RARA-AVIS: Manifesto for the Dead

From: Domenic ( mystery.robot@pacbell.net)
Date: 15 Nov 2005

> Domenic, how did you come to write about Thompson? What made you decide
> to use him as a character, and how did you get into his personal life so
> much? It seems like a very real picture of him and Alberta.
A number of years back, I had the idea of writing a series of four or five crime novels emulating classic noir styles from different periods. I ended up writing three of these. The Last Days of Il Duce, which took a lot from James Cain: The Confession--which was in admiration of Hughes, Highsmith, et al; and Manifesto for the Dead.

In the latter, I took Thompson as the main character, and had the idea that there would be a novel-within-the-novel. I was drawn to the formal experiment and wanted to capture something of the experimental crime novels of the period, where writers were kind of grab-bagging from the larger literary tradition while pushing out these pulp novels to try and make a living.

As to Thompson and his wife Alberta, I drew my portrait of them from Thompson's novels, particularly his early ones, and also from Polito's wonderful biography, as well as other biographical material. I also spent a lot of time walking the streets of that Hollywood neighborhood where Thompson spent his final years.

Manifesto for the Dead has gotten the the best, and worst reviews, of anything I have written. Some people liked it, and other people excoriated me for the portrait of Thompson, and for the novel-within-the-novel that purports to be Thompson's final book, but of course is not.

It is also got written up somewhere as an example of noir as Catholic allegory.
> Also, one passage that struck me was said by Lieutenant Mann, the
> policeman (who later pulls a Lou Ford imitation):
> "I got a chance to look at some of those books of yours.
> And I been wondering. They got much biography in them?
> Auto, I mean. Tales of the self." Thompson looked at
> him blankly. "I mean, you seem like a nice guy. And
> I ask myself, well, all of us, we got something a little
> weird inside. I say, okay, so it's there inside him too.
> Then I wonder, what's it like? You know, to be thinking
> those kinds of things you think. A man up to his neck
> in a pile of shit. A woman cutting off her husband's
> privates with a piece of glass. A man hitting his
> girlfriend with his fist. In the gut. Hitting her so
> hard her stomach bursts. That blood bursts out her mouth
> like some kind of star exploding between her teeth.
> It makes me wonder.... So don't you ever worry, the
> things you write, just describing things like that,
> back there in the recesses, about what might happen?
> You contemplate a thing long enough, you describe it--
> you make it part of the world. And some things, maybe
> they should be left alone."
> Thompson doesn't have an answer. Do you? I wonder if Mr. Starr and Ms.
> Hendricks and other writers get the same question, and how they answer it.

If Thompson didn't answer the question, I don't know that I should be foolish enough to try.. Though it is the question the book poses.... Sometimes I think writers are better off letting the fiction speak for itself when it comes to discussing thematic issues... Otherwise you run the risk of either simplifying or inflating...

That said, my own somewhat idiosyncratic view is that fiction is a way of communicating with the figures that populate the underworld of the human imagination... The realm of the dead, and the archetypal figures that dwell there... Or at least this is the muse that speaks to a lot of us... And of course there's a certain danger in that, in that kind of conjuring, in that that kind of journey... In the classic journey to the underworld, there is the return.... But there are also those who don't return... Thompson was the kind of writer who wrote about the people who didn't return.... Who was willing to risk blasphemy and walk to the edge of the abyss... To partake in the conversation with evil... And so I guess the question, does this encounter produce wisdom, or in the end are we simply getting seduced...
.... I don't know if the book, Manifesto for the Dead, ultimately answers that question so much that it insists upon the inevitable nature of the journey...


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 15 Nov 2005 EST