Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Depraved Press - Review, interview

Alex Martin, a nice bloke who frequents the Cult, gave 6 Sick Hipsters a generous review at Depraved Press. We also did a short interview. You can read the contents of both below:

"They stalk on spiderlike legs wearing jeans tighter than condoms. As they are the scourge of Starbucks baristas, so also 6 Sick Hipsters are the bones of this novel, but don't for a minute assume they're the flesh of it. Rayo Casablanca's debut is as dark as it is hilarious, as encapsulating as it is clever.

He leads us by the hand so charmingly through places so noir their bars sell bourbon on tap and all you can do is smile and follow. From Paleontological pornography to a gangster with the best character name in fiction, 6 Sick Hipsters leaves no stone unturned and when you're not laughing out loud you're silently nodding with a half-shameful envy.

I first heard of Rayo Casablanca over at The Cult. There had been a competition for a fictional oral-biography style passage about Chuck Palahniuk there, and there Rayo's sexually charged winning entry provoked much mirth and not a small dash of jealousy from many. In 500 words his style shines through, and his humor is blatant.

But what isn't readily apparent is the depth of Rayo's pop-culture trivia, and even beyond that, the level of literacy in the novel itself. From Thomas Pynchon to The Sisters of Mercy, 6 Sick Hipsters swells with allusions, which are very, very fun. But ultimately the novel's charm comes from Rayo's beautiful juxtaposition of iniquitous comedy, sly satire and subcultural range, and by fuck does he do it well. All in all a very impressive debut."

- Alex Martin (12/07)

A brief discussion with Rayo Casablanca:

Martin: Starting at basics, every writer seems to have their own method when it comes to spinning a yarn. Will Christopher Baer binges, Craig Clevenger goes through drafts like a hot knife through a small lovable creature. What about you?

Rayo Casablanca: I usually start with a title and then write from there. I suppose I would categorize myself as a drafter a la Clevenger. I typically spin off a hundred pages of extraneous material before settling into a single work. On a good day, I'll have four or five drafts going at the same time. You know, one 1st person, one 3rd person, one from the perspective of the syphilitic killer, one from the perspective of the dowdy doorman. Most don't get past the forty-page mark. Some are just sketches really. In the end, those weaker versions wind up cannibalized or discarded.

6 Sick Hipsters was inspired (largely) by women's undergarments. Seriously. There are these cotton-stretch low-slung panties called hipsters. The ones I saw came in packs of 6. Viola! 6 hipsters. I added the sick because that just made it all the more entertaining. As soon as I had the title the rest just came whirling out.

Martin: You work under the umbrella of healthcare, and it's no secret that the most ill-fated of perverse actions come to light under that very same brolly - if you'll excuse the phrase. How much of the book was informed by real-life (I'm specifically hoping for an anecdote about a wild baboon)?

Rayo Casablanca: Almost all. The character of Radij - the physician with the hankering for obscure new wave/minimal synth and a bad habit of cutting himself - was inspired by a number of people I know. The stories he tells are all based on actual incidents. Truth is always, without question, stranger than fiction. Spend a few minutes in an ER and you'll see things you just couldn't make up.

While I've cleaned glass out of eyeballs and broken ribs doing chest compressions, I've never encountered victims of wild baboon attacks. That little episode was based on images I've seen about the Gadawan Kura ("hyena guides") of Nigeria. These men have adult baboons and hyenas on chains. Most of them are traveling entertainers, do street shows in the dusty markets of Lagos, though I've read totally unsubstantiated rumors of the animals being used for stick-ups and worse. The mind boggles.

Martin: Is there a book tour planned?

Rayo Casablanca: Yeah. I don't know if I'd call it planned. I'll be in NYC, Denver. Possibly D.C., Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Portland.

Martin: Obviously 6 Sick Hipsters is full of literary and musical allusions, from Pynchon through The Sisters of Mercy to Voltron. Are all of the details facts, any artistic license used, and did you just know this stuff or was there a whole lot of research involved behind it?

Rayo Casablanca: Most of it is true. Some of it I made up. Sad as it is to say, the vast majority of it is gleaned from inane trivia I've lined by brain with. I threw a bunch of in-jokes in there for the equally geeky.

Martin: And finally, when can we expect the next?

Rayo Casablanca: Next spring, in fact. Turning in a first draft next month. The run down: a socialite (less Paris Hilton than Edie Sedgwick) vs. terrorists (schizo and led by their therapist) vs. art school students. Throw in a good number of twists, a nihilist hit man, meth-addled dirties and the ghost of Serge Gainsbourg and you've got it. (12/07)

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