Agitprop: Mark Dery Interview
His new book, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams features thirty-two pungent essays covering a range of topics such as Madonna’s big toe, the link between zombies and white supremacists, the selling of Nazism and the cultural appropriations of Lady Gaga and Jack Chick.
In the introduction to his book Dery invokes André Breton’s epitaph, “I seek the gold of time” as his talisman. Dery explains that Breton refers to “the ineffable mysteries of lost time, of time passing, of things to come” which recalls Dogen Zenji’s description of time as lending a “resplendent brightness” to all phenomena. Dery would reject any comparison to religious thought (Dogen was a thirteenth century Zen Buddhist monk), but because Dery himself searches for gold in the most unlikely of temporal and spatial places the intersection of these two ideas makes an intriguing entry point into the complex matrix of his thought and writing.
I walk out onto the desert floor in the middle of a bright April afternoon. I stand still in the sun, fully exposed, surrounded on all sides by cactus, sand and rocks. I feel the heat all around. I close my eyes long enough for my thoughts to stop their tossing and turning. Gradually, new sensations begin to impress themselves on my senses. I hear the wind. I hear the buzzing of flies and the drone of faraway traffic.
Time passes. After ten minutes in a state of suspension I open my eyes. I am confronted with a stark wavering prickly electric green thing shooting up out of the desert floor. Ten minutes ago it was an ocotillo tree but now all I see is its indescribable glittering essence. In an instant I am vomited beyond the boundaries of language. Beyond the “flaming wind-hairs of thought” where time turns to gold and everything becomes rich and strange. This other shore is where Mark Dery’s writing will take you. Where no thoughts are too alien, to bizarre or too bad to be turned to gold.