A product of the tactical disarray that can be DIY self-publishing, Portland writer Mike Daily's second novel, ALARM (Stovepiper Books Media, 212 pages, $19.99), follows Mick O'Grady through his down-and-out exploits as a pop culture-immersed young fella in Los Angeles. Influenced by fellow PDX writer Kevin Sampsell and Portland zine culture, Daily (who has a tattoo of an old-fashioned typewriter on his forearm) calls his writing style Fidge—meaning "fuck-around fiction," his way of toying with the possibilities of the material and form. A confusing yet ethereal mixed-media experience, ALARM finds new ways to tap into that ever-elusive post-punk ethos. A two-CD set included with the book features 36 studio and live recordings of Daily reading passages from the book with his band O'GRADY—which has no problems laying down an apocalyptic tremolo of saxophone runs and organized cacophony of unbridled drum rolls alongside Daily's harsh voice. The bundle of printed word and recorded sound can feel too ambitious (and baffling) for its own good, but ALARM still remains fun, inventive and enthusiastically original. Not quite beat poetry, not quite music, ALARM is the kind of weird, abrasive post-modern project that feels right at home in Portland.
WW: How do you describe the book/CD format of ALARM?
Mike Daily: It's like an [art] installation. It's multimedia. But at its core, I see this as a book. The CDs weren't meant to be a book-on-tape, read-along kind of thing.
Do you consider yourself part of the tradition of the Beats?
About 10, 15 years ago, I read a lot of Beat stuff. But the Beats weren't quite as visual with a lot of their literature or poetry. I've been more influenced by the MC and freestyle element of performing. Where guys are doing their stuff in a rapid-fire format. A lot of verbiage. Driving a narrative. What I've been trying to do is more of storytelling theater.
You still call ALARM a "novel." What makes it a novel?
With my first book, too, having the word "novel" on the cover was a conscious play on words—using the word "novel" as something new. I try to bend genres.
What does writing from the fictional perspective of Mick O'Grady allow you to do that writing from an autobiographical perspective wouldn't?
That's what made this game, this fiction game, so compelling. Being able to fictionalize in the gaps, make stuff up as needed. Making a bridge between fiction and reality.
Do you live vicariously through fictional Mick O'Grady?
Mick O'Grady might be a distraught entity. Mike Daily can be a distraught entity. But Mick O'Grady can be more cavalier. Because obviously with fiction you can smooth things out or make something less rough and more free-flowing; you can edit a character. You can't do that in real life.