July 13, 2011
What is badbadbad?
A novel, a soundtrack, a documentary film. Literary performance as minstrel freakshow. A question in triplicate. Father, Son and the Holy _________. A fire starter. You, me and your mother.
How has your book, if I may call it that, been received so far?
With open arms and steel-toed boots. I knew responses would vary, but I’m still impressed by the reactions. Those who love it tend to really love it. I feel like I’ve made authentic connections with readers who believe in what I’m doing. I’m grateful for that. One woman in Portland was so fired up that she insisted on getting me a show at this incredible venue, Dante’s, and now that the date is set (8/14), the gig promises to be the hottest grand finale for a so-called book tour ever. Seriously, check out this place. Can you imagine? It’s gonna be way over-the-top. On the flipside, the haters tend to hate with a passion, and not for the reasons I expected. I think the novel, like any good story, asks the reader to ride along without a seatbelt or helmet, and some folks aren’t willing to break the law like that.
So you advocate lawlessness?
I advocate Beginner’s Mind: “mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices.” I think confusion or discomfort or not-knowing is fertile ground.
So badbadbad is a folktale?
It’s a tale about folks. It’s tall and wide and hairy. Is that a folktale? Maybe it’s a bear.
It is a book, right?
Well, yes and no. I mean, of course, it’s a book. It was a book first. It will always be a book. But it’s also a soundtrack of songs derived from the narrative, essentially another way telling some of the key stories in the book, and it’s a film that presents voices from the street, literally, an audio-visual document, culled from random interviews, of contemporary American views on some of the novel’s themes. The film is most surprising to me in how it both underscores and expands on the book’s ideas.
Fear, hypocrisy, e-intimacy, sexual morality, self-destruction, identity.
Sounds like a dissertation.
No thank you.
The title badbadbad implies a certain, for lack of a better word, badness. How bad is badbadbad?
I think of badbadbad as a question rather than a statement, as if the story is provoking the reader to ask him- or herself what’s “bad,” or what does it mean to be “bad,” let alone 3xbad. The narrative is structured, I think, to challenge readers to clarify their own personal values (and capacity for non-judgment) through a series of increasingly thorny interactions between the protagonist and a range of characters in his social network on both sides of the Southern cultural divide: First Church of the Church Before Church (an evangelical community) and fallenangels.net (an online dating site for extreme desires).
Some people think the book’s not “bad” enough. Others feel like a few of the (consensual) sex acts and other scenes are “superbad.” Then there are those who find some of the language unsettling. I was gunning for raw, “real” or maybe “hyperreal,” explicit without being gratuitous. Someone recently said the prose is a combination of testosterone and poetics. I’ll take that. I’m not afraid of owning my testosterone, as one might say in group therapy, I imagine. I don’t necessarily believe in the workshop model, though. For example, some readers love the characters, especially the protagonist. Others hate them, especially the protagonist. Some like the memoir feel of the first-person narrator having the same name as the author. Others think this is unacceptable. Everyone has a different threshold and varying levels of experience and openness, I guess. I’m always interested in what people think about my work, whether I agree with them or not. I want the novel (and the soundtrack and the film) to start conversations. What do you think?