THE TOUGH QUESTIONS
What is your favorite passage in The Church of Latter-Day Eugenics? Can you describe how it felt when you wrote it? Was there anything unique about your writing set-up when you wrote this passage?
I like the chapter where Fulty, our protagonist, is translated bodily to Heaven and has an audience with Sheila the She-God. She wafted in from the pages of Elmer Crowley (Mandrake of Oxford Press), another of my collaborations with Nick Patterson. There she appears as Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, whom the dying Aleister Crowley encounters in his katabasic nekyia. On page 105 of that book, her huge nakedness turns out to be the hills over which poor Crowley is scrambling in terror. Nick draws her face looming like the rising sun over the horizon of mountainous tits. On page 129 she shares a pit in Hell with the lovable old reprobate, fingering her pubes, which are the dark and perilous Baloney Woods.
Looking at those pictures, I knew she was more than a mere nineteenth century Russian seeress. It wasn’t until Chris Kelso and I started working on The Church of Latter-Day Eugenics that I realized she was Sheila the She-God, and belonged lounging in the smog high over London’s Hoxton Square. Look at the cover of our new book, and on pages fifty and sixty, and you’ll see that Nick has conjured from pen and ink a dead (yet immortal) ringer for Madame Blavatsky.
Can you briefly describe an experience that played a role in how you wanted to develop The Church of Latter-Day Eugenics?
Last summer I made a road trip with John-Ivan Palmer (http://john-ivanpalmer.com/), the World’s Fastest Hypnotist and my favorite living writer, to the remote fields of Nebraska, in order to observe the total solar eclipse in the company of fundamentalist Christers who would be in the sort of mass-hysterical, rapture-expectant mood that might conduce to some post-hypnotic shenanigans among the hay stubble. Instead of such folks, we ran into the last person you might expect to encounter in those circumstances: an actual she-male, pre-operative, complete with (judging from certain perturbations in the fabric at the front of her skirt) a borderline circus freak-sized phallus.
She turned out to be intelligent, friendly and funny, and we talked for hours. I learned a deal of secrets about tranny culture, which resembles a benevolent cult–at least in rural Nebraska. In The Church of Latter-Day Eugenics the cult has been given a more sinister and coercive aspect, but that is to be expected in the transplantation from our nation’s wholesome breadbasket to the decadent environs of London.
If you could ask any deceased artist one question, what would it be?
Herr Franz Schubert, what did you and your actor friend do to raise the softspoken revulsion of the Viennese? Whoring and homosexuality were blinked at, and murder would have gotten you in legal trouble. My only two guesses would have to be necrophilia and child rape.
Do you think fiction has any function or purpose outside of the entertainment realm?
Yes, obviously. That question can only be raised in the context of what used to be called “trash” or “pulp,” which aspires nowhere beyond entertainment. In the realm of serious art, fiction is the one of the few ways we can understand people’s minds at temporal and spatial removes.
Which book do you think is overrated?
The Divine Comedy is tremendously good, of course, but people talk as though it’s a major cornerstone of Homo sapiens’ existence in the solar system. As a work of extended narration it pales beside the Iliad and Paradise Lost.
Can anyone be a “good” writer?
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Cowper, Wordsworth, Browning–all are better than merely “good.”
Like all media, genre fiction is trendy; what is one literary trend that you despise? Is there one that you think is interesting?
I fucking hate the crap that presumes to develop its own mythology, with names ripped from real literature and applied to cardboard puppets.
Which book or other piece of art do you think is underappreciated?
What Louis Armstrong did, starting in 1929, after the Hot Five and Seven, until 1935, when the Mafiosi chased him to Europe, and some malignant spirit mysteriously turned off his talent spigot. During those six years he did things with his larynx, and with his Selmer, that I still can’t believe. The way he bends the lyrics and stretches the language tears my sensorium into skin-confetti. John Milton does similar things with blank verse. Madame Blavatsky goes even further with cosmology and anthropology.
I have published twenty-five volumes of poetry, fiction, essays and screenplays with houses in the USA, England, Canada and Japan. Various of my novels have been nominated for the Editor’s Book Award, the New York University Bobst Prize, and the AWP Series. 3:AM Magazine gave me the Nonfiction Book of the Year Award in 2007 and 2009, and one of my latest graphic novels is excerpted in last year’s &Now Award Anthology.
My journalism and criticism have appeared in such publications as Salon.com, and are frequently featured in Arts & Letters Daily. Denis Dutton, editor of the site (‘among the most influential media personalities in the world,’ according to Time Magazine), wrote as follows:
‘Tom Bradley is one of the most exasperating, offensive, pleasurable, and brilliant writers I know. I recommend his work to anyone with spiritual fortitude and a taste for something so strange that it might well be genius.’
“Tom Bradley has long been known for repeatedly performing, at will, almost offhandedly, a task one would have thought impossible, perhaps magical, in these latter jaded days: the invention of new genres. Andrei Codrescu hailed his quasi-nonfiction opus Fission Among the Fanatics as ‘the first appearance of a genre so strange we are turning away from naming it…’ In the field of meta-scholarship, the late Carol Novack described his Epigonesia as ‘that rarity of rarities: a new genre, something like a superficially nonfictional Pale Fire, taking place in real time as the primary text alternately rides roughshod over, and is sapped and subverted by, the critical apparatus.’ More recently, in his books Family Romance and We’ll See Who Seduces Whom, Bradley has yanked new kinks into the synaesthetic art of ekphrasis. He ‘accepted the challenge posed by stacks of preexisting art’ and wrote a novel and an epic poem, respectively, around them.”
Further curiosity can be satisfied at tombradley.org.