FEW WRITERS WEAPONIZE a reader’s trust like Brian Evenson. To engage with his brand of “epistemological horror,” as he has described it, is to feel the disturbing pleasure of finding yourself stranded — in worlds less stable, minds less bearable, and uncertainties less resolvable than you’ve been led to expect. His books have a way of bothering you long after you’ve put them down, and a way of making most other fiction seem remarkably safe.
Evenson’s newest collection of short stories, Song for the Unraveling of the World, once again drops readers into a series of unpredictable realities, written in a deadpan style which renders even familiar genres sparser and stranger. In “Born Stillborn,” a patient’s therapist (or is it the therapist’s twin?) begins making mysterious visits in the middle of the night. In “Line of Sight,” a film director senses something imperceptibly wrong with his latest movie. My favorite of the collection, “The Second Door,” defamiliarizes a standard sci-fi setting — a space station is described from the point of view of an orphan who only has his older sister for guidance. He begins to distrust her when the sound of clattering metal replaces her voice. Taken together, the stories probe the tension between unreliable narrators and an unreliable world, amplifying our own uneasiness about what we may or may not know.
Evenson is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three O. Henry Prizes. His novel Last Days (2009) won the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel, and his novel The Open Curtain (2006) was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an International Horror Guild Award. Over email, he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about environmental collapse, the work of Lydia Davis, and the advantages of the novella form.
You may have seen the headlines lately, saying that famed pseudonymous street artist Banksy was being “forced” into opening up a pop up store in London in order to secure a trademark and prevent “a greetings card company” from selling “fake Banksy merchandise.” Banksy also claimed that the company was “attempting to take custody of my name.” Banksy and Banksy’s artwork are somewhat famous for protesting against commercial incentives and traditional capitalism — so many people rushed to Banksy’ defense, because from the initial description, it sounded like Hallmark or some sappy corporate giant of that nature was trying to rip off Banksy images for its own benefit.
Turns out that the story is very, very different. And doesn’t make Banksy look very good at all once you understand the details. First, the “greeting card” company in question, Full Colour Black, has responded via a Facebook post, and you realize it’s a tiny home-based business and it’s not trying to take anyone’s name or sell fake merchandise at all. Indeed, contrary to some of the reporting, it’s not “suing” over anything. It just put forth a completely legitimate challenge to Banksy’s sketchy and probably illegitimate trademark on the “flower bomber” image (whose official name is apparently “Rage, Flower Thrower.”)
Salvador Dalí’s romance with film and the visual arts is a relatively well-known chapter in the life of the original and controversial Spanish (Catalan) artist (1904-1989). His collaboration with Luis Buñuel in the writing of Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age D’Or (1930) has been extensively examined and documented. However, his explorations of video art with the production of the “documentary” Impressions de la haute Mongolie. Hommage a Raymond Roussel (1974-75) remain an episode of his long and successful creative career only acknowledged by the specialist. The fact that the video production has not been commercialized by, more or less, vague reasons related to copyright disputes did not help to make this innovative work better known. The “videografía”, written in collaboration with its director José Montes Baquer and produced with Sony-Cologne and WDR, narrates the exploration of Dalí to the remote land of Mongolia in search of the Great White Mushroom. Salvador Dalí, a consummate expert in media manipulation, invites the spectator to become his accomplice and partner in what it seems a drug-induced “trip” to a faraway and distant land where wonderful treasures are hidden. By means of advanced technology in film and the visual arts of the time (video, electronics, macro photography), Dalí strives to reveal optically the metamorphoses of matter with the purpose of revealing a new artistic reality. The journey –inspired by the psychedelic aesthetic of the seventies and narrated by Dalí in Catalan, with French subtitles that roughly translates his words– will offer the possibility of exploring the cosmos through the observation of a small metal piece magically transformed by Dalí’s secret techniques. The adventure concludes in a Catalan town where the crowd participates in a public ceremony of communal painting (a true “happening”) conducted and directed by Dalí. The multitude will worship him as a king (or so he intends) who does not shy away from acting as a clown.
The homage that Dalí pays to himself in the film is made extensive to the figure of his beloved Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), the author of Locus Solus (1914) and Nouvelle Impressions d’Afrique (1932) whose homonymic puns where so celebrated by the Surrealists, and are the base for Dali’s explorations of the double-image and the macro/micro reality on which his own impressions are based.