Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Midnight Movie Monographers: TIM LUCAS


Neil Snowdon, who masterminds and edits the Electric Dreamhouse line of books (for PS Publishing) that include the Midnight Movie Monographs, felt that - after my series of interviews with other authors in the series - I deserved an interview of my own to promote my SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, which came out last October. We engaged in an absorbing round of e-mail tennis, which took us in all sorts of directions, and which Neil has since shaped into the following conversation. I hope you find it of interest - and if you don't already have SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, I hope it's awaiting you under the Christmas tree! If it's not... take your Christmas money directly here!


NS: SPIRITS OF THE DEAD has been out for a little while now, and you've been very open about how much the book means to you, but when it began it came a little out of the blue.  ‎We'd been discussing another title first, and then SPIRITS seemed to step forward and demand your attention. Can you talk a little bit about that process? We didn't discuss it much at the time - it was clear that something important and passionate was demanding your attention and I didn't want to second guess or get in the way - but I'm interested to know more about what happened and what triggered it?

TL: I wish I had a clear recollection of the sequence of events, but from where I sat, it was very much like the book - in this case - was willing itself to be written. You know how sometimes you start reading a book and it grabs you somehow and you gulp it down? It was inverse of that. I had originally approached you with the idea of writing about Georges Franju’s JUDEX but, for some reason, that book seemed to resist me. I’m not sure why it did, because it’s one of my favorite movies; it may have had something to do with seeing that Tim Major was doing LES VAMPIRES for you and Michael Brooke was doing a book on EYES WITHOUT A FACE. Possibly I gravitated to more singular ground, but I have noticed two curiosities about my writing about film. One is that I tend not to write in depth about the films that are most important to me, and another is that I lose interest in writing about subjects that I feel are already well-covered. Perhaps it’s something to do with my past that I shy away from competition, or that I lose interest in films and filmmakers that have already found their champions. 

One of my strengths seems to be in drawing my readers’ interest to films and filmmakers that are off the beaten path. With SPIRITS OF THE DEAD I seemed to have my cake and eat it too; it was a film I knew extremely well, and which has a certain following, but two-thirds of the film I feel are very misunderstood and have been ignored. I initially gave some thought to just writing about Fellini’s TOBY DAMMIT, but I soon realized that I had a lot to say about the other two segments in the film, and that I actually would have to write about them if I wanted to say everything I had to say about TOBY DAMMIT. I got a huge head start on the book by writing about the film as if I was scripting an audio commentary about it, going through it scene by scene. Adding the original Poe stories also added seriously to the page count, and I think once I see a document tip over a certain word count - maybe 15-20,000 words, it acquires a gravity of its own that dictates this work will be done. I also started translating passages from an Italian book I have on the film, and it became an active learning process for me, as well, and I was carried along by my thirst to learn more. If I find myself learning something about a film, I know I can convey that excitement of learning in writing about it. 

NS: 'The excitement of learning' is such a perfect phrase, and I think it touches on one of your great gifts as a writer/critic, because 'the excitement of learning' is a two way street; it invites a kind of camaraderie between the writer and the reader, with the page as common ground, the site of something shared. It's something I've always felt as a reader, since I first encountered your work in GOREZONE, and then in the pages of VIDEO WATCHDOG. It's palpably THERE. It makes for exciting reading, and it relates to (or perhaps builds on) that igniting thrill of discovery that is key for so many fans I think.

So it seemed doubly exciting to me when you suddenly changed tack and Spirits 'possessed' you, because I knew it was the primal scene, as it were, for your own sense of discovery regarding genre film; what it can do, what it can be...‎

How important are these things to good writing/criticism in general do you think, as well as for your own work?

TL: There is always a sense of trepidation, for me, that comes with writing in depth about any film - that sense of concern about whether the limitations of my own reading on a subject are going to affect what I am writing; if you might actually be writing something that doesn’t give another film historian their due, that isn’t aware of its own redundancy. The better a film is known, the better the chances of this happening, and the last thing I want to be in my writing is redundant or in some way unfair. So when I find information that I know is untapped, at least in English, I get very excited about sharing that information. I know I have the ability to convey my own excitement because readers have told me this. And a funny thing happens once this gets underway - information that I need starts finding its way to me. Out of the blue. Questions will suddenly pop into my head and I will look around, in books or online, for answers - and I will either find them, or I will find my way to things I desperately needed but didn’t know I needed.

An outstanding example of this, in relation to SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, is finding out through reading about each of the directors BEFORE this project came along, how they came to it, that all three of them were at a crossroads in their lives and careers - they were each on the point of a career transformation and were going through some kind of Hell… except for Vadim, who probably wouldn’t have admitted it had he known. That would have not been in his character.

Sometimes I would find myself struck by associations in the visuals. In remarking on that shot of the procession along the beach in “Metzengerstein,” it was very important to me to point out the similarity of the regalia they were all wearing to the wardrobe you see in the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke, which have a historical connection to Poe. But a lot of us aren’t trained to see that; we look and say, “Oh, aren’t they dressed ridiculously! It must all be recycled BARBARELLA stuff!” Well, no, it’s not - there’s a reason for it. I think one of the things that gives my book a greater than usual depth about its subject is that I assume everything has a reason, and I go looking for it. And sometimes it comes looking for me, as when I decided to read Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues’ THE MOTORCYCLE and dropped my jaw to find its epigram was from “Metzengerstein.” And then making the connection to Gainsbourg’s “Harley Davidson,” which was a big hit for Brigitte Bardot, of all people. She's one of the stars of SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, the Louis Malle segment. I was fortunate enough to find myself in a vortex of useful associations. Which is not just valuable to writing or criticism, but invaluable.

NS: It’s interesting that you say ‘information that you need starts finding its way to me.’ I find that very true in my own life and work too. And it connects rather nicely to your description earlier of how a project reaching a certain size develops its own gravity... at a certain point, if a project is working and healthy, it really does seem to develop a gravitational field that starts pulling new information in. 

It also relates to something that I very much believe in: that the Art we need finds us. perhaps all the more when we're also creating - Art begets Art? For years I couldn't buy Jonathan Carroll books easily in the UK - he's never been very well published here - so I'd luck into finding an old edition here, a random import there, always when I wasn't actively looking for them, and always when I needed what they offered the most. In a very real sense art can save us. In this case it found and sort of saved you in the midst of real emotional turmoil back when you first saw the film.

Was the writing of the book a little like paying it back in a way… or paying it forward? In the films 50th year, you got to say something revelatory, and profoundly moving about the film that saved you and spurred you on...

TL: It’s interesting that you “paying it back/paying it forward,” because this whole year - 2018 - I’ve found myself reliving, in a sense, 1968, which was now 50 years ago. I’ve watched a lot of 1968 films this year, which I believe was one of the greatest years for films, and SPRITS OF THE DEAD got to be part of that celebration; it even launched my retrospective in a sense. So in that way it was part of a kind of celebration, and on a more personal level, it is a humble gesture of gratitude for being one of the films that was so defining to me. Because it not only defined what I most loved about cinema, but it defined me to me. It carved out terrain I could inhabit and introduce to other people - the European "fantastique," as it were. As for paying it forward, if the book can do anything to bring the film more recognition, or perhaps to get that dreadful French version from being the standard “foreign language” version on TV channels, I would be doing it and its authors a very great service.

NS: What fascinates me also is the way you use that new information, that new learning. There's a side of film fandom and criticism that seems happy simply to collect data, make lists of who, what when where and how, but doesn't dig any deeper. It's a side of fandom and criticism that doesn't do a lot for me and which i sometimes find off-putting even. It has a hoarder mentality that seems greedy and territorial. But knowing what kind of brush, or brand of paint Van Gogh used, doesn't in itself, tell me anything about why or how the painting moves me, or what moved him in the painting of it... 

Your noting the Beardsley and Clarke elements is precisely on point because those illustrations are inseparable from the experience of reading for any artist who thinks visually - as Vadim, Malle and Fellini most surely did - and especially at their initial exposures to the materials when they were young and their creative minds at their most formative. The intensely felt prose of Poe's stories and poems, combined with the decadence of those images is an intensely heady brew and essential to understanding the film they then produced, but they don't exist in isolation, so the revelation of THE MOTORCYCLE and Harley Davidson is wonderful, because it says so much about the way Art inspires other Art and Artists, and the cultural and artistic climate from which a work emerges. There's something about the angle you take that I see in most of the critical writing I respond to most fervently, which is a generosity in seeing, interpreting and sharing... because the sharing of an idea inspires

Which I guess takes us back to the shared 'excitement in learning' that you were talking about. It seems to me that it is an essential part of good critical writing, and a healthy Film/Artistic culture and conversation.

TL: This is why I felt it was important not only to write about the film but to include the original Poe stories and to comment on them, as well. When I had the idea it was more instinctual to me, it felt right, but as I read them again, I could more clearly see the points they had in common. Indeed, I found all three to be essentially the same story! Albeit in ways that I doubt Poe himself was conscious of. And only while writing something about, say, “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” did I realize that Fellini had reproduced in his adaptation the original’s satirical tone - which is easy for a contemporary reader to overlook, but is very much a part of its original makeup. 

A lot of critical writing is undertaken when the writers' ideas are set, firm, and they end up writing about a film, or a group of related films, as if they are just one thing, this one thing they have found it to be. I find that more like closing a door than opening one. And sometimes those ideas are so basic or finite - like (I’ll make something up) “GHOST WORLD is a story of teenage friendship and how it cannot be sustained into adulthood” or "GHOST WORLD is about a teenage girl whose sarcasm begins to write her out of her own life." One of those things strikes me as so obvious it hardly requires expounding on, and the other one I don't believe at all. I would say it’s a complex work of art, about many things, as many things as there are many people who bring themselves to it. For me, it's much more about how we begin to discover who we are as individuals in our teen years, so in a sense it’s not really about friendship but about the social support systems we unconsciously form or gravitate into before we are fully formed. And the reason why this change to adulthood occurs, strangely enough, is that Enid discovers a piece of art that isn’t just something to laugh at for its own weirdness or anarchy but is genuinely moving to her, which is kind of what we’re talking about now. So there, just in those two sentences, I’ve found my way back to SPIRITS OF THE DEAD! I don’t like to be sure of where I'm going when I start writing about a film; I prefer to write descriptively, about what I see, what it makes me feel, where its ideas take me. And since I’ve started writing audio commentaries as a principal livelihood, I find that scene by scene analysis is especially fruitful to determining, say, how ideas are woven into stories, how a story serially reveals itself in the course of being told.

NS: I find that really interesting, that the media - the medium ? - you work in has ultimately changed the way you work. From its earliest inception Video Watchdog reviewed, not just movies, but the way they were presented. It's pretty much the default approach now for people reviewing home media, but you were one of the first people to do that. Over the years, you've become more involved in the presentation of tat media itself, in commentaries, as an interviewee, and even as an advisor to those working in restoration... I'm grasping for a VIDEODROME or Marshall Mcluhan analogy in this sort of creative feedback loop... but how much has that fed back into the way you write now? How much has it changed your way of working/thinking about film?

TL: As far as I’m aware, I was the first to review movies on video in that way. When I was writing for VIDEO MOVIES/VIDEO TIMES magazine in the mid-1980s, it annoyed me that the reviewers there were only reviewing the movies, without any discussion of the presentation and I addressed this matter with my editor there, Matthew White, who asked me to give him an example. So I started writing about the new releases and noting the color problems, the pan&scan problems and such, and the other reviewers began following that format and it caught on elsewhere. 

As VIDEO WATCHDOG standardized that form of writing and took it even further into minutiae, it did set an example that others followed. There was even a British magazine called UNCUT that consisted only of write-ups of certain movies and their variants, in an effort to arrive at notions of the most complete available cuts. I’m not sure, but we may have played a part in its formation by turning down some submissions, because we did turn down material that I felt was too focused in that direction. You can create your own competition that way. Quite often people would send us material in the form of a letter but it would run on for 15-25 pages, and something about that material didn’t quite feel organic to what we were setting out to do, so it quite rightly found a place elsewhere. It was always my idea with VIDEO WATCHDOG to write about the fantastic cinema in a serious mature way, to take it seriously and make it the focus of progressive and clarifying criticism, not just turn the data about these films into obsessive fan mathematics concerning running times and aspect ratios. In fact, after 30 years of writing about films and being obliged to always document films from that angle, of always noting aspect ratios and variants, that approach has significantly lost its interest for me - perhaps because I think the industry can be trusted to do the right thing now, as a number of film enthusiasts inspired by the work all of us did over the years have taken decisive positions within the industry. Even reviewing films as such is not something I’m keen to do now. I would rather write what I dismiss as “notes” or “thoughts” on a film, and focus just on one fascinating scene, theme or aspect. That is enough to entice someone to view a film, and they can begin from there to construct a reading, an opinion, of their own. My own opinion is just mine, and I would rather help lead my readers to their own interpretations.

What most interests me now - in terms of a more sustained form of reviewing - is a more forensic study of what we can learn of a film’s construction, its thematic layering, by studying a film from scene to scene, shot to shot, which is available to us thanks to home video, and which is the approach I generally take to my audio commentaries. I adopted this approach into the chapters I’m writing for my Joe Sarno book, and I carried it over into the SPIRITS OF THE DEAD book, where I think it works very well. It is an approach that underscores the contributions of the screenwriter and editor, as well as the director, not to mention the composer. It presents opportunities to point out the strengths of other departments, like those of wardrobe and art direction, so it breaks us away from the tyranny of the director, in some respects. The director is really the deciding vote of each of these departments, what they ultimately put across is done with his/her approval, but too often the director is given total credit for everything, in a kind of critical shorthand. It deprives us of rewarding study of each of these departments, and I’ve found this a really enlightening approach. This way I can be pursuing my living at the same time I’m pursuing my own education.

NS: We park our cars in the same garage... (not surprisingly). 

It's incredibly heartening, and inspiring to hear you say that. It emphasises something I think is essential, and not so much to the fore as it once was in terms of the cultural conversation around film‎ and popular art in general. There's a sense in which the taxonomic, the 'mathematical' side of fandom/cinephilia (however you'd like to term it, professional and otherwise) has come to dominate. So many critics and reviewers - and certainly academic writers - address the reader from a place of absolute authority; they take an almost dictatorial stance in which they are the fount of all knowledge bequeathing what they know to us mere mortals, and there's no room for, nor interest in, genuine discussion. But the most interesting, and inspiring work - for me - is the writing that explores the film, the filmmakers, AND the writer... and invites the reader to join that exploration of the film and of themselves. It's the difference between a question and a statement. A mystery and a fact. A monologue and a conversation. The writing I find most interesting draws me into dialogue with the writer, the film, and the filmmakers. That's an exciting place to be!

It's probably also why, these days I'm more drawn to, and find greater interest and satisfaction to be found in, those genre films that occupy the areas of the 'uncanny' and the 'fantastique'. Films that are built on ambiguity and uncertainty. There are days of course when what I want is film equivalent of 3 chord thrash, but it's the uncanny, the uncertain, the fantastique that most haunts and inspires me.

Changing tack a little, you've recently published your first fiction writing for a while. You have a story in NEW FEARS 2, and a novella forthcoming from PS Publishing. Was it just the upheavals of publishing in the late 90's and the day to day running of VW that kept you away? I'm a big fan of both your novels, so I'm very excited to see you publishing more fiction...
TL: I guess the answer boils down to luck, and I’ve had very little good luck with publishing my fiction. My first agent, who loved my work, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in her early 30s. My next agent was able to get me a handsome advance for THROAT SPROCKETS because it went into a bidding war. In the end, we probably went with the wrong publisher because they held out the hope of a hardcover printing, and then reneged, and my editor there, Jeanne Cavelos, who was a dream to work with and fought for my right to retain a title that everyone else wanted me to change, quit as the book was going into print. The editor who inherited me hated the book and was cold to me. My agent at that time suggested I write something in the vein of MARY REILLY, a rewrite of a classic horror text from a different perspective, because she could sell something like that in a heartbeat, so I wrote an outline and the first 50 pages of THE BOOK OF RENFIELD. It flowed out of me like water, or wine. It took her 10 years to place, and by that time it was post-9/11 and the whole playing field had changed. 

Long story short: I have written a lot of fiction, as good as anything else I’ve done, but I am so busy with other projects that I don’t shop it around with the passion needed to break through. I am easily discouraged and I’m in Ohio, so not well connected. I am also a very busy writer, so I move on from finished work pretty quickly and sometimes lose track of good work I’ve done. I’ve been writing about film in print for more than 40 years but have published only one, very early collection of that voluminous work. I have tried putting this material (the fiction, specifically) in other hands but it never goes anywhere, there is never any follow-through. An agent at a major NY agency loved my work and we had such an illuminating, flattering discussion about it... but then she dropped the bombshell that she couldn’t represent me because she and her husband were moving to Jerusalem. She passed me on to another agent in her office and he did nothing for me, so that was two years wasted. I recently had my screenwriting agent submit a whole publishing program of my work to a major publisher doing excellent work, not just one book but a publication PLAN covering years, and after an early encouraging word there has been months of dead silence. No follow-up on either side. I have two and a half unpublished novels (the half being the rough draft novelization I’ve written of my Roger Corman biopic THE MAN WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES) I could turn over to someone now, if I were offered even a halfway decent deal. I want to write a sequel to THROAT SPROCKETS, and I want to write an extension of the original novel. I have turned down one or two offers for the extant work because even small companies seem to feel entitled to own one’s work in perpetuity, for almost no money - and that is a contract I won't sign. 

So basically, I have had to give myself over to the work that gets a response, an audience, some enthusiasm. I’d love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life writing the stories that are in me, but only in the last year or so have I received any positive reception. My story “The Migrants” was written as a lark, based on a dream I’d had, and I have some very dense, literary dreams - I could write a whole book of those. Friends on Facebook, where I share my dreams, have told me repeatedly that I should collect them in book form. And my novella THE SECRET LIFE OF LOVE SONGS has developed into a piece of musical theater as it has been awaiting an opening in PS Publishing’s schedule, and we are now trying to sort out how to make the songs in the book available to its readership. Fingers crossed that it will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

NS: Luck is such a huge part of writing and publishing. Finding the right collaborators, the right home for your work. Consistency is hard to find, but so very important. I think it’s a crime that your novels are out of print. I really hope that changes very soon.

TL: The editor who inherited me hated the book and was cold to me. My agent at that time suggested I write something in the vein of MARY REILLY, a rewrite of a classic horror text from a different perspective, because she could sell something like that in a heartbeat, so I wrote an outline and the first 50 pages of THE BOOK OF RENFIELD. It flowed out of me like water, or wine. It took her 10 years to place, and by that time it was post-9/11 and the whole playing field had changed. I liked my editor on that book well enough and once it was slated for publication, history repeated itself. She decided to get out of publishing and so my book was orphaned and got no real promotion from Touchstone, though it coincided with Elizabeth Kostova’s THE HISTORIAN, another meta-novel about Dracula that got a million dollar advance and went on to become the #1 best-seller of that summer. My novel, in the bargain, turned out to be the first "mash-up" novel, which many people still don’t realize. Touchstone actually pooh-poohed my suggestion of sharing credit on the book with Bram Stoker to underline this fact. Getting a novel into print is a major feat, but so much can go wrong internally that has nothing to do with a book’s quality or vision. It’s terribly, terribly discouraging to a heart and mind that just wants to soar forward.

NS: You were in your teens when you started writing criticism, and indeed publishing professionally in CINEFANTASTIQUE, were you already writing fiction in those days? How did you start; what inspired you; and how does your process differ for fiction and non-fiction?

TL: I was learning how to write fiction in those early days of reviewing, I finished writing my first “novel” as I called it - it was more of a novella, or a collection of stories - in 1975. My wife was supporting us in those days, and when she went to work, so did I - in a manner that some people might think was loafing. I spent a considerable part of each day reading the author’s I most respected, and the rest of my day writing. I’ve always been an autodidact and I used what I read to raise the bar of my ambition and expectations for my writing. Some writers like Joyce, Nabokov and Robbe-Grillet were heaven to read but dangerous to study because it took a long time to free myself from their influences and get back to formulating a voice of my own. I actually wrote a fair chunk of my own FINNEGANS WAKE, believe it or not, thinking that was a good idea! This is the downside of autodidacticism: you aren’t exposed to arguments, to counter ideas. I spent a couple of years writing a fairly ambitious novel, got some wonderful feedback and constructive criticism from an editor at St Martins Press, comparing my style to Thomas Pynchon, but she couldn’t find the causal links between events. So I spent another three years toying with it, after which I sent it back to the same editor - and got a form letter rejection.

At that point I stopped, around 1980 - and then I didn’t write any more fiction until Steve Bissette invited me to contribute to a horror comic anthology called TABOO that he launched in 1988. I undertook a graphic novel concept called THROAT SPROCKETS and Steve hooked me up with the artist Mike Hoffman, who did spectacular work on it - but Mike worked slowly to produce his photorealistic results, my scripts grew more and more ambitious (and long), and he and I turned out to be incompatible, so the other I wrote was drawn - again, exquisitely - by David Lloyd, who also drew V FOR VENDETTA. I would have loved to continue working with him, but he was testy with me when we communicated and I don’t believe he was interested in a more enduring gig. I wrote a fourth script for the graphic novel, the longest of the four, but Steve began having difficulties with some associates and had to close down TABOO.

I was also onto a wonderful set of stories illustrated by a dear friend, Simonida Perica-Uth, who was doing some wonderful avant- garden work with interpreting my short stories through collage. We had our first story “Sweet Nothings” in TABOO’s second issue, I think, and we later completed a lengthy follow-up called “Clipped Wings” that’s never seen the light of day. It’s marvelous. The work we did together might have led to something truly valuable, had we continued, but suddenly there was no platform. Steve suggested I try finishing THROAT SPROCKETS as a traditional novel, since I wasn’t working well with my collaborators, so I reluctantly followed his advice... and found out that, in the time I had spent away from writing like other writers, I had found my own voice. I wrote the novel over the course of maybe six months, working late at night on Donna’s computer, as a break from the day of magazine work I had done on my own computer - and I quickly found my first agent with a proposal I submitted. We worked well together but she decided to quit agenting - and shortly thereafter died of an aneurysm at 34. But before she died, she had recommended the agent I went to subsequently, and with whom I stayed for more than 10 years. But all of my work in fiction has had to be written on stolen time, as I suppose is the case with most writers.

What inspired me as a fiction writer? When I was working as a film page editor for a local entertainment paper in 1973-74, I started working with s contributor named Robert Uth. Bob wanted to review movies for us, and since I didn’t drive, he drove me to screenings - and afterwards we’d have coffee and talk about what we had seen. One night he asked me, “Would you mind if I talked about what’s on my mind?” And he began telling me about things that were happening in his life and how he was connecting the dots between these events by writing a novel. It was an eye-opening insight into the passion that goes into writing fiction. We became best friends and remained so for a long time - he is, to this day, one of my oldest and dearest friends; he’s a documentary filmmaker now. He is Simonida’s husband, she’s from the former Yugoslavia. Being in Bob’s orbit, and being regularly exposed to this abstract romantic trip he was on, as he was building this cathedral in his mind... I had to start writing something of my own, and it started pouring out of me. I wrote something like six or seven compete novels, just teaching myself how to write. I tried on occasion to get some of them published but nothing got across. Bob finished his novel, sent it out, got two rejection slips, I think, and never tried again - and his novel, which is called CAUCASIAN LOVE, is a composite of nouvelle vague, science fiction, and jazz and is as fascinating as any novel I’ve read. So he was my principal inspiration because he showed me what went on behind the scenes of every book ever published. I could see that the effort was similar to a love affair in which the writer must romance something solid out of the ether he enters into. There is something to this because there has always been a sense of adultery about undertaking every novel I’ve written. You invent characters who capture your imagination, you stalk them as they make their way through their adventures, until they finally embrace you and express you.

As for my process for fiction and non-fiction... it’s strange. I can gulp down a 400-500 page non-fiction book about any subject that interests me in two days. A novel of the same length takes me one or two weeks, because I don’t just absorb data, I commune with the construction of the story and it’s technique. I think it’s similar when I write. I can write a fairly polished piece of film writing in a single draft. But a piece of fiction I have to live in for awhile, and often I write these out of continuity and reorganize them as I go along. The story I wrote for Mark Morris’ NEW FEARS 2, “The Migrants”, was handed to me in a dream and it went through several drafts; the dream notes gave me the whole story, but It was years before I wrote the story. I had a first draft in one or two days but then I had to put it aside and give it time to become itself, if you see what I’m saying. In fact, since it was published I’ve done another draft - not terribly different, just a strong tweak or adjustment here and there. It’s still becoming what it wants to be.

NS: I love that Art, Story, Creativity is something you describe as a living breathing thing. A love affair rather than a puzzle to be solved... 

As different as it clearly is in a practical sense, it does seem to share a key aspect with your nonfiction, in that they both exist very much as an intimate conversation between the material, the reader, and the self. Communication and dialogue are key, in that one excites the other to respond which entices the other still more and so on. There's an inherent generosity and intimacy to that which is very appealing and, I think, accounts for the lasting impact your work has had on readers, many of whom have been inspired to continue that dialogue/conversation - with the material, with readers, with their inner selves - as critics, screenwriters, programmers and so on. I don't know if you have any sense of a legacy, but its there. And yet, you never rest! There's always another essay, another commentary, book, story or screenplay in the works...

So, what's next? What artistic love affairs are you currently engaged in?

TL: The most exciting activity of this past year for me, creatively speaking, has been working with Dorothy Moskowitz Falarski to develop actual songs from the poems I had originally positioned as “songs” in my novella THE SECRET LIFE OF LOVE SONGS, which PS Publishing will be releasing some time next year. Consequently it has become a good deal more than the novella it was a year ago; it will now read and play like an evening at the theater. It’s a performance in which the songs comment on the story, the literature, and vice versa. Doing this has been the weirdest and most glorious thing I’ve ever had to do to tell a story, and it has made me more than I was. Dorothy was the vocalist in the 1960s experimental rock band The United States Of America, which made only one album but it’s always been one of my top favorites, very dear to my heart. As we have been working on the songs, I’ve realized there were some subconscious connections between that album and THIS one, if you will - and Dorothy has pointed out others, like the fact that “Love Song (for the Dead Che)” is the signature song from the USA album, and that “love” is the last word spoken (by multiple voices) on that album. All of these songs had to begin with me sending Dorothy recordings of myself singing the songs a capella - and I haven’t sung since grade school, so imagine the naked vulnerability of that, of singing (wretchedly) love songs to someone you’ve so long admired - as a singer! I couldn’t record myself singing when Donna was in the house - for the same reason I used to freeze up when someone was looking over my shoulder as I would draw.

Dorothy has taught me a deal about how some lyrics read well but can be awkward to sing, about tailoring words to a beat, things I never had to concern myself with as a poet. And she has brought these songs magnificently to life. We are now working with a multi-talented musician friend to turn our demos into more finished sounding performances. We don’t know at this point if he’ll be doing them all or if that’s too overwhelming. We may be inviting some other musicians aboard. But each of the five songs casts its own spell. If these are the only five songs I ever have a hand in writing, I will feel fortunate indeed - especially to have collaborated with Dorothy, and to have produced with her some genuinely beautiful, intense love songs, and even one whimsical one. Each song is a different kind of song. We’re now trying to figure out if this musical program should be put on CD or just made available digitally and included with the book. I like the idea of someone reading the novella, coming to the song, and pressing Play.

I’m also making good progress on my book about Joe Sarno, the writer-director of dozens of fascinating, psychological films made for the adult film market of the 1960s and 1970s. I’m almost through with the 1960s at this point, and I won’t be writing about the entirety of his 1970s work. Joe wasn’t happy with the hardcore work he ended up having to do; it was not the work he set out to do. I want to write about the movies he was proud to sign with his own name, which are incredible visionary films. He is the only filmmaker I know who can, with a single line of dialogue, give me chills and the belief that a wall could fall down and open up a whole other dimension, another reality. He made movies about sex - not just people screwing, but the Dionysian, Reichian, lovemagick dimension of sex, the exploration of sex and where it takes us. That’s what I’m writing about.

NS: Sarno is someone I’m not at all familiar with, I’ve never seen a single one of his movies, but just from the way you describe them, I’m already itching to read the book and discover more! Tim, thank you so much for your time, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. I’ve had a blast!

(c) 2018 by Neil Snowdon/Electric Dreamhouse and Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.

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