A book can haunt you, linger in the mind, infiltrate your dreams. A book
can itself be haunted, imprinted with faded but charged marginalia, the
spectral energy of owners long dead. Logan Berry’s Casket Flare is
both—a haunted book keen to share its phantoms.
“We’re in the clouds… Gray as dog bones in an urn… They seize the
summit from every direction… Flowing fast… Stalking prey… The prey
that contain the cure to their poisoning… Menace in broad daylight…
I would like to kill… How would they feel to kill?... How would it
feel to kill a cloud?”
An unclassifiable work of daring imagination, Casket Flare (Inside
is an exquisite corpse of diaristic dispatches, surreal poetry, rancid
incantations, and fleshy hymns. Beyond its linguistic pyrotechnics, the
book is a visual bacchanal, artfully designed by Mike Corrao.
I traded emails with Logan Berry in “real time,” volleying questions as
I read Casket Flare piece by fiendish piece.
I looked up the Skylark Motel—a real place. The motel is a frequent
locale in horror cinema. Psycho, of course, but also Eaten Alive,
Motel Hell, Bug, etc. The roadside oasis seems to have supplanted
gothic mansions as a de facto backdrop for the macabre. The motel is a
most American phenomenon—once a ubiquitous fixture found all over the
country, now more often a symbol of decay and poverty. There’s something
menacing about motels—rife with connotations of illicit sex, drugs,
and violence. In Casket Flare, we’re dealing with a haunted motel and
a seance being conducted in one of the Skylark’s rooms. For you, how
does the motel fit into the horror oeuvre? What potent metaphors lie
within? And what drew you to the Skylark—is there a personal
Motels speak for themselves and do so reverbantly in your attentive
I picked the Skylark because it was cheap. Initially, I wanted to go to
the Sportsman’s Inn, a couple blocks north of the Skylark, because it
was cheap and I liked the sign, but it shuttered before I was ready to
write the book. Ultimately, it was a practical decision; I couldn’t
perform a séance at the facility where I was experiencing all the
perceptual anomalies because I was supervising children there and didn’t
want to endanger them. A motel seemed like the ideal space to set the
stage. To recreate my work movements (down to the number of steps and
cardinal directions) and commune with the entities my work routine
seemed to invoke. It could’ve been any motel, but it had to be the
We have Logan Berry the writer as well as the character “Logan Berry”
in Casket Flare, which now feels less fictitious than originally
presumed. I was struck by your line, “schism between the self & self”
and the excerpted Dickinson poem, “Ourself behind ourself, concealed - /
Should startle most -“ The narrative self and the authorial self—who’s
to say which is more “real”?
So there was in fact a seance conducted at the Skylark. Did you go
into this knowing you would later write about the experience, perhaps as
a creative, generative experiment? Or was it moreso to resolve these
anomalies you witnessed? How did you approach transmuting occult ritual
into artistic construct? It sounds as if there were otherworldly forces
All of the above. It took three years to prepare. I had to develop a
composition method that could attend both to style and to “Q,” the
catch-all name I use for the sundry strange phenomena. I wanted to
describe what was happening in “real time” and allow the Things to
articulate themselves without my control. I wanted something painfully,
embarrassingly present-tense. I ended up “writing” it via the
speech-to-text function on a Bluetooth headset. The “you” in the book
shifts constantly and includes the reader. You and I are summoned by it.
You’re still with me in the Skylark.
I’ve reached the “false” ending and before me lies “Casket Flare II.”
The fake out—another move straight from the horror playbook. Though
your book isn’t strictly horror per se. There’s mysticism, diaristic
confessions, concrete poetry, quotations, and reproductions. A strange
amalgamation but there is a sense of unity at play. How do you find
coherence when operating in so many different modes?
There are patterns at play that can be felt, even if they’re never
identified as such. The modes, for example, recur after equidistant
intervals. I imagine it like musical counterpoint, where multiple
melodies develop concurrently in a single song. Whether their overlaps
are harmonic or abrasive isn’t really the point; their enmeshment *is*
I’d wager there several key anchors throughout: the simplicity of its
overarching “plot” (or “concept”), the disfigured but familiar genre
tropes, and the book’s design aesthetic.
Speaking of the book’s design, the layout is a true stunner. A real
objet d’art. Each spread feels like its own self-contained world, but
there are recurring elements. The typeface shifts, stretches,
distorts—sometimes the text is even obfuscated. Casket Flare is
proof that aesthetic is a character unto itself. I know Mike Corrao had
a hand in the project. It does seem like a collaborative effort. How did
the initial transcript inform the design? And how do you see the design
augmenting the text?
The initial version was a fugly disaster. I’d record for 30 minutes in
the motel room, then I’d edit/design/typeset for 30 mins and repeated
this process till I couldn’t stay awake anymore. I added in the Polaroid
and disposable camera photos a few weeks later. The resulting file was
bloated and ornate but crude in execution.
When he accepted the manuscript, John Trefry gave me several notes, the
most important of which was that the “ghostly interruptions”—which I’d
bracketed off within ((double parentheses)) inside each
transmission—needed stronger demarcation. I sent him a couple
concepts: one where the interruptions formed “text-frames” around the
transcriptions, and one where the interruptions were installed in putrid
shapes. John said he liked them both.
Corrao joined at that point. He recreated the entire original
manuscript—with a *way* higher standard of execution—in InDesign
and added putrid shapes to all the interruptions. I asked him to add as
much to the book as he wanted, so long as he preserved the original
sequence of pages. After months of sending it back and forth to each
other, we added 80 pages.
With Casket Flare 2, I sent him the raw text and photos, as well as a
note detailing motives and possible design concepts. He was free to do
what he wanted, a process in direct contrast with his work on the first.
I think of each page as a kind of stage. The text performs itself
through the design and vice versa. Corrao gets this. We work well
The action shifts to a house on a mountain near a dangerous (cursed?)
stretch of highway. And rather than a seance or summoning, we’re dealing
with an exorcism—not a possessed soul but a possessed space. The tone
of the transcription becomes decidedly more religious than occult.
Indeed, the sort of automatic writing you employ is reminiscent of
Christian mysticism. I’m reminded of The Cloud of Unknowing and this
idea of relinquishing your mind or consciousness to see the true nature
of God. Has religion informed your work? Do you see creating art as an
act of devotion or a way to connect with the divine?
I was raised Catholic, so Biblical imagery and the sensuous aspects of
the Liturgy are seared in my psyche. I stopped practicing at 16. The
God-shaped hole in my head filled with all kinds of dreck. I’ve returned
to God, but not the Church. To be clear, I have the utmost respect for
spiritual rigor, faith, and courage, but I have no patience for the
pedants and the politicians. I suspect you can trace these sensibilities
develop throughout my works.
To the extent it’s possible, I subordinate myself to the creative act.
Whatever it requires or connects with is beyond my control.
I’m struck by the imagistic intensity of your language—both in
Casket Flare and your previous work. It’s a bombardment of visceral
symbols. “Citric vapor simmers... Leaky one-way mirrors.… Clutch the
fruit & squeeze.…. Through your fist…” Corporeality is always at
the forefront. Limbs and organs and fluids aplenty. Why does the body’s
architecture compel you? In what way do you see the physical realm
overlapping with the textual?
It’s 100% true I’m compelled by the body’s architecture. So true, in
fact, that I’ve never considered why; it’s a given. Something tacit in
the way I see, before perception gives way to thinking. There’s probably
some perverted self-analysis I could do, but I’ll spare us all from
I really like the way you wrote the second question. There are many
modes of articulation that have nothing to do with words. The
etymological roots of “text” stem from physicality: “to weave,” “to
fabricate,” and “to braid.” The “style or texture” of a “woven-work”
came later. Text is physical and affective, but the physical can’t be
reduced to the textual—but what if it could?
I’ve come to the end of Casket Flare, and so we must conclude our
conversation. The final pages were some of the most hallucinatory. When
I read the line, “We couldn’t leave because we were hooked to cash
infusions,” I was reminded of how it feels to be trapped within a
vampiric system, a feeling I believe many Americans today share. Casket
Flare, to me, is a distorted, mutated version of the Great American
Novel—shit, in that sense, maybe it’s even the Ultimate American
Novel. Not just a haunted motel room, or a haunted house, but a haunted
country. Do you see yourself fitting into any sort of American literary
tradition? How does our current circumstance in this country bleed into
I’ll answer your second question first. I’m interested in the
sickeningly contemporary, for sure, but it’s more than that. Writing
books is a way to engage with deep time, to flirt with situations beyond
ourselves. The books decay slower than we do. They rewire future
understandings of our current situation, as well as what led up to it.
In that sense, the past gets recasted, too. It’s deep play with deep
time in all directions. I think of the books as time capsules. As time
travel. If the books arrive in a time without minds, they’d better be
As far as literary traditions go, I’m honestly not sure. It’s not
something I’ve considered. Instead of speculating, I’ll share an
On a day-long drive to Michigan’s upper peninsula for a camping trip a
few summers ago, I followed Google Maps off-roads to a gas station in
the woods, to refuel and use the john. A book displayed on a wire-stand
near the men’s room caught my eye: CRYPTIC MICHIGAN—WOODLAND
REVELATIONS. Its primitive, homemade design; its chapter titles like
“Ghost Apples,” “Mouth Cemetery,” and “The Canton Mystery Vibration”;
and its undisclosed but obvious plagiarisms—made me buy it. I thought
it would be perfect near a campfire.
As the cashier rang me up, he said, “It’s a shame you didn’t come by
earlier. The author of this book is almost always here.”
“At the gas station?” I asked.
“Every day. Yup.”
If I fit within any American literary tradition, I hope it’s the one
that includes WOODLAND REVELATIONS.
Logan Berry is author of Casket Flare (Inside the Castle)
Run-off Sugar Crystal Lake (11:11 Press), and Transmissions to
Artaud (Selffuck). He's directed several plays and intends to direct
several more before he’s dead. He’s interested in Ultratheater.