Form & Void
|Phonebook Volume #14|
|Collects Issues: 251 - 265|
|1st Printing||1000 copies|
|Date of 1st Print||May 2001|
|# of Pages||300|
Question on the test of Cerebus following Rick's instructions from his dream moved to Issue 260.
05/05: 5. Cerebus' father's death: In your opinion, did Cerebus have a mystical alarm clock which he should have heard when his father was dying?
DAVE: I wouldn’t approach the question, personally, because it would undermine what I thought was one of the more effective points I was able to make in telling the aftermath of the Going Home storyline—the possibly-real, possibly-false memory of what Magus Doran said or didn’t say. In my experience the mind does play tricks on itself like this, which is one of the reasons that I work very hard at remembering sequences of events and conversation while still being amenable to admitting that if I have no conscious memory of it, that doesn’t mean that something didn’t happen—and within limits. I would have remembered if Jeff Smith had threatened to give me a fat lip, as an example. How would you forget something like that sitting in someone’s living room? Chris Shulgan related an anecdote to me from his interview with Ger that didn’t ring a bell. And that’s what I told him. I don’t remember that taking place, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t take place. And it also doesn’t mean that it did. For emotion-based individuals, which Cerebus definitely is, the memory seems to play these tricks in moments of great emotional stress. I think I mentioned last time (or it might have been in a letter I wrote) that I think Cerebus missed the point in a lot of ways about the nature of Sand Hills Creek (local mythology holds that Kitchener was once called Sand Hills, which rych mills, a local historian has pretty definitely disproved). The place I pictured was closer to the size of Gananoque than any incarnation of Kitchener I remember, but there are similarities: one being that people who leave tend to come back no matter how much they didn’t like the place and couldn’t wait to get out. That’s always the side I knew. Someone would move away from Kitchener and then I’d see them back at Peter’s Place a year later. The side I never thought of (always being on this side of it) was that there was never a big Hey, Welcome Home. Just a, ? I thought you moved to Vancouver. So, what I’m saying is I think Cerebus was expecting more than he would’ve gotten even if he had come home before his father died. His father wouldn’t have welcomed him back and neither would anyone else. There are Sand Hills people who stay and Sand Hills people who go. Cerebus went. It put him “out of tune” with Sand Hills Creek. He was probably always thinking in the back of his mind of being the homecoming hero which only showed how out of tune with the place he was. He got shunned as much for showing up with a harlot as not being there when his father died. There’s a whole list of things that would’ve gotten him the same reception, unwritten rules for those places that everyone knows who stays there. I was documenting something that was the complete opposite of me. I’ve lived here since ’58 apart from three months in Honolulu and two months in Gainesville Florida. Warmer weather wasn’t a good enough reason to be away from the place that I live. That was seventeen years ago and I’ve never once thought, I should go live somewhere else for a couple of months or a few years.
Question about Cerebus knowing that his father had died moved to Issue 241.
Question about Cerebus & Jaka meeting Ham & Mary moved to Issue 251.
Q2: You have said that the core moment in *Form &Void* was the revelation of Ham's sexuality (pp 522-523). Can you please discuss why this is the core moment in the book?
DAVE: Well, because it was the core moment in my Hemingway research and a core point in the history of masculinity in the Twentieth Century, in my view. Arguably the watershed moment when everything went wrong. If Hemingway was actually a transsexual at heart that certainly eviscerates every idea of what masculinity is for those generations of men who didn't look at Hemingway first as a writer but, rather, first as a man and as a kind of "ultimate man" the sperm who won, the lead dog. As a boy growing up, I was aware of Hemingway being in that category (as was John F. Kennedy, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and the other "Right Stuff" astronauts, Norman Mailer -- and for me, Neal Adams etc. etc.) and you just take it as a given that it's real. Thats who they are. The more you read about these guys, the more you realize that they actually were that way. They have their foibles but, as an example, I am untroubled by JFK's womanizing. It's a side note compared to who he was and what he accomplished What was interesting about Hemingway was that the more I read about him, the *less* he seemed that way. Even when he seemed to (to himself) to be pushing the envelope of masculinity, it seemed to me that he was just being a theatrical idiot. Like eating lion meat. That wasn't masculine, that was Noble Savage crap. "I shall eat the lion and the lion will be contained within me." No, you will eat the lion and you will look like a cartoon schnook caricature of who you want to be.
So it came as no great surprise to me that he liked "playing girlfriend" with Mary and with his other wives. He wasn't an "ultimate man", the sperm who won or the lead dog: he was a girly man who was taking extraordinary pains to compensate for his "swishy" nature with showy displays like eating lion meat and big game hunting and deep-sea fishing. I had no stake in seeing him any other way than the way his own actions and words revealed him to be. If I had, I would have looked at the fact that Mary's autograph original diary no longer existed and that all we had was what she maintained was an accurate typescript of what Ernest had written in the book and I would hve erected a firewall between that and my hero Ernest Hemingway: "Mary was just making it up out of professional jealousy and as part of their marital grudge match". But there was a long history of distinctly transsexual behaviour in Hemingway's past and that mammoth typescript for the "Garden of Eden" that even Hemingway pronounced unpublishable in which, it seems to me, he attempted to pull those two sides of his life together -- to preserve his status as ultimate man, the sperm who won, the lead dog, while admitting that he liked turning his wives basically into 'kitten brothers' and bunging them up the ass.
In my view he did a grave disservice to masculinity and set in motion a lot of the crap we are awash in today. He did so, I think, to such a profound extent that most people reading what I'm writing here will see it as a quaint notion of a bygone era that there might actually even BE such a thing as an ultimate man, the sperm who won and the lead dog or that any attention should be paid to it (apart from warning women and children and homosexuals to stand clear and clucking your tongue at it).
Eating the lion meat, I think, provoked the confessional and the confessional amounted to Hemingway -- as a false man, as an illusory man, as a traitor to his gender in whom two whole generations of men had invested their own faith in the intrinsic "rightness" of masculinity, their proxy masculinity, their own perception of Hemingway as a "lead dog" -- making the intrinsically false concession that men and women are interchangeable and that a transsexual like himself could therefore also be a "lead dog". In light of what we have reduced ourselves to as a society I think Hemingway has to shoulder more than what most people would see as his own fair share of the blame.
One of the jobs of the "lead dog" is to perceive accurately and to maintain boundaries. On December 20, 1953 to the extent that it was possible for him to do so, Hemingway took his inaccurate and perverse perceptions of reality and writing in Mary Hemingway's diary, used them to dismantle the ancient and sacrosanct boundary between masculinity and femininity.
Since everyone reading this is going to completely disagree that there's any difference between masculinity and femininity or any value in maintaining a boundary between them, I'll just assert that I think that proves that my perception of the historical record of the last 53 years is more accurate than theirs and as living proof of the (possibly permanent) damage that was done to society by Ernest Hemingway and leave it at that.
Q3: You have said that Cerebus' sighting of Rick on the shore in *Going Home* was the fulfillment of Rick's prophesy that they would see each other one more time. Does that mean Cerebus' dream vision of Rick was not real?
DAVE: Well, no, it wasn't. Not in the sense that Cerebus' vision of Rick walking on water was real. Part of the problem is the terminology you're using: a dream and a vision are two different things. There's no such thing as far as I know as a "dream vision." The dream was a dream that was informed by larger sensibilities but they were larger *interior* sensibilities (like his magnifier nature), things that Cerebus knew unconsciously from bits and pieces that he would have heard while awake but which he hadn't assembled into a sensible overview because he was just following Ham and walking in circles. Our largest interior selves allow us to do really stupid things like that until, as Cerebus did, we hit the brick wall of imminent mortality when, I think, larger knowledge tends to seep into conscious awareness. "Tends" but isn't inevitable. I think a lot of times our larger selves are perfectly happy to see us go or are so marginalized by our bad choices that they couldn't talk to us if they were using AC/DC's sound system.
"Necessity is the mother of invention." I mean, the dream was of the old Rick, from pre-Revelation time, the shallow young husband who was far more a boy than a man. Obviously he was just a facade and there was a kind of intrinsic message in that facade itself: "here's some valuable information Cerebus' larger self is telling Cerebus, since Cerebus is at one and the same time the promised redeemer of Rick the Prophet's predictions and also as 'dumb as bag full of hammers' like Rick the husband". Can you picture the Rick of "Jaka's Story" giving anyone valuable advice or knowing anything that was worth knowing?
Q3: If it was real, why did Rick tell Cerebus to leave everything behind, including, apparently, Jaka?
DAVE: Again, this was Cerebus' unconscious mind which knew more of what was going on than Cerebus did consciously. The question posed was the reiterated "What *about* Jaka?" It was close enough to the end of their relationship and the relationship itself had been so intrinsically pointless from the beginning that that was the best answer Cerebus could give himself. The fact that he had no conscious rejoinder meant that he could see the larger wisdom of the reiterated question. This isn't about Jaka. Jaka couldn't be less important in the larger scheme of things. Save her now or leave her behind now, no difference because ultimately you do leave her behind permanently and soon.
Q3: Was this just an arbitrary test of Cerebus' faith, akin to the trials of Job?
DAVE: No, definitely not, in my view. It was Cerebus' larger awareness putting the pieces together (the imminent volcano eruption which would provide his escape route, the fact that the storm had abated temporarily etc.)and communicating the "now or never" quality to his conscious mind.
Q3: Why would Cerebus suddenly feel obligated to follow Rick's wishes anyway? Had he come to believe in Rick's divinity/divine inspiration? Why/When?
DAVE: His larger unconscious self would have. His larger unconscious self knew that he had seen a vision of Rick "drowning guys" and this had primary importance somewhere up ahead and that this was linked to the exorcism that he had undergone at Rick's hands back in the tavern. "Why?" Because a religious vision has a very distinct character of super-reality to it that our higher natures find unmistakable. "When?" Immediately. A religious vision is transformational in every sense of the term. The words of "Amazing Grace" document the experience very accurately. "Was lost but now I'm found." Pre-vision you're not only lost but you aren't even aware that you're lost. The vision clarifies both that you are now found and what the actual nature of lost is. The use of Rick's image was, consequently, a good way for Cerebus' larger mind to communicate the information to his conscious mind. The overwhelming sense of the larger importance of the vision Cerebus had seen would tell him that if "Rick" told him something in a dream it was something important. His unconscious larger mind wouldn't have used the *Prophet* Rick to communicate what it needed to communicate because that would transgress reality in a fundamentally blasphemous way, which is why it used *husband* Rick.
Q3: Can you reveal more of Rick's message that was interrupted by Cerebus' usual ignorance (ie: "Now that [I'm] dead, every[thing] depends on ... [Do you] understand?")? (p582-585/i260)
DAVE: "Now that I'm dead, everything depends on you. Do you understand?" His conscious mind -- loudly mulling over the information previously imparted that Cerebus is apt to run into trouble through not paying attention -- missed what was said. So it functioned as a double warning. It was Inherently True and a core point of the vision Cerebus had seen of Rick that when Rick was dead, everything would depend on Cerebus because his largest awareness would know that he was going to live a long, long time; much longer than Rick. Telling Cerebus that he's not paying attention and then telling him something important that he wasn't aware of consciously that Cerebus missed by not paying attention awakened other parts of his awareness closer to his conscious mind that this was a clear and present danger and would cause those parts to smarten up. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" as the Synoptic Jesus put it. Most of the conscious minds listening, I'm sure, went, "Huh?" Which proved the point to their less conscious and unconscious and super aware minds. "Right. I have ears, but I'm not listening in any meaningful sense of the term. And that's not good." By seeing the conscious mind miss a valuable piece of information because it wasn't paying attention (and that it wasn't paying attention because it was too busy mulling over being told it wasn't paying attention) that would tell other unconscious parts of his mind to pay closer attention.
Q4. It is interesting to note that the Cirinists in the northern country speak, like Cerebus, in the third person. Still, like their southern sisters, they REALLY want to nail Cerebus (hence the expedited gun hunt). This raises the question as to why they are even bothering to observe such niceties. Is there value to having public evidence with which they can indict Cerebus (implying his former positions of Prime Minister and Pope still hold some importance)? If not, why not just send a garrison to kill him in the night? Is it because they want to get him out of the picture in a way which will seem "fair" to Princess Jaka? If so, why would that be important to them? (pp611/i262)
DAVE: It was more because of the inherent problem of what happens if you kill The Great Cerebus. They had killed Rick by this point and I suspect all that had done was to accelerate the institutionalizing of the viewpoint which is essentially what happened with Christianity. Far from slowing the spread of Jesus' teachings, the crucifixion only acclerated it. Like- wise the effort at suppression of the disciples by executing them. Rick's revelation sort of reversed the pecking order in one sense -- as if Peter had predicted the preeminence of Jesus and then got crucified for doing so which had accelerated the spread of the new religion (or Jewish heresy, depending on your viewpoint). It seems to me that if killing the metaphorical "Peter" had caused that acceleration, that would give the Cirinists pause for thought. What happens if you actually kill "Jesus" after that? It would seem too risky. In another sense, that's also what happened with Christianity. I assume that when Herod had John the Baptist executed that that had excited an exponential leap in size and earnestness of the ministries of both the Synoptic and Johannine Jesus'. Which I suspect bought them both a certain amount of time until the Sanhedrin hit the "either/or" wall and had to make a choice.
It bought Cerebus even more time because he wasn't behaving like any sort of Messianic figure. In fact he was really just behaving like a tourist or any one of Jaka's many trophy boyfriends, heading back home to see the folks. It could be a trick or it could be real from the Cirinists standpoint. They were all over him like flies on s--t anytime anything untoward happened but basically they were just staying close and keeping their eyes open. If they could nail him actually transgressing a law that would satisfy the interlinked Cirinist "minds" and make it possible to prosecute and execute him with a minimum of friction. Of course, the backlash among Rick's masculine followers would be more problematic so they would have to really have an iron-clad case. Ultimately, as with Christianity there was no real way to slow things down. Once Rick had been executed, as I think once John the Baptist had been executed it was really just a choice between "fast forward" and "faster forward". "Play" and "reverse" and "quick reverse" had ceased to be viable options.
Q5: As Cerebus nears his parents' home, he feels that this has all happened to him before. He also is confusing Crotch-Face and Bear, as if he experienced these things in the company of both men. Does this suggest that Bear is an echo of Crotch-Face (and likewise, Jaka of Cherie)?
DAVE: Well, yes, in a sense. I think there's always an echoing quality. In terms of "heartthrobs" Cherie *was* Jaka in the sense that she occupied that part of Cerebus' awareness. Cherie was Jaka was Red Sophia was Astoria was Joanne was New Joanne. As the "angel" says to Jesus in Last Temptation when Magdalene dies, "Take another wife -- they're all the same woman, just with different faces." Likewise confusing Crotch-Face and Bear. It's a good way of indicating that a very real moment is coming up ahead where Crotch-Face, a marginal figure in Cerebus' conscious life and Bear the central figure in Cerebus' conscious life both assume the same level of importance which is to say little to no importance.
Q5: If we refer to pages 60 & 61 of *Guys*, we see the first version of the scene outside Cerebus' parents house in a drunken vision. Not every line matches up. Some lines previously spoken are thought, and some words previously thought are spoken. You have stated that this was a bad dream, and that a probable reason that Cerebus inserted Astoria into the scene is because he associates her with bad things. Now, however, Astoria has now been replaced by Jaka. Curiously, both times we see Cerebus' reflection in the window, his severed ear is on the wrong side. The empty chair sits in the same place, and the deck is partially torn up. This could all suggest that these events have happened more than these two times, in different realities, and Sand Hills Creek is some kind of dimensional nexus. Was the vision in Guys a signal that he should come back home to Sand Hills Creek?
DAVE: No, on the dimensional nexus. A dimensional nexus or the idea that alternate dimensions exist, it seems to me is a way of simultaneously acknowledging and denying free will i.e. "I made a bad choice but somewhere in another dimension I made a good choice, so that makes it okay." It seems to me a core element of belief in God that a choice is a choice and it eliminates all other choices. As to whether the dream was a signal? Yes, definitely. It was time, or rather past time. This is how the happy homecoming is going to play out because it's too late to play out any other way. The event was preordained in a real sense. He had obviously had the dream before and my own theory is that we all have these sorts of super-reality core moments in our lives that we visit and revisit and usually forget in our dreams The moment is on the cusp of the watershed moment when he crosses over from Jaka as Core Reality to Jaka as Regretted Mistake. His dreaming mind cast Astoria in the role because his unconscious dreaming mind was aware that this was an unhappy event and would be incapable of seeing any event that included Jaka to be an unhappy event even though every event in his life that included Jaka or someone who looked like Jaka had been and would continue to be an unhappy event. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." "Huh?" The severed ear is on the wrong side because I made a mistake, which I have admitted before and which presumably I will have to admit every time we discuss the reflection in the window. I made a mistake and put the severed ear on the wrong side in the reflection. Ger didn't catch it, so there it is.
Q5: Is it a signal that it was too late, seeing that the chair was already empty? Is the lone, empty chair some kind of Lockout tradition suggesting, perhaps, that Cerebus is some kind of Moorcockian "Eternal Prodigal Son?" Or a magical totem symbolizing that there can never be a "significant other" in Cerebus' life? (pp674-675/i265)
DAVE: Both, actually, and many others besides. On the one hand he has his fulfillment to attain to as the Great Cerebus as described in Rick's book and obviously material goods are going to be of no use in that. In a human sense, it's "Oh, how sad. His childhood home has fallen to ruin and it's been looted and both of his parents are dead." In a theological sense it would be more, "Ah good, a blank slate that can be filled up with the things of God now that all this detritus is gone".
p. 380: "2) Cerebus’ Dad: there are different levels of responsibility. It was just as important for Cerebus to “get past” his concern with what the people of Sand Hills Creek thought of him as it was for him to “get past his Jaka addiction. He had to be both disgraced and heartbroken to be able to become who he had to become. What I couldn’t put in the story was that even if he had arrived home before his parents died, the reaction to him wouldn’t have been altogether different. He didn’t just stay home and rot with them, which was the Sand Hills Creek thing to do. I suspect that everyone who thinks they are going to go away and become rich and famous and therefore be loved in the hometown experiences the same thing: the hometown hates that. It’s just how hometowns are. It presupposes that people are looking for good reasons to love other people or to admire them enormously. It isn’t the case. Wanting to be loved in a general but very intense way by strangers—the usual motivation behind becoming famous—is a really twisted thing to want, so people are justifiably suspicious of people who want it. It’s like public masturbation: embarrassingly self-revelatory to everyone but the person revealing him/herself with that motivation. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t get that across in the book but the plot point about shunning was more important."
Differences in Editions
The first and second editions have blue text for the book title and creator's names on both the front and spine of the book. The third edition has white text on the front and black text on the spine. The hue of the two different edition's cover picture is slightly different as well.