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James Curcio JAMES CURCIO creates dystopian propoganda for a generation of "hedonists, intellectuals, and drug addicts." Rumors of being a key member of a harem of feral lesbians are slightly exaggerated, however much his Bohemian lifestyle may indicate otherwise.

Previous brain-washing agents have taken the form of subversive novels, essays, scripts for comic and films, albums, soundtracks, podcasts, and performances. He works as creative director for Odd Duck Media, LLC.

Recent Work By James Curcio

 ”Why Do You Write?” 

I’ve gotten this one in interviews in the past. Everything I said there was a lie. Let me answer it truthfully: 

I no longer write for you, to get finger claps in Cafes or “Likes” on Facebook. I no longer write to be understood. I don’t do it for fame for fortune, because who are we kidding? It’s public, but only like flashing your genitals in a subway car is public.

I write to momentarily get rid of myself, to get a little more distance, to intellectualize the gnawing in my stomach or ringing in my ears. I like us all a little better when we’ve been turned to symbols. It’s an Other-ing that makes it all more bearable. Sometimes it can even get us a little high, though those are also the worst times, the benders where the words hurt you the next morning and you’re a stranger to yourself. Then the words are like pans crashing and clattering to the ground, lolling around like Murakami’s kittens, and even more words spill out to enclose that noise with comfortable silence. Signal and noise can flip end over end, but that’s subject for another day. That buzzing in my head is already drowning it all out–

“Memory is like fiction; or else it’s fiction that’s like memory. This really came home to me once I started writing fiction, that memory seemed a kind of fiction, or vice versa. Either way, no matter how hard you try to put everything neatly into shape, the context wanders this way and that, until finally the context isn’t even there anymore. You’re left with this pile of kittens lolling all over one another. Warm with life, hopelessly unstable. And then to put these things out as saleable items, you call them finished products – at times it’s downright embarrassing just to think of it. Honestly, it can make me blush.”
— Haruki Murakami

You’re only a writer when you don’t know why you do it anymore, eventually there’s nothing else but the lie that tells the truth. You’re a writer the way a junky is a junky. It’s got little if nothing to do with anything else. If you’re still talking about “writer’s block” and wordcounts, there might still be hope for you. Turn back. Kick the habit.

I don’t write for you to come with me. We don’t need writing for that.

But since I have your attention, I’ve started working on my new book …

Norwegian Wood (from movie)Yesterday morning, I finished reading Murakami’s Norwegian Wood.

It was raining, unusually cold for an August morning, and almost coal black. I couldn’t imagine a better morning to finish this particular book. I sat in silence for a good hour after closing the cover, thinking to myself. (Who else would I think to?) Beethoven was playing in the background. It colored all my thoughts for the rest of the day.

While reading, I suggested it to several people, and one of them asked me if I could explain the ending to her. She was looking for a sort of resolution that Murakami seems typically reticent to provide.

As a result, I’ve been thinking about resolutions. Well, I’ve been thinking about many things, but one of the threads is resolution. I’ll share my notes, and hope that you aren’t offended by “spoilers,” because personally, I could give a damn—any story worth reading is worth reading. It isn’t about the ending.

The idea of “spoilers” themselves gives us a starting point. There are certain expectations that most readers put on endings. It’s an unrealistic expectation, given the nature of life—often the endings that count the most seem to come unexpectedly, out of nowhere. You’re crossing the road thinking about the complications posed by the two women you love, and wham! a truck hits you. These endings resolve nothing.

My point is, endings and resolutions are not the same, and an ending doesn’t need to resolve anything. Something can end, people can drop out of our lives as if they had instead dropped off the face of a steep cliff. But there is no resolution. Similarly something can resolve, and in the process transform into something else, which is a way whereby an end can be turned into a beginning. The Death card in the Tarot is said to be a resolution, for instance. It isn’t necessarily an ending.

Now that we’ve got that straight, I’d like to return to Murakami’s ending for Norwegian Wood, and its lack of resolution.

I phoned Midori.

“I have to talk to you,” I said. “I have a million things to talk to you  about. A million things we have to talk about. All I want in this world is you. I want to see you and talk. I want the two of us to begin everything from the beginning.”

Midori responded with a long, long silence – the silence of all the  misty rain in the world falling on all the new-mown lawns of the world. Forehead pressed against the glass, I shut my eyes and waited.

At last, Midori’s quiet voice broke the silence: “Where are you now?”

Where was I now? Gripping the receiver, I raised my head and turned to see what lay beyond the phone box. Where was I now? I had no idea. No idea at  all. Where was this place? All that flashed into my eyes were the countless shapes of people walking by to nowhere. Again and again I  called out for Midori from the dead centre of this place that was no place.

Here the protagonist is calling Midori—the girl he has decided he wants to be with—and she is distant, but she does take his call, which reaches her as if over this great expanse. When I read it, it seemed as if the camera was pulling away at the end of a movie, and he’s just this little piece of jetsam floating in the ocean. The protagonist fades into a sea of people, no longer central, no longer even notable. Just a face, a dot, nothing at all. More notable, you never find out what Midori’s reply is. There is no resolution.

This seems to be a common element in Murakami’s stories, for instance in many short stories in The Elephant Vanishes, and it is a tendency that I personally find refreshing, given how much pressure I’ve been handed as an author to always resolve everything. When you don’t, some people accuse you of bad or sloppy plot-work, as if you simply forgot to resolve that which you intentionally left unresolved.

Another misconception that arises from this approach is that it is at all new. It has been one way of ending a piece of classical music since Beethoven, radical that he was, played games with the form. At the end of some Beethoven pieces, he ends on an unresolved chord.

Murakami is employing the same kind of ending. In fact, I could almost hear that repeated, lingering chord at the end of the Moonlight Sonata as I read those closing lines to Norwegian Wood.

This was one of the many things which in his time was considered incredibly controversial and original. We can’t hear Beethoven now, I mean, we can’t hear how revolutionary he was. We’re too used to it because he was so successful in changing Western music. Success can come along with its own form of curse, so that while he may be immortalized, the reasons that he’s been immortalized are in some ways obscured by the enormity of his success.

My point is this: we shouldn’t feel pressure to resolve our stories in any particular way. Our job is to find what a story wants to be and help nurture it. Some pieces may call for a classic resolution, or even an ironic twist on the classic resolution, like at the end of the 7th symphony 2nd movement, where the ending seems to be almost an ironic telegraph—“here is the ending you were expecting.”

But if the resolution to a story would require a new book, then give your reader a wall of mist, rather than that. You aren’t law-bound to provide a resolution. Midori’s answer, given across that immense expanse, is the beginning of a new story, not the ending of that one.

Not all calls are answered. Not all chords are resolved.

 

(By the way, a little bit of self-patronage: my novel Fallen Nation: Party At The World’s End was just published. I’m going to go buy myself a bottle of wine and think about beginnings, now.)

 

The pupils dilate. The rush of expectation met and satisfied.

Everyone who’s done coke knows this: the expectation of the rush is as rewarding as the dopamine hit itself. Maybe more.

Looking around for some paper to start writing down a schedule for project development and releases over the next six months, I found an old marble journal that I kept a long time ago. Flipping through it, I saw an entry that made me realize something. While in some ways we change so much from day to day, week to week, and year to year, in another kind of mysterious way, we also don’t change all that much. (Though I’ve since revised my position on metaphysics, apparently. But that’s another thing.)

This was written in 1998.

I was driving home the other day with a friend when the car jolted to a halt. Sitting in the middle of the road was a blackbird. Or maybe a raven. I don’t really know birds. It was black.

“What did that mean?” he wondered, once the bird hopped out of the way.

“What do you mean what did that mean?” I asked reluctantly, when the car didn’t move. They symbolize death, right? But why? Apparently this was an important question.

And then it hit me:

All of our everyday experience is metaphorical of a deeper, unknown substance; it points at what we really are. The dark – that is, invisible – side of our persona.

A white car passed us on the road.

What does that mean?

I decided to categorize my all my responses and observations. To make a library of metaphors. I thought about the white car, and about the emotional undertone – subtle but present – that was connected to that moment. I thought about my naive presupposition that there is an object made of synthetically re-configured materials that is a white car. White is the color that it is not, everything that the object rejects as repugnant.

We live in a world of imagined constructs, never thinking about how this perceived world affects, reflects them; never seeing the intangible level the object points at; as symbols (like the word “car” points at what hides behind “car,” it points towards it but neither contains nor describes it.)

There is no higher validity in this metaphor and metaphysical perspective (which an artist calls upon to inform their work.) There is no Jewish father figure hiding behind the world of appearance, ready to chastise his unruly children. There is only You.

If you dig deep enough into the interaction of events in your life, realizing them to be transparent, metaphysical symbols rather than opaque material reality, you will begin to find what you are. Footsteps leading backwards and forwards towards your center. (Death. Incomprehensible non-existence.)  And you will also find that you are not what you think you are.

What a cheery “young adult” I was, huh?

Tell me if this is a normal conversation to have while standing with the other groomsmen at a wedding.

The End of an Era / It was good while it lasted / Crying won't help

“Never before has there been a generation of Americans so disillusioned by the American Dream.”

“Maybe in the 20s? It’s hard to compare.”

I’ve been big on confessions lately. There’s much we can learn from one another by being honest, even if we give ourselves a certain poetic license with the form that honesty takes. So bear with me a moment.