You’ve written a lot about Lars Iyer. What attracted you to his work, and why did you respond to his manifesto?
It’s so hard to find worthwhile fiction anymore. There’s Richard Powers and then what? Literary Fiction? Franzen? DeLillo? To me, they’re soporific. Steve Erickson writes interesting novelties that at least don’t put me to sleep. Tom Robbins wrote some fabulous stuff but, because of his popularity, he doesn’t get critical recognition.
I came across a review of Dogma on an aggregator’s site and hoped it might be something new. But it’s more like defeated post-modernism. Nihilism all over again and not as interesting as say, Lermontov, or the Theatre of the Absurd from the fifties. I played Mr. Smith from The Bald Soprano when I was in fifth grade. It was one of my formative experiences.
Lars’s work is like Becket’s. All over again. It seems to happen in cycles. But he lives in England. Despair is probably right for his situation. But I don’t recognize defeat. I don’t do despair anymore. That was me in my thirties when I was totally hamstrung. But he’s published and I’m not. So somebody saw something there that hasn’t yet been seen in mine.
What do you mean by defeated post-modernism?
Post-modernism is different things to different people, depending on whether it’s a theory of history or a certain sensibility in the arts. There’s a huge difference between them. The first time I ever heard the term, it applied to the architecture of people like Robert Venturi, who used classical forms for decoration. People say Pyncheon and Heller and Vonnegut were doing it back in the fifties, with their distant, ironic stance on things. They were writing about the horrors of war. But I doubt they ever saw themselves as writing the first post-modern novels. Aside from Catch-22, I never paid much attention to them. I was reading the classics at the time. Then came the second wave. People who had read Deleuze and those guys, like Kathy Acker, who did it more self-consciously. But artists shouldn’t listen to camp followers. And artists are starting to push back. That’s a good thing.
If you accept it as a theory of history, in which power forever accumulates at the top of the pyramid and only the urine trickles down, and you’re a nihilist, then you’re defeated.