As is abundantly evident from her prolific social networking and promotion of the remarkable Paraphilia Magazine, Díre McCain is an energetic, enthusiastic and creative individual – with much emphasis on the individual – with a great knowledge and appreciation of all things a little unusual. I was keen to find out more…
CN: ‘Papanicolaou Test’ is a quite remarkable and extremely powerful piece. The first time I read it I was genuinely taken aback by the ending. I hadn’t seen it coming, and what’s more it’s truly brutal. Some people may find it quite shocking. Do you think that in these times of desensitisation, shock still holds any currency?
DM: First off, thank you, Chris. I must admit I’m extremely curious to see how it’s received.
Hmmmm, while society does seem to be more insentient, and apathetic toward issues of legitimate and serious concern (although, more politically correct than ever, ironically), I’m not sure how desensitized people are when it comes to art. For the most part, they still seem to crave the same watered down, innocuous fare that requires minimal thought and/or emotion, that which keeps them within the safe confines of their comfort zones.
CN: What – if anything – shocks you?
DM: I won’t go so far as to say that nothing shocks me, that would be ridiculously unreasonable, but I am significantly less squeamish than the average person. It’s not a matter of being insensitive. On the contrary, I actually feel too much, which has proven to be highly detrimental at times. Like every other earthling, my level of resilience is the result of what I was exposed to during my formative years. When your limbic system is agitated and battered repeatedly – often by your own hand, inadvertently or otherwise – you’re eventually going to develop a tolerance in order to survive. And, just as I’m not easily shocked, I’ve never been easily stimulated either, which has landed me in oceans of hot water in the past, but thankfully, is no longer harmful to my health or safety.
Having said all that, I do find aspects of “normalcy” quite appalling – the fact that so many people seem to automatically comply with “should” or “supposed to” without even considering how they really feel.
CN: The anthology gathers a fairly disparate array of authors, all with quite different and highly individual styles under the umbrella of ‘clinical brutality.’ This was pretty much as I’d expected, and hoped – i.e. to show different interpretations of the theme. What does the concept of clinical brutality mean to you?
DM: When you first approached me about the anthology, I was delighted and strangely relieved. The story’s climax – which had revealed itself to me while re-watching Meir Zarchi’s I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE one winter night – had been loitering in my mind(s) for three years, waiting for the appropriate vehicle in which to appear, except the roles were reversed in terms of gender. Building the rest of the narrative around it was quite easy.
But to the point, after reading over the final draft, I did see a parallel between the good Dr. Sterben and the title character in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s WHY DOES HERR R. RUN AMOK?, which could arguably be classified as Clinical Brutality: Atrocities carried out in a detached, mechanical manner.
CN: Clinical brutality isn’t a genre and it isn’t a movement. Do you consider your writing to belong to any particular genre, or that you ‘belong’ to a greater literary community?
DM: The truth is, although I was quite prolific as a kid, I only started writing as an adult in early 2004, and up until a year ago, it was limited exclusively to my book, which, incidentally, has turned into Proust – I’ll be dead before it’s done. Although I can appreciate their purpose, I’ve always despised labels, categories, genres, etc – they’re far too reductive. As far as communities are concerned, I’m a commitment-loath bird of passage, who tries her level best to keep all doors open, unless, of course, something directly conflicts with my beliefs.
CN: Influence is something that’s very difficult to avoid or escape, and I’ve written on my influences quite extensively, including in the introduction to ‘Clinical, Brutal,’ where I state my personal indebtedness to a number of writers – explicitly Stewart Home, and implicitly Burroughs and the Marquis de Sade – in the formation of the concept of Clinical Brutalism. Obviously, one can pull a list of your influences from looking at your MySpace profile or whatever, but what I’m interested in isn’t so much who influences your work, but how these influences manifest themselves. Would you be able to talk me through that?
DM: It may sound strange, but I’m honestly not consciously influenced by anyone. Obviously, my brain has retained the books, albums, films, etc that I’ve ingested over the years, but I draw influence from my own experiences far more than anything else, just as they’ve shaped my opinions regarding everything from relationships to capital punishment. “Papanicolaou Test” is a case in point. Although it’s obviously a work of fiction, the characters – save Rudolph Ludwig Karl Virchow – are an amalgamation of several people I’ve known, which is a bit disturbing, now that I think about it.
Again, I was exposed to what would be deemed as “unconventional” and “shocking” at an unusually young age, which undoubtedly played a significant role in my development not only as a human being, but a writer as well.
And (co)incidentally, I pared down my MySpace page merely days before these questions came in, removing all the lists of “Favorites” – although attempting to explain my reasoning would be an unduly painful experience for both you and the readers, so I’ll spare you.
CN: On your MySpace profile, you state that ‘All celebrity, fashion, and beauty magazines should be incinerated.’ Now, I heartily agree, but then I’m a colossal misanthrope. This does seem to present a particularly antagonistic stance toward mainstream culture. What would you consider to be your relationship with the mainstream, with the world at large, and correspondingly, the relationship of your writing to the world?
DM: I tore out of the womb three beats behind, or ahead – I’ve never been able to determine which – and spent a sizable chunk of my preadolescence either struggling to fit in, or trying to understand why I couldn’t. After submerging into the gutters for a spell as a teenager, I made another, albeit less diligent effort to adapt as an adult, only to end up snapping my crackle, which is another story in itself.
After the dust had settled, I eventually began to phase out the mainstream, including the news, and in recent years, have shut the door on it almost entirely. As a result, I’m completely clueless about what or who is “hip” at the moment, and I often can’t tell you what the hell is going on in the world. It may sound a bit extreme, but it’s provided me with a peace of mind that I never knew existed.
Aside from the indispensible laws, human beings don’t need to be told what to do, and they certainly don’t need to be told what to like – whether it be literature, film, music, fashion, food, etc. We’re perfectly capable of making those decisions for ourselves. And the bottom line is that unlike, say, professional sports, the arts are entirely subjective. In other words, the best, most talented, etc aren’t always what’s presented or sold, despite the media’s incessant efforts at indoctrinating humankind into believing so.
I see the world through pellucid, polychromatic lenses, which enables me to view people and situations for what they truly are, regardless of their wrappers or any propaganda they’re wearing as accoutrements. I’ve often remarked that it’s a bit of a curse, that perhaps it would be easier to throw on a pair of blurry, monochromatic bifocals (because they’re “all the rage”, you know but they’d wreck my vision and squeeze my temples.
Apropos my writing (along with ME in general) I really do lack objectivity, and have a propensity for seeing it in a grotesquely critical manner – it’s not a feeble, self-effacing, compliment-fishing act. However, I’ve been told that my words resonate deeply with certain people, by virtue of the fact that I tackle very real, and in some cases, common issues that are considered “inappropriate”, “uncomfortable”, or “taboo”. Take “Papanicolaou Test” for example. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say that many men have had similar thoughts about their wives, and in some cases, even acted upon them, perhaps not in such a radical manner, but the emotions behind it are completely human. So, why are we so afraid to explore or expose it?
CN: It’s fair to say that without social networking, this anthology wouldn’t have happened. For me, social networking has been a revelation, in that it’s put me in contact with many like-minded individuals and genuinely awe-inspiring authors who I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. You’re evidently a fairly big user of social networking sites, but what would you say the best thing about social networking has been for you on a personal level? And would you probably get more done without the distraction of social networking, or are you able to switch off and focus when necessary?
DM: Well, for one, PARAPHILIA – the magazine I co-edit with DM Mitchell – wouldn’t exist without social networking. We never would have been able to bring together the amazingly talented bunch of individuals we now call “family” – many of whom we’ve connected with on a level that transcends the creativity aspect.
That said, it’s definitely a double-edged sword. It’s no secret that I’m absurdly scatterbrained, utterly disastrous at multi-tasking, and have great difficulty focusing. And since I’m an inherently social creature (with asocial tendencies) it’s quite easy to get sucked into the vortex and piss away hours that could have been spent more productively.
Yet at the same time, a large part of the success (my idea of success, that is) I’ve attained in my various endeavors can be attributed to the genuine relationships I’ve built with people via social networking sites. It’s been well established that far too many (ab)use them to live secret or double lives, often behaving in ways they’d never dare to outside of the Metaverse. In my case, however, what you see and read is what you get – right down to the obnoxious, and at times, malapropos laugh, which typically appears as, “Ahahahahahaha!” More often than not, the folks I encounter on the internet are able to grasp and appreciate my openness, and invariably respond in a favorable manner, putting trust in me, which means the world. After all, there are living, breathing, sentient beings inhabiting those avatars.
I’m at a point in my life where I have zero tolerance for ugliness, insincerity, and time-wasting, energy sapping drama – we only get one ticket to ride the Gravitron, and I don’t know how long my ride is going to last, but I digress, as usual…
So yes, I wholeheartedly agree that social networking, when used properly, has not only been a revelation, but a boon as well.