The Way Things AreOr Are Ratz Nice?
a conversation with author Lawrence Ytzhak Braithwaite
Let's start with the title. Ratz are Nice. What the hell?
Rats survive and adapt; they run together in the lower parts where nobody wants to go, eat what nobody else wants to eat. Like the poor and lower classes, like Edison and the other characters in the book. Since that's the way things are, I say rats are nice.
Your first book, Wigger, was about co-opting someone else's culture, but the characters in Ratz seem more directed toward their own.
Ratz starts the way Wigger did. But this time Edison is deciding on stuff about his life with the "Dumbdumz." He realizes you can be a part of something without it stealing parts of yourself to be there. So it's about kids deciding to make this decision in life. They want to make that adult decision, right or wrong, and deal with the consequences.
Tell us about the world your characters inhabit.
We are in another failed "Reconstruction Period." There was the Civil War and the exploitation and lost hope of civility and equality. Then we had the overhyped civil rights movement followed by the big '80s Pomo divisive cultural revolution. The people in Ratz are the bastard children of all this. The have-nots are the only ones who've never gotten a voice, and everyone keeps saying they're speaking for them. What else could we get from the kids who grew up during this period, but them running a power move on things?
Some of them are pretty evil in a lot of ways.
I do think there is evil out there. They say that Victoria is the occult capital of North America, that it's the center of the pentagram and that there are places here which are right on the crossroads. You can call up evil or goodness in the middle of a crossroads. I think people have called up some wickedness. It's the underlying theme in the novel. The "Dumbdumz" reflect that. How distorted and twisted they have become. Edison knows that we don't have a "Buffy" to slay baddies nor do we have "Hellboy" or a John Constantine. Todd McFarlane is from around here. He created Spawn to fight that stuff but really it's up to an in
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Lawrence Ytzhak Braithwaite has been a bookstore clerk, a shipping clerk, a security guard, and a member of the Canadian armed forces. He is the author of Wigger, which won the Emerging Writers Competiton and was selected for Brian Bouldrey's Best American Gay Fiction, Volume 1, as well as much short fiction that has appeared in places like The Best Gay Erotica 1998, Redzone, MaleboxDC, Gerbil, and Angles. He lives in Victoria, B.C. and is a swot.From Publishers Weekly:
This Victoria, British Columbia, author's second novel is one of the riskiest books yet from Alyson, publisher of cutting-edge gay titles. (His excellent debut, Wiggers, appeared in Canada in 1994 and, unfortunately, received almost no critical notice.) It is difficult to read, with typographical symbols and codes, forward slashes, idiosyncratic spelling, acronyms and self-invented slang meant broadly to indicate the radical and transgressive nature of the voice serving up the narrative: "Wot'z Sparker'z subjet: Killer//ras enuff to be on that tree of life of hiz n hiz familiez', buddiez absorb'n light." The unconventional text follows several mods, skinheads, hardcore punks and other socially dissonant young men on the streets of Victoria. Sex is a connective tissue among them all, and--amid the drugs, drink, slam dancing and violence--there are even quixotic expressions of tenderness and love. Neo-Nazis mix dangerously with racially mixed punk scenesters; the protagonist, Edison, is a black skinhead. Edison describes the rivalry between two gangs that form the core of the culture called PSP (Pure Street Punk). These guys aren't straight, but neither are they gay, and their edgy sexual mutability underscores their daily lives in the musical, social and emotional zones of PSP. Fearlessly experimental and antiestablishment, Braithwaite's story is too disjointed for clarity; the lives of the punk boys get tangled up in a knot rather than interconnect expressively. This is a tough read, but hardcore, punk rock kids and souls sympathetic to the down-and-dirty street lifestyle may recognize something meaningful in all the distortion. Regional author appearances. (May)
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