Alex Manley, Inveterate Jaywalker
Alex Manley is a twenty-nine-year-old writer and editor from Montréal, Québec. As a writer, he seeks to explain himself to the world "using a really inefficient and circumlocutory technique" with not only words but reaction gifs, emoji and "silly flights of Photoshop fancy." For anyone who wants to do the same, he has a fool-proof four-point plan:
1) Read. 2) Write. 3) Edit. 4) Repeat.
I first discovered Alex’s beautiful poetry book, We Are All Just Animals & Plants, at the Metatron stand in the Toronto Art Book Fair in 2017. The cover is flowery but I think he’s a sharp writer. His Twitter handle is a pun on “a lexicon.” I’m embarrassed to admit that took me a while to figure out.
We share a mutual love for jaywalking, as he tells me he feels most comfortable when he's jaywalking "with grace and verve." He's also passionate about equality and "making a future that's more utopian than dys."
Alex has felt truly happy "a bunch of times" recently, which he says is "wild and so, so nice." He loves Paris in the rain, parks in Montreal, first kisses, fresh bagels, independent bookstores, finishing things he's proud of, and watching his friends succeed. He does not love economic inequality and xenophobia. Or "hemming yourself in and doing the job of the people who dislike you for them."
Keep reading to learn more about some of his original work.
RS: You're a "third generation word-nerd" on both sides of your family.
@alex_icon: One grandmother was a librarian, the other worked writing dictionaries, my mother is a translator, and my father's an editor/technical writer. I don't think I had much of a choice in the grand scheme of things.
RS: How do you like to collect your thoughts?
@alex_icon: I text them to myself in fragments.
RS: What do you think is the role of language?
@alex_icon: To clarify and obfuscate—language is a tool, like any other. The powerful use it to great effect, but the talented use it best of all.
RS: You speak two languages (three if you consider puns a language of their own). Can you comment on how this has affected your work?
@alex_icon: As someone who grew up in Montreal, a city famous for its linguistic bipolarity, tension, and melding, I've always been fascinated by English and French and Frenglish (franglais), so French definitely does work its way into my writing.
RS: You like writing things specifically to two groups of people: “those who will get your references and those who won't.”
@alex_icon: I love the power of literature to affect different people in different ways, to cleave readers into smaller and smaller subgroups with every passing sentence, so that a formless mass entering in one end of a work comes out the other end with as many reactions and receptions as there were readers.
RS: What are the main challenges of your art?
@alex_icon: Trying to decide how many layers of disguise is the right amount.
RS: What do you look for when capturing an image or feeling?
@alex_icon: I want something clean — but not too clean.
RS: What psychs you out?
@alex_icon: Thinking about what other people think about me (if they think about me at all).
RS: What's a day in your life like?
@alex_icon: I work eight hours a day in the AskMen offices; I sleep usually about eight or nine hours, and I spend most of the rest on the internet.
RS: What do you do as an editor?
@alex_icon: I try to find answers for the big questions, like "Why are men the way that they are?" and… basically just that first one...
RS: Tell us what you just launched for AskMen.
@alex_icon: AskMen deTOX, an editorial feature comprising eight articles and two videos about how we can detoxify modern masculinity. [Check it out here.]
RS: I think that’s such important work! Tell me, what kind of people do you like to spend time with?
@alex_icon: My approach to music has always been less about genre and more about how different artists exist within the context of their genres. So I'm interested in artists that really stand out, in classics, in rising stars, in lyricists, in legends. I think I apply a similar metric to people: I care less about the what of people and more about the how. Whatever walk of life or faith or taste in things, I like to talk to people who make me excited about the world and who seem like they understand something particular about how I am.
RS: What artists do you like?
@alex_icon: James Joyce, MF DOOM, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Hayao Miyazaki, Joan Didion, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fleet Foxes, Andrea Long Chu, Maggie Nelson.
RS: What do you think young artists need?
@alex_icon: Young artists need encouragement, breathing room, something to look up to, and a freedom from the material constraints that turn so many of us into automatons instead of creators.
RS: How have your political views shaped your work?
@alex_icon: I feel like my work was less political for a long time but the freedom to write about the world without considering the forces that shape it seems like a remnant of a bygone era. I try to weave the explicitly political into my poetry in a kind of filigree these days, so that you can ignore it but only with concerted effort, and in my non-poetic writing I feel like it comes through more intently. A truth that I believe about today is that absent a moral character there is nothing that is any kind of good in this world — no aesthetic pleasure, no kind politeness, no relaxed bliss can be truly said to be capital-G Good unless it is in some way in support of bettering things for the many at the expense of the few.
RS: What’s artificial or deceiving in our world?
@alex_icon: Capitalism, the patriarchy and any kind of cultural/political/financial hegemony.
RS: How does capitalism affect you?
@alex_icon: A better question might be, how does it not? Every aspect of my life is framed, buttressed, squished, contorted and so forth by capitalism. I was in a public park recently and mused on the unlikelihood that all that real estate wasn't producing money for anyone. I want a world with less capitalism and more parks.
RS: Are you an outdoor person?
@alex_icon: I used to be a solidly indoor person, but since going on anti-anxiety meds (fluoxetine, aka Prozac) a few months ago, I've been feeling much more at home in the outdoors. Who knows — I might come to switch over at some point. I generally dislike crowds but one kind of crowd I really appreciate is the slowly ambling street fair crowd. I love to people-watch as I power-walk through them.
RS: What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
@alex_icon: Leave a nearly four-year relationship.
RS: What do you find romantic?
@alex_icon: Pride & Prejudice (2005) dir. Joe Wright feat. Keira Knightley, Matthew McFadyen
RS: What is your personal philosophy?
@alex_icon: It's a pat little phrase, but I've always liked the idea that the journalist's motto is to the afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.