Research Notes · 05/10/2013

Glamorous Freak & Beyond This Point Are Monsters

Our Research Notes series invites authors to describe their research for a recent book, with “research” defined as broadly as they like. This week, Roxanne Carter writes about her recent books Glamorous Freak (Jaded Ibis) and Beyond This Point Are Monsters (Sidebrow).

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lately i have been worried about where to start. i struggle with locating a place, a moment to begin — unsure of which entry, which thread to take. finding a conduit for these days — a method of shaping mundane experience. the head cold that lifts me, a red balloon. the landscape, a network of irregular patches, stitched by road. i value my engagement with the writing process; this is always first.

i love to be occupied. i have trouble sitting still; my hands creep furiously, wadding up bits of paper, picking at the hem of my skirt, playing with my hair. i write to absorb my intentions — a vessel to carry this wayward energy. or i knit, or combine scraps of fabric into a quilt — sometimes i’m not sure what the difference between these efforts is, exactly; they exhaust and fulfill me similarly. so i write, it occupies me, i have to do it; sitting in the dark, watching films projected in 16mm, i wrote part of a book. i had been searching for a way of making a book that would be directed by something other than plot or characters. the book i wrote grew out of my interest in the formal possibilities of the diary, and the ways that cyclical writing could create a series of otherwise disparate texts, linked by a unifying gaze. i was glad that i had finally found a way to direct my intentions. otherwise i meander, collecting words like so much flotsam, unsure of where to place them; of how they may be properly used. the diary allows for this — its demands are only that the words continue.so much of my time is spent in fulfilling the ordinary demands of living. i like things to be neat, and clean. sometimes i have to ignore the demands of the house in order to get the work of writing accomplished. sometimes the work of writing is the ordinary work of the day, no different than washing the dishes. it is what is necessary to continue. my hand must move across the page;  there is no other way through to the next hour. it is better if i can do two things at once. i watch a film, and i write. i listen to music, and i dance.  the television distracts and absorbs me, and i wrote into this space as well, the broadcast half-hour, the reward of 500 words. in this way, i transformed the time i spent passively watching into the active manufacture of two books. one supplied by warhol’s film, the other informed by a 1960s television soap opera. the formal properties of each provided the structure i needed to shape my days. the texts employ fractured narratives, derivative narratives, and use narrative as a trick or hoax. a progression of events that turn inward and devour themselves. by referring constantly to images that reappear i made a story. by inserting my own perspective i brought in a magnified version of the text. i made myself a monster. i erected a house and filled the rooms. the arrangement of texts is like that of a diary: one follows another forward in time. what happens in this established space is immediate — the text may spontaneously engage itself in acts of incoherence, destruction, effacement.

i am looking for something to distract me. i lack the guidance of a vessel. i worry that the diary is too spastic, too unencumbered in its inclusions. i have the feeling that everything belongs to my notebook. i go around absorbing things, a thief. i can’t keep doing the same thing, over and over again — i need to find a way to do the same thing (write) while also making that writing into a thing that can be contained and described. so i can say, this is what i have done…

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Roxanne Carter is the author of Beyond This Point Are Monsters (Sidebrow Books, 2013) and Glamorous Freak: How I Taught My Dress to Act (Jaded Ibis Press, 2012). She is managing editor of Miami University Press, where she also teaches creative writing. She lives in Oxford, Ohio and can be found at www.persephassa.com.