With the release of his novel 'Never Mind The Beasts' Marcus Slease gives us his health tips.
Can you let us in on your latest favourite wonder cures? Tell us about two or three new (or new(ish) writers or books in the last few years that you would recommend to anyone?
In terms of books, I am really on a Norwegian kick. I’ve read almost everything by Jon Fosse (fast becoming one of my favourite writers). You can really get lost in the sentences of Fosse. It’s an immersive mind expanding (spiritual) experience, a kind of Norwegian Beckett, but Fosse’s novels are much more enjoyable and interesting than Beckett, at least for me, whereas I enjoy Beckett’s plays more than Fosse’s. Fosse is the landscape of boats and cold sparse climates, broken people on a spiritual journey, obsessive lyrical sentences. One of my favourites was recently released by Fitzcarraldo Editions, The Other Name: Septology I-II, and I am really looking forward to I Is Another: Septology III-V, coming out in English translation in 2021. There’s also Scenes from A Childhood, from Fitzcarraldo Editions (a mix of prose poems and micro fictions), and Trilogy, Aliss at the Fire, Melancholy, all from Dalkey Archive Press.
Dag Solstad is another interesting Norwegian writer, he writes some fantastic sentences, but it is very familiar territory for novels, those middle class concerns, professors and decorum and classical music, however I can’t help enjoying his sentences, he is good with the sentences. And then there is Love by Hanne Ørstavik, a very moving tale of mother and son, not the usual middle class concerns, a very memorable novel, it makes deep impressions. The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I am by Kjersti Skomsvold (Dalkey Archive Press) is another unique novel, told from an often neglected perspective, an elderly woman, it is a good companion to Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet, even though the styles are very different.
There are lots more Norwegians to explore, and I am teaching some in my high school classes, such as The Birds and The Ice Palace, by Tarjei Vasaas, very moving tales from childhood, the first from the perspective of a kid with autism and the second about female friendship and loss, gorgeous books that stick with you long after you have finished them.
Ditto for music. What is never off your record player (cassette player, walkman, Mini-Disc player or streaming service)?
For music, there is the Norwegian experimental jazz musician Bugge Wesseltoft. I’ve been listening to everything I can find by Wesseltoft for the past few weeks. This Boiler Room set from Amsterdam is fab, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fZYI61M3Rs&t=4202s
These Mozart Balls are very tasty too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSf1ntKOsf0
What about older books not published in the last few years that you always find yourself returning to?
I keep returning to Autoportrait by Edouard Leve (Dalkey Archive Press) and Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector. There is so much in there, they are hybrids, auto fiction, somewhere between the genres of novels, essays, and prose poems, and I love books with porous boundaries, that playfully generate new forms and ways of seeing and being. I love this in all art forms, whether music, painting, writing, or what have you. I am also a big fan of Lydia Davis. I can open any of her books at random and immediately remember the point of art and writing.
For six years, while living in London, I immersed myself in NY School poets, as well as the Beats, poets and writers such as Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger, Ron Padgett, Bernadette Mayer, Tim Atkins, and Richard Brautigan, and for many years they were the biggest influence on my life and writing, and they are very good minerals, constant companions, even though I return to them less often now. They helped me to merge the everyday with the fantastic, or to see the fantastic in the everyday, an expansive American poetry, full of exuberance and playfulness.
Other minerals? Definitely surrealists and absurdists, from the past and present. Miroslav Holub, Rikki Ducornet, Lukas Tomin, Natasza Goerke, Charles Simic, Grezgorz Wroblewski, Noelle Kocot, James Tate,
Vasko Popa, and Camilla Grudova, to name a few favourites on my shelves.
How’s your eyesight? Seen anything good lately? Films, books, posters, photographs or any other such visual things?
In terms of art, I devoured everything by Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst, and they are still my favs, but now I am on a Peter Doig kick. I have never usually gone for the figurative in painting, but he does something very different, a mix of the figurative and abstract techniques of painting. Often a solitary figure in a mysterious landscape. Magic, narrative, and lyricism. Yes please!
Tell us a little bit about the fitness regime behind your most recent book. How was it written? How long did it take? What is it about? Should people buy it? Will it be good for people?
I started writing Never Mind the Beasts about 10 years ago. It has changed many times since then. It started as a book of prose poems, using narratives from my life in many countries. Then it moved into straight memoir, in first person, but that felt very restricting, and I have always felt uneasy with writing directly about myself. Then I read Karl Ove Knausgaard and his writing gave me some permission to explore my life in writing more directly. So, I kept going with the memoir format for a few years, looking through seven years worth of notebooks, written while living and teaching English as a foreign language in many countries, but there was something not there, something missing. So, I invented a character, called him Don Whiskers, and that opened me up to more imaginative surrealistic leaps, including what was happening currently at the time, in London and Madrid and Barcelona, and Lydia Davis became a big influence in the second half of the novel. I took out Don Whiskers and the novel moved to third person. The final step was to take out all the titles of the individual pieces, to make it a flowing episodic novel, moving from one micro narrative to the next, rather than individual micro stories, essays, and prose poems.
So that was the process, in a nutshell. Why would anyone want to read it? Well, it is a book of journeys, physically, mentally, spiritually. While all of the stories in the novel are true, in one way or another, and from my life experiences, I hope they reach out well beyond my own experiences and connect with other human beings. I hope Never Mind the Beasts can help “ease the pain of living” since“everything else” is a “ drunken dumbshow” (to quote Allen Ginsberg).
What next? Any new and totally nutritious writing projects on the horizon and can you tell us about them or are they a secret?
In terms of my current projects, I have finished the second novel after Never Mind the Beasts, currently titled Hermit Kingdom, and it takes place right where Never Mind the Beasts finishes, with the move to Barcelona/Castelldefels in an attempt to connect with nature/the body and live a more simplified lower middle class existence, since London was no longer viable financially, and also psychologically. I am halfway through the third novel, The Dreamlife of Honey, so I guess Never Mind the Beasts is part of a trilogy. Or maybe this will become my life work, more and more hybrid novels, a kind of nomadic surrealism, but who knows.
You can buy Marcus Slease's Never Mind The Beasts here (and you should probably do so immedietely!).