BEATING HER TINY FISTS

“BEATING OUR TINY FISTS ON THE BIG HAIRY CHEST OF THE CORPORATE LITERARY WORLD”

BEATING HER TINY FISTS is the David Herrle (SubtleTea) Interview with Cantara Christopher, the publisher of Cantarabooks. The interview is here republished with the courtesy of the author.

David: “Beating Our Tiny Fists on the Big Hairy Chest of the Corporate Literary World.” This is Cantarabooks’ kickass motto. You’re the wiz behind the literary small press, Cantarabooks, and the (PDF-exclusive) literary magazine, Cantaraville, so please introduce unfamiliar readers to your mission and work.

Cantara: Well, when there’s only time for the elevator pitch, I tell people that our company is a cross between Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press and Roger Corman Productions. The Woolfs, you’ll recall, started their imprint in England over ninety years ago with a second-hand letterpress on their dining room table, as a way to make certain that they and their friends and protégées could always be published. The comparison to the efficient and prolific B-movie maker Roger Corman is partly whimsical. Like Corman, we make good-looking product on a slim budget, we’re always working to tighten our operations yet utilize all our resources to the maximum, and we’re always on the lookout for new talent and undervalued seasoned talent to give wide exposure to.

As for our motto (which came to me one evening over drinks with my partner Michael upstairs at Sardi’s), it puts one in mind of a voluptuous but virtuous art maiden on the brink of being seduced/raped by the testosterone-driven commercial establishment. I like the eroticism of that fantasy. It gives me the juice to keep plugging away. Eros is the main component of my artistic makeup and philosophy, and by Eros I mean the creative, generative spirit at its primal.

D: Could you address key points from your “Writing in the New Publishing Paradigm”?

C: Along with a couple of other pieces of mine, “How to Save Literature” and “The Road to Cantaraville”, “The New Paradigm” chronicles the story of how Michael and I came to organize and support, then at last publish, talented but under-read writers. We’d both had experience in traditional publishing – Michael, before he was drafted for Vietnam in the 1960s, edited a college-based poetry magazine, while I spent the early 80s freelance copywriting for houses like Macmillan, Doubleday and Ballantine. When we took a year off to live in Paris in 1999, we founded an English-language writers group which met every other week in the tiny flat we sublet in the 20th Arrondissement (by tradition the “Rouge” or Communist part of the city). After we returned to the States, we started up the group again in San Francisco, calling it PariSalon4665 after its website’s old Geocities address. Then a year or so after 9/11 we moved back to New York (our son had been born there during our sojourn in the early 80s) where, through a couple of strange turns of luck, we launched Cantarabooks and then Cantaraville.

From the outset we decided not to operate like the more established small presses. Recent innovations in technology had created a New Paradigm, a new book world where it was possible for anyone at all to be published by Lulu.com for less than ten dollars; where an enterprising author could self-publish her novel, aggressively market it and make the New York Times bestseller list, like M.J. Rose with Lip Service; where a farsighted publishing company could make its fortune selling instantly downloadable ebooks of erotic fiction to women in the Midwest, like Ellora’s Cave. If anyone can write and publish a book, why publish under someone else’s imprint?

The missing element has been editorial presence: the opportunity to collaborate with disinterested professionals possessing the skills to help shape and clarify a work; to gain prestige by being published by professionals with high standards of excellence. To participate in the eons-old Literary Dialogue, in other words. Until about twenty years ago, before the age of bottom-line gatekeepers, an author could submit directly to St. Martin’s or other independent press in the certainty that someone there would at least seriously read and consider his work. When the foreign conglomerates started buying up our country’s largest publishing houses and mandating them to concentrate foremost on profits, we were robbed of the aesthetic guidance those houses had traditionally provided.

But let me get back to that New Paradigm essay. There was a long quiet stretch in the late 80s and early 90s when I was chiefly a housewife and mother, but even then I wrote, published and distributed zines (handmade magazines with small print runs). This sort of activity was encouraged by the times, the heyday of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) movement in musical, cartoon and textual expression which was able to take root only because of two immense technological leaps in dissemination/distribution: cassette recorder-players and public copying machines. I maintain in my essay that our current wave of small-press publishing takes its cues not from traditional business (that is, as an attempt to supplant a failing institution with a new institution) but from the even older tradition of DIY. I say older because in this country it goes as far back as Tom Paine, the Revolution’s pamphleteer and maverick.

Only a little further on, the rise of the internet in the mid-90s promised to make the publishing game a game that anyone could play regardless of age, race, class, gender, economic or physical limitation. I have to say that being fiftyish, female and Filipino-American (an ethnic group which hasn’t yet been generally assimilated into American letters), I’ve all too easily slipped into feelings of exclusion. But the ease, cheapness and instantaneity of the new technology – of print-on-demand, blogs, PDF downloads, online zines and so forth – have enabled me and other writers on the fringes to communicate with each other, to write to and for each other. For all the potshots they’ve taken, the internet and other technologies of the New Paradigm actually encourage talent. Yes, there’s been an immense output of crap, but in that crap there are one or two diamonds. Regulation isn’t the answer. Exercising critical choice is.

I might also add that the New Paradigm has its own unique crowd of boosters who generally might not be considered prophets of the coming golden age of publishing, but I’ll pay more attention to the observations and predictions of Stephen King, Cory Doctorow, Chris Anderson, Stewart Brand, and even actor-author-blogger Wil Wheaton, than to the pronouncements of Simon & Schuster’s CEO. The one publishing giant I do listen to is Jason Epstein, former senior editor at Random House for forty years, who watched in horror as this fine and daring imprint (in the 30s they defended their newly-acquired title Ulysses against obscenity charges) was transformed into the faceless, gutless money machine it is today. Epstein is calling for radical innovations in print distribution and sales; his “book jukebox” is being unveiled this summer and I’m eager to see how it goes over.

As I said at the beginning, although we’re always exploring new and more efficient ways to publish, market and deliver our titles, we’re pretty much operating on a shoestring, and what we can’t buy with cash we buy with our time and labor. Still, there are some things that can’t be bought, like cool. If it ever becomes cool for an author to place with Cantaraville/Cantarabooks and a reader to download Cantaraville or buy a Cantarabooks paperback, it will be because in our very modest way we’ve helped to establish the Zeitgeist where such attention is cool.

D: You are professionally connected with director/author Stephen Gyllenhaal through his debut poetry collection, Claptrap: Notes From Hollywood. How did the collaboration on Claptrap originate?

C: Several of Stephen’s poems came across our desk in an unsolicited manuscript three years ago, when Michael and I were working for a literary annual not our own. Although we’d been taken on as senior editors with the specific instruction to select pieces, the publisher, a volatile and unstable man according to many, vetoed all of our choices – and one of our choices was Stephen’s poetry. Well, rather than give up the cause of trying to get him published, we decided to publish him ourselves. We had just started a small book press which, like the Woolfs, we’d originally intended to use to publish just our own work and the work of friends. But Michael was very impressed with Stephen’s poetry and not a little incensed that he hadn’t already gotten more recognition for his literary talent. So we asked him, very tentatively, if he might let us have some more poetry to publish, perhaps as a limited short-run chapbook. Instead he sent us forty-six poems of remarkably high overall quality and thus it became our holy mission to deliver Claptrap to the wide world.

D: You show a deeply personal admiration for the man. Is “fascination” an appropriate term? Regardless, this is lovely evidence of your multidimensional approach to art and artists.

Stephen has many admirable qualities; he’s loyal, trustworthy and generous, a devoted family man and, incredibly for someone whose livelihood has been at the mercy of the Hollywood system for nearly thirty years, free of cynicism. He’s also stimulating to be around – young people are inspired by him, men are intrigued and women tend to go all gooey. I think this is because he exudes that spirit of Eros I mentioned earlier, that generative, creative force an artist is especially steeped in when he’s at the beginning of a project. In this case Stephen’s project is his own life. When his son Jake declares in an interview, “I know a man in his fifties who’s just starting to discover himself,” he’s talking about Stephen. As I say this can be very stimulating to be around but, on the down side, my dear author’s creative cauldron is almost always overflowing and, like other immensely creative people, he has trouble focusing on a single project and seeing it through to completion. A lot of this can be attributed to the business he’s in. Although he’s a mesmerizing pitcher, Hollywood hasn’t always been persuaded to let him deliver his own brand of product. To stay in the game he’s had to, as they say, keep his options open. However, this past year or so Stephen has spoken publicly about his desire to spend his creative capital elsewhere rather than in the Hollywood system. And, in fact, quite recently he’s made some daring moves to simplify his life, to clear the decks and fully commit to work he believes in. He has not, however, completely rid himself of the influence of the business – in order to maximize its commercial potential he’ll readily simplify a wonderfully intricate, individualistic, heartfelt, well-written piece of prose – even if it’s his own. This frustrates me to no end. It’s like watching a Chippendale being whittled down into an Ikea chair. We’ve already had quite a few heated discussions (with the heat coming from me) on this subject. But I admire Stephen greatly because the artists’ dialectic, the age-old argument of material satisfaction versus the spiritual satisfaction gained from creating your art, is very much on the surface with him.

Sometimes his struggle ascends to a cosmic performance piece and that’s where it gets fascinating. Here, for example, is the real story behind that mostly improvised anecdote Jake told on Letterman: In a devastating freak fire at a vacation lodge not too long ago, Stephen had to make a split-second decision on which to rescue, his twenty thousand-dollar Rolex or the laptop containing the only copy of the manuscript of his first novel. He chose the laptop. When he does things like that I forget that I ever wanted to strangle the big lug, and fall in love with him all over again.

D: Stephen is a fine director and writer. Please share your thoughts on Stephen and his work.

C: At the very bottom rung of Stephen’s work are the television gigs that pay the bills, that paid for his daughter Maggie’s four years at Columbia, so let’s talk about them first. In an industry that eats up feature film directors left and right, Stephen is a well-known and sought-after journeyman. (Lately he seems to have found a home with the interesting puzzle-crime drama Numb3rs.) He may chafe at the limitations of the medium, but I’ve never seen a show he’s directed where there isn’t at least one “Stephen Gyllenhaal” moment, a bit of kinetic inspiration or expressive revelation. (Okay, I lie. Felicity.) Even in those Lifetime weepers with their inane scripts, Stephen displays an idiosyncratic tenderness. He even wrote a poem about his TV work called “Night Job” (written on the set of an especially inane TV movie called Time Bomb) that ends: “Negotiate. I know my job, for everything’s / negotiable and what remains is that small / moment in the hay / where I must always / give my heart away.” When I finally recognized Stephen’s name on that very first manuscript it was because of Twin Peaks, my favorite television series of all time. He’d directed the last sequential episode, and I remembered seeing his name in shocking green, wondering how to pronounce it. (It’s JILL-en-hall.)

As for his pictures, there are three theatrically-released films and one TV movie Steve himself considers his best work, A Killing in a Small Town (1990), Paris Trout (1991), Waterland (1992), and Homegrown (1998). Killing, which scandalized the execs at CBS when it was first aired, is something of a network groundbreaker, a deliciously lurid gripper involving a love triangle, hypnosis, repressed memory and a bloody ax murder. Homegrown is a low-budget black comedy about the marijuana business (enough reason for it to become a cult classic) with a screenplay co-written by Stephen, and if you ever get a chance one day, ask him about how he cast Billy Bob Thornton in the lead. Not on this list is a guilty pleasure of mine, his first film, an original screenplay B-picture called Certain Fury (1985) which has some over-the-top thrills, including a lesbian courtroom shootout scene, a drug lair lit like a fairytale cave, and the lovely shower-nude Irene Cara fighting off a hulking rapist.

Also not on this list: A Dangerous Woman (1993) which was, I suppose you’d say, loosely based on Mary McGinnis’s masterful story, but transformed into a schizophrenic piece that couldn’t tell whether it was a turgid family drama or a perverse little sex-and-violence flick; and Losing Isaiah (1995), a butchery of Seth Margolis’s fine social novel, Steve’s one and only studio project (Paramount) and the one he considers his worst artistic failure. I don’t want to go into a treatise here about film adaptations of good books, but let me point out that what made Paris Trout work – aside from Dennis Hopper’s intense performance as an unredeemable monster who guns down a mother and child – was Pete Dexter’s skilled adaptation of his own novel; what made Waterland a minor classic was the screenwriter’s sensitive rendering of the major points of narrative and emotion in this magically poignant story in a way that enabled Stephen to bring out the magic. One reviewer raved, calling it a cross between John Irving and Terry Gilliam, and in my opinion the movie is as good as the book. As with most of Stephen’s films, though, there is something rapturously alluring yet surreal, almost nightmarish, in his depictions of sex-related violence. In fact, although I’d already seen Waterland during its first run, when I saw it again last year with Steve during Cinestudio’s retrospective of his work, I had to hide my face in his arm during the abortion scene.

D: G.K. Chesterton wrote: “I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.” Especially during these days of presidential nomination debates, one-liners pass as treatises. My increasing iconoclasm has me wincing at both agreeable and disagreeable crowd approval and anything smacking of consensus. Promises and fluff turn me off, and I’m disgusted by both parties in the shammy duopoly. Particularly, the popcorn term “change” has been repeated left and right. Easy calls for “change” worry more than enthuse me. (I’m Burke one day, Paine the next.) Change for change’s sake is not a value; change can be a means to values. It can also lead to wreckage – or worse than the status quo, at least.

D: Your thoughts on “change” as a political/social/emotional selling point currently and in yesteryear? On preferring Thursdays over Wednesdays? On political pretense and enthusiasm in general?

C: “Change” is simply the current buzzword for “making things better in some vague way” and so has become the language of pessimism, not optimism. When this year’s political candidates say change, they’re saying things are so bad that anything, anything we do has got to be better. As yesteryear’s selling point? Well, in recent years there’s been the trend to generalize the term, change. Thirty, forty years ago politicians were much more specific about the what and the how. Nowadays it’s just another soundbite inserted to inspire general love and support. Preferring Thursdays to Wednesdays? You’re talking about fashion, and there’s no arguing with fashion. To be fashionable, to be Thursday when it’s Thursday and Wednesday when it’s Wednesday, a politician must do two things: keep his/her name out there and address Thursday’s or Wednesday’s respective concerns in the vaguest way possible.

Political pretense? What particularly strikes me in this campaign is Obama’s neglect of the fact that in order to actually effect change, a president needs the support not only of the people but of Congress – and for that he first has to have specific plans to communicate to the House and Senate as well as the electorate. It’s never going to happen, but I wish that our government would follow the simplest maxim of business, as set down by Britain’s Round Table Club: Adopt, Adapt and Improve. Adopt methods that have proved sound in the past, adapt them to the changing needs of the times and, wherever possible, improve them.

D: Your favorite books, films, music?

C: Oh, a MySpace question! But you didn’t ask about theater and art. Favorite play, The Seagull. I’d like to direct a production somewhere, someday. Art: favorite painter Stanley Spencer, favorite sculptor Rodin, favorite architect Gaudi. Favorite books, films, music: many many many. Music: show tunes and the musical canon known as The Great American Songbook – standards from composers like Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Ellington & Strayhorn, Ann Ronell, Carolyn Leigh, Rodgers & Hart, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Alec Wilder, Hoagy Carmichael et al. I’m just old enough to remember radio music from the late 50s, and what I listened to then was what my parents listened to, which was mostly standards and light classics by Dvorak and Hugo Alfven, whose “Swedish Rhapsody” seemed to permeate my infancy and childhood in Minneapolis. While the rock revolution passed me by I studied at the university to be an operatic soprano. Then in the Watergate summer of ‘73 with only two years of training, I decided with all the arrogance of youth that I belonged at Juilliard. So I packed my bag and at the age of eighteen traveled alone to New York to audition. Here we will draw the curtain on the worst day of my life. To be in the same room with singers and musicians who’d been trained from the age of four, who, although still only students, were already approaching world-class levels of excellence… Well, the plump little Filipino girl from Minnesota did her piece (“Chacun le sait” from Daughter of the Regiment – could she have been even more of a hick?) then made her exit and staggered across the plaza to the Lincoln Center fountain, where she promptly threw up. No, not in the fountain. The only thing I knew at that point was that I was never going back to Minneapolis and my nutty mother. I was determined to stay in New York, and six weeks later I was working right across the street from Lincoln Center, at ASCAP (the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers), identifying show tunes and standard songs played on the radio so that their members, the song’s composers, could be paid royalties. By an insane coincidence I was working in the same building as the Children’s Television Workshop – ASCAP being on the seventh floor, CTW being on the fourteenth – and CTW was the producer of “Sesame Street”, where Steve Gyllenhaal used to edit short films, so it’s quite possible that he and I shared an elevator at some point thirty-five years ago.

But to get back to your question. Books and films are where my mind goes home. Books: The works of Shakespeare, James Joyce, Dickens, Nabokov, Jean Rhys, the Bronte sisters Emily, Anne and Charlotte. Wuthering Heights might well be the most perfectly constructed novel in the English language. All of the Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day and The Unconsoled. Graham Swift’s Waterland and Last Orders. The Last of Her Kind, written by a lovely acquaintance, Sigrid Nuñez. We both remember the 70s pretty much the same way and lament the passing of that era’s values; there was a generosity and fearlessness then that’s sorely missed today. And then of course there are Michael’s novels – I love to live in them, not to mention that in almost all of them he’s portrayed one or other aspect of me in a representative character: Simona Wing in Tales from the Last Resort, Terry Ramos in Descending Into Heaven and Cookie Madeira in A Hole in the Fog. Guilty reading pleasures: Category romances, and some selected authors of the notorious erotic imprint Blue Moon Books, back when its legendary founder Barney Rosset (of Grove Press and Evergreen Review) still owned it.

Films: Anything with Garbo, that magnificent Swede. The Passenger by Antonioni. I was tramping around Europe at that time, I could have been that girl. Anything by Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Game – a perfect film). Nouvelle Vague, particularly Truffaut (Stolen Kisses is a riot) and Chabrol. Watching Chabrol can be perversely erotic. There are some Chabrol-like moments in Stephen’s films. I also love discovering gems by contemporary indie filmmakers – Edward Burns, Gary Walkow, Richard Wong, Nancy Savoca for example. Guilty viewing pleasures: Hammer films with Christopher Lee, and overwhelmingly charming musicals like Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight, Renoir’s French Can-Can, Jacques Demy’s Les Demoiselles de Rochefort and, of course, The Sound of Music.

D: Are you actually an ex-porn star?

C: That is an exaggeration. I only played featured roles in full-lengths. I did dozens of loops (short films), though, in which a cast of two was sufficient. Actually I did make several Swedish Eroticas in which I was the draw, so I guess yes, I was a porn star back in the late 1970s. My screen name was Simona Wing.

In those days acting in porn films was literally my day job, a job I needed to go to only a few times a month in order to make just enough to live simply and treat friends to dinner. My evening occupation, which paid bupkes, was as a staff and freelance lighting technician/operator in the five or six semi-professional theaters in San Francisco – a city to which, like other misfits, I’d eventually gravitated. It was in this circle I met Michael Matheny, who eventually became my lifemate, publishing partner and father of our splendid son Robert. Michael was first electrics at the Eureka Theatre, I was second. We spent long afternoons and nights together in the lighting booth that overlooked the stage, running shows, eating sandwiches, and spying on the actors in the co-ed communal dressing room next door through a hole in the wall that some previous technician had made. Actually I’m the one who did the spying. We worked with some brilliant people at the Eureka, playwrights like Joe Chaikin, Michael McClure, Sam Shepard. Did people know I worked in porn? Many did, most didn’t care. It fit in with the time and place.

So, you wonder, what was it like to work in a porn movie? Like any other performer in films, I had to follow the routine of the set – getting up and going to 6 AM calls, having to sit in a chair getting makeup done, having to sit around waiting for shots to be set up, hitting the marks, trying to get it right in one take so as not to waste film. And it was 16mm film in those days, not tape and certainly not digital. Paul Thomas Anderson got the scene pretty much down in Boogie Nights, although the one thing I remember spending big money on wasn’t drugs, but on the luscious lingerie the girls used to make and bring to the shoot, draping them all over the couches like an Arabian bazaar. The other main attraction of a shoot was craft services, especially when they brought in catering from Marin. Of course I never considered myself a real actress. The difference being that when a real actress performs, her head is in the moment – and in my performances, even in the middle of some fairly complex contortions, I never had to be in the moment. I could be lying in velvet on a big round waterbed in a fabulous mansion bedroom surrounded by three well-endowed hunks and one sweetly scented pink-nippled honey, and still be lost in my own erotic fantasies. Also, because my head could go anywhere it wanted, more often than not I also ended up observing the crew and the directors, taking mental notes of their techniques. It’s crazy given my literary proclivities, but three of the film directors I’ve known personally have had more influence on my taste and sensibilities than any literary figure: Gerard Damiano (of Deep Throat fame), who counseled me that if I continued to work well and stay disciplined, I’d soon get starring parts; Rouben Mamoulian, who, one afternoon near the sunlit French doors of his house in Beverly Hills, took my chin in his hand and gently turned my face this way and that, studying it as he’d studied the face of Garbo, Dietrich and Hayworth; and then there’s Stephen.

But I digress. I suppose there will be some readers out there who wonder if being in porn means I went all the way. Well yes. Yes I did.

D: Several years ago in “Murder in the Genre” (an Underground Literary Alliance gig), you wrote about “authorial distance”: “[I]t would be better to admit, with humility, the debt that all of us writers, whether of escapist fiction or so-called serious fiction, owe to reality: To let reality inform not only what we write, but how we write, and the choices we’re compelled to make in order to keep on writing. The alternative is to build on sand, ignoring the fact that the concrete truck is about to pull up any minute. And that’s not authorial distance. That is insanity.” Though this sharp observation seems to stand on its own, do you have further thoughts on this, especially for those unfamiliar with the subject you referred to?

C: It’s not a pleasant subject so I’ll be brief. Back in 2005, the estranged son of a popular, prolific writer of category romances was arrested in Cape Coral, Florida for the kidnapping, rape and murder-for-kicks of a well-loved highschooler. At the time I’d been following this writer’s career, so when she posted a vague, unemotional item on her blog about her son’s arrest, I was intrigued enough to investigate the case a little deeper. I did the most superficial checking online, but even online the grief of this girl’s family and classmates was unbearable to witness. Comparing their genuine reactions to the reactions of this woman and her fans, who within minutes of her posting came across with clucks of cheap sympathy – as if the object of their admiration had, say, only burned a roast – I was drawn to the conclusion that it wasn’t necessarily any particular type or genre of literature that trivialized its writers and readers. I take it for granted that every writer is following a higher calling, even if her writing awards her fame and money. It’s what the writer brings or doesn’t bring into the process of writing that can leave her – and her readers – unprepared when confronted with real evil.

300 cyber hugs for the murderer’s mother but not one mention of the murdered girl’s name. Well, her name was Annamarie Randazzo and she was just 17 years old.

D: Please riff off of these related clips’ collective theme:

Karl Jaspers, speaking of the mass-man: “The mind has ceased to believe in itself, as self-arising, and becomes a means to an end…it can serve any master.”

Alberto Moravia: “Respect for man has disappeared.  [S]ince man no longer sets man as the end…it is both moving and disconcerting to see how much closer to the animal man has grown…”

Rubashov in Koestler’s Darkness At Noon: “I am confronted by absolute nothingness…I bend my knees to the country, to the masses and to the whole people…Woe to the defeated, whom history treads into the dust.”

Sergeant Hartman in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket: “Here you are all equally worthless.”

Maurice in Kubrick’s The Killing: “You have not yet learned that in this life you have to be like everyone else: the perfect mediocrity, no better, no worse.”

HAL in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: “I am constantly occupied. I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all, I think, any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”

C: I think what all this is getting at is the much-ballyhooed Death of the Individual and the Rise of the Totalitarian State, which has been gone over ever since Kafka (who, by many accounts, in actuality considered himself something of a comic satirist). Although it might appear from my comments to the question above that I see evil lurking all around, I’m really an optimist – I believe in the perfectibility of the human race and I believe that things are improving for humanity in general. Compared to what our ancestors, what our parents (like my mother, who survived the brutal Japanese occupation of Manila), have had to endure, I don’t think we have any cause to complain about our lot. Yes, we’re in the middle of an insane, morally indefensible war conducted by a shallow frat boy and his goons, but America is not – repeat, not – the entire world. If it is the case that our country is in its twilight because we’ve strayed far from the principles of our foundation, the causes of democracy, freedom and social justice will be taken up – are even now being taken up – in pockets of growth or resistance around the globe, from the Muslim feminists of Europe to the economy of India. It does appear to be the case that our own society is being deliberately overfed, consumerized, infantilized, dumbed down. People are being kept from self-knowledge by being urged to perform “useful” tasks and are generally being made to feel distrustful of their own mental abilities.

This is where small presses and maverick filmmaking must fill the void – by raising questions rather than providing answers. We don’t even have to hit people over the head. We can be charming. We can pretend to be mere diversions. We only ask for the opportunity to let you choose. Because in each tiny little culture choice – whether you decide to take your date to Once instead of the latest Friedberg-Seltzer trash, or read the magazine N+1 instead of E! – are the seeds of individuality. And individuality is not a means to an end, but part of the great symbiosis: the gains of the individual must always return to the collective; in turn, the gains of the collective help enable each individual to realize his/her potential.

D: Discuss any projects of your own that are underway.

C: Since the most complex project in my life right now is the running of Cantarabooks/Cantaraville, my own writing has to be kept fairly simple. So I’m writing a romantic mystery. It’s called Cold Open and is set in the world of Hollywood fandom, a world that at its best can be harmless stimulating fun but at its worst can turn bizarre, dark and even murderous.

D: Cantara, I’m pleased with our acquaintance and your importance to the art world. I wish you blessings on your path. Continue to beat your fists against those hairy corporate pectorals! Have you any closing words for readers/fans?

C: Shameless plug: I invite you all to visit http://www.cantaraville.com and http://www.cantarabooks.com. Check out the submission guidelines for our press, download some of our PDF freebies, and leave your comments in the Star-Tribune. The essays mentioned above are also available there under Book World.

As for free advice: Be brave and generous, try to do no harm, and be prepared to make a public fool of yourself. Live the answer.

Dave, thanks for this opportunity to talk about what I love most. May you and SubtleTea live long and well!

© 2008 SubtleTea Productions   All Rights Reserved

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