18 December 2009

when johnny donned a stolen shook

This book is fantastic and Wurlitzer is a new favorite.Up next and, apparently long overdue, is Nog.

a few compelling reasons to read The Drop Edge of Yonder:

1. the opening chapters
2. you dig Pat Garret & Billy the Kid
3. "Things are not as they appear. Nor are they otherwise."
4. Pop Matters, Maud, Ain't It Cool
5. you dig Two Lane Blacktop
6. Erik Davis' excellent Bookforum review
7. a Pynchon endorsement of a previous novel turns you on
8. Arthur: Did you write Zebulon for Peckinpah?

RW: Sam was going to direct the first Zebulon script that I had written, but he died. Then Hal Ashby was interested in it and he died. I was going to direct it up in Canada but I couldn’t get it on. I came close. After a while I just dropped it because the whole adventure was beginning to feel cursed.

Arthur: Jim Jarmusch was interested in it too, right?

RW: Right, Jarmusch was going to direct it but after talking about it for a few weeks it became clear that we each had a different point of view of what the script was going to be and we went our separate ways. I was surprised when he lifted some important themes from the script for his film Dead Man. Let’s just say that was an awkward situation. [laughs] At least for me.

Arthur: I’d seen Dead Man before I read Drop Edge but some of the similarities are striking.

RW: Yeah, he took a lot. But I think the book is sufficiently different. And in a way, the good part of it is after a while I felt compelled to write my own version to get away from what had essentially been contaminated. Not just by Jim, but by the whole long journey of the script. I’d done a lot of research in each variation, along with a script on the gold rush that I never got on. So I had all this stuff in me. And after years of reading and inhabiting that world, I became very much at ease with the vernacular. And that always seemed to me to be very important in a so-called historical novel. I didn’t want it to just be a novel about historical information. So all the film stuff provoked me to go underneath, to explore some other layers.

Arthur: I like the idea of a character being stuck between worlds.

RW: The first draft of Drop Edge was more directly about the experience of somebody who woke up dead, so to speak. So in a dharmic sense it was more about a direct experience of the bardo. You never really knew whether this guy was alive or dead. On another level, that’s what being alive is about. Like when you know you’re going to die, really know you’re going to die, you start to feel alive. So on one level I was exploring that. But I felt that the first few drafts were too much of a plunge into that in-between state of mind. I felt like I had to set the table in a more deliberate way. So that’s why I introduced the idea of the character being cursed to float between worlds, not knowing if he was dead or alive. Before it was just being caught between worlds without any explanation and I thought it was too confusing, too alienating. I was trying to seduce the reader into the journey itself, this 19th-century journey. Sometimes I think of Drop Edge as an 18th-century book about the 19th century with 21st century overtones. [laughs]

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