Anthony Martignetti From the Mouth of the Wolf

I met Anthony Martignetti in 2013. Actually, that is something of an exaggeration on all accounts. I read about Anthony at the time and not long afterwards I read his memoir Lunatic Heroes. Then I wrote a review of it and sent it to him. After all, he had put his email address and Twitter handle at the back of the book: and Amanda Palmer had his information on her Blog.

It was about that point that Anthony and I started talking. And while he took issue with the fact that I gave Lunatic Heroes a four out of five (I knew that he could do better: that he had more stories to tell), he liked my review. He put a link to it on his Endorsement page and he and Nivi Nagiel — his editor, writer peer, and friend — sent me a green Lunatic Heroes T-Shirt that I wear when I know I am going to be facing something particularly tough with which to deal.

Then we sometimes played games of witty pithy words on Twitter. There was even one point he accused me of getting my new budgie drunk as he wore his bell as a party hat. And then he challenged me to write a review of his next book: Beloved Demons. It was challenging: not just because it was about his adult life this time around, but also due to the fact that I had other projects and Toronto had been hit by a freak ice-storm that made me aware of just how powerless I really was. That pun was unintended, I assure you, but I suspect Anthony would have appreciated it.

The last time we really talked though, and I mean really interacted, was outside my parents’ house for a change. I was staying overnight at the Toronto Global Game Jam of 2014. I had my own computer and everything. So here I was at this computer at George Brown College’s School of Design, surrounded by creatives in a field that sort of related to my own, and having come from a particularly bad day with Ontario Works and bureaucracy when I got an email from Anthony.

He sent me a link and, sure enough, all the work I’d done with Nivi to polish my review of Beloved Demons had paid off and he included a link to that article on his Endorsement page as well. It inspired me. It encouraged me even more when I sent him something that I wrote and he gave me some feedback on it. He promised, when he had time, to give me a more indepth critique of the work and to look at some of the other things I sent him.

But there was one thing he sent me during that time, when my own loneliness was changed by into gentle solitude by the creatives around me, that I won’t forget. In response to the story that I sent him, Anthony quoted an old operatic and theatrical Italian saying:

“In Boca al Lupo . . . crepi il Lupo.”

I admit I actually took a while to find a good translation of the idiom, but ultimately it seems to amount to this: “In the mouth of the Wolf … may the Wolf die.”

I knew, somehow, that I could use this. I knew it even before I found a smooth enough translation and it was appropriate. In a small, but meaningful way that was the apex of our conversations: our relation to each other.

These words stayed in my head as I introduced my own therapist to Anthony’s work and they had actually had their own interaction. I am glad I did my part to help them meet at least on some level. But I wasn’t entirely accurate when I stated that the Game Jam was the last time Anthony and I interacted.

The last time we actually talked was when I sent him a copy of my first published story “When You Gaze Into An Abyss” in the Heroes in Hell anthology Poets in Hell.  It too was appropriate, all things considered. Anthony emailed me back to let me know that he got the book I mailed him and that he would read my story first.

I never met Anthony. I only talked with him online. He had touched many peoples lives: and that doesn’t even include the books he wrote after Amanda all but had to strong-arm him into doing so. I always knew he had been sick, and sick for a long time, but it’s weird. Even with that knowledge there are times I still find myself expecting to see something on his Facebook page, and I even ponder sending him more things. But I never really forget that he’s gone.

I’ve been sad for a little while and it took me a while to actually put one of the reasons into words. Last week, there was a memorial service for Anthony: held by his writing group the Souled Out Artists. I unfortunately couldn’t attend as it was in the States, in Boston, I have been dealing with anxiety issues, and I just didn’t have the logistics for a stay there. But I were to be perfectly honest, those are just part of the reason. Anthony said, once, that he and I should one day meet for owl sandwiches. He also said he wouldn’t have minded a phone call.

The fact is, I didn’t know whether or not he was being facetious. I didn’t dare ask, but jokingly said sure. But as I said, we never did physically meet. And I never phoned him. I regret that sometimes.

Many people that attended that service, or didn’t attend, actually knew Anthony personally. And, in retrospect, I would have felt weird being there. I was just a person on a fringe of lives that happened to appreciate his writing and influence. I wasn’t a family member, or a patient, or a student. At best, I’d to think we were casual friends that sometimes had time for each other for non-serious things and an appreciation for good writing.

I am glad that people went to Boston to the Souled Out Artists to celebrate Anthony’s life. His stories will continue on as living signs in the people that loved him. And his idiom of the Wolf will be an epigraph at the beginning of a novel that I plan to release one day: and it is all thanks to him.

Anthony understood the importance of mythology. He knew that the Wolf was symbolic of a great many dark things. And in so knowing, he created stories that fulfilled his old Italic proverb.

In the mouth of the Wolf … may the Wolf die.

Those are some words that I hope I will continue to live by. You can find more about Anthony’s stories here. Trust me: they are worth reading.

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From A Lunatic Hero to A Beloved Demon: Farewell Anthony

While I’m writing this, I’m wearing my Lunatic Heroes T-Shirt: a green one.

In 2013, I was lost. I’d been writing in my Mythic Bios for a while to keep my mind off of the pain of a past of perceived independence that had slowly receded away from me and a terrifyingly uncertain future of continued unemployment. But I kept writing in here. I kept reviewing stories and games in the way that I knew how to get noticed. To be seen. For everything that happened to me and that I did to have meant at least … something.

I found out about Anthony the same time as many other people did: through Amanda Palmer’s Blog. She told us about him, his importance, their relationship, and the sickness that he was in the process of battling. She told us that she convinced Anthony to write down some of his most poignant stories. Between her, Neil Gaiman, Nivi Nagiel of 3 Swallys Press, and many others he managed to get his first book published: Lunatic Heroes.

Like I said, I wanted to be seen. But it was more than that. I read and heard an excerpt from Lunatic Heroes: “Bullfrog.” And that was when I knew I needed to read his work. I needed to say something about it. It tapped into that space where I wanted to go: into that place of personal writing. And I read it. I read it and I took my method, my need to go back and look at the source of things, and write a review about it. And after I did that I looked at the quotes that I related to the most and I found that while we had many differences, Anthony and I also had similarities.

So I wrote about the Lunatic Heroes we were. And something happened.

Anthony noticed my writing.

Actually, that is an understatement. After we talked on Twitter and eventually Facebook, Anthony and Nivi added a quote from my review to his Endorsements page: within the same space as Amanda Palmer’s words. Then he actually requested that I write a review of his next book Beloved Demons. It was not without some irritation, of course. I did give his first book four out of five stars and I said I wanted to see more from him: that I knew he could do even better.

They gave me the T-Shirt I’m wearing for my work.

So I had to put my money where my mouth was, especially after he threatened to come to Canada to “hang a rat” (please read his books if you want the context to that particular phrase). It took … a lot more time to review Beloved Demons. While I go into a lot more detail about the circumstances around it in my review, there was a terrible ice storm in December 2013: so much so there was a blackout that essentially eliminated most traffic lights and electronics. I felt alone in this great, icy darkness that had once been my parents’ house and my virtual hermitage.

During this time, somehow the postal worker came and delivered Beloved Demons. I had to wait for my power to come back and actually focus on writing something on this work of Anthony’s. I felt intimated. I had to make sure it was good. I had to make sure it was right. And when I did finish it, from the appropriate place of darkness and ice and fear of mortality, Anthony and Nivi took the time to edit the post and link to it on Anthony’s Endorsement page.

Suffice to say, it got five stars.

Basically, if you go on there, you will see that Anthony placed my reviews about his books among the ranks of such people as Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman. He didn’t have to. I would have been content just to have my reviews on his books retweeted or hyperlinked. To place my opinion, even in the context of reviewing his works, in the company of Neil and Amanda really … it really meant a lot to me.

No, it still means a lot to me. It told me what I had to say was worth writing: that what I am doing is worth a damn. For me, in my admittedly biased way, it told me a lot about the person that he was and will always be: at least to me.

Anthony and I exchanged emails and witticisms on Twitter. I showed him some of my stories and he gave me nothing but encouragement. I sent him a copy of Poets In Hell: the volume containing my first print published short story. I introduced his work to my psychotherapist. Anthony even made a crack about me getting my budgie drunk after seeing a FB picture of him wearing one of his bell toys as a hat. I listened to his other short story sketches. I met Neil and then, when I met Amanda I asked her to say hello to him from me if she go the chance. And, when I reviewed Neil’s Ocean at the End of the Lane and Amanda’s The Art of Asking I made a point of illustrating just how the three of them influenced each other, and were influenced by one another.

I am so glad I got to show Anthony my reviews of his work and my other articles showcasing the literary effects he had on two of his best friends: both of whom have also influenced my own creative expression.

I’m sad that he’s gone. Anthony always seemed like he was fighting: that the cancer was just the latest manifestation of an enemy he had been in combat with his entire life. But, in the end, he won. He won in a lot of the ways we will hopefully be allowed to win. It might be somewhat trite, but there is immortality in being remembered by your words and the people that love and care for you. Not everyone gets this, but I am glad that C. Anthony Martignetti — my friend — got to be one of those people. I’d like to believe that he crossed that line: from lunatic hero to beloved demon. In doing so, he made and became his sign on a living door to the real stories: the true ones.

My only regret is that we never ended up talking on the phone, or meeting up to have some owl sandwiches.

Owl Sandwhich

Connecting the Doughnuts: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking

Even though I’m not a musician, or even a complete music literate (whatever that ultimately means), I had been looking forward to Amanda Palmer’s first book for quite some time. And now that I finally finished reading it a few days ago, I’m now in a place where I can actually say something about it.

Amanda Palmer

It wasn’t easy and, to some extent, it’s still very challenging. The Art of Asking is something like what might happen if you take a blender, to borrow one of Amanda’s creative sayings, put it on a low setting, and introduce autobiographical anecdotes, self-help philosophy, social media excerpts, a few literary quotes, and of course musical lyrics, to the blade and mix. Chronological events are sometimes parallel with each other in the narrative, but these instances are often separated by philosophical musings and personal moments.

Whatever else, The Art of Asking is, it’s definitely not an ordinary book: as if something that’s a fusion of the creative and the personal can ever be ordinary.

I’ll also admit that it took me a while to get into the book, and sometimes I had trouble actually staying inside it. I mean, I knew that — even based on the title — that Amanda’s book would have some significant roots in her TED Talk of the same name, but it is both fascinating and sometimes off-putting to consider that there is a fair amount of her book that you can already find to some extent in her Blog and even in her introduction to Anthony Martignetti’s Lunatic Heroes.

The intertextuality, the way her book relates to the narratives and circumstances behind Anthony’s Lunatic Heroes and Beloved Demons, as well as to Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane really does intrigue me and it puts some elements into perspective. I’d argue that The Art of Asking has details that can give you something of a holistic approach to looking at all four narratives upon risk of falling into the authorial fallacy: of looking at the people behind the works instead of the works themselves on their own merits.

I mean, it’s no secret that Amanda encouraged Anthony to hone and publish his personal stories — many of which he’d already told her before during their time together — and that Neil’s Ocean was the result of a story that he actually wanted to tell her while she was in the middle of her own solitary creative struggles. When you look at how those narratives talk to each other, like the people that made them and talked to each other in turn, The Art of Asking is almost something of a bridge between three different and creative spaces. It is my opinion that they all belong together.

The downside was that sometimes these references felt like filler. I think what really confused me was something that Amanda said which, ironically, I truly appreciated. It was a reference to another part of her creative process. After a fascinating look at different types of creative processes from her perspective, Amanda mentions that to create something is to “connect the dots” between things that you gather or experience. This, for me, pretty much sums up how creativity happens. As a creator, you take things that don’t seem to relate to each on the surface and you find or make connections between these elements. This thought particularly jived with me.

Unfortunately, at least from my perspective as a reader, I couldn’t always see how Amanda connected the dots of her ideas and anecdotes or even her musical lyric interludes within the structure of The Art of Asking itself. Perhaps I just don’t have a good eye for it, or for that matter even a good ear. Maybe, as Amanda herself isn’t generally a book writer — this being her first one — she writes prose much in the way her mind generates rhythm and lyric: through music. This is just a thought that I’m throwing out there myself. However, maybe the narrative is a lot like Amanda herself in that her art and her performance seems to be a 24/7 deal where you cannot particularly separate them: even in another medium.

The Art of Asking, to me, felt like a balancing act: much like the way I reacted to it. The tone of it got to me sometimes. On one hand it sometimes felt like it was rather self-involved, but on the other hand it is to some extent a memoir and of course Amanda would be talking about her experiences and her feelings. At times I felt a self-help vibe from the book and I had a personal reaction to whenever Amanda would talk about giving herself to trust and love as, in my own experience, most people who expose surrendering themselves to absolute abstracts of benevolence, revolution, peace, and love often want something from you and are anything but the ideals that they claim to represent. Something about Koolaid comes to mind.

Then again, these very sentiments on Amanda’s part are tied into some considerably shrewd business and people sense. The Art of Asking specifically outlines how love and trust are relational. What I mean is that by opening yourself up to other people, by interacting with them, by actually relating to them as fellow human beings you create a bond — at least on some level — and they will become more willing to actually help you. Amanda very correctly identifies this precept in why some crowdfunding campaigns excel and why others fail completely.

In asking for help without shame and taking what is offered you without forced expectations or, again, humiliation, you are attempting to embrace a different mindset. I can personally respect and even understand this idea. Amanda even applies it well to just why her former label and the music industry are simply failing to understand their customers: as they only relate to people as customers, artists as commodities, and not as people.

Really, what I learned from this as a potential crowdfunder artist myself, is that I have a long way to go — in building relationships of some kind with my readers, in networking, and in relating to others — before I can even begin to approach the place where others can support me: and where I can provide consistent content for their support. It’s actually very humbling, and sometimes discouraging as I am not a natural extrovert and I don’t have access to the support that I need to get there, or a coherent and stable vision to attract others. Yet.

In this sense, it’s not about connecting the dots per see.  It isn’t even about giving out “the flower,” a metaphor and literal fact from Amanda’s time as a living bride statue in her early busking years that can be accepted or rejected in an attempt at staring someone in the eye and relating to them.

To me, it’s about doughnuts.

In late November 2014, I actually attended the last part of Amanda’s Book Circus Tour in Toronto. As we waited in line outside of Lee’s Palace, a volunteer kept handing out Timbits: small, round, balls of assorted doughnuts. During the event itself Amanda actually read us a part of her book in which apparently David Thoreau, during the time he wrote Walden, accepted free food from his family as help in completing his work. And Eric Alper, Amanda’s guest and interviewer bought us all tons of Timbits to hit home the point that it is okay to “Take the doughnuts.”

The way I ultimately see it, The Art of Asking is a collection of Timbits: a collection of little doughnuts of many kinds. Some might prefer specific flavours of Timbit, or all of them, or none at all. Yet all of them are doughnuts and all of them are offered to the reader.

As for me, I took my favourite doughnuts from Amanda. Some of them were crisp and instrumental. Some were multiple flavours that branched into different places, that reminded me of other things, and gave me insight about my favourite people behind the scenes. I know I ate one or two confections that Amanda had never offered before outside of her book: and the flavours hit me hard and without mercy: that were real. At least one was a moment that touched me to the core.

But all of them, even the ones I don’t always like or require an acquired taste, are in the same box of words: a bread and circuses on paper thanking everyone that it asks.

Sing, Oh Heavenly Daimon, Sing: A Review of C. Anthony Martignetti’s Beloved Demons

“I’d start talking about the dark and darkness, cold, loneliness, aging and illness, money, and how the hell can anybody keep making a living through a whole lifetime? I’d get myself all wound up and just rattle on in my head about the scariest shit I could think of” (2).

It was a cold day in hell when I began reading  Anthony’s Beloved Demons: Confessions of an Unquiet Mind. Literally.

An ice storm hit parts of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area and knocked out our power. For about three days in late December 2013 we had neither heat nor light, but plenty of cold and darkness. I felt absolutely helpless before Nature and my personal demons as my parents’ home became a dark and icy tomb. Suffice to say, this book came to me at a very appropriate time.

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It was on the second day that I got Anthony’s book early in the mail: the postman having somehow navigated across the treacherous ice-crusted ground and overhanging crystalline pine hedges to deliver it right to the mailbox on the doorstep of our deathly cocoon. It’s similar to the way I will also have to navigate through this book.

One challenge I really had is that even though I wanted to look at  Beloved Demons  in its own right, in a manner similar to how I examined the theme, interrelation of stories and, of course, what I related to in Lunatic Heroes, this book still remains stubbornly intertextual. What I mean by that is it’s almost as though Anthony’s beloved demons want to war and fight alongside his lunatic heroes and define themselves by this ancient conflict. While you can read Beloved Demons as a standalone book, it has a whole other dimension if you take its predecessor into consideration.

So first off, what does Anthony possibly mean by a “beloved demon”?

It is said that the ancient Greek poets, when singing stories of heroes attempting to find home, war, or both, would evoke the muse  or the daimon — before they began to recite their tale. “Daimon” is also the root of the contemporary words “angel” and “demon.” In addition, daimons are known as forces of nature that pass through and influence human beings.  So it is only fitting, and in keeping with the ancient idea of the daimon, that “Cocoon Talk: Confessions of a Psychology Intern” begins with Anthony singing on the road on a warm summer’s day.

It’s also tempting to mention that demons have traditionally been used to incarnate a particular vice, evil, or negative thought in order to ward off, exorcise, or otherwise purge it from a subject. Certainly, “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” is a pretty good example of an attempted exorcism. However, I feel that Anthony draws on Carl Jung’s idea of the daimon much more and, in doing so, it brings an older mythological resonance to mind.

Genii loci

The Roman equivalent to the daimon is the  genius loci: a very clearly monstrous or non-human spiritual being that protects places and people. These  genii  also tend to embody their spaces: to serve as their souls. And, if you think about it, it can apply well to Anthony’s  Beloved Demons. His short story “Sign” is an example of a space with great emotional resonance to that regard. In other words, places can be spaces, and spaces can be memories. And Anthony evokes their souls like the daimons that they are.

Each one of the nine stories in  Beloved Demons  is like a different and yet interconnected reality. “Swept” is the only story that focuses solely on Anthony’s childhood. Almost all of his stories focus on the aftermath of his youth and how it affected his developing adulthood. The crowning achievements of this process can be found in the narratives of “Cocoon Talk,” “Sign,” and “Feast of the Hungry Ghost”: for just as daimons served as intermediaries between mortals and the divine, so too do these stories seem to function as bridges between Anthony’s past and adulthood.

As such, Anthony’s “Cocoon” is a nice complement to his last book’s short story “Swamp”: except that while Bullfrog was a symbol of enlightenment and the casualty of Anthony’s childhood sense of powerlessness, the butterfly is Anthony’s personal adult casualty. But the thing to understand about this butterfly’s death isn’t so much that Anthony was responsible (he was driving as it hit his vehicle after all), it is the fact that the butterfly, among other things, represents change. It is said that the wind from a butterfly’s wings can utterly destroy a mountain on the opposite side of the world. And while no one ever truly suspects the butterfly, Anthony seemed to believe the potential omen all too well and tried to prepare for the resonance of the change: the change that he ultimately experiences.

In fact, even more so than  Lunatic Heroes,  time seems to collapse faster than a landslide in  Beloved Demons. It’s as though all the experience and time within Anthony that had been contracted into itself, into himself and his inner world back in his first book begins to expand out in extreme, ricocheting vengeance in “Cocoon”: a process that he makes even more clearly explicit in “Feast.” Anthony is breaking out of the confines created from the trauma of childhood: the continued suppression and the emotional starvation caused in “Force Fed” becoming an expansive and terrifying “Feast of the Hungry Ghost.”

Anger and passion are definitely elements of this great change. It is no coincidence that, for seemingly the first time, Anthony reveals his first legal name to be  Carmine (30): the colour of red and fire and blood, of the wine-drenched Dionysian god and associated today with demons.

There is also a sense of space that becomes dilated between certain kinds of individuals, particularly sensitive ones such as Anthony, over time. For instance, I find there to be an interesting parallel between “The Wild” and “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” in which people, from well-meaning and voyeuristic to impatient and completely disrespectful, try to know more about  and even interfere with — the more intimate parts of Anthony’s life. In many of the stories from both  Lunatic Heroes  and  Beloved Demons  this, unfortunately, seems to be a recurring theme — of people wanting to know or control the passion inside him that he has been trained from childhood to avoid, while he is attempting to find and understand it himself in the midst of people constantly violating his personal space.

As a result, his space seemed to be small and narrow at times against a much larger world. At one point Anthony writes “I threw my eyes like an ocular ventriloquist” (18). It was Anthony’s reaction, ingrained from his mother, to avoid looking at people, while at the same time dealing with the perverse reflex to subvert authority and follow his own natural curiosity. Anthony’s account of Jackie not wanting him to look at “the crippled boy” in “Cocoon” is an interesting complement to his short story “Carnival” and his childhood reactions in that one as well.

You can even take this internalization a step further. In fact, “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” does take it further when the Devil and she-devils, which were seen as secretly forming and liberating within Anthony’s subconscious in Lunatic Heroes‘ “Carnival,” now become fraught with anxiety and desire: with a fear of judgement.

This leads Anthony to all but come out and describe the creation of a kink in “Feast”: or at least his kink. He seems to hypothesize that a combination of familial shame, religious fear, and suppressed desire culminated into a need for submission and masochism on the BDSM spectrum: with a particular focus on a darkly eroticized female archetype and a craving for punishment (144-45). After explaining how it is a feeling of wanting to get away, but eventually give into the fantasy scenario, he then describes a sensation in his stomach that he calls “‘the sugary feeling,’ which was both weakening and wonderful” (145). It is a striking description: particularly the latter aspect because it, above everything else, portrays a bridge between something that is both loved and feared: a beloved demon.

As I write this, I feel as though I am analysing themes in English class, and the very sense of my life depended on it. Whereas my review of Anthony’s  Lunatic Heroes  looked at many of his possible influences or what his tone at times sounds reminiscent of (I compared it to Will Eisner’s unsentimentality), it now really feels like Anthony’s own voice resonating throughout this entire series of linked narratives.

That said, there is one intriguing idea I would like to note. When Anthony talks about his cat Java mourning the death of his old dog and rejecting the new (110), it is very reminiscent of the narrator in Neil Gaiman’s  The  Ocean at the End of the Lane  being “enraged” at having his pet die while some adults, in their ignorance, attempt to replace him. It is interesting to consider that Neil seemed to have created this particular story around the same time Anthony was working on  Beloved Demons‘ predecessor. In any case Neil’s novel, according to Amanda Palmer, seems to have “dialed down” the setting on his own “creative blender” — of that place in an artist’s mind where their personal experiences and imagination intermix to make a story — and I can’t help but wonder if reading and working with Anthony might have influenced this in some part.

Certainly, this can be seen even more overtly when you consider that Neil actually wrote an Introduction to  Beloved Demons  in which he’s not only very candid about death, but he even writes out the Buddha’s entire quote on self-conquest (xxii) to which Anthony alludes in the conclusion of the book (193). And make no mistake: while  Lunatic Heroes  was obviously a personal narrative, an autobiography through-and-through,  Beloved Demons  delves deep into the personal and adult aspects of not merely “an unquiet mind” (which is one of the biggest understatements I’ve seen in Anthony’s work) but a forming mind attempting to find its individuation or, rather, its own sense of centre.

It is a dark and grueling process. I think that out of all the narratives, and aside from “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” coming to some kind of revelation through pain, pleasure and eventual acceptance, it is “Sign” that presents that unsettling feeling most of all.

Whereas “The Wild” was merely a hint of Anthony facing the primal part of his nature  his “Other” long controlled, vilified, alienated and chained as an animal  it’s in “Sign” where it truly comes to the fore in the form of power. It is very disturbing, to know that passion can be warped into the capacity for violence and the desire for control over another, and that this struggle is within all of us. But Anthony spells it out in himself and … it is unsettling.

I suspect it is meant to be so. This is something that wants to be free from all constraints: from his family’s expectations, societal duties, and his wife at that time. There are patterns  and dynamics that Anthony finds himself bound by and wanting to fall back into. But there is more at work in “Sign”: a greater work if you’d prefer. You begin to realize that all of these impulses and thoughts in his mind are reaching a state of at least narrative transformation. As he finds himself back in his childhood home, it’s as though he is attempting to find stability amid his own change and he goes back to the place where he sketched out the sign of a crucifix — a cross — on a door frame so long ago.

And this, here, I believe captures the essence of why Anthony writes. The crux of it, I believe, can be seen when he asks himself: “I wonder why I made that mark? Perhaps to save something of myself from that time? Or to create a future a memory? To say I was here … To see the sign. Or perhaps I only carved into the soft, painted wood with my thumbnail, and that’s it … nothing more; then, all those years later, made a story of it. Just to make a story. The world isn’t created of atoms and molecules, but of stories” (88).

It becomes very apparent here that not only are Anthony’s books his “cross” for us to see that he was here  that perhaps all autobiographical stories function in this capacity to help us remember who we are, who we were, and perhaps to see where we are going by comparison — but it also hits home another crucial point. Dominance and submission war inside him, and these are forces, within him which he can neither deny nor completely surrender to, he attempts instead to master: that he does to the point of transcending his own sense of self and stating something very important about his book, autobiography and literature itself:

“Making stories from memories … I think it has something to do with looking back and fabricating meaning in events that, at the time, just happened. Maybe writing stories is the same as the tiny sign of the cross in the molding. Perhaps that was my first story, my first memoir, to be known about and read only by me. Now, it seems, I mark the entrance to my childhood with these symbols on paper and share them so others will know I was here, understand me, and help me understand myself, before I’m gone and can’t return” (88-89).

Any way you look at it, however, Anthony’s stories have become his beloved demons, even as he understands now that he is his own.

I am about done here. Now that I have talked about the symbolism and interlinking of stories in  Beloved Demons, I want to write out some quotes that I think are very interesting and that found sympathy with me: you know, as if I haven’t already.

Anthony talks about love and perspective: “I loved her in the only way I could love then” (51).

At the beginning of “Cocoon Talk” Anthony makes a statement about the origins of human conflict: “I was always babbling, always unsure of what I was saying yet revealing nothing, and never truly trusted people who said they knew themselves or suggested that they knew me. Never really wanted anyone to see me” (3). It strikes me that the root of all problems and conflicts within relationships is that people claim to understand others and their intentions without actually doing so. No one ever truly or fully knows anyone, and the very act of proclaiming that “You don’t know me” is not only an act of anger and defiance in and of itself, but also a reminder that in all of our connections with each other we are our own sovereign spaces and should be respected as such.

In addition to the spaces in ourselves, Anthony writes about personal demons and how they can begin as weaknesses and become our strengths: “Through fantasy, we enter the screening room of an obsessed mind. And in our private theaters, we watch the show through the projector of our damaged narcissism — where the phantasmagoria transforms weak pariahs into prevailing superheroes, the shamed and the shunned into the celebrated, and places us, the marginalized extras, right at center stage … And here, we come not merely to tolerate, but to accept and finally embrace our demons — as if we willed them into life out of passion and the need to survive” (150).

I think my favourite quote, however, is the one that seems to describe how Anthony envisioned himself interacting with his desires. He states, “Nothing was nearly as captivating as this special pursuit, along with my role as undercover superhero- disguised as a pale and twitchy kid, foisting a dazzling subterfuge on a coterie of torment-skewed girls. A superhero, whose special power is getting his covert muscle charged by girls without their knowledge — surreptitiously slipping Kryptonite into their hands in order to feel his strength deliciously melt away” (152).

This last statement has a great affinity to me not only due to the “superhero” reference and how he applies it to his kink, but also in how it is different from my own personal vision of myself. Whereas Anthony seems to describe his childhood as him pretending that he is powerful and giving that power to others for his own enjoyment, I have always liked the idea of seeming to be mild  of actually being mild and kind — while underneath entertaining the fact that I can bring to bear great fury and power on everyone and everything around me. And even then, I’ve always considered what I am doing now, slowly building up my connections and experimenting carefully with that core of energy within me, as exercising that power in careful and clever ways until I can gain what I want: to take what is rightfully mine.

So if Anthony is a “superhero,” then I am definitely a Dark Lord of the Sith. Perhaps Anthony’s story “Swept” and what he learned from his father might have come in handy with my own education to that regard.

Finally there is the fact that, apparently, Anthony’s dog Poochy is “a food-operated boy” (72). Yes. He went there.  He went there. If you want a hint of what to expect from  Beloved Demons  beyond what I’ve written, here is a video  of its book launch in which not only do we hear Anthony reading “Sign” and “Dog,” but we also get to listen to Neil read his Introduction to the book and Amanda … basically making you feel. Her song Bigger on the Inside (an appropriate title for more than one reason) certainly made me do so.

You can also find  Beloved Demons on Kindle  as well as  Lunatic Heroes  if you are so inclined. Finally, and in reply to a Tweet Anthony sent me a while back:

Anthony Martignetti@DRAMARTIGNETTI @MKirshenblatt  MK, Looking fwd 2 ur review. And if u give me 4 stars again for not telling more, i’m coming 2 c u in Canada & hanging a rat

I finally understood  where the statement originated from  and what it means. It will give you all more background on Anthony and perhaps on both of his books. As such, and in no way due to any implied threat, I give  Beloved Demons  a  five out of five. The fact of the matter is that what I said about his quote on his dog Poochy applies to the rest of his book.

He went there.

He went there into the cold and the darkness, melting the warped and stratified ice of his surface interactions,  singing like a rat,  and I have to give the Devil his due … just as Anthony gave his demons their own.

I Got Quoted, She Makes Comics, La-Mulana Cries, and A Pixie Is Making Games

This will be my first post written directly on schedule and I hope to make this a habit again. So what I’m going to do is the following. I missed you guys so much that in my haste to actually let you know what’s been going on with me lately, I’ve actually forgotten t mention a few things.

The first is that Anthony Martignetti, the author of Lunatic Heroes and now Beloved Demons, has created his own writer’s site and in its “Reviews and Endorsements” section is a blurb, at the very bottom of the page, taken from someone that all of you might find very familiar. Basically, Anthony quoted me. 🙂 I found this when I was at the Toronto Global Game Jam (which probably explains how I forgot to write about it with all the writing I had to do there and after) and in addition to all the positive energy that was already around me, it made my day. The fact of the matter is that I am honoured and feel kind of unworthy to be mentioned in such really august company.

That said, it still makes my day and reminds me that I am actually doing some good work here on Mythic Bios. I will tell you right now that it has been difficult to return back to my regularly scheduled posting. I still plan to do some writing outside of Mythic Bios and the Net and, regardless of even that, it took a while for the old, weird ideas to come back into my head and flow properly as they did. But I do have something to work with now.

And Anthony, I have not forgotten about you. You will all see something new about Anthony’s work relatively soon.

But here is what I am going to do for the rest of this post. I am actually going to be doing some very shameless plugging for some really cool things that haven’t been derived from me.

For first thing’s first. The Sequart Research & Literacy Organization is making a Kickstarter Campaign called She Makes Comics. Basically, this is a documentary about women in comics: specifically women as creators, editors, researchers, and publishers in the comics world. It really makes me frustrated that, despite all the comics I’ve read, I actually had to struggle to suggest some prominent female comics creators. In fact, it makes more than frustrated. It makes me sad. I am doing my part to support this Kickstarter. I even wrote a G33kPr0n article on She Makes Comics to give you another look or perspective on just why this is so important. I hope that you will support this campaign, or at least send the links out to those you know and, if you are Facebook or Twitter users, please do not hesitate to use the hashtag #SheMakesComics.

There is also another Kickstarter I would like to draw your attention. The La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter has reached its baseline goal. However, in order to unlock more goodies from chests not rigged with spikes, including the addition of extra character journals and story-modes to an already dangerous quirky puzzle and monster archaeological game of death, it requires more funding: with not much more time to spare. I always hated “timed levels” and I hope that someone here will make sure that this remains in reality and not in the game: which I hope to see funded as far as it will go.

I still hope PLAYISM will have time to post up my Twine fanfic in another Fan Art Update: as it has not happened yet. 🙂

Finally, last by not least there is a game-maker that you should be following. She is Gaming Pixie, whose work and process I reviewed in Life and Identity, Eden and Hell, and not only is she working on a video game that centres around a girl surviving seven days with her alcoholic father, but she has made offline versions of her Twine games Eden and Shadow of a Soul. The latter games are very complex and if you purchase them you will be able to store them on your hard-drive to play at leisure and also experience far less graphics and sound loading time. In addition, with the very modest prices that she offers for both games, you can also help to continue funding her endeavours. I cannot recommend Gaming Pixie’s work highly enough and it will only get better with time and aid. You can find both games here and, if you’re a Windows user, you can download “the first day” of her first major game Fighting the Monster for free.

are-you-sure

And that’s it for now. I had this all in my head for a while and there is still so much more work to do. I will speak with you all soon again I’m sure. Take care now, and have an excellent week.

Sea Shells, See Shells by the Sea Shore: A Review of C. Anthony Martignetti’s Lunatic Heroes

I have been looking forward to reading C. Anthony Martignetti’s Lunatic Heroes: Memories, Lies and Reflections for some time, and now that I have finished reading it, I find I have a lot of different things to say. In fact, what I think I’m going to do is the following.

I am going to write two sections to this review. The first will be an attempt at a more literary perspective of Lunatic Heroes, while the second will deal with my own personal reactions to the stories themselves. Before I go on, however, I just want to say that I will be referring to Anthony by his first name due to the way that I was introduced to him. I will elaborate on that later, but I just want to say that it would feel weird after reading about him and his own work to call him anything else. It’s the not first time I have done this with an author and it probably won’t be the last.

Lunatia heros is a species of Northern moon-snail that likes to live close to the shoreline of bodies of water. They are large gastropods that like to eat clams and other snails: including members of their own species. They consume their prey by drilling holes in their shells, releasing digestive enzymes, and sucking out the partially digested contents of their victims from within those shells. In fact, the only thing left of their fellow snails are these empty shells. According to Wikipedia, these moon snails hunt other mollusks down by searching for those that bury themselves in the sand of the shoreline.

Of all the titles Anthony could have given his work, Lunatic Heroes is by far the most apt. This book is essentially a collection of fifteen short stories or, technically written recollections, of some of the major events in Anthony’s life. Even though the book itself is categorized as a memoir, which it is, each narrative is both interrelated and self-contained.

At least twelve of these stories deal with Anthony’s childhood with his Italian-American family in Boston, while the remaining three focus on Anthony as a developing independent adult all the way to contemporary times. I don’t want to make too much of a generalization, but each story is about the insanity of the human condition. After all, the word lunatic is derived from the Latin word Luna and it was once thought that someone suffering from madness was “moon-touched,” while at the same time the moon itself has always been associated with the other world of the night, creativity and intuition.

In this, the metaphor of Lunatic Heroes functions in a few different ways. On one hand, most of Anthony’s stories are about the dysfunctional elements of his own family and his 1950s childhood: about the way each character would attempt to devour Anthony’s extremely introverted essence, digging under the sand where his self hid in order to successfully–or unsuccessfully–get at it.

On the other hand, Anthony’s narratives also take many of these same characters and portray their other more relatable sides. It is no coincidence, after all, that the heroes of ancient literature–for all of their deplorable moral behaviour by contemporary standards–still possessed a spark of divinity and managed to perform great deeds. In a fiercely passionate and witty voice tempered with a nostalgic unsentimentality not unlike that of Will Eisner, Anthony manages to show that these characters from his own life aren’t always monsters, but are very fallible human beings with some moments of relation, levity, and downright comedy: even and especially in some of the worst situations that he depicts.

What drew me in as a reader were the very mutable archetypes that Anthony managed to identify in his life: specifically with regards to how they transferred and inter-lapped throughout each story that he gathers together into a strange whole. Sometimes each narrative doesn’t always fit in a straight-line–which is more than fair given how a life of human interactions is generally never shaped that way–and he occasionally repeats a sentence from a previous story. But the archetypes really drew me in. Certainly, the whole Scylla and Charybdis parallel childhood dilemma in “Force Fed” was made very uncomfortably clear, just as the figure of a Far Eastern form of enlightenment and a symbolic place of personal transformation is within “Swamp.”

So thus ends the very brief and relatively spoiler free part of my review. Now I am going to talk about my personal reaction to Lunatic Heroes. I will say that I particularly related to “Force Fed.” When I was a boy, I was a very fussy eater and after I started to lose weight at twelve, my family thought that I had some kind of eating disorder. I didn’t really see a problem: in that when I stopped feeling hungry, I simply stopped eating. I was also lactose intolerant and I didn’t know that until my doctor and a slough of very uncomfortable and embarrassing tests happened. I lost a lot of weight from simply no longer eating dairy and then having a growth spurt. It also didn’t help that I was a very nervous child and my stomach suffered for it. But I could definitely relate to Anthony’s account of being made to feel like there was something wrong with you just because you simply weren’t hungry enough by the standards of others or the fact that you didn’t want to become sick.

I could definitely relate to the moments of introversion and hyper-sensitivity from Anthony’s depiction of his childhood self and that paradoxical need to have your parents always in your life, but at the same time that need to keep that bubble of personal space around you from being violated by the rest of the world: sometimes in vain. That is why I particularly related to–and if anyone knows me and is reading this they will be laughing by now–the last story “Hate.”

I admit that I was actually concerned when Anthony ended his memoir with a story entitled “Hate,” but it made sense. The thing is, Anthony is a psychotherapist and there are some things he talks about throughout the entire book–mindfulness, being in your head and needing to be in your body–that is very reminiscent of what my own therapist has been telling me for quite some years now. In “Hate,” Anthony even mentions how he still has snap judgments and immediate–and sometimes unfavourable–superficial impressions of people. They can bring up various associations his life: not all of them pleasant. But he also mentions how by realizing that these same people have pain and loss in their lives, it makes them relatable as human beings. It is still a lesson I have to keep reminding myself of during some of my more misanthropic world-obliterating moments of glee.

I also totally understand where Anthony is coming from in “The Head,” when he writes about the darkness and anger that he is feeling in himself even while he is with his wife and dog at a peaceful retreat: the knowledge of this fact that just made him feel worse until he has one moment of mindfulness. I think Anthony really hit home for me that you can mentally and emotionally awaken many times in life: and for different reasons. In that, “Swamp” and the events with regards to the freak show in “Carnival” really come to the fore. In addition, the story “Nonno” made me really miss my own Zaidy while I can more than sympathize with the need to belong and centre yourself and finding a place like “Harvard Square” home.

I am almost finished this strange review. But to make it even stranger, I want to write down some very notable lines, or moments of text that just made this entire book for me:

Anthony writes about longing: “But this time I felt the ache you get when longing for something you don’t think you have, coupled by the fear that you’d blow it if you did” (107).

He also describes the process of maturity, stating, “I was pulling off the heist of the decade, stealing the truth about myself from every encounter” (108-109).

Finally, there is this: “I imagined eventually befriending the Devil and getting promoted to demon status, sharing the power of evil and control over an infinite number of she-devils who would hungrily do my bidding” (129).

These are just such universal impulses and feelings, and as a writer I kind of wish I had been the one to express myself in such a way. The metaphor of the Lunatic Heroes is even more ingenious because in addition to moon snails being predators, Lunatia heros always leaves perfectly preserved husks from all of its feedings. Think about that for a few moments: even though the snail is gone, like the imprint of a lost self or Virginia Woolf’s spot on a wall, its shell–the testament to its existence–is left unearthed in the sand. It’s left there for others to find and see and marvel in the patterns that they created. In other words, we are the predators and the prey of our selves, but by simply living we take the selves of others with us, and we leave a testament to their existence. It is an excellent extended metaphor for a writer, the act of writing, literature itself and the state of being human.

Now I am finally going to tell you the reason why I refer to Anthony by his first name in this review. Through reading Anthony’s book, I feel like I know him a little more. But that is only part of it. The rest of the reason has to do with how I discovered him.

It was mainly by accident. I was searching for Amanda Palmer’s Blog and I came across her entries about Anthony and just some of what he means to her. I will let you read that entry should you so wish. But what I will say is that Amanda wrote the “Introduction” to Anthony’s book and she said something that really got to me.

Amanda wrote the following, “I had a small glimpse into the act of writing as a direct escape from pain. For the first time, I experienced the physical truth of what it felt like to dwell in the act of creation as the only viable escape from an unbearable, unfaceable reality” (ix). I read this statement and I took a look at myself. I took a look at my notebooks around me in my room. And then I looked at the one hundred or so posts I’ve made on this very Blog. I took a look at what I try to do every single day now and I thought…

Yes. Just … yes.

Amanda also went on to talk about how she and Anthony delve into the uncomfortable, and awkward, and painful moments of clarity that is life. And you will find that and more in exquisite detail if you read this book.

Now I am going to end off now by doing something even stranger. I am going to give Lunatic Heroes a four out of five.

And here is why.

After reading “The Introduction” and Anthony’s “Acknowledgments,” and just hearing about him and some of his life from Amanda’s Blog, I wanted to know … more. Even though the way he describes his childhood, sometimes blatantly and sometimes tinged with hazy mythical half-memories is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Violent Cases, I want to know about the rest of it: the adolescent rebellion you see forming in the latter stories, what happened in the rest of his travels, what his other fights were about, and more about his exposure to other philosophies and other relationships.

When it comes down to it, I want to see more. And as one lunatic hero to another, Anthony, I sincerely hope to.