JoeyPinkney.com Interview with…
Jon Dambacher, author of “A Strange, Sickly Beauty”
Joey Pinkney: Hello, Jon. Thank you for doing this interview with me.
Jon Dambacher: Hello. Excuse my tardiness, the meal ran longer than expected.
Joey Pinkney: Not a problem at all. I’m happy that we are able to make this connection.
Jon Dambacher: Likewise. Thank you.
Joey Pinkney: Your book, “A Strange, Sickly Beauty”. Why this title?
Jon Dambacher: The title sums up our intellectual experience as inhabitants on this lovely planet. It also comes from Eugene Ionescu and Dostoevsky.
Joey Pinkney: For readers who are not familiar, including myself, who are they?
Jon Dambacher: Ionesco was Romanian. Involved with the “Theatre of Absurd” and wrote a great many things about human isolation.
Joey Pinkney: And Dostoevsky?
Jon Dambacher: Dostoevsky, I hope people know. He’s a little more well known, least he used to be.
Joey Pinkney: His “Crime and Punishment” might ring a bell for most book lovers.
Jon Dambacher: Dostoevsky is a legendary Russian writer, wrote a great many things about human psychology.
Joey Pinkney: “A Strange, Sickly Beauty” talks about the love, Christianity and loss. What sparked you to tackle those questions with this book?
Jon Dambacher: Those topics are internal experiences – Love, Faith and Loss. Our protagonist happens to become blessed with understanding external motivations, but misses out on internal motivations.
Joey Pinkney: I thought the same thing as I read the book. The points made during the Lobster’s conversations with the other characters made a lot of sense, even when he didn’t fully grasp what he was being told.
Jon Dambacher: I’m interested in linguistic isolation.
Joey Pinkney: Just so the readers know, the main character in “A Strange, Sickly Beauty” is a lobster that becomes human after being boiled and subsequently eaten by a restaurant patron.
Jon Dambacher: He does not become human. He stays a lobster throughout.
Joey Pinkney: Well, human in terms of being able to walk, breathe and verbally communicate in public.
Jon Dambacher: Well, crawling still, but breathing, pushing words from its mouth like we would, yes.
Joey Pinkney: What did the tuxedo that the Lobster wore symbolize in “A Strange, Sickly Beauty”?
Jon Dambacher: The tuxedo is what the only human in the story, the man in the restaurant in the beginning, was wearing. Our protagonist was sprung back to life in the vestments of he who brought about his original demise. There are old diary entries from Nazi soldiers and officials who would have nightmares about seeing themselves in the striped pajamas the Jews wore in the camps. That sort of thing.
Joey Pinkney: Why did you choose to make the characters animals? Why did you choose a lobster, a manatee, a blue-fin and a turtle? Did each animal symbolize a certain idea or concept?
Jon Dambacher: For the readers, this is a story juxtaposing endangered species with homelessness. We’re dealing with two classes of existence: one being almost all physically gone from society and who eject or rejected from society, left alone to make your way to death. The other being abundance.
Joey Pinkney: The blue fin’s spiel was dead on. Through her, you really brought the same arguments and view points on Christianity I’ve heard my whole life. And they were good points. Where did inspiration for her character come from?
Jon Dambacher: Good to hear. Well, if we’re talking symbolism, she represents the fish of the great Biblical story. The surface of it was inspired by street prophets who used to be much more prevalent in the 1960s, looking to relate themselves to others – looking to save and to be saved.
Joey Pinkney: By pulling out the bitterness, you expose some thought provoking matters. What was your intentions for “A Strange, Sickly Beauty”?
Jon Dambacher: Well, that’s very good, thank you. My intentions with this book, as with everything I write, is to do just that: provoke thought.
Joey Pinkney: What has the response been to “A Strange, Sickly Beauty”?
Jon Dambacher: Pardon me for a moment, I have to respond to a person yelling at my window.
Joey Pinkney: No problem.
Jon Dambacher: A gentleman outside obviously doesn’t care for Schubert. I live in a quiet place where they don’t appreciate my night-time hobby of filling the air with stereo piano and string.
Joey Pinkney: Speaking of where you live, why did you base this story in L.A.? And why Sunset and Western?
Jon Dambacher: There’s been no real interesting response to this book, aside from the Satanism thing on Amazon. I spend time in Los Angeles off and on, but I’m a retired ex-patriot now. Sunset and Western: We must put everything into perspective, shouldn’t we? Our footsteps today might be filled by something either incredibly foreign or a bit familiar. The sun will someday set on a barren landscape.
Joey Pinkney: Speaking of the interesting response – Satanism. Demonic. Two words attributed to you. Your thoughts?
Jon Dambacher: I saw the Satanism one, but where did someone call me Demonic?
Joey Pinkney: It’s in the same Amazon review.
Jon Dambacher: Oh, okay. I didn’t give it too much thought. I liked the line “Walt Disney and (my name) have made Satan very happy…”
Joey Pinkney: I thought that was funny also. Switching gears – Bizarre. Simple. Two words used to describe this book on Amazon.com. Your thoughts?
Jon Dambacher: Bizarre and Simple – I like those two words for a description of the book. It’s a very lovely juxtaposition.
Joey Pinkney: It’s a testament to the energy of this book.
Jon Dambacher: I’m glad it provoked someone to put in enough effort to actually write it. Then again, anyone can put anything on the internet. I tried to thank the person, start a dialog, but received no response.
Joey Pinkney: What’s your writing style? How do you mold words into a book like this?
Jon Dambacher: I’ll answer that, then I’d like to ask you a question if I can.
Joey Pinkney: Sure.
Jon Dambacher: The style is different from my last book in the sense that it’s dealing with surreal elements. I dedicated this book to a dear, brilliant contemporary, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., who taught me so much.
Joey Pinkney: Lorenzo Semple, Jr., wrote for the Batman television series and the movie script for Three Days of the Condor? How did you come to gain knowledge from him?
Jon Dambacher: Lorenzo writes with a notion of Dead Serious Nonsense, which I think his work should be celebrated much more than it has. We’re both closer to death than to birth. He deserves monuments. I spent a number of years trying to get in touch with him and finally succeeded a few years ago, forging occasional correspondence. We’re both reclusive animals. He’s now living in Los Angeles. In the mid-sixties, he was here in Spain. I try to reach out to him whenever I’m in town.
Joey Pinkney: Here in Spain? What part of Spain do you reside?
Jon Dambacher: Forgive the disjointedness here. I want to answer all your questions and converse clearly. Salvador Dalí’s “Ghost” and “I Howl” at the moon are together here in Figueres.
Joey Pinkney: Who is your publisher?
Jon Dambacher: For the last two books, they were published by The Trashy Novel Corp. which is also Silverlake Books from Los Angeles, CA.
Joey Pinkney: How did you hook up with The Trashy Novel Corp.?
Jon Dambacher: May I ask, what did you think of the book, Joey? Be honest.
Joey Pinkney: Since I review books from various genres, I always make it a point to keep an open mind when reading. It’s not that hard to do because I love reading. In reading “A Strange, Sickly Beauty”, I was very intrigued by the detail of the opening scene.
Jon Dambacher: The boiling scene?
Joey Pinkney: Yes, I think you did a great job of describing the horror, torture and survival instincts of the boiling scene. Then, the lobster took on human characteristics.
Jon Dambacher: Thank you. The whole book was inspired by a horrific scene I witnessed of a vat of lobster being cooked to death.
Joey Pinkney: I had no clue what was going on until he mentioned the street signs – Western and Sunset.
Jon Dambacher: Have you been to that intersection?
Joey Pinkney: No, I’ve never been to that intersection. But I gather that a lot of homeless people are in that area.
Jon Dambacher: I challenge you to walk that intersection at 4am.
Joey Pinkney: When I realized that the Lobster was at a street corner, everything unfolded for me. The reading was dense with meaning, so I had to read and re-read certain passages a few times. I did so because I knew there was a reason for every word, phrase and line of dialogue. The manatee scene was mind-blowing. You’ll see why in my review. I felt like I knew the blue-fin. Actually, I know a person just like the blue-fin. And when I ask her simple questions, I get the same style of convoluted answers that make sense but really don’t answer the question being posed. The turtle, I didn’t feel was as powerful as the first two characters. And the end was appropriate and made the story complete.
Jon Dambacher: That’s an old linguistic/semantics technique.
Joey Pinkney: A great beginning, middle and end.
Jon Dambacher: How do you feel about homelessness?
Joey Pinkney: I feel like it’s real. But I don’t think thinks it’s always a problem. I mean, I think there are some people that are homeless, not because of poverty, but because of choice.
Jon Dambacher: That’s true.
Joey Pinkney: In that sense, I think the turtle made some good points on choosing his own path, even if it flies in the face of owning a big house, a car and fancy clothes.
Jon Dambacher: That’s true. I would argue the manatee and sea-turtle would fall into this catagory.
Joey Pinkney: With the current global recession, I think homelessness is a growing problem in the sense of the huge number of home owners who are now experiencing the reality of the false security that housing industry as a whole engenders. Foreclosure on a property that you have put tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars is a bitter pill to swallow.
Jon Dambacher: In the United States, it is, in deed. Personally, I find it fascinating to mix company between people like I’ve shown in the book with shinny, unthrifty people.
Joey Pinkney: Yes, that’s a very interesting juxtaposition.
Jon Dambacher: The mystical vagabonds I’ve met throughout my life, with their pockets and hearts both empty, they’re alone in their conventional unimportance, to do as they like. But, mostly, they try to stay alive. People living on the street are treated just the same as when people walk past a car with its headlights on. The reaction is the same: “Ah, that’s too bad but that’s their problem.”
Joey Pinkney: The Me Generation in full effect…
Jon Dambacher: Today, more and more, it’s a reality. We tirelessly make gizmos which act like humans, and in doing so, produce humans which act like gizmos.
Joey Pinkney: Very true. How did you come across the publisher of your last two books, The Trashy Novel Corp.?
Jon Dambacher: I sent out a series of queries to upstarting publishers, they were the first to respond. At the time, I was really interested in the independent writers coming out of L.A., building their own libraries and work, people like Joe Donnelly of “Slake” magazine, a really bright and curious young L.A. poet named Cliff Weber, also the people of “The Rattling Wall.”
Joey Pinkney: Why pick an upstart? Why not go with a more established name?
Jon Dambacher: Upstarts, typically, are interested in different types of things that the “traditional” publishers can’t sell to the entertainment-minded readers buying books these days.
Joey Pinkney: How has the reception of your work been in L.A.?
Jon Dambacher: I don’t know, to be honest. My “Sour Candies” books are in the independently-owned bookstores there, but I haven’t seemed to gather many of their readers. We’ll see if that changes once “A Strange, Sickly Beauty” is made into a paperback. The things that have been brought to my attention, the comments, different emails, letters, etc., have come from people outside of LA.
Joey Pinkney: What are the other titles you have had published?
Jon Dambacher: The others that have been published, the books, are “Gyratory Jabber,” in 2005, “Sour Candies” in 2011, and mountains of private unpublishable literature I’ve amassed over the years.
Joey Pinkney: Why not start a publishing company?
Jon Dambacher: Would I start a publishing company for my own work or the work of others?
Joey Pinkney: I would say both. You would do it to published those unpublished pieces to give them the light of day. You would also help others get their works accessible to a larger readership.
Jon Dambacher: I would feel suffocatingly guilty about that “larger readership” part, with regards to the other’s work. At my age, Joey, I’m as private as the diaries of a caveman.
Joey Pinkney: It must be a balancing act to be so private, yet write novels for publication – or even doing an interview like this, for that matter.
Jon Dambacher: I’m a writer first. I’m a person third. I’m all for typing back and forth across the globe with you in comfort of my own little candle-lit room.
Joey Pinkney: That makes sense.
Jon Dambacher: Does it? There’s still possibility that I’ve been wrong this whole time.
Joey Pinkney: In closing, what would you say to all of those other closet writers who haven’t taken the leap into becoming a published writer?
Jon Dambacher: To any artist, present a match to someone who has long-abandoned their love for candle-making.
Joey Pinkney: Good show. Thank you for your time, Jon.
Jon dambacher: Likewise, Joey, this internet connection is something other than useful, sorry for the inconsistency.