Thursday, January 11, 2018
Attempted Rapture Interview, 2004
Original Interview with Late Mitchell Warren, 2004, Attempted Rapture Release
Sitting languidly on an uncomfortably firm chair, surrounded by shelves of world-renowned bestsellers and critically lauded masterpieces in the local White Settlement library, Mitchell Warren prepares for what he calls “hell on earth” — or, according to others, his first civilized interview for Attempted Rapture. Hiding his face from the world but firing his vicious eyes between fingers at the one that dares to ask questions, the anti-social Warren finally begins to hold eye contact and converse like a normal human being. His demeanor, a panicky yet theatrical mess of simulated human emotions, screams unprofessional applicant as loudly as does his attire: arrayed in silky black from head to foot, with a black beret hardly covering his wild hair. Before one could assume Warren has a rough exterior but a sweet soul underneath, he begins to spew out bizarre witticisms produced somewhere between true wisdom and total insanity with little explanation.”I’m sure you are a genuine and pure person, but I simply hate the communicative process. I consider professional interviews little more than emotional gang-rape. You’re asking questions you really don’t care about, at the sexual prodding of someone else.”
With little or no attention to the bewilderment written on my face, Warren continues to expound on life and the unwillingness of the human spirit. “I admire words and writing and people’s wisdom documented on paper. But the sights of shelves and the thousands of books you see at every turn I find very depressing.” With his hands flailing about and his eyes darting around the room like exploring hummingbirds, Warren has no problem explaining the transparent reality of anything and the pessimistic fate of everything that is contained in the world. But the one topic of conversation that he purposely seems to avoid is the true, personal reality of Mitchell Warren. And much to his chagrin, it is the topic of this sit down interview.
(Though the author often feels the need to stand up and proclaim dogma at any given moment) After being purchased a Coke (to which he replies sourly, “Not spiked with anything, I see.”) and a chocolate bar (“Ah, frozen love in its truest form”) by his interviewer, Warren starts to open up about his creative life and times, slowly and steadily.
QU: According to your website, you were originally going to be a minister, following in the steps of your father. What happened? Why did you forsake that life?
MW: Well, I don’t consider my decision of leaving that career to be forsaking God in any way. I believe that we as human beings are not at all able to comprehend what God is thinking, or what his specific will for us is. Life is like a novel that one must read to its completion and only then figure out the ultimate mystery behind each character. If you figure out the ending of a book halfway through, you lose interest anyway.
QU: But why specifically did you leave that course? Did something happen?
MW: Many things happened over a period of time. The heart is a very deceptive organ. Not only your heart but hearts of other men and women. The heart is naive and if educated constantly as regards anything, truth or falsity, it will be convinced and you will lose control over your own rational mind.
QU: So are saying that you disagreed with a lot of the teachings that you grew up with?
MW: I wouldn’t say I disagreed with them. I think any thinking person reaches a point in their life where they question reality and boundaries. Or even if they don’t question basic teachings, they attempt to transcend certain expectations of what a moral person is supposed to be. In that spirit, various important ones from church got together and decided that that I would be a dangerous leader if I were to progress further, and that I was not quite meeting the qualifications of a minister.
QU: Would you say you gave up the fight?
MW: (Pauses) I think I would say, I woke up and realized there was no fight. If God decided I wasn’t fit for leading people to salvation, whom am I to argue? I am content just wandering through the wilderness looking for signs of life.
QU: Do you think these experiences left you resentful? Or even, forgive me for saying, slightly damaged in your reasoning?
MW: I never argue with anyone who implies I’m slightly bonkers. But I always believe the maddest among us all are the ones who refuse to admit their own partial insanity. The human race is mad. We send people to the moon, we kill each other in war because we’re ordered to, we produce automobiles and toy micro-automobiles, and we have sex with all sorts of other people for no other reason except so we can define what “true love” really means. We’re all crazy.
QU: Have you ever had a stable relationship with a lover?
MW: All the relationships I’ve had have ended terribly. Usually of the unrequited kind. The faces of the women I have lost, the ones that got away, I am still haunted by every waking moment. Thus, I am in no great hurry to find a transparent woman and insert myself into her translucent existence for no other reason except for the sake of my sexual well being. I find my current celibacy to be miserable, and misery, I believe in my case, leads to more fertile creativity. You see, life balances out in that ironic way. All of life and all of your emotions and triumphs and moral losses amount to nothing but mathematics.
QU: (Long pause) Okay. Do you consider the book to be obscene or sacrilegious? And why so? What is contained in the book that would offend any particular reader?
MW: I never wrote the book intending it to be obscene or sacrilegious. When you do that, you limit yourself. You’ll be saying, “I am going to write a book to offend God and Christians.” And yet that’s all you’ll be doing, and you will not be challenging yourself or any of your readers. You must advance as a writer. Surpass boundaries and escape limits, not simply tread over the mud just because you can.
QU: Are you afraid of eternal damnation?
MW: (Pauses) I would say that I hope God forgives me for Attempted Rapture.
QU: So you do feel some guilt over writing the book?
MW: As a parent, the novel being my child, I feel some regret over the decisions the child foolishly makes.
QU: You lost me there.
MW: I figured I would.
QU: How will your readers ever know what you look like?
MW: I look vaguely like the Hal Persill character only some years older. So they would have to use their imagination. Obviously, if they would ever see me at book signing or during an interview, the mystery would be over. But to post a picture of myself on a public website or on the book jacket, I think would be a risk.
QU: Let’s talk about what “unpublishable” means. You stated before that you feel Attempted Rapture is an unpublishable novel. What does this mean?
MW: It’s a story that no mainstream publisher would want to touch. Mainstream publishers buy formulas, not pieces of original art. For one thing, the style of writing is very experimental. I pride myself on breaking the rules of traditional writing. Therefore, I probably appear Satanic to most book publishers who are very keen on new writers mindlessly following propriety. I’ve never had a desire to kiss a man’s ass, and to sell out to the corporate mentality would be something distasteful. Why write a story to please one editor if I hate compromising? Because I can? I really don’t care what people think of me, since a man’s opinion is cheaper than toilet paper and just as prevalent as the stuff toilet paper was invented for.
QU: How about the story itself? Is it hard to follow or explain?
MW: Hard to follow, I don’t think so. To explain, perhaps. The story is an abstract painting of words. People will see different things in the book, and the meaning of it will vary greatly from one person to the next. We all have different backgrounds and appreciate art differently. If you want to get all philosophical, you could even say that there is no such thing as true brilliance in creativity. Your writing, with all of its artistic achievements, is something to be defined by individuals who study it and who are willing to share an opinion. Greatness in literature is only determined by how many people actually relate to the story we’re telling, or are moved by the material, based on the emotions we as authors elicit from them. Whether one person or half the world sympathizes with your work, is not really a universal issue. All of life as we know it is a painting, or a dream, open to interpretation.
QU: How then do you interpret Attempted Rapture? Particularly the ending of the book, which is borderline esoteric, and that will no doubt challenge or even provoke many readers.
MW: I can’t comment too much on the ending, since it is important to keep the final pages a secret until the book’s release. All I can say is that to me personally, the ending of the book was not on the last few pages as is traditionally expected. Rather, it was the preceding pages right before the conclusion. We feel a great sense of loss at that point in time, and I think that’s what the book meant to me. Not necessarily the ultimate conclusion that could be called esoteric.
QU: You stated on the back cover that you felt the story was allegorical and religiously symbolic. Give some examples of this
MW: Well I wrote it to be very multi-layered. I wrote every scene two or three times over, and put some more significance into each happening as I went along. I wanted every seemingly insignificant word, every sentence, every single instance to be about something else, and about something else, and finally about something even deeper and more abstract than we can explain. I feel the three main characters, as well as the supporting cast, represent more than just their names. I do feel in many ways that Hal Persill represents mankind. I also believe Amara and Anne respectively represent something larger than just two human sisters. To some extent, the book follows the pattern of humankind’s loss of innocence paralleled from the Garden of Eden. Sanctuary to temptation, temptation to death. Lastly, from death to redemption or judgment, which is the final journey.
QU: All this talk about religious symbolism and redemption might paint to your readers the wrong idea about the book. You must remind your audience that it is indeed a satire. One part moralizing drama, the other half a caustic parody of Southern Fiction.
MW: I never wanted to define it as a comedy or as a drama. It was an experimental novel, because it stubbornly refused to be categorized as either one. I chose Southern Fiction as the genre, well knowing the category was misleading. Yes, it takes place in the south, but the book’s heart is far removed from easy-going, positive-thinking country folk.
QU: Phrases like “southern fiction” or even “comedy” don’t begin to warn readers of certain scenes in the book that are so outrageous…
QU: Even provocative. There are some scenes in the book, that for a time, you wondered if your publishing company would even allow in a traditionally published novel. Most of the scenes in question, we can’t even describe on a G-rated website such as this. But just to jog your memory, “The Good Samaritan Scene”? “The Shopping For A Used Car Scene”? “The Alex And His Angel Scene?” These are moments in your book that are not only sexual in nature, but also so blasphemous, if not to God, then to the standards of what you are supposed to read in mainstream works of fiction. There are moments in the book that are so shocking, that you stop reading, look up and ask, “Did Warren just write that? Did I read that correctly or…?” How in the world do you reconcile such comedic, reader-teasing moments like that with the other half of the book, which you claim is religious symbolism?
MW: Life is irreverent. Our lives are funny and sad and shocking all at the same time. When you write just a drama or just a comedy, you are writing artificiality. You’re not writing about life the way it really is. Life is an experimental novel, a bizarre concoction of every positive and negative emotion, every victory and mistake and every moment miserable or ecstatic.
QU: What was your inspiration in writing this book?
MW: A nightmare I had while I was awake. A nightmare, not of images but of feelings. And an indescribable fear of something, not hideous, but human. The epiphany that man one day realizes, that he has equal capacity for good or evil. He has such overwhelming power, and the potential to change the world if only he sets his mind to it. And what will be among the remains after a man’s will is accomplished? Heaven help us all.
QU: What is happiness to Mitchell Warren?
MW: I am still attempting to define it. At this point, I am leaning towards the philosophy that happiness is a willingness to die. We spend the majority of our lives fearing death and escaping danger. But when we reach that point in our minds, whether through religious convictions, marital bliss, or material paradise, where we no longer fear death and have finally realized the ideal life, the pinnacle of our individualized existence, happiness finds us.
QU: And in closing, what do you want your audience to know about Attempted Rapture?
MW: It awaits its judgment. Your audience ultimately decided the fate of your children. Personally, I feel it is my greatest work. In the future, I’ll probably write more mainstream stories that will appeal to wider audiences. But even if I ever win the Pulitzer Prize in my twilight years, this is the story I will remember most prominently in my dying breath. It has been the most traumatic and challenging work in terms of everything. I do feel the book has stolen some of my trust, my innocence and my faith. Whether or not I ever become happy and well adjusted in life following the emotional bloodletting I’ve brought on myself is another matter. But for the time being, I feel as if I’ve bled onto every page of the book, thus I cannot consider any part of my soul gratuitously lost.
QU: Thank you for this interview, Mister Warren. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?MW: One of the more harrowing experiences of my life. But thankfully I have come out of it unscathed. Thank your eyes for meeting mine and let’s meet again someday.
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