WORLD X-CLUSIVE PREVIEW
AN AMERIKAN IN PARIS
Guillaume Destot and Andrew Gallix met the future of literature on a sunny day in Paris. 3 A.M. Magazine offers you a sneak preview of their exclusive interview with MARK AMERIKA.
Copyright © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
MARK AMERIKA: I've published two novels that have done fairly well in the underground literary world - our generation's version of the Beats. I was caught up in a movement we called Avant-Pop. . . . It coincided with the Sub-Pop movement, although it was coincidental that it had a similar name. You're talking about Richard Linklater's Slacker (1991) movie coming out. You're talking about Douglas Coupland's Generation X coming out (1991). You're talking about the Sub-Pop phenomenon out of Seattle with all those bands who we know so well. And then, at the same time, there was this sort of underground literary art movement coming to the fore called Avant-Pop which, basically, was an attempt to situate the writer as not just an avant-garde writer but also a kind of iconoclastic pop figure who could have some effect, vis à vis their writing, on the mainstream culture. . . . The Sub-Pop music phenomenon quickly became absorbed into the mainstream, so that it became neutralised and therefore had very little effect on the mainstream culture because it happened so fast. And then with the literary Avant-Pop phenomenon, it really never became absorbed and had effect only on the margins of the culture. So it never really happens exactly the way you envisioned it, but it's always worth a try, you learn a lot from it.
3AM: Was it a failure from that point of view?
MARK AMERIKA: It was a failure in the way that Beckett looks at failure: it can be a howling success. In other words, the fact that it had any effect at all was amazing to us. So what happened is that we published our Avant-Pop works in the Black Ice Books series. You might look at that as being like an indie label. . . . Rarely do you start a phenomenon with an indie publishing label and then see it get taken up by a bigger publishing label. In the music scene it happens a lot, but in publishing, it's very difficult because the market's so different. In 1993, we published an anthology called Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation after the Sonic Youth album, and in 95 Penguin USA and Penguin UK published an Avant-Pop anthology by the same editor (Larry McCaffery) that included many of the artists we'd published as well as other ones who we didn't at first publish who made it marginally more mainstream, legitimate in the eyes of the industry.
3AM: This reminds me of what you wrote in one of your Amerika Online columns (http://www.altx.com) about Avant-Pop artists sucking out the "bad blood" that lies between the mainstream and the margins. What do you mean exactly by "bad blood"?
MARK AMERIKA: Well, the "bad blood" is the ambivalent relationship that writers of my generation, Avant-Pop writers, have with the mainstream, because in one sense we know just by the way we write that we're connected to an avant-garde lineage that actually dates back to Europe in the early part of the century, but that also has a lot of strength in America as well. But we are also very influenced by and take part in digital or mainstream pop culture, and are influenced by it to a point where it almost irritates us, or agitates us. So there's some kind of "bad blood", you might say, in the relationship that we have with pop culture. But at the same time, we're so immersed in it ourselves, we're very comfortable with it. It's not like we're hiding away from it in the corner doing our own little thing: we're part of it on a day to day basis, so we figure we might as well engage ourselves with it.
3AM: You want to reach a healthier relationship with pop culture?
MARK AMERIKA: Yes. It's like that Derrida notion of the pharmakon being both remedy and poison. When you take a drug it's like a poison, but it also has a way of curing you. In this case I think it's related to this didease I called "information sickness," which I put in quotes because I sampled it from a novel by Ted Mooney called Easy Travel to Other Planets.
3AM: What do you mean when you say that postmodernism was killed by the "popular media engine"? Do you mean that it was absorbed into mainstream culture?
MARK AMERIKA: . . . Read the interview in the next issue of 3 A.M. Magazine.
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