ib: Apparently you’re rereleasing your book Cured Meat in a freezer bag. What’s the deal?
pt: For a book called Cured Meat, what better packaging than freezer bags or sandwich paper? It’s standard these days. The Full Conceptual Edition has more: the book is spiral bound, there are no page numbers, and no title pages. That way, readers experience a never-ending, never-beginning story in which time is no object.
This edition only exists as a concept, and in one prototype print. (Too expensive to produce.)
I’m strongly drawn to books that can be read in other orders besides “start to end”. Poetry books can have that feel: each piece in a poetry collection is a law unto itself, but the parts also form a whole. Philosophical prose can be that way, too, or indeed encyclopedias, that send you all around the text in cross-references. Cured Meat is a crossover of poetry and prose. Many small pieces of the Cured Meat are in their own way a law unto themselves. They are joined together as a narrative chain, but they needn’t be.
The conceptual edition highlights the futility of plot.
ib: You say that CM is something that you can start reading anywhere…did you think about releasing it as a book of short stories?
pt: I did – at one point, it was a collection of short stories. I thought it was finished.
I’d be embarrassed to say how many different versions of the same book I created, and in how many different ways the parts were once arranged, before I found this.
ib: After the Freezer bag version, Do you think you might release it in other forms? Abridged version, contained in ice…?
It starts low, keeps getting worse, it gets vaguely sexy, then it ends without closure
pt: A slick, commercial version might be a neat idea. The indie version is ultra-raw. I have no idea, but I would venture a guess that it’s hard to read. The reader isn’t promised anything at the beginning, or held in suspense by devices. They don’t know what’s coming. It starts low, keeps getting worse, it gets vaguely sexy, then it ends without closure. (Have I sold it to you yet?) – I really do respect every one of my readers so much.
Cured Meat is just how I want it to be. But I’d be up for making it a bit less hard, and shorter, if it was to be sold commercially. I don’t know if that will ever happen. And if it does…these assumptions about “what sells” posit that the general public is stupid, which really bugs me, it’s wrong.
I’m working on the uncanny valley in real life, where people are caught between the real and the fake
ib: Are you working on any new works and if so when can we hope for a new PT book?
pt: I am… working on the uncanny valley in real life, where people are caught between the real and the fake, bit like a strategy game where the characters tried to figure out what lay at the bottom of it all. Did you ever see The Truman Show?
ib: You’ve chosen to write in English. Do you know why? And could you see yourself writing something in German?
pt: I studied in the UK. One of my essay tutors took a lot of time over explaining details of the English language to me. Or maybe I just particularly picked up on that. Later, I met this uber-articulate English poet, who offered the most detailed reflections about my writing and the English language. And I fell in love with English…
ib: You said to John Robb when he was interviewing you at the Berlin Diaries launch night that you couldn’t see yourself writing a conventional novel…do you think that? Your writing is very descriptive, how do you stand in relation to invented plot and characters, or would your next book also be in the memoir mold?
pt: I think my strength is rather with selecting what to include and how to arrange it, than positively inventing anything. My book is a memoir perhaps, but not of the “nonfiction” type, because I always focus on “what’s interesting?” rather than “what really happened?”
Traditional publishing is a closed little world, one that prides itself on its own initiation rituals and ceremonies. I’m not part of it
ib: indiepublishing, independent publishing, traditional publishing…how do you see the literary landscape developing, and where do you see yourself in it?
pt: A mighty rubbish bin and shredder, into which everybody who’s ever written a book throws their own, and stands there to watch it disappear. If indie publishing is anything like the rest of the Internet, the development from amateur fiesta to professionalized money making machine should soon weigh in. Just think of YouTube.
In traditional publishing, the books are just too samey. Like traditional TV. It’s a closed little world, one that prides itself on its own initiation rituals and ceremonies. I’m not part of it.
I spent many years reading ancient books, and just writing my own thing. I wasn’t paying attention to the new books coming out. That’s why I’m always so thrilled to discover new books now.
ib: What’s next for Polly Trope?
pt: I don’t know. More time to write…
Polly Trope, Hellenist, novelist, and literary critic in the making, loves an indie street angle on things. Polly Trope is the author of Cured Meat: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Runaway (English Edition)” target=”_blank”>Cured Meat, available on Amazon as well as other places.
Noel Maurice is co-editor at indieberlin and the author of The Berlin Diaries, a memoir about the squat/art scene in early 90s Berlin.