an imprint of counterpoint

The Blue Light Project—free ebook!

Soft Skull is excited to announce that Timothy Taylor’s brilliant THE BLUE LIGHT PROJECT is currently featured at Barnes & Noble’s FREE FRIDAY program—get it now while the download’s hot!

The book’s been getting rave reviews, and internationally acclaimed street artist Banksy even tweeted about it. So we sat down with Taylor to talk about everything from the private underground world of street art to his motivation as a writer:

Soft Skull Press: Both reality television and street art play large roles in THE BLUE LIGHT PROJECT. Do you think art can save us? Do you think “reality”-obsessed media will be our undoing?

Timothy Taylor: I consider reality television to be a quasi-sacrificial structure. We elevate these willing participants to some pedestal of visibility for the express purpose of watching them fall. It’s an old anthropological impulse, that one. Kill a victim to feel better. In this case, our culture is infected by the yearning for acclaim, renown, fame, celebrity. And to scratch that collective itch we burn a celebrity from time to time. Since Charlie Sheen is not always available, sometimes we call on amateur volunteers. There’s an endless supply of them, as any watching of American Idol illustrates.

As for whether art can save us, probably not. But you can look at street art as an emblem of something that just might. There’s a kind of motive-mystery in street art. Sure Banksy is famous. But for the most part it goes up anonymously and holds out no hope of acclaim, renown, fame, celebrity etc. Yet as sites like Wooster Collective show, it continues all over the world, 24/7: this giving away of the artist’s best creative impulse. And when the viewer stops and marvels at a given work, part of the spark relates to that motive-mystery. Why would this person do this thing with no conventional reward to be reasonably expected? And I think there’s a kind of power in that moment, the sense of having received a gift. If we allow ourselves to be inspired by the giving away, the essentially self-less act, well I suppose then that might just save us.

SSP: How did you first connect with the underground street art world?

TT: I developed friendships with some street artists living in Vancouver. From there it branched out and I’m in contact with a number of others. I was an outsider. They let me in to hang around and watch them develop work and put it up. I’m grateful. It’s not the easiest world to access. And some outsiders are hostile to it. So these guys (they were mostly guys) took a flyer on me.

SSP: What was your writing process like for this novel?

TT: I wanted the book to read with some urgency, as this reflects my feeling about the cultural moment. With that in mind I wrote away from my office, which is maybe too comfortable and too characterized by familiar things and views. I wrote at a small table in my bedroom instead. It was painful. I couldn’t spread out in any way, just had to hunch over the keyboard and peck away. This approach yielded a very bad first draft from which the novel was ultimately pulled, kicking and screaming.

SSP: Who are some of your literary influences?

TT: I can only say the writers I admire, or some of them. I admire Don DeLillo, Janet Frame, Mordechai Richler, Mavis Gallant, Rick Moody. You can see I’m all over the place.

For more about Taylor and THE BLUE LIGHT PROJECT, head over to his online home.

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