BARRY KATZ: Seeing as how I requested, and you granted, this interview to celebrate your seventh book, Lemur, and seeing as how Lemur is being brought out by one of the four canonical Bizarro publishers, the formidable Raw Dog Screaming Press ("Fiction that Foams at the Mouth"), I'll start by asking about your involvement with, and your position in, the Bizarro Movement.
TOM BRADLEY: Involvement with Bizarro transcends words producible by mere tongue, teeth and lips. If my lumbar ganglia could talk, maybe you'd have your answer, Barry. As for my "position," well, I'm not sure if such simplistic polarities as hither and yon obtain in our peculiar quadrant of hypospace. But the address of my bungalow is somewhere on the opposite side of Bizarroville from Speculative Boulevard, and diametrically across from Irreal Avenue. Sometimes late at night they sneak across the tracks, infiltrate my neighborhood, and make unusual mouth noises outside my window. It's taxing emotionally.
BK: So, are you kept awake by those lawless prowlers?
TB: As you can tell from the dust jacket—pure white with sun-drenched splashes of aquamarine and pastel peach—my Lemur is a diurnal creature. Easy on the irreal, soft-pedal the speculative. Wholesome, Barry, I believe, is not too strong a term. My wholesome Lemur obeys all the laws laid down by such solid citizens as Aristotle, Euclid and Newton, which are supposed to regulate our daily lives in the logical-positivistic sunshine.
BK: That's very commendable. I guess.
TB: At least those days when we haven't gorged on a paper bag full of overripe peyote.
BK: Well, maybe it's not such a—
TB: Or fumigated our skulls with too much horror-smoke after neglecting to clean our DMT pipe.
BK: Let's not get too—
TB: Or those days when we've gorged several fist-loads of psilocybin mushrooms on the assumption they're the regular wholesome type plucked from cow spoor in a vacant lot, except they turn out to have been hermetically cultivated by someone with a white lab coat and a mail-order Master's Degree in Speculative Mycopharmacology, and they're about eighteen thousand times more potent than Mother Nature ever intended them to be. Yeah, boy—
TB: —old Euclid and those other twats really take a back seat on days like—
BK: I get it. Your point has been made...Wholesome, eh?
TB: The word sounds good to me.
BK: In other words, if the characters in Lemur saw something really speculative, like, say, for example, their penises fell off and ran for president1, would they be at a loss?
TB: I fear as much.
BK: And what would the characters in Lemur make of a cat named Mithra who drags in human body bits?2
TB: They just aren't acclimated to that irreal sort of thing.
BK: Am I safe in assuming that, even with an illustrated instruction manual, your people wouldn't know how or where to insert a patented Bizarro-brand Multi-Gender Screw Toy?3
TB: The majority of them would be stymied by such speculativeness. Speculativity.
BK: And if there was the sudden discovery of a giant ocean of mucus in Wyoming?4
TB: How did it get there from Utah? That's what my folk would want to know.
BK: A question of realism.
TB: Well, that's a loaded term.
TB: Okay. As long as it's deniable. But, on the other hand, personally, as a reader, I can handle whatever my fellow Bizarro cultists throw at me. In fact, I fucking love to read their phenomenologically nutty stuff. It gives me umbilical hernias from guffawing, and itchy ducts from weeping tears of nitric acid.
BK: So why don't you write it?
TB: The source of my own fiction is different. The bizarrerie of the quotidian is sufficient for me. Just one visit to the local family-style restaurant can do the trick. I watch the bus boy spasm over the cutlery, and suddenly, without so much as a single zit on his nose morphing, he's the Bradleyized version of Pterodactyl Man with the raw egg heart.5 Without sprouting a single extra phosphorescent leg, the perfectly average Darwinian cockroach on the next table becomes my million-year centipede.6 A half-swilled tumbler of creme soda sloshes onto the linoleum underfoot, and I have my liquid structure.7
BK: In many of these Bizarro books, not only do the Aristotelian-Euclidian-Newtonian laws get violated, but the human frame does, too. As in ultra-violence.8 But the havoc Lemur wreaks is moral rather than physical.
TB: Definitely. Lemur is not about homicide, but homicidal impotence, and its sublimation. Only one person gets hurt in the whole book. He's a successful merchant, quite well-to-do, a pillar of the Better Business Bureau, so it's correct and praiseworthy when a female cop billy-clubs his head out of shape. But pinkish-gray boluses of ultra-violent brain matter do not flop from his ear-holes and stick to his lapels like those undercooked omelettes in family-style restaurants with the eggy bits all runny and clammy like the most off-putting—
BK: Honestly, I don't think we have to—
TB: —ugsome ick. Much of Lemur is set in a family-style restaurant, yet I have kept the food descriptions at a sustainably schematic level of specificity.
BK: Don't think we're not grateful for your good taste.
TB: The readers of this interview can thank me with their dollars. Wholesomeness, Barry, I say it again.
BK: And yet, in spite of all this admirable self-restraint on your part, not to mention your devotion to natural law and probability, Lemur has earned itself a place in the Bizarro Movement. How is that possible?
TB: Talk about implausibility.
BK: May I put forth a theory?
TB: Do you have any stuff for sandwiches around here?
BK: I suspect your book accomplishes this feat, this subversion of the subversives, by bringing us moments of such unexampled psychological strangeness that any somatic monstrosity or distortion of cause and effect would hardly be noticed. You talk about one such moment in your interview with Raw Dog Screaming Press' Jennifer Barnes.
TB: She and I are having lots of fun unleashing Lemur. What a conscientious, skillful, enthusiastic, imaginative editor Jennifer is. Besides writing itself, there's no greater joy for us solitary scribblers than working with someone intelligent and talented like her. To collaborate on the crafting of an object so seemingly blameless as a book, yet so packed with furtive abomination, to bring forth a small rectangular solid that is fuller of life than most big round gooshy people—what luck, what a privilege!
BK: In the interview, you guys talk about this scene I am thinking about, from Chapter Six, which takes place in a convenience store patronized by some creatures who are plausible enough, in America at any rate:
When the morbidly obese customers ingest what pleases them, they seem to enter a higher realm of being. They look like colossal sphinxes. At these moments, religious bliss fills [the clerk's] eyes. It's as though he's witnessing the Olympian gods feed on nectar and ambrosia.
This blissful clerk "spasms from his toes to his head...in ecstasy over the fatness of the customers." Then, suddenly, his "sublime joy dissolves into soft sobs and tears," and he breaks into this soliloquy:
"I'm sad for my God-Babies. See how they constantly belch, and then wince in agony? That's because the loveliness has blossomed so deep on their waists, it's pushing their tummies inside-out. They're scorching away their throats with their own digestive acids, and guaranteeing themselves terminal cancer in the meantime. And the only way they can make the burning go away, if only for just a short while, is to come to me. I gently soothe it and coat it with more grease, like a sunburn with cocoa butter, or diaper rash with baby oil. It's sad, and beautiful...and an exciting privilege."
I submit, Tom, that all manner of irreal madcappery could suddenly erupt right in the middle of that speech. The un-Aristotelian, anti-Euclidian, counter-Newtonian shit could hit the fan, followed by just a whole bunch of speculative nuttiness. Cerberus the three-headed hell-hound could show up and start dry-humping the poor clerk's leg. A gaggle of self-transforming machine elves could come in and demand basket-loads of Bizarro nachos—and I doubt I'd even notice. I'd be too busy looking at this sad, ecstatic clerk of yours as he weeps and twitches. I'd be listening to the peculiar terms of the testimony he bears, the articles of the faith he professes, and I'd be asking myself, "Wha—?"
So, what I want to ask you, Tom, is this: are you like this poor convenience store clerk? Are you overwhelmed with sacred misery and underwhelmed with profane bliss? Has Bizarro undermined your psychic individuation?
TB: Are you asking me if Bizarro is my God-Baby?
BK: Does it make you spasm from your toes to your head?
BK: Well, okay, then.
TB: Imagine being blindfolded and taken through a deep tunnel to a subterranean chamber and undergoing initiation into a hellacious mystery cult of razor-wire pubic hair9 and foot fungus factories,10 where landladies are lobotomists,11 and Princess Diana's secret baby has been plucked as an embryo from the scrumptiously twisted Parisian limo wreckage,12 where spider pies are cooked till the neighbors complain of the smell,13 and, if that's not enough, clones of Baby Jesus are employed as butt plugs.14
BK: Speaking of plugging things into underage orifices, I just read your recent essay on Vladimir Nabokov.
TB: Ah, yes: "The Nab Gets Posthumously Bizarroized," published at the great Bizarro Central. I love their graphics. The retinopathic quintessence of "Wha—?"
BK: In this essay you trace Bizarro's roots back in literary history to the time of Nabokov's "gogolization," and his cry of despair and horror at having his central nervous system colonized—
"...after reading Gogol, one's eyes become gogolized. One is apt to see bits of his world in the most unexpected places."
You claim the Bizarro movement is continuing and fulfilling that gogolization process, under the name Bizarroization—
"...we have been completing the preposterous project which [Nabokov] took over from Gogol nearly a hundred years ago. We've been busy making 'the Nab' whole."
TB: Yeah. I reckon the old butterfly-stabber could use a little help working through his less than wholesome relationship with that earlier Roosky. Exorcizing the anxiety of Gogol's influence, that sort of thing. At the end of my essay, Lolita's pappy is sorting through a congeries of body parts, and he finds, finally, Gogol's vagrant nose. We have made him (and therefore, also, Gogol) whole.
BK: Is this something like what you talk about in Chapter Seven of Fission Among the Fanatics?
TB: Are you referring, Barry, to the rectangular solid which was named Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2007 by 3:AM Magazine in Paris?
BK: The very one. In Fission Among the Fanatics you have written as follows:
...like James Baldwin doing away with Richard Wright, or Camille Paglia liquidating Susan Sontag, [some writers] have to encompass their patricide-by-pen before they can solidify their own sense of place.... Only then can they...produce something truly substantial. Before their daddies can castrate them, they have to kill their daddies, if you want to get all psychoanalytical about it. I'll be glad to pitch in...
TB: Yes, I recall that passage. Then I proceed methodically to tear the face off a literary Moses or two. It's called tackling the manly half of Freud's Universal Family Romance. And, yes, I suppose, since you insist on waxing all psychoana-fucking-lytical (Nabokov hated Freud), Gogol's nose can be symbolically substituted for the Nab's dick, which we Bizarros have recovered and reattached, or something. Talk about irrealism.
BK: I have a suspicion, Tom, that the Nab isn't the only one whose balls are being snatched from between Pappy's teeth. Am I going too far when I suggest your Bizarroization is mired and tangled in your own well-documented literary oedipal conflict? After all, that Bizarro Central essay is not the first time you've trotted out the dead Nab like Hamlet's father. Recall his appearance as a Virgilian ghost at the end of your first book.
TB: Are you referring to Killing Bryce, finalist in the AWP Award Series in the Novel?
TB: Nominated for the New York University Bobst Prize?
BK: Your bibliographical data is impeccable.
TB: Yeah, I made a ghost of Nabokov in that novel. Took me three hundred and seventy-five thousand words to do it, but I killed him, dead. And that was that. What of it?
BK: I submit—
TB: Would you stop submitting? People are going to get the wrong idea about you.
BK: —there's still unfinished business between you two geniuses, even after all 677 of Killing Bryce's tightly-printed pages. And it pertains to your becoming a Bizarro cultist in the twenty-first century, and therefore falls under the purview of this interview.
TB: Great. Tom on the couch, with all his influential anxiety. Let me guess. You're deftly segueing to the vexed question of gayness as a theme in Lemur.
BK: You have said it. You broached, mooted—
TB: Why don't you just flounce all over the room?
BK: Not just gayness, but a certain attitude toward it. One critic has already detected in Lemur a smidge, if not smudge, of the cardinal sin known as the H-word.
TB: Other critics are sure to dismiss that accusation as an obvious load of politically motivated knee-jerk crapola.
BK: Still and all, Tom. Your female cop does swagger through Lemur, doesn't she? Tossing around epithets like "sister-boy" and "prissy pants," bashing male suspects' heads out of shape with her billy club while shrieking, "How many quarts of spooge are we gonna find when we pump your stomach today, Nancy?"
TB: Is it necessary for me to point out that she's by no means the heroine of the piece?
BK: Perhaps it would be well for you to emphasize that point, explicitly, here and now, for the record.
TB: I know where you're headed with this, Katz. You really are a twat, aren't you?
BK: Yeah, but you can't deny that gayness, and homophobia, whether considered political or not, are persistent themes throughout Lemur.
TB: And here I thought it was about a failed serial killer.
BK: I am thinking in particular about your presentation of Raleigh.
TB: Back away, Katz! I won't hear a disparaging word spoken against my lovely old Raleigh! He only becomes a restaurant critic in order to fill an aching void deep inside him. The aroma of bus boys' ketchuppy and mustardy sweetness breaks his soft heart.
BK: Funny you should mention the latter condiment. It brings us, with a strange Nabokovian synchronicity, right back to the Nab. Specifically his novel, Ada, and the substance which gets smeared all over what he refers to as his "seven-inch member."
TB: Not many people realize the poor tetralingual genius was disadvantaged dimensionally.
BK: Tetralingual? Did he really have that many—
TB: Hard to imagine, huh?
BK: Anyway, um...where was I? Sometimes you really fuck me up, Bradley.
TB: You were considering two novels. With mustard.
BK: Oh, yeah. You'll recall that, as part of the process of immolating this "Roosky pappy" of yours, you caused the crassest, most potty-mouthed character in Killing Bryce to read aloud a certain scene in Ada—
TB: Guffawing, winking and nudge-nudging all the while.
BK: —where Nabokov, or, rather, his thinly veiled fictional alter ego, Van Veen, plies those seven inches on a wretched child. Here's the pertinent passage, which I wince to recite:
"...worst of all, the little one could not disguise a state of acute indigestion, marked by unappetizing dysenteric symptoms that coated [Van Veen's] shaft with mustard..."
TB: Talk about Gray Poop-on.
BK: That's not funny, Tom. It's hurtful.
TB: You can say that again. Nabokov's "little one" in this case is male, as opposed to female. For a change.
BK: And that's my point.
TB: Which point? The homophobic point? What, in the fuck, does any of this have to do with homophobia?
BK: Excuse me?
TB: Hurtful or not, that specific behavior doesn't make Van Veen, or my bus boy-loving Raleigh, a potential target for homophobes. Hence, Lemur is not homophobic.
BK: Wha—? Did I just miss something?
TB: Pull your head out, Katz. Weren't you paying attention to the blow-back from the latest congressional page-boy scandal? That case has popularized a certain psychosexual insight, of which I hope you're aware.
BK: If I'm reluctantly thinking of the same "insight" you're cackling about, of course I'm aware of it. Even an inarticulate gay-bashing clod like your bully fry cook in Lemur has picked it up, presumably from Fox News. I trust you don't mind hearing disparaging words spoken about your bully fry cook.
TB: Have at him.
BK: Greasy brute that he is, even he knows enough to make this not-so-fine distinction (though he doesn't quite get the key word right):
"I thought he was a fag. Didn't I tell you he was a fag? But I had no idea he was a pendergast."
TB: Paradoxical, perhaps even startling this distinction may be. But, thanks to Congressman Foley, it's now commonplace, an on-special item in the current cut-rate market of ideas. So I get to fuck around with it.
BK: But you're no fry-cook, Tom. You're a writer, a lover of words. And the ultra-violence you're so proud of sparing your characters shouldn't be taken out on our language. I'm not currently seeking tenure in a liberal arts institution, so I feel safe pointing this out. It's counterintuitive, this forced distinction. You can pry apart the buttocks of a word like homosexual only one way. And chronological age doesn't etymologically figure into it.
TB: Fuck language. I thought we were talking politics. Doing ultra-violence to the language is part of the essence of coalitions, sexual, racial, tribal—you name it. Without exception, all the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender authorities insist on a strict discontinuity between homosexuality and pedophilia. No overlap. No flop-over.
BK: That's just political savviness on the part of those ensconced in the Log Cabin alongside Lavender Lincoln.
TB: O Captain, my Captain...did Walt have the Good Gray Gaydar, or what? Look, Barry, my restaurant critic can be officially classified and registered as a short-eyes, or a magnificent cock queen, or neither, or both. Okay by me any old way. As for our language, I'll fight to the death for the distinction between who and whom. But, being a front-door man myself, I have no dog in the cat fight between LGBT and NAMBLA. I plead the Crowley.
BK: ...come again?
TB: Like the Great Beast in his Autohagiography, I plead—
"I find myself constitutionally incapable of fixing my attention on subjects which my instincts tell me to be none of my business."
Crowley, like Socrates before him, was possessed by a cautionary daemon—probably the same daemon—which he calls here his "instincts." Erotically, he could swing both ways—though, unlike Socrates, he was a bit reluctant to chatter about that. He maintained plenty of dogs in lots of fights, packs of rabid wolves, too. Yet I'm sure he'd agree with the point I made in an article, published coincidentally by the very magazine to which you say you intend to pitch this interview—rather, couch session.
BK: I just happen to have the pertinent passage right here—
Anything that influences the lives of whole shit-loads of people, is to be treated as a mere spectacle for the soul. To attempt to influence the outcomes, especially by direct action, but even by expending enough energy to write something interesting about them, is like sneezing into a tsunami.15
TB: You did your homework. Okay, so you know my apoliticality is innate and unbudgeable. I didn't write Lemur as a sociopolitical tract, nor Killing Bryce, for that matter. Nor Fission Among the Fanatics, nor any of my other books. I'm barely socialized myself, and am bereft of politics. Especially the sexual sort you've got on your unwholesome mind, hairy Barry. Unlike you, I do not feel entitled publicly to opine on this mustardy matter, in speech or writing.
BK: You wrote Raleigh.
TB: And you politicized him.
BK: Well, yeah... I guess I'd be willing to agree, if only for the duration of this interview, for the sake of argument, or at least for the purposes of bullshitting-type fun, that Raleigh is something other than a homosexual.
TB: So, even if I had portrayed him cattily or disgustingly, Lemur couldn't be called fag-bashing propaganda.
BK: Does that mean we have disposed of him in our discussion?
TB: I haven't disposed of my sweet old restaurant critic. Not at all. The simply fabulous, gorgeous irony is this: whether pederasts like him are, in all political correctness and enlightened sensibility, considered to be gay, or critters of another pastel stripe altogether, my boy-loving Raleigh is not portrayed negatively at all.
BK: I agree. I wasn't trying to bad-mouth him.
TB: Well, all right, then.
BK: Raleigh's the most lovable person on the pages. He's the smartest and the charmingest. He's got the best lines, not the least of which are contained in the pickup spiel he plies on a certain pretty little trombone-playing youngster. Like much love poetry, it's sad, hilarious, beautiful:
"Have you had dessert, little one? There's a positively scrumptious item on the kiddy menu. Yes, here it is. Dag the Dinnersaur's Double Dutch Delight...per Deux!" (tittering at his own bilingual alliteration) "Trust me, darling. I’m a professional restaurant critic. I know about these things, and I assure you, it's to die for. If you wish, my child, I shall abuse my status as arbiter of taste in this burg, and prevail upon the waitress to supply us with an extra cherry on top. And then the pair of us will just dig in and wallow around like a couple of nauseating—"
TB: Unfortunately, the cops show up right then, and we never get to hear the rest of Raleigh's culinary simile.
BK: And he's not just emotionally sympathetic. It's left to Raleigh's penetrating vision and sharp tongue to discern and make explicit one of the novel's main themes: the masochistic nature of America's fascination with family-style restaurants. He's the novel's voice, as it were.
TB: Actually, I intended him to be the novel's co-voice, along with a certain Marx-Lenin-Trotsky-obsessed cop, who provides doctrinaire but unfailingly piquant commie glosses for everything.
BK: And that brings us to the other great theme of this book—
TB: Damn. Two great themes already, and we haven't even gotten to the Merchant of the Month Award Banquet. Pretty fucking amazing for 120 pages, eh?
BK: Tightly packed. No pun etcetera... Shit, what was I just going to say?
TB: The perpetual class struggle.
TB: The other great Lemurian theme.
BK: No, no, I was thinking of—
TB: Yeah, class struggle. Though born filthy rich, Raleigh manages to come down on the sympathetic side of the Marxist dialectic as well. We never see him do a Van Veen, hammering the hams of some unappetizing mini-lumpenprole. The little one who is suffered to come unto Raleigh is no food services industry drudge, but a fellow flier in his own socioeconomic stratosphere. He's luscious little Harvey, the private elementary school student, with plump limbs, haughty bearing, and all the other marks of privilege, including music lessons—
BK: Second-seat trombonist of the local youth symphonette.
TB: With the embouchure to prove it. Readers will detect nary a whiff of class in the struggle between Raleigh and Harvey, and not a smidgen of the capitalist exploitation that occurs between princely Van Veen and the wretched gutter catamite he purchases.
BK: Ideological purity. This is a whole other dimension of Bradleyan wholesomeness.
TB: I never thought of it that way...but you're right, Barry. Very nice! So ideologically pure, in fact, is the Bradleyan wholesomeness, that I have even catered a kind of little symbolic wedding for my two lovable NAMBLA delegates, complete with honeymoon, as they trundle ecstatically off Raleigh's mom's canary-yellow Mercedes.
BK: An off-screen consummation.
TB: Don't want the book burned by the Postmaster General.
BK: And yet, like so many love affairs, this one ends bittersweetly. Bitterlysweet. Whatever. The next time we see your restaurant critic, after he and little Harvey have snuck off for their tryst, Raleigh is all alone. Nothing remains of little Harvey but the trombone.
TB: Do you insist on that being a sign of sadness? The thing could be a shiny golden love-memento. Like a slightly enlarged doodad for a charm bracelet.
BK: But, Tom, listen to your own sounds. Raleigh sits in his mother's canary-yellow Mercedes, alone with his loverboy's trombone. He has decided to master it—though it's difficult to tell who is being mastered here:
The sounds are horrible, like an old elephant being cruelly sodomized against its conscious will.
That must be the lament of his own heart breaking for the boy, who is not there. Raleigh has taken the advice given by Tibullus two thousand years ago—
Chaste modesty guards his gentle cheeks.
But if perchance your suit at first should come to naught,
press on, and he will slowly take the yoke.
—but, in Lemur, Tibullus' yoke has been transmuted into a brass horn, and it's being slowly taken, not by the boy, but the man. True to Bizarro World's rules of engagement, Tibullus' lovely elegiac poetry is uglified into the cacophony of an unmastered wind instrument. The child, in this case, has indeed been father to the man. The child has dumped the man.
TB: Or maybe dumped on him.
BK: Again, hurtful. What's with you today, Tom?
TB: Low blood sugar. A sandwich or so might help. I'm no expert, I only wrote the thing. But, maybe the trombone's no mere golden memento. Maybe the emphasis should be laid on the second syllable, and we have a figurative bone, the orts of a cannibalistic statutory rape, the physical evidence of a gruesome feast, and Raleigh has his lips wrapped around skeletal remains, marrow-sucking... What a stupid fucking idea. Forget I said anything.
BK: No, no. Hold on a second. Maybe you're on to something. Weren't we just a minute ago sharing mutual mystification over your acceptance into the Bizarro cult? You, with all your sun-drenched Aristotelian-Euclidian-Newtonian wholesomeness? Maybe you've unconsciously written a horror-type novel. Horror is a big sub-genre of Bizarro, right?
TB: Just a piece of bread would do me fine right about now.
BK: Bear with me. As I recall, Van Veen's class-exploited butt boy had, and I quote, "eventually to be destroyed or given away." That's horror, right? And what does Raleigh finally do with his Harvey-proxy, that elegiac trombone?
TB: Shit. Piss. Fuck.
BK: He throws it out the window of the moving Mercedes. Child lovers by definition do not love. If they loved children they would understand that little ones need nurture, not nookie. I knew that trombone was going the way of both baby and bath water the second I saw it on the seat next to Raleigh.
TB: Spoken like a true petit bourgeois. I wouldn't worry about luscious little Harvey if I were you. Raleigh's puerile paramour can take care of himself. No fewer than three grown men come onto him in one evening, including a hardened homicide detective. And, like any self-possessed aristocrat, Harvey's got them all simultaneously wrapped around his little finger. And I do mean little. He knows exactly what he's doing, far better than two out of three of his would-be seducers, who aren't even conscious of the sexual nature of their fascination with him. It's not Harvey's innards that are going to be turned inside out.
BK: What about nurture-versus-nookie?
TB: Upper-class toddlers don't necessarily figure into that contradiction. The silver spoon metaphorically placed in their mouths at parturition represents the fully formed self which they have inherited along with their trust funds, already in place and earning interest. Unlike you and me as children, they don't face the life-deforming prospect of enslaving the greater part of their time and energy and personality to mere physical survival. Ninety-five percent of the nurture you tout so enthusiastically consists of preparation to enter the job market: i.e., the systematic beating flat of the personality.
BK: So, you're saying, in the nurture-versus-nookie department, patrician children are often literally born ready.
TB: They fucking give me the creeps. That's how come, when I was a harpist, I never played high-tone birthday parties or bar mitzvahs.
BK: That and the Shetland pony shit underfoot?
TB: Van Veen is a sex criminal because he is a class criminal.
BK: I suppose Raleigh's just hob-nobbing.
TB: Heavy on the knob.
BK: Hurtful. Always with the hurtful, Tom. I'm half a boyish butt-hair away from concluding this hurtful interview.
TB: And right here, Barry, teetering on this butt-hair precipice, this is where Marx earns his wage when he says "all literature is about class." This is where F. Scott Fitz-Whoozit earns his patronizing pat on the head when he says "The very rich are different from you and me."
BK: All literature is about class? But surely every Bizarro book doesn't bed a boy.
TB: Or plug a butt with a Baby Boy Jesus? No, not every single volume. I've read three or four where a squid gets ass-reamed instead.
BK: But there seems to be something more than mere boyishness simmering under the surface here. These boys are actually something bigger, right?
TB: You got it. Yes, the boy in this man-boy equation represents something other, and beyond, that Marxian construct known as a darling little creature with a downy scrotum: something vastly more important than a boy, or a lemur, or any other category of primate. A couple minutes ago I said there's no greater joy or privilege than bringing forth a book. And birthing Raleigh's scrumptious little trombonist is all the more pleasurable because, at bottom, beneath and beyond his toothsome boyism, he's composed of the juiciest tidbits of all: not glabrous buttocks and tiny testicles, but vowels and consonants, the alphabet. He is literature, Bizarro-style.
BK: I think I have some stuff for sandwiches around here somewhere.
TB: Stay with me in my magickal transmogrification of boys into books. Nabokov's dysenteric little wretch represents the pulp genres, the "speculative," sci-fi-, fantasy, horror, etc., up at which he would have felt obliged, publicly at least, to turn his monarchist nose. Raleigh's little trombonist, on the other hand, is that same generic catamite, but cleaned up, lifted to a level which even the Nab would consider serious art.
Bizarro has made it possible for the Nab, in the guise of Raleigh, to pursue that literal little asshole openly and successfully, and on his own socioeconomic level, so no Marxist tawdriness stains the lyrical loveliness. And that is the true miracle and transformative revelation of Bizarro: its alchemical wedding of trash and serious literature, its transmutation of base pulp metal into literary gold—which I trust will be lining all our pockets someday very soon. Then I, too, can put on airs like his nibs, the Nab.
BK: I hope you're not thinking of becoming a Cub Scout master.
TB: Our making the Nab whole is no less a magickal-alchemical working than making a boy into a book. The poor man was compelled to bury his declasse dalliance deep in the mustardy bowels of Ada, his most bloated, blatantly patrician and unreadable tome, on page 355, way after the point where people have quit reading who are not, like me, adoring fans, willing to forgive him any sin imaginable (including, most famously and proverbially, the boning of female tots). Meanwhile society, and literature, have evolved—
BK: Or maybe degenerated.
TB: —in the subsequent thirty or however many years, so that I can display my pedophilic moment openly, in the best disinfectant sunshine, with only sixty pages to cover it.
BK: Yeah, but unlike Ada's, the butt-fuck in Lemur (assuming it's not just a trombone lesson) takes place off-screen.
TB: That's just my good taste and admirable self-restraint, which you have already called attention to.
BK: Your wholesomeness.
TB: Say it again, Barry.
TB: I think I'm ready for that sandwich now.
BK: Is peanut butter—
TB: So this is a further elucidation of what I mean when I say in my essay that we Bizarros are "making the Nab whole." A hint of the great genius' fractured self can be detected in his intro to Lolita, where we are told that the first publisher who saw the manuscript suggested augmenting the nymphet with a sturdy little weenie, and dumbing down the style with tropes like, "He's crazy. I'm crazy. I guess we're all crazy." Nabokov refused, of course.
And that left it to us Bizarros to reconcile him, posthumously, literally in spirit, with his deepest death secret: his desire to scribble the sort of fun stuff that was then sneered at. (Recall his jailbait chronicle was originally brought out by a Euro-trash summertime beach porno-book publisher.) He always cherished the trash-boy/trash-lit-loving impulse, but cleverly disguised it under a nymphet-molester's sesquipedalianity. At least nobody would ever call Lolita's rapist "Nancy."
BK: Nobody but you. Seriously, I think this is an original insight—quite a feat, considering the vast multinational Nabokov industry that has sprung up. You could wind up with tenure somewhere if you're not careful.
TB: I'd sooner eat a bowl of shit.
BK: How about peanut butter instead?
TB: A boy is nothing more than a recently promoted baby. But a Bizarro book is a God-Baby. My God-Baby. And its promotion goes on and on, forever.
1 Bradley Sands, It Came From Below The Belt, Afterbirth books
2 Jordan Krall, Piecemeal June, Eraserhead Press
3 Carlton Mellick III, Menstruating Mall, Afterbirth Books
4 Carlton Mellick III and Kevin L. Donihue, Ocean of Lard, Eraserhead Press
5 Vincent W. Sakowski, Misadventures in a Thumbnail Universe, Eraserhead Press
6 Eckhard Gerdes, The Million-Year Centipede, or, Liquid Structures, Raw Dog Screaming Press
8 D. Harlan Wilson, Dr. Identity, Raw Dog Screaming Press
9 Carlton Mellick III, Razor Wire Pubic Hair, Eraserhead Press
10 John Edward Lawson, Pocket Full of Loose Razorblades, Afterbirth Books
11 Eckhard Gerdes, My Landlady the Lobotomist, Raw Dog Screaming Press
12 Steve Beard, Meat Puppet Cabaret, Raw Dog Screaming Press
13 Alyssa Sturgill, Spider Pie, Raw Dog Screaming Press
14 Carlton Mellick III, The Baby Jesus Butt Plug, Eraserhead Press
15 [The interviewer appears to have a newly-revised version of Bradley's Why I Won't Be Submitting to Jonathan's U.S. Elections Issue, 2004. —Ed.]
Barry Katz is a wandering Jew from Jaffa where as a kid on a kibbutz he picked green grapefruits.
Go to The Advocate for a further fleshing out of the ideas discussed in this interview--
If you want to peek at a You-Tubular video of Dr. Bradley performing Chapter Two of the book discussed in this interview, go here--
It's dick-bent hilarious!
Here's further work by me on this vast and strange subject--
It's my reportage of a gig Doctor Bradley gave in Osaka, as published in Paris by 3:AM Magazine: KING KONG VS. GODZILLA: TOM BRADLEY HAPPY-FUCKS OSAKA.
As the man himself describes the evening:
"My life was in danger. There were motorcycle punks, Yakuza gangsters and extreme rightist fanatics all over the place!"
This interview appears among the Critical Appendices in Tom Bradley's latest, most astonishing volume of non-fiction, PUT IT DOWN IN A BOOK, published by THE DRILL PRESS--