May 1, 2003
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Robert Wexler—

Villager Robert Wexler will read from his first book, ‘In Springdale Town,’ this Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m., at Sam & Eddie’s Open Books.

A writer who dislikes labels
Robert Wexler is a local writer, and that’s about the extent of his comfort with labels. But you can’t get an idea of his writing style either by looking at the bucolic pastel drawing on the cover of his first book, In Springdale Town, published this month by PS Publishing.
You have to look a little deeper before you start to see clues, such as the dog-eared copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings on his bookshelf, and the blue and red Mexican chicken on his computer desk. And you have to read his work a little further to get to the gooey black holes and characters who don’t exist in a town a bit like Yellow Springs before the literary genre becomes clearer, sort of.
“Literary fabulation” is what Wexler calls his work, describing his style as “slip stream” surrealist fantasy in a real-world setting with magic intruding on it.
For instance, when Richard Shelling sets out from his Santa Monica movie star life on Interstate 10, the reader could reasonably expect the rest of the story to be about a man’s journey to rediscover his identity and ground himself in the humanity of a small Midwestern town. But the journey is in a dimension where the characters swim through pink foam jelly and cannot escape the ogreish jailer who keeps turning up to trap them. In the end they emerge from the viscous goop and have to face themselves and choose their true identities.
Wexler said he often writes in stream of consciousness mode and never knows where his stories will lead him.
“Part of the joy is finding out what’s going to happen because I don’t know when I start writing,” he said. “I like having it be more accidental.”
It’s less confining to access the subconscious and see where it takes you, he said.
In keeping with his aversion to labels that box and define, Wexler wants to be free to explore all the dimensions of the imagination in his writing. He wants to produce something that is his very own.
“I don’t want to write about something everybody sees,” he said. “I’d rather create something people can’t see.”
Growing up in the swamp city of Houston, Texas, Wexler said, he was drawn to read Louis L’Amour westerns and science fiction stories by Andrea Norton. But the journalism degree he later earned limited his writing to the realm of reality in an unsatisfying way, he said. So he got a computer degree to do freelance desktop publishing and began writing what he wanted to write, moving to Yellow Springs in 1999 to do it.
But the problem with writing about floating people and whales that talk is that it gets labeled as science fiction or fantasy, Wexler said, adding that he would rather not be identified as serving a fan club of “Star Trek” groupies.
Science fiction tends to be plot driven, he said, and isn’t often prized for its literary value.
“I have high standards for the actual language,” he said. “And I felt if I wrote well, I could get things published.”
Within the world of publishing, the science fiction community is less intimidating and easier to penetrate because the audience is always the same loyal group of followers and collectors, Wexler said. He has attended some of the more literary science fiction conferences, such as the World Fantasy Convention, which attracts 600 to 700 readers, writers and editors every year.
After getting short stories published in several literary and experimental fiction magazines, Wexler found PS Publishing, a British publisher, to distribute his novella. The company will print 300 hardback copies and 500 paperbacks, plus a limited edition for collectors, Wexler said.
He will give a reading on Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m., at Sam & Eddie’s Open Books. Copies are scheduled to be available this month at the local bookstore and also online at Amazon UK and at Clarkes World Books.
Wexler continues to write new material. He is currently working on a novel about a sculptor in New York who becomes obsessed with an historical painter. Of course, he doesn’t yet know what happens to his character, but that’s O.K. with him.
“I usually get close to the end and then I see it like when I’m a block away,” he said. “I don’t know for a long time, then I see it, and I know it’s all worth it.”

—Lauren Heaton