Questions for Jerry Schroeder concerning his multidimensional narrative, Symphony
Clocking in at exactly 1000 pages, Symphony is an amazing journey into a multidimensional, magickal universe. This book pushes boundaries of experimental narrative and form. Audacious, transcendental, frustrating, and brilliant, this is the book I wished that I had written. I rate it as one of the best I've read. Check out some samples at Quizmeta .
Here are a couple of questions I threw Jerry's way (via email).
First off, what is Symphony about?
Well (and let me say again, REV, we are honored and unworthy), insofar as it could be about anything, pretty much all and anything and/or nothing. It could be read as representation of consciousness encountering its own akashic substrate. In this case, my personal consciousness supplies some of the fuel for the incineration. It’s mostly about damn near anything and/or everything: it records an initiation, a sorcerer’s DNA, a mystic’s mutter, among others we will leave to whatever reader stumbles and gets stuck in it will make of its muck. Hole, “Miss World,” live in Minnesota 1994, playing. Is Kennedy actually in the house?
What is the significance of the title?
Because each language module functions as a different instrument, the many vessels and strings of the book resonate like different instruments in a symphony orchestra, many at once. It also refers to itself as a manifestation of one fullest possible logic I can muster of listening to something like, say, for example, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, five hundred times simultaneously. Also, the entire phonetic alphabet functions as notes, of course and natch.
What is the origin story for the book? How did you come up with the idea for it?
The “story,” such as it might be, originates out of an initiation that caused me to have to process between 65 and 70 complete, and at times extremely contradictory and quarelsome, realities at once. In some ways, the experience has resonance with Philip K. Dick’s Valis transmission. Indeed, looking at the recently published version of the Exegesis, I’d say there are a fair number of overlaps, though I processed the experience rather differently. By the time of the experience I had read some excerpts from the Exegesis in Dick’s Selected Non-Fiction Prose. I read Sutin’s edition of the Exegesis in around 2002. Of course I knew about the experience, had read Albemuth and the Valis trilogy. At the same time, it’s a mode of expression I’ve spent my entire infinite life attempting to develop. It’s also embedded within an experience of path 25/Samekh/Temperance/Art. Leadbelly, “Outshine the Sun” playing.
Can you talk about the structure of the novel?
It’s actually not a novel, though there’s one thread that’s slightly quasi-fictionalized. Of course, from the perspective of that one hologrammatic thread, yes, I suppose Symphony could be read as fiction. Otherwise, it’s reportage, an interview of a transtemporal, multispatial, metaquizzical averaged entity, though not a memoir, and not tempura. Many renditions of what it “is” do not really emerge until after I dies. So not a memoir, and also because that genre implies memory of the past, while what gets described in Symphony goes constantly. Sorry bout that. Think of Castenada, perhaps. The only mostly fully fictional work I’ve completed is The Great Time, Book 1. There are also fictional components to Every Atom Has a Holiday. And of course, Rev, there’s our co-written epic in progess, that torque-wrenching tale of heartbreak and triumph in the bionic age, Deus Fever.
Structure-wise, the book has a number of interlocking aspects. One obviously consists of the 32 paths of the Hermetic Kaballa. Another is the I-Ching. The numerical constraints/openings that are present on every page of the book take form from these operational algorithms, among others. It also has numerical and phonological structurings at the sentence and line levels. Structure is something I will leave a lot unsaid about, as the book is designed to structurally unfold in the reader’s mind as a process of self-initiated idiosyncratic comprehension. Overall, though, one could perhaps say that it has fractal and hologrammatic and self-embedding and paradoxical structural aspects. Penderrecki, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, playing.
The multi-font fugue can also be perceived as witch writing. As well, on page 482 the text notes that it is a Gott shell, which is a means of time travel that functions by contracting and re-expanding timelines. The multi-font writing also functions as machine elf speech, among other dialects, ideolects, and languages.
The work can be read straight through or by following other vectors that are actually hidden narratives within the text itself. Why did you structure the narrative in this way? How difficult was it to get the mechanics sorted out?
Mainly to catch the complexity of experience that I in this intercranial incarnation as an averaged out humnaoid actually experience. The multiple font portion took 3 years to write and collate. It has some fairly strict formal and numerical constraints, the kind that can slow writing speed down to a sentence or less a day.
There are a couple of instances with there is a meta-commentary on the structure/intent of the text itself (for instance, on page 514 and on Page 601). Are these accurate assessments of Symphony from within the text? Within the text, the narrative is connected through several dimensions simultaneously. Does this metacommentary show that the work is conscious of itself? Is the work connected (or interconnected) to the “real” world as a possibility or alternate universe?
To the best of my knowledge. There are actually many, many more (arguably every word in the book). (“Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne” by Suicide playing.) One working title was The Living Book. Certainly, among numerous other cababallistic possibilities.
There is the occasional “typo.” Are they intentional? For example, Loa Tzu on 461 instead of Lao Tzu, (given that Loa a reference to spirits in voodoo).
I thought there was a shitload floda typos. Then again, one aeon’s typo is another’s codex key. On page X it says “Every typo is deliberate.” On page Y it says there is no typoes or gramatcal mistakes, “ or something some such. This is all true. This book has been very heavily edited. Rev, you’re bang on the old voodoo drum with ol Loa Tzu. Loa Tzu and inverse corollary esoteric action in the swamp all end up at the beginning of yet another consensus meltdown downtown and all around.
The typo-like constructions gring the reader to the moment of compisition, just as a pianist might be to a keyboard etcm puts one there.
One thing I would note would be vis a vis the grammar. In the book, there are numerous grammatical constructions that appear, ahem, rawtha “exotic,” if not downright WRONG (sick and wrong?), particularly in the poly(p)modal fugue sections. One clue I would give the more normatively inclined reader would be to track her/his sense of this as these shaky grammatical moments oscillate back and forth between suspect structures and elliptical constructions. Look at Joyce for some less schizophrenic uses of such structures, Stein too of course. One of the disappointments of my mortal existence as a reader of contemporary literature is witnessing the extent to which deep grammar doesn’t seem to get exploited for its entheogenic possibilities.
Reading these constructions with full attention to rhythm also allows one much more access to meaning, and gives a better understanding of the book’s title. Also read while focusing melodically.
Each page is designed as a single unit even within this larger project. Can you talk more about the reasoning for that?
Hologrammatic all-one-on perception of inifinity, universe in every grain of sand, panels from the walls of heaven, as Kenneth Patchen might have putted it. The single pages are designed to give the reader a massive magical hit from all 32 paths on the tree plus some select secret ones on each page. Each page is also a work of visual art, albeit a bit subtle and conceptual. Think Joseph Beuys. Each page a scrying panel.
Joyce influenced the fugue: each font shift acts as a mass conceptual pun. Also sentences, paragraphs, pages all function as puns within puns right down to the quark level. In particular, pages act as pun structures, especially the fugal.
How does this work reflect your own concept of a magickal universe?
In more ways than I can describe: at least 64, to tip one’s blade to that sense of an I-Ching exacto knife. All space-time unified in a traversible web of secret paths.
With the structure, there seems to be a nod to Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the rhizome. If so, how is this expressed in the book?
Yes. Repeating spatial arrangements, words that demonstrate multiple schizoid identities and interconnection.
What role does initiation play in the narrative?
The entire book constitutes an account of one tall in a short cup/a billion seemingly infinite initiations. Could be for readers too, maybe, but. The narrative might more actually speaking be said to play a role in initiation. Most people need to be going through some kind of initiation to get it. I know one person--also once-mentioned in the book-- who was only able to understand it the one omnes time she went into ketosis. Another person opened the book, and landed on/in that page out of 1000 where his own name appeared. He slammed it shut, refused to look at it again for years, until his father died and it all started to make sentence sense (not that I see myself supporting the black iron prison).
Characters seem to shift identity and names. Can you go into the role this shifting characterization plays in Symphony? Also, can you talk a little about the main character?
Multiple emanations of God. Really. The main character constitutes the initiations embodied as humanoid, mental case, mystic, mistake, author encore, etc. Also covers people’s legal tracks, and hides them from certain agents looking for them. The main character is a card. A tarot card. In fact, a deck. Character, deck: a whole space ship dreck deck, a whole holo deck dreck of characters, yes?rmhousesandbarnsagaindespitetheirutilitylastnameaafnufaunaaaeglalgaeaaegpagapeaaegt
While not a memoir, how have you drawn from your life for the narrative?
Actually speaking, as one or more of my more paranoid mentors used to say, it’s more a memoir than a number of other things, which is of course why it has the opportunity to looks like such a laddie load a bullshit. But then again, it’s not really a memoir. My life just got drawn into it, like shit down the drain. I would say that it might be more causally accurate to see my life as having drawn on the narrative, though it did get a spanking, a grounding, a forfeiture of allowance, no TV and a trip to confession for doing so in indelible markers and dog shit insignia on the nice guy’s garage wall.
The book owes a debt to James Joyce, among others. Can you go into this connection some more?
Hologrammatic manifestation of as much as possible at once, Joyce’s brilliance at this. The miraculous not only in the supposedly quotidian, but indeed more accesible there than under the bright lights of ego stardom. Hyper-density in magical cognition. By the way, Joyce won’t accept my currency in the pay-off as he claims it’s counterfeit. Now what?
What other works and writers/artists influenced the text?
Blake, Anton Wilson, Beethoven, many, many. Castenada, Gertrude Stein, bill bissett, Shakespeare. Stan Brakhage, Bach. Vallejo. Emily Dickinson. David Antin. Neruda. Tends toward modernism, I suppose, but revitalized formally for visionary reportage. Modernists (though only technical advice). Coolidge, Dick, Burroughs, Gysin, Cage, Karasick for fugue. McKenna. Language poets, albeit problematic. Books of Genesis, Revelations. The next generation. Jackson Pollock. Joseph Caveno.
At 1000 pages, how long did it take you to write Symphony?
Not counting prep work and initiatory mechanisms pre-wired from puture and fast, about 7.5 years. Transpersonally, at least 3000 years as a humanoid, considerably longer if one factors other species and entities in. "Who By Fire" by Leonard Cohen playing.
From a process point of view, how do you write? Do you do it in long hand first? Do you use a computer? What kind of writing space and schedule did you keep?
For this one, a lot of early longhand notes, though the keyboard took over pretty early into the process. Now I’m mostly a computer, though I do take long hand notes at the time boundaries, sometimes. My schedule was all over the map, irretrievable. Now I write to a schedule, for I have become a quasi-autistic hermit as I write Series E, tales of the secret paths.
BY the way, the latest edition of the Exegesis (Beatles Los Paranoias playing), pages 581 (the footnote) and pages 581-90 seem venty relevant here. Now it’s Bowie Queen Bitch live at Santo Manica, 1972, playing. Bippitty boppitty!
Now REV, I’m hoping this isn’t actually a spoof like that innerview you did with that other famous Canadian author.
Sorry, T.O.D., not this time.