Douglas Rushkoff in conversation with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

When I received a call from Tim Leary, requesting me to pick up Genesis P‑Orridge on my way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I was apprehensive yet ignorant.

As the founder of industrial music group Throbbing Gristle and psychedelic-inspired Psychic TV, P‑Orridge was notorious for collecting pubic hair and semen samples from his devotees, tattooing his wife’s labia, and shooting mock abortions on film.

Following the misinterpretation of these videos by police, who assumed them to be true satanic homicide ceremonies, Genesis and his family were not able to come back to England without the threat of being jailed.

Genesis had become extremely famous in the U.K., but the pressure of it caused his marriage to fail.

Timothy Leary, who had himself been an exile, offered him a place to stay in Beverly Hills, right near the house that was inhabited by Trent Reznor at the time.

At the arranged coordinates, I was astonished to come across Gen accompanied by his two daughters, aged roughly seven and ten.

Throughout the six-hour drive, they were quarreling in the rear seat as Gen utilized every threat and reward he could think of to get them to be quiet.

In the following decade, we shared a strong connection due to our common struggles with the everyday, more than any creative or cultural beliefs.

Sometimes, when he had a disagreement with Lady Jaye (Jackie Breyer P‑Orridge), he’d come stay at my apartment. I’d also go to Gen for advice when I felt I lacked the courage to go through with my ideas, or when I was receiving too much criticism.

Gen convinced me to get married and we collaborated on multiple projects, including a few books. I even played keyboards for the reformed Psychic TV (PTV3) for a year.

Our strongest connection was that he helped me to eliminate the divide between my personal and creative life. I dedicate my life to understanding and utilizing media, and his life and body became the medium itself.

Gen’s most recent endeavor is a cutup experiment called Pandrogeny, for which s/he and Lady Jaye decided to go through gender-challenging plastic surgeries to make themselves look more alike.

Unfortunately, Jaye passed away abruptly and unexpectedly, leaving Genesis Breyer P‑Orridge as not only a partner, but one half of a real-life art project.

A mere week after Jaye was laid to rest, I visited their Ridgewood apartment, equipped with a small video recorder.

We then hopped on a subway to Manhattan so Gen could take care of the financial matters that arise when a spouse passes away. Gen had the desire to discuss this with me and document it for posterity.

— Douglas Rushkoff

According to Rushkoff, technology can be both liberating and constraining. It can give people the power to express themselves and to connect with others, or it can be used to manipulate and control.

He believes that it is up to us to decide how to use technology and to make sure that it serves us, rather than vice versa.


DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: To kick off, let’s go over the basics for those who may be unfamiliar with Pandrogeny.

You’re wearing women’s clothing and have a larger bust size; so, what distinguishes Pandrogeny from transvestism or being transgender?

GENESIS BREYER P‑ORRIDGE: The concept of Pandrogeny is distinct from that of transgender people in that it is focused on union instead of gender.

To illustrate, while transgender people feel they are “trapped” in a body of the wrong gender, Pandrogeny is about being trapped in the body itself.

In this sense, Pandrogeny strives to unite opposing forces and transcend the binary social system that is based on illusion.

DR: Isn’t that something which occurs during physical intimacy?

GO: Undoubtedly, the climax. When a couple climaxes together, that is a moment of pandrogeny. When a baby is born, it is pandrogynous in a sensual sense as it is the merging of two people.

DR: Therefore, the capacity to transcend gender and polarity is already available to us with the use of memes. So why take the more complicated route of medical surgeries, implants, and the difficulties of using the ladies’ room as a pandrogene?

Does the physical process of combining gender traits really do more to disband these polarities than to emphasize them?

GO: To start off, Jaye and I had a very romantic relationship and we decided that we didn’t want any kids, but still desired to merge together.

This is something that many couples strive for, an urge to become one another in an almost consuming manner. We began to express this by dressing similarly and then proceeded to make minor alterations to our physical forms.

We wanted to solidify this urge and thus decided to try and look as similar as possible.

This was initially a very self-centered decision, but we soon realized that our idea of merging was comparable to William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s The Third Mind, where the product of their collaboration was a third entity created from the two of them.

We believed that if we used each other as separate individuals, we could create a third state of being, what we called a pandrogene.

We discussed this idea of short-circuiting control a lot, particularly in regards to DNA, which we saw as a tool of control, and even a parasite. We believed that we were just vessels at its disposal.

DR: We used to have conversations about “Breaking sex” as a way of rebelling against the laws of genetics. It’s even possible that death could be a programmed outcome of our DNA and not something else…

Attaining GO is a must: –it is an absolute necessity.

DR: Tim [Leary]’s and Bob [Robert Anton Wilson]’s concepts about extending life were based on these ideas as well.

GO: We concluded that the only way to bring about an alteration was to manipulate human behaviour and challenge the binary system that has been in existence in all cultures for many centuries.

This is when we begin to think about the concept of evolution. In prehistoric times, people were not exactly making it simple for me as I could not help but consider the fact that Jaye was no longer alive.

DR: The core issue we have been discussing is what is really being asked here.

GO: The essential takeaway is that people must understand the human body is not something holy. We have the capability to transform ourselves, whether it be for better or worse. It is our purpose to continue to evolve.

Our species is still behaving in outdated ways, both on the large and small scale. “If something is different, if it is unfamiliar, or if it puts our resources at risk or disrupts our normalcy, then it must be eliminated….”

DR: Thus, instead of seeing activism as an action one takes, it should be thought of as an identity.

Aspiration: To be or to become.

DR: But, with Jackie’s death, do you experience the effects on two levels, both as a pandrogene and as an individual?

GO: From my perspective as a fifty-seven year old, who has been indoctrinated to live in a binary world, I experience a sense of loss from an emotional standpoint.

Intellectually, I understand that she has broken through the ultimate mental blockade. If humanity continues to reproduce aimlessly, it will be doomed.

It is obvious what was worrying us at the beginning, which was the ever-widening gap between ideas and their reduction to dogmatism and fear.

This idea of there being a right and wrong way and the need to attack one another. Pandrogeny is a way to bypass this and make it irrelevant – if we all had a pandrogynous mentality, it would be impossible to have a war because there would be no recognition of differences.

DR: Does the project carry on? Are you going to be a single pandrogene?

GO: It’s not convenient to have all the ideas we had in mind for the projects and have to represent them without the use of both of us. I will have to figure out an alternate way to express them.

DR: Why not start with death? It’s the most undeniable duality of them all. Gender may be a superficial construction, something that can be easily seen through, like you’ve demonstrated. Nevertheless, death is much more convincing.

We die and our genes are passed on to the next generation. Death appears to be the ultimate triumph of DNA over us.

Section Two: Performance-Oriented Blended Pieces

I recently played our PTV3 record for a Rolling Stone reviewer, who declined to be identified.

Their response was, “It’s competent, but this song seems to be a derivative of the Doors, another a take on old Pink Floyd, and yet another is The Velvet Underground.”

I was aware that we were taking inspiration from some of those bands, but I didn’t think of it as stealing, copying, or even a tribute. PTV was “sampling” these sounds before samplers were even invented.

The intent was not to simply appropriate, correct?

GO: No, this is a conscious cross-reference, because the younger generation today is unaware of the history of their own music.

Visiting the record shops on St. Marks and bringing up the name of the Doors often elicits a response of, “Who?” They are familiar with Interpol, but not so much with Joy Division.

I find it strange when musicians and authors act as if their work was never affected by anything else, that it all comes from them and is entirely unique.

On the contrary, I think that everything is continuous and it is important to provide an informative foundation as well as an entertaining one. As such, it is essential to refer to what did influence or inspire you.

Every band that exists today initially attempts to be like their favorite band in some way, that’s how it starts.

Without ever expressing it verbally.

Yes: Definitely.

DR: Even without being aware of the influences on the band, they may attempt to hide them by altering certain chords to make them unrecognizable. They may be embarrassed by these influences, as if it weakens their originality.

However, this is not the case for the Talmudic rabbis, who often cite the teachings of earlier rabbis when conversing.

They are proud to reference these earlier works and embrace the knowledge of their predecessors.

Affirmative: Absolutely.

DR: Then, one could include their own creative interpretation to the tradition. Knowing one’s roots gives the latest contribution more power and significance.

However, in the current copyright and profit-driven world, claiming solo ownership appears to be preferred above acknowledging source, ancestry, or tradition.

To have been inspired by something could indicate that one is obligated to pay someone.

GO: During the ’60s, my peers and I had the opportunity to do light shows for Pink Floyd. We traveled around London to places such as the UFO Club and the Arts Lab, and we even stayed in squats in 105 Piccadilly.

Since then, I have created music and art continuously. Therefore, I believe that I have the right to draw inspiration from my own era.

People seem to overlook the fact that I am a ’60s band leader and that I am not plagiarizing, but rather paying homage to my roots by highlighting the most stimulating aspects of that heritage.

DR: Before computers, sampling and mixing existed, PTV was around. So rather than taking pieces of tape from other bands and combining them, the practice of combining styles and sounds was done through performing.

This was a kind of performance-based mash-up rather than a digital one. In order for this kind of cut-up to work, there needs to be a relinquishment of our sense of ownership.

Yes, certainly.

DR: In the age of Napster, hip-hop, remix, and TV commercials incorporating pieces of songs reinterpreted by other artists, the extent of this trend can be seen.

GO: We have already crossed off all other possibilities. The only one we have yet to attempt is a straight-ahead psychedelic-rock band, which is something I’m personally passionate about.

And, it’s true, it is for our own enjoyment to make an album that we truly enjoy. We have always created albums for our own pleasure, so the audience is a bonus.


GO: In Phoenix, I encountered a huge controversy because a bar I was in was preventing people who identified as transgender from entering.

This incident got some attention from a local newspaper, which then led to FoxNews and ABC reaching out to me for comments on the same day.

DR: One might assume that this would be beneficial for the company.

GO: Not really, since the show was that same evening, so what you’re saying is you couldn’t perform when we were supposed to take the stage.

DR: Was their argument that the lack of a transgender restroom was the issue?

GO: At Anderson’s, a few months ago, a woman had come out of the ladies’ room and reported that, when looking under the stall door, she had seen someone with their feet pointing the wrong way, which to her meant either a transgender or transvestite who was standing up to urinate.

This caused her to be angry, and thus the club owner decided to ban all transgender people from the establishment. I believed when he said “tranny” he was referring to transvestites, but they are actually different.

Transvestites, who are typically heterosexual males, feel the need to dress up as a female on occasion.

DR: Or perhaps they would like to.

GO: It was initially only about banning transvestites, not transgender people, and it caused quite a stir as people thought it was a violation of rights to free expression and civil liberties.

When they heard Psychic TV was coming to play and that the lead singer was a transgender person, the activists emailed the band asking if they knew about the ban.

They hadn’t known, and when the owner was confronted with this information, he said he had nothing against transgender people.

However, the activists argued that it seemed contradictory to allow the lead singer to perform, yet not let transgender people watch.

DR: It’s similar to the past: large African American artists were performing in venues that African Americans weren’t allowed to enter.

GO: It’s comparable to segregation when it comes to using facilities, such as bathrooms. Nevertheless, the promoters spoke to the owner of Anderson’s and he proposed to give me access to his personal bathroom so that neither the women nor the men would be disturbed.

I replied that it would not be suitable. To top it off, he suggested to have guards in all the bathrooms to prevent misuse. I declined again, and the promoters then attempted to find an alternative place, which ended up being The Sets, another club.

Doctor: That’s correct.

At six in the evening, we loaded in all of our equipment and were ready to perform when the promoter and the guy running the club came over and told us that, unfortunately, we couldn’t play there.

They had been receiving threatening phone calls from a radical Christian group and the transvestite/transgender/gay/lesbian alliance who said that they would demonstrate if we were allowed to perform.

The owners of the building, a shopping mall, called to say that they would take away the club’s lease and the insurance company said that they would not insure the event due to the tension.

We had to find a new venue and ended up at a rundown biker club by eight o’clock. Although they were willing to let us play, the stage was too small and we were not able to set up properly.

DR: Was there an attendance?

GO: It was a full house. At one point, it was so hot (it had been 110 degrees that day) that I thought, “Let’s make this gig topless.” Then I took my shirt off, the rest of the band followed suit, and around half the audience joined in.


GO: In the course of our experimentation with Pandrogeny while Jaye was still alive, we kept noticing a pattern: behaviour that was still rooted in the Stone Age.

This was when the male of the species safeguarded the women and children, as they were an asset for the clan that needed to be protected from other clans who wanted to take them away, as well as steal the clan’s food, dwelling and other resources.

DR: In this discussion, one either has to be pessimistic and environmentally conscious, or admit to the dependability of human creativity and the power of adaptation.

GO: Our advancement–Jaye’s and mine–is about behaviour, not resources.

The core concept is that in the primitive days of human history, when we were struggling to make it through the Ice Age and combat sabertooth tigers, it was beneficial for males to have a built-in program to attack anything that posed a risk to their resources.

DR: Anything else.

GO: We have been able to survive due to our ability to adapt to anything that is different or unfamiliar. Even so, we have not altered our behavior in the face of the progressively more intricate and sophisticated environments we have created.

DR: Thus, natural selection is not relevant in this circumstance because…

GO: The risk to those many people is too great when a minority are allowed to keep using an outdated template. We must alter this mindset which is based on a dichotomous approach and relies on coercion and fear to maintain the same state. If we do not, then our future is doomed.

DR: So, you would modify your own image by undergoing external changes, such as a breast augmentation?

GO: All of this is in order to assist the human race in changing their actions. This is due to the fact that individuals view themselves in a new light.

That’s the point. If you alter how you are physically, it is obvious that this has an effect on how you see the world.

Take for example, somebody who has become paralyzed; they have a different outlook on life.

DR: Is it possible that someone who has undergone a procedure to get artificial breasts will experience changes in how they perceive things and how they are treated by others?

GO: We believed that the pandrogene symbolized the dedication to complete transformation, for the benefit of all and for each person. It’s the whole concept: shift the way of seeing and you can alter the world.

DR: It is evident that the people closest to you have seen a transformation.

GO: Consequently, I believe it is possible both on a macro and micro level.

DR: Humorously, what I’ve always found most enjoyable about it was the way it impacted the thinking of some of the most dedicated fans.

My initial impression of the followers who referred to themselves as “Coyotes” and “Kalis” was that it was quite old-fashioned and sexist, with a very rigid perception of gender roles.

GO: That definitely wasn’t the point.

DR: For lots of people, getting pierced, scarred and so on was a way of being daringly macho. You were the one they looked up to as a role model in that area. The neo-primitive thing was, for a lot of them, all about proving themselves.

GO: Jaye and I had quite a few strolls down St. Marks Place, and every time, she’d joke about the abundance of piercings and tattoos. She’d jokingly point the finger at me and exclaim, “It’s all your fault!”

DR: When we put on that first Psychic TV show after Gen’s transformation, I noticed the shock on the guys’ faces.

They had all been trying to emulate Gen’s machismo and when they realized he was crossing a boundary that scared them, I thought it was the best gift he could have given them.

It Could be of Interest to You

It is possible to avoid plagiarism by altering the structure of the text without affecting its meaning or context.

This can be done by rearranging words and phrases, as well as changing sentence structure. Doing this will ensure that the original text is not replicated.

It is essential to be aware of the fact that plagiarism is a serious offense. It is important to take steps to ensure that all written materials are original and not copied from another source.

This can be achieved by changing the structure of texts, while still maintaining the original context and meaning.

Taking the same idea and expressing it in a different manner, one can say that there is no need for plagiarism as it can easily be avoided by altering the structure of the text without changing its original meaning.

I was both intrigued and doubtful that Ben Lerner (b. 1979) would attempt the novel form. His poetry collections, The Lichtenberg Figures (2004), Angle of Yaw (2006), and Mean Free Path (2010) had a “virtuosic” quality that made me wonder what he’d do with the novel form.

It was like a drummer anticipating the sound of Glenn Gould playing drums with the same intensity and intent as the piano, which is what I felt when I read his first novel Leaving the Atocha Station.

The book Leaving the Atocha Station is the story of a young poet who is on a fellowship in Spain.

It covers the Madrid train bombings, as well as other topics, like the comparison of “actual” and “virtual” in regards to communication, poetry, and more. It is humorous, yet thought-provoking, and the way in which it’s written is as sophisticated and meticulous as Ben’s poetry collections.

Interestingly, Ben does not simply reference his previous poetry collections or directly address them, but allows for the possibility of them to be assimilated, in either direction. If not for the publication dates, it would be difficult to discern in what order the four books were written.

Ben’s books appear to be carefully edited with the hindsight of a finished product in mind; as though his entire body of work is one unified piece. I’m not aware of any other author I have felt this way about.

It is quite remarkable, and I suggest everyone reads Ben’s work. The following dialogue was conducted via Gmail Chat and email.

–Tao Lin

The words of this writer demonstrate a unique perspective. He has a special way of looking at things and conveying his ideas.

His writing has a distinctive flavor that cannot be found anywhere else. It’s a style that is all his own.


The Questioner : What is your current location?

BEN LERNER : Presently, I’m in Marfa, Texas, located in the arid high desert, in a cozy bungalow, with a flock of wild turkeys in the front yard.

Q: Are there wild turkeys?

BL : Affirmative. I’m uncertain if they are hostile, but right now is an opportune moment to converse, since I’m a bit apprehensive of them. Are you located in Brooklyn?

BLVR : Right. Didn’t you just receive recognition as the first American who has won a renowned German poetry award? How did you become aware of it?

Steffen Popp, my German translator, contacted me via email informing me that we had been granted an “important” award and that we should Skype to discuss it further. He then asked if I would be able to travel to Germany in order to be honoured.

BLVR : After that, did you travel to Germany?

At Munster, every two years, there is a “lyrik” festival, where I was asked to sign the city book with a golden pen in the room where the Peace of Westphalia was signed, and had a shriveled human hand inside a glass case.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to enjoy the traditional drink of the winners from the golden rooster, as the mayor was out of town on official business.

Everyone was kind to me and the young poet who gave the “laudation” speech in a baroque palace (most likely postwar reconstruction) appeared very intelligent, though I couldn’t understand the speech since I do not know German.

Monika Rinck, who has a book out on the Burning Deck press, gave the speech. Afterwards, Steffen and I went on a tour of the city.

BLVR : How did you find Germany?

At the outset, I felt a sense of antiquity, but then I noticed many of the ancient structures had been refurbished. I found it perplexing to try and make the distinction between obliteration and keeping alive the memories. On the whole, though, I found it quite intriguing.

BLVR : What method did they use to convey the distinctly American terminology in The Lichtenberg Figures? In particular, how did they interpret Spliff?

At the readings, there would often be Q&A sessions, and my translator would often talk about the difficulty of translating two unique phrases: finger-banged and declawing cats -which was referenced in one of the poems.

I remember being surprised by how finger-banged (which sounded quite dated to me) was hard to transfer into German. All I would hear was a long stream of German, followed by either the word or the phrase finger-banged.

BLVR: It seems like there must be a term that is equivalent to finger-banged.

BL : Me too. I reckon he sensed that the expression was more forceful in English. It appears that my translator only has the softer word choice in its library.

BLVR : What was the issue associated with removing claws?

BL : The people responsible for the cats did not take the action of declawing them, which caused much shock amongst the German public due to the severity of the practice. I felt it was my job to emphasize that I do not agree with it.


BLVR : After publishing three volumes of poetry, you have penned a novel featuring Adam Gordon, an American poet who has been granted a one-year literary fellowship in Spain.

Throughout the story, Gordon perceives himself as fraudulent in a variety of ways. He even goes so far as to ponder if his fraudulent behavior might be a fraud in itself.

Is your novel meant to be an endorsement of poetry or an exposé of its deceptive nature? Or does it have a different message?

BL : Adam’s thoughts on poetry quoted in prose early on in the novel imply that it both celebrates and ridicules poetry. To put it another way, the novel is a tribute to poetry yet it is critical of poems. Let me try to locate the relevant passage:

In college, I generally only appreciated lines of poetry when I read them as part of an essay assigned by my professor. The line breaks were removed, but the suggestion of poetic potential still shone through.

In my opinion, the confession isn’t about his lack of interest for poetry or his deceitfulness. He does appreciate the lines of poetry, however what he values is the abstract potential that isn’t fulfilled in some of the poems.

I understand his negative attitude here as it expresses why poetry still keeps its charm despite the presence of bad poetry. You being a poet, don’t you despise most of the poems?

BLVR : It’s not something I particularly enjoy, but I understand your point.

The ideas in my mind are inspired by what Allen Grossman puts forth in his eccentric and charming essays. Did you have a chance to go through The Long Schoolroom?

BLVR: Absolutely not.

Grossman labels what he refers to as “virtual” poetry. To him, this is because there is an unbridgeable space between what the poet expects the poem to be, and what it can actually be. Grossman terms this a “bitter logic of the poetic principle.”

This bitterness comes from the fact that the lyric poet wants to create a poem due to their dissatisfaction with the human world and its representations.

But, the words that make up the poem can’t help but reproduce the structures which it is trying to surpass.

Grossman claims that the poem was born from a desire to reach the divine and transcendent, yet as soon as the poet begins to write, they are limited by the finite nature of language, meaning the poem is doomed to be a record of failure as it can’t be created without betraying its original intent.

BLVR: Considering all the impediments to poetry’s success, why not accept the “transcendent” to exist in its pre-verbal form within each of us?

I do not believe that there is anything “transcendent” that lies within us. Writing poetry can come from the longing of going beyond what is existing or real, and this urge can be described in various ways.

It could be the aspiration to think of something that is not a part of capitalism, and it does not have to be related to divinity or the noumenal, which seems to be the belief of Grossman.

It is not that the poet holds something within himself that he yearns to share (a traditional thought about lyric poetry), but that poetry is an effort to figure out, using the unavoidably social components of language, prospects that are not yet actualized.

BLVR : Does it not work?

BL: A failure can still be an emblematic figure, conveying meaning. Poetry might be more adept at this than other art forms due to its ability to indicate something that it is unable to express – such as a longing for something more than what is real.

Benjamin’s thoughts on Baudelaire may reflect this sentiment – that he was able to form lyricism out of its lack of existence in modernity.

A failed attempt at writing a successful poem also can bring attention to our capability to create alternatives, even if we are not able to bring them to fruition. Thus, it keeps us in touch with our imagination and its potential for alternative realities.

BLVR : How does Ben Lerner’s personal poetry fit into the concept that all true poems do not meet their potential?

BL : My collection of poems, Mean Free Path, can be seen as an attempt to explore an unachievable form.

The poem’s lines, which are out of order or may belong to multiple orders at once, generate a sense of suspension and a “choose your own adventure” experience for the reader, who is welcomed to help in the formation of the stanzaic structure.

On a broader level, the poem not reaching the end of the page symbolizes how poetry makes absence noticed like it’s present.


BLVR : Have you been considering any other types of writing besides poetry and novels recently?

Have you had an opportunity to look at Cory Arcangel’s art pieces?

BLVR’s response: A negative response was given.

BL : My top pick is Super Mario Clouds. It’s a Super Mario game that has taken out everything except for the clouds.

It reminds me of a John Ashbery poem. To be in the game’s world and not have to worry about game time passing… it gives a feeling of having no purpose, but at the same time it’s beautiful.

It’s a bit unsettling as well, because you can think of this as being all that the afterlife can offer in the Nintendo universe.

BLVR : On certain evenings, when the clock strikes late, I find myself visiting Wikipedia pages of video games I have played in the past, usually during my elementary or middle school years. This can go on for an extended period of time.

BL : I have clear memories of when I used to play King’s Quest on my mother’s Tandy 1000 computer.

BLVR : How was that experience?

BL : While I cannot recall the plot in detail, I do remember this captivating, yet dull world I could explore, looking for magical rings, armaments, and encountering gnomes.

The fact that it was a fantastical world, yet so mundane, appealed to me. I was either too young or the game was not well designed, so I would wander from screen to screen for hours, hearing basic sound elements: synthesized birds, electronic streams.

When I moved away from the screen, I had to wait for several seconds for the next one to be loaded and I recall my computer making these almost mechanical noises as it worked to assemble the next scene.

Do you recall any particular films from your childhood that you have a fondness for?

BL : I believe that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the one film from my childhood that I remember the most. This is possibly because my brother resembled Matthew Broderick, particularly in WarGames.

But in addition to that, this movie also symbolized something meaningful about the suburbs.

What evidence leads to that conclusion?

BL : Ferris utilizes a combination of technology and tactics to avoid attending school, however, he does it in order to delve into the middle of Chicago.

His day off is a remarkably educational one; they visit museums, go to a baseball match, a parade, and a luxurious restaurant.

It is more or less an exploration of cultural and public places, and they come across black people who dance around Ferris when he is on the float, miming. This is an example of diversity and racial togetherness.

The scene where Cameron looks at Seurat was very strong; it keeps getting closer until the image of relaxation disintegrates into pointillism’s sterile atomism.

Lastly, there is the climax where Ferris gets home prior to his parents due to his maneuvering through other people’s yards, defying the suburban grid.

Q: What year was the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off released?

BL : In 1986, when I was seven years old, I recall viewing the Challenger explosion on television. That was the first of the televised disasters I ever witnessed, and it made a lasting impression on me.

For some reason, I also recall a girl called Jessica who fell into a well and became a celebrity. I’m not sure if that was in 1986 or 1987.

BLVR : Is writing about painting something that you do?

BL : I’ve been engaged in that recently.

BLVR : Could you tell me which paintings you find appealing?

BL : Have you had the opportunity to observe Bastien-Lepage’s Joan of Arc in the Met? It is located in the hall, and due to the difficulty of viewing art in such an area, I feel many people miss it.

BLVR : What appeals to you about it?

BL : This extraordinary artwork is a remarkable amalgam of the corporeal and the spiritual. Joan of Arc is incredibly realistically depicted–particularly her midsection–but also present are three floating, otherworldly angels.

There’s an almost glitch-like disruption around her hand, as if the combination of the physical and metaphysical elements in the painting produces a break in the pictorial arrangement. Does this make sense?

IV. Fraudulent Practices

BLVR : What purpose does the novel hold in relation to poetry?

I find it intriguing to explore poems that are located within novels. In my book, The Lichtenberg Figures, there is a poem that Adam Gordon is portrayed to have written. In the novel, this poem is slightly different than the one that’s in the volume of poems.

I like the concept of how a novel can depict the world in which a poem is read or interpreted incorrectly. The second poem that Adam reads at the gallery consists of lines from the same novel.

This poem is a virtual one due to the fact that it would be impossible for Adam to have had access to words from a book that hasn’t been written yet.

The concept of a “virtual poem” is often attributed to the novel form. It is said that the novel form develops when epic unity is no longer accessible, meaning is no longer inherent.

This gives rise to the notion that the novel is forever linked to the impossibility of poetry.

Thus, verse becomes a phantom presence in prose. This is what sparks my interest in the relationship between novels and poetry, and how the novel genre is connected to poetry being exiled to the virtual realm.

BLVR : The thought of the virtual appears to be applicable to all aspects of human life, not only to books and verses–the unavoidable dissatisfaction of the real as a result of the perception of a virtual.

Nonetheless, what if one were to repress the virtual? Or work to experience and express solely the virtual? Adam comes to the understanding, at one point, that his bond with Isabel… let me look for it:

I was reliant on never becoming a proficient speaker, as it would provide me with an opportunity to dialogue in cryptic sentences or aphorisms.

Despite having no apprehensions of mastering Spanish, I pondered, as we wandered around the monasteries and souvenir stores, how long I would be able to remain in Madrid without going beyond the unidentified line of skillfulness that would make me uninteresting.

Does Adam harbor a self-aware yearning to express himself only in a virtual realm, thereby giving others more options? Is this a universal longing?

Does Adam believe that his fraudulence is limited to his fraudulence, as he ponders at one point?

It is true that Adam perceives his relationships as virtual. He believes Isabel is interested in him due to her intuition of his supposed intellectual depths that he does not actually possess or acknowledge.

Consequently, he considers himself to be like a mediocre poem in that she projects onto him whatever she believes she has seen. In addition, he tells many lies to increase his enigma.

Ultimately, his vision of how virtuality works in their relationship is not correct and collapses. As a result, his effort to stabilize his relationships like he does with his artistry brings him some unfortunate repercussions.

The cultivation of virtual relationships has a potential to create a solipsistic outlook, where one becomes so focused on the image of the relationship that they cannot recognize the reality of the bond.

Is it possible for someone to completely elude the projection of others’ beliefs onto them?

BL: To an extent, it’s impossible to separate Adam’s relationship from the social performance he is engaged in.

His understanding of the virtual is a way of magnifying the experience, not denying it; he is “experiencing mediacy immediately” as he admires John Ashbery.

It is hard to tell if Adam’s fixation on the virtual is a form of going deeper into the true nature of his life.


BLVR : Is there any part of you that you try to not include in your writing?

That’s an intriguing query. It really depends on what kind of writing. Generally, I would say I usually write about those parts of myself that cause me shame or disquiet.

This doesn’t mean I’m “writing from experience” as such, but certain of Adam’s more disagreeable traits and his inclination toward self-loathing and nervousness mirror mine. I consider there to be a strong link between writing and disgrace.

My friend, the talented Aaron Kunin, has structured much of his writing around the concept that the part of yourself that you feel the most ashamed of can, and maybe should, be employed as raw material for art.

BLVR : How would you describe your pattern of sleeping?

BL : I’m a regular sleeper and when I do, I usually have vivid dreams that I can recall. When I tell people about them, though, I’m not sure what’s true and what I’m making up.

I’m guessing this is something a lot of people go through. Writing a novel was like that for me; the feeling of being unsure of what I was remembering or inventing was what it was like. It’s different for me when I’m writing poetry or criticism.

BLVR : Was the book, during its conception, highly visual? It seemed, based on the selection and type of details, the parts that were particular and those that were unclear, to be largely rooted in recollection, as though it were something you had experienced.

BL: I’m happy that it appears lived-in. In multiple ways, it has been lived-in. When I depict the protagonist’s dwelling, I am referring to an abode I lodged in.

One of the things that impoverishes conversations regarding truth and make-believe is that they often neglect the extent to which what doesn’t occur is also integrated into our experience–it is the negative segment of experience.

I believe one can compose autobiographically from experiences that they did not encounter, since the experiences that one doesn’t have can be perceived negatively in the ones that they do.

Prior to the actual act of writing, I did not think the novel was in my head. Tolstoy’s enthusiasm for rushing home to learn what Vronsky would do next reveals the fascinating aspect of composition as an act of discovery.

Marx argued that the distinction between the worst architect and the best bee is the former’s ability to form the structure in his imagination prior to its physical manifestation.

With writing, however, the material used to conceive the building in one’s thoughts and to manifest it in reality is the same: language. So it can be said that when something is in one’s head, it is already real.

BLVR : Will the majority of individuals perceive your novel as an account of your life? Would that be something that would make you uncomfortable?

I’m sure some people will question the similarities between myself and the main character, yet it would feel strange if anybody presumed there was a straight connection – that it was essentially a memoir disguised as a work of fiction. Given that the novel is so much about mediation, even a basic reading should spark the inquiry into how the book mediates my own life experiences.

BLVR : I’m sure those reading this interview would be interested in learning more about you–your own drug use, marriage, and how much of the novel is based on personal recollections.

Although I don’t know you well, I feel certain you wouldn’t be amenable to answering such inquiries.

It’s unlikely that the answer is yes.

What do you think about it?

BL : Primarily, I do not want my family members, boss or medical professional to come across that data.

But I am also interested in the idea of blurring the line between artwork and reality within an artwork, rather than delving further into my own personal history as the author of those books.

VI. Gaining a Different Perspective

BLVR : Could you comment on the other works of literature that had an impact on yours? What genre does your novel belong to?

As I was reading, I was reminded of Thomas Bernhard’s Woodcutters and its protagonist’s complex emotions of self-loathing, detestation for his peers, and regret for having such animosity.

Nonetheless, I found myself more attracted and intrigued by the narrator in your book.

BL : It’s likely that the self-loathing of Bernhard’s protagonists was a factor in my own writing. Steffen had been reading the novel, and he sent me an email inquiring why I had “quoted” and “rewritten” the opening scene from Bernhard’s book Old Masters in my novel.

But the truth is I haven’t read Old Masters. In my novel, the scene of following a person through the Prado is one of the few moments taken straight from my own experience.

This seems fitting for a book about the chaotic overlap of art and life–my life has plagiarized Bernhard!

I’m unsure which category of books my novel belongs in. But the two American literary figures that constantly come to mind are Bartleby and Wakefield.

It’s possible that the range of antiheroes outlined in Enrique Vila-Matas’s Bartleby & Co would be the closest to my work.

I was incredibly touched and impacted by the scene in Stendhal’s book The Charterhouse of Parma that showed Fabrice wandering around, pondering if he was actually involved in the battle at Waterloo and if he had earned his place in history.

BLVR : What about authors that are still alive? Or those who have recently passed?

I find W. G. Sebald, Javier Marias, and Alexander Kluge to be vastly influential as prose writers, even though only Marias is truly a traditional novelist. If you look at Leaving the Atocha Station, you can see their impact in the realm of images.

Marias is the least likely to utilize them, but he still does. I’m particularly intrigued by the power of a photograph to alter the fictional narrative and its relation to realism, even with merely a few images.

The traditional use of literature to create a visual image is challenged by the abundance of visuals provided by photographs.

The most detailed description in a novel cannot compete with the realism of a photo. In this way, the inclusion of photographs in a novel both lightens the burden of simulating reality, while also reminding readers that prose is not as effective at this as a camera.

As a result, novelists must contemplate what prose is particularly good at. Discussions about how painting adapted to photography are common, yet there has been relatively little discourse about how fiction must reevaluate its values in response to photographs which can be reproduced at a low cost.

In BLVR, what correlation is there between hash, SSRIs, tranquilizers, alcohol, and the “white pills” that are often referred to, and the real and the virtual worlds?

BL : It has always been fascinating to me how drugs can be both admired and condemned in the same breath: drug x is said to both remove the true from your experience and heighten it.

Or SSRIs can have both positive and negative effects, depending on the person, ranging from helping you become yourself again to changing your personality.

It’s difficult to distinguish the virtual from the real in regards to the chemical mediation–which side does the drug push us to? I find it interesting how people who abuse drugs are referred to as having a “substance problem.”

It’s almost like a philosophical dilemma trying to differentiate seeming from existing.

BLVR : To wrap it all up, what brought you to Marfa?

BL: Currently, I’m in a residency program and am supposed to be focusing on writing, but instead I’ve been reading and viewing films.

BLVR : What kind of films?

Last night, I decided to watch something rather strange on my laptop – Anastasia starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner.

For a period of time, I was under the impression that Ingrid Bergman was a male.

It’s the work of Ingmar Bergman that can be confusing.

BLVR : What was the setting in which you saw it?

I viewed the movie while I was in bed.

BLVR : Reclining in a supine position?

Typically, I watch movies on my own, but when I’m at home with Ariana, we have a projector to project them onto the wall.

BLVR : When you’re using your computer in a horizontal position, do you lie down on your side?

BL : The computer is in its usual position, however, I view it from the side.

BLVR : How about looking at it from a different perspective? Does that give you a different view?

BL : It doesn’t seem like it’s tilted. I believe my head is too large compared to the display for it to appear askew, if that makes any sense.

BLVR : When viewing something sideways, I tend to rotate my computer accordingly.

BL : I’m attempting to visualize it.

BLVR : I tend to recline on my back, folding my legs up, propping the MacBook on my upper leg and torso.

BL : It’s important to take into consideration the radiation levels.

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