You might know Joel Huschle from the three decades on writer/singer for the band WCKR SPGT, or perhaps the many side projects of his as a singer over the years. Huschle is also a writer, a performer, and an endlessly creative mind. Hell, I wish I had recorded so many conversations that I have had with him over my lifetime because he is sharp, witty, cutting and never at a loss for ideas or words.
If you are unfamiliar with Joel Huschle, well, you are in luck because his new book on Bamboo Dart Press, False Memories of a Cape Cod Clam Shack, encapsulates all that he is into a book that is just shy of being the size of a 7″ single. Can you imagine that? A six foot tall guy fitting into a 55 page book the size of a 45 RPM record? Careful with that book, Eugene, both sides are hits.
Your book captures your voice which so many folks that know of you will recognize from nearly four decades of writing & recording with WCKR SPGT. I wonder if some of this was written in the absence of recording with WCKR SPGT
Even in the occasional absence of recording and collaborating with Spgt, I feel that much of my output is grounded in the Spgt ethos. Wckr Spgt is in me. Like a welcome disease.
The footnoted diary entries at the bottom of entries which include errands to run, jotted notes and miscellany from the day are fantastic. Was this a conscious effort to ground some of these short stories of grandeur?
Mark Givens (the editor of this chapbook) was given the task of organizing the placement of the footnoted entries. He was able to add a depth to this project that, frankly, knocked my socks off. He and I have collaborated for 40 years and I consider his input to actually be tapped in to my thought process. I handed him, through email, a disorganized heap of writings and he turned it into something I am immensely proud of.
The melding of heartache and absurdism in your writing is amplified by the starkness of delivery in the book. It is an odd mix of lyrics, short stories, essays and asides that succeeds as a whole. I love that the book disarms by being intensely personal and injecting fabulism into the everyday. Did you intend to straddle both worlds?
I have always straddled both worlds. Is it intentional? I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of intentionality. I know of no other way I could be. Some of the more bleak entries stemmed from my retirement from the mental health field that was hastened by choosing to surrender my LCSW license because of my DUI in November of 2016. I went through a few years when fabulism was crushed and I was basically in survival mode.
I read the book a third time and it struck me as autobiography. “Tattered and Thin”, one of the last pieces in the book almost serves as an introduction of who you are to the reader, in the manner of how we shorthand a friend that another friend of ours is about to meet for the first time.
Each thing I write is probably autobiographical. “Tattered and Thin” is perhaps the closest I can get to understanding spirituality. Holy books bore the shit out of me, which is why my holy book would be more of a quick read.
I am forever interested in the physical spaces of the Inland Empire and the how they are presented by writers of the area. You play around with Puddingstone and The Port of Long Beach, presenting alternate visions of them but not very far removed from what they are. Were you born in Southern California?
Born in Minnesota. My father worked for Honeywell and got transferred to Massachusettes when I was three. Then he got transferred to Southern California in 1974. So I have been here since I was nine. It feels like home. Puddingstone Reservoir has always fascinated me. It is a sad and beautiful place. There are warning signs stating that the fish are toxic to eat, yet they allow fishing. The folks catching the fish do not heed these warnings, probably because they’d rather feed their families toxic fish instead of watching them starve.
I think your line about the center of a chair being a “sitty center” is the perfect example of how your writing works. You are mucking around with geography and language, making a huge joke that the center of the metro area is merely a place for folks to rest their asses.
The “sitty center” comes from some of my more recent writings. I like haiku because I am lazy and have a short attention span. Puns come easily to me and I am in a constant psychic struggle to not verbalize the word/meaning structures that are being built in my mind. I am also in awe of chairs. They are everywhere.