We had the good fortune of connecting with George Salis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi George, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Our society is definitely not designed with the artist’s life in mind. That’s why there are so many people scrambling for coveted university positions and why there are so many grant applications but precious few grants. The American government puts little stock in the arts and that’s reflected in the funding or lack thereof. America’s greatest living writer, Alexander Theroux, is insolvent and can’t find a publisher for most of his work. That example alone should demonstrate the problem that exists. I make time for writing and reading as much as possible by working less. And while I have less money to my name, I’m able to get by and have a richer soul for it. There are enough resources on the planet to the point where nobody would have to work if they didn’t want to, but the distribution of those resources is severely disproportionate. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Americans live under what would be called a plutocracy.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I first started writing with any serious literary intent about halfway through college. Also, I started reading novels seriously around that time after having ditched fantasy and other genre work in high school in order to read science-popularizing books. My nascent ambition was simply to write a story and then another and another. Of course, as momentum built, I became distracted by the external concerns of the writing world, wanting to be published in popular journals, obtain awards and residencies and an MFA, and see my physical novel with blurbs by writers I admired. Thankfully, these distractions did not last too long and I soon realized how circumstantial if not totally meaningless most of those distractions are. My focus came back totally to the words themselves when I discovered the vast world of buried books and neglected authors. I learned that the work of these writers is usually much better than what people are told to read by the New York Times and other mainstream echo-chambers. It’s often the case that these neglected authors write works that are entirely devoid of the distractions named above and more, thus they are pure and fresh and stimulating. And so, in communion with writers such as Joseph McElroy, Wendy Walker, Patricia Eakins, João Ubaldo Ribeiro, Paul West, and many others, I write with freedom of intellect and imagination. Instead of writing one story after another, I now think in terms of one novel after another. My first novel, Sea Above, Sun Below, came out this year (corona/samizdat / River Boat Books). I’m not the best at describing the novel because there are about 12 narrative threads so here’s what you would find on the back of the book: “Upside-down lightning, a group of uncouth skydivers, resurrections, a mother’s body overtaken by a garden, aquatic telepathy, a peeling snake-priest, and more. Sea Above, Sun Below is influenced by Western myths, some Greek, some with biblical overtones, resulting in a fusion of fantastic dreams, bizarre yet beautiful nightmares, and multiple narrative threads that form a tapestry which depicts the fragility of characters teetering on the brink of madness. Within you will find flashes of immolation and mutilation, transubstantiation threaded through thematic and genealogical membranes in a literary voice composed of whispers over wails.” There was a kaleidoscope of inspirations, both before I wrote the novel and during, so it’s difficult to pinpoint one. I could potentially break it down into two chief mandalas, as it were: Icarus and Adam/Eve. In a way, my novel is a roundabout interpretation of those myths. But myths by nature do not exist in vacuums. The fall of Icarus echoes the fall of Satan which echoes the fall of Man which echoes the fall of Finnegan which echoes the recurrent falls of the skydivers in my novel. Most of these connections and more can be found within or between the stories that make up Sea Above, Sun Below. My next novel will be a mammoth titled Morphological Echoes. I have a few more years of work ahead of me, maybe more. It’s a book that contains a universe of stories, connected across time and space by the rearrangement of schizoid atoms, the transmutation of the laws of physics. It’s a polyphonic, multilinear, omni-temporal epic with thematic and syntactic echoes, taking place in 1940s Japan, 9/11 New York, medieval France, ancient Egypt, Neolithic prehistory, and more, with a broken family at its kaleidoscopic core. The novel begins with a myth, a truth: the moon gives birth to a boy and when he grows weary of life on the landscape of his mother, he yearns for a strange planet called earth. After quarreling with his mother over the course of years, she eventually concedes with sadness, and she breathes in with the elasticity of a balloon, causing the moon boy to sink with her surface, and she breathes out, a supernal sigh that sends him on a trajectory straight toward the earth…. I’ve spent almost a year and counting on the ancient Egyptian section alone. It’s my hysterical (in both meanings of the word) and disturbing version of the Egyptian plagues, whittled down to 6, the hexamorphic plagues, and it’s full of wordplay and wrathful gods and goddesses and esoteric rituals and scatology and mummified anatomy turned inside out. I love books that one can live inside if not be totally subsumed by. Morphological Echoes will be one of them.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would tell my friend to keep their bags packed so that we can go on a trip across the world. Some of the best things I’ve experienced include: Chinese opera and walking on the Great Wall in Beijing; visiting the acropolis in Athens; exploring the castle and watching a puppet show in Prague; eating baguettes and going to the Moulin Rouge in Paris; a Chopin piano concert in Krakow; and much more. Of course, America has a lot to offer too, and I’ve enjoyed the massive aquariums in Atlanta and feeding monkeys in Miami, for instance. I consider myself a citizen of the earth and hope to do more traveling once the pandemic is over. Egypt is one destination that’s high on my list.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would not be where I am and who I am without the superhuman support of my beautiful and talented wife, the poet Nicole Melchionda. My debut novel is dedicated to her and so will the next one and the one after that. I owe her everything.
Other: Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16518464.George_Salis The Collidescope, an online literary publication that I edit: www.TheCollidescope.com
Author photo by Nicole Melchionda