The agent totally gets it. As a prolific writer of poetry that involves everything from crop circles to telekinesis, he totally gets writing that fuels a desire for ‘another world, and yet one to which we feel the tie.’ Borrowing from Melville. That Melville.
The agent describes my work as ‘literary genre.’ Aware of the market difficulties for short stories, he arranged with a friend who runs a small press in Denmark, Les Editions du Zaparogue, to put out my collection of stories and poems called Ink. Kris Saknussemm (Zanesville, Enigmatic Pilot) in the forward describes me as a ‘Poet of the Raw Peculiar.’
‘I have no doubt that there exist photographs of the writer as a young, smiling, apparently normal little girl’ he writes. There does. ‘ But somewhere along the way, something happened.’ Okay. ‘A mutation of mind.’ I’ll take that too. And I’ll be in good company.
The poet Beddoes said of Mary Shelley, that ‘she has no business to be a woman by her book.’
Like many genre writers—male and female—my work has met with the usual comments, often from family members that, well, it’s not really their kind of thing. Mmmmm. After dutifully buying a copy of the book at the launch, a relative called me up, confused. He couldn’t quite make the connection between who (he thought) I was, and what he’d read. As another colleague of Shelley’s said to her:
‘You are cool, quiet and feminine to the last degree… explain this to me.’
Another guest at my launch, a Bosnian woman who has known her share of horror but who I only knew until then as the mother of one of my kid’s friends, also bought a book. I felt so exposed. Lord, we’d sat at school assemblies together, and now. NOW she’d see me as I really am. Kind of. I mean there is that story about the talking dog called Clint Eastwood. And the one about the armless piano player. The monster who saved the life of a concussed child by sticking a tongue up her nose. The boy who bit the devil’s scrotum. The lonely zombie who hungers for some of Mrs Baldacci’s nettle risotto, but must now make do with Mrs Baldacci herself.
My new Bosnian friend wrote to me a few days later.
‘… I see you as someone that is able to “feel”, sense the world on much deeper level than majority of the people……your understanding of tiny things that define us is incredible…..I hope people give you back for what you offer them.’
Our understanding of the tiny things that define us. Literature right? The good stuff. So how does the bogey man fit into that? I’m teaching Hamlet and Aeschylus’s Oresteia for a lit class at UWS. Everyone knows there’s a ghost in Hamlet, and witches in Macbeth. Faeries, monsters and magicians in The Tempest. Does that make them ghost stories, horror and fantasy respectively? Yes and more. In the third play of the Oresteia, The Eumenides, not only does the ghost of a murdered queen pretty much chew up all the scenery, but also the central characters are the Furies, ancient goddesses of the underworld generated from the castrated penis of Uranus. Bizarro? Horror? The Old Weird?
I think the point is that if we’re lucky, genre can attack anywhere, anytime. And we wouldn’t have literature without it.
Written by J.S. Breukelaar
You can visit J.S. Breukelaar at The Living Suitcase