Purposes

Free of academia, living downtown, I was by 1969 entirely on my own. I should add that I never thought of myself as "free-lance," as my services are not for hire. Even in writing for magazines, I rarely do topics suggested by editors, in part because it takes too much time and research to write well about something I have not thought about for a long, long time. Another practical rule is never do anything that anyone else can do better, in any medium, not only because the people hiring you will come to regret not choosing the better guy but also because, unless you are starving, it is always a pleasure to give assignments away.

In 1967 I began creative writing, initially in poetry, but later in fiction, experimental prose, and book-art. In 1975, I began to work in audio and video, not as a collaborating scriptwriter but as the principal author or maker of tapes; before long, film and holography became part of my publishing repertoire. Instead of being just a writer, I had reason to call myself a "writer/artist." Nonetheless, I continued to do expository prose of all kinds. Adding new activities without fully abandoning old ones, I have evolved for myself a pluralistic working situation, where I can go from one thing to another, from one art to another (or, in my house, from one worktable to another), without any strain or anxiety. There are only projects demanding attention, and my daily job is, simply, laboring toward their completion. Though other authors may be more prolific, none known to me is quite so various, "all over the place" being an academic euphemism that is at once deprecatory and appropriately distinctive.

Person of Letters in the Contemporary World (2011)

What I have done, and continue to do, as a writer, as a critic, as an anthologist, as a theorist, is simply more extreme and more avant-garde in every fundamental sense, I'd like to think because I have thought more thoroughly and profoundly about the issues of alternative and possibility in fiction.

Interview with Larry McCaffery (1986)

It has also been clear to me that, notwithstanding the necessity of debunking, the prime task of truly contemporary criticism is defining order in the superficial chaos of unprecedented cultural experience.

Twenties in the Sixties (1979)

What Leon All my creative work can also be seen as the dialectical result of pitting my traditional education and professional experience (with expository writing) against a series of antithetical efforts to transcend conventional forms--to write a poetry of intentionally limited language, to make a fiction exclusively of lines, to compose literature with numbers, to multitrack declaimed language, etc. Since much of the work involves the mixing of different artistic materials, the process of perceiving it customarily combines at least two perceptual modes--the visual with the verbal, the verbal with the aural, the fragmentary with the linear, the numerical with the visual, the static with the kinetic, etc.; for the work is usually meant to be perceived not just in one traditional way but, more likely, in a few ways. It could also be said that I have endeavored, first, to synthesize my education in literature and history with a growing interest in music and the visual arts and, second, to test my inventive proclivities against the resistances of several unfamiliar media. This background may explain such idiosyncrasies as why even my Constructivist Fictions, which are totally devoid of language, usually embody a strong narrative line, why all my music so far is based upon the spoken word, or why my works seem at once so intellectual and so anti-intellectual; or why I am more interested in results than in processes, or why I find myself so often talking and writing about the work, and finally why this memoir is as it is.

On Innovative Art(ist)s (1991)

Leonardo & Kosti share is an open-ended image of professional activity that results from an out-sized curiosity and courage common to them both. What their total ouevre displays are esthetic and ethical principles reflective of courageous curiosity--the more interests an artist has, the more various and perhaps stronger will his or her art be.

“Leonardo and Me” (2011)

Most of the essays reflect the theme announced in the title, dealing as they do in various ways with the experience of being independent in the age of affiliation, a writer in more than one genre in an age of specialists, a radical among conservatives, consciously avant-garde at a time when innovation was proclaimed impossible, and a literary artist attuned to possibilities offered by new technologies. Since my activity reportedly reflects integrity at various levels, other recurring themes will no doubt become apparent.

Person of Letters in the Contemporary World (2011)

What the discrepancies in these [encyclopedia] entries reflect finally is that encapsulation of me must be problematic, in spite of all my attempts to clarify my activity (as here, again). Not only is my work various and unconventional, defying both in sum and in part previous categories of appreciation; but the dimensions of my activity are perhaps unprecedented for a writer and unique as well.

“Rejected by Contemporary Authors (Gale)” (2010)

For the foreseeable future, I envision more of the same, which is to say a lifetime of days being a person of letters in the late twentieth century, handling words in special ways, playing with my toys, and finishing off those projects on which I've been working for years and years and years.

Person of Letters in the Contemporary World (2011)