canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Interview: Corey Frost

Corey Frost gets around. Read that however you may. He was part of the core group of spoken word artists in Montreal in the 1990ís (see for more details). The author of two books of fiction published by Montrealís Conundrum Press -- the latest is The Worthwhile Flux -- both hard to lock down in a conventional press release method. Let's just say they're physical objects ... go to them. The best way we could think to present something concrete and insightful about the books and their author is to have him on the show. What show? Read on. 

Nathaniel G. Moore interviewed Corey Frost via pre-established lexical dialogue in late fall 2004.

Welcome, Corey Frost.

TDR: I was reading your new book last night. I really don't know how to approach bridging your work to an audience without sounding like a starchy 70's game show host with an awkward microphone, so I may as well just go that route.

(Much applause and whooping from the studio audience as Corey runs - not walks - onto the stage. He shakes your hand for a good long time and waves at the audience before sitting down in the comfy armchair, hitching up his trousers as he does so.)

TDR: Hello Corey. Nice to have you here. So you are a writer? Do you enjoy writing?

CF: Yeah, thanks. It's great to be here. Do I enjoy writing? Well, it's the best job in the world, really. Lots of vacation time. The pay isn't great, but... Do I enjoy writing? Do I ENJOY it? Well, not really.

TDR: I find your work is very cerebral but also, accessible. Do you, in the process of writing, find yourself in a discursive arena, one in which there is no victor, but the act of the exchanges between creator and existing words is a battle not to miss?

CF: That's an interesting way of putting it, $#%$?. Can I call you $#%$? It's not just in the process of writing, though. I find myself in a discursive arena all the time. There may be no victor, but I often worry that I'll be knocked out of the ring, or caught in a figure-4 leg-lock by a particularly truculent adjective, or given a crushing pile-driver by an unruly phrase. This happens every day, in conversation with people. I've ruined relationships by being distracted by these things. My preferred metaphor for the writing process, actually, would be the ant colony. I'm sure you know what I mean.

TDR: Have you ever read Richard Brautigan? 

CF: Yes. Fervidly.

TDR: Are you obsessed with the limitation, or the infinity of language?

CF: I'd say, the latter.

TDR: What other languages do you speak? C3P0 for example, is fluent in over 6 million forms of communication.

CF: I simply don't buy that story. Fluency in any language, even a first language, is a tricky prospect, and I don't think that a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the 'droid programmers were any more cunning than the linguists of today. But I can get by in French and I can fake it in Japanese and Portuguese. I can say thank-you in a dozen languages and "Where is the circus?" in a bunch of others.

TDR: Do you think football jocks would enjoy your book? If they were reading it, and you were perhaps, doing a reading for them, would you address them the same way as you would the crowd at Casa Del Popola?

CF: No, I don't think so. That is, if you are using "football jocks" as shorthand for "young men who don't read and see reading as something that only fags do," then I don't think they would enjoy it. But I do take exception to that stereotype. I've never worn a jock-strap, but I have been known to enjoy a hearty game of footy from time to time (soccer, I mean). Furthermore I met some avid football fans in Australia (and who in Australia isn't?) who also happened to enjoy my writing quite a bit. But in answer to the second part of your question, when I am propped up in front of an audience that I know is completely unsuited to my writing, which happens now and then, I do make an effort to reach them nonetheless. I adjust. With performance, unlike printed text, it's never hopeless: the audience is there, you're there. You can talk to them. I believe that it's possible, through theatre, to MAKE a text enjoyable for an audience, even if they have no idea what you're talking about or don't speak the language. But that's certainly not my favourite sort of audience - I'm a writer, not a mime - I just do that kind of performance out of curiosity, really, to see whether I can pull it off. It's a hobby for me.

TDR: What are you doing in New York and what is involved in that program?

CF: Yes, I'm taking /potshots/ at /social conventions/ in NYC. It involves showing up at parties advertised on email lists, dressing in goofy costumes, and wearing a trucker cap. But the trick is to wear the trucker cap ironically. I don't mean in the sense that all the Williamsburgh hipsters wear them ironically, I mean, with irony vis-a-vis /their/ irony. Meta-ironically, if you will. I do this in between my commitments as a doctoral candidate in English at the CUNY Graduate Center.

TDR: How is your tour in Australia going?

CF: The tour in Australia was a fair dinkum success, more successful than I was expecting, really. And as I told many Australians, I liked Australia more than I thought I would. I wasn't bitten by spider, snake, shark, or croc, although a feral New Zealander did bite me at one point. Melbourne has a really unique spoken word community that I got to know, and I met some very good performers and poets from Sydney and Brisbane and Adelaide too.

TDR: Your first book was very much an introduction, it seemed as if you were introducing the notion of being a writer with a book, and demonstrating the origin of words and language in an exhaustive way, such as the whole Corey thing. This book seems to delve straight into a narrative plain. Can you take a moment and examine the differences between the two books?

CF: In the first book I did feel that I had to introduce the concept - the book as flirtation, alibi, auto-iconography - partly because that sort of deliberateness is the best way I know of to wrap my mind around a project. I didn't want it to be as simple as, "you've seen books before? Well, here's another one." The second one was a different sort of project in my mind, so it should feel different. Both are essentially collections of diverse pieces written over many years (concurrently, in many cases, so that the two books are synchronic), but they represent - in a rough way - two different streams of writing: short fiction (My Own Devices) and performance texts (The Worthwhile Flux). There is some overlap, some slippage. Seepage. The second book has less in the way of paratextual apparatus, but those structural devices are built into the pieces, because I tend to re-use the same themes, the same patterns, sometimes even the same phrases and jokes, in different contexts, in self-quotation. There is narrative there, but on average the pieces in The Worthwhile Flux are less story-driven than those in My Own Devices. Some people have even seemed relatively comfortable classifying it as poetry.

TDR: Well, that's fascinating, Corey, but I'm afraid we have to stop now for a commercial. When we come back, you'll tell us: what's the story with Gwyneth? Don't go away!

(TDR and Corey pretend to chat amiably as music swells, camera pans out and audience applauds.)







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