Victoria Around Town, 2002
Interview by Briana D
Victoria's Clint Hutzulak's first novel is accompanied by its own soundtrack.
According to first-time novelist Clint Hutzulak, his book The Beautiful Dead End is "an offbeat existentialist crime thriller that takes the reader on a visceral journey to the 'other side' and almost back again."
To understand what exactly that means, you'd have to either read the book or go to the upcoming author reading at Lucky Bar in Victoria. I guess that's what Hutzulak is hoping for.
"It's low-concept art," he says when I ask him via email to describe his novel in five sentences or less. "There's no juicy little nugget that summarizes it (unfortunately)."
To say Hutzulak's book is unusual is an understatement. It is accompanied by cryptic statements about the purpose and plot. It features drugs, sex, necrophilia, murder, country music and "various other activities illegal in most civilized countries," according to Hutzulak.
But possibly the most unique feature is its accompanying soundtrack.
The album, which isn't finished being mixed yet, is an eerie foray into an alien world of what Hutzulak's website calls "dark electroacoustic chamber music" and "spacy country ambience."
The album, too, is unusual even beyond its origin and colourful descriptors. Its music is entirely improvised by musicians from Italy, Victoria, Vancouver and Quebec, all of who had not yet read Hutzulak's book. To create the music, the musicians were given plot outlines and a list of albums and musicians whose works were similar to the kind of music that Hutzulak envisioned on the soundtrack.
Hutzulak also sat in on the sessions. Though not a musician himself, he guided them toward the tone and style he wanted. At times, he says, he'd make up a string of adjectives, and challenge the musicians to evoke a mood or scenario based on those themes.
Movie soundtracks have always captured Hutzulak's imagination.
"I collect soundtrack albums," he says, "many for movies I have never seen. I love movie soundtracks. Barry Adamson made an album in the mid-1980s called Moss Side Story, which may have been the first 'soundtrack to an imaginary movie,' and that was inspiring for me."
Hutzulak says he visualizes "cinematically" when he writes, and as he wrote the novel, he programmed music for himself to induce the mental and emotional states he wanted. A soundtrack to accompany his book therefore seemed appropriate.
Despite the many eccentric features of the Victoria writer's creation, Hutzulak says anyone who enjoys a well-written action book will enjoy The Beautiful Dead End.
"It's confronting the 'big issues' - death, identity, afterlife, love - in an entertaining way (I hope)," says Hutzulak.
"Great for kids - teenagers love to read about sex and death. They're obsessed by it. Religious people should dig it as well - it's the story of Saul becoming Paul. There's something in it for everyone."
The Beautiful Dead End - book and soundtrack - is a complex project. But then, that's the point.
"[The Beautiful Dead End] acknowledges that what we see with our eyes, what can be tested and verified through science - the triumph of the rational - is only part of the picture," Hutzulak says. "The world is more complex and more interesting and more mysterious than science is allowing itself to believe."
Clint Hutzulak will read from The Beautiful Dead End February 12 at Lucky Bar, 517 Yates. 7-9pm. Musicians Dan Weisenberger (dobro) and Todd Hutzulak (guitars and clarinet) will also play acoustic music from the moody soundtrack.
Q&A with Clint Hutzulak
Where did the story come from? What was your inspiration?
The piece started as a long short story, which was my project in the final year of creative writing at UVic. At that time, the main characters were in place, but the story was very absurd and full of silly things. Gradually, it got darker and darker and more serious, and all the silliness got pared away. I started writing scenes that interested me, and then tried to build a story around them, by shuffling and re-shuffling material. In that way, I found out what I was actually thinking about -- what was going on in the back corners of my mind, so to speak. The story just grew up as I grew up.
Why a crime thriller?
I didn't set out to write a crime thriller, but many of the characters in the story ended up being criminal at some level. I wanted to structure the narrative so that it made compelling reading. When I started getting feedback from early readers, they said it was a real page-turner, which was exciting to hear. That's when I started calling it a "crime thriller"....
What kind of reader would like your book?
People who enjoy a well-written action book. It's in the same universe as David Lynch or Denis Villeneuve films, or books by William Burroughs or JG Ballard, maybe. Very detailed and realistic, but then it veers off into a very strange landscape that is hidden from the everyday viewpoint.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in finishing your book?
What do you want people to know about you or your novel?
It's in bookstores now.
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
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