I last began reviewing cult literature about a year ago when about halfway through my venture, I had an inexplicable, paralyzing halt. I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a tough time being able to write about what I had just read. Certainly it was interesting and different enough to warrant a few words, but when I had finished reading an amazing book, one that left me with a whirlwind of thought, it had left me behind when it came time to actually talk about it. And it left me with such a sour taste in my mouth that I haven’t written a book review in a year. It upset me, it even worried me for a long time – and it was only until recently that I came to and realized what the problem was.
It was easy to just pick up a book at random and read it. But what became the problem was to really focus on it and figure out why it was a “cult” book. “Cult” itself is an abused term – people are willing to use it in an effort to give it a tag when they can’t come up with anything else to call a certain thing. If something is odd or strange or obscure, it’s easy to lump it in with the “cult” status. Which is what I was doing in the beginning. I was picking random titles by authors who tend to go a little out of the way in their writing, but it became very difficult to keep with it in that sense. It was easy to go from one to another, but it was an odyssey to connect them, to really get what they were about if they were not from the same vein as another. Reading became tough as did the writing – and now that I had time to look back on those previous reviews and learn from them, I see what I was doing, and want to do it completely different from this point on.
What my new process will be is to focus on one specific author at a time – maybe for a month, read as much works as possible and then to continously and consistently go and report on it. This gives a much more clear and concise picture for everyone involved – the reader, the writer, the audience. Instead of doing what I had done before, I’m going to try and select authors that time or fame does not give enough credit towards and give them a new light. Authors such as John Hawkes, David Markson and John O’Brien are fine examples of writers who have produced great works at one point but seem to have been lost in the shuffle over the years. This is not a slight towards any of them, but rather: I hope to reintroduce interest in these bodies of work, and it would become a more pleasurable reading and writing experience, in that a real focus exists, and these books will be more than just reviews: they will stand on their own as something tangible, instead of something merely written and possibly forgotten later.
Starting next week I’ll start reviewing four novels by the aforementioned Hawkes, whose works include a postmodern, cerebal angle to them. Having been praised by such authors as Saul Bellow and Thomas Pynchon, he has written such works as The Cannibal, The Beetle Leg, The Lime Twig and Second Skin. In rebooting this project, I hope to come to a better understanding of what “cult” authors and “cult” literature will be about – and hopefully, everything will fall properly into its assigned place.