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Monday, September 4, 2017

Talking with Znore, blogger at 'Groupname for Grapejuice'

Not too long ago, I listened to a podcast that featured Znore, who lives in Japan and who writes the wonderful Groupname for Grapejuice blog, which I've been a fan of for quite awhile now.

There were several people in the podcast, but I felt Znore dominated it. I was a little jealous of the folks in the podcast. Imagine being able to have Znore to myself for a little while and to be able to ask some questions, too!

So I wrote to Znore and asked him if he would take some questions, and he said yes! I hope I asked some of the questions you would ask if you had some of Znore's time and attention.

About Znore himself, I can tell you little, other than what you might work out reading his blog (and listening to the podcasts in which he takes part). When I asked him to tell me a little bit about himself, he replied, "There is not much to say about me. I work in Tokyo, I have a family and I am blessed to live close to the beach." What moved you to begin your Groupname for Grapejuice blog in July 2012? Isn't the title of the blog a James Joyce reference?

ZNORE: I guess the blog can trace its roots back to 2008, RAW, and magic mushrooms. In Sept. of that year I picked up a used copy of Cosmic Trigger 1 in Toronto. I had read a bunch of Wilson's books in the '90s, but I never managed to get my hands on the Trigger. I was super excited to crack it open because it always seemed, when reading his other stuff, to be the main hinge of his work. I ended up reading it back in Japan that Fall around the same time as I had a very memorable mushroom trip in the forest. The trip was important both because I hadn't shroomed for quite a while, and also because it broke me out of a severe absolutist-conspiracy-theory loop that'd I been trapped in for about three years. Within minutes of feeling the effects of the psilocybin in the woods, I realized that a unitary and omnipotent power structure was just impossible. And Cosmic Trigger confirmed this revelation.

This did not mean, however, that I gave up on the idea of occult conspiracies. On the contrary. I only realized that any conspiracy, as on any other level or layer of nature, would have to be matched by several other competing and cooperating conspiracies. The absolutist view is a dull yet insidious fiction. It is like saying that nature is Euclidean when it is actually made up of n-dimensional, multi-sensory, protean fractals. Or something even more than this. This of course is also RAW's view.

Anyway, reading the Trigger triggered a whole series of somewhat disturbing synchronicities involving the star, Sirius. I now know that these kind of Sirius syncs were happening to quite a handful of people from about 2007-2012, in some cases catalyzed like mine by Cosmic Trigger, but in other cases quite independently of it. I went on this mad Sirius research binge for a couple of years, taking notes on all of the esoteric connections to Sirius from Ancient Egypt on up to Leary and Wilson, and this eventually led me to an online researcher calling himself Monk. Monk is an expert in astronomy and calendars and a fellow Sirius fanatic. The emails I was sending to Monk got longer, more complex and more frantic and finally, as the 2012 London Olympics were creeping closer, I decided to share what I was writing to anyone else who might be interested.
Along this road I also found my way to Joyce, another author I had wanted to study for many years. I began Ulysses, by happenstance or otherwise, on 3/11/11, the day of the big earthquake and tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. I finished it and began Finnegans Wake on the following Bloomsday. Both blew me away, but the Wake especially affected me. It seemed, and still seems, to be the culmination of everything that I was looking for. It directly extended into my blog. The title, Groupname for Grapejuice, was chosen "randomly," by a sort of bibliomancy, but in retrospect I see it as being planned in some fashion. The phrase is found on p. 261 as a snarky footnote by Issy on "Ainsoph." I now see this Dionysian intersection with the Kabbalah as containing galaxies of meaning. My blog is trying to explore these.  I read "Dubliners" for the first time when I was in high school and tried to read "Ulysses" right after I graduated and couldn't finish it. I got serious about reading James Joyce a few years ago when I realized how important his writing was to Robert Anton Wilson, and so I read it all the way through, and then read it a second time. I am planning a third reading, partially inspired by your recent podcast. Did Robert Anton Wilson influence you to read Joyce?

Robert Anton Wilson says that James Joyce's "Ulysses" should be read 40 times. How many times have you read "Ulysses" and "Finnegans Wake"? What did you notice the last time you read "Ulysses"?

ZNORE: From reading Wilson's books, I knew that Joyce was a very big influence on RAW. Yet this is true for several authors that I'm into. Definitely Wilson was a big prod to read Joyce, but not the only one. I didn't read his masterful essays on the Wake in Coincidance, though, until well after I had read Finnegans Wake. I wonder if they would mean anything to someone who has not read Joyce. It's a shame that those essays have not been seriously considered by the academics.

I've read Ulysses straight through about 3 times, and the Wake twice. Yet with the Wake I have been dipping into it constantly since I first started reading it. I don't know how many times that would work out to be in total. It's on the table beside me now. Definitely I've missed parts in these subsequent "readings." For a time I was using it as kind of a day book (reading the page whose number corresponds to the present date) and I also use it as a sort of I Ching oracle. I flip through it when suffering from insomnia (as Joyce suggested) and I also consult it when something significant happens in my life or in world events. Joyce seriously (with his usual ironic spin) considered it to be a work of prophecy, and that is pretty much how I take it. I have also read an enormous amount of critical material on Joyce and this always brings me back to the texts.
When I read Ulysses again in May/June, the big thing that struck me was that the language itself is part of the plot. Joyce is trying on the style of authors throughout the history of English literature and offering them to the Muse. The Muse, in this case, is Penelope/Molly Bloom/Nora Joyce/ALP. Every artist, especially every male artist, who has been filled with the Muse -- who has created a true work of vision -- is ultimately a cuckold. Her light shines on each artist only temporarily, in moments of "inspiration," but then it moves on to someone else. The line of suitors to the Muse is without beginning or end. Realizing this on one level, Leopold Bloom finds "equanimity." The whole idea of the "cuckold" is exposed as nonsense here. No legal ownership or exclusive marriage to the Muse is possible. We are, if we are extremely blessed, merely one of a series. The language of a particular author flows through the Muse, but it no way binds her. That, I think, is the main lesson of Ulysses. Joyce is bringing back the acknowledgement of the Muse to Western literature. She has always been there, of course, but she was not fully recognized for centuries. This error is the folly of paternity, or of the Demiurge, which is a major theme throughout his work. You obviously know a lot about the topics you write about. Can you suggest 1-2 favorite titles to get someone started in studying myths? And do you have one or two favorite books to recommend for people beginning a study of James Joyce's work?

ZNORE:  I don't know what to suggest about getting people started in studying myths. I'm reading D'Aulaire's Book Of Greek Myths to my kid, and the art and the writing in it is excellent. As a very basic starting point this book is great. I think everybody, though, should read The Iliad and The Odyssey. From there Hesiod's Theogony and Ovid's Metamorphoses are essential for a wider scope. Ovid is really fun. As for more modern takes, there is Robert Graves' two-volume Greek Myths, but likely the most readable and enjoyable book is Robert Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. And if you want to getting deeper into the pre-Homeric, pre-Olympian, fertility-cult roots of Greek religion then check out the work of Jane Harrison, old but still inspiring. But this all is just the Greeks.

For the study of Finnegans Wake, say, I'd recommend trying to find James Atherton's The Books at the Wake. This examines most of the major "structural books" that Joyce uses in the Wake as well as many of the minor books. This book began an ongoing plunge into literature for me. Finnegans Wake open all books. Then there is Campbell and Robinson's Skeleton Key, of course, which is good but it has its own spin like everything else. For a general book on Joyce's work, I've found Tindall's A Reader's Guide to James Joyce to be helpful. But just read Joyce. Out loud if you can. Let it wash over you like free jazz and consult the guides afterwards, if necessary. I had never heard of Jane Harrison, but I looked her up on Wikipedia, now I need to read her! I've read books on Joyce, but now it's time to try Tindall.

I wrote in my blog entry today that I think you are a "really good literary critic." Would you talk about who some of your favorite writers are?

ZNORE: Thanks, but I don't think that I would call myself a literary critic. When I read the work of Hugh Kenner or Kathleen Raine or Northrop Frye or Richard Ellmann, I realize how far short I fall of that profession. I haven't got the patience to defend the connections I make with academic "rigour". I'd rather be poetic about it and let readers find their own connections or not. So I'll likely remain as some sort of mutant hybrid of inadequate critic and bad poet. My only hope is that if I persist in my folly that I'll find some wisdom somehow.

I have a huge list of favourites. Joyce is at the top and RAW is right up there, but I'd also include William Blake, Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, Robert Duncan, H.D., Tolkien, Dante, Henry Miller, Thomas Pynchon, D.H. Lawrence, Kerouac, Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Gertrude Stein, Gustav Meyrink, Herman Hesse, Dostoyevsky, Aeschylus, Stanislaw Lem, Rabelais, Charles Olson, Ovid, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Traherne, Herman Melville... There are others who don't come to mind, but these are all authors who have helped to shape my perception.

Outside of literature I'd include Emma Goldman, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Jung, Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, the Bible, Peter Lamborn Wilson, Allen Upward, Plato, Nietzsche, Giordano Bruno, Robert Graves, Deleuze, Derrida, Baudrillard, Lev Shestov, Nagarjuna, Rene Guenon, Ioan Couliano, Georges Bataille, Frances Yates... I've likely forgotten a few here, too. Pretty white, male and dead, I'm afraid.

[A little later]. I left out McLuhan! [And then a bit later]. ...and Terence McKenna (this is probably going to keep happening so I'll stop here). In your blog entry for May 31, 2016, you wrote that you are working on a book. How is that coming along? Do you have any news? 

ZNORE: My book project -- really getting previous blog entries published in book form -- is creaking along slowly. I'm trying to get it done independently so both the friends involved in the project and I are trying to squeeze working on it into already very busy schedules. I hope it is still relevant when it finally arrives. On the plus side, the cover art is completed and it is wonderful. My goal is to try to have the writing measure up to the cover.  I'm interested in people's reading habits, and you obviously are a serious reader. Do you stick to paper, or do you also read ebooks? Do you listen to audiobooks? And when you are going on a trip, do  you stew about which books to take with you to read? Do you usually get  your books online or in bookstores? 

ZNORE: I have never read an entire ebook, but I have printed out books that I've found online. I don't read as carefully when I'm looking at a screen. I don't own a smartphone and a big reason why I don't is because I like to read books on the train while commuting. I know that if I did have a smartphone that my reading would suffer. I get enough Internet at home. I do occasionally listen to audiobooks, but usually I don't have time to do this. I have ordered many books online, but I prefer finding books randomly at the last remaining used bookstores. There is a magic in finding a dusty book on a back shelf that you've been seeking out for a long time. Used books, especially with penciled-in marginalia, lead to insights that you can't find with ebooks or new copies. I make huge lists of books I'd like to read over the year. Usually I get diverted into one subject or another and the lists branch off into other lists. The problem with going on a trip is deciding which books not to take. 


michael said...

I loved reading this interview. Thanks!

Znore seems too modest about his abilities as a literary critic; I think he's doing a type of criticism that ought to be done more often, by more people. He could defend his ideas, but would rather get the readers drawn in more, and thinking for themselves.

What a fine mind this person is.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I'm not sure if he's being modest or suggesting a category error on my part, but I was very happy to get the interview and I'm pleased you enjoy it.