David Herrle Enraptures Us With "Sharon Tate And The Daughters Of Joy."

Lovers of poetry may know David Herrle for his book, Abyssinia, Jill Rush and his popular ezine SubtleTea. Now he's here to discuss his new book, which blends poetry with prose, Sharon Tate And The Daughters Of Joy. We're joined by a dear friend who actually introduced me to David's work years ago, poet and author Collin Kelley.

Collin Kelley: In one sentence describe this new collection.
David Herrle: I haven’t a short wind in my body, but, aside from being bubblegum self-psychoanalysis, the book is an aphoristic odyssey through aesthetics, art, beauty, sexuality, atrocity, mortality and salvation contextualized by the grisly dooms of Queen Marie Antoinette, Ripper-victim Mary Jane Kelly and Sharon Tate. 
Mme. Perry: The reader is guided in an orderly manner into some shocking, sharply defined and richly pigmented places from Invocation to Sermon to Benediction. How did you determine the order of the book? 

DH: Early on the book was intended to be about only Sharon Tate and the Mansons, but the more I wrote the less important they became.  The butchery at the Polanski home on that doomful night on August 9, 1969 seemed to be more of a culmination or a logical fruit of some of the universal concerns I was having.  That’s why I pushed the Tate/Manson part to the end.  Since I think the murders had something to do with what I call the War on Beauty, I decided to start the book with spiels on aesthetics and art (Reverse Galatea).  In hyperbolic, Decadent fashion beauty is praised above all else, echoing Dostoyevsky’s love for Shakespeare and Raphael over the serfs’ freedom and even one’s entire nation.
Author David Herrle
Of course, not far from such lofty things lurk human crustaceans’ envy and rage, mutilating tantrums and the mob’s tendency to pull down mountains and replace them with molehills, so the part about the French Revolution (Saint Guillotine) followed naturally.  Opponents of the death penalty beheaded the king and queen (and many, many other folks); humanitarians spilled blood with glee.  From there I widened the scope of atrocious behavior, including the advent of the Bomb, and explored the anxiety over death and need for a genuine lifeline from existential despair (Black Dahlia Nihilismus).  The illusory salvation of the lofty and beautiful is exposed, as is the pent rage, the will to power and the latent Caligulas in so many disgruntled artists.  Beauty and art can’t save us. 

Neither can sex.  The next part (The Pink Cathedral) deals with sex, lust, the glory and degradation of bodies, pornography, even the problematic cuteness of Eva Braun (who married one of history’s biggest death-dealers). 

Of course, death is never far from sex.  Thanatos and Eros are first-cousins.  This lead me to Jack the Ripper, the killer of whores (Yours Truly, Mathematicus).  However, I consider this phenomenon to be more about victim Mary Jane Kelly than the Ripper himself.  This is the opposite of the Sharon Tate thing, which is more about the Mansons than the gorgeous central victim.  Peacenik hippies stabbed those people to meaty pulp.  While Charlie was recording songs in Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s studio his harmless nonsense lyrics “digh de day” eventually turned into “die today.”  Do the math.  So the slaughter of Tate and her friends closes the book (Charlie Manson and the Scorpion Children). 

Those six parts served as a nice white for the hardboiled egg, but the shell and yolk were missing.  That’s why I designed the introductory Evocation, the Sermon interlude and the ultimate Benediction. 
Actress Sharon Tate
CK: I don't think Sharon Tate gets the pop culture reverence she deserves. What fascinates you about Tate and her legacy? 
DH: Indeed.  For all of her beauty’s fame and the infamy of her violent doom, Sharon isn’t really on the tip of the cultural tongue, especially among later generations.  She should be.  And, sadly, I think she should be less sung for her actual achievements and more for her being an unfortunate symbol of the victimization of the lofty and beautiful done by lowlifes, artists-become-tyrants, the deranged spiral of the utopian spirit.  It’s infuriating but understandable that Charlie Manson is a household name and a presence – even inspiration! – in pop culture.  He’s up there with Mao and Che. 

Despite my sympathy and desire for vengeance for Sharon, I can’t say that I’ve ever been very impressed with her profession as an actor, although she’s absolutely dazzling in movies such as The Wrecking Crew, Valley of the Dolls and The Fearless Vampire Killers.  She was an Earth angel, an aesthetic phenomenon, what I call a Reverse Galatea: sacralized beauty, gorgeous body turned into inspiring sculpture.  I suspect that she was viewed and treated this way by many – if not most – people, maybe including her husband, even though she also was a delightful, sharp, conflicted, emotional, thoughtful human being (think Marilyn Monroe).  For this reason I minimized her voice and focus in the book.  Even the hero who saves her (in what one reviewer called “a noir superhero ending ...a dreamlike divine comedy”) can muster only “Big fan, Sharon” as she kisses him in thanks.  Oops.  Spoiler!

MP: Artist David Van Gough, whose work The Valley is the cover art for the book, said “I make no bones when I say that I believe Herrle’s work is as profound as Ginsberg's Howl and every bit the master painter with epigrams.” What was your reaction on reading that? 

DH: Needless to say, I was quite honored.  Though I dislike Ginsberg’s work, I recognize his talent and the artistic importance of what he did.  The compliment was meant as a high one, and I take it as such, especially since it comes from an astute, clever and masterful artist.  Gough’s necrorealism made me rethink my aversion to so-called macabre art, and he’s become a treasured colleague.
Author/Poet Collin Kelley

CK: If you were a member of the Manson Family, what would your nickname be?

DH: A wicked challenge.  Part of me doesn’t want to even consider it due to the despisal I have for the Mansons.  Another part sees the humor in it.  Also, nicknames factor heavily in my book.  The narrator takes on the titles Scarlet Pimpernel, Sophie Scholl, The White Rose, Davidus Thermidor, Thermidorean Gray, History’s Etch-A-Sketch.  Manson-girl Susan Atkins named her son Zezose Zadfrack Glutz, which I guiltily find hilarious, so I’ll lighten up and choose Robin Hood Goodfellow – or Havelock Ellison.

We wish you much success with Sharon Tate And The Daughters Of Joy, David, and invite you to return very soon.
Herrle at the start of his literary career.

And of course, it's always wonderful to be with our friend Collin Kelley, my partner in many adventures and a favorite here in the salon.

You can get your copy of Sharon Tate And The Daughters of Joy, follow on Facebook, and subscribe to SubtleTea.


David H. said…
Looks great, Jennifer! I had a WHALE of a time doing this. ;) Thanks!
Jennifer Perry said…
I'm very happy that you are pleased, and that you shared that very special photo with us! Mme.P
Kerry said…
Very interesting discussion. I find David's thought process regarding the creation of this work to be fascinating. Well done, Madame Perry (and Colin).
David said…
Thanks, Kerry!
Michael Draper said…
I found the interview interesting and liked learning more about David.
Good job Jennifer.


PS please stop over at my blog and say hi. I was diagnosed with cancer last year and don't get out as much as before but still love blogging, reviewing and hearing from friends.

Eugenia said…
Interesting! after reading your blog i should go ahead and get myself a copy of this book, sounds great
Jennifer Perry said…
Thank you all - Eugenia, Michael, Kerry, Collin and David - for the comments and compliments. This book is such a magnificent work and I still read parts of it over again.
I find it lends to the salon feel to have some discussion continuing in the comments.

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