I think I’m remembering this correctly: A long while ago, in one of your blogs, you participated in BLITEOTW, that gleeful, bloodthirsty day in which participating bloggers write an alternate version of their lives as though it was the zombie apocalypse. I seem to remember elements of this book — or at least your fictional community of Amaranth — turning up in that, not only in your own posts but in those of your friends. Tell me about that, how the whole zombie thing (and the fad for zombie apocalypses these days) played into your thinking about the book or vice versa.
You’ve got a sharp memory! I did, indeed, participate in “Blog Like It’s the End of the World.” I only played that one time, but it was a lot of fun.
At that point in time, I was still a ways out from actually drafting Noise, or even the manifesto inside it (which came first, if I didn’t already mention that), but I was most certainly fascinated by the idea of social collapse. It’s funny, thinking back, I can see how some of the crucial narrative movements in the novel came from those blog posts. That’s when I came up with the name “Amaranth” for a post-apocalyptic nation-state, and it’s also where I developed the “House of Cards,” which, in the novel, is called a “first-place” — somewhere you gather only to move on to your final “Place.” The journey toward Amaranth and the importance of the House of Cards in the novel are pillars of the story’s structure.
The zombies were just a fun blog device. Who doesn’t love zombies, after all?
To be honest, I’m not quite the gluttonous apocalypse reader that you might expect: I’ve never consciously sought out anything because it was apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic. Mind you, I’ve sponged my fair share of apocalyptic aesthetics from the media tide pool without realizing it, but it’s difficult for me to point to formative (long) works of apocalyptic literature.
But, in the interest of drawing comparisons, I’m definitely a The Road guy over the Book of Eli — right now (I haven’t seen Eli yet, so I’ll let you know afterward). Not only do I think McCarthy is a master, but it’s my understanding that Eli leans heavily on religious themes, which is an almost immediate turn-off for me. I find that metaphorizing human action and understanding solely in terms of the invisible agency of a higher power minimizes the human story. And that’s a shame.
As I sit here, though, I’m realizing there may be a few apocalyptic gems that I sought out solely for that purpose. Matheson’s I am Legend suddenly comes to mind. It’s a fantastic read: thematically strong, psychologically aggressive, and (best of all) it doesn’t take the easy way out with some lame, redemptive ending. The 1964 film, The Last Man on Earth, is a fair adaptation of the novel. The recent 2007 film, starring Will Smith, was produced well enough, but the ending was so distorted for, I guess, contemporary viewing palates that it rendered the very title itself perverse and self-aggrandizing.
(And in the vein of that previous parenthetical:) Your blurbs compare you to an interesting pair of predecessors: Chuck Palahniuk on the one hand, William Golding on the other. If you had to pick, which would you prefer, the (new) classic or the contemporary?
Can I have both? I think I’m better likened to Palahniuk, of those two, in terms of execution (but only barely); the tone and theme of Noise are better likened to Golding.
It’s interesting to watch comparisons like this develop. A novel has to be taken as a sort of gestalt — a smooth-edged mass — if a blurber is going to get any grip on it for the purpose of a fifty-word summary. This differs from a thorough review (positive or negative) that takes the time to examine line-craft and voice in a more longitudinal fashion. Blurbs are like bookmarks — they simply keep you oriented. Good reviews are investigations–lauds or indictments — that give you a better understanding of the author himself or herself, instead of merely the book in hand.
Darin Bradley is the author of Noise. You can find out more about Darin at his website; you can read excerpts of the novel at the publisher’s site; and you can learn more about the apocalypse at Darin’s site Salvage Country.
Read a review of Noise:
Other interviews with Darin Bradley: