Tim Hall is a writer and multimedia artist, also a journalist, editor, and publisher. He is the author of two novels, Half Empty and Full Of It, a collection of stories, Triumph Of The Won’t, and the book-length nonfiction essay, How America Died. Interviewed for PRATE by Lynn Alexander.
LA: Talk about the “Grandiose Failure”. You describe characters who have a sense of entitlement about success, perhaps a disconnect concerning their own practical limits. In addition to those limits, there is also the problem of numbers, which don’t really work in a would-be big shot’s favor. How did you develop an interest in exploring this theme, the ideas of grandiosity, entitlement?
TH: It comes out of my own upbringing, growing up with two very theatrical parents who despised each other so much that they were willing to sacrifice us, their kids, to satisfy their sadistic hatred. Neither was suited for any kind of business life, and certainly not parenting, but they were playing roles imposed on them by society and family pressures, and it destroyed them and damn near us. So that’s the basis for my morbid fascination with such people.
LA: Do you think that there were times in your personal or professional life- perhaps as a musician or writer or publisher- when you were sucked into those patterns of thinking? Was there a time when you wrestled with grandiose aspirations?
TH: Absolutely, but ironically it was mostly in reverse so I didn’t recognize it. I never thought I was too good for something, as my parents always did, but rather that I wasn’t good enough-which ultimately came off as a kind of aloofness and/or superiority. I never, ever felt I was too good, but I would get discouraged very easily and walk away from opportunities because I just assumed that I would never live up to the increasing expectations and demands that success would require. That came directly from the constant cutting and belittling from my parents. So for many years I lived like that Warhol title: from A to B and back again.
LA: Speaking now specifically about the “literary underground”- What factors do you think account for such pervasive “hope”, in light of what is often a pretty terrible reality? Many people who are struggling to build something, to go places with their creative work- I mean, many of them have pretty difficult lives. Something keeps them believing and seeing fame as more than a myth. Something keeps people believing that great things, despite the arguments against this thinking, are right around the corner.Why? What perpetuates this?
TH: We all need healthy egos, and the human brain is pretty remarkable in how it creates coping mechanisms. Striving towards excellence isn’t grandiosity, it’s the opposite. The grandiose failure is someone who expects something for nothing, or who rages at perceived victimhood without doing that tough humbling work all real artists do. In the literary world it comes out most obviously in what I call the “persona pimps”–people who have adopted the “tough guy” or “angry womyn” role or whatever to sell themselves. That type of grandiosity usually comes from men, but not entirely.
LA: Do you think that the “underground” literary world is a place of community, a place where writers eat their own, or a mixed bag of ocassionals and bastards?
TH: It’s a mix, like everything, but because persuasion and perception play such bigger roles in our world than, say, profits, I think it does tend to attract a lot of vampires and persona pimps. People like you and Pat King and Caleb Ross, and my friend Dean Haspiel of Act-i-vate.com, you’ve got the spirit of community, the Force is strong in you all and you back it up with hard work and remain deeply invested in your craft. But you are truly an oasis in the desert.
LA: Talk about your books for a minute, particularly your new book and how you would characterize your intentions. Unapologetically lampooning, political? You have something to say- if you could distill it down, how would you characterize the gist of your thinking there? What does Tim Hall want me, the reader, to really “get” about this book?
TH: I now believe without a doubt that Control itself is a virus. It’s no longer a poetical or metaphorical idea; medical research is backing it up. It’s spread via trauma, whether physical abuse, aural hypnosis like Fox News does, or else through gruesome images like mushroom clouds or 9/11 or the crucifixion, etc. Repeated exposure to such trauma changes the actual size and shape of the brain, as well as the brain chemistry. This infection eventually makes them want to control others, which is why you now see people carrying assault rifles to President Obama’s speeches, just as their were Wanted posters for JFK in Dallas. I believe the collective psychopathologies of both Weimar Germany and America today can only be explained as massive outbreaks of the Control virus, which I call the Vyron. I also spend a long time on the concept of Zero Tolerance and why it’s killing us.
LA: “Contagion Heuristics”. Is this partly the product of the 24-hour news cycle, the infotainment nature, the repetitive imagery? The product of propaganda, not by our government necessarily- but rather the consumption oriented machine that has not only sucessfully seized government (policies and the doctrines of material protectionism) but literally bombards a willing culture with imagery that skews our sense of what matters, even down to our core selves?
Are we being herded?
Where are we being taken?
TH: All I can say is Yes, and I Don’t Know. I wrote the book because you don’t ever even hear the word “corporatism” on television, you never hear the word “control” unless it’s a psychopath like Glenn Beck sobbing about the fascistic imagery on old pennies. He’s a clown, yes, but he’s a millionaire, highly-paid clown with a specific message of hate to infect the American people with. That’s his job, as I explain in How America Died.
LA: Where you are now, at this point in your life- how optimistic are you about it? Are you an irreversible cynic?
TH: I’m fighting for my life. Protest is a form of life, it mean’s you’re willing to go on the record and put the Rupert Murdochs of the world on notice that despite their wealth and power they are still nothing but the gray and frightened vampires of this world, hiding in shadows and feeding on the blood of the poor and the weak. That is literally Rupert Murdoch’s only job, to destroy the powerless. His only sexual satisfaction is seeing death and pain in the world. But he was made that way, he wasn’t born like that. In my fiction and nonfiction alike I’m trying to figure out the formula for why people like Rupert Murdoch are made, how anybody can come to be sexually aroused by millions dead in the Middle East, or who pump their fists in excitement when children are denied healthcare, as the Michelle Malkins and Bill O’Reillys and Diane Sawyers of the world do. They’re monsters, and writing is the only way I know how to stand completely apart from them. I don’t hate them, I just reject everything they stand for with every cell in my body and every word I write.