from what was originally going to be a short, I was taking film material that I had shot for a different purpose originally and re-purposed it for a different idea and I was writing and shooting and ultimately editing at the same time. Somehow I was comfortable with this because of similar experiences with making my books.
When I first started publishing the books in 1988 people said I should have book readings. But the book are so heavily illustrated and they way the illustrations are used within the books they help to tell the story so the only way for the books to make sense was to have visually representations of the images. This is why I knew a slide show was necessary. It took a while but in 1992 I started performing what I now call Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Side Show Part 1. The content of that show has not changed since I first started performing it. But the performance of the show has become more dramatic as opposed to more of a reading.
People sometimes get confused as to what “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show (Parts 1&2)” is so now I always let it be known that it is a one hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated books that I have made over the years. The illustrations from the books are projected behind me as I perform the show. There is a second slide show now that also has 8 books. Part 2 is performed if I have a show with Part 1 of the “IT” trilogy and then on the subsequent night I will perform the second slide show and Part 2 of the “IT” trilogy. The second slide show has been developed over the last several years and the content has changed as it has been developed, but I am very happy with the content of the second slide show now.
The fact that I tour with the film helps the distribution element. I consider what I am doing to be following in the steps of vaudeville performers. Vaudeville was the main form of entertainment for most of the history of the US. It has only relatively recently stopped being the main source of entertainment, but that does not mean this live element mixed with other media is no longer viable. In fact it is apparent that it is sorely missed.
I definitely have been aware of the element of utilizing the fact that I am known from work in the corporate media I have done in the last 25 years or so. This is something I rely on for when I go on tour with my films. It lets me go to various places and have the local media cover the fact that I will be performing a one hour live dramatic narration of eight different books which are profusely illustrated and projected as I go through them, then show the film either What is it? Being 72 minutes or It is fine! EVERYTHGIN IS FINE being 74 minutes. Then having a Q and A and then a book signing. As I funded the films I knew that this is how I would recoup my investment even if it a slow process.
Volcanic Eruptions was a business I started in Los Angeles in 1988 as Crispin Hellion Glover doing business as Volcanic Eruptions. It was a name to use for my book publishing company. About a year later I had a record/CD come out with a corporation called Restless Records. About when I had sold the same amount of books as CD/records had sold it was very clear to me that because I had published my own books that I had a far greater profit margin. It made me very suspicious of working with corporations as a business model. Financing/Producing my own films is based on the basic business model of my own publishing company. There are benefits and drawbacks about self distributing my own films. In this economy it seems like a touring with the live show and showing the films with a book signing is a very good basic safety net for recouping the monies I have invested in the films
There are other beneficial aspects of touring with the shows other than monetary elements.  There are benefits that I am in control of the distribution and personally supervise the monetary intake of the films that I am touring with. I also control piracy in this way because digital copy of this film is stolen material and highly prosecutable. It is enjoyable to travel and visit places, meet people, perform the shows and have interaction with the audiences and discussions about the films afterwards. The forum after the show is also not to under-estimated as a very important part of the show for for the audience. This also makes me much more personally grateful to the individuals who come to my shows as there is no corporate intermediary. The drawbacks are that a significant amount of time and energy to promote and travel and perform the shows. Also the amount of people seeing the films is much smaller than if I were to distribute the films in a more traditional sense.
The way I distribute my films is certainly not traditional in the contemporary sense of film distribution but perhaps is very traditional when looking further back at vaudeville era film distribution. If there are any filmmakers that are able to utilize aspects of what I am doing then that is good. It has taken many years to organically develop what I am doing now as far as my distribution goes.
 SS: On top of appearing in What Is It?, Feral House owner Adam Parfrey published your essay What Is It? in his book Apocalypse Culture II. What is your relationship with Parfrey and do you have any plans to once again collaborate with him in the future -- be it in film or otherwise?
CG: I am friends with Adam Parfrey and he has influence on both the article in “Apocalypse Culture II” and content in the film “What is it?” I am always open to collaboration with intelligent people that I have had positive relations with. So I certainly would be up to collaborating with Adam Parfrey again.
 SS: How does your brilliant article What is It? relate to your 2005 film of the same name? Is the film an abstract surrealist portrayal of some of the ideas expressed in your article?
CG: The article in What is it? was written in 1999 after the feature film “What is it?” had been locked as a picture edit. It was conceived as an entertainment essay for Adam Parfrey’s book “Apocalypse Culture II” that would also promote the film “What is it?”
 SS: In your film What is It?, one of the roles you played was that of the "Dueling Demi-God Auteur." What are your thoughts on auteur theory and auteur filmmaking in general? Is it safe to say that the films (and upcoming film) in the It? Trilogy are a rare modern example of pure and personal "auteur" works?
CG: On some level the word “Auteur” was used for entertainment purposes with a sense of humor. Although it is true that Steve is the original “Auteur” of “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.”
 I am very careful to make it quite clear that What is it? is not a film about Down’s Syndrome but my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last 20 to 30 years in film making. Specifically anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed. This is damaging to the culture because it is the very moment when an audience member sits back in their chair looks up at the screen and thinks to their self “Is this right what I am watching? Is this wrong what I am watching? Should I be here? Should the filmmaker have made this? What is it?” -and that is the title of the film. What is it that is taboo in the culture? What does it mean that taboo has been ubiquitously excised in this culture’s media? What does it mean to the culture when it does not properly process taboo in it’s media? It is a bad thing because when questions are not being asked because these kinds of questions are when people are having a truly educational experience. For the culture to not be able to ask questions leads towards a non educational experience and that is what is happening in this culture. This stupefies this culture and that is of course a bad thing. So What is it? Is a direct reaction to the contents this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.
 SS: What are thoughts on the blatant decline of great auteur filmmakers in the modern Occidental world? Undoubtedly, you have helped to fill the void in our mostly auteur-less era. Do you believe that Hollywood has consciously sought out to destroy the auteur filmmaker -- and organic art in general?
CG: Consciousness in corporately funded and distributed filmmaking for the most part is difficult to define as propagandized thought processes end up infusing in to what the sensibility of the corporately funded and distributed film entity decides on what is put forth to the population. Every once in a while a film will come out from the corporately funded and distributed filmmaking business from a filmmaker that is both intelligent and deft at making cinematic decisions that have positive cultural messages. It is rare and difficult for that to happen, but when it does I applaud those film makers.
The way that US propaganda works is difficult to describe.
Unfortunately the corporately funded and distributed films industry currently is having a hugely propagandizing effect on the US population at large. It is an enormous topic.
 I recently read the book “Propaganda” written in 1925 by Edward Bernays. I recommend everyone read it. The first sentence of the book is “THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and options of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
 
 
 Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and utilized his uncle’s understanding of the subconscious and became the literal founder of the “Public Relations” industry. Bernays came up with the word combination “Public Relations” to replace the word propaganda. He brought his uncle’s ideas and introduced Sigmund Freud to the US to help influence US corporations, Academia and the government. The book is not an expose but an instruction manual for the monied and privileged class through psychological “Public relations”/propaganda techniques to get the lower class masses to serve the privileged class with the disguise of democracy. I feel like this book should be mandatory reading for everyone in high school so people in the US would have a better understanding of how things genuinely work in the media. Once anyone reads this book they will not be able to see the function of US media the same way again.
The difficult part of the US propaganda is the way it is put in to effect is not be committee dictation but by the way corporate/business interests utilize money to essentially legally bribe people/government/academia/media to do that which is in the corporate/business interest.
 SS: What are some of the struggles you have had to dealt with in your ambitious career of simultaneously working within the Hollywood studio system, but also creating uncompromising artistic works independently in various mediums? You seem to be one of the few people that has been able to successfully do that. Why do you think this is?
CG: There is a strange mix of being brought up working within the media business and becoming aware of the amount of control that corporate interests were having on the content of film in general.
The first time I used discretion about choosing films was not till after “Back to the Future” came out in 1985. After that film came out and had made so much money I felt a certain obligation towards finding films that somehow reflected what my own psychologically interested were. The first film I acted in after that was “River’s Edge.” 

I am not critical of the concept of corporations. I am critical when the result of corporate control causes people to think less or for media in general to come out with less questioning or question causing content. Corporations do not necessarily cause this, but it currently is happening in great quantity. There are times when corporate entities have been behind great questioning films like ”A Clockwork Orange” or ”2001 a Space Odyssey.” I prefer to not be overly political. I concern myself with things that affect me directly.
The film industry I had thought I had stepped in to was the spirit of when I was a teenager attending the various revival theaters that were so popular in Los Angeles in the 1980’s before home theater business competition forced most 35 mm venues to close. I did not realize at the time that I stepped in to working as an actor that the kinds of films that were being funded and distributed had changed.
As soon as I got my driver’s license when I was 16 in 1980 I attended screenings at revival theaters that were quite popular in LA before VHS competition cleared many of them away. Many of these revival theaters no longer exist such as, one of my favorites, the beautiful Fox Venice with a wide cinemascope screen on Lincoln Blvd.
The films I saw that played in these venues tended to question culturally accepted truths with performances that underscored these concepts.
 Films played such as:
Ken Russel’s The Devils,
Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Chinatown,
Frederico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Cassanova,
John Cassavete’s A woman under the influence,
Orson Welles’ F is for Fake and Citizen Kane,
Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Sunset Blvd,
John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living,
Todd Browning’s Freaks,
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove,
Werner Herzog’s Aguire Wrath of God, Even Dwarfs Started Small and Fata Morgana.
I was a regular attendee of David Lynch’s Eraserhead at midnight on Fridays at the Nuart.

I studied actors giving performances like:
Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider,
Timothy Carey in Marlon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden,
Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Brad Dourif in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Wise Blood,
Peter Lorre in M
Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh
and Klaus Kinski in Aguirre Wrath of God.
These films and performances characterized the atmosphere of cinema and acting I believed I was stepping into as a young actor. By 1982, at age 18, I began to act in feature films. At this time I believed contemporary culture’s film’s main purpose was to question suspect things in our culture. I enthusiastically supported the idea of questioning our culture. To help support the idea, I also questioned the film industry’s and media’s messages. Sometimes I felt scorned and isolated; other times I felt accepted and admired. Then, at one point, in the midst of my career, I realized that the types of films the industry was financing and distributing had changed almost diametrically from the types of films I had watched when I was 18.
Now, I have put my artistic passions and questions in to my own filmmaking with films like “What is it?“ and it’s sequel “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.”
 SS: Can Hollywood filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay be considered auteur filmmakers due to their somewhat consistent and ambiguously "personal" themes? Or would your consider them "anti-auteur" filmmakers due to their intrinsic lack of thematic, aesthetic, and artistic complexity? In other words, are Blockbuster filmmakers merely soulless and totally lacking in genuine expression and/or are they merely appealing to the lowest common denominator with the sole goal of obtaining a substantial monetary return?
CG: I specifically do not use the term “Hollywood film” because it is overly generalized and “Hollywood” for me is a place I have lived, so I think of that more as a geographical place. The specific term I use is “Corporately funded and distributed film.” I am not so familiar with Michael Bay’s films. I am far more familiar with the films of Steven Spielberg. Looking both of their credits up on IMDB ,which can be inaccurate, it seems that Michael Bay had not written any of the films that he has directed. Bu the definition I understand of “Auteur” this would mean Michael Bay would not be that. The film that Steven Spielberg solely wrote the screenplay and directed is “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” By and by the definition of “Auteur” it would make him that definition.
I would think all films whether one likes the expression held within them or not are forms of expression. It may be that some filmmakers forms of expression are more aligned with business interests. It can be argued whether their personal interests naturally align to business interest or if the business interest had caused what is their personal interest has become.
 SS: You have stated in the past that you're a fan of German New Wave filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Werner Herzog. Historically, what do you think are the main differences between Hollywood and European cinema? Why do you think there has been a decline in great European films and filmmakers?
CG: I admire both Herzog’s and Fassbinder’s work as filmmakers and it has been a great honor and pleasure to know Werner Herzog. Herzog of course is still making great films to this day so he is still a fantastic force. I am sure if Fassbinder were still alive he would also be a great force. The decline you may be feeling is probably a general worldwide waxing of control by business interests and control over the content of film.
 SS: Are there any modern films/filmmakers that your admire/respect?
CG: There certainly are.
SS: What films and filmmakers have inspired your It? Trilogy? Have any writers, philosophers, or otherwise inspired the Trilogy?
 CG: Some of the filmmakers mentioned above certainly have had influence on my thoughts.
“What is it?” started production as a short film in 1996. It took 9.5 years from the first day of shooting on the short film to having a 35 mm print of the feature film. I wrote it as a short film originally to promote the viability of having a majority of the characters that do not necessarily have Down’s Syndrome to be played by actors with Down’s Syndrome.
The way this came about was this. In 1996. I was approached by two young writers and aspiring filmmakers who were from Phoenix to act in a film they wanted to produce and direct. They made a monetary offer to my agents which they really should not have done as they did not actually have financing. Nonetheless it did get me to read the screenplay which I found to be interesting. This screenplay was not What is it? I found interesting things about the screenplay and was interested in the project, but I thought there were things about the screenplay that did not work. I came up with solutions that needed re working of the screenplay and I told them I would be interested in acting in the film if I directed it. They came to LA and met with me and wanted to know my thoughts. There were quite a few things but the main things was that most of the character were to be played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. They were fine with this concept and I set about to re writing the screenplay. David Lynch then agreed to executive produce the film for me to direct. This was very helpful and I went to one of the larger corporate entities in Los Angeles that finances films and met with them. They were interested in the project but after a number of meetings and conversations they let me know that the were concerned about financing a project wherein most of the characters were played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. The title of this screenplay at this point had become IT IS MINE. And will become part three of the “IT” trilogy. It was known yet at this time that there would be a trilogy but it was decided that I should write a short screenplay to promote that the concept of having a majority of the characters played by actors with Down’s Syndrome was a viable things to do for corporate entities to invest in.
This is when I wrote a short screenplay en titled What is it? We shot this short screenplay in four days. I edited that over a period of six months and the first edit came in at 84 minutes. The final feature length film of What is it? is 72 minutes. So the first version of the short film is longer than the final version of the feature film, and it was too long for the material I had at the time, but I could see with more work and more material I could turn it in to a feature film. Over approximately the next two years I shot 8 more days and edited this in to what is now the final version of the film. I locked the edit of the film about three years after the first day of shooting what was supposed to be a short film. Then there were a number of years of very frustrating technical problems that mainly had to do with SMPTE time code. Originally I was going to make the film the now old fashioned way of a complete photochemical process and not digital intermediate. An optical house in New York that did not give me enough information to let me know that the SMPTE time code had not been properly put on when the film was telecined. During this time I worked patiently on the final sound edit of the film with a number of interns. Finally that sound edit was finished and it became apparent that the film optical house was not telling me the truth and prices had fallen during this time so I was able to make the film using a digital intermediate to ultimately go out to a 35 mm print of the film. So from the first day of shooting what was to be a short film to having a 35 mm print for the film took 9.5 years.
> Sometimes people ask me if the length of time it took for me to make the film had to do with working with actors with Down’s Syndrome. This was not the case. Even though the film took many years to make much of the delay were technical issues. What is it was actually shot in a total of twelve days which was spread over several years. Twelve days is actually a very short amount of shooting days for a feature film. The most important thing about working with an actor weather they have Down’s Syndrome or not is if they have enthusiasm. Everyone in I worked with had incredible enthusiasm so the were all great to work with
  SS: What can we expect from It Is Mine? Do you have any specific goals you would like to reveal regarding the final chapter of your It? Trilogy? Do you have any plans for directing films after your complete the It? Trilogy that you would like to reveal?
CG: I should not go in to detail for “IT IS MINE.” yet and I will not shoot that next. There are other projects outside of the trilogy that I will shoot next. The Czech Republic is another culture and another language and I need to build up to complex productions like “What is it?” and the existing sequel “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” IT IS MINE. Is an even more complex project than those two films were so it will be a while yet for that production. I will step outside of the trilogy for a number of films that deal with different thematic elements.
The sets for my next film productions have started construction. At the same time the sets are being built I am in the process of continuing to develop the screenplay for myself and my father to act in together on these very sets. He is also an actor and that is the next film I am planning to make as a director/producer. This will be the first role I write for myself to act in that will be written as an acting role as opposed to a role that was written for the character I play to merely serve the structure. But even still on some level I am writing the screenplay to be something that I can afford to make. There are two other projects I am currently developing to shoot on sets at my property in the Czech Republic. The cost of the set building will determine which one I actually shoot next. They are will all be relatively affordable yet still cinematically pleasing.
SS: Would you ever consider directing a film within the mostly strict confines of the Hollywood studio system? Additionally, are there any characters (be they historical figures or fictional) that you have always wanted to play?
CG: It may come about naturally that corporately funded and distributed film’s interests will naturally come in to alignment with my own interests. There have been waxing and waning periods of corporate control of the content of film and right now we are in a severe waxing of control. We shall see what the future holds.
For more info on Crispin Glover's Big Slide Show, his company Volcanic Eruptions, and the It?" - Interview at www.soiledsinema.com


Crispin Glover interview with Aintitcool.com's Capone

Crispin Hellion Glover: It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine By Erin Broadley

Interview at The Onion's A.V. Club

Transcript of Glover's first appearance on Late Night with David Letterman

Crispin Hellion Glover's web page

Crispin Hellion Glover resource center

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