We have an interview with Douglas Lain who has just published his magical realist novel - Billy Moon.
Below are some questions that came up when I was doing some digging on what his book is all about.
Let’s welcome Douglas!
BILLY MOON is a work of Fantasy and Surrealism. Why did you choose Surrealism as the book’s genre and could you describe it to a person who has never read it before?
It’s not that I chose surrealism as my genre but rather surrealism chose me. The surrealists were influential, their ideas held sway with students and workers involved in the uprisings of May 1968.
But beyond that I think anyone who writes with the aim of expanding the realm of freedom, anyone who starts with the premise that the human imagination can be used as a political weapon in a struggle for emancipation, will have a bit of surrealism in their blood and in their prose.
Surrealism isn’t an aesthetic technique so much as an approach to understanding life. I’d describe it as a process of realization, a process that uses juxtapositions and contradictions to create dissonance and strangeness. The aim is to take the every day world, those things that are perceived to be simple or natural facts, and to transform these into artifacts of an alien mind.
Philip K. Dick once wrote that true paranoia is not when you think your boss is out to get you, but when you think your boss’s phone is out to get you. That kind of paranoia is surrealist, or would be if it weren’t for the reality of the NSA and the Snowden revelations about smart phone data.
What in particular led you to use the French uprising in 1968 as part of the background for this novel?
I first learned about what happened in 1968 when I read Sadie Plant’s book “The Most Radical Gesture.” This was around 1991 or 1992. I encountered her book and Greil Marcus’s “Lipstick Traces” and that started me down a certain path. After that I read Debord, Vaneigem, Henri Lefebvre, started my own ‘zine, tried out writing short stories, and eventually became the weirdo responsible for Billy Moon.
During all that time May ’68, the moment when France seemed to be standing on the precipice of not only a revolution but also a social transformation, has been a touchstone for me. I’m convinced that the events of May 1968, despite all their shortcomings, are significant.
What are you trying to say politically in your novel? And why should we read it?
I’m not trying to only say something with this book, but rather I’m trying to think about something. The aim is to invite other people to join me in thinking about how we might change the world and live in and change ourselves. That’s what literature is about I think, or it’s how I choose to think about literature. We’re all of us trying out ideas and meanings, writing them down, and proposing them, without always knowing in advance where these ideas are going to take us.
In Billy Moon I’m inviting readers to consider is this: maturity and sustainability require understanding the necessity of illusions.
Tell us about your philosophy podcast called Diet Soap and if or how it’s connected to BILLY MOON?
Diet Soap is an eclectic weekly philosophy podcast. I might interview a college professors about Nietzsche or Dunayevskaya one week, talk to my 16 year old son about Hegel and Charlie Kaufman the next, and then turn around and dedicate an episode to a critique of Mister Rogers neighborhood.
The novel and the podcast are very different, but perhaps both share a certain surrealist tendency.
Very intriguing indeed. Thank you!
DOUGLAS LAIN's short fiction has appeared in many magazines and journals here and abroad. Since 2009, he has produced the weekly podcast Diet Soap, interviewing a wide range of fascinating, engaging people with insights for the new millennium: philosophers, mystics, economists, and a diverse group of fiction writers. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and children.
You can find out more about him at his website: http://douglaslain.net/
Here’s the blurb for Billy Moon: In Douglas Lain's debut novel set during the turbulent year of 1968, Christopher Robin Milne, the inspiration for his father’s fictional creation, struggles to emerge from a manufactured life, in a story of hope and transcendence.
Billy Moon was Christopher Robin Milne, the son of A. A. Milne, the world-famous author of Winnie the Pooh and other beloved children's classics. Billy's life was no fairy-tale, though. Being the son of a famous author meant being ignored and even mistreated by famous parents; he had to make his own way in the world, define himself, and reconcile his self-image with the image of him known to millions of children. A veteran of World War II, a husband and father, he is jolted out of midlife ennui when a French college student revolutionary asks him to come to the chaos of Paris in revolt. Against a backdrop of the apocalyptic student protests and general strike that forced France to a standstill that spring, Milne's new French friend is a wild card, able to experience alternate realities of the past and present. Through him, Milne's life is illuminated and transformed, as are the world-altering events of that year.
In a time when the Occupy movement eerily mirrors the political turbulence of 1968, this magic realist novel is an especially relevant and important book.
Tor Books | 8/27/2013 | Hardcover | 272 pages