The Beat Writer – An Interview with Elliot C. Mason
This week I have been speaking to Elliot C. Mason, a young English poet, novelist and playwright. He currently lives and works in London but has spent much of his adult life abroad, travelling, writing and working a host of unusual jobs, including busking in New York, gardening in Switzerland, cleaning super yachts in Monaco and loading freight cargo in Buenos Aires.
He released his first novel, Goodnight, Gustav Klein, last year and has written and directed a number of plays for independent London theatres in 2014. Much of his work is fuelled by a dystopian, booze-fuelled vision of the world, with a focus on themes of life and death, society, love and, perhaps more than anything else, lust. Here is his own version of events:
How did you get into writing?
I began listening to Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Tracy Chapman, Lou Reed… they were saying something, and to me it seemed that the only way to justify my consumption of resources and oxygen on this planet was to try to say something too.
How would you define your style?
I would hope to be able to describe it as real; something representative of humanity: our farcical misery, our capricious emotions, our mundane madness, etc.
Much of you work is quite dark, why is that?
Because happiness is too easy; it says very little and lasts only until sadness inevitably presides. I do not understand our contempt towards sadness and obsession with happiness: we should be more concerned about intelligence and stupidity; or at least life and death.
Who are your main influences?
In general life, the beautiful people after whom I lust at lonely bus stations early in the morning, but in literature, nothing too distant from the treacherous realm of normality: Vonnegut, Orwell, McEwan, Bukowski…
Who is your favourite author?
Probably Kurt Vonnegut. He can make you laugh about the most appalling and miserably stark realities of our existence: he can make war funny, for example.
And your least favourite?
Vladimir Nabokov. Or at least he’s the most overrated. I honestly find no benefit or interest in reading any of the three of his books I’ve read. He wrote only for those of such mightily high education as he was and his only subjects were minor variations of himself.
Do you feel it’s important to have read the work of foreign authors?
As important as any leisurely and reclusive means of nudging the fingers of the clock; we can’t all know everything so the best we can do is learn something from everyone we meet.
What/who do you take inspiration from?
Most of my inspiration comes from somewhere inside a bottle, a purple sky at early dawn, a rucksack tied to the top of a bus, a black toenail winking out the hole in a shoe; but men and women sometimes help.
You are very widely travelled, do you think that has an influence on your work?
Everything I do, everywhere I go and everyone I meet affects my writing, as they do everyone else.
What influence does alcohol have on your work?
It slows it down, and yet it wouldn’t start at all without it.
What do you think of the current situation for young writers?
Most of them need to give up: we can’t all be rich and famous.
You published your own book last year and released it independently. How did it go?
I tied my hands behind my back, blinded my vision, gagged my mouth, paddled out to sea and threw myself in without a lifejacket; somewhere, inexplicably, I seem to be floating.
You write novels, short stories, poetry, plays – which is your favourite platform, and why?
Poetry. Because it’s the easiest. One should not correct poetry. Scribble it down then throw it to the crowd. Without fail they presume each blunder and drunken mistake to be a high literary conundrum of metaphors and uncountable pentameters far beyond their grasp: on other platforms they merely brand you a fool.
What does the future hold?
The sun turns off, everything ends and there’s silence at last.
We’ll be long dead by then, though, so I wouldn’t panic.
Read a sample of Elliot’s writing (under the pseudonym Arthur Ray) here.
Goodnight, Gustav Klein on Amazon.