by Leonard Gill
The "whim" is Following Richard Brautigan (Livingston Press), and it's the latest from Memphian and book store owner and novelist and poet Corey Mesler ... the "latest" along with another novel, The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores (Bronx River Press), and a chapbook of poems, The Tense Past (Flutter Press). But back to Brautigan ...
Corey Mesler: I tried not to write in the style of Brautigan while still being true to him in spirit. And no, I didn't go back and reread him. I didn't what to sound like him, though I borrowed chapter titles, his left-of-center way of doing things. The spirit of Brautigan always stayed with me.
A guiding spirit?
In a way, yeah. Brautigan's fallen out of favor with the critics and the reading public. I don't think he's that celebrated today. More sophisticated writers have replaced him. Who knows exactly why? He can be simplistic sometimes, but he can also write that simple perfect sentence that you sit back, think about.
And the "Tom Mores"?
It's a comedy [with] a lot of sex in it, which I hope I've made cartoonish, funny — in the Southern spirit of outrageous, small-town half-crazed inventions.
I've created a whole town and populated it. I've never worked on that scale and didn't know if I could. But I think it came off fine. I enjoyed it. I let some friends read it in manuscript, and one who'd criticized me for the overerotic writing in my earlier books, he put my mind at ease: "This book is just damn funny." That's what I wanted to hear.
I've read it's a whodunit.
It's an anti-whodunit. A guy named Tom More in Arkansas acts as a catalyst for the novel. Then a guy comes to town with the gift of the future in the form of videotapes, and he happens to be named Tom More. The first Tom More thinks his identity's been stolen, so he decides he has to do away with the other Tom More. And that's all in the beginning.
It's a broad canvas, Altmanesque ... characters who flow in and out. Some of the strands tie up, some of them don't.
My first two books were experimental, and I think I put off a lot of readers that way. But I was trying to teach myself how to write a novel. I didn't know how. I didn't know if I could. But what I want to emphasize is that both these new novels are conventional in narrative. The stories have a beginning, a middle, and an ending — I hope.
And "The Tense Past"?
I didn't know that book was even happening. I sent the manuscript to Flutter Press and forgot about it.
And you're working in your store too.
I'm semi-retired. I go into Burke's all five weekdays but for only 2 to 3 hours a day, which suits my temperament. It leaves me with a lot of room to write. I don't know that a day goes by that I don't write something or submit something.
You've submitted to YouTube. [See here and here and here and here.]
Rebecca Tickle, a painter ... she wanted to teach herself how to make videos. She said, "Let's try to do something for the novels that may generate some publicity." So she put together the Brautigan montage. She and David Tankersley and Kent Hamson put together the interview videos. As a landscape painter, Rebecca also did the cover of The Tense Past.
You're pretty comfortable in front of the camera.
It didn't bother me. I've got enough ham in me. I enjoy people paying attention to me.
People like Garrison Keillor?
He's "done" me twice on The Writer's Almanac ... read two of my poems on public radio. But that's not gonna happen again too soon. I got lucky, really lucky.
Poetry vs. prose: Which is it?
If I had my druthers, I'd be just a novelist, and I'd be working all the time on a novel. There's no better feeling for me as a writer than when I'm "in" a novel, because I live it in my head, and for the year and a half it takes to write, I'm really into it. It's pure joy. Unfortunately, I don't have that many ideas for a novel, and a novel does take a long time. Poetry fills the gaps. I've never thought of myself as a very good poet, but I have friends tell me that they prefer it. I don't know.
But it's kind of crazy. I think I've overexposed myself with these three new books. I think people are tired about hearing about my new publications, and I don't know what to do about it.
That's not your problem.
It is if I don't have any sales! I'm just trying to get as much work out as possible.
Burke's Book Store, 936 S. Cooper, Memphis TN 901-278-7484, burkesbooks.com