He made it hip to turn to the horoscope.
Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology, formerly Real World Astrology, is often the first (and sometimes the only) stop for readers of alternative newsweeklies like the Independent.
In addition to being a hip astrology columnist, Brezsny is a two-time novelist.When we spoke earlier this spring, he told me that his new novel, The Televisionary Oracle (Frog, Ltd) was already 754th on amazon.com's best seller list (it has since dropped to 8,758th). Brezsny is not one to measure success by sales, however, noting that his first novel never rose higher than 8 millionth.
Citing Tom Robbins, Salman Rushdie, Robert Anton Wilson and Don Delillo as his literary influences, Brezsny unleashed the pent-up prose that had previously been confined to twelve short paragraphs a week and set out to write a tale of macho-feminism. The Televisionary Oracle chronicles the adventures of an unnamed rock star who encounters Rapunzel Blavatsky, the leader of a cult-like tribe of goddess worshippers who lead the rock star on the path toward male menstruation. Brezsny writes and talks about his belief in the benefit to men and women alike of "honoring the menstrual cycle and dropping out of the frenetic routine for four days out of every month."
When I told him that my alma mater, Colorado College, was ahead of the curve with their four-and-a-half day block breaks each month, Brezsny was intrigued and enthused, asking "You want to picket with me and demand the right to menstrual periods?"
Indy: Could you explain the name change for your column.?
Brezsny: There's a philosophy that I try to embody in my life which is the principle of "I die daily." What that means to me is periodically shedding the formulas that have worked for me in the past, whether they've become outworn or they just no longer fit in an appropriate way. I felt I wanted something that reflected more my radical commitment to astrology as a language that enhances one's free will.
Indy: Is there any relationship to the time spent working on The Televisionary Oracle and this evolution in your column?
Brezsny: Working on the book forced me to delve deeper into the quality of the voice that I wanted to develop as a writer. It translated directly into how I wrote my column. Being true to the command from my muses to write from a deeper level certainly made me a better writer and, I think, made my column of greater service to other people.
Indy: To what degree do you think of the novel as autobiographical?
Brezsny: At one point my muses were flirting with calling it a docu-fiction memoir. It changes from day to day. Today I think of it as about 55 percent direct translation from my life. But everything ultimately comes from some facet of your experience. I had a writing teacher at the University of California Santa Cruz who told me that his approach to writing was to take some element of his life and mutate it so that it he couldn't write about it literally. For instance, if there was a man in his life that he wanted to write about, he would turn that man into a woman. Engaging the imagination to blend with his literal experiences made the writing more interesting.
Indy: The book has three distinctive voices throughout, Rapunzel's, the rock star's, and the oracle's. Did you have a different approach for writing those different sections and finding those separate voices.
Brezsny: Just as when I write my column I somehow manage to become a Virgo when I write the Virgo column and become a Scorpio when I write the Scorpio hororscope, I entered fully into the characters that were speaking. Even the Telivisionary Oracle, I entered into a very different state of mind.
Indy: You have some clear restrictions in writing your column, including the limited size. But there's also the level of responsibility of writing a column that people turn to for some level of guidance and advice. To what degree were you able to break from that responsibility as you turned to fiction and a novel?
Brezsny: You're right, I have a very heightened sense of responsibility to those who read my column, and I try to be extremely gentle and protect their free will and prevent them from projecting too much guruhood onto me. I think that I was a little more reckless in writing the book. It felt like a gamble. I don't know if people who read my column are going to enjoy the book, because in the column I'm always writing to you, I'm writing love letters to you. In the book, there's a lot of I statements. On the other hand, I do feel like the same moral vision that is at the heart of the column is at the heart of the book.
Indy: What do you identify as the sacred?
Brezsny: In one sense, everything is sacred to me. The sense that there are things that are not sacred hurts my feelings, because I view God's creation being revealed in the smallest details of the life that I encounter and the biggest details, the grandiose visions, the epiphanies that I have. Sitting with my daughter on the couch trying to decipher the Word Jumbles in the newspaper, that's a sacred moment too. Likewise, even those moments that might be regarded as profane, I aspire to bring a sacred presence or awareness to those so as to infuse them with the presence of the divine. To answer it in a slightly different way, the sacred is most alive to me when it's blended with a sense of playfulness. I think there's a plague on the sacred caused by people taking themselves too seriously, people thinking that spirituality is only real if it's serious, sober, dignified. I resent and protest that sense of the sacred. I think that the more fun it has, the more playfulness it has, then the more authentically sacred it is.