The Marvelous Possibilities of the Irrational by Jon Bassoff

Jon Bassoff is well-known as the author of thought-provoking, critically acclaimed noir. His consistently original, and deeply disturbing, novels explore the darkest corners of his characters’ psyches. Bassoff has been compared with luminaries such as Cormac McCarthy, Donald Ray Pollock and Jim Thompson, and his novels Corrosion, The Incurables, and The Disassembled Man have been adapted for the big screen. Today I’m pleased to welcome Jon back to the site in conjunction with his latest release, The Blade This Time (DarkFuse).

The Marvelous Possibilities of the Irrational

When I wrote my first novel, The Disassembled Man, I sent it to an agent who said he liked it but felt I needed to make some changes. I needed to decrease the bizarre, to make my characters more relatable (if not likable), and to just make the story more damn realistic. For several days I agonized over his advice—I was a young writer then, easily persuadable—before I finally came to a decision. I decided I would, in fact, change the style. But not in the way he requested. Instead, I would make it more bizarre, more over-the-top, more surreal. I don’t know if this was a good business decision or not (it took me another five years before I finally found a publisher willing to take it on, and even now my agent tries desperately to drag me back to the real world), but then I’ve never been blessed with a strong business mind.

Some people have an aversion to tomatoes, others to carnivals. Me, my aversion is to hyperrealism. Not to say there’s anything wrong with reality. Why, just this morning, I went to Target and bought dish detergent and a six-pack of extra-absorbent paper towels, and later this afternoon I plan on mowing our lawn and laying some mulch. No, nothing wrong with reality. But hell, if I’m really honest, I would much prefer to spend my days munching on morphine while watching a limbless gymnastics team perform routines to Lotte Lenya songs. Or listening to redheaded, dwarf triplets tap-dance inside a diner called Mom’s. But that’s just me.

Then again, I wonder how much this hyperrealism actually exists in films or novels. I remember when I first read Hemingway. One way he pioneered the novel, I was told, is that his dialogue sounded the way people actually talked. But it didn’t, of course. Nobody talks like that. Or a writer like James M. Cain, who I absolutely love. Terse, lurid, and violent. But not hyperrealistic.

For me, as a writer and a reader, I’m always looking to find some type of an emotional truth. And I find that truth in the surreal, the bizarre, the unexplained. I find that truth in the muted melody of an unrecognizable song seeping from beneath the closed door of some sleazy club. I find that truth in the moonlit cottonwoods, branches resembling gnarled skeleton fingers. I find that truth in the films of David Lynch or the music of Tom Waits. I find that truth in the novels of Jim Thompson, Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, and Franz Kafka. And although I don’t always (usually) succeed, I hope that I’m able to shift from the sterility of contemporary thought toward the marvelous possibilities of the irrational.

Jon Bassoff was born in 1974 in New York City and currently lives with his family in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado. His mountain gothic novel, Corrosion, has been translated in French and German and was nominated for the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, France’s biggest crime fiction award. Three of his novels, Corrosion, The Incurables, and The Disassembled Man have been adapted for the big screen. For his day job, Bassoff teaches high school English, where he is known by students and faculty alike as the deranged writer guy. He is a connoisseur of tequila, hot sauces, psychobilly music, and flea-bag motels.

1 Comment

  • Lynne Welch

    June 5, 2017 - 4:36 PM

    I like the darker novels that almost make you uncomfortable. That is where I get the rush while reading them For instance I am reading The Butterflies right now by Kim Waldron, she writes of murder except the ones being murdered are awful people. Makes you wonder about that line of what is right!

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