James Marr, publishing intern/picket line crossing scab, asks RK Meros about his new book Zebulon, the second in his 2011 releases.
JM: Richard, you've just released a book. My God! You're prolific!
RM: I am young and incautious.
Nevertheless, two books in three months. What else is to come?
Easy Whistle Solo is next. It is an imminently publishable novel and if I had played my cards right as a younger man it would be the story of a great love.
But it's not?
Well it is. But we're here to talk about Zebulon. My book released on June 2.
What is a Zebulon?
In this case, it is a cautionary tale. At the level of the Part (there are Parts and Chapters), the book is about youth, confusion, and resolution in adulthood. The caution is in the making of great claims. Like tonight I was talking with some dolly bird about Slavoj Zizek and making out like I'd read heaps of his work. I mean, I've read three of his books and seen the film Zizek!, but the sound of my voice when I was waffling on, well! It caught me! Zebulon, at its broadest metaphorical level, is about the various ways in which young men and women give up on the ideological rhetoric that was saturated their vivid youth.
At a purely referential level, the name refers to the writings of Zebulon M Pike, and to the hometown of Vic Chesnutt, the musician. I don't want to get into this too much, but lets just say that I grew up in a place not unlike Zebulon, GA. Though I do have to say that I was utterly affected by the fact that Vic Chesnutt's first tour to New Zealand was in July of the year he killed himself by overdosing on muscle relaxants. It makes me think of those lists of places to see before you die and makes me wonder if he had that in mind when he decided to come here. Brannavan Gnanalingam, author of Getting Under Sail, was one of the last people to interview him. Whatever that means...
I hear that its a novel. Is it?
Well, I suppose it is. Its a novel of lots of little pieces of other stories. I have a debate with some friends about the legitimacy of the short story as an art form. I like to say that it is illegitimate - it gets the conversation rolling. And then I concede that Borges and a few others made a real art of it. But aren't many novels just a clever juxtaposition of a number of different short stories? No? Oh well, then, perhaps you are right. But with meta-fiction and chaps like Calvino strolling about (though he's well dead, RIP) I think there might be something to it. Zebulon is in three parts. It also has three distinct books within it. But as my editor said, they come together and wrap up quite tidily... which was my aim, as it is with life, I think.... you see what I am getting at.... ideology making way for pragmatic realism (babies).
Don't tell me the last few pages are just the written version of a baby screaming.
No no! But that's a great idea. I wonder if we can stop the presses.
If it is at the presses there must be a cover and other design. Tell me about how the aesthetics match this book.
Giant Slugs which shall be released on the same day. The bricks, as per usual, are the foundational.
Meros has been appearing in your books as a character more than he used to. How did you go from the Helen Clark book, where Meros was the author, to a novel by Meros with Meros as the central character?
I haven't really thought about it. Meros was always a present character in OTCAPOHCTMAHYL (note: a friend once remarked that if the word Otcapohctmahyl appears in print one more time, a dark god of the Aztecs will be summoned). Meros was always trying to be objective about the Young Lover thesis, but his own desire for choosing this subject kept getting in the way. Perhaps with Zebulon the idea of writing a thesis as Meros has been abandoned. Or put to one side. In Privaitising Parts, the first two chapters, situate Meros amongst the pines. From there he took out his chapbook for his buddy to read. So Meros has always been keen to bounce into his own pages. I suppose that is the lesson for the person wishing to be the non-social scientist, or should I say, the asocial scientist. That you will eventually inhabit your work; that it will inhabit you, make you live and breathe.
Thank you for your time, Richard. I respect you and your work.
Thanks James. I also respect you and your work.