I’ve decided to begin this new micro-interview series in an effort to bring more attention to recent releases that I’ve found noteworthy.
Rather than banter, I’m asking writers to respond to the two questions I most frequently ask when I’m teaching a book in the classroom: (1) what is the text doing / how is the text doing it, and (2) with what does the text connect?
These questions arise from my particular approach to reading and critical analysis, which is deeply indebted to Deleuze & Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. As they put it, “Literature is an assemblage…a book itself is a little machine…writing has nothing to do with signifying…it has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come.”
So, without further delay…
I present Mark Gluth, whose recently released novel No Other has been described thusly:
“In Mark Gluth’s beautiful family gothic No Other, the reader encounters a landscape of mood and mystery, burning with a stripped-down pain. Gluth’s sentences devastate in their raw economy, attempting to penetrate the everyday, tracing abbreviated existences struggling to survive through bare seasons.”
– Kate Zambreno, author of Green Girl & Heroines
“In clipped, incantatory verse shined from whorls somewhere between Gummo and As I Lay Dying, Mark Gluth’s No Other invents new ambient psychological terraforma of rare form, a world by turns humid and eerie, nowhere and now, like a blacklight in a locked room.”
– Blake Butler, author of 300,000,000
– William Basinski, composer of The Disintegration Loops
What does your book do and how does your book do it?
No Other embodies a sense of failure in the form of a novel. It accomplishes this via a narrative shape that is essentially broken and unfixable as well as by the fact that the book provides an authentic feeling portrayal of characters that are, by and large, despondent, forsaken, desperate and in most ways sans hope. I thought, while I was writing No Other, that it was a black hole. That the narrative shape was able to overwhelm whatever contents the novel had. Thus the characters just being fucked, basically.
There’s probably a ton of other stuff that No Other does, but I’ve come to realize of late that not only do I not understand all the ways that my writing functions but that I also prefer that lack of full understanding. Essentially I like when my writing contains mystery on many levels and for that to really work, I need my writing to be a mystery to me.
Having identified your book’s comportment, could you bring it into focus by describing its relationship to other texts? (By “texts” I mean any relatable objects.) Put another way: if we think about a book as a star in a constellation, or a node in a circuit, I’m interested in hearing about the constellation or circuit in which readers might find your book. Put yet another way: if we think about your book as contributing to particular conversations, could you describe those conversations and their other participants?
One of the core texts that influenced the book, and a text with which No Other had a conversation with was Black Metal, specifically ‘Suicidal’ or ‘Depressive’ Black Metal. My favorite Black Metal has a subtext which just aligns perfectly with what I was attempting with the book. A sense of being completely and utterly without hope. Another core text is what I will call spirituality, specifically what is generally considered Buddhism. I wanted there to be a sense of the voice narrating the novel to be a meditating mind. I wanted the voice to come off as fairly objective, but also colored by its own point of view which it could not avoid being colored by and which it was generally ok with being colored by. Another foundational text for No Other is certain mumble core films, most particularly The Exploding Girl. It’s such a great movie. I loved the idea that a narrative could really just grab a portion of someone’s life and with minimal trickery, create something super compelling. As far as other books or other writers, I wanted the book to be like me combining the work of Cormac McCarthy, Jean Rhys, and Gary Lutz. I internalized the work of those writers a ton while writing the book, though I’d be deeply troubled should you ask me to pin point in what ways that showed up in the final draft.
Mark Gluth lives in Bellingham, Washington with his wife and their 3 dogs. His first novel, The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis, was published by Dennis Cooper’s Little House on the Bowery in 2010. His second novel, No Other, was just released by Ken Baumann’s Sator Press. He has a collection of interrelated short stories, The Goners, coming out from Michael Salerno’s Kiddiepunk in 2015. You can find him here & here.