Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Much Delayed Ray Fracalossy Interview

One of my favorite writers, whom I stumbled upon almost accidentally at the (currently non-operational) New Absurdist, author of Tales from the Vinegar Wasteland (rereleased by LegumeMan ), Ray Fracalossy, allowed me to pester him with a few questions.  He answered these questions.  Then I decided to publish the whole thing, call it an interview and post it here on my blog.  Without further ado:

GAB: When did you start writing?

RF: I've dabbled with writing since high school, but never found my voice until I discovered the New Absurdist website around 2003. I actually discovered the site through a surrealist newsgroup.

GAB: Why do you write?

RF:I think I mostly write as therapy. I'm also not a writer who feels any need to mass produce. In fact, I'm of the opinion that most people only have a limited number of stories within them before they begin to repeat themselves. I think that's true with most art as well.

GAB: You have expressed to me previously that you think of yourself as an absurdist. In your mind how is absurdism different from other genres such as surrealism, irrealism, magical realism or Bizarro?

RF:I've heard all those terms tossed around. Modern absudism is virtually indistinguishable to surrealism and irrealism. I'm sure there may be subtle differences, but they're all contrived.

It comes down to a preference in labeling. Magical realism is a different beast, and I find that term a little confusing. From what I know, they share elements, but absurdist writing is much freer. That was my initial attraction to the genre. It can be very non-linear. There doesn't even need to be a plot, a definite beginning or ending or any strong characterization. There can be all those things, but it's not necessary.

Bizarro is just a catch phrase. A made up genre trying to tie all oddball writing together under one umbrella. So I guess all absurdist fiction is Bizarro, but not all Bizarro is absurdist. Again, lots of common elements. I'm not a big fan of the term. It implies certain things.  Bizarro seems to attract writers captivated by disturbing images. I think a lot of Bizarro authors would be writing horror if they didn't find that genre so over done. It's also very cultish and kitschy, tons of pop culture references. Very B-movie influenced. I think my main complaint with the genre is its disposition towards novels over short stories. I love short stories. There also tends to be a lack of childlike innocence concerning Bizarro. Often they appear to be shooting for shock value, or a gross out.

GAB: Which other absurdists are you reading?

RF: Daniil Kharms is a must. Other old schoolers I enjoy reading include Alexander Vvedensky and Eugene Ionesco. Barry Yourgrau is real good. His stories are always short and in the first person. Very dreamlike. Other good reads include Eric Chevillard and Valery Ronshin. Lewis Carroll ranks high. At the moment I tend to be reading more nonfiction. I've always preferred it.

GAB: What non-fiction in particular?

RF: Biographies, anything regarding altered states of consciousness, texts pertaining to the spiritual or paranormal.

GAB: Are there any Bizarro authors that you do particularly enjoy reading?

RF: D. Harlan Wilson, Kevin Donihe, Matt Revert, Bradley Sands, Gina Ranalli. (Although she isn't fond of the label either.) Again, my favorite stuff by them is their short stories. I'm not up on Bizarro. Not following it, I may be missing writers I would really enjoy. Christy Leigh Stewart is really good as well. You can find a bunch of her short stories online ( Very clever stuff. I'm also a fan of your writing.

GAB: Also, you've got a relatively unconventional view of psychopharmacology. Can you elaborate on your views of the subject and explain how this ties in with your overall worldview, view of the mind, writing as a therapy, etc.? 

RF: Wow, heavy stuff. Like a rather large portion of the population, I've had my own personal experiences. I'm neither for nor against dabbling with chemically altered states. It can indeed come with a price, but life is a series of gambles. Considering that the human population spends their sleeping hours in a hallucinatory state, and while awake experiences everything from memory flashbacks, daydreams, fantasies, and the countless hours we sit hypnotized by television and music, which is another very real altered state. People cry at movies. How weird is that? So dabbling in chemical realities is not really all that unnatural for mankind. It's the nature of the beast.

I often feel guilty being caught in the consumers web spending money buying books and music, material possessions, but I think we need it. We need the Internet. We need new experiences, new sounds, new thoughts, CONSTANTLY. I think that is the real purpose of life. Live, and send those experiences back to the source.

Regarding writing as therapy, it's often used in psychology. Hard to say its impact on me, as I'm restless, and tend to need a drink or something just to sit still and focus. Most of my writing is done late at night, or semi intoxicated.

GAB: I too love short stories and find it puzzling that in our fast-paced, instant gratification culture that novels far outsell short fiction collections. What's you theory about why this might be?
RF: I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's like certain movies. Lots of action, everything is spelled out. People don't want to think too much. So a novel paints everything out for them. But it's a lot more effort reading a novel. I'm a horrible reader. Most novels I've read, I read in bits. I put them down and move on to something else, and return to them much later. Reading itself can zone you out. I can't maintain that focus. My bookshelf is full of books, all with bookmarks stuck in them.

GAB: Do you find that films have an impact on your writing? If so, which ones have been particularly influential upon you?

RF: The Marx Brothers movies have probably influenced me. Other than that, I think only the approach has influenced me, meaning sometimes I'd write a scene as if I were writing a film script. I'd see the scene in my head as if it WAS part of a movie, and try to do it justice.

GAB: And music - you played in the band Lord John. Do you find much connection between the composition and performance of music, and the process of writing fiction?

RF: Only in the finalizing process. Tweaking a song is not that different than doing editing. Similar mind set. In both cases you're looking for the definitive final version of a piece of art. Other than that, it's apples and oranges.

GAB: Is "Tales" the only book you've written?

RF: The only novel. I have two e-books available for free download: mOsbURAnd and Garbage Head.

GAB: Was Tales from the Vinegar Wasteland a very personal story? It seems like there are elements of your self in it, though maybe I'm just wishing them to be there.

RF: Stupidly so, to the point that I was certain huge amounts of it wouldn't make sense to the general public. There were a huge amount of ‘in' jokes in it, as well as other personal things, such as things people had told me, or odd things customers at work would spout, and I'd scribble down.

The blue gary apple game is an actual game my nephew created where you chase someone, and yell, "Get back here, you Blue Gary Apple." It was too weird not to use somehow. He was also the inspiration for the flashback where the main character thinks back on a children's book he's read, where a boy's pillows come to life. I used to make up stories for him about such events. There's mention of The Jesus Lightbulb, which I thought would be a good band name. The chapter titled "More money for paisley shirts" was an unused song title for my ex-band The Narc Twins. Gregory has a fear of dogs, like myself. The main character has a phobia of driving, and is extremely introverted, also like myself. I don't think it's possible to write without throwing huge chunks of yourself into the mix. I think those are the bits the reader enjoys the most, because they come off as the most true. But I do wonder how much of the obscure bits I put in there made sense to anyone at all.

I also made myself a character in the book, and it's a fairly well defined representation of myself, seen through my own eyes.

I threw just about everything into this book, because I wasn't sure where I stood creativity wise. I was feeling as if I'd spent my load, was insecure about myself and the future in general, and pulled a Dylan. There's a story where Dylan was so unsure of the future that he composed "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" from the first lines of a stack of songs. I constructed Vinegar Wasteland the same way. It's a swan song, in case I never do anything else. It breaks the fourth wall, uses allegory, is self aware, and uses a bunch of tricks and gimmicks to grab the reader. I threw in the proverbial kitchen sink, thinking if this is the totality of my official output, hopefully down the line, someone will sing its praises.

I'd also like to announce its re-release by Australian publishers LegumeMan. It's an honor that they found my trashy little novel worthy of a second pressing. And many thanks to Afterbirth Books for giving me an outlet in the first place. I'd also like to say the best thing that could possibly happen would be if my book influenced someone who went on to have some success. Good luck to all you odd ball writers out there. Don't lose the faith. Keep believing and producing.

No comments: