Thursday, December 05, 2013

Out-of-Town-Authors: Darryl Joel Berger

Darryl Joel Berger is a Kingston-based writer and visual artist. In addition to his day-job as a graphic designer.

Yes, I know, he's hateful.

But Darryl's second book of short fictions came out this fall. And if you order it from him, it comes stuffed with little drawings and other beautiful ephemera.

So I thought I'd completely mangle his book title and, also, ask him flippant questions. (FYI, Darryl gives as good as he gets...)

* * *

What do you want people to know about Dead All Day?

Dead All Day is a great title, and I'd like to read that book. Sounds like it might tap into that whole zombie/undead thing the kids love so much. And let's face it: the real money is in the vampires-that-sparkle crowd.

My own book, Dark All Day, is undoubtedly a *lot* less lucrative. It's mostly about desperate and dreadful lives, or bad things happening to bad people, or the nature of bad things themselves. Loads and loads of suffering. At the same time, it's all very quick and quiet. Like little monsters on padded cat feet.

As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

I hate the whole performance aspect of art. The writer or artist should have nothing to do with it. I like reading about someone like Lucian Freud, who was just an appalling little gangster of a man, but I don't like knowing about him in relation to his art, because it affects my experience. And don't even get me started on Woody Allen.

So a writer reading/performing his or her own words is often a terrible idea. There you are, in person and with a voice, both of which might subtract from your work.

On the other hand, who the fuck else is going to do it? You're kind of stuck. So you might as well do your best at it. And practicing your reading makes you a better speaker, I believe.

Have you ever just tried being cheerful? Also, when are you writing a novel?

Someone recently asked me if I had any happy stories. The question felt like getting hit in the mouth with a shovel. I mean, there you are, digging all these holes for the reader, and they turn around and whack you.

So: no. I'll leave the cheerful stuff for the marketing department.

Writing: I have three novellas that are essentially unfinished. I'd like to tackle one over December, once I've sufficiently submitted my dignity to the smear-fest called Christmas.

Have you ever been to Winnipeg? What have you heard?

I lived in Winnipeg for ten years. By the time I left, I'd convinced myself that I'd done all the cool things there was to do. And my favourite places had become a little too favourite, like bad habits.

It's a great city, most of all in terms of affordability and friendliness. But it's a bit insular, and too easily insulted, because no one ever goes there. Winter there is like having rubella on your soul.

How do you balance your visual artist and writing practices? And your day-job as a graphic designer? And the micro-press you run with your wife Christina Decarie? And your small child?

I don't. It's all done in the margins, in a kind of second life, or doubling. For example, instead of having lunch, I'll often go to the library and draw. Or I'll spend my lunch hour writing. Or on my walk to work I'll stop to write down some thoughts in a little notebook I always carry. Or do a thumbnail of something I want to draw or paint. Or I'll write emails to myself. Other than that, I get one morning and one evening a week in my studio, and I hit the door running.

I don't want to talk about graphic design. It's an egregious way to make a living, where you have all of the responsibility and none of the authority, and it all very quickly devolves into proficiency with software. As a profession, it should be completely dead within ten years. But then maybe I can use that Dead All Day book title of yours!

Upstart Press is mostly my wife Christina's work. She's entirely the brains of the operation, full stop. I just do some lifting in terms of illustration, design and production. It works because we both want to give people real books (copy-edited, designed, registered, professionally produced, properly launched, etc) as opposed to some fuzzy, false-positive experience of being published (like print-on-demand or self-publishing, which is basically just taking people's money).

My four year-old, Oona, is here to test my willingness to be charmed and insulted all at once.

What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I'm listening to Marcus Aurelius, who is the fountainhead of stoic thought. I *was* reading 2666 (again) but it felt (again) like one of those Spartathlons I clip out of the paper and use as conversation pieces. I also just gave up on William T. Vollmann's The Royal Family, despite how beautifully written it is. I just took Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler out of the library, and I'm looking forward to giving up on that.

I'm writing a lot of short stuff at the moment, just these one-off's that are like finishing a thought. And of course our exquisite corpse project, which you might have to explain to your readers, and that has been fun, and properly inventive.

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