We have experienced a paradigm shift. For artists and writers, the big question has become — how do you express it?
I have been working on a levon for about eight years now. (Levon is novel spelled backwards. My pal, the fantastic writer Maud Casey, made it up. It’s to help you not say you are working on a novel which is hard to say without sounding like a jerk to yourself.) (But I’m nearly finished! Please let me live to see the day when I can call it a novel!). It’s science fiction. Oh, I mean “speculative fiction”. That’s the preferred term these days.
After the election, like many artists I know, I froze. Immediate action like protests and social media rants are one thing, but long term projects — the ones that you create to be sustaining and universal — were thrown into new light. I felt insignificant, isolated, silenced (Hm. I wonder if that has happened before for creative people under a regime that wants them to go away?).
The way I have coped with this is to think of this age as — a creative challenge! And towards that goal, I look to other artists who have depicted other radical shifts in human history. And that makes me read more. So, here is what I am reading now, and what I have on deck. This is the stuff you will see me reading on the subway:
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter. This is a re-read, related to my levon. Angela Carter and her trippy wackitude is inspiring to me. Someone who transmuted her current existence into twisted hallucinatory story. I may be wrong, but I remember it being about a world that is governed by an evil power that harnesses desire.
Finally finish reading Go Tell It On The Mountain. Read more James Baldwin in general, especially his gayer later work like Just Above My Head. Then go see the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” I think everyone in “Hey I Actually Read!” America agrees right now that his perspective is vital.
A Time To Be Born by Dawn Powell. This is just so deliciously gimlet-eyed. About media-hungry NYC schemers during World War Two. The opening chapter is an unsung masterpiece: “It was a sucker age, an age for any propaganda, any cause, any lie, any gadget, and scorning this susceptibility chroniclers sand the stubborn cynicism of past heroes who would not believe the earth was round. It was an age of explosions, hurricanes, wrecks, strikes, lies, corruption and unbridled female exploitation.”