Greggory Moore: A Pure Artist

The author and his novel, which was eight years in the making
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Greggory Moore will be reading selections from his new novel, “The Use of Regret,” this Saturday evening at {open} bookstore in Fourth Street’s Retro Row. If you don’t know him, he is the ubiquitous, enigmatic, trench-coat-wearing journalist you see at art openings, coffee shops, theater performances and the like. He’s contributed to my mostly defunct arts portal,, the beloved District Weekly, and currently shares unique insights with the readers of the Long Beach Post and  

For the better part of a decade, he’s also been writing a novel, “The Use of Regret.” The slim volume belies the weight of the prose within, which is at turns trivial and profound. The seemingly insignificant moments, however, may be just those moments when great, or awful, things occur, even though we may not know it at the time.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed in brief, discontinuitous bits of prose, each painting a portion of a larger whole. Some were written and published prior to the conception of the novel, so I asked if he had a plan in place to collect them into a larger work.

Greggory: There are sections that were written before I had any concept of the novel. All of these sections, though, were generally changed  sometimes greatly  to fit together in the novel. 

The novel sparked into existence based on a comment my friend Eric said about how it seemed that perhaps some of the short pieces I had written fit together somehow. I began playing with the idea then, from somewhere, conceived an overarching storyline/structure, et voil√† (if “voil√†” can be used for something that took eight years).

Sander: Prior to this epiphany, however, did you see these pieces as free-standing, or in some other context?

Greggory: Obviously, prior to understanding them in the context of the novel they (i.e., the pieces in question) were free-standing. And, in fact, you can pull some of the pieces out of the finished novel and they stand up fine. In so doing, though, they would lose extra levels of connectivity and meaning  — sometimes to a very great degree  because these sections are all tightly and intricately enmeshed. A lot of the changes they’ve undergone have been to create this enmeshment. (A lot of the sections, of course, were originally conceived in the context of writing the novel.) Anyway, it would be a mistake for anyone to think of “The Use of Regret” as a collection of separable short pieces. This is a novel.

Sander: Can you talk specificly about the process of enmeshment?

Greggory: Each of us goes through our lives, through time, and experiences a life. But, in the present, all each of us has of that experience is the content of his or her mind. Neuroscience tells us that remembering is not like replaying a tape, but is a (to quote a seminal mind theorist within the novel) “an imaginative reconstruction, or construction, built out of the relation of our attitude towards a whole active mass of organized past reactions or experience.” So a memory of one event is a fabrication by a present-tense process of neuronal connectivity, synaptic firings and such. 

Naturally, this is all about linkage in the brain, and so in the mind. A recollection brings to mind another thought, related or sometimes not, all connected together in myriad ways. The novel is a textual representation of that for one individual (Perry). The sections of the novel interconnect in myriad ways, which can’t all be seen until taken together. The more thoroughly someone looks into the novel, the more that gets revealed. 

The novel forms a textual representation of Perry’s life that somewhat parallels how our brain forms a mental representation of our life. Then there’s also the structuring themes that are employed: The circular but unchanging form of the novel comes from things that occur within the novel (Terry’s belief in reincarnation and a conversation she has with Perry about the afterlife and her love of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” which is circular).There are signposts within the novel that are about the novel itself (e.g., “Museum Piece”); the “syllabus” aspect that reflects Perry’s professor profession (Americana 101, Art Appreciation 101, U.S. History 101, etc.); the roles of names, numbers and places (section 2, “You Are Here,” is actually a map); and so on.

From the standpoint of the author, one thing I’ll say about the enmeshment here is that the novel was a f*****g pain in the ass to get just right (part of why it took eight years), and I’m plenty glad finally to be done with it.

Sander: In reading it, I was intrigued by the style of your writing. At times, you would describe something seemingly trivial and mundane, and other times, an event or interaction that was loaded with emotion. Still, it felt to me like there was a certain dispassionate observation about both. You seemingly “reported” incidents, but left the reader to place them into an emotional context. Can you speak to that?

Greggory: The narrator (since you’ve read the novel, you know that the narration is varied and non-traditional, and yet there is indeed a narrator/creator, so…) is a product of various forces that have shaped him to observe and process experience through a filter that can seem dispassionate or even cold. He was heavily steeped in Western academic/philosophical thought (particularly existentialism); he reacted to an overbearing mother by withdrawing; his father modeled emotional absence. But, in the end (at least), I think he’s far from dispassionate.

Sander: How much of Perry was gleaned from your life, directly, and how much was created entirely from whole cloth?

Greggory: How much was gleaned from my life should matter only to someone reading the book to study me. The novel is a work of art and has a life independent of mine. But since you ask, anyone looking to the novel as factual autobiography wouldn’t come away empty-handed. But really, there isn’t much there. As intellectual autobiography they would fare better, but this is a work of fiction, and in the creation of such I would always betray historical truth for artistic truth.

Sander: When you decided to publish, did you have any specific goals or expectations for the book?

Greggory: No expectations. Specific goals? Not really. I’m not much of a “specific goals” kind of person. I try to stay as attuned to the present moment as well as I am able, hoping that this orientation puts me in the best position to react to whatever happens as well as I am able, etc., and that this will keep leading in a good direction. 

I wrote the novel, and it would be lovely if others are interested. But for that second part to be possible they have to be aware of it, which means marketing or promotion or something, which I have no feeling for, and so I’m just sort of shambling forward. 

I guess the closest thing I had to a specific goal was to be an active part of the arts community as an artist. I’ve been involved as a supporter/chronicler, and some of my prose stuff (e.g., on Long Beach Post) clearly blends/blurs the journalistic with the artistic, but as a pure artist I haven’t put much out there, even though this is how I most self-identify. So it’s nice to get a chance to show myself as such.

Sander: So, tell me about the event on Saturday. Do you plan to read aloud?

Greggory: As opposed to standing on stage and reading silently to myself? Yes, I’ll be reading aloud — though to a large extent “performing” is more apt  several sections of the novel, with a little exposition where necessary. The event starts at 7 p.m., with DJ Bill Child spinning some tunes featured in the novel (music plays a distinct role in the text, much like it does in our lives). Then at about 8 p.m. I’ll take the stage and do my thing, and afterward Bill will spin some more music, and I hope everyone will hang out to chat, maybe even dance a bit. (Any excuse to dance is a good one.)

This reading at {open} is the first in a series of readings, each of which will be different. The next one, scheduled for May 21 at The Farm (555 E. Third St.) will feature thespians acting out scenes from the book.

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