What can you say about contemporary literature in USA?
I’d like to be able to say that in the last 50 years we’ve seen the rise of the “corporate slut” in literature and the arts but I think they’ve always been there. History tends not to remember them. Therefore they appear to be “new”. These are people who, for these “writers” it is more important to be seen as a “famous writer” than to write something interesting. Mediocre writing is inoffensive and easy to market. Since about 1960 onward there’s been a kind of war between what I call the “Updike-ists” and the innovators. The “Updike-ists” are competing to see who can best imitate John Updike. They’re New York-centric, upper middle-class demagogues who assume everybody grew up in New York or New England somewhere or wanted to, and it’s a long, long list. The primary characteristics of their writing is their assumption that everybody shares their worldview. They tend to be very smug and comfortable with their world and they worship New York City (basically the worship of money) which is incomprehensible to me, something like worshipping a very fucked up and fanatical religion. The title of most of these kind of books could be “I’m from New York and I’m smarter than you”.
Conversely, we have the west coast publishers, who have published themselves out of existance by playing it “safe” with endless novels about lesbian eskimos who were molested as children and grew up to be angry, self -righteous suburban housewives. The whole fucked up situation is compounded by the fact that most people do not read books anymore for fun, the books they are offerred by the mainstream publishing industry (and the “alternative” press for that matter) are a lot of bland bullshit, and the books must compete in a market where titles like “How to Foster Your Child’s Relationship with Jesus Before Age Five” and “The Tradgedy of Secondary Infertility” sell more copies.
Who are your preferred authors?
Holy shit! It’s a long list, unfortunately, very few are contemporary. Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Marguerite Duras, Ryu Murakami, Akiyuki Nosaka, Kenji Nakagami, Lynda Barry, Charles Finney, John Steinbeck, Carson MCullers, Harper Lee, Zora Neale Hurston, Stephen Crane, Louis Celine, Albert Camus, Jack Kerouac, William Burrough’s early novels, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski, Ambrose Bierce, John Fante, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges…
Can you make a comparison between american literature in the past and nowadays?
Books were very important for about 400 years. U.S. history is a bit shorter than that. Basically books and reading in general took a huge body blow when TV showed up, and movies before that. I still think that people, some people, felt that books and writing were still intrinsically important until the double whammy of the arrival of the internet combined with a glut of very bad writing killed the interest. People who once upon a time would’ve read a novel to pass the time are now constantly masturbating with electronic devices to the exclusion of everything else. It’s revolting.
What do you think about David Foster Wallace?
I’ve only heard his name, never read him. But I have to say that I’m generally mistrustful of English speaking writers who use hyphenated names. It’s very popular with really fucking horrible poets and other extremely pretentious people. I could be wrong about DFW. I really like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Gabriel Garcia Marquez but one is an actress and the other is from Colombia and probably has about six other family names that he isn’t using.
You were talking about a “pestilence” going around the world. Can you specify what do you mean describe it?
The comedian Bill Hicks described the human race as “a virus with shoes”. We’re the only mammal that has evolved to be more like an insect than a mammal. The animal we most closely resemble is the ant. We colonize and build cities like ants. The most recent formof colonization is this plague of materialism which proceeds through the vector of television. Most people didn’t realize they were poor and “uncivilised” until they got TV. To quote Joni Mitchell it “comes as a guest to take a slave”. Suddenly, they feel inadequate and very quickly everything and everyone has a price tag on. Consumerism and TV hypnosis go hand in hand to the eventual exclusion of everything else. People no longer read, tell stories, sing or play anything but video games. It’s really tragic. So we have the loss, within the last 50 years, of storytelling, music making, of creativity itself. What we have instead is music videos which are advertisments…all of these contain moral propaganda as well. Some movies are better than others. I suppose some turds are better looking than others, they’re still turds though.
A major focus of this materialist colonizing is the deliberate “dumbing down” of the population. The “owners” want you to be stupid, superficial and easily manipulated. I think that this has always been the case , but the new tecnology is extremely potent. Basically the “owners” have erased 500 years of progress in one generation. They want medieval serfs and they’ve getting them.
On writing: do you think it’s important?
“It’s importanto to me. I don’t know about anybody else.” Marge Duras quote. It’s important to me. Books were always magical things to me. Ventriloquist dummies. They’re inanimate objects that can talk. They’re important as an opportunity to put ideas, emotions and pictures directly into someone elses’ head with the participation of their own personal imagination. Nothing else does that.
Why do you write?
Most writers get really pissed off when they’re asked that. They asked Bukowski and he said “Why do you take a shit?”. Chuck Pahlaniuk said more or less the same thing. They get insulted but for someone who doesn’t write I think it’s a legitimate question. The first reason is: I have many things to say that nobody else seems to be saying. But probably the most important thing is that I fucking hate the writing that is offered me. I think it’s incredibly insipid and offensively uninspired. I’m supposed to enjoy this? They have nothing original to say and they say it badly and that pisses me off. And the reading public, the few that are left, nod their heads and say “yeah, I really liked that “coming-of-age” novel about the muslim eskimo lesbian girl that was molested in Anartica and now works for a high-powered New York Bullshit Agency”…”I thought it was fascinating!”.
Ok. So, I guess you could say that I write because I feel, in the ultimate soul-core of my being, that what’s being published in the English speaking world is absolutely putrid, horrendous shit.
What do you think about Lynda Barry?
I love Lynda Barry! She’s the complete modern artist. Cartoonist, novelist, painter, she creates works that have no category…yet. She is phenomenal, like Dr. Suess but with an R rating. She is capable of capturing children’s true voices, an expert at this, truly. She remembers how terrifying it is to be a child and makes you feel the terror. She’s also fucking hilarious. Such a great artist. She writes the way people really talk in America.
How do you choose and define your plots?
My imagination actually isn’t very incredible, so my plots are usually based on real experiences. The stories are things that actually happened or could have happened and they are events that I feel strongly about. Usually I’m very angry about them and want to share, express my anger somehow. It’s very important that I transform them into something humorous though. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said “If you’re going to tell the truth, you’d better make people laugh. Otherwise, they’ll kill you”.
I know that writers often say ” The story is everything”. I’m kind of opposite. For me, the characters and situations are much more interesting than the total story. I’m interested in dialogue and jokes and descriptions. Painting picture or taking photos of reality. For me the stories, the meanings are intrinsic, they are small and connected to details, there’s nothing grand or fantastic, only little meanings. So, every word or every seemingly unimportant thing should be conveying, or is conveying something.
What do you think about cultural hybridized, connections, relationships?
Somebody, I don’t know who, said “All friendships are based on a fundamental misunderstanding”. The main thing I want is to be left alone. The media reinforces certain fucked up expectations that fit into the materialistic over-culture. “Marry and re produce”. “Men are uncivilised puppies that need training”. “Babies bring happiness”. “Activities that don’t generate income are worthless”. etc. I’m going to go into some really fucked up territory here and venture that the popular conception, that men have created all the horror and terror and fucked-upness in the world and that women are, and have always been, the universal voices of reason is utter complete bullshit. As usual, people ask the wrong questions. Why do men want wealth and power? To get laid! Women will have sex with men they see as “powerful”. It’s biological. Therefore, it stands to reason that the man who most wants sex, will do whatever, whatever, it takes to aquire the power and wealth necessary to attract women. If women weren’t biologically attracted to power, men wouldn’t seek it, and everybody would chill the fuck out.
Tell us about Gore Vidal and the media attack he’s suffering.
It is a disgrace. He’s a national treasure and the media is using him as a whipping boy if they use him at all. For years he’s been one of the few voices in the wilderness for reason, intelligence, tolerance, and freedom. And he’s always occupied a unique place because of being born into a powerful, political American family. His commentary has weight though he’s always been marginalized in the U.S. media as have all voices of reason. He’s constantly been accused of being “outrageous” for making reasonable comments. He has said many times that no governmental body has the right to tell him who he can have sex with, or what he can or can’t put into his body. For this he’s vilified in the media. The conservative media (and there is no other in the U:S: the so-called “Liberal Media” doesn’t exist in any real sense) has been attacking him for years and accusing him of being a freak and a dangerous radical when he’s one of the few voices of reason that we have. Now that he’s older and having health problems the media is attacking him mercilessly. They did the same thing when Kurt Vonnegut died. The media could not say enough horrible shit about him. They spit all over his grave because he dared criticize “America”. It was disgusting and Vidal is getting the same treatment. He’s always been a totally accurate, consistent, well-informed critic of U.S. policy.
Tell us something about Jack Kerouac.
He loved. He loved life and people and things and it all crusched him because he was open to it all. I think ultimately he was heartbroken becuse life didn’t love him back as much as he loved it. All of his books are love stories. He become quite famous and it fucked him up because, I think, he realized how superficial and bogus it was…Suddenly everybody loved him but it wasn’t true love. He was all heart and eyes and ears. P Diddy and Don Delillo will never be crushed that way. They have nothing to offer but ego. Kerouac had wonderful ideas about writing. He once said that he was drinking himself to death because he wanted to commit suicide but the church forbade it. Catholicism fucked him up…along with unrequited love.
You are from Oakland. How can you describe your town nowadays?
It’s a place without a postcard. Even the squalor there is half-assed. It’s the most fucked up place I’ve ever entountered in the world, although I’m certain sub-saharan Africa must be worse. But even the most god-forsaken third world country has something good to eat, cheap, and probably some good music somewhere, Oakland has nothing. When people ask me “What is a nice part of Oakland?” I say “the cemetery”. It’s true. That’s the nicest part of Oakland by far. Although the social order is maintained, even in death. The rich people are buried on the hills and the poor people are buried down on the flats.
Oakland has been a shithole since the end of WWII when the boatyards closed and the jobs disappeared. There are some gentrified areas which are very popular right now because they are slightly less viciously overpriced than San Francisco and the new “natives” say “oh, I love Oakland!” but it’s not really Oakland. Oakland is a truly horrible place. Nothing good even happens there.