Noah Cicero is a novelist, poet and short-story writer from Youngstown, Ohio. He has authored six novels, the first of which, his influential and widely-acclaimed small press namedrop The Human War (2003), has just been made into a feature-length film. Cicero's work has been described as 'angry', 'political', 'bleak' and 'absurdist,' among other words. He is currently 31 years of age.
There's been an almost collective young American literary voice emerging, including the likes of Tao Lin, Sam Pink, and others). What is it moving toward? Can you comment on its position within the American literary scene?
Yes, I think we are a group. We read each other's things and have read a lot of the same authors. We have all also been influenced by German and French existentialism which is very different than what goes on in popular literature. Popular literature like Denis Johnson or Dave Eggers doesn't contain philosophy or have any ideas about anything contained in it. Americans have this thing, in the past literature was created by well-read people who had ideas about life, but slowly starting in the 70s it became "as long as it isn't genre it is literature." Ideas and philosophy left literature in the 70s. What has been coming out for the last 40 years has not been literature but "non-genre."
Where is America headed?
Well, I would be more worried about your side of the world. America is about to cut $600 billion from its military which will greatly reduce the power and scope of the American military, it will be the death of the American empire. When America disappears it will create Power Vacuums all over the planet, in political science it is called The State of Nature. America and England held a lot of things in place even if it was ugly at times, but now that America and England won't be able to hold things in place all kinds of strange wars will probably pop up on the planet. We have to remember that before America took over the world, Europeans killed each other constantly for about since the end of the Roman Empire. And for America, America will become shittier and shittier as each year passes, the population of America are very materialistic and obsessed with prestige, Americans don't care about anything, they are proud and stubborn and snobbish which has led to a terrible prejudice of everything.
How hopeful/despondent do you feel about the future?
A small portion of America is protesting right now and trying to learn about what is going on, but the majority are excited about buying flat screens for Christmas so they can sit in their house and watch a giant television.
What are you writing at the moment?
I just wrote a book called NEOTAP, it is 73,000 words, I gave it to my agent, hopefully he can get it published.
How was it working on the production of The Human War film?
It was a lot of fun, the directors Pirooz Kalayeh and Thomas Henwood were a lot of fun to work with. I didn't participate in the writing of the script or much of the film. I let them do it, I don't make movies. I felt honored that someone wanted to make it into a movie at all. I don't understand writers who get mad about people messing their books up, they should be happy it happened at all. Personally I enjoyed the fact that something I wrote gave a chance to the directors, cameramen, actors, and sound people to use their creativity. I went on set a lot for The Human War and Shoplifting from American Apparel, to me a movie set is about a group of people working together to make something, everyone has to do their part and be innovative and creative or the movie won't work. I was happy to participate in that.
Do you feel as if there's a 'message' to give? If there is one, what is that message?
I think the message is that much of modern society and what makes it run is maya, I'm sorry to use that word, but it is the best word for it, maya. The marketers have taken over society, they have convinced most people that happiness lies in buying objects, in looking a certain way, in spending one's days watching television and eating disgusting food from grocery stores.
I think for us, the grocery store is the biggest enemy. In most countries you have markets, you walk to the market and go from personally owned stand to personally owned stand seeking food needed to live. The market is about personal entrepreneurship, about freedom. The grocery store is a corporation selling products from a few select corporations. A market is a human selling products that other humans grew, raised or caught to other humans. I wrote human three times in the last sentence, because it is human.
My great Sicilian grandfather came to America and sold food in the market, then the market got pushed out and my grandfather bought a grocery store, a nice little locally owned store where the people could speak to the owner anytime they wanted, then Wal-Mart and other corporations came and pushed my family's store out. If you want to know what is wrong with American society look at the grocery store. I often buy things from a flea market near my house because I like the idea of talking to the people selling me things, of having conversations with the people around me.
Internet literature has that old thing to it, you can speak to the author, you can speak to the owner of the press, you can communicate with humans.
What, do you think, is the purpose of art?
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