Los Angeles–based Penny-Ante Press recently republished Stewart Home’s iconic 1991 experimental pulp novel Defiant Pose, with a new introduction by McKenzie Wark. Home is the author several novels that blur the distinction between pulp fiction and theory, including Red London (1994), 69 Things to do with a Dead Princess (2002), and The Nine Lives of Ray the Cat (2014). He is also a filmmaker, recording artist, and all-around adversary of pretentious cant. In 3:AM Magazine, Bridget Penney interviews Home about literary collage, Houdini, and how Defiant Pose has aged over the last twenty-five years. Here’s an excerpt:
3:AM: In Defiant Pose, the texture of the narrative is disrupted not only by silently plagiarised passages from other sources but by attributed quotations from Marx, Hobbes, Richard Jeffries, and, as already discussed, Abiezer Coppe. These are ‘bellowed’ or ‘thundered’ by Terry Blake as he is fellated by various sexual partners…
SH: I didn’t want readers to miss the fact the text was a collage, so I kinda pointed this out. Attribution isn’t necessary, but some attribution draws attention to what’s going on. Also I rather liked taking passages from political works, as this had more potential to divide readers about what was ‘improving’ and what was not. I was also interested in drawing out the relationship between anarchist and fascist ideology, which I addressed in a more theoretical way in a text I wrote in 1997 entitled Anarchist Integralism. However, exploring this at first in fiction gave me a freedom to develop my ideas in ways that might have seemed unlikely if I’d tried to weave together a purely theoretical text back in 1989. Fiction, and even citation, became for me a means by which to obtain a firmer purchase on often slippery ideologies. Much of what is implicit in Defiant Pose I made explicit in Anarchist Integralism.
3:AM: I find the idea of a novel working towards ideas extremely interesting. And citation as a means of getting to grips with slippery ideologies harks back to pre-print ways of teaching, when students would be expected to copy out or learn selected passages by rote, then argue from them. Your use of ‘improving’ — definitely in quotes — intrigues me.
SH: I took the word improving from Iain Sinclair’s review of Defiant Pose, and a number of my other books, in the LRB. Sinclair described Terry’s citations as improving… Of course Sinclair went on to write an awful lot about me (and many others too, as he’s extremely prolific), but that was the first thing he wrote about me and I think possibly the best. When you decide you’re writing fiction it is very freeing and you don’t have to take responsibility for the views expressed. So there are racist and fascist characters (I prefer the term cyphers but I use character because I’m more likely to be understood if I stick to this terminology) in Defiant Pose, and that provides an opportunity to explore the way they think without having to endorse it. A largely glowing review of the reissue of the book has described it as racist, but I think that’s a misunderstanding. The racism is actually held back, I’m familiar with the terminology used by bigots but in the book I restrict it to terms like ‘ethnics’ and ‘immigrants’, I wouldn’t use the kind of racist terminology deployed by, say, Iain Sinclair in his books — not that I necessarily think Sinclair’s use is uncritical, I just prefer not to reproduce some of the language he uses. So racism and fascism (among other things) are explored in Defiant Pose, but it is neither racist nor fascist, but rather part of a struggle against these things that might be lined up with very different books like Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, that want to know (and understand) their enemy. That said, it is probably easier to let fiction see where it takes you, and once you’ve allowed that to happen theorise more successfully from there. Not that one can ever make a complete separation between fiction and non-fiction, stories and theory; the lines between them will always be blurred and unclear.
Image via 3:AM Magazine.