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take the j trainby Beadel Debevoise. Natural born Irishman Meredith Brosnan can’t swim, can’t drive, isn’t wealthy & doesn’t really have a “career” to speak of either. Despite it all, he’s the author of one the greatest of all NYC novels, Mr. Dynamite—a much rarer & more valuable feat by far. If this claim surprises, ask yourself how many works of fiction have truly conveyed even a fraction of New York’s street life, while at the same time doing at least some of the other things we read fake stuff for? That the list is a lot—repeat, a lot— shorter than most realize doesn’t diminish Brosnan’s accomplishment in the least, although I damn sure mean it as a challenge to what passes for Gotham’s literary reputation. Whatever their other mooted virtues, recent novels by such starry, New York-identified writers as Paul Auster and Don DeLillo are laughably unknowing about the streets, while untold legions of scribblers from Park Slope to Morningside Heights proffer us worlds of little different than if they’d been borne of St. Louis, Seattle or Iowa City. That’s fine—or isn’t—according to your own artistic needs but writers with the vision & tenacity to take on the city as a whole—hell, the greater part of a borough or neighborhood— are few. Of known living novelists unafraid of the task, Brosnan’s acuities are closest to those of Jonathan Lethem in Motherless Brooklyn & Fortress of Solitude, although their styles are very different, & Brosnan’s sense of humor much darker. The other comparison with a popular author that comes to mind is Thomas Pynchon, or at least an imaginary Pynchon who stayed in the city after V. & reinvented himself as the bastard son of Flann O’Brien, Point Blank, John Coltrane & Burt Bacharach. As it is, Mr. Dynamite– & its narrator, Jarleth Prendergast– stands alone on the precipice of genius & desperation. At least half of Lethem’s fanspedaling literature would love it (if they knew it existed), while adepts of New York’s greatest comic novelists, Wallace Markfield & Gilbert Sorrentino, have been elated since Dalkey Archive published Mr. Dynamite in 2004. Three years later, it’s not too late to play catch-up so this past summer the Publisher did. (Photographs by BZA.)

PART I: And a Pookah Shall Lead Them

Brian Berger: Since there haven’t been many other Meredith Brosnan interviews, can you give readers a quick bio of your Irish years?

Meredith Brosnan: Born in Dublin, January 1958. Grew up poor (and fairly genteel) in upper middle class (“Dublin 4”) milieu. Catholic school 1963-1976. My father died in 1974. Attempted BA and English and Philosophy at UCD but left without a degree. My mother died in 1983. I emigrated to US in late ’84.

Brian: Your father was a well-known cartoonist; one of the most curious things that comes up while researching Meredith Brosnan is in the Flann O’Brien collection at Boston College–

Warner (Meredith Brosnan)
6. Original cartoon drawing for O’Dearest mattress advertisement featuring Myles na gCopaleen, signed Warner. 12″ x 8″. Frame 17″ x 12 1⁄4″.

Meredith: My father, whose penname was Warner, was a cartoonist. He was far and away the best caricaturist in Ireland. If he were alive today he’d be 102. He drew weekly political cartoons for The Sunday Independent and the Irish Farmers’ Journal all through the 60s, up to his death in ‘74. In the 50s and 60s, he drew a famous Irish ad campaign for a mattress company called O’Dearest. The campaign featured caricatures of people prominent in Irish life; judges, barristers, politicians, as well as cultural celebrities like the poet Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan and Myles. My father knew Kavanagh and Myles, aka Flann O’Brien, to say hello to. He and Paddy and/or Myles would have drunk together occasionally.

Brian: As a young Irishman, what was your impression of the U.S., culturally &/or politically? Did you visit at all before you moved here, or have any particular totems—literary, musical, historical—that gave you bearing?

Meredith: Many Irish people of my generation – hippy/punk, post-Vietnam, leftwingers; we fancied ourselves to be politically savvy and well informed about world affairs — had a deeply schizo relationship with the USA. On the one hand, there was the sinister clownish figure of Ronald Reagan, architect of Star Wars, enemy of the Sandinistas, ally of the hated Thatcher regime, eater of jellybeans. He stood for the violent stupid vulgar America we were sincerely repelled by. On the other hand, the States was the land of excitement, of sex, music, drugs, danger, weirdness, infinite promise.

I’d never set foot on US soil before December 8th 1984, the day I flew into JFK.

USA music totems, circa 1982-83: James Brown, Iggy Pop, MC5, Al Green, Motown, especially Marvin and Smokey, Stax: Sam and Dave, Aretha, Otis, Booker T; Nina Simone, Sly, Grace Jones, Neville Brothers, Miles, Coltrane, Billie, Sarah Vaughan, Keith Jarrett, Muddy Waters, Muddy with Johnny Winter, old blues, Bill Monroe, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Gun Club, Alex Chilton, Talking Heads, Blondie, Ramones, Television, Tom Verlaine’s solo stuff…

Literary totems: Faulkner, Edward Albee, Gore Vidal, John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, Robert Coover, Arthur Miller, Henry Miller, Bukowski, Brautigan, Philip K. Dick, Algis Budrys, Cordwainer Smith, Flannery O’Connor, James Thurber. The Penguin Book of Modern American Poetry (edited by Donald Hall).quite book-like

Brian: You came to New York in 1985 with no intention of staying; what the fuck happened?

Meredith: Women, daddy. American gurls.

Brian: Where have you lived in the city & have you had any interest in the so-called “Irish Community” here? Has your perception of/place within—if any— it changed at all over the years?

Meredith: Over the years, I’ve lived at about fourteen different NYC addresses. Mostly in the East Village, Lower East Side, Williamsburgh and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. A short stint in the Bronx in the late 80s. Haven’t lived in Queens.. yet! When I first came over, I went up to Inwood – at that time still a quite strong Irish enclave – and tried to get a bar job. I had no experience of bar work, it showed, and I wasn’t hired. I never really hooked up with the New York Irish community though I did live for a while in a huge apartment in Fort Washington with a bunch of recent Irish immigrants and our respective American girlfriends. In the late 80s, I thought about approaching the Irish Repertory Company to see if they wanted to do my plays but I never got around to it.

Brian: You’ve written about the open mic at ABC No Rio at length elsewhere; did you feel a part of—or a part from— other downtown scenes? What I am getting at is the then still extant feeling of art, politics & otherness there, & which many feel has diminished over the years.

Meredith: Well, I worked for Greenpeace as a door-to-door canvasser on and off between 1985 and 1994. The canvass office moved to Ave. B and 13th Street in the spring of 1986. Quite a few of my friends and coworkers were squatting so I got to know that scene pretty well. I never squatted myself but I had a key to the 13th Street squat for a while. Definitely, the otherness vibe has withered away.

Brian: Were you around for the Tompkins Square Park riots? Were you or any friends arrested or beaten?

Meredith: Me and my ex-wife Robin lived in Greenpoint back in August ’88. We were walking around in the West Village that day, I recall, so we missed the historic action. Some people I knew from the Greenpeace canvass was roughed up by the cops. A store owner we knew had his window smashed. I remember the following weekend how the whole media circus descended on the East Village, looking for a blood-spattered rematch. I remember chatting to Dith Pran, the famous photojournalist, not knowing then who he was. Allen Ginsberg wandered up, looking small and lost, and my friend Bill escorted him to where he wanted to go.

Brian: Did you ever have an interest in graffiti? do you remember remember the REVS or REVS/COST campaigns from in the early-mid ’90s?

Meredith: I remember the whole REVS and COST thing very well. Wasn’t that around ’89-‘90? The signage was everywhere, simultaneously annoying and commendable. After a while, the sheer ubiquity of it started to make some artistic/political sense. This was at the time when art dealers and real estate speculators were starting to push Williamsburgh as a sort of New Left Bank. I recall seeing and liking Ron English’s work on walls and in vacant lots in the mid 80s.. and then there was someone, also talented, who signed “Not English.” “Chico” is of course very talented and you see his work all over the place (somewhat tamed and institionalized by now, of course).

Brian: You lived in Brooklyn long before it was the ‘hip’ thing to do; was it a case of East Village East or something else?

Meredith: Frankly, I’ve never cared much where I lived. It was my ex-wife who wanted to move to Brooklyn. The rents were definitely cheaper in those days – 1987 – and this didn’t change for many years. I remember we’d be waiting for the L train at the Bedford stop and Robin would nudge me, point along the nearly deserted platform and whisper, “Tribe!” which was our jokey shorthand for the members of our tribe: i.e., young white arty-looking people. These days, of course, the tribe, with variations, fills the physical space to bursting point. Cash rules everything around them. Billyburg (remember that too-cutsy nickname?) has changed almost beyond recognition. I was on the subway recently and saw these ridiculous ads for luxury condos in Williamsburg– “Radical Chic, Chicly Radical!” – featuring pictures of an Hasidic man, an Hispanic woman and a rich trendy white couple.. Sad, pathetic!

Brian: For those of us who are—to be kind—less than knowledeable about the theater, what were you doing in that medium over the years?

Meredith: In my early 20s, I read Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and was enormously impressed. I wanted to write a great play and pursed this still-elusive goal for many years. Around ’87, I stumbled upon two seemingly contradictory plot descriptions of a play by Roger Vitrac, Artaud’s associate. Excited and intrigued, I set about translating the play from French.. equipped with rusty high school French, youthful bravado and a very good dictionary! Victor, or The Children Take Over was staged at ABC No Rio in the fall of 1989. Directed by Robin Goldsmith. I finally came up with a half-decent script of my own c. mid ‘91. In 1993, through my friend Alan Chin, I had the good fortune to discover The Tribeca Lab. Between ’94 and ’99, I got to work down at the Lab with a great core of: Al Ramos, the great impresario, Diane Specioso, Stu Rudin, Sharon Angela, Billy Otis and the playwright/director Nick Lindsay.

After the Lab lost their space on Leonard Street, I lost interest in the theater. I haven’t written a play in many years – though I have had a go at a screenplay, in collaboration with my friend Matthew Tynan. A very difficult form, the screenplay, I’ve discovered. I’ve just finished a long short story – call it a novella – and my current avowed aim is to produce a good collection of short stories by 2009.

Mr. Dynamite excerpt (.pdf)

PART II: Down And Out In New York City

Brian: what came first, Jarleth Prendergast or the idea for Mr. Dynamite? Were there any other potential names/titles for either the anti-hero or the novel over the years? Do you like to write w/a title in mind or does not matter?

Meredith: Sept. ’96 I was running around with my girlfriend Shana, who’s now my wife, rather sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, mentally over-extended.. One Saturday when we were trying to get out of town for the weekend, I went down to the Tribeca Lab on Leonard Street to return a camera to my theater producer friend Al Ramos. Out of nowhere, that afternoon, I started getting snippets of this rather fast-paced, bombastic, extraordinarily insistent voice in my head. This was the birth of Jarleth. I suppose he’d had been germinating for a long time, years really. One way of looking at Prendy is that he’s Me with all the social restraints removed. The safety is off. He’s obnoxious, arrogant, opinionated, megalomaniacal, whereas, if you ask my frieNot a New York Dolls necklacends, they’ll probably tell you I’m a nice guy: modest, considerate, etc. And this isn’t a pose: I actually AM a reasonably nice guy, as these things are measured. In contrast, Jarleth, in the book, gets away – or rather, tries to get away – with lots of shit that I would never have the nerve to pull in real life. In this respect, Jarleth is a pathetic wish-fulfillment projection, my Creature From The Id!

Re: the title, I got it almost immediately. I don’t remember a placeholder before Mr. Dynamite— which is unusual for me as I usually burn through a ton of titles (the current thing I’m working on has had at least four). People who know James Brown assume the title is a reference to him, and of course it is, in a big way, but initially I was thinking of the Iggy tune of that name on Soldier. Great song: Typically brilliant James Osterberg lyric. Great mock-epic Spanish-flavoured horns. Glen Matlock on bass.

They call me MISTER Dynamite / I blow things up in black and white

Interestingly enough, online I found that Mr. Dynamite is also the name of a fairly obscure 1941 B-movie, starring the late Lloyd Nolan as a baseball player who stumbled upon a gang of saboteurs at a New York carnival. Slight echoes of Greene’s The Ministry of Fear there, perhaps. I’ve yet to see it.

Brian: Mr. D is one of the few New York novels—or books—that is all-city, by which I mean all five boroughs. (While no scenes take place in the Bronx, Jarleth & Stephanie take Metro North through the BX to get to that Westchester party). Was this a conscious decision?

Meredith: Not initially. Early on, though, it occurred to me that the city ought to be an major character in the novel. The setup being sort of “Jarleth L. Prendergast vs. The Big Apple and all the obstacles it can throw in his path.” A man with a mission thwarted by urban geography offers comic possibilities. Time out of mind, ambitious creative individuals have come to this town and seen it as a place to subjugate, to raise to the top of the heap in, or at least as a formidable psychic entity to test their mettle against. Jarleth is no exception. What’s funny, perhaps, is that he’s so ill-equipped for the struggle. So the music behind Jarleth’s pratfalls and complaining is Sinatra singing “New York, New York.” Or, better still, James Brown’s “Down and Out in New York City.”

Brian: How much research did you do & did you make any mistakes, as opposed to intentional lies & comic exaggeration?

Meredith: In relation to some parts of the novel, I was quite conscientious about research. I did research online about handguns and opera. I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge to see if one actually could jump off it. I interviewed a filmmaker friend, Mike Gitlin, about animation techniques and movie cameras. I went up to Lincoln Center several nights in a row to get a better sense of the layout of the lobby of the Met and to assess the in-house security. There are probably several factual errors in the novel I’m not aware of, but here’s one that was brought to my attention a few years ago: My friend Bob Ward forwarded me an email from Larry Kerwin, the writer and cofounder of the band Black 47. Larry read the book and noticed that I’d seriously fucked up in terms of East Village geography. At one point, Jarleth describes living with Amelia in an apartment at East 9th Street and Ave. B. Now anyone who knows the East Village (and formerly I would have counted myself in that select group) knows that Ave. B and 9th is actually… Tompkins Square Park. I take refuge in the explanation that Mr. Dynamite takes place in a parallel universe (à la Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled). Evidence of this is Jarleth’s little rant about Godard’s Contempt. The finale he describes is completely different from the film you and I know. At one point in our correspondence a couple years ago you tried to convince me that my description of Amelia as 4ft. 8 in tall and 125 lbs renders her “thick.” I absolutely disagree. Good things come in small packages, as my late mother used to say. [The Publisher notes: “thick” was vernacular descriptive, not pejorative.] The 4’8” thing is an in-joke: I wanted Amelia to be a full inch shorter than Lolita, as Humbert describes her in the novel’s famous first paragraph.

By the by, there’s no shame in screwing up re NYC geography. It’s a big place and rather confusing, even for the natives. Even Scott Fitzgerald goofed in this regard. Somewhere in The Great Gatsby there’s a scene where Gatsby’s limo drives over a bridge and ends up in a borough that that particular bridge doesn’t give access to.

Brian: Jarleth exploits American—especially women’s– fascination for the Irish when he needs to; have you done, or tried to do, likewise?

Meredith: I think the seed of this idea, the amoral playing of the Irish Card, as we’ll call it, can be traced back to something I heard about back in ’85 when I first got here. My friend and housemate Michel Martin, God rest him, knew a young woman who’d been dating a guy who claimed to be from Ireland. As it turned out, he was American through and through and not even Irish-American. He was putting on the accent and lying about his past because he wanted to impress the girl and her friends; he wanted some of the glamour supposedly attached to being from The Emerald Isle. U2 are largely be blamed for this – as they are for much of what’s wrong in the world today.

But your question was “Have I ever used my Irishness to exploit American women, à la Jarleth?” The honest answer is, I’ve been in a few situations where it has occurred to me that doing the Leprachaun Dance might get me what I want… but knowing what you really want is quite another thing, isn’t it?

Brian: The combination of formal devices is one Mr. D’s its most remarkable qualities; did you have any particular inspirations? While I did not sense any direct influence, Flann & Gilbert Sorrentino came first to mind; Sterne & Joyce, of course, loom over all.

Meredith: There are certain thematic affinities between my little novel and Nabokov’s first masterpiece, Lolita. For a time, when I began writing Mr. Dynamite, I was actually worried that reviewers might compare my tale of sexual longing and revenge with that of the great Russian-American master – i.e., they’d conclude it was just another Lolita knockoff. I needn’t have worried: people have been far more inclined to compare it to Toole’s Confereracy of Dunces, which is a little disheartening as it’s not a novel I especially like. The five 20th century fiction writers I admire most are Kafka, Beckett, Borges, Nabokov and Flann O’Brien.. With the exception of Flann, I’d be hard pressed to point to anything in the book that’s shows the influence of any of my faves!

It’s a shameful confession for any Dalkey Archive author to make but the fact is I’ve never read Sorrentino. I dipped into Mulligan Stew at one point, c. ’94, noted that he was running with the characters from At Swim but I didn’t pursue it. My loss, no doubt, and something to be rectified. I know you and John O’Brien are big fans. I only started reading Tristram Shandy recently but I’d been aware of Sterne for decades as a huge unexplored planet far off on the horizon. For an Irish writer of my generation, Joyce’s shadow looms so large that even if, like me, you haven’t read much of his total output, you imbibe his influence indirectly. (The only things I know really well are Dubliners and the early sections of Ulysses. Of course, thanks to Professor Ellman, I know a lot about the man). I first read Celine c. 1995 and was immediately impressed. I think the use of the hyphen-length dash in Dynamite can be traced back, partly, to my admiration for the dotty cavalryman’s fondness for ellipses. Aha, so you thought you’d heard the last of me, you bastards! Well, you’re wrong, dead wrong.. I’m back.. and I’m here to settle old scores, you assholes.. etc. etc.

Brian: What about Celine, or Selby?

Meredith: Celine: ah hah.. it’s me.. I’m back again.. they thought they’d seen the last of Ferdinand the Nazi and his white cat.. no, I’m back, jumping from rooftop to rooftop in downtown Brooklyn.. they’ll never catch me.. and if they come close, I’m shoot.. good riddance.. I received a blow to the head in the GreatWar, as you know.. never been the same.. we’ll make a cavalry man out of him yet, the priest said.. merde!.. Detroit was an education.. death was all around me, in the wards.. we charged over the hill and then all hell broke loose.. well they were wrong, those dumb shits! I came back from the dead.. the winters in Norway are colder than a fortnight in hell, you better believe it!

I think I got the dashes idea from my old high school history tacher Dan McCarthy.. he used to make us take notes: THE CAUSES COURSE AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR: “Take this down, students.

“Rivalry between the great powers in the period 1880-1913 for colonial possessions dash-the threat of international socialism to European bourgeoisie -dash- Bismarck’s inconsistent policy in relation to the Duchy of Badden Badden Sax-Hoffenhofen dash-etc. -dash- etc.” Dan used to let us watch the racing from Epsom and Doncaster during civics class..a great man we remember this St. Patrick’s Day.

I’ve been a Selby (I almost wrote DeSelby) fan since I read Last Exit in the early 80s. Nick Tosches is right on the money when he calls Mr. Selby the real deal. An astonishing, a deeply moving talent. Last Exit afforded me my first true and exciting vision, in print, of New York City.

SEVEN AFRICAN POWERS

Brian: I Ching plays an especially interesting role in Jarleth’s life; have you had many—let’s call them ‘occult’ experiences in New York? Living on the Lower East Side & near Latino Willamsburg, have you had any encounters with Santeria, or other aspects of “Spanish” New York, salsa, etc?

Meredith: I’ve had several strange/occult experiences in the course of the past twenty-plus years living in New York. But, to be honest, a lot of them can probably be explained by the combined influence of booze, drugs, depression and/or sexual fascination. Several times over the past two decades I’ve found myself jumping off the deep end.. It’s usually about a woman.. I’m no stranger to the feeling of wandering around in a dark place, with the city as a backdrop..

You ask about encounters with Latin culture: You’d want to be deaf, dumb and blind to be impervious to the Latin influence in this town… Some people are.. No head-on encounters with Santeria but I know I’ve been in the presence of practitioners.. I bought a tarot deck in a botanica once. It was the beautiful Thoth deck, painted by Lady Frieda Harris under the direction of Aleister Crowley. At some point, it occurred to me that the deck might be exerting an evil influence on my life (I don’t recall the details) so one evening I left it on the doorstep of a different botanica and walked away.

In the late 80s/early 90s, I lived in a tenement building on Havermeyer in Williamsburg. There was a Puerto Rican social club downstairs that was operated by some very nice older people from PR. My musician friends, John Hovorka and Tom McCrum and I were sometimes invited to hang out. I remember some pleasant evenings spent dancing and drinking copious amounts of rum.

Brian: Jarleth experiences things with a wide range of filmic & musical references; how similar is he & Meredith Brosnan in this regard? Jarleth has an Ol’ Dirty Bastard-like character as his hallucination/familar; what’s been your own relation to hip-hop over the years?

Meredith: Very similar. I do think I live most fully through my experience of films, music and books. Or rather, it’s films, books and music that help me to live, to endure, in the day-to-day world.

Unlike my interrogator, I’d have to describe my knowledge of hip-hop as minimal. For many years, the only rap record I ever owned was Eric B. and Rakim’s Follow the Leader. Of course, back at the dawn of time, I enjoyed “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, etc. but I never became very passionate about the genre. I’m sorry, for me the whole gangsta thing is very boring and predictable (and not a little depressing). Like any good 80s hippy, I dug De La Soul but instead of keeping pace with developments in hip-hop,

I got into Bootsy, George Clinton, Parliament, Funkadelic, and more and more jazz… No doubt I’ve missed a lot.. I got interested in Wu-Tang Clan c. 1997, because a friend of my wife, a performance artist named Amy Cummins, referred to them a lot in her work. I bought 36 Chambers and dug it. I’m moved by the legend of the Clan: working class kids from Statten who manage to create an vibrant musical aesthetic out of the tension between their everyday experiences on the street and an almost religious devotion to Chinese martial arts movies and culture.

Brian: Shockingly, you told me you’d seen neither Naked City nor Point Blank before Mr. Dynamite was published, although you do refer to the latter in the book. What did you feel upon seeing these flicks?

Meredith: The fact that Jarleth had seen the Boorman film and I hadn’t at the time of writing underlines the fact that, whatever else, Prendy is a real hep cat. No doubt he saw Naked City too – which may very well have given him the idea of staging his grand exit from the Williamsburg Bridge. It struck me that while Jules Dassin’s movie is a wonderful historical document – and Barry Fitzgerald is charming as the leprechaunic police detective – it’s dramatically inferior to a movie it somewhat resembles in its faux-documentary framing –Huston’s great Asphalt Jungle, made two years later.

Point Blank is a masterpiece, a great work and full of wonders. One can see why Jarleth wants to identify with Walker… “Walker! WALKER! You gotta help me, Walker!” The perfect weird action double feature: Point Blank and Suzuki’s Branded to Kill.

FIRE THE BASTARDS!

Brian: As a great admirer of the book, I’ve been incredulous that it was most often… ignored— with reviews that were neither great nor horrid but rather non-existent. Were you disappointed at all?

Meredith: It wasn’t completely ignored. I got a couple of good reviews, notably in the Voice, courtesy of Ed Park, and on Bookslut.com. My friend Garvan Grant gave it a very nice write up in the Sunday Business Post (thanks Garv, your check is in the mail, son!). My good friend Aisling Maguire did a very nice piece about Dalkey Archive, the book and me for The Irish Times. On the other hand, the Publishers Weekly review punters see on Amazon is rather lukewarm. The only publication I’m aware of that out-and-out panned it was The Irish Emigrant, which seems fitting considering how badly Jarleth lets the team down! But I know what you mean: three years after publication, it’s more or less sunk without a trace. Which of course is the fate of most books.

I will admit that back in 1999, when I started sending the ms out via two different agents, I had grandiose dreams of scoring a big advance, of somehow making a big splash with Jarleth’s Madcap Adventure. You have to remember, Frank McCourt had just scored big with Angela’s Ashes… Looking back, greedy dreams of fortune and fame like this seems extremely silly but it’s probably something every writer has to go through once. These days, I couldn’t care less about getting published. (That said, in the very unlikely event that Random House ever offers me a six figure advance I won’t say ‘no.’)

Brian: What have you worked on since Mr. D? Since Jarleth does not die within the pages of Mr. D is it possible—or desirable—that he could return?

Meredith: At one point I joked with John O’Brien of Dalkey about doing “Son of Jarleth” or “Jarleth Rides Again” but, really, what would be the point? If somewhere down the line I find I’ve something to say and Prendy’s voice is the right vehicle, I might consider reanimating the whining miscreant but honestly I think it would take a lot to make it work..

For a couple of years after Mr. D came out, I stumbled around in a lot of pain, trying to find a direction. It was all tied in with some seismic upheavals in my personal life which I won’t go into here. In the past year I’ve got my groove back. I’ve just finished a long short story called “Marjorine (I Drove for Chang & Ma).” Stylistically, it’s very far removed from the style of Mr. D, being a third person narrative with conventional punctuation and spelling. The hero, Colm Shields, is related to Jarleth in as much as he’s an Irish male of a certain age who finds himself in a desperate situation, with his back against the wall. Other than that, the two men have very little in common. The story’s notably less autobiographical in inspiration than the novel.

Brian: You’ve played bass for a number of rock bands over the years—tell me about that. Is there any band you wish you could play in?

Meredith: I’ve been playing bass in bands since I was seventeen. Back in ’75, I borrowed a cheap Egmont bass off my next door neighbor, Reg, an excellent blues guitarist and practiced at home, playing along with Van Morrison records. In the late 70s I was in a band called Free Booze. We played the same pub and club circuit as U2. In ’84, I was in The Purple Hearse with my friends Ray McCann and Alistair Hicks, from Belfast. We had a minor Irish hit with a white-rap song Alistair wrote about John DeLorean, the famous car manufacturer who conned the Thatcher government out of millions. Between ’89 and ’94, I played bass in the band led by the great John Hovorka. John’s one of my oldest friends – a truly gifted songwriter and performer and the former leader of the well-known ’80s Boston band, The Turbines.

The band I wish I could play in is Peacock’s Penny Arcade. Which, coincidentally, is the band I do play in! Our first album just came out. It’s really good. You can buy it for $9.99, or 99 cents per track, at our MySpace site:

http://myspace.com/peacockspennyarcade

Brian: Fuck Van Morrison; it all comes down to Horslips doesn’t it?

Meredith: Well you got it sort of right: yes, Horslips scored big with 16 year old me and everybody else because of “Dearg Doom” (big teen dancehall hit, we sweated a lot). Charles O’Connor (guitar) was the first really short guy I saw wearing high heels..The bassplayer wore a drawstring leather jerkin and was a TV producer in real life.. meanwhile — actually about 4 years later — my hipster acquaintence Joe Ambrose was trying to get me to go and see Gene Clark’s band playing at the National Stadium… At the time, I hadn’t a clue who Gene Clark was. I am a bit of a Guy Clarke fan though… though my Texan friend Susan Carnahan has openly laughed at me for liking “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train.” [The Music Director notes: Guy Clark has had an estimable career marked by flecks of brilliance; Gene Clark, formerly of the Byrds, was one of the greatest folk/pop songwriters of the 1960s & 1970s.]

Brian: If money was no object for a year or two, what would you do artistically?

Meredith: Several things comes to mind. I’d learn ancient Japanese so I could enjoy Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji in the original. Of course, that would take more than two years.. I’d write a screenplay. I have an idea Stephen Wright’s Going Native would make a great film. No doubt someone will read this and run with the idea. Which is cool, because Wright’s book is quite brilliant and deserves to be a lot better known (it’s currently out of print, for some reason).

Brian: Since becoming a Dalkey author, you’ve mentioned having done some proofreading for the press, including Gertrude Stein. Is there anything interesting about that? Does it make you appreciate a writer more or less? I love Gertie but you do have to be in the mood.

Meredith: Gertrude was a trip. As Dalkey seem to have dropped me as a proofreader – this may have something to do with their recent editorial shift away from publishing works in English – I think I’ll this opportunity to confess to you, Father Brian Berger of the Church of Lit, Sanctified, that I didn’t read every single word of The Making of Americans, like I was supposed to. It was the first newly laid out edition of the book since it was published in the mid 20s. Back then, Stein and Toklas proofread it and, I’m delighted to report, the ladies missed some things.

I read several other books for Dalkey, notably The Obstacles by Eloy Urroz and Mark Binelli’s Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! The latter job led to me meeting Mark and hanging out. Now there’s a talent to watch. I’m very much looking forward to his next one.

Brian: Do you think you’re in NYC for the duration, & perhaps even downtown? Do you feel it’s become a more difficult place to live? Did something like the “clean up” of Times Square affect you in any emotional/experiential way?

Meredith: If you’d asked me back in ’86 if I would still be living in NYC twenty years later I’d have laughed at you. But here I am. Soon, I’ll have spent as many years in NY as I did in Dublin. I hated this place at first but now it’s home. As the Americans say, go figure.

Difficult? Of course, it’s more difficult. Gradually, inexorably, all the poor people are being driven out of Manhattan and the other boroughs. The whole character of lower Manhattan has been changed drastically and forever by cold-hearted greed. The willful destruction of the beautiful ivy-covered wall that used to bound the Liz Christie Garden on Houston Street – to accommodate an extraordinarily ugly hi-rise condo development on East 1st Steet – is emblematic of everything that’s wrong in 2007. On the other hand, the luxury building called “Blue” that recently appeared on the corner of Norfolk and Delancey is genuinely beautiful.. And the beat goes on.

Brian: Where’s the Broz go from here? Any last words?

Meredith: Ever upwards. The New York state motto is “Excelsior!” as I’m sure you know.

“Who unceasingly strives upwards, him can we save.” Goethe, from Faust Pt 2. Malcom Lowry used that as the epigraph for Under the Volcano.

PART III: This Is How You DisappearThe Red Scare

Brian: 10 fave movies as of today.

Meredith: Must I be limited to 10??? In no particular order, then: Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu and Life of Oharu, Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai and Ikuru, Farenheit 451, Godard’s Pierrot le Fou, The Maltese Falcon, Night of the Hunter, Touch of Evil, Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill, Rules of the Game, Celine and Julie Go Boating, Juliette of the Spirits, Nights of Cabiria. Point Blank, The Naked Killer! Bunuel’s Belle de Jour and That Obscure Object of Desire. I could go on and on.. I must add Sherman’s March by Ross McIlwee and the Mayles Brothers’ Salesman. Last but not least, Epic of Gilgamesh by the Quay Brothers.

Brian: 10 fave records, ditto (albums, tho’ if you insist on singles, i won’t argue)

Meredith: Kind of Blue, Miles Davis. “My Favorite Things,” John Coltrane. “Take Me To The River,”Al Green. Get Happy! Blood & Chocolate, Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Respect, Robyn Hitchcock. Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair. Dreamer, Bobby Bland. The first four Steely Dan records. Highway 61 Revisited. Astral Weeks, It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Van Morrison. To Bring You My Love, P.J. Harvey. Dolittle, Pixies. Scott 4, Scott Walker. Curtis, Curtis Mayfield. Jobim, Antonio Carlos Jobim. James Brown’s 40 Greatest Hits. “Tanya” Dexter Gordon Quartet.

Brian: 10 fave poets (any languages).

Meredith: Beckett, Baudelaire, e.e.cummings, Frank O’Hara, Emily Dickinson, Robert Graves, Auden, W.S. Merwin, Ono no Komachi, Philip Larkin, the Great McGonigal, Fernando Pessoa.

Brian: THANK YOU

Meredith: De nada. Slan is beannacht.

Resources

Ed Park’s Mr. D review (Village Voice)

Michael Schaub’s Mr. D Review (Bookslut)

Mr. D at Dalkey Archive, w/Harvey Pekar & John Strausbaugh blurbs

Mr. D excerpts, in The Brooklyn Rail

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