Interviews & Reviews

INTERVIEW WITH NOAH CICERO by Benjamin Scott

Noah Cicero has a new book out called Give It to the Grand Canyon, published by Philosophical Idiot in July (available here).  It is his first fictional book in several years. I interviewed him about the book, his writing process, and his views on the current state of America. 

BS: How would you categorize Give It to the Grand Canyon?  Is it fiction, a short story collection, a memoir?  At first I thought it was a memoir because the narrator doesn't state his name until a couple chapters in. Are the characters based on people you met?

NC: It definitely is not a memoir. There are scenes that happened, but there are scenes that were made up. In general, the real moments of my life were specifically selected to suit the story’s purpose. Billy Cox isn’t me. Billy is better educated, and more “every person” than me. If it was a memoir, I would have written about how my psoriasis was killing me and I basically only ate apples and salad the entire summer. At one point, my tooth chipped and that was really bad. I sat in bed listening to "Sara" by Fleetwood Mac a lot. Also, someone very close to me died right before I went out there, and that’s not mentioned. I was stalked by a Romanian woman for a lot of the summer. At least I don’t think I mentioned that. 

BS: Much of the book seems to revolve around themes of the passage of time, humanity, the state of American society, letting go of the past, questioning the future, and the power of nature.  Will you please explain what inspired you to write this book?

NC: I’ve been to a lot of National Parks. They are my favorite places. At every National Park there is a visitor center with a bookshelf, containing books specifically about the park. They are all written by the park rangers, scientists and historians. Nobody that has worked concessions ever wrote one. What I mean by concessions is for the private company that the government contracts to run the hotels, gift shops and restaurants. No book like that exists. So I made one.

If those themes you mentioned made it into the book, they came naturally. I didn’t purposely add those themes. I had no intention to do that. 

BS: Many of your books are clearly political/philosophical.  This book is very subtle in any political/philosophical message.  Do you think that readers are tired of politics/philosophy? Are YOU tired of politics and philosophy? 

NC: The book is about a summer at the Grand Canyon. It was about the shadow of a woman. The Grand Canyon was here before politics, and it will outlast all of us and probably even politics. I want to respect your question, though, and answer. Am I tired of politics? I think when I wrote about politics when I was younger, it was the voice of an Ohio white guy. Ohio people in general love to make political opinions. It is a sport for them, but it means nothing. I realized what I was saying meant nothing. It was unserious and facile. I really struggled with this,  like something died in me, and the rotting corpse of my stupidity stunk horribly inside me. I decided to not give random opinions anymore. If I feel strongly about something, then I need to do something, even if it is very small. Last week, I ended up in a meeting with Corey Booker. None of my facile opinions led me to that. It was doing something. 

BS: This is your first published fiction book in several years. How long did it take you to write Give It to the Grand Canyon

NC: It took nine months. I wrote the book in 2016. I never submitted it to anyone, and then I saw Philosophical Idiot was going to publish books. I love them and their aesthetic, so I submitted to them. 

BS: Do you write every day? Do you use a laptop/pen, paper/type writer?  What is your writing environment like?

NC: I wrote randomly, a few times a week. I would go to Starbucks on Lake Mead and Buffalo and write a chapter. I would listen to Willie Nelson and other Outlaw Country Bands. I tried to find the voice of an old country singer. When I write a book, I try to imagine how the story is told. For this book, I imagined an old man holding a Martin guitar, strumming away in his living room. Then his grandson comes in, holding a picture of him at the Grand Canyon alone and in South Korea standing next to a mysterious woman that isn’t grandma. He asks grandpa, “What’s this?” 

BS: Are you working on any other writing projects?  

NC: No, I think something is taking its course. When it is over, there will probably be words then. 

BS: Although the book is not specifically about climate change, it does show the power and danger of living in an extreme climate. You posted that everything was shaking in Las Vegas during the California earthquakes. What is your view on climate change and the state of the environment? Do you think the environment can survive with capitalism/consumerism?       

NC: I don’t think I can answer some of these questions. I’m not a climate scientist. Do I think the environment can survive capitalism/consumerism? This is an opinion question, like I am supposed to give an opinion. This opinion would define me, and if you enjoy my definition, you might want to buy my book. I do not think I can give that opinion. I will say, I don’t think it is capitalism. I think it is our culture. The act of fair exchanges, binding contracts, growing food and then turning it into chips is not evil. What is evil is that they have convinced us to be slaves to the Ideal of Wealth. We are slaves to the idea that wealthy is best, that we should be able to make wealth by destruction and thievery, that if someone is wealthy they are automatically better than everyone who isn’t.

People often talk about how Catholicism makes you feel guilty for being a sinner, but American capitalism makes you feel embarrassed just for existing. The attacks on your sense of self are relentless. Most of our society is crippled by the anxiety of not being good enough. Oh man, I’ve already lost. See the language I just used? “...crippled by the anxiety of not being good enough”? Immediately people will be thinking, "Good enough for a great job.” No! Not that. Good enough to love your friends, be friendly, enjoy the life you have, have the body and intelligence genetics/God gave you, and help each other with confidence. In this society, if you are bad at math, they start shaming you in kindergarten. Your body is shaped a few deviations off of a TV Actor, shame. You don’t live in a good neighborhood, shame. Your parents aren’t married, shame. You don’t have kids, shame. You are a man, but you cry sometimes, shame. We have so many cultural shaming methods, and they are about the dumbest things. 

BS: How do you feel about the upcoming campaign season for the 2020 election?  Are there any candidates you support?

NC: I feel a little scared, because I am unsure if Ohio and Florida can be won by the Democrats. Those states seem to have been lost by the Democrats, and they will have to make up those points in other states. How and what states? In a very innocent way, something seems really wrong, like why can’t we lower the military budget? Like why? Why can’t we help the immigrants on the border? Why can’t we give at least residency status to immigrants that have been waiting for years? Why don’t we have single-payer healthcare or some variant?  It says in the constitution we are all equal. If we are not equal when it comes to healthcare, then the document is a lie. The big Republican states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are becoming theocracies, but at least poor people can live there. In California, the liberal apex, if you can get a job making $80,000, you live in a cute utopia. But if you don’t, your quality of life is horrible. These are not good advertisements. 

I don’t want to comment on the candidates. 

BS: What are you currently reading?

NC: I just read the autobiography of Saint Theresa Lisieux and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin. They both helped me. I need to learn how to love. I have to learn how to pray for those who mistreat me. 

BS: Are there any writers you would like to recommend readers check out?  

NC: Juliet the Maniac by Juliet Escoria. 

(If you want to check out some of Juliet the Maniac, here's a taste. If you want to get yourself a copy of one of Noah's books—and we suggest you do—go here. --Chris & Jennifer)
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sam pink

INTERVIEW WITH SAM PINK by Benjamin Scott

Sam Pink is the author of a dozen books, including Person, The No Hellos Diet, Hurt Others,  and Witch Piss.  I interviewed him about his latest book The Garbage Times/White Ibis, his paintings, and his time living in Florida.

BS: You lived in Chicago for a while but several years ago you moved to Florida. What sparked the move and why have you moved back to Chicago?

SP: I moved to Florida for the person I was dating. I moved back when we broke up.

BS: Sorry to hear about that. Does Chicago seem different? Where is the best place to eat in Chicago?

SP: Yes, it seems different, in that I view it differently but also that it is has slightly changed. The best place to eat is Arturo's on Western.

BS: You have a book coming out next month that contains two novellas: The Garbage Times/White Ibis. What are they about?

SP: The Garbage Times is about working at a bar in Chicago. White Ibis is about moving to Florida. They are also about a whole range of other things, both intended and unintended.

BS: Are you planning on doing any public readings? Or attending writer events/conferences?

SP: Yeah I have some readings set up, and hopefully more this year. I enjoy doing readings. I went to AWP this year as well.

BS: Your last book came out in 2014 you spent most of the past couple years painting while in Florida. How were the hurricanes?

SP: The hurricanes, where I was at, were very mild. I had an experience during one of them though. I went to my girlfriend's parents' house to hunker down because the news made it seem like the entire state was going to die. And as the time for the storm drew nearer, I had a panic attack (like heart racing and unable to stop thinking/calm down) consisting of envisioning the storm hitting, like visualizing the destruction of the wind, the walls of the house coming down and being pulled away by water, trying to save people, dying, etc., which continued to escalate in a way that was hard to endure, but then when I identified that there was a bad storm coming, and nowhere I could go, and that I'd have to try and survive and help the people around me survive as best I could, and that was just how it would be, I immediately became calm, and almost at the same time, the storm changed course and weakened and became nothing.

BS: How many paintings do you think you made?

SP: Including drawings, probably 200/250 or so.

BS: Do you plan on doing more?

SP: Yes, I just don't have a place to paint right now.

BS: Did you ever take any art classes in school?

SP: I took an art class in high school, which was basically like a crafts class/babysitting class.

BS: Why are art teachers quirky?

SP: Some spirits do different dances to get out.

BS: Where did you work while living in Florida?

SP: I was a dishwasher, a home remodeller, a medical warehouse employee, a machine operator, and an ice cream man. I interviewed to be a mortuary driver, but felt like the protocol of only sending me and not two people to pick up dead bodies was unreasonable.

BS: What is the worst/weirdest job you've ever had?

SP: (lights cigarette and looks off to side) Being me, dude.

BS: Are you working since you've moved back to Chicago?

SP: Not really, I'm looking for a job.

BS: How would you describe your books?  

SP: I wouldn't describe them. That's what the words inside are for. Plus I honestly think other people understand what the books are about better than me, based off what they've told me throughout the years.  

BS: Would you consider your books socially political as many of the characters/narrators are not out in front of society?

SP: Yes, in that you can interpret almost anything politically/socially. But no, in terms of any explicit ideas.

BS: Do you have a writing process? Do you make notes or have any habits? Does it take you a long time to write a book?

SP: Kind of. Usually I have a bunch of notes I've written down, or scenes I want to write, and then begin developing them. Usually takes a year to write a book.

BS: What inspired you to first start writing and painting?

SP: My spirit.

BS: While following your painting output I've  noticed they tended to get bigger and the patterns/colors would change. When painting do you just use whatever materials are around or do you seek out certain colors brush's medium etc? Do you still have paintings for sale?

SP: I used to, and sometimes still do, use whatever is around.  It helps to break patterns, and different tools do different things. But I have also gotten into purchasing art supplies, like specific colors, canvases, etc. I have two paintings for sale still.

BS: Do you work on one project (book/painting) at a time or do you jump between them?  Are many of your paintings related to the content of any of your books?

SP: Usually one at a time. My mind usually tells me when to switch. Like if I feel less enthused about writing, then I switch, and vice versa.  None of the paintings are directly related, but I have used them for book covers, etc., and also, I reference painting in White Ibis.

BS: Are there any authors that influenced your writing style?

SP: Yeah, but more in the way that they encourage me to 'tag in' and contribute, rather than giving me style points. I feel more influenced to 'do something' when encountering stuff that inspires me, rather than, 'I should do stuff like that.' Style is personality. Your personality is  your style. Even if you're writing about aliens, those are aliens from your personality.

BS: How do you feel about the current political climate in the USA and globally?

SP: Haha, man...

BS: Do you listen to podcasts? Which ones?

SP: No.

BS: How many cats do you have? What are there names?

SP: I have two, Benny and Dotty.

BS: Which authors/books do people need to read now?

SP: Oh man, too many to list and remember right now. I try to support as many of them as I can, with what ability I have. But there's a crop coming up that is kablooey. There are writers and painters and other people coming up right now that are doing a lot to make me excited. Don't worry about them just yet, they will announce when they're ready. One book people need to for sure read is Welfare by Steve Anwyll, coming out this fall from Tyrant Press. They have paid me nothing to say this.

BS: Why should people buy your book and where can they buy it?

PS: Because it will entertain them and maybe do other weird things with their mind and because I'm a sweetheart. They can order now through Soft Skull Press, or through various online and physical locations on may 1st when it comes out.

BS: Are you working on any future projects now?

SP: Yes, I'm working on a book of short stories that is pretty much done.  It's called The Ice Cream Man and Other Stories.

NEXT: EXCERPT FROM LIVEBLOG by Megan Boyle

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A FEMININE DARKNESS REBORN: REVIEW OF MOTHER! by Christina Antonovskaya

(Warning: spoilers)

We were looking for the room at Champagne Centre for the appointment, and I found a pin on the ground that has “I feel it all” written on it and an image of a woman smoking printed on it. I took it and put it in the left pocket of my pea coat and will probably keep it there. This quote resonates with me and also with the themes of the script and film.

Impurity, more exact, the myth of pureness is depicted through Mother’s character with physiology, vicarious causation of surroundings, and the creator of Mother himself, as when Woman subtly hints that she is young enough to be his daughter. Mother has no choice but to be directly affected, as she is the house and the house is her, and whatever happens to one also happens to the other. She becomes “tainted” as the disciples enter. Meanwhile, Man and Woman both contribute as Man/mankind is literally dying and Woman is menacing with her unruly behaviour and minimal appreciation of consequences.

Labour of care and emotions as compassion

Even though Mother is selfless, this emotional labour is not necessarily reciprocated, and instead is diminished by the human desires associated with selfishness and money. Mother is unable to really relate to the motifs of the Sons at the level of resentment they feel towards each other due to problems caused by these same weaknesses of human nature. Yet, it still pains her to watch what happens. Mother is humane, but not really a human like them or us.

Nobody else is as connected to the house as she is, and while there are moments that lead up to immense pain and suffering, she is not at fault for it. Mother, much like real mothers and women do, committed to sacrifices and experienced significant loss.

The current climate

Current events within the year proved hubris of our need to invade the natural environment for our own purposes; government allowance of creating more infrastructure and development of oil and gas rigs and excavation, digging into the earth, minimizing nature’s resources more and more, and scientific “progress” that has questionable or uncertain consequences. Biblical allegories as warnings, or else history will repeat itself, and now it is us having to face it if we don’t pay attention.

Reference is made to Mother also as the subservient role of housewives, girlfriends, or any woman that finds herself in this situation today at the expense of men and others that are dependent on them. The “m” is lowercase. The earth and humans are in a directly codependent relationship in reality, and it is just as portrayed by Aronofsky that at some points, it actually is that destructive and unnerving, although within the context of the script it seems as though it was taken a step too far.

When the house, or earth, suffers, we all suffer vicariously through what nature has to endure, and this is a negative feedback loop that is difficult to break. Not until complete chaos and death, does that cycle break, and after even the child of Mother dies also. In the midst of the destruction and war in their house, the symbolic notion of the tower being built and things taking shape, reflective of society’s structuralism, and that it has taken its place there even under such dire circumstances.

What remains, and always will, is the spirit of womanhood, or particularly motherhood, as a seemingly pure crystalloid energy that is able to withstand all of the damages. While this is empowering, it still feels fiction-based, and sidelined from feminism that is relatable or current. Mother had indeed been killed, mercilessly, not just suffered “an assault” as Lawrence stated, and for no cause but reprise or rebirth into a new beginning. Again, this is at the expense of Him, undeniably the main man and mastermind behind all that has happened in the first place.

The story begins with Him being almost indifferent and struggling to find purpose of himself, as a writer, husband, and himself, almost as if to suggest that of course, being Him, this isn’t necessary for Him. However, tables turn by the end, and the one in full command of Mother and her fate is Him, as power dynamics are consistently evident to not be on Mother’s side, everything from who they welcome into their home to if they have sex or not. It is even difficult for Him to deny his disciples what they wanted, and then to make them leave Him and Mother alone as their force violated Mother, their home, and even turned on each other, as allegorical to the backlash of human destruction as creation.

Ogling the piece as an entity apart from the film almost feels like looking at a secret process. This could be of my cherished experiences with original scripts; this one and the Alice in Wonderland (1983 playwright’s edition, one of my best possessions and was attained mysteriously). It brings something to the reader much different from a viewing experience. This was a glimpse into Aronofsky’s honest stream of consciousness, or as close as we will get to it. Photos from the scenes are embedded in the screenplay, including some of the most grueling moments. Surrounded by destruction, these characters all exude their own livelihood and creation. Even though the film is focused on Mother’s perspective, the story is just as much about her as it is about Him. The rebirth is equally theirs, as they both are forced to start anew.

Hollywood, CA, Paramount Guilds, 2017 Paramount Pictures Corporation.  Screenplay by Darren Aronofsky.

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scott mcclanahan

INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT MCCLANAHAN

Scott McClanahan is the author of The Sarah Book, The Incantations Of Daniel Johnston, Hill William, Crapalachia, and The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1. He is the owner the finest small volume library in the state of West Virginia

What’s a book that first put the hook in your heart? Or if there isn’t a single book or author that got you hooked on reading, maybe you can tell me what age you were when literature started playing the pied piper song to you.

I think I’ve always fetishized books. There was a ton of children’s stories my mom used to read to me. “The Little Fir Tree” and “The Shoemaker and the Elves.” The stories she told me about herself were just as important though. I checked out John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men from the Rainelle Public Library when I was in fifth grade. My mom said, “You’ll like this. He’s easy to read.” I read that book the same weekend I played Tecmo Bowl for the first time. Sort of a life changing weekend. I was a weird kid though, reading a lot of biographies. Weird shit like Oliver North’s autobiography and Norman Schwarzkopf.

I think probably the book that made me start discovering things was a biography of Jim Morrison called No One Here Gets Out Alive. It’s embarrassing to say, but true. I found out about Antonioni, Artaud, Godard, Van Morrison, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, Beat writers, Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince. It was all stuff that I had absolutely no access to in West Virginia. That would have been in the 8th or 9th grade. I always used books to find out about other books.

I used to imagine books before I read them just simply because I couldn’t find them. I don’t know if we do that anymore in the age of on-line books. I used to imagine what a book was like and sadly the book was never able to measure up. I remember reading about The Executioners Song in high school for a long time before I actually found a copy. I used to read the World Book Encyclopedia and that book was mentioned in three different places, but then when I read the book I was like, “This sucks.” I feel differently now, but you know.

  

IMPORTANT BOOKS TO ME (MINUS ISAK DINESEN, JEAN RHYS, JOHN AUBREY)

The Collected Short Prose of James Agee

The Life of Alexander the Great by Plutarch

Mishima: A Biography by John Nathan

The Portable Rabelais (The Viking Portable Library) by Francois Rabelais

First Love by Ivan Turgenev

My Life by Benvenuto Cellini

An Egyptian Childhood by Taha Hussein

A Christmas Memory: One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote

The Western Lands by William S. Burroughs

Pages From A Cold Island by Frederick Exley

Death On The Installment Plan by Celine

Epitaph Of A Small Winter by Machado de Assis

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Nick Tosches Reader

Ravelstein by Saul Bellow

The Whole Motion: Collected Poems by James Dickey

Careless Love: The Unmasking Of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick

 

Do you read compulsively? Do you feel like reading is an addiction for you, sometimes? What do you think is the main driving force behind your desire to read more and more books? Are you looking for something?

Yeah I’m compulsive. Reading has always been kind of weird necrophilia. I can’t think of a more intimate act with a living writer as well than reading. The only thing that can compete with it is music and even that’s not the same. I usually go through 2-3 books a week. I’m sure it’s tied in to OCD or some slight autism. I always think of that robot from Short Circuit. Need more input. At this point I don’t think I’m looking for anything. But when I find a new writer like Machado De Assis or Lu Xun (two writers I read for the first time last year) it feels like a conjuring. I may be the only person who went bankrupt buying books.

  

BEST BOOKS I'VE READ IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS

Tonight I'm Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson

Roughing It by Mark Twain

garden, ashes by Danilo Kis

The Garbage Times / White Ibis by Sam Pink

The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick

Gargoyles by Thomas Bernhard

Memoirs From The House Of The Dead by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes

Coma by Pierre Guyotat

The War by Marguerite Duras

The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrere

The Anatomy Of A Moment by Javier Cercas

Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis

Wartime Lies by Louis Begley

The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes

Outline by Rachel Cusk

The Atlas by William T. Vollmann

 

How often do you put a book down? Do you have rules about how much of a chance you’ll give a book before moving on to something else? If I book doesn’t catch me by page 75, I usually throw it out. But some books are late bloomers.

I don’t put down any books usually. I have lists of books that I want to read. If it gets slow, I start to skim and sometimes by skimming you can get back inside the book again. Most of the times I’ve read about the book so much that I know I want to read it. This is what is in my Amazon cart right now.

Denton Welch, In Youth is Pleasure

George Perec, Life: A Users Manual.

Imre Kertesz, Fatelessness

Nathalie Sarraute, Tropisms

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

Sei Shonogan, Pillow Book

Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier

Gustaw Herling, A World Apart

Anita Brookner, Look at Me

Hopefully someone will buy these books for me and send them to me.

   

IMPORTANT BOOKS TO ME

The Pump House Gang by Tom Wolfe

Nothing Like The Sun by Anthony Burgess

Rimbaud Complete (Modern Library Classics) by Arthur Rimbaud

Justine by Marquis de Sade

King Of The Jews by Nick Tosches

The Thief's Journal by Jean Genet

Miracle Of The Rose by Jean Genet

Nikolai Gogol by Vladimir Nabokov

The Selected Letters of John Keats

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

My Childhood by Maxim Gorky

The Bible

Martial's Epigrams

Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

 

You seem to read a lot of biographies, which is a big blank spot in my reading life. Can you recommend five or six great biographies that I should read this year?

Oh I don’t know. I guess these are my favorites.

Elizabeth Gaskell Life of Charlotte Bronte, Richard Holmes: The Pursuit: A Life of Shelley, James Boswell: The Life of Johnson, Emanuel Carrere: Limonov; and I am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, Enid Starkie’s Rimbaud and Baudelaire. Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde. Judith Thurman’s bio of Isak Dinesen is pretty great.

I also love a book by Gorky called Reminiscences’ of Chekhov, Tolstoy and Andreyev. Not a biography, but just these little moments or impression and anecdotes. The description of Tolstoy’s hands is something else and easily tells us more than a 1,000 page biography would.

 

THE BEST BOOK THAT NO ONE HAS EVER READ

Reminiscences Of Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Adreyev by Maxim Gorky

 

Does a biographer need to be trustworthy, for you? Should a biographer carefully research a life and stick to the facts as much as possible, like a journalist? Or should a biographer just try to tell the most interesting and entertaining and compelling story they can, even if it involves exaggerating or making up lies? Does a journalist need to be trustworthy?

1. No. 2. Not necessarily. 3.Yes to an extent. 4. Yes trustworthy journalists are essential to any representative republic.

 

IMPORTANT BOOKS TO ME

Poems by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Criminal Desires: Jean Genet And Cinema by Jane Giles

Selected Poems And Prose by Paul Celan

Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader

The Complete Poems Of John Keats

Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, and Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers

The Beleaguered City by Shelby Foote

Patriotic Gore: Studies In The Literature Of The American Civil War by Edmund Wilson

The Lives Of The Artists by Giorgio Vasari

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski

The Creators: A History Of The Heroes Of The Imagination by Daniel J. Boorstin

Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann

You Can't Win by Jack Black

The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan

The Life Of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell

Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons by John Carter

New York Tyrant Vol 1 Number 1

Seven Plays by Sam Shepard

 

In an interview, you said: “I don’t think there’s a novelist today who can even compare with Robert Caro.” What do you like about his biographies? What can novelists learn from him?

Oh the usual. I think all great writers have just three skills. The ability to surprise and transform, the ability to propel you through a narrative, the ability to conjure emotion or laughter in a reader. Caro and John Richardson and Hilary Spurling and Jimmy McDonough all have that. Even some of our best writers can only do two out of those three things. Somehow I feel like biography still feels sort of primal or primitive and still connected to something very old in stories and magic. They're sort of still interested in these things. Also, some of these folks are spending whole decades writing these books. I'm talking about losing homes and running through advances in order to make something. I think that's beautiful and almost monastic in the age of corporate fiction, and experimental tenure fiction.

 

IMPORTANT BOOKS TO ME

Joe Gould's Secret by Joseph Mitchell

Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret

The Civil War: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox by Shelby Foote

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

Selected Writings by Gerard de Nerval

Lectures On Russian Literature by Vladimir Nabokov

The Rise And Fall Of Athens by Plutarch

A Confederate General From Big Sur / Dreaming Of Babylon / The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan

Collected Poems by Dylan Thomas

The Complete Works Of Nathanael West

Genet by Edmund White

The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

Selected Writings by Antonin Artaud

 

If you had all the time in the world, whose biography would you write? (I’m thinking about a famous person or a historical person, but it could be anyone.) Would you be a trustworthy biographer?

I’m going to write about my mom and dad. So no. It’s going to be a book called Vandalia or Rainelle Stories or something like that. A big family book. Like a Tristam Shandy or Rabelais almost. I’m going to see if I can’t take what I’ve learned from these books and write about two people who are just ordinary. I'm going to write it for my kids. Been struggling for six months though so who knows. This writing shit is hard.

   

BOOKS I'M READING/REREADING FOR THE BOOK I'M WORKING ON

Reminiscences Of Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Adreyev by Maxim Gorky

Tristram Shandy & Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne

Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar

Montano's Malady by Enrique Vila-Matas

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Oresteia by Aeschylus

True Stories by Sophie Calle

Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas

Memoirs From Beyond The Tomb by Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand

This Is Not A Novel And Other Novels by David Markson

Dark Back Of Time by Javier Marias

One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Collected Writings Of Joe Brainard

Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas

King Lear by William Shakespeare

The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald

Vertigo by W.G. Sebald

In Search Of Lost Time Volume 6: Time Regained by Marcel Proust

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

What are some poems or other pieces of literature that you have memorized and could recite at any time? Do you have a trick for memorizing things like that, or just have a good memory?

Oh gosh I have reams of stuff. I've known Whitcomb Riley's "Little Orphan Annie" since I was a boy. I've done that so many times in readings I'm sure people are sick of it, but it makes me think of my mom. There's some Neruda I know, a section of Under Milk Wood, John Donne always kills. I used to do a section of Virgil's Georgics in a reading. I don't know if it's a trick, but I can memorize pretty easy. I've always liked doing it in readings because it gives you an element of control. You can move around, etc. I wanted to memorize the whole of Sarah Book for these final readings I was going to do, but I ran out of time.

 

IMPORTANT BOOKS TO ME

The Portable John Steinbeck

The Red And The Black by Stendhal

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Ramones by Nicholas Rombes

Limonov by Emmanuel Carrere

The Blacks: A Clown Show by Jean Genet

The Art Of Destruction: The Films Of The Vienna Action Group by Stephen Barber

Of Walking In Ice by Werner Herzog

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting by Milan Kundera

Ferdydurke / Pornografia / Cosmos by Witold Gombrowicz

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Odi Et Amo: The Complete Poetry of Catullus

Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera

Lost Highway: Journeys And Arrivals Of American Musicians by Peter Guralnick

My Mother's House and Sido by Colette

 

Who are some of the readers, living or dead, that you most admire?

I guess Amelia Gray is always the gold standard. Lindsey Hunter as well. I think Sam Pink is the most likable reader I've ever watched. He just has that quality about him. People like him. Chelsea Hodson is a great reader too. I saw Kiese Laymon read in Iowa City a few years ago and he really blew me away. It sort of feels like readings are dead now or something, but maybe that's just me. Five years ago people used to talk about them more and seem excited. Now it seems like they've dried up or something. I had a great time though at the Franklin Park Reading Series a month ago, which is easily the best reading series in the country.

Oh and I'm biased, but I saw Juliet Escoria give a reading with a video back drop in Brooklyn a few years ago. It was with some witches. One of the top three readings I've ever seen.

  

IMPORTANT BOOKS TO ME

Son Of The Morning Star: Custer And The Little Bighorn by Evan S. Connell

Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus

The Big Sea by Langston Hughes

The Education Of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

Boswell In Holland, 1763-1764 by James Boswell

Cruising Paradise by Sam Shepard

Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays On Art And Artists by Robert Hughes

Voyage In The Dark by Jean Rhys

The Poems Of Francois Villon

William Faulkner And Southern History by Joel Williamson

Satan Is Real: The Ballad Of The Louvin Brothers by Charlie Louvin

Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs

The Georgics by Virgil

 interview by Chris Dankland 

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penny goring

PENNY GORING’S hatefuck the reader REVIEW by Chris Dankland

GET THE BOOK (read online + download epub and mobi versions for free)

LENGTH: 7,000 words

PUBLISHER: 5everdankly publications, 2016

YOU MIGHT LIKE THIS BOOK IF YOU LIKE: Kathy Acker, Édouard Levé, Sarah Kane

Penny Goring’s book ‘hatefuck the reader’ starts with the sound of someone talking so close to your ear that you can feel hot breath:

when i was invincible i believed beauty lasts forever and i died every day. you gave me nothing. i prefer to think you hit me because you are ill. i prefer to stroke my cold pillow. i prefer to sit on a chair than a sofa. i have a plastic joint in my right big toe. you permanently damaged every part of me. my aches and pains are not caused by ageing they are the aftermath of the violence. the end of a story is something i forget. in the month leading up to the twin towers event, i kept waking from a dream where an aeroplane was crashing through my window. i look better in photographs than irl. i don't truly believe in anything. i am startled when anyone calls me Pen, it implies familiarity and affection. i am slow to learn from my mistakes in life, but not in my work. i am attracted to boys girls women men anyone anything anybody. competition repels me. to describe what remains would distress me. i wonder if i will ever truly want to give up smoking. when i sit on the edge of my bed i worry about damaging the mattress, i try to sit on a different area every time, there are not enough different areas. you said i was boring in bed, then you fucked me every day for 2 years. i have cheated on all of my lovers, they were easy to fool, so was i. i joke about Art when it is invoked with a capital A. i wonder if i love anybody except my daughter, it often feels like hate. i do not intentionally remember hurt. i do not trust you. i was fined £1000 for criminal damage, this is how it happened, you punched me in the face until i stopped talking, then you grabbed a knife, then you stabbed holes in my thin plaster walls, then you ran outside, then i knew what had hurt me was outside, then i wanted to hurt the hurt, then i hurled dirty plates and cutlery out the window, then a plate smashed the sunroof of a BMW parked in the road way down below. it is a serious crime to damage a car because car equals money on wheels, and that is the true meaning of beauty.

The book comes at you in a non-stop flood of confessions:

“i got my 1st black eyes, broken nose, walking home through the park after school. i curled in a ball in the mud, a crucial bone in my spine got kicked into a new shape”

“at times i have lived with people who are now dead, believing it to be a forever thing.”

“i have seen a dead junkie hovering 2" above me in bed, yes, i have known ghosts, and i have felt their fabric.”

The book looks beautiful to me. It’s one of my favorite examples of digital literature. I look forward to the time when print versions of books become collectors items and pdfs become the norm. Nowadays most of us consume our music and movies in digital, streaming formats. We don’t need cds and dvds to enjoy albums and movies. We don’t need print books to enjoy great works of literature.

‘hatefuck the reader’ never stops to take a breath, and even by the last sentence it seems like it could keep going forever. What does Penny talk about? Poverty, abuse, art, memories, sex, habits, apartments, dreams, death, children, drugs, unconsciousness, sickness, hope, and everything else. It’s hard for me to think of many other books that have as much sustained energy. It’s relentless.

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