Bob Schofield Discusses The Inevitable June and His Sad-Cartoon-Apocalypse Aesthetic

Bob Schofield is a writer and artist. He first showed up on my radar when theNewerYork sent me a digital file of his book The Inevitable June, which I described as “the kind of thing that we need more of; not a gimmick or a hybrid, but something new.” I’m still not sure what the book is, but I dig it. Bob was kind enough to talk to me over a series of emails about his work. Read some of Bob’s work at his website. Read my review of The Inevitable June here. Read our discussion below.

Biblioklept: What is The Inevitable June?

Bob Schofield: The Inevitable June is a collection of 30 surreal short prose pieces, one for every day in June, intercut with black and white illustrations. The drawings don’t always correspond to the text, and there isn’t really much of a coherent “story” per se, but there is certainly momentum and direction. The book definitely goes somewhere, though I’m not sure where exactly that “somewhere” is.

I kind of just wanted to build a little world that mirrored my imagination. A kind of scale-model. So I wanted it to be a little cold and sad and spooky and, hopefully, also fun. Like some kind of weird, floppy theme park made of bound paper squares.

Biblioklept: How did you compose that “scale-model”? Did you have an outline from the outset?

Schofield: There were a few structural “rules” I came up with, and the rest I sort of made up as I went. Like I knew I’d have thirty pieces total, and they’d all be titled for successive days in June. It’s funny, a lot of the momentum in the book just comes from that progression of calendar days. I guess we’re just culturally wired to feel like we’re going somewhere when we see those days slide by. But in the book it’s all relatively arbitrary, and if you were to take the days away as titles, things would feel a lot more meandering.

Photograph of Bob Schofield by Alex Broadwell
Photograph of Bob Schofield by Alex Broadwell

My other big structural decision was to start every piece with “This morning,” which would become a kind of refrain throughout the book. I kind of thought of it a bit like a dinner bell, indicating one course of the meal was over, and we were moving on to the next.

Then as I was writing all the individual pieces, I’d cherry pick certain images and phrases I liked, and then be sure to repeat them later on. That way the reader’s brain would kind of light up as they recognized parts of a pattern, even though the pattern wasn’t really saying anything specific. I think that kind of thing is important when you don’t have a more familiar storytelling structure to rely on. You need to give the reader something to hold on to.

And for myself as writer, all these patterns and rules gave me just as much of an anchor. It meant I wasn’t just spinning off into some sort of insane, incomprehensible word soup. I’d always be aware that I’d have to wrap things up at some point, and move on to the next “day.”

Biblioklept: Your book The Last Days of Tokyo shares some of the anchoring features you mention—beginning each page with the phrase “On the last day of Tokyo,” for example, and the image of a salaryman fleeing in horror, his face an echo of Munch’s The Scream.

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The Beautiful Weirdness of Bob Schofield’s The Inevitable June

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Bob Schofield’s The Inevitable June continues theNewerYork Press’s dedication to beautiful weirdness. They’ve billed The Inevitable June as “words and art,” which is truth in advertising, yes, but is also a way of avoiding putting a label on this strange little book.

Is it a comic? A novella? A thought experiment? A prose-poem? A flip-book? Something entirely new? Yes.

But entirely new is wrong too, because, as the billing states, what we’ve got here are those ancient raw elements of storytelling, words and pictures, resynthesized into something that, in its strangeness, evokes newness and surpasses novelty. 

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An initial simplicity of form, both in written and drawn line, allows the reader’s consciousness to slip into the strangeness of June. We begin with a simple black-on-white square (emblem of a page or a screen? (or hey man it’s just a square?)) which turns into a cube, or a box rather, one side open (a door; a window) its interior obscured. Should the reader stick his head in? Yes. The book seems to take place in this box, an imaginative dream-machine that we might recall from a childhood or two. 

What follows is an almanac of tragicomic weirdness, each entry logging the events of a new morning in an eternal June.

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The clarity and concreteness of Schofield’s prose jars against its symantic expression, evoking a dream-nightmare world of continual creation and destruction. Every morning the world begins—and ends—anew, complete with new metaphors which crumble or dissolve or give way under the strain of the next morning’s creation.

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The Inevitable June echoes with images of oceans and fires, glass airplanes and invisible pilots, octopuses and yetis, angels and demons. Its transmutations both challenge and invite the reader to play a game where the rules have not been, cannot be, verbalized. 

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Is the game consciousness?

A version of consciousness anyway, a metaphor for consciousness—a collection of words and art, black and white lines, inky abysses and blank fields of possibility. If The Inevitable June attests that imaginative power can transform, it also underscores the costs and conditions of that transformation—the edges, the borders, the limits—the constraints of time, the days on a calendar. Interposed, our protagonist travels, falls, rises, dreams, and performs his various identities.   

I read Schofield’s  book a few times (it’s short) in different formats—on a laptop, a tablet, and then the physical book. Oh, and on my iPhone. I reread that thing on an iPhone waiting in my car to pick up my son from school. It was a different read each time, offering new strangenesses, new pathways, pratfalls, and pitfalls. The Inevitable June is not for all readers, obviously, but it gave me some joy in its puzzles and prose. Recommended.

The Inevitable June (Book Acquired, 3.31.2014)

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