Five Questions with Jacob Wren

Will McCarry: Your piece “The Children’s Book Writer” appeared in our most recent issue of NANO, 6.2. There is a level of humor in the prose about an alcoholic children’s book writer that is refreshing. Do you see flash as being a particularly amenable form to humor?

Jacob Wren: To be honest, I have to admit that I haven’t read very much fiction that self-identifies as ‘flash.’ However, I have read, and written, many short texts over the years. One paragraph seems to me to be just about the perfect length for the contemporary world. And in general there might be something to this question of connecting humor and flash. A joke is quick, short, swift on its feet. Comedy goes fast. A slow joke is a joke that rarely gets a laugh. I’ve also always liked this aphorism: ‘The power of humor to end thought.’ A joke is quick, and that very quickness might have the power to bring something to an end (and also, of course, make something new start.)

WM: Even as a five-year-old I remember feeling like children’s literature was sort of stupid. What’s your take on contemporary children’s literature?

Jacob Wren 3 photo by BrancolinaJW: I also have to admit that I haven’t actually read any contemporary children’s literature. And, while confessing, I might as well also admit that, for the most part, I avoid children at all cost. I don’t know if we can call this a phobia, but if there is any way of avoiding children I do so. In fact, when my friends have children, I often simply stop being friends with them, or find some way to continue the friendship in which I basically never encounter their children. This might also beg the question: why am I so afraid of children? I have two theories, neither of which I am able to verify: 1) because, when I was a child myself, the other children were mean to me and I still haven’t gotten over it; or 2) because I see that they will have to grow up and live in this world we are creating for them and I find this fact almost too sad to bear.

WM: Everybody seems to be talking these days about how children possibly have too much structure in their lives. Given what your character has expressed here with the notion that “Children love anarchy,” do you feel this theory proves true in today’s society?

JW: I don’t know whether or not “Children love anarchy,” since, as mentioned above, I have almost no contact with real children. However, I do feel that if children were raised differently, let’s say, for example, outside the constraints of the nuclear family, this might do the most to alter how we are as a society and how we live today. I sometimes suspect that raising the majority of children differently might be the only way to deeply undermine capitalism (a goal I believe is worth striving for), but of course I have no real way of knowing this is true. And it is unlikely I will find out, one way or the other, any time soon.

WM: What for you makes for a successful flash piece?

JW: I like reading ideas. I like when narrative and ideas, through some strange, subtle alchemy, become one. I want a literature that is unafraid to think (and also finds thinking and feeling to be in continuity.) I know that my tastes in literature are generally not the tastes of the majority and this often makes me confused, at times even slightly panicked. I’m not confident that my own writing lives up to my literary ideals, nor should it. Ideals are things to be strived for, not goals we can effectively obtain.

WM: What else can we look forward to from you?

JW: I am almost finished a new book entitled Polyamorous Love Song that will be published some time in the next few years. It is about many things. One of the things it is about is a group of people who wear furry mascot costumes at all times, fighting a revolutionary war for their right to wear mascot costumes.

Jacob Wren makes literature, performances and exhibitions. His books include: Unrehearsed Beauty, Families Are Formed Through Copulation, and Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed. As co-artistic director of Montreal-based interdisciplinary group PME-ART he has co-created the performances: En français comme en anglais, it's easy to criticize (1998), the HOSPITALITÉ / HOSPITALITY series including Individualism Was A Mistake (2008) and The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information (2011) and Every Song I’ve Ever Written (2012). He travels internationally with alarming frequency and frequently writes about contemporary art.