Watched my old quarry friends blow up a section of hillside today. With extreme reluctance I agreed not to film it, for corporate reasons. But, man, C-4 is breathtaking, a plastic explosive not quite as powerful as PE4 but half again up on TNT. A detonation velocity of 25,000 feet per second +. That’s pushing 18,000 mph.

I concede this kind of stuff is extremely dangerous and needs the tight controls it has. But it is a godful thing to behold in action. And contrary to what you might think, the satisfaction of watching it work lingers. It’s like a raw pink Argyle diamond placed in your hand. For one moment you hold what might be a million dollars a carat in Antwerp–and your hand knows. It remembers when that rough gem is taken away. It’s not the same hand ever again.

The same with a proper blast. Your mind holds it–even as pieces of bluestone are flying.

The care in setting a good explosion…

It’s an art. And it makes me think of my own arts differently.

If you’re not blowing something up, you’re not really making anything. That’s the new credo. I’m going to be sorry to miss these guys. One’s going off to Western Australia to blow up things for real money for the mining industry out there. The other is joining the world’s biggest building demolition team in America. They’ve studied for their credentials and expertise–good for them. Everyone has to explode forward or implode inward.

Gone are the days. But we went out with a boom.

To anyone in the arts, I say if it can’t also hurt you, it might not really be art. Think dynamite and pink diamonds.

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KRIS SAKNUSSEMM is a writer, painter and musical producer. He is the author of the international cult novels Zanesville and Private Midnight. Random House is bringing out his third novel in the USA in March 2011, and a new book called Reverend America has just been completed and is already being sold in Europe. A Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, he has won First Prize in the Boston Review and River Styx Short Fiction Contests, and received the Fiction Collective 2 Award for Innovative Writing, in addition to publishing in a wide range of places such as Playboy, Nerve.com, Opium Magazine, The Missouri Review, The Hudson Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner and ZYZZYVA, amongst many others. You can find more about him on his Facebook Page.

6 responses to “Beauty and the Boom”

  1. Don Mitchell says:

    This one got to me, and not because I’m some secret demolitionist. It’s a reminder that blowing things up has a bad reputation because most of us — maybe nearly all of us — think of that only as implying destruction, harm, bad intent, and the like. Because, of course, outside of certain industries and contexts that’s what it does imply.

    But “If you’re not blowing something up, you’re not really making anything” is an interesting take on creativity, and it’s got me thinking. No matter what you think about extractive industries (and I don’t think much of them, myself) it’s true that explosions lay bare or make available what you’re after.

    And it’s also worth remembering — for use in analogies — that people working in the field know all about the great care it takes to plan and prep the actual explosion. I don’t think anybody outside of idiots with some M-80s or a bit of dynamite just “blow things up.”

    So, Kris, all very interesting and worth thinking about.

  2. dwoz says:

    Good to remember that NASA is just a bunch of guys strapping a bomb to someone’s back, lighting the fuse, and praying.

  3. Kris Saknussemm says:

    Thanks guys.

  4. Seb Doubinsky says:

    Great artistic finale, probably one of the best ever:


  5. Arielle Bernstein says:

    Great piece! I like your concept of the arts as something which actively changes the environment around you, even if that change means destruction of something we think of as sacred like the earth.

  6. Kris Saknussemm says:

    Thanks mucho.

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