By Eylie Sasajima
To celebrate the upcoming release of Junk Shop Window: Essays on Myth, Life, and Literature, on June 6, ASP’s James J. Patterson was interviewed on E. Ethelbert Miller’s WPFW radio show, On the Margin. The conversation included personal reading and writing practices, science fiction, and the origin of ASP itself, along with discussion of the work in Patterson’s upcoming essay collection, which he described as “memoir meets The Twilight Zone.”
Miller, evoking a writing exercise he uses in workshops, asked Patterson to name inspirational figures whom he considered his ‘literary parents.’ Patterson’s literary father came as no surprise: Henry Miller, the twentieth century novelist and author of Tropic of Cancer, who makes appearances in Junk Shop Window in the essays “Stirring the Pot on Henry Miller” and “Throwing in the Tao.” Patterson, a novelist and essayist, also discussed his love of poetry.
“I remember when I was first getting into Walt Whitman,” Patterson recalled. “I just couldn’t penetrate that prose. I had the same problem with Shakespeare. And so I would stand up, get that Song of Myself in my hand, and start trying to read it out loud. And then after four or five times reading the same first page over and over again, suddenly it clicked. Suddenly you get the voice, suddenly you get the cadence, suddenly you get the music.”
Miller and Patterson also discussed “Do Conservatives Dream of an Electric Jesus?,” which Miller described as “the most provocative essay in Junk Shop Window.” In this essay, Patterson weaves together the threads of science fiction and dystopia with a critique of modern conservatism. “Right now, we’re in a situation where we look around and we’re living science fiction,” Miller commented. The essay, which tackles climate change and social stratification, also speaks to Patterson’s hopeful outlook that the dystopia of Blade Runner can be avoided.