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George Salis: What was the impetus for your new novel Le Overgivers au Club de la Résurrection?
Jim Meirose: I ran into a person who was involved with Mars One. Remember that volunteers only one-way trip to Mars that went bankrupt last year? I had seen it in the news and then, when I met one of the volunteers, it came to me to plot out my next book to be structured around something like that. But instead of the payoff for members being a trip to Mars, the payoff is now immortality. But of course, not until the means of rendering you immortal is developed—about twenty years out. And, of course, we need money to develop the technology to do it so—it’ll just be three thousand or so per month to be paid by the members until it’s time to go to Switzerland 20 years out (where euthanasia is legal) to be killed legally and re-animated into your new life. So, there you go. I invented the Davis Family to apply, decided that it would be interesting if they were morticians, and wrote it out from there.
GS: Why did you decide on a French title when the book is in fact in English? Are you at all worried that this might confuse people?
JM: One of the “official” languages in Switzerland is French. Plus, intuition tells me that an unusually-covered pretty fat book with an incomprehensible title (but one with a “ring to it”) might cause the curious person to open it or flip to the back to see what the hell this is.
GS: What is your fascination with resurrection and would you want to be resurrected long after your death?
JM: I have no fascination with resurrection. It’s a plot device in this book. I am more fascinated with general human behavior and the thought process.
One life is tough enough in my book. One life lived correctly should earn one the reward of eternal rest. Life is tough.
GS: The novel is a centuries-old form. How do you ensure innovation in your work? Additionally, who are some other authors you think are furthering the evolution of the form?
JM: I don’t have any urge to innovate. Unless it’s innovation to explore as accurately as possible what it is to be a sentient human being striving to get through. And at the same time to be facile enough as a writer to ride down to those depths and get it out onto the page (in a way that’s fun to read—what a concept!). There are enough novels, stories, poems, etc. in the mainstream genres exploring the visible and audible surface of human existence and the surface activities within society. Deep down in is the frontier for me, if I have one.
GS: Experimental. What does that label mean to you? In your estimation, what experiments have failed and which have succeeded?
JM: I am glad you asked that. The word “experimental” in regard to literature is just a buzzword. There is nothing experimental about writing. It’s just a sexy word. There’s an x in it too, after all—no, but seriously. I am very much into using words properly. Look up the definition of experiment: “a scientific procedure undertaken to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact.” I don’t think much of any of what is called “experimental writing” meets this test. Think it over. In my site, I don’t use the word. As a matter of fact, it irks me that I am forced by sites like Duotrope to choose “experimental” as a style I want to find markets for.
Works that have this false label hung on them that have succeeded, I would say, are much of Faulkner’s work like The Sound and the Fury or As I Lay Dying, Joyce in Ulysses, much of V. Woolf—Georges Perec, Beckett. In poetry, Eliot, Plath, Berryman. I’m sure there are many others but these pop right up.
Something which I think is an unfortunate failure (but still worth studying as it lies), is Finnegans Wake by Joyce. And the reason being I think he was headed for something brilliant in FW but lost control and veered into incomprehensibility. I see no reason why FW has to be that way. Had he not lost his way it could have conveyed just as much depth but still have been readable. In general, I have yet to come across an incomprehensible piece of “experimental writing” that I have not just put aside after a line or two. Such incomprehensibility also often masks incompetence or lack of depth.
GS: Your website says that you have been “Proudly and Prolifically Producing the Opposite of What’s Popular since 1988!!!” How would you define the opposite of popular?
JM: Books and stories are commodities mostly. Most writers pay attention to what’s selling (as a matter of fact it occurs to me I could have replaced the word popular with the word selling in the quote you mention), write to markets, spend lots of time planning and spending money on promotion, etc. Most writers care about reaching for and having their work loved and bought by as many readers as possible. I have been lucky in never having had to care about any of that. And at the same time being honest with myself that if I did care about that, I simply would not have the required mania to push and push in that direction. Because the meat of my work would not get the attention it deserved. Nor would I be very good at pushing things that way. I leave that to those who are good at it and who it gives a kick to. As I said up top, my kick is to dredge down in the guts of the characters, pull out what’s there, and get it on the page. That doesn’t always take you to what’s marketable or popular. It brings me to fulfilling. That is all I need. I sit down to write, what will come out is always a surprise, the way I do it.
GS: How do you continue to write knowing that your work is probably not going to be seen by a wide audience due to its experimental and ‘unpopular’ nature?
JM: The last question brought out an answer to that, I think. The rush of pushing my brain deeper and deeper and keeping up like some maniac getting it into the keyboard. To me it feels like running or playing a guitar solo or just yelling and running around the room with my dog. And, it must be good in some way because I have got a lot published, both novels and stories. Check the site. What I’ve produced and shared through the years is described there. I think a lot of that is, on the surface, quirky and fun to read—for the right person.
GS: Tell us what happened in 1988.
JM: I had a fine job in corporate America and most of what goes with that, but something was missing. So, I sat down and made one of those silly lists. You know—list your strengths down one side and your weaknesses down the other. Down the strength side were several traits that successful writers need—so that kicked in. I had been dabbling now and then with writing before. But in 1988 with that exercise—that was when I began applying some real focus. I don’t think I wanted my obituary to say, Successful deep in the bowels of Korporate Amerika. Rest in Peace. That’s it. Any questions? Heh.
GS: What are you working on now and what direction do you see your work taking in the future?
JM: I only do novels now. I am working on one about a long-haul trucker, a waitress in a truck stop modeled after the world’s largest truck stop (Iowa 80 Truck Stop, in, you guessed right, Iowa), and ancillary characters and goings-on.
I go where the search through each project takes me. Never really think about the future re this writing. To try and outline the path would probably take me the wrong way.
GS: What book do you think more people should read?
JM: That is impossible to answer. The books I have read I stumbled upon. Every person is so unique there’s scarcely a safe answer that would apply across the board for any question like that. Best answer would be, whatever looks like it’s calling out for you. But if you want to write the kind of thing I do, or similar, go to the JEF (Journal of Experimental Fiction) website and look at “Experimental Literature – A Collection of Statements”. Even though it bears the dreaded E-word—this book is crammed with good stuff for writers.
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Jim Meirose’s short work has appeared in numerous venues, and his published novels include Le Overgivers au Club de la Résurrection (Mannequin Haus), Understanding Franklin Thompson (JEF pubs), and Sunday Dinner with Father Dwyer (Optional books). Info at: www.JimMeirose.com @jwmeirose
George Salis is the author of Sea Above, Sun Below. His fiction is featured in The Dark, Black Dandy, Zizzle Literary Magazine, House of Zolo, Three Crows Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in Isacoustic, Atticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, and at www.GeorgeSalis.com.