Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jean Koning and Pushing the Limits...or Not

Today's guest blogger is Jean Koning, author of the absurd humor non-fiction book Visions.

As most of us were popping pimples pimples and starting puberty, the versatile Jean Koning (or perhaps better known as his musical alter-ego '!JP') was launching project after project to avant garde aficionados.

At the age we were struggling to get our drivers license he was a resident at clubs. While the rest of us were chasing girls, laboring to get through school, or trying to sneak into clubs Jean was already inside of them, busy becoming one of the most original artists in the world. Seems impressive, but I guess when you're studying masters of the trade like Andy Warhol and Arthur Rimbaud while the rest of the kids are studying math and science those kind of things aren't too big of a deal.

From these not so humble beginnings Jean has carved himself a spot in the world of Underground Music that stretches from the Dutch Landscpaes to South East Asia. He has taken steps into music, spoken word, photography, poetry, theatre and film, working with a wide variety of amazing artists while showing off his own formidable talents as well.

With the help of his personal side-kick, the multi-instrumentalist Van Weely, he created almost legendary performances; his own conceptual punk-n-roll shows. Jean has made a name for himself that should be on the lips of art lovers the world over.

Now he is a published author as well. His latest novel was published in 2008 (in Dutch only). His novel Visions, which contains stories and columns written in 2006, is now reissued.

He is married and has a daughter.

For more information about this author and his work visit: http://www.1jp.org/

Pushing writing to the limit is like feeding a two year old LSD; you know that some people on this planet do it, but it is still something shocking and totally unreal. You probably never get in touch with it.

Let’s face it: where you truly satisfied and excited when you read Danielewski’s House of Leaves for the first time? I was going like: okay, Mark, I admire what you’re doing here, but where the hell is the story!

Reading the House of Leaves was like going to a gym class. I was exhausted every time I managed to finish ten pages. By the time I finished the book, I was suffering from both agoraphobia as well as claustrophobia. Which leads to the conclusion that Danielewski did one hell of a job.

Of course I try to push limits myself. Not only am I the King-of-Ignoring-Deadlines, I also put down everything that comes to mind. Let’s focus on my only English book “Visions”. I was invited to write columns for an American e-zine. So my research was based on American writing. Safe, conform to all the rules and standards. But once I started writing, I thought: let’s do it! Why don’t I introduce myself as the Devil Incarnation? Why not – as Jodie Foster stated to Hannibal the Cannibal – “look at yourself in the mirror and write down what you see!” So I did. I thought after my second entry I was next in line to get fired, but I could keep up this form of writing for over a year. A big surprise, you said it.

Because, once you start pushing it and just focus on the reflection in the mirror and write down exactly what you see – without an editor around the corner screaming that you shouldn’t use the same words in writing as the words you use in the private of your own home – you are in the constant danger of being accused of being too fierce.

Do we know some authors, who have actually pushed the limits in their writing and still got published? Milorad Pavic for instance, who wrote a male and female version of the very same book. Or Kobo Abe in his novel Kangaroo Notebook, but then again, it’s just an experimental story. The writing maintains traditional. And what about Andy Warhol’s “A”? This was basically written by a typist once Andy said: “Today, I want… to write… uhm… a… uhm… book!” And he took all his tapes he made in The Factory and the typist typed all the conversations to paper and – applause, applause – there was the novel “A”. Pushing the limit? I don’t think so.

To understand an author who is pushing the limits, one has to understand what “pushing the limits” means. Is it: ignoring the deadlines – like yours truly does? Or is making up new words – or on purpose typos. Or do we mean House of Leaves Revisited?

And – to be honest – I don’t know anymore. Writing has always been the same. One can write beautifully crafted sentences, but they’re still just sentences at the end of the day. It’s a difficult terrain to wander. And what I find pushing-the-limit, the next guy finds bordering-Victorian-boredom– to state something.

Was De Sade truly pushing the limits or did his 120 Days of Sodom just didn’t fit the time-frame? And didn’t Hunter S. Thompson just write down what he saw, while digesting huge amounts of Benzedrine and other Cool Aid-like substances? Was it a limit? Did he truly push it? I don’t think so.

Make up your own mind: I will hand you two sentences and you can pick the one that truly pushes the limits in writing.

One: “His remorse came on just like a green pony, which he rode up and down a hill for the longest time he could remember – if only he hadn’t smoked that much pine-apple-tea in his childhood, he could actually make up his freaking mind about the subject.”
Two: “Y d.o.e.s. Ur



Eating donut s



R a re

You could say that with both the sentences the limits where slightly pushed, but we’ve seen it all before. The only thing remaining is a complete novel written in binary language. But who wants to read that? Or write that, by that matter.

I just do what I do. Write down what I see and like I see it. And if it hurts you, turn the other way. I cannot help it. Honestly I can’t.

But that slightly contradicts with my conclusion that – you didn’t miss it, did you? – pushing the limits in writing simply doesn’t exist. So I don’t push it in writing. I try to do other stuff that freaks people out. And then write about it.

So, in conclusion – once more – the only limit I pushed was to publish the first edition of “Visions” with a Dutch ISBN number and my latest novel – written in Dutch – with an American ISBN. A morbid sence of humor, I guess. But it’s where I draw the line. It’s the limit… For me…

About Visions:

Visions is a collection of columns written for the e-zine The Noise. A surprisingly intimate portrait on life and every day politics, accomplished with a fierce manner of writing.

Inspired by his own research for the musical album 'Notes from Purgatory', Jean Koning digs deep into the well of his personal life and blends the stories he found there with his experiences and visions of the American Way of Life, to portray a whirlwind of emotion, anger and doubt.

Dipped deep in a cocktail of absurdity and melancholy, the swift stories are built upon the eagerness to achieve a deeper understanding in trends, hypes and the corrupt world of commercial art.

The stories' subjects change as swiftly as the Dutch climate. From Amsterdam hookers to New York art openings and the ongoing war in Iraq. From the duality toward American lifestyles and Hollywood productions to Barbie and Ken in a setting of ironic perversity. From a heartfelt letter full of tips for Hillary Clinton to a remarkable talk show with Oprah Winfrey.

Visions is a humoristic approach of the life we lead today, with a huge comment made on worldwide politics. This is our planet today, with America as the prime suspect, Europe as the jury and Koning himself as the brutal judge.

Surprisingly enough, Koning doesn't point a finger of blame at anyone without pointing that finger at himself first."

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