Tom Bradley’s latest books are Vital Fluid (Crossing Chaos Enigmatic Ink), Even the Dog Won’t Touch Me (Ahadada Press), Put It Down in a Book (The Drill Press), and Hemorrhaging Slave of an Obese Eunuch (Dog Horn Publishing). Further curiosity can be indulged at tombradley.org and Wikipedia.
David Hoenigman: When did you become a writer?
Tom Bradley: About as early as humanly possible without getting all wet-wired and deoxyribonucleic about it. I received my writerly vocation in the first grade–and I was only five at the time. The authorities decided to matriculate my bewildered ass a year early because I was already taller than most third graders, and the kindergartners were visiting the rest room in their pants when I came rumbling out to recess.
One afternoon, Miss Krall, our depraved abomination of a first-grade teacher, told us to go home and write a true story. She really puckered her vicious lips on the word true, which meant she was serious about that stipulation. So, of course, I went home and wrote about the time my father and I saved my little brother from the sharks.
Next day when I submitted the manuscript, Miss Krall got very upset–I mean drooling and eye-rolling. This was an unhappy crone, a Mormoness of manic piety, drunk most of the time. Though legally a spinster, she was rumored to “enjoy celestial ties” with the neighborhood “Bishop” (read polygamy in its sickest and most furtive form).
Knowing that I was the youngest child in my family, and that I had never been out of the landlocked state of my birth, she called my father in for a conference and told him that I was starting out life on the wrong foot with such mendacity. He magnetized the story to the front of our fridge, where it remained until the very crayon faded.
This familiarized me with some of the prerogatives of the writer. To thumb one’s nose at authority and lay the lofty low, and simultaneously to enjoy the single experience that Freud considered better than unmetaphorical sex: feeling the superego reach down and pat the ego on the head for a job well done. And all this when you’ve been having fun lying through your teeth.
DH: So that’s when you became a writer.
TB: No, it happened a couple weeks later.
TB: It was after we’d been graduated from the Crayola box. Creepy-Krall was already teaching us to express our inner selves with a ballpoint pen. Cursively, yet. Like many self-loathers, she was vicariously ambitious.
At random she yanked a photo of an Hispanic-looking girl out of Look Magazine, scotch-taped it to the chalkboard, and let it be known that each of us must come up with a story about this senorita, in ballpoint ink, cursively. And it would be healthier for us if, while scribbling, we shut the fuck up and let the professional educator get back to her paperback copy of Extracts from the Prophecy of Enoch, as revealed by the angel Moroni via magical “shew stone” to the Prophet Joseph Smith back in old Nauvoo, or something like that. I didn’t quite catch the last part because the overachiever in me was already trying to tackle the assignment.
I’d never seen anybody but Anglo Saxons and ethnic Scandinavians. But somehow, looking at the photo, I got the feeling that a girl with such pretty brown hair, eyes and skin really ought to have a name ending in a vowel–though I’m sure I didn’t consciously know what a vowel was. Anyway, out of somewhere, maybe my ass, I pulled Rosa, thus creating for myself a gigantic problem. I recollect this problem as a physical sensation, a boulder on my head and shoulders.
Miss Krall hadn’t troubled to teach us how to join up a lower-case o with a lower-case s. She had warned us, on pain of failure and public ridicule, that our ballpoint pens should finish our o’s well above the line. But we were to start our esses right smack-dab on the line, as per the since-debunked Palmer Method. So, how was a poor tangle of semi-decade-old fingers supposed to encompass Rosa?
I somehow mustered enough early-latency-period balls to approach the front of the class and ask the teacher for this extra spoonful of pedagogical gruel. She responded as expected, with the same four sneering syllables that she hissed at any child who needed a hall pass to go to the bathroom: I could care less.
Even a five year old knew an n’t should be joined up with her could. Miss Krall truly was a subliterate, sub-human, booze-addled, crypto-plural-spousal monster prick: the mold for every bad thought I’ve suffered since.
This was before No Child Left Behind, and American youngsters still were able to imagine actually being taught things. I must have refused to slink back to my desk, because she sent me to the second floor, to the Office of the Penmanship Lady. I’d never climbed the school stairs before, and this was the first I’d heard of the Penmanship Lady. There was ample precedent for anticipating that she, too, like Miss Krall, would be a sadistic, discount gin-refluxing asshole, and I was scared as I went up.
I crept into the Penmanship Lady’s Office, and the first thing I noticed was the sunlight, because it blinded me. Downstairs, Krall kept the shades drawn so we wouldn’t be distracted from indoctrination about the world outside. But up here the sash was flung wide, directly onto the branches of a tree full of flowers which were so big that I’m sure I saw magenta veins swelling in the blossoms’ underbellies–but that’s impossible, because nothing like that grows in the Biblical desert of my nativity.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. What happened next remained unclear in my memory till a quarter-century later, when I happened upon this passage in the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz:
…somebody in an unusual manner touched me on the back; whereupon I was so hugely terrified, that I durst hardly look about me…I looked back, and behold it was a fair and glorious lady…
It was a tall, radiant being, the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen or imagined. Her face, hands and forearms were covered in skin that smelled and glowed like flowers with sun shining through them. For what seems, in memory, to have been a full minute, the Penmanship Lady took me in through a pair of vast light-blue eyes. I was transfixed, like one of those doomed children at Fatima, long ago, who witnessed the Portuguese sun pop like a white phosphorus blister and splash down in the Atlantic.
Having learned a smidge more about women in the subsequent decades, I’m willing to bet, as I sit here being interviewed, that the Penmanship Lady knew exactly what she was doing in that unfathomable minute. Deliberately, at her leisure, she opened a window in my empty brain. She made a frame where she could forever display herself, inhumanly gentle, mildly amused, taking me by the wrist and forearm. The sjoined up with the o, and I was taught to write Rosa. This is the pattern for every delight that has since come my way. I’ve written nearly two million words with ballpoint pens.
DH: What do you think of the latest version of Microsoft Word? I think it loads a little slow.
DH: What delights are you currently working on with your ballpoint pen?
TB: So glad you asked that, David. I just happen to have no fewer than five delights coming my way right now. As we speak, Ahadada Press is celebrating its tenth year of epater-ing the b’Jeezus out of le bourgeoisie by publishing, among other books, Even the Dog Won’t Touch Me, my barrage of stories that bounce back and forth across the Pacific as if it were a mud puddle. No Atlantic splashdowns.
Even the Dog Won’t Touch Me features a seven-foot-tall member of the Greatest Generation who gets to stay home from World War II and fornicate with his friends’ wives. Elsewhere, sexually ambiguous creatures lay a six-figure book advance on a harelip, and an obese janitor in a Mormon prayer hall wedges himself behind the organ pipes, dies, and “fills the joint with green corpse steam.” Meanwhile, in China, a Palestinian medical student gets chained to a conveyor belt in a Manchurian abortion mill; a former Red Guard returns from rustication to find his comrades running a bourgeois beauty salon called SYJVESTER STAJJONE’S; and an American “foreign expert” hijacks a beggar’s wheelchair to facilitate the theft of a baby.
For Fluxical-Concretical literature, Haptical-Fluxical, Concretical-Hapitcal, Fluxical-Haptical-Concretical, Ahadada are the only men. And I’m chuffed to be dunked in Duchamp’s pissoir (that’s their logo), paddling alongside such swimmers as Mark Spitzer, former zipper-upper of the Cyber Bag; Simon Perchik, “the most widely published unknown poet in America”; Ur-Ethnopoet Jerome Rothenberg; Richard Peabody, founder of the legendary Gargoyle Magazine; Daniel Sendecki, chronicler of lotuses among the land mines–and, most of all, Jesse Fuckin’ Glass, playwright, poet, fictionist, performance artist, star of Filmgruppe Chaos, dispatcher of email messages that traumatize your intercostal muscles, and wielder of the monkey wrench that cinches the Ahadada plumbing.
I pick up my pen
think of my mother sitting cross-legged
smoking a Camel
in her belly a truck-driver’s soul
tucks flesh around itself
–occupy a permanent place in my head. They’re silk-screened in heliotrope ink among the dozen Artemis nipples that sweeten Our Lady of the Ballpoint’s wet tee shirt.
In the meantime, as Even the Dog Won’t Touch Me tucks flesh around itself in Ahadada’s belly, my hypnovel, Vital Fluid, is fixing for July delivery by the art-fiction fusion house, Crossing Chaos Enigmatic Ink.
I call Vital Fluid a “hypnovel” not because I’ve been so tiresome as to invent a genre, but on account of its having to do with a pair of rival mesmerists. Their names are Phil Deacon and Simon Magus, and they just might be the reincarnations of their first-century namesakes, for the two of them wage a wizard war reminiscent of the one advertized in the Acts of the Apostles. Making a cameo appearance will be His Eminence, Pope Pius IX, “an obese old lecher…with an expression perpetually fixed on his face which makes him look as though he just had an orgasm or two.”
Vital Fluid is inspired by the life, performances and writings of “the World’s Fastest Hypnotist,” John-Ivan Palmer. This formidable magus has deftly animal-magnetized the astral bodies of unsuspecting folks from Eastern Europe to the West Indies, from Latin America to Hirohito Hades. He also happens to be my favorite living author, with such works as “Welcome to Guatemala: Death Squads, God, Queers and Rubber Cement,” “Stick It In And Break It Off: New Discoveries In Prehistoric Homicide,” “Hostile Break-up, Sinister Reunion: Mesmerism and the Boob,” “General Semantics and the Chicken Suit Murders,” “Intellectual Seekers in the Notorious Tenderloin,” and “On The Roadkill: Is Kerouac Still Alive?”
John-Ivan Palmer, who clearly has little difficulty expressing himself, has cried out, with regard to my hypnovel, “There are no words to describe the eerie dream this book is to me!”
Vital Fluid shares Crossing Chaos Enigmatic Ink’s inaugural catalog with several fascinating books, not the least of which is Forrest Armstrong’s Asphalt Flowerhead, which I had the privilege and pleasure of editing. This is one of those novels which demands to have a paragraph lifted from the inside and placed on the back cover, as the style itself is more of an enticement than any twelve headliner blurbs could ever be. While being knocked out by Asphalt Flowerhead, I hallucinated this passage in just such a position:
At this time the insect-man starts to gag and spits out a long faded pink handkerchief; when it drops on the table drenched in stomach acid it starts to eat away at the wood, the whole place ignites; alcohol sizzling in the air like grease, ectoplasm billowing to the ceiling and popping in liquid-spray; rotten chunks of bamboo peel off walls and the roof starts to rain on the drinkers, everybody in the bar grabs their hats and runs for the door…
Seeing such on the back cover, I can’t imagine walking out of a bookstore without Forrest Armstrong’s novel in my possession. He has a boundless, naturally unnatural talent for the lyric mode-inversus.
Speaking of the boundless and the unnatural, later in ’09 there will be a Halloween release of Hemorrhaging Slave of an Obese Eunuch, my book about transgenderism and reddish-blond human scalp wigs during the reign of Emperor Nero.
This one’s coming from the U.K.’s Dog Horn Publishing, who have long been known, feared, loved, envied, reviled and propitiated for Polluto, their Spectrum Fantastic Arts Award-winning magazine of cultural subversion. Dog Horn’s book list includes collections by Rhys Hughes and Steve Redwood (“shimmering examples of specific irony,” according to editor Adam Lowe), and a volume tentatively entitled The Bride Stripped Bare, by Rachel Kendall, editor of the astonishing Sein und Werden.
Arriving at Dog Horn fresh from a gig as mental health worker among the Apaches is none other than Deb Hoag. Her Crashing the Real is guaranteed to cause an Anglosphere-wide epidemic of risible muscle seizures. It’s the story of Eve, a magazine columnist who, in a world of starched yuppies and ferns, cherishes the forlorn hope of being the female Hunter Thompson. With “visions of hash oil dancing in her head,” she sets fire to her magazine receptionist’s desk, grabs her grandmother and goes on a voyage across America in search of a certain “juicy monkey sex god in a striped spandex jumpsuit.” According to Grandma, “Eve’s agenda is of a metaphysical nature, but I just want to bang him.”
Any transgendered habitue of Neronic Rome would be gratified to hang his reddish-blond wig at Dog Horn, among such kindred folk as Deb Hoag’s Eve and her horny granny. My British buddies have assured me that Hemorrhaging Slave of an Obese Eunuch will “shift lots of units.” I take that as quite a vote of confidence. When’s the last time a book without pictures shifted your unit?
DH: Well, actually–
TB: Yeah, me neither. Plus, David, I want to tell you about The Drill Press, who are bringing out my latest nonfiction work, Put It Down in a Book. The title comes from Yitzchak Luria:
Writing is impossible because all things are related.
I can hardly open my mouth to speak without feeling
as though the sea burst its dams and overflowed.
How then shall I express what my soul has received,
and how can I put it down in a book?
Rather than interpreting that as a cry of despair, or an expression of mystical awe (which is how the good rabbi consciously intended it), I have accepted Yitzy-baby’s utterance as a challenge. Allowing the “sea to burst its dams and overflow,” acknowledging that “all things are related,” I’ve refused to find writing impossible, and have put it down in this book about writing itself.
Put It Down in a Book is organized in two parts, Theory and Practice. In the former I examine the all-relatedness of older literature and scriptures to certain recent poetry and fiction (in particular the luxuriantly decadent stories of Andrew Gallix), meanwhile providing an overview of textual transmission, starting with oral-improvised verse and continuing through the mud tablet, the scroll, the codex and the web.
Part Two furnishes practical applications of the theories propounded in Part One. The reader is edified with such works as “Graphic Presidential Sex,” “Between You and the Man-sized Prophylactic With the Zipper,” “Slimy Pope (On the Succumbing of Karol Wojtyla),” “Holiday in Hiroshima,” “Learning From the Smart Dead Beatle’s Bad Example,” “Foul Fiend Flibbertigibbet,” “How to Buy LSD in Japan”–and, of course, who could forget the ever-poignant “Support the Troops by Giving them Posthumous Boners”?
DH: I know I couldn’t.
TB: Well all right, then. Put It Down in a Book climaxes with a couple of critical appendices from the estimable Israeli journalist Barry Katz. In an interview he and I discuss, among several dozen other things, the commingled themes of mustard and pederasty in my recent Bizarro cult novel, Lemur. And, in “King Kong vs. Godzilla: Tom Bradley Happy-Fucks Osaka,” Barry Katz provides reportage of a reading I gave in that purgatorial burg. There were motorcycle punks, Yakuza gangsters and extreme rightist fanatics all over the fucking place!
DH: I’ve been to The Drill Press’ site, and it’s extremely interesting. Say more about them.
TB: Definitely. In their own words, they are–
–a new press with lofty ambition. The goal is to publish higher entertainment for those who enjoy using a brain, avoiding the milieu created by a US industry filtered by semi-literate agents pimping cliché-mongers to a few major houses printing so little of merit the probability of finding a book published within the last decade and worth reading is, for all intents and purposes, zero.
In addition to a hilarious quiz that literary agents (“tasteless jackals”) must pass before they are allowed to submit (Which of these words is an adverb?…What does it mean when an editor for a major publishing house asks who Joseph Conrad was?), the Drill Press offers three of the most intelligent magazines on or offline: The Big Stupid Review, the Journal of Precognitive Memories and Spooky Action at A Distance.
Also, free for downloading in pdf format is their Manifesto in Five Movements. This was generated spontaneously by information implosion via connected machines, in what Norbert Wiener seemed to predict when he said “Information is neither energy nor matter, but something completely different.” Here’s a passage from the Manifesto which I find especially evocative of what The Drill Press is doing:
Literature should be a slap in the face. It should provide a manual to guide a course through the dross littering the social byways. It is in part the new job of literature to destroy the illusion of freedom and liberty and free enterprise fostered by the corporacracy. Unfortunately, this becomes increasingly difficult as the stranglehold of propaganda tightens.
Their catalog includes When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot, by the great jazz writer Robert Levin (Cecil Taylor calls it the funniest thing he’s ever read), and Jim Chaffee’s São Paulo Blues. The latter presents the ageless mythos of the sexually commingled soldier and whore:
Like the conscripted conscientious objector who succumbs to rage and rises to valor in the heat of combat, [the whore] might be the ingenue plying her sensual skill with courage from within a pristine self.
Retelling this myth within the frame of a detective story is sheer virtuosity. São Paulo Blues is a detective novel in the same genre-pulverizing way that Long Day’s Journey into Night is a Bildungsroman. This is the sort of unprecedented feat you would expect from Jim Chaffee, inventor of mathematical pornography, the only genuinely new literary form to appear in the last seventy years, for all the plague of “genres” that have lately been pulled out of poets’ and publicists’ asses. Jim Chaffee promises a trilogy of math porno–and I, for one, can’t wait, because he says the sex will be “advanced.”
DH: The best kind. Preferable to beginner sex and intermediate sex.
TB: You said it. So, that’s all I’ve got cooking–for the rest of this annus mirabilis, at any rate. Meanwhile, Jonathan Penton’s Unlikely Stories, the long-lived multi-media webzine phenomenon, is preparing to publish three books in 2010, and I’m intimately involved with half of them. You’ll have to do the sexy mathematics yourself. For now, like Marcus Tullius Cicero, I must speak softly, softly about that.
DH: Thanks, Tom.
TB: You’re welcome.
About the author:
David F. Hoenigman is the author of Burn Your Belongings.