Riding with Jesus: a badbadbad tour blog
Editor’s Note: Jesús Ángel Garcia, author of “badbadbad,” is blogging his book tour. This is his first stop, featuring an interview by EL’s editors.
A few years back, I wrote the first draft of a novel called badbadbad. Then I started writing songs derived from the narrative, and pretty soon a full-length album magically appeared. So now there was a traditional print book and a CD soundtrack, both called “badbadbad.” Since threesomes are trendy — and the art-making business is all about capitalizing on what’s hot — the natural next step for 3xbad was obvious: get out on the street and make a movie. Better yet: “an independent documentary film.” It’s amazing what total strangers will say to a video camera. The prompts came from the story’s central themes: fear, hypocrisy, e-intimacy, sexual morality, and self-destruction v. redemption. Another year and countless tech fails later, the project’s tripartite soul was born: Literature the Father, Music the Son, Film the Holy Spirit. Let’s call it a transmedia novel. I live in San Francisco, after all.
Uneasy with so-called living in the digital world, I want to bring badbadbad directly to the people. What that means is a hot summer of live performances, readings, and screenings at art galleries, theaters, nightclubs, bookshops, cafes, beaches, street corners, and dark alleys across the U.S. — starting tonight at Skylight Books in Los Angeles. I’m honored to share the mic at various points on this road trip with powerful personalities in the indie-lit community, including Scott McClanahan, Adam Robinson, Melissa Febos, Hannah Miet, Barry Graham, Lindsay Hunter, Jacob Knabb, Amber Sparks, and many others. I’m also excited to get up-close with regional literary scenes from Chicago to New York to Pittsburgh to Indianapolis. There’s a lot of big book stuff happening offline around the country. I hope with this column to report on all the glamour and the goodness.
If you have any questions about how to set up a DIY lit tour or want to know more about transmedia narrative, etc., please drop some words in the comments, and I’ll respond as soon as I finish this martini by the pool. L.A.-style is the only way to launch a summer lit-arts tour, no?
Three introductory Q’s from the Electric Literature editors:
Electric Literature: We’re interested in knowing more about the choice to make badbadbad a “transmedia” text. How did you come about this choice?
Jesús Ángel Garcia: After many years of developing this project, it’s hard to remember exactly when or how I first decided to dive into the whole transmedia narrative. There is a major music thread in the novel, which originally led to a YouTube playlist of tunes referenced in the text, but I think as far as my own songwriting goes, I may have just planned to use a few songs and make a couple of music or art videos or whatever to post on YouTube to maybe try to reach out to potential readers through non-traditional channels. But as I started composing the material, it became clear that a complete soundtrack needed to be written and recorded. The stories and characters in the novel took on another life in the songs, I guess, and I also enjoyed transposing them into this other medium of communication. I don’t know where the film came from. I recorded all 80GB of footage on a little point ’n’ shoot camera I got as a Christmas gift. Maybe it was as simple as I was constantly thinking about badbadbad and now that I had a camera, oh hey, can I ask you these questions I’ve been thinking about lately? Thing is, once I began interviewing people on the street, what they were willing to reveal about themselves, what they offered so articulately and generously, was so unexpected and is still kind of unbelievable to me. What they said expands the reach of the novel beyond anything I could have written myself.
EL: The relationship between music and text seems like a provoking venture (particularly after reading Egan’s Goon Squad); how are music and text in compliance and at odds here?
JAG: I’m not sure what you mean by provoking venture. Ever since I had a mind of my own, I’ve been serious about music and writing. I’m crazy about the language of music and the music of language. I can’t read books that don’t sound right. Same goes for music with lyrics. If a word is out of place, I can’t listen to the song. I loved Jennifer Egan’s book. I think she’s dead-on about the music business, music people, music fans, how live music delivers communal bonding, the big lie of e-communication, and language as music. Hopefully in badbadbad there’s music in the text and there’s (sub)text or substance in the music, both the sounds and the stories. I would say all’s in compliance. I think there has to be music in everything, or else it’s broken, or dead. I believe in string theory. Just don’t ask me to explain it.
EL: What’s the best story about writers or writing that no one knows?
JAG: I may be called Jesus but I’m not omniscient, so I’m not sure what no one knows, but I do know this: Some of the best writing happens when writers aren’t writing. By that I mean not consciously Writing, which could mean just getting out of your own way, letting the characters do their thing, or not imposing yourself on a text, letting a text be what it needs to be, or thinking about a scene by not-thinking about it, by dreaming or drinking or making love or soaking in a bath. Stories, ideas, words, images, sound… they need time-away-from-writing to gestate or percolate. If you’re writing every day, or almost every day, and you’re constantly exploring ideas or imagining scenes or seeing characters as living people, then the best thing you can do is write it all down, of course, but then stepping away, walking around the block, hitting the gym, dancing at a concert, sitting and breathing… these not-writing activities make the writing that much sweeter.
— Jesús Ángel García is on the road with “badbadbad,” sponsored by Jim Beam and Global Protection condoms. Check it: http://badbadbad.net