Many people think of me as being Mr. High Technology Guy, which I find odd since I’m a fiction writer, possibly one of the lowest-tech jobs going. I’m asked why I don’t get into movies or TV — why should I? I enjoy writing fiction. Without fiction we run the risk of losing forever the possibility of certain kinds of stories being told a certain way. And fiction allows for a time to reflect and savor speech and the gift of language.


And yet there’s something weird with me. My existence annoys the hell out of traditional fiction writers. I get all sorts of corny damnations along the lines of, “All he’s doing is ruthlessly exploiting experimental fiction just to make truckloads of money.” Yes, that’s always been my plan all along. Yessiree, there’s no more surefire way of making a living than by exploiting society’s bottomless craving for experimental fiction. I’m sure if you go to any high school career counseling office, at the absolute bottom of a list of 9,472 possible career options, right below morris dancing and poultry sexing, you’ll find experimental fiction writing. My most recent novel features 24 pages of random numbers. Ka-ching! Ka-ching! I was certainly thinking of the jackpot when I put that in. And yet in it went, and it seems the more experimental my work gets, the more people respond to it.


So the fact is that I do write, and I am a writer, and I can’t be wished out of existence by those aging crustysomethings who’ve been trying to do just this for 15 years. I also note that these folks are usually the same folks who are always passionately arguing for society to offer new platforms for new and different voices to be heard. Rich nutritious irony, if ever there was: as long as those voices end up sounding like their own voices in the end.

I find a stifling homogeneity in most fiction. I walk into a bookstore and look at the shelves filled with thousands of doubtless worthy novels — beautifully crafted, nicely honed and all of that — novels of love, loss and redemption and … in my head I feel as if I’ve walked into a Broyhill furniture showroom. I feel like I’m looking at countless dark-stained colonial-style bedroom suites, and endless arrays of pickled-maple empire dining sets, with no spindle left unturned, every buffed surface dreaming of a shot of Pledge. What I’m seeing is undoubtedly fine furniture. It’s just not …new furniture. And I’m not saying that the bulk of novels out there aren’t art — they are — they’re just not modern art. They don’t point out anything new or the possibility of anything new. I mean, it’s also pretty hard to imagine a beautifully rendered canvas of mallard ducks in the Museum of Modern Art. Or a watercolor portrait of Anne Hathaway.


And the truth is that most people want to live in “old fashioned”-styled houses. It’s the way people are. But to be outraged and upset by the fact that someone might want to live in a modernist house seems medieval. No! My taste is absolute! Install Italianate decorative mantelpieces immediately! My ongoing joke is that most new subdivisions resemble microwave ovens with crown molding. If there’s anything new or modern to be seen, smother it with doohickeys.

I began writing because I fell in love with Pop Art at the age of 10. I’ve always thought that words are sexy. Words are art objects even by themselves, even without being inserted into a narrative. I discovered Jenny Holzer’s text work in art school in the early 1980’s. After that, it now seems, a lifetime spent working with words was unavoidable.


And given everything I’ve just said, yes, I continue to write fiction. I continue to write fiction set in a modern world that has never been weirder or richer or more charged with options, a world inhabited with modern people who hoard Tamiflu, compare the advantage of one credit card over another, and, shamefully or not, wonder which tastes better, Coke or Pepsi. Or Royal Crown.

These modern people have TVs and watch them. They shop on eBay. They question the regime in power. They have repetitive stress disorders. They downloaded porn last weekend. And yet in spite of this — maybe even because of this — they possess the qualities to become myths. That’s where art lies.