Tom Bradley is one of the most exasperating, offensive, pleasurable, and brilliant writers around. It takes a twisted sense of humor to appreciate this lunatic scholar, degenerate Harold Bloom, and biblical madman


Tom Bradley, Elmer Crowley: a katabasic nekyia. Illustrations by David Aronson and Nick Patterson. Mandrake of Oxford Press, 2014.

Aleister Crowley is thinking about Germany’s late chancellor:
my magickal child… who queefed out of my psychic vagina at an unguarded moment…[who] flopped from my left auditory meatus like a menstrual clot with incipient toothbrush mustache…
His mind wanders, logically enough, to Esoteric Hitlerism, the foetal religion presently aborning in Chile. He would like to drop by Santiago and have a chat, perhaps to “glean some intelligence from the gauchos.”
But it’s too late. No more time for the transoceanic jaunts that have varied his long life and kept boredom at bay. The Great Beast 666 happens to be on his death bed. Chapter One is over, and he dies.
Chapter Two begins as follows:
So, let’s sort this out, shall we?
In those seven words you have the essence of this particular historical figure: unkillable inquisitiveness, unshakable aplomb in the sort of psychic circumstances that drove so many of his apprentices and fellow magi insane. Of Crowley’s many fictionalizations, this novel gets best into his head. Erudite, prideful, lascivious, funniest man of his time, and the mightiest spiritual spelunker–he speaks and shouts from these pages as clearly as he did in his Autohagiography, which is paradoxical, given the irreal setting of Elmer Crowley: a katabasic nekyia.
Now that his mortal coil has been shuffled off, Crowley doesn’t know quite what to expect. He has mastered the world’s ancient funerary texts as thoroughly as anyone who ever lived, but fundamental questions remain. Will he be privileged to climb the sevenfold heavens promised by the Gnostics? Will his eyes be offered a luminous series of Tibetan liminalities, clear and smoke-colored?
Apparently not.
Something else materializes and looms up, rather more architectural. It appears the Egyptians came closer than anyone to getting it right.
Crowley’s ghost has been deposited in the Hall of the Divine Kings, as described in the Nilotic Book of the Dead. Of course, our hubristic Baphomet assumes that he’s about to be greeted as a peer by the immortal gods, “the soles of whose sandals are higher than ten thousand obelisks stacked end-to-end.”
But, no, they brush him off like a midge. He’s expected to supplicate like any run-of-the-mill dead person, to have his demerit counterpoised in the balance against a feather. Godhood denied, our high adept has been doomed to reenter the tedious cycle of rebirth. Injured pride, disappointed expectations, the prospect of boredom–these have never sat well with Thelema’s Prophet-Seer-Revelator. He’s about to start behaving badly. (A signal for us to stand well back and shield our eyes and ears.)
If he must return to the rigmarole of existence, it will be on his own terms. Exercising his prerogative as a magus of the highest accomplishment, Aleister Crowley will pick and choose his next carcass. He cold-shoulders the Divine Kings and calls forth Baubo, the headless Greek comedienne-demoness. Her job is to whisper filthy jokes to the peregrinating monad, to get it into a “meaty mood” before it gets stuffed, yet again, among female intestines.
His fans and devotees will recall that Aleister Crowley’s speech was famously impedimented. Like a certain other bald, pudgy celebrity who will remain semi-nameless, he made his “R” sound like “W.” (A tied tongue is one of the natal indices of a buddha, as he proudly points out more than once.) Is it any wonder that a key phoneme of the magickal evocation should go mispronounced?
He accidentally summons a being who, in David Aronson’s accompanying illustration, looks familiar enough–but evidently not to Crowley. Considering himself to be laying eyes on the genuine Baubo for the first time, he enlists her embryogenetic assistance. Happy to cooperate, this pseudo-Baubo zips him into his new carcass (by no means the one he would have chosen) and sucks him into the inferno where he is doomed to wander for the rest of the pagination. At no point does Crowley realize the true identity of the Virgil he has conjured.
How is such misrecognition possible? In the life that just ended, didn’t our protagonist ever stumble, perhaps in a heroin stupor, through the door of a cinema in Soho, or Bombay, or Cairo, or New Orleans, and be subjected to an animated short subject featuring this baby-talking canary? How can we, the mere uninitiate, see what the great Seer can’t?
Think of all the things Aleister Crowley has ogled that would have scorched our exoteric orbits. In the Algerian Sahara he braved the Abyss and achieved full conversance with his Guardian Angel. In Egypt he personally received the evangel of the New Harpocratic Aeon in which we presently live and die. And yet, plopped like a newborn into Tom Bradley’s latest novel, the poor soul can only stare in unfocused puzzlement at his new self. He squints at the “series of obese white slugs writhing jointlessly on the ends of [his] arms.” Nick Patterson’s illustration, on the opposite page, plainly shows no slugs, but just funny fingers fitted out with the sort of white gloves that come standard issue in Looney Tunes Land.
It’s 1947, before the onset of television and Saturday morning kiddy-narcotizing hour. Cartoons are still made to be shown between feature movies in theaters, to audiences that include grownups. The art is done by hand, and full orchestral music is composed for each moment. In other words, the Mega Therion is sent into Merry Melodies Hell when it’s still worthy of receiving the magnificent likes of him.
As befits a neonate, Crowley’s senses don’t work well. For some chapters he must “proceed from a skewed seat of sensation” and “grope along with a tactility hardly worthy of the name.” But, thanks to the graphic perspicuity of Bradley’s illustrators, we the readers suffer no such handicap. As our ears listen to the protagonist narrating his myopic descent into the underworld, our eyes are privileged to enjoy a gnosis beyond his ken. We’re given a wordless wisdom unavailable to “the most gargantuan magus of post-Renaissance times.”
Here is revealed the fascinating and unprecedented relation of word to image in this book. Tom Bradley has long been known for repeatedly performing, at will, almost offhandedly, a task one would have thought impossible, perhaps magickal, in these latter jaded days: the invention of new genres. Andrei Codrescu hailed his quasi-nonfiction opus Fission Among the Fanatics as “the first appearance of a genre so strange we are turning away from naming it…” In the field of meta-scholarship, the late Carol Novack described his Epigonesia as “that rarity of rarities: a new genre, something like a superficially nonfictional Pale Fire, taking place in real time as the primary text alternately rides roughshod over, and is sapped and subverted by, the critical apparatus.” More recently, in his books Family Romance and We’ll See Who Seduces Whom, Bradley has yanked new kinks into the synaesthetic art of ekphrasis. He “accepted the challenge posed by stacks of preexisting art” and wrote a novel and an epic poem, respectively, around them.
Now he’s bulldozed into another new neighborhood. In Elmer Crowley, a katabasic nekyia, the artwork is given epistemological precedence over the text, which is deeply strange. Yet, even as that unique protocol is laid down for the first time in the history of book production, it breaches its own decorum. Ever deeper generic layers are exposed, like the grotesque frescoes of some Neronic bathhouse leering under a Vatican street crew’s jackhammer.
The Great Beast might not be able to puzzle out the exoteric designation of Looney Tunes Land, but he has no problem engaging the horrific anima that informs it. In his dysesthesia, forced to apprehend essences behind epiphenomena, Crowley shrewdly interprets everything in terms of the Egyptian and Tibetan Books of the Dead, the Greek Eleusinian mysteries, the Theravada school, Iamblichus’ brand of Neoplatonism, John Dee’s Enochian ceremonial, and all the other occultural traditions of which he is a past master. (Significantly, to his irritation, and eventual undoing, Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy also keeps rearing its disapproving head.)
Accustomed to dealing with protean elementary wraiths and their camouflages, Crowley’s magickal mind sets about penetrating this world’s celluloid shell, intuiting the true demonic source of illumination behind it. And that intuition soaks straight into Nick Patterson and David Aronson’s pens, pigments and papers, to surprise our expectations when the next familiar character makes an entrance. Crowley describes a gray and white blur, with a—
…lascivious tuft of cottony fibers attached to what would, in the subphylum Vertebrata, be its sacroiliac… It seems to be mouthing a roughly penis-shaped item, some kind of vegetable, probably identifiable by its color. The visible spectrum’s mutilated in an indefinable way, so that I can’t commit myself as to it being a turnip or cucumber or eggplant…. A pair of roughly penile protuberances rise from the apex of what I assume, from its paramount position, to be the skull. I hesitate to call them horns, as neither seems particularly rigid.
But, steel yourself, turn the page and be enlightened. The scwewy wabbit who turned our childhoods’ Saturday mornings into orgies of giant sucking mouth-kisses and dynamite sticks down the trousers, has bat wings on his shoulders. Squid-tentacle suction cups encrust the inner surfaces of his ears. His eye sockets gape with the blackness of the bottomless pit. Crowley’s spiritual acuity has identified the chaotic grotesquery that, we only now realize, has always simmered under the technicolor surface of Leon Schlesinger’s cosmos. It turns out that Bugs is, and always has been, since his first appearance in 1940, none other than Choronzon. He’s the horrendous Keeper of the Abyss that comprises, of course, his “wabbit hole.”
And down into that hole the Great Beast 666 plunges. We follow him to the sub-basement of Hades, where “beasties and mutants of every unknown species are rehearsing a pageant, a loony Eleusinian anti-mystery.” Their formulary comprises the scatological doggerel he once dedicated to one of his more coprophagically inclined Scarlet Women. The Wickedest Man in the World turns out to be something of a prophet in these parts—
All the miniature therianthropes and gryphons, the mutant beasties and mooncalves and woodland nematodes look up from their pious devotionals. They do a synchronized double take in the broadest Hollywood style, and throng me as if I were Christ running his skiff aground at Galilee’s water treatment facility. Asperging in all directions what passes for sex sauce, they wail in woe, they hymn in high ecstasy, they puff me up and empurple me like Pentheus in the Bacchantes.
“I tot I taw Aleister! I di-i-id, I did taw Aleister! Oooh, looky-looky everybody! Look who’s he-e-e-ere!”
Anyone who has found himself suddenly plunged into unknown surroundings (and who with any gumption hasn’t?) will instinctively try to make sense by recourse to past experience. Grasping for orientation, Crowley solicits the aid of a gallery of historical personages. Like Dante before him, he will see his contemporaries in Hell.
It’s only logical that Leon Schlesinger, creator of Looney Tunes, should be spending eternity in this abyss. In life, he, too, suffered from a speech impediment: the kind that sprays saliva with S-sounds. So, of course, he greets Crowley morphed into the person of Daffy Duck. Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal Doktor Gutes Gefühl, who died at the same time as Crowley, is seen administering gigantic syringes of methamphetamine to all the little monsters. Due to a clerical error in the Divine Hall of Judgment, his soul has been stuffed into a hippo’s carcass.
As for Dr. Morell’s master, a.k.a. Crowley’s “magickal child—
Der Fuhrer and Emperor Hirohito are attempting to perform the expected soixante-neuf. But, though their salivary glands are cooperating, there is some difficulty. Symbolic retribution has burdened them with duck bills (though they could be platypuses as easily as mallards). Their matching toothbrush mustachios being extended far into space by these cartilaginous mouth parts, the former Axis leaders are hard pressed to achieve intimacy with what, upon scrutiny, proves to be this universe’s most horrifying and widespread characteristic: featureless crotches.
Porky Pig turns the generic tables, crosses the blood-brain-reality barrier, and makes a cameo appearance as the devil who, in real life, made steak tartare of Crowley’s pectorals at a Theosophical soiree in 1910. It’s an orgy scene full of unspeakable depravity and monstrosity, taken from Crowley’s own horror fiction.
Meanwhile, a colossal nude Madame Blavatsky turns out to be the mountain upon which all this hellaciousness has been taking place–
And, speaking of Blavatsky, I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that the prophet of Crowleyanity comes to learn that the cosmos runs according to a Theosophical rather than Thelemic dispensation. The news is not good for practical occultists, because their spirits are doomed by Blavatskianity to be ground to sub-atoms on Kama-Loka’s adamantine floor. Under the astral grindstone, a sequel is rendered impossible, even in a genre that permits reincarnation–the ultimate sequel bait.
The book ends affectingly with the man’s actual last words:
I’m perplexed.
Sometimes I hate myself.   - Barry Katz

Tom Bradley, We'll See Who Seduces Whom: a graphic ekphrasis in verseUnlikely Books, 2013.

The painter and poet, in a death-wrestle, try to disentangle their protean identities, or at least to maintain a numerical tally of the limbs, heads, and torsos their shifting persons comprise.
As in Family Romance (Jaded Ibis Press), Tom Bradley has accepted the challenge posed by a stack of preexisting art. In this case the ekphrasis is in verse, and the images have sprung from the cranium of David Aronson.
Publisher Jonathan Penton says, "This is the most peculiar book of erotica, and the weirdest book of poetry outside of psychoses outright, I've ever seen. This is Bhagavad-Gita porn."

Tom Bradley, Three Screenplays, Dog Horn Publishing, 2013.
read it at Google Books

A triple feature you’ll be watching long after that Great Day when the electrical grid collapses once and for all!
This is a collection of feature-length movie scripts that employ spoken dialogue and present-tense action–but no voice-overs, narration, flash-forwards or -backs, and no stupid fucking special effects. These scripts are written, the lines delivered, as opposed to grunted or yammered or improvised.
The actors are brilliant unknowns, never previously seen nor heard anywhere. Our Casting Director had recourse to the services of a good genetic engineering lab, a team of in vitro technicians, and a medium-large population of indentured gamete donors.
The traditional pre-digital Hollywood screenplay format is fascinating. If the prescribed font is used, and the correct margins observed (as in the layout to this book), it translates to one minute of screen time per page. Directors proceed on this assumption. There’s an uncanny precision to screenwriting that carries pleasantly over into the eyeball, as in the movie itself. It’s like a Shakespearean sonnet: our pleasure is enhanced when we see the fourteen lines, ended just so, with the final couplet nicely indented. Same idea with screenplays.
The result is a particular kind of story, with that compelling balance of dialogue and action, and tight economy of setting and exposition.
Discover Tom Bradley’s collection, Hemorrhaging Slave of an Obese Eunuch.
Discover Tom Bradley’s non-fiction anthology, New Cross-Fucked Musings on a Manic Reality.

Here are three screenplays collected in print for the first time, from the prolific bizarro genius Tom Bradley. Each screenplay is adapted from a novel of the same name. Lemur - damnation and salvation in the food services industry. Vital Fluid - rival hypnotists stage a bizarre series of showdowns. Bomb Baby - a manhunt through Hiroshima's lightless crannies. ' . . . brilliant, evocative writing. Bizarre imagination set free. An enviable skill.' - Consuelo Boland

"The real point of reading
Bradley, aside from his
illumination of the ridiculous
and grotesque world around us,
is the rolling cadence of his
pitch-perfect writing. We prize
competent prose here at Danse
Macabre, but we absolutely adore
the rich, coloratura tones of
Bradley’s work, the strong,
steady voice guiding us with
spot-on verbiage and heady
switchbacks to revelations by
turns disgusting, divine, and
gut-bustingly hilarious."
--James Kendley, Danse Macabre

"Tom Bradley is one of the most
misunderstood and ill-
appreciated master-writers on
the planet... This spectacular
literary Lucifer, star of the
East, talks like Hume might be
imagined to have spoken to the
comely Grisettes of pre-
Revolutionary Paris (Well, here
we are, young ladies! Here we
--Jesse Glass, author of The
Lost Poet
Enigmatic Ink
Tom Bradley, Breakfast with Streckfuss, Dynatox Ministries, 2013.

"The real point of reading
Bradley, aside from his
illumination of the ridiculous
and grotesque world around us,
is the rolling cadence of his
pitch-perfect writing. We prize
competent prose here at Danse
Macabre, but we absolutely adore
the rich, coloratura tones of
Bradley’s work, the strong,
steady voice guiding us with
spot-on verbiage and heady
switchbacks to revelations by
turns disgusting, divine, and
gut-bustingly hilarious."
--James Kendley, Danse Macabre

"Tom Bradley is one of the most
misunderstood and ill-
appreciated master-writers on
the planet... This spectacular
literary Lucifer, star of the
East, talks like Hume might be
imagined to have spoken to the
comely Grisettes of pre-
Revolutionary Paris (Well, here
we are, young ladies! Here we
--Jesse Glass, author of The
Lost Poet
Enigmatic Ink

Tom Bradley gets the bright idea of persuading a peyote-crazed Vietnam vet to show his memoirs to
a National Book-winner. Vertebrae are karate-kicked, a seminar room is demolished and set on fire, and a gaggle of Creative Writing MFA candidates are traumatized to the point of urinary incontinence.

"...With a knack for combining colorful argot and a learned style full of historical and philosophical references, [Bradley] weaves it all into scenes of low buffoonery and deep subtext. What results is a bizarre point of view, full of odd insights...

"A famous unnamed writer (E.L. Doctorow, I have it on good authority) comes to Bradley's university (downwind from a nuclear hot zone) and conducts a writer's workshop... hilariously
described, with snide reference to the 'reptilian appeal' of best sellers, grant recipients who 'hold forth for holding forth's own sake,' and poets 'exuding earnest inarticulateness.' On one level this essay-as-slapstick exposes the pretensions of contemporary writing, while on another level the story climaxes with the Vietnam vet setting fire to the place and being removed
by campus police. After that, Bradley writes, 'The English Department never treated me the same.'" --nthposition Magazine

Tom Bradley, Family Romance: a novel, Jaded Ibis Press, 2012.

"Tom Bradley is one of the most exasperating, offensive, pleasurable, and brilliant writers I know. I recommend his work to anyone with spiritual fortitude and a taste for something so strange that it might well be genius." - Denis Dutton

"I tell you that Dr. Bradley has devoted his existence to writing because he intends for every center of consciousness, everywhere, in all planes and conditions (not just terrestrial female Homo sapiens in breeding prime), to love him forever, starting as soon as possible, though he's prepared to wait thousands of centuries after he's dead." - Cye Johan

"The contemporaries of Michelangelo found it useful to employ the term terribilita to characterize some of the expressions of his genius, and I will quote it here to sum up the shocking impact of this work as a whole. I read it in a state of fascination, admiration, awe, anxiety, and outrage."
- R.V. Cassill

Family Romance is the latest novel by Tom Bradley, notorious hermit of Kitakyushu, Japan. It’s a monstrosity of the imagination as if a Burroughs virus hijacked the machinery of Finnigan’s Wake and replicated itself as a litera-teratus. Illustrator Nick Patterson joins Bradley in the procedure with ninety disturbing images of Bosch-like detail you don’t want to see on the way home from your local head shop. 
Bradley’s trajectory of books, from the early Sam Edwine novels up through the mesmeric satire of Vital Fluid and essay collections like Put It Down In A Book, is toward a geist where categories have yet to be described. The fastenings and joineries of his new textual and graphic ubiety are measured in calibrations from some other dimension where the usual sockets and taper points of critical disassembly have to be replaced. Even with that, Family Romance is deviously structured to lead conclusion jumpers straight to the Hall of Laughter. 
By way of guidance I might advise the intrepid reader to follow first the theme of mutation, both in the nameless family the book portrays and the language that describes it. There’s a father, mother, daughter and son. And don’t forget the dog. The narrator is the son who combines self-image and family dynamics with this rhetorical question: “Am I Mom’s former wart, an ex-ball of hair and teeth that sprouted like a pus-distended lymph node in the left armpit of her doubly prehensile arm?” Mom herself is “the fascist conjuress” who “scrounges the means to bring about lovely coiffures high upon our occupied heads, all the better for her unwellness vectors to perch and nest.” Anything you can relate to? Or how about dear old Dad, “born with a cavalryman’s plasma osmosing through his various connective tissues... his inborn lot in civic-caste life.”  
So there you have it, parents in a military family “meant to kill and explode things, not frisk and frolic.” Military families are known to have military brats like the narrator himself, or his unhinged sister, “a trans-species facial-fornicatory bastardette” and victim of degenerate “priestcrafters,” who constitutes nothing more than “a medical waste problem.” Sib rivalry? And then the dog. Well, the dog doesn’t do too well either. 
The father deserts the family. He turncoats his post and joins a foreign insurgency in the “Middlingly Oriental homeland.” One thinks right away of the Palestinians or the Muslim umma, but in Family Romance things can mutate before you get to the end of the analogy. Mother raises the kids in the father’s absence and tries to keep them clean. Clean of what? Pathogens! A pathogen in this context is both an organism and a meme, always the other guy’s. Infection with memic thought disorder fractures the family, as it often does, along religious lines. Mom buys into a “national-racial god” known as “the divine Krystelle Rex” (sounds like crystal meth?). Dad gangs up with the biblical-sounding “Relic Amalekites” on the “Judeuphrates.” 
I’m going to make the astonishing assertion that Family Romance is a work of theology, if by theology we mean cryptophagic religious chagrin. Biblical quotes turn up frequently in epigraphs to Bradley’s fiction and non-fiction where he dwells, sometimes in great Talmudic depth, on themes of sin, atonement, transcendence, holiness, Gnosticism and Mesopotamian history. You can jaw away your lauds on Bradley’s concept of Jawhey (Yahweh) who, “in the septafold naves of his cathedralic heart... suppurates a special letch for Relic Amalekites.” And the Relic Amalekites “are the self-styled Originally Selected Beings of this particular god, whom they adore and reverence as the Unitary Executive and Decider of the Present Solar Clump.” If it’s a clue to anything, the Amelakites, mentioned in the book’s epigraph from I Samuel, were one of the ancient enemies of Israel, with no evidence of existing anywhere outside the Old Testament. I’m not sure if this leads to grace or the Hall of Laughter. 
I’ll try another approach. There are three generations of Mormons in Bradley’s own family and he has viciously excoriated their belief system (see chapter six of Fission Among the Fanatics before you send money to Mitt Romney). That may account for the distressed credos. I’d also aver that his preoccupation with teretogenic effects is from growing up in Utah downwind from nuclear test sights in Nevada, furthered by his current exile only a few train stops from Nagasaki (where he was an English professor until drummed out for mutating the syllabus). Pathogenesis of thought as well as body from nuclear radiation, runs through much of Bradley’s work, especially in Bomb Baby, itself textually mutated from the novel Kara-Kun from his Dai-Nippon Trilogy. 
Family Romance may best be read within its own self-extruded scutum, beginning with the title. A romance is traditionally defined as an entertainment, and there’s plenty of that in Nick Patterson’s haunting illustrations of robotoids and autotrophs crawling out of tar pits. There’s much to enjoy in Bradley’s wordplay, such as describing toadstools as “the albino kind that hickeys lightless cave walls.” There’s stand-up comedy of the Martin Amis sort: “Talk about tattoo regret: trendy unblood-lust outpacing subcutaneous discolor.” By definition, the romance occur in worlds (or word labs) far removed from the everyday. Its characters perform spectacular if not heroic deeds, in Bradley’s case like whole-head engulfment of someone else’s genome. Finally, there’s a practical ending to Family Romance, which satisfies the form’s didactic requirement. 
This book is not for those who pick their reading from eye-level in the check-out line, although for all its linguistic twistages it’s easier to read than you might expect. At one point the narrator advises you to stop reading and engage in “an eight to twelve hour introspection... and look inside the stacked deck called yourself.” If you’re good at speed introspection this might take only a few moments. It might take longer to master the suggested hieroglyphics, “the kind scraped on hot sandstone cliffs by accident of wind.” Whichever way you digest it, this bizarre story is ultimately a prophylaxis to thought perversion, the kind that results in the dreaded “Sneeze Catastrophic” that can blow off the whole front of your face. - John Ivan-Palmer            

CYE JOHAN interviews TOM BRADLEY:CJ: How did Family Romance get made?
TB: In just the opposite way from most illustrated novels. Nick Patterson's ninety pictures came first, and I wrote the novel around, between, underneath and through them. One day I came upon a great stack of his artwork, and was instantaneously locked in. Each image presented a climactic moment in a strange, unspoken, yet definite story.
Nick's drawings and paintings are like the hallucinations of epileptic mystics as preserved in icons and illuminated hagiographies. They rear up in the aether before your eyes, bristling their spikes of light, needing no context but themselves. Yet they insist that a whole chronicle be imaginatively filled in, to perform the impossible task of explaining how these bizarreries came to be juxtaposed.
CJ: One of Nick Patterson's online fans asked him how he came up with his stuff, and he replied, "I pay attention to random thoughts."
TB: A perfect motto for him. That single sentence gives a vivid glimpse into the head of such a visual artist. We all have dreams and daydreams that are so utterly without rational context that they vanish before we can recall anything but the most general outlines. Even those dissolve within seconds. Nick not only remembers all, but he draws it in meticulous detail. He gives a perfect anatomical rendering of something that never had anatomy in the first place, at least not on this plane of forms.
For example, in Chapter One of Family Romance, a giant moth has fastened onto the narrator's head. In context, it seems natural and inevitable that such a drastic pathogen would cause his face to explode in a catastrophic sneeze: scarlet gore, brain matter and eye jelly everywhere. And, of course, anyone familiar with the pneumatics of a physical body will tell you that such a traumatic shock will cause the muscles, connective tissues and blood vessels of his neck and shoulders to throb, swell, writhe-all drawn here to exacting clinical perfection.
It's a strange picture, for sure-and yet, the strangest part is not the physiology, but the fashion. Look at the garment he's wearing. Where the fuck did that come from? The style, the fabric: our novel starts with that article of clothing. Many of Nick's figures, the weak and strong, the beautiful as well as horrendous, wear this same peculiar kind of wrap-around sarong, pulled high or low on the torso, depending, it seems, on the moral and/or emotional condition of the wearer.
CJ: In keeping with the mystical iconographic mood, a couple of gods appear in the book. They remind me of mutated versions of the desert deities that have been the CEOs of our own world for such a long, miserable time.
TB: Definitely, they are both the jealous monotheistic type. Hence their rivalry. There's an Old Testament Jehovah figure, overbearing and monstrously snaggle-faced, and a species of Christ as well, who obeys the dress code. His sarong is pulled down around his pubis, to humiliate him when he's in execution mode.
This leads to the notion of religious warfare. And, according to logic (external as well as internal), the theater of operations must be the sort of Levantine-style desert where religious pathology takes root.
A war needs innocent victims, and Nick doesn't disappoint. The Relic Amalekites are grotesqueries with shoulder teeth, problematic crotches, and ostrich legs. Like all hallucinations, they have spontaneously generated between your skull walls. And there can be no greater proximity than inside the reptilian cortex. So we get refugees from the conflict zone, squatters in our back yard, eavesdroppers at the back window of the residence in which abides and writhes the eponymous family of this romance.
Above all is sinister, ravenous, erotic Mom, the Kali-Avatar, the Tantric Initiatrix. Her means of exerting control over her family is immune system anxiety, the constant evocations of such pathogens as the giant moth on the head that brings the Sneeze Catastrophic. Nude and protean, Mom indulges a compulsion to mount other creatures. She feeds us a jejune diet consisting solely of psychoactive mushrooms, feigning eucharistic shamanism.
I won't spoil the plot. But Mom eventually winds up nothing more than a medical waste disposal problem. The ending is vastly and ecstatically affirmative. Nick Patterson can draw that kind of picture as well. But, like an Eleusinian initiate, you must live through the entire psychodrama and make it through to the light at the other end of our labyrinthine cave before you've earned the right to be edified by his sublime images.
CJ: It must have been easy to choose a publisher. This just the sort of thing Debra Di Blasi's Jaded Ibis Press specializes in.
TB: Yeah, according to their website, "Our intent is to facilitate the convergence of diverse media and art forms." And you can't get more diverse than Nick Patterson and me. Family Romance has converged word and image to the point of seamlessness, like a wrap-around sarong with no buttons or zippers. -

Family Romance and We’ll See Who Seduces Whom are ekphrases. Ekphrasis is by definition synaesthetic: two or more art forms, under the aegides of disparate sense organs, mutually interpenetrate. And who is the greatest synaesthete of post-antiquity? Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin.
Family Romance and We’ll See Who Seduces Whom are Scriabinesque in their merging of visuals and verbals. In both books I have accepted the challenge posed by stacks of preexisting art. Nick Patterson is my collaborator in the former book, David Aronson in the latter. Their pictures came first, and I made the fiction and poetry, respectively, around them.
My method was derived explicitly from Scriabin’s unfinished monstrosity: the Mysterium. It’s a week-long rite, an apocalyptic liturgy of “omni-art” that absorbs and dissolves the entire sensorium: not just the visual, but auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, and even the famous “sixth sense” of the Buddhists, comprising manas and dharma. My particular art form, literary, can be said to engage the sixth sense most directly.
While our books are contained between covers, Scriabin’s Mysterium requires an entire gorge in the foothills of the Himalayas. It’s meant to be celebrated in a strangely protean cathedral, built for the occasion. This edifice will writhe and swell like a transcendent amoeba. Scriabin says, “…it will not be constructed of one single type of stone, but will continually change with the atmosphere and motion of the Mysterium.” The architecture is rendered malleable with psychoactive aerosols and the rhythmic projection of colors by a tastiera per luce, or “keyboard of lights.”

Family Romance and We’ll See Who Seduces Whom are less labor-intensive and don’t require such a large budget, but the idea is the same: what corresponds to brick and mortar in a printed work becomes protoplasmic as Scriabin’s venue. The illustrations of Nick Patterson and David Aronson, while divergent in style, share this shape-shifting quality. Though static in the literal sense, the longer these images are stared at, the more motion they communicate. It’s only natural to intermingle them with prose and poetry: those two contrivances that traverse time and space more efficiently, and violate solidity more roundly, than any other human inventions.
Part of Debra Di Blasi’s program at her great synaesthetical Jaded Ibis Press is to add a sound track to each of the books she publishes. I am recommending she make our track Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, for he just happens, by coincidence, to have written the perfect music to help me encompass my job of explaining how the Pattersonian and Aronsonian bizarreries came to be juxtaposed.
If Scriabin is the inner ear of our books, he comprises the entire central nervous system of the Mysterium. Cast in the role of Celebrant, he is seated at his grand piano in the very apse of the gaseous temple, directing what sounds like an orchestra of thousands. They are playing the strangest, most terrifyingly delirious music. A gigantic brace of mixed antiphonal choirs produce a roar without words, identified spontaneously in my mind with certain moiling mobs who stomp through Nick Patterson’s paintings: grotesqueries with shoulder teeth, problematic crotches, and ostrich legs.

I came to call these physiologically peculiar choristers the Relic Amalekites. You might recall from the first book of Samuel the penalty of genocide having been declared upon their remote ancestors by Jehovah. Accordingly, Scriabin often causes their vocalizations to be washed away as by a current of God-cursed blood. So I have placed the Relic Amalekites’ home turf–or, rather, home sand–on the banks of a river. When you listen to the Mysterium, you will understand why this waterway could only be called the Judeuphrates.
But from whose simultaneously super- and subhuman larynx issues the single voice that comes stabbing through the rout of Relic Amalekites? It’s a horrifically sublime soprano soloist, also unendowed with the capability of human speech. I knew, of course, that she could only be the aural counterpart of the naked woman who haunts so many of our books’ illustrations: a terrifying creature writhing and hemorrhaging across the pages.
Keeping in mind our Hindustani setting, I made her into the Kali-Avatar, the Tantric Initiatrix: sinister, ravenous, erotic Mom. Nude and protean, Mom often indulges a compulsion to mount the other creatures and characters who populate We’ll See Who Seduces Whom. In Family Romance she feeds her spawn a jejune diet consisting solely of psychoactive mushrooms: a eucharistic shamanism answering to the entheogenically tinctured mists that cause the walls and niches of the Mysterium cathedral to undulate like a unicellular protozoon.
 Meanwhile, bells the size of yacht hulls, alloyed of platinum and electrum, are hung from cumulonimbic clouds that swell among the oozing cathedral’s corbelled vaults. These clouds are engendered and seeded by entire metric tons of cinnamon and sandalwood, benzoin and mace, storax and galbanum, combusting in boundless bonfires and wafting over the attending multitudes. In their simultaneous week-long orgasm, Scriabin’s spectators and performers gradually become cloudlike themselves, indistinguishable one from another.
At this late point in my writing it became useful to supplement the Mysterium with another orchestral work, Prometheus: The Poem of Fire. Scriabin actually managed to finish this piece before he died, so it was consulted in the concoction of the climaxes and denouements of our twin ekphrases.
Up until the last chapters everything has been imbued with the famous Mystic Chord: C F# Bb E A D. All has been derived from iterations and inversions of this quartile pitch set. Miraculously, through a heroic act of will and faith on Scriabin’s part, Prometheus: The Poem of Fire resolves the dissonance into a stable F# minor triad. This sonic normalcy rings out at the final moment, when Scriabin’s commixed congregation and clergy are atomized in the perfumed clouds and drugged mists.
The promethean mystery has popped its climax: nothing less than the annihilation of humanity and the engendering of a more vigorous race of beings from primordial soup condensed in phosphorescing puddles on the cathedral pews. This corresponds perfectly to the moment, on the last page of Family Romance, where just such an extinction and transfiguration takes place in the consciousness of our protagonist. Nick Patterson depicts him as a blindfolded poet with huge hands, sweeping the strangest hieroglyphs upon a scroll that unfurls, roaring like a tidal wave. Scriabin can be sensed in that readable roar. 
 - Tom Bradley

Tom Bradley, A Pleasure Jaunt with One of the Sex Workers Who Don't Exist in the People's Republic of ChinaNeoPoiesis Press, 2012.

Tom Bradley received his novelist's calling at the age of nineteen. He climbed into the moonlit mountains around his hometown, where he got an unambiguous vocation with physical symptoms and everything, just like Martin Luther in the electric storm. He doesn't recall being on acid at the time. He buzzed permanently off from America in 1985, moved to Red China, and has lurked around the left rim of the Pacific ever since, in a successful search for sinecures that steal virtually no time and absolutely no mental energy from his writing.

Visit a relocation center for spastics, mental defectives and political derelicts in the jungle outside Foo-Chow. Help prepare Japan's Crown Princess for "bridal breach" in the Togu Palace. Watch youngsters being exposed to elemental mercury in a Soviet kindergarten. Poke around for uncollapsed blood vessels with a junkie tart during High Mass in China's underground church. Learn how to make a movie from absolute scratch using only stuff you can find in the back yard.


Tom Bradley, ed, New Cross-Fucked Musings on a Manic Reality, Dog Horn Publishing, 2011.

       Who are the Enigmatic Polygeneration? They were christened by Tom Bradley in chapter four of Put It Down in a Book, as follows: Digital connectivity has rendered physical locality irrelevant and made polyversality the new thing . . . Once space has been erased by the miracle of email, so has time, in terms of its effects on the human frame . . . In a creation where particles can spookily act upon each other at a distance of quadrillions of light years, the Seven Ages of Man are as days in the week, and a generation can span an open-ended number of decades . . . I'll invent a name that's doubly apt, as these writers produce electricity as well as useful heat.

This volume is ripe with prime produce sprung from minds that span five decades, but comprise a single literary generation.
And who are the Enigmatic Polygeneration? They were christened by Tom Bradley in chapter four of Put It Down in a Book, as follows:
Digital connectivity has rendered physical locality irrelevant and made polyversality the new thing . . . Once space has been erased by the miracle of email, so has time, in terms of its effects on the human frame . . . In a creation where particles can spookily act upon each other at a distance of quadrillions of light years, the Seven Ages of Man are as days in the week, and a generation can span an open-ended number of decades . . . I’ll invent a name that’s doubly apt, as these writers produce electricity as well as useful heat.
In this vast anthology, among other delights, you will meet a pornographic ventriloquist and a man who has spent a lifetime getting laid only because he looks like certain famous people. You’ll be taken deep into the heads of such gentry as Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper (who, we learn, was actually Bram Stoker), and Kerry Thornley, author of a book about Lee Harvey Oswald published before the Kennedy assassination.
Andrew Gallix will give you a crash course in transgression, and underground press legend Hugh Fox will bring you to understand what it means to be the small Jewish boy who would one day become Charles Bukowski’s first biographer.
Meanwhile, mighty Dave Migman teaches us how to live and die. Fabulous Adam Lowe reveals his adventures in cross-genre, multimedia literature. And lovely Deb Hoag . . . well, as usual, she’s got a surprise!

Tom Bradley, Calliope's Boy, Black Rainbow Press, 2011.       

A lapsed Mormon banjoist losing his mind on the London tube... A Japanese language teacher being fisted in the Utah desert by Uncompahgre Indians while their squaws gnaw on his fingers... An acid-addled fourteen-year-old's brain dalliance with an old lady in a Nevada psych ward... Who else could it be? "Tom Bradley is one of the most criminally underrated authors on the planet." - Andrew Gallix
Tom Bradley, Bomb Baby, Enigmatic Ink, 2010.                               

The bomb baby was in Hiroshima, in utero, at the moment of the glamorous detonation. As a result of prenatal exposure to gamma rays, he is tiny and mentally deficient, but his physical vigor is unimpaired. Living on a makeshift raft on the river that runs through town, he only comes ashore to disrupt high-tone weddings at Hiroshima Cathedral. It's a hobby for him. He disappears soon after spoiling a Yakuza wedding. This doesn't sit well with the leading lights of the expatriate community, who've adopted the bomb baby as a mascot. They dispatch Sam Edwine, a reluctant and inefficient American slob, to search "Boom Town's" sordid and musty places, of which there is a wide assortment...

Tom Bradley, Hemorrhaging Slave of an Obese Eunuch, Dog Horn Publishing, 2010.

In the middle of the Adriatic Sea during Neronic times, in Hiroshima Cathedral's demon-infested basement, in the royal elephant stables of a Hindustani town three millennia ago, in a Tokyo Aids hospice disguised as a derelict kindergarten, on a yacht anchored off a South China leper isolation colony, and on top of a skull-shaped and -textured geothermal formation in the prune-colored midnight. Celebrated author Tom Bradley's latest short story collection, Hemorrhaging Slave of an Obese Eunuch, will take you to all of these places.  
Tom Bradley, My Hands Were Clean, Unlikely Books, 2010.

The title comes from the doughty Megatherion's Autohagiography--

"My responsibility to the gods was
to write as I was inspired; my
responsibility to mankind was to
publish what I wrote. But it ended
there. As long as what I wrote was
technically accessible to the hands were clean."

--which is fitting, because this book is itself something of a saintly memoir. Read about Tom's teenage gig performing grotesquely on the harp at a geothermal spa, deep in the savage Utah desert. The place is run by a coven of polygamist Kali-worshipping tantric orgiasts who sell fake Crowleyana to rock star Jimmy Page.

Along the way, a journey is made in teen Tom's acid-addled mind to Germany's Stauffenberg Castle, where the Father of LSD conducts the World's First Planned Psychedelic Trip with Ernst Junger. A side-jaunt is taken to Enlightenment Vienna, where we cringe along with poor Mozart as he tries to teach a noble patron's daughter to play a substandard concerto--which just happens to be the highlight of Tom's repertoire.

Kane X. Faucher and Tom Bradley, Epigonesia, BlazeVOX, 2010.

Kane X. Faucher and Tom Bradley bullwhip some of literature's most vibrant luminaries, including Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, Antonin Artaud and Hunter S. Thompson. Through occult means, "Ebeneezer" Pound has reanimated his favorite dead authors as part of a villainous master plan. The re-embodied writers suffer through their tragicomic limitations as epigones of themselves. Faucher's puppeteering of Pound is matched by Bradley, who hurls into the text an annotated revelation of diabolic intrigue involving a dead author and a commandeered laptop.
Delight in this collaborative adventure of nested plots, uniting for the first time the virtuosic talents of Faucher with the vaulting wit of Bradley - two hulking giants of humour and the absurd.
What Kane X. Faucher and Tom Bradley have done is like going into Top Drawer Writer's Cemetery and having all the authors suddenly emerge from their tombs and start talking--and suddenly Bradley's notes turn it from pure fantasy into total believability. A fascinating combo of resurrection and meditation. One of the most original/unexpected books ever written. If you want to get into the souls of these authors, this is the place to start. - Hugh Fox 
A recursive, self-annotating romp through Arno Schmidt-like text commenting on text, annotating text, contradicting text. The later "Tablets" by Armand Schwerner also comes to mind. The effect is dizzying, hillarious, mystifying, Rabelasian, and is pulled off well. Faucher and Bradley are possessed of curvaceous minds which frame capacious thoughts which should be caught in mid-flight and unhusked by the prehensile wits of a wide range of readers.—Jesse Glass
This is no walk in the park, it’s a kidnapping, an abduction, as Faucher’s multiple personalities drag us by the hair, kicking and screaming, through the detritus of our own supposed civilization, a misnomer if ever there was one. Buckle up.—Greg Hainge

Tom Bradley, Even the Dog Won't Touch Me, Ahadada Books, 2009.

Stories that bounce back and forth across the Pacific as if it were a mud puddle: A seven-foot-tall member of the Greatest Generation gets to stay home from World War II and fornicate with his friends' wives... sexually ambiguous creatures lay a six-figure book advance on a harelip... an obese janitor in a Mormon prayer hall wedges himself behind the organ pipes, dies, and "fills the joint with green corpse steam..." Meanwhile, in China... A Palestinian medical student gets chained to a conveyor belt in a Manchurian abortion mill... a former Red Guard returns from rustication only to find his comrades running a bourgeois beauty salon called Syjvester Stajjone's... an American "foreign expert" hijacks a beggar's wheelchair and steals a baby...
Tom Bradley, Put It Down in a Book, The Drill Press, 2009.

The title comes from Yitzchak Luria: Writing is impossible because all things are related. I can hardly open my mouth to speak without feeling as though the sea burst its dams and overflowed. How then shall I express what my soul has received, and how can I put it down in a book? Rather than interpreting that as a cry of despair, or an expression of mystical awe (which is how the good rabbi consciously intended it), Tom Bradley has accepted Luria's utterance as a challenge. Allowing the "sea to burst its dams and overflow," acknowledging that "all things are related," he has refused to find writing impossible, and has put it down in this book about writing itself.

Tom Bradley, Vital Fluid, Crossing Chaos Enigmatic Ink, 2009.

"Herein lies the danger of the practice..., for if the mesmerist is corrupt of heart, foul of mind, and diseased of soul the vital fluid which he projects will be tainted..." Vital Fluid is inspired by the uncanny performances and fascinating life of John-Ivan Palmer, the top stage hypnotist in America today. Deceptively simple on the surface, delicately complex throughout the subtext, Vital Fluid masterfully merges two parallel story lines distanced by time and culture in this satiric alternate history / modern fantasy exploration. Two rival hypnotists are pitted against each other in an increasingly bizarre series of performances across an absurdly chaotic America; while, woven in like fine silk, a pair of Victorian era mesmerists match mystical wits before the intolerant and intolerable European bourgeoisie.
Tom Bradley, Lemur, Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2008.

Damnation and Salvation in the American Food Services Industry! Spencer Sproul is a would-be serial-killing bus boy who can't manage to murder, injure, or even scare anybody. He longs to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. Who wouldn't feel murderous working in a family style restaurant with an asshole boss, sadistic co-workers and Lemmy the Lemur as a mascot? But as hard as he tries he simply doesn't have a killer's instinct. However, there are ways to do damage to far more people and do it legally. Spencer learns that a family restaurant can be an instrument of torture, and quickly becomes a rising star in the food services industry. But before Spencer can take his seat of honor at the Merchant of the Month Award Banquet, he must bumble his way past a pederastic restaurant critic, a trash-talking sex worker, a cellulite-worshiping convenience store clerk, and a police force filled with homophobes, overeducated commies and greedy homicide detectives. It's an all-American success story!
Tom Bradley, Fission Among the Fanatics, Spuyten Duyvil, 2007.

"Tom Bradley's sixth book, FISSION AMONG THE FANATICS, is his most devastating assault yet on conformity culture, academic politics, religion, literary pretension and the all around follies of humankind" - John Ivan Palmer

"Tom Bradley is a writer of truly extravagant gifts . . . It is remarkable to me that anyone who writes at such length could have an ear as fine as his for the rhythms of prose - but every sentence is considered, balanced and felicitous . . . I'd be hard pressed to think of any writer who has Bradley's stamina, his range, his learning, his felicity" - Stephen Goodwin.

"I love the contradictions in Bradley's work: the subtlety beneath the rollicking humour; the precision, in his more political work, underlying the scathing tone; and the simplicity of his language throughout" - Val Stevenson

Tom Bradley, The Curved Jewels, Infinity, 2001.

In THE CURVED JEWELS, the Crown Princess of Japan gets tired of her living-death in the Imperial Palace, and escapes with the help of a couple of shady American expatriates.

"Tom Bradley's formidable prose evokes the work of two other towering Toms. Like Tom Pynchon, Bradley possesses the power to wield language like a stun gun; but he tempers his cynicism with genuine affection for his characters, a la Tom Robbins." -- Mainichi Daily News
Donald Richie, the world's number-one Old Japan Hand, is famous for reviewing positively every new book about his adopted country, or at least causing his underlings at The Japan Times to do so. But a few weeks ago he ducked an incoming. Richie maintains a small library at the national English-language daily where review copies are proudly displayed; but this particular item was such dynamite that he would not allow it to remain on  the premises -- this in spite of the masthead motto of The Japan Times: "All the News Without Fear or Favor."             
            Returning the book to the author, Mr. Richie wrote, "You wanted to write a controversial work, and you have... I doubt you'll ever get it reviewed in Japan."             
            What's so scary about Tom Bradley's THE CURVED JEWELS? It depicts affairs in the imperial household as less than rosy, that's what. Even if the story restricted itself to the level of light palace farce, with naughty retainers yawning at their posts, and peers exhibiting the occasional pursed flatulence, the mere presumption of intruding the eye of fiction upon the Holy Family in Tokyo would be enough to get a samurai-style fatwa declared on the author's head.             
            THE CURVED JEWELS goes much further than that. It tells about an outright escape by the Crown Princess, who is, with good reason, revolted by her husband.             
            Even though the latter's grandfather undeified himself on the radio quite a while ago, he and his male issue yet retain a substantial and powerful number of fanatical worshippers who respond murderously, preferably with swords and knives, to blasphemy and sacrilege. And THE CURVED JEWELS is full of that sort of thing. It takes us deep into the very heart of the Shinto state religion, straight to the sacrosanct Chamber of the Royal Regalia. There it defecates copiously and with panache, if that's possible.             
             Listen, for example, to Chica, the American hooker who helps the heroine slip away from her royal retainers. She gives some older-sisterly advice on marital relations:             
            "Girlfriend, if you thought international finance was boring, wait till you get into the sack with the tiny one... Maybe some night between the sheets you can persuade the Crown Prince to disembowel himself. Considering what his grandfather did to the rest of East Asia, it's the only honorable thing he can do with the rest of his life. That's according to their own ethical code."             
            Make no mistake: this kind of thing gets people killed in Japan. The mayor of Nagasaki was shot for less.             
            So, into such a delicately balanced milieu swaggers this gigantic, blabbermouthed, multiple award-winning American novelist. Tom Bradley comes traipsing into Japan directly from being thrown out of China for infuriating the power structure there with similar high jinks (see his novel BLACK CLASS CUR, and his Salon article, "The Bathtub Revolutionary").             
            Salman Rushdie had the common sense not to be in-country when yanking the cat's whiskers. Bradley, on the other hand, just last Columbus Day, from his place of exile on an obscure Japanese island, announced to an audience of about 175,000 his intention to become the next poster boy for Freedom of the Press.             
            This vast indiscretion was committed live, during the webcast of a global conference on the future of cyber-communications, hosted by none other than Vint Cerf himself, Father of the Internet. Incredibly enough, our author somehow managed to wangle from the brilliant Mr. Cerf an invitation to represent the archipelago of Hirohito in this region-by-region, round-the-world, multimedia techno-extravaganza. Bradley took advantage of that formidable pulpit to stray completely off-topic and brashly beard the people who, during World War Two, without the aid of advanced technology, sliced and diced millions of civilians, helpless and unarmed, not unlike Bradley himself.             
            Despite this megalomaniacal urge for public self-annihilation, which the present reviewer finds a bit unsettling -- or, indeed, perhaps because of his unwholesome Christ complex -- Tom Bradley has turned out a marvelous novel, a splendid fifth volume to cap off his astounding SAM EDWINE PENTATEUCH.             
            It is nearly impossible for fiction with such emphatic topical interest to rise above it and achieve any semblance of universality; but Bradley has given us the very portrait of womanhood striving for freedom in the person of the brilliant polyglot princess. THE CURVED JEWELS blurs expertly the line between roman-a-clef and pure fiction. We follow the progress of this suffering soul from her retirement into the cave of despair, to her ecstatically numinous emancipation in a very surprising affirmation of everything the book has been subverting all along.        
              Here's the strange old Head Chamberlain of the Board of Ceremonies describing to the princess the theophany that will result when she embraces her destiny as the latest reincarnation of the Sun Goddess:         
              "Most fortunate Empress-to-be!...stop pouting and welcome this mighty new apotheosis of yours! Hug it tight with all four youthful limbs!...I can say this to you without qualification...You are, quite precisely, the only woman on earth to whom genuine numinosity is still available. You are the embodiment of the last true religion.           
              "An economical three-color print of your benevolent face will more than fill any vacancy left by a VCR. The strains of the devout chanting your name in the corner shrine will drown out, once and for all, the profane stridor of the karaoke taverns...
              "...when our humble and comely folk look up
, who will be there to meet their gaze? They will behold none other than their own Princess, hovering at the eastern brink with, ah!, bright wings! Smooth and numinous in her Heian silks, gentle and soft-spoken in her persona, she shall glow with renewal in the old ways!"
And here is the woman's auto-theophany--
              "...she dreamed a megalomaniacal dream... She was the sun, with earthly and heavenly omnipotence bristling from each of her pores like excess body heat, though immeasurable. The treetops beneath her feet cast shadows that radiated outward from her glorious center-point, while balding creatures cowered and quaked behind the trunks of those trees and cupped their hands over their groins in shame..."             
            Bradley is one of those rare authors whose honesty runs so deep that his characters often take over their sections of the novels and prove their creator wrong, if not wrong-headed. The ending is simultaneously tawdry and glorious, with equal weight given to either perspective by Bradley's virtuosic and uncannily self-effacing narrative technique.     
             This and the other east Asian volumes of THE SAM EDWINE PENTATEUCH provide a welcome antidote to the works of those would-be Orientalists: hermaphroditic Lafcadio Hearn-like creatures who attempt to scribble their way into a geisha's knickers, if she wears any; and those women who, from the safety of California, write tales of their grandmas' agonies in the Cultural Revolution, meanwhile exhibiting a mastery of their presumably ancestral tongue which is is questionable at best. Desiring to assimilate themselves gently among the eastern people in the forlorn hope of being at one with them, these cultural mutants wind up writing books that go no deeper than the various Asiatic gerontocracies would want them to go.
              Bradley's fictional alter-ego, Sam Edwine, on the other hand, is the truly uprooted man, occidental to the core. He is proud that his ears are "virginal of the lingos of General Toe-Jam and Mousey Dung." He stumbles around in THE CURVED JEWELS like Lemuel Gulliver through a particularly unpleasant Lilliput, surrounded by--
              "...uncounted hundreds of thousands of styrofoam incinerators that simmer hot dioxins all across this quadrant of the North Pacific every day and night. Many of them are tucked under classroom windows and near children's recreational facilities; all are perfectly unregulated. Most are tended, or at least ignited, by native men whose masculinity is mollified by the use of fancy cigarette lighters which they pull from their front trouser pockets."
              What if Donald Richie and his handlers at the non-scandal sheet had mustered not only the guts, but the literary conscience, to give Bradley's incredible novel the notice it deserves? The most they could've expected would be one or two gigantic black sound trucks obstructing traffic in front of their building, blaring far-rightist martial music at sadistic levels of volume. At the very worst, the editor-in-chief's face might have been slashed a tad by a Yakuza hireling's razor in the parking lot after work. But The Japan Times and collaborator Richie took the safe route of acquiescent Zen silence. They obediently demurred, and did their bit in attempting to silence the perpetrator of this beatific blasphemy. (One is reminded of Xerxes' efforts to fetter the Hellespont.)             
            Meanwhile, Bradley himself remains hunkered and bunkered on his "Pacific Patmos," as he calls it in another novel. He continues to sing and shout at the top of his lungs, and risks having his liver bisected at any moment on the street with the shorter version of the samurai sword, the wakizashi, which is used for suicide, and is also concealed about the person for sneak assassinations. Beheadings, random frenzied amputations, and other such military exercises, as in Nanjing, are generally effected with the longer and more illustrious katana blade. (Just a little background on Japanese culture there.)             
            Fortunately for Mr. Bradley, the English reading ability of most devotees of the emperor is nil. And so far he doesn't seem to have been tempted with any translation deals -- a temptation this hell-raiser could be relied upon never to funk.             
            Till that apocalyptic moment in publishing history, THE CURVED JEWELS will have to be read in the gorgeously composed original. It's currently available as a single volume, and will soon appear, together with a pair of other Nippophobic Bradley masterpieces, in HUSTLING THE EAST, A DAI NIPPON TRILOGY.
Excerpts of his SAM EDWINE PENTATEUCH (of which THE CURVED JEWELS constitutes the climax), plus reviews, an interview, and a couple hours worth of recorded readings by this mellifluous-voiced novelist (his tones have been compared to Orson Welles'), along with a bizarre and compelling series of technicolor self-portraits (he ends looking like a Rouault Christ), can be found at


Tom Bradley, Killing Bryce, Infinity, 2001.

Killing Bryce shows the disintegration of a family of Jack-Mormons who get scattered across two continents like bits of rock salt sprayed from the muzzle of a shotgun.

Tom Bradley, Kara-kun, Flip-kun, Infinity, 2001.

This two-part novel is set in Hiroshima, fifty years after the fact. The title character of Kara-Kun was in utero at the moment of the atom bomb's detonation, and is mentally deficient, like many such "bomb babies." His hobby is disrupting weddings at the cathedral. Not surprisingly, Kara-kun disappears soon after spoiling a Yakuza wedding...
In Flip-Kun, an American is being stalked through Hiroshima by "hit-missionaries" from a certain American pseudo-religion, whose patriarchs have declared a western-style fatwa on his head. "A wicked imagination...sheer invention..." - The Daily Yomiuri


Tom Bradley, Black Class Cur, Infinity Publishing, 2001.

Written after two years of living in China, Black Class Cur is set in that country on the eve of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The main characters are a former Red Guard and his younger brother who gets fatally involved in the student demonstrations. They come up against an American "foreign expert" whose preoccupation is locating a baby to adopt, with or without the help of a gang of third-world medical students. Black Class Cur was nominated for the Editor's Book Award. "...a narrative that begins with controlled wildness and a touch of the absurd, and escalates from there."

Tom Bradley, Hustling The East, Xlibris Corporation, 1999.

Three novels of contemporary Japan, featuring that disgruntled expatriate, Sam Edwine...
Kara-kun is set in Hiroshima, fifty years after the fact, where Sam brings the foreign community face-to-face with the Japanese Mafia. In Flip-kun, Sam is being stalked through Hiroshima by fundamentalist missionaries who suspect him of being the author of a blasphemous book, and have declared a western-style fatwa on his head. In The Curved Jewels, the Crown Princess of Japan gets tired of her living-death in the Imperial Palace, and escapes with Sam's help. A merciless humor and tireless passion for words not seen since the King James Bible drive Bradley's work at bullet-train speed through unmapped areas of linguistic elasticity and imagination. Readers once begun will find their concentration hostaged from all other diversions until they reach the last page. - David Wood

Tom Bradley, Acting Alone, Browntrout Pub, 1995.

R. V. Cassill called Acting Alone "a vast maelstrom spun from an imagination of superlative dimensions". Stanley Elkin found Tom Bradley's first published novel to have "an incredible energy level." The book they are describing opens at a cow college in Kansas, proceeds to holiday doings in Kiev, Nebraska, home of a disturbed young marine recently released by the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, then spirals unpredictably toward Cheyenne Mountain, home of NORAD (the North American Air Defense Command) and the convent of the Servant Sisters of Saint Willibrord of Perpetual Adoration. There a dangerous plot spun by a renegade Mormon threatens to upset the protagonist's plans for material and marital well-being.

Tom Bradley, The Screaming Tree,  HarperCollins, 1994.

Brent Nichol, 16, often hears screamimg in his head. When he goes to stay with his secretive grandfather and finds an old trunk in a lake, he discovers the terrifying source of the screaming.

Tom Bradley:
excerpt from Energeticum / Phantasticum: a Profane Epyllion in Seven Cantos


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