Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Lancelot Schaubert's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, this series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20ish odd bookish scenarios....


Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?

I've already written short stories with my feet and journalled with my feet, so my feet. Though I can tie a cherry stem with my tongue. I was told in the 5th grade that this would make me a good kisser. They didn't, however, tell me that being an overly melancholy hopeless romantic would repel most girls rather than attract them, so kind of a horse before the cart skill, all told. 

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

I really don't care, as long as it's the truest, best, most beautiful work I can write. As long as it's really real, that's all I care about. Is the money the same? Then moderate sales is great because it's continuous. If the bestseller is traditional and I can get paid in undervalued shares of the parent company, then that. Or paid in a downmarket. See this is the problem with asking about sales: books aren't about sales, first and formost. Keep the wealth, the power, the pleasure, the honor, the fame. I want to be wise and good and a beautiful soul.

Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?

Neither. I'd rather my name rot in obscurity, but the work live on and change people for teh better.

Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?

"...and I never really understood why authors didn't start with more conjunctions. But I suppose it's a personal preference thing, though some seem to forget how well it can be done. For other authors in times goneby have written this way. Nor did they write poorly. So well did the conjunctions shape their prose. Yet even now, folks run from conjunctions at the start of sentences. Or at least let them languish in obscurity..."

I could go on with coordinating ones, but I doubt you want 1,000 words on the matter.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?

This is very difficult for me. Insanely difficult. I have an auditory processing issue so audio noise stresses me out more than most. But I also see my skin as a one-of-a-kind living canvas and a tattoo to be a one-of-a-kind commission on that canvas. So I've yet to see a tattoo that's worthy. If it could be hand tapped by Samoans whom I had earned the right to be called "chief" as did my friend Roger Andruss (only white man I'm aware of to become a chief and get the tattoos) AND if this is the platonic IDEAL of the novel, then sure. My skin. Otherwise I'd be tortured auditorily for the sake of my own moral and aesthetic code.

Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?

The former, obviously. The world has enough commodity and propoganda.

Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?

If by "hate" you mean "disappointed by," the twist. If by "hate" you mean "have a severe negative emotional reaction to so that you nearly wish them ill" then the character.

Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?

I have written with my blood before. It replenishes much quicker than skin. So blood. Though I have vaso vago, so I'd likely pass out after the first pint.

Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?

BELL HAMMERS and my universe THE VALE features both me as a character and characters escaping the novel, but I prefer the former.

Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?

The former. I'm a student of Koine, Ionic, and Hebrew which all feature the former and don't bother me. The former doesn't bother McCarthy and the latter doesn't bother e.e. cummings.

Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?

Both. Ban it and then teach why it was banned, in cycles.

Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?

I'd rather get hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas who's trying to avoid Ayn Rand who's been hitting on him. I'd also like to hear her bloviate if I'm allowed to dialog because maybe — maybe — a Socratic dialog would undo much of the terrifying nonsense she produced.

Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?

If it's Japanese haiku and there are no line breaks, I pretty much do that in description anyways. Japanese haiku (non-syllabic, but "on" and morae based) and Old English alliterative meter are separated by a hair's breadth and to prove it, I'll make a haiku out of English cliches:

black and blue
babe in the woods
weathers storm

That's a japanese haiku, 1.5 feet in an Old English alliterative meter (unless the middle starts and ends one, then it's two), and it's three cliches. So we talk like this and write like this all the time in English. I'll point to Chesterton on alliteration:

A very sympathetic reviewer said that I used too much alliteration; and quoted Mr. T.S. Eliot (see apology in Introduction) as saying that such a style maddened him to the point of unendurance; and a similar criticism of my English was made, I think, by another American writer, Mr. Cuthbert Wright.  Now I think, on fair consideration, that it is perfectly true that I do use a great deal too much alliteration.  The only question on which these gentlemen and I would probably differ is a question of degree; a question of the exact importance or necessity of avoiding alliteration.  For I do strongly maintain that it is a question of avoiding alliteration — and even that phrase does not avoid it! If an English writer does not avoid it, he is perpetually dragged into it when speaking rapidly or writing a great deal, by the whole trend and current of the English speech; perhaps that is why the Anglo-Saxon poetry even down to Piers Plowman (which I enjoy hugely) was all alliteration.  Anyhow, the tendency in popular and unconscious speech is quite obvious, in phrases and proverbs and rhymes and catchwords and a thousand things.  Time and tide, wind and water, fire and flood, waste not, want not, bag and baggage, spick and span, black and blue, deaf and dumb, the devil and the deep sea, when the wine is in the wit is out, in for a penny, in for a pound, a pig in a poke, a bee in a bonnet, a bat in a belfry, and so on through a myriad fantastic changes of popular imagery.  What elaborate art, what sleepless cunning even, must these more refined writers employ to dodge this rush of coincidences; and run between the drops of this deluge!  It must be a terrible strain on the presence of mind to be always ready with a synonym.  I can imagine Mr. T.S. Eliot just stopping himself in time, and saying with a refined cough, “Waste not, require not.” I like to think of Mr. Cuthbert Wright, in some headlong moment of American hustle, still having the self-control to cry, “Time and Fluctuation wait for no man!” I can imagine his delicate accent when speaking of a pig in a receptacle or of bats in the campanile.  It is a little difficult perhaps to image the latter critic apparently confining himself to the isolated statement, “Mr. Smith is spick,” while his mind hovered in momentary hesitation about how to vary the corresponding truth that Mr. Smith is span.  But it is quite easy to conceive an advanced modern artist of this school, looking for some sharp and graphic variation in the old colour scheme of black and blue.  Indeed, we might almost invent a sort of colour test, like that which somebody suggested about red grass and green sky as a test of different schools of painting.  We might suggest that Decadents beat people black and yellow, Futurists beat them black and orange, Neo-Victorians beat them black and magenta; but all recoil from the vulgar alliteration of beating them black and blue.  Nor indeed is the reference to these new and varied styles irrelevant.  Some of the more bizarre modern methods seem to me to make it rather difficult to have any fixed criticism at all, either of their style or mine.  Take, for instance, the case of Mr. T.S. Eliot himself.  I recently saw a poem of his praised very highly and doubtless very rightly; though to some extent (it seemed) because it was a poem of profound “disillusionment and melancholy.” But the passage specially quoted for commendation ran, if I remember right:

“the smell of steak in passages.”
That quotation is enough to indicate the difficulty I mean.  For even style of this severe and classic sort is after all to some extent a matter of taste.  It is not a subject for these extreme controversial passions.  If I were to say that the style of that line maddened me to the point of unendurance, I should be greatly exaggerating its effect on the emotions.  I should not like everything to be written in that style; I should not like to wander for ever in passages stuffy with steak (there we go again!) but I cannot think these questions of style are quite so important as these pure stylists suppose.  We must be moderate in our reactions; as in that verse specially headed “The Author’s Moderation” in the Bab Ballad about Pasha Bailey Ben — another great poem written in a tone of melancholy and disillusion.
To say that Bailey oped his eyes
Would feebly paint his great surprise;
To say it almost made him die
Would be to paint it much too high.
I may be allowed to open my eyes for a moment at some of the literary models thus commended to me; but I shall soon close them again in healthful slumber.  And when the more refined critic implies that my own manner of writing almost makes him die, I think he over-estimates my power over life and death.
But I have begun with this personal example of alliteration; because a question like that of alliteration is not so simple as it looks; and the answer to it applies to much more important things than my own journalistic habits.  Alliteration is an example of a thing much easier to condemn in theory than in practice.  There are, of course, many famous examples in which an exaggerated alliteration seems quite wrong.  And yet those are exactly the examples which it would be most difficult for anybody to put right.  Byron (a splendid example of the sort of writer who does not bother much about avoiding anything) did not hesitate to say of his hero at Quatre Bras that he “rushed into the field and foremost fighting fell.” That is so extreme that we might well suppose it described the end of the life and adventures of Peter Piper.  But I will trouble anybody to alter one word in the line so as to make it better; or even so as to make it sense.  Byron used those words because they were the right words; and you cannot alter them without deliberately choosing the wrong words.  This is more often the case in connection with alliteration than many people imagine.  I do not mean to claim any such exalted company when I say that, on this particular point of conduct, I agree with Byron.  But Byron does not stand alone; Coleridge, a person of some culture, could burst out boisterously and without stopping for breath:
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free.
and I do not see that he could have done anything else.  I do not think anybody could interfere with that foaming spate of Fs, if the verse that followed was really “to follow free.”
There is a problem behind all this which is also illustrated in other ways.  It is illustrated in the other much controverted question of puns.  I know all about the judgments regularly cited as if from dusty law-books in the matter.  I know all about the story that Dr. Johnson said, “The man who would make a pun would pick a pocket.” How unlucky that the lexicographer and guardian of our language, in the very act of purging himself of puns, should have plunged so shamelessly deep into the mire of alliteration!  His example, in that very instance, would alone be enough to prove the first part of my case, even when it is brought forward against the second.  Johnson spluttered out all those p’s because he was an Englishman with a sense of the spirit and vigour of the English language; and not a timid prig who had to mind his p’s and q’s by using them in exact alternation with a pattern.  But if it came to the old joke of invoking authorities, it would be equally easy to invoke even greater authorities on the side of the pun.  Also there is something that is more important to my purpose here.  It would not only be easy to quote the puns of the poets; it would be easy to quote the very bad puns of the very good poets.  But the question I wish to ask is wider and more essential than all this hotch-potch of snobbery and legalism and A Hundred Familiar Quotations, which goes to make up the modern invocation of authorities.  I wish to point out that there is a general attitude of mind, which is defensible; or rather two attitudes of mind, which are both defensible.  It is a question of style; but there are here two different styles; because there are two different motives.  If one is now criticising the other, I do not merely wish to retort the criticism; but rather to proclaim liberty for both.
All of that to say, I'm intimidated by neither because when defining haiku properly — by morae — we English speakers do this all the time. To talk or write in another way is to talk awkwardly.

Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?

The latter. And make it the greatest novel series of all time. Preferably an alien island. Then I'm not only reading a classic, I'm learning a culture through its language. This is the plot of both Out of the Silent Planet and Arrival, both of which understand the fundamental nature of language to thought, both of which 50 Shades arguably destroys.

Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?

I thrive on public flogging, particularly when I'm allowed to respond graciously to jerks. There are so few classic critics these days.

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?

The latter. Brother Lawrence called that "prayer."

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?

My computer can go straight to hell. And that goes for all complex technology with egregiously simple uses. I prefer simple tech with near infinite applications. Pen on the paper. Sword in the stone. Wood in the stove. What sort of spacetravel tech we will invent, I cannot say. But we'll always need tea kettles for tea and baths when the power fails and purifying water we drew from a well. 

Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?

I have a standing desk, so I've done the former. But I've also written words while bedridden in my bunk bed growing up. So both are good. 

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?

Oh gosh, the latter. I've read to empty rooms. But public nudity... I can't do that. I don't kiss and tell. I could barely change in the lockerroom growing up.

Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well? 

I've seen plenty of MFA literature: highly polished turds. On the other hand, George MacDonald's stories have TERRIBLE prose, and yet because of him we have Narnia and Smith of Wooton Major and a slew of other great things: his stories are so mythic, they'll last forever even if his name fades. He's the reason we have the fantasy genre and almost all of the modern tropes go back to him.


Two excerpts of Lancelot Schaubert’s debut novel BELL HAMMERS have sold to The New Haven Review (Yale’s Institute Library) and The Misty Review, while a third excerpt was selected as a finalist for the last Glimmer Train Fiction Open in history. He has sold poetry, fiction, and essays to TOR (MacMillan), The Anglican Theological Review, McSweeney’s, Poker Pro’s World Series Edition, The Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, Space and Time, and many similar markets. Spark + Echo chose him for their 2019 artist in residency, commissioning him to write four short stories in addition to the seven they already purchased. He has published work in anthologies like Author in Progress, Harry Potter for Nerds, and Of Gods and Globes — the last of which he edits and has featured stories by Juliet Marillier (whose story was nominated for an Aurealis award), Howard Andrew JonesKaaron WarrenAnne Greenwood BrownDr. Anthony CirillaLJ CohenFC Shultz, and Emily Munro.

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