THE ELEMENTS of DISASTER
Northwest Critic Lauds Horror Writer for Iconoclasm
"Jody Scott is the greatest living writer, possibly the greatest novelist of all time. Why aren't we reading all of her works?" That's the title of a seminar being given weekly at Boeing Creek, Washington, by Tarquin Faustino, distinguished critic and winner of the Fang Foonman Award.
We all love categories, says Faustino. They make it easy to market books. Even Mark Twain was rejected at first because he wasn't easily classifiable. But--no really great book can be shoved into a slot, Faustino tells his students.
Scott's new novel THE BURNING belongs to a brand-new category. "I haven't named the category as yet," Faustino told this reporter, "but I can tell you what it is not: it is not self-reinforcing idiocy like so many novels being published today."
Asked what he meant by that, Faustino went on, "I just finished reading THE BURNING. It's about a gang of wild, adolescent girls who used to be as normal as--well--as your daughter but then something very strange happened to them. Something that may have happened to you yourself but you've forgotten about it Now, that might not sound too inviting to the average male reader but it blew me away like nothing I've ever read before.
"Scott claims that much of what we've been taught to believe is sheer brainwashing, having little basis in reality. And the books you are allowed to buy and read are so much bilge. The truth has been hidden from you."
When a woman in the back of the room protested, Faustino walked to the footlights, shading his eyes and raising his voice a notch.
"Most popular novels are safe. Safe as a coffin. They just lie there. But Scott gives us life. A commodity we desperately need, today more so than ever."
Fifty years ago there was such a thing as "literature," he went on. "Gradually readers have been trained, by publishers, to clamor for cheap knockoffs of what was second-rate stuff to begin with. Scott's work tends to increase your horsepower as a being. These 'today' novelists want to cut it down by fixating you on body tortures alternated with hysterical orgasms (and with the destruction of the planet, which we of course 'Can't stop' because that would be beyond our poor little victim-y selves, always in the background) . But what you don't know is that you can be broken beyond repair by immersing yourself in this mire.
"Sure, it's great fun to have your neck sucked by a vampire and it is stimulating as hell to become a serial killer or an M.E. autopsying corpses for an hour or two, etc. etc.--but J.S. offers you an antidote and she does it with the same over-the-top entertainment value you find in ordinary category fiction. Yes; crime and degradation are great fun but it's bad news to concentrate exclusively on that stuff. Remember, you get--you actually draw in--what you concentrate on. Scott teaches you how to zip around with fantastic skill and daring, ignore 'authority,' and see things in an entirely new way. She shows you how to think for yourself which is a concept far over the head of today's typical reader. She wants you to stop being part of a throng of dying (no matter how "rich") slaves, and partake of something more than the same old "entertainment" for self-satisfied sheep. And yes, it scares some people to death, and bores certain others beyond belief because they just can't cope--but if you are like me you will relish it, love it, and see it as a way out of the awful mess we currently find ourselves in.
But will THE BURNING, and many of Scott's other novels, essays, short stories and plays, get published? A few have been (see Jody Scott ). But. Don't forget that publishers look for what was successful last season. They look for what won't rock the boat or cause complaining letters to be sent to them by idiots. Jody Scott on the other hand stresses viewing this horrible situation for exactly what it is. And doing it with great verve, glee, blood, sex, crime, road rage, guts, and fun.
"Prove it," someone shouts.
Faustino whirs around. He points at the person and roars, "Open your eyes. Look around you. There are no more Mom 'n Pop bookstores, are there? Only chain stores run by the enormous conglomerates who own the publishing business along with wholesale shoe outlets, film studios, MTV and the oil industry. And corporate machinery decrees sameness. You think your mind hasn't been manipulated? Guess again!
"Aside from Scott's work most of the fiction of today is by, for and about sick, defeated people no matter how 'successful'--"
"That's a damned lie!" an angry man suddenly shouts.
Faustino comes back to the footlights, making his eyes bulge ominously. The people in the front row squirm in their seats.
"Is it?" he says coolly. "Are you sure of that? Fine, I'll take your word for it but how about something different for a change? I know how outraged you become upon hearing that your favorite (and highly successful) author is a sick, defeated person spreading his or her germs by way of the written word which you gobble up with such avidity at forty bucks a pop--but others among us would prefer fiction that soars! And we can't get it! Because publishers won't buy anything not guaranteed to sell a hundred thousand copies in the first week.
"What you don't know is that these big favorites of yours have been denatured. There's not one word in them that would ever draw an outraged letter from some dumbbell who wants to stop anything new from entering his or her shabby little, conventional mind. And this means lowest common denominator fare and nothing else. Your fave pop writer is like Gilligan's Island or The Brady Bunch--charming and stimulating and addictive, to be sure--not that there's anything wrong with that stuff. I read it too. But the old question rears its ugly head: IS THAT ALL? Wouldn't you like to be taken on a REAL trip once in a while?
"Oh yes, I know how furious some of you get when you feel that your favorite author, or perhaps your intelligence, has been insulted. 'How DARE you say that Patricia Stephen David Rice is a hack, a formula writer, how DARE you? You horrible, insulting person--I will never read your works, and be damned to you. I'll never speak to you again.'
"What you don't know, dear reader, is that there are at least half a dozen truly great authors in the U.S. today whose fictional works are systematically rejected in favor of these rich, beloved, well-groomed hacks you dote upon. Not that there's anything wrong with them! Go ahead and dote! Enjoy yourself to the hilt. I read and like them too but unless you can seriously ask yourself "But IS THAT ALL?"-- you are, in my estimation, no better than a criminal."
"Because: remember this. Many of the classics that we know and love, would, in today's market, be completely overlooked by today's publishers. The magnificent works that have sustained us over the years, would never have seen the light of day--and the popular stuff that readers ate up at the time, would long be forgotten. But I'm not going to stand here and argue with you, my friends; the arguers among you just don't know any better. As for the rest of you--thank you and may the Real Force be with you."
Faustino turns on his heel and strides offstage. There is a silence for a few seconds. Then somebody coughs, somebody laughs, someone else says "He's right, by God," another fellow gives a Bronx cheer and then the theater quickly empties.
Faustino will continue his controversial seminar until the standing room-only audiences begin tapering off, which at this point in time they show no signs of doing.
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