ABP- Thank you for taking this interview John. Back in April of last year, ABP had the privilege of publishing Yin Yang Doo-Doo & the Gas Attack Ensemble, which you wrote under the pseudonym Sensei Satori Satire. This epic novel is a hell of a ride, over 800 page long, spanning 2 paperbacks; it’s the longest book that ABP has ever published.
What can you tell us about the process of writing Yin Yang Doo-Doo, and how do you feel about the collection now, 10 months later?
JM– Well, in the interest of historical accuracy, I have to say that 10 months is a metaphorical burp and, considering the scatological nature of Yin Yang Doo-Doo, a metaphorical fart is probably a more appropriate analogy, in the book’s history. It was actually written in 1993. At the time I was involved with an active writing and public reading series in Binghamton, New York, known as ‘The Big Horror.’ Most of the participants were poets. Though I did my share of poetry writing, including an intense love affair with ‘Slam Poetry’, I considered myself to be primarily a fiction, especially a short story writer. I’ve been deeply involvement with martial arts for decades, a fact which is widely satirized in ‘Yin Yang Doo-Doo & the Gas Attack Ensemble’. Additionally, I have a degree in Political Science from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and have always had an interest in politics, especially political theory. I grew increasingly disillusioned with the direction the country was headed during the Reagan oligarchy and one day, after going for a long-distance run, I began writing Yin Yang. The book became a daily obsession and labor of love. When I finished, I naively sent it out cold to a number of big, high powered publishers and though I got some positive responses, no takers. I even told them it would make a great movie, something I’m sure they had never heard from a writer before. My talented and uber-patient wife, Susan, was awarded her P.H.D. in anthropology and I basically followed her academic career, while I stumbled through semblances of employment, moving several times, finally ending up in a small college town in Western Pa. For a quarter century I sat on, ‘Yin Yang Doo-Doo’, wrote rough drafts for two other satirical novels, ‘Bug’, and ‘Beef’, got a book of memoir short stories, ‘What Else Do You Want’, and two volumes of haiku published (‘The Art Of Watching Bent Trees In The Rain’ and ‘Monkey Bar Alphabet’, authored under the name Sensei Satori Satire). When my friend, poet and publisher Joel Dailey (Fell Swoop Magazine, New Orleans), recommended I send some work to ‘Alien Buddha’, I did. Now, thanks to the generous support of ‘Alien Buddha’, and, of course, Red, ‘Yin Yang Doo-Doo & the Gas Attack Ensemble’, is out, likely resulting in hernias for countless mail carriers who had to carry the HUGE two-volume tome to unwary readers’ now unhinged mailboxes.
ABP- You own a bookstore in Clarion PA. How is that going nowadays with everything going on in the world?
JM– Though I always promoted the bookstore as an anti-business, a point came where anti-business success equaled fiscal malaise. I sold whatever books I could at blow-out prices and gave most of the rest away to local libraries and non-profit organizations. Currently, my small store functions primarily as a regional art gallery, though I do still sell books by regional authors and small, independent press publications. If I thought a bookstore was a way to embrace anti-business, an art gallery makes that look like Morgan Stanley. So, in other words, it’s going great!
ABP- What do you have planned creatively for 2021?
JM- I’ve been enamored by haiku lately and I will keep writing those. I plan to dive back into my second novel, ‘Bug’, hope to clean it up and edit and, who knows, maybe I can beg my way into the ABP’s publishing queue again. I’m also playing with a new satirical tome, ‘Tick’, which promises to be another long sucker of novel insanity.
ABP- Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
JM– I’ve been reading a lot of regional unknown authors lately and really coming to appreciate the quality of some of their wonderful, though unheralded writing. I just came off a short reading relationship with John Fante (one of Bukowski’s favorites). I am reading a biography of poet Wallace Stevens, and for fun interleaving it with Charles Willeford. When writing Yin Yang, I was on an Umberto Ecco kick, and to some extent, stylistically emulating the word play of Tom Robbins. So many more. My aforementioned friend Joel Dailey, offers mind bending, short poetic word play. Because I got one of his books in the mail today, I have to mention, Nelson Algren, and I just ordered a book by John Edgar Wideman. Tomorrow, who knows?
ABP- Can you share a sample of your writing with us? Be it a poem or an excerpt from your fiction?
JM- Here are the beginning lines from ‘Sunday School’, the first short story in my memoir collection: ‘What Else Do You Want. ’
( ‘When I was ten years old my mother shot me in the head while I slept one Sunday morning. It was no accident. Just plain good aim.’
That probably explains a lot. )
ABP– Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions, John. The floor is all yours. If there is anything at all that you would like to share with our wordpress readers, please do.
JM- My novels can be so soap-boxing (poet, Richard Martin, calls them ‘indictment literature’), that I will forego any reference to the authoritarian, despicable, capitalistic parasites currently running roughshod over a nation acquiescing to a bunch of cap-headed MAGAts. I won’t even mention the absolute disdain anyone with half a brain has to have when watching the absurdist dumb show slithering its way over the national stage. Why bother talking about the brutal pillage being inflicted on the lower classes by the asses whose uber derrieres stain the seats of the corporate and banking entities, counting mountains of money they can never hope to spend, and would never dare to share. So, in short, grab a copy of ‘Yin Yang Doo-Doo & the Gas Attack Ensemble’, and treat (brutalize?) yourself with vertiginous verbiage. Or, better yet, gift one to one you don’t like. I thank ABP, and especially Red, for publication of this pithy-ful work of sub-genius. Peace