Stephen Dixon Interview

by Christopher Sorrentino and Alexander Laurence

Stephen Dixon is the author of several books of fiction, short stories, plays. His latest book is called INTERSTATE (Henry Holt). He lives in Baltimore.

Sorrentino: (1) I've heard you mention that when you sit down to write a short story, you'll enter into the process without any idea as to where you're going--that is, you'll just sit down at the typewriter and begin by writing whatever comes into your head.  If I haven't completely misrepresented what you meant, does the process extend to novel-length projects?  INTERSTATE has a precise and defined formal structure, it is clearly not extemporaneous.  Was the structure applied to it after the book was begun?  I'm particularly curious since the first section is so self-sufficient; was it written first?

Stephen Dixon: That is how I write a short story about 95% of the time. First draft in about an hour or if it’s a longer first draft, two hours; then spending about a month or three on the final draft. The way I wrote Interstate was like this: I wrote the first Interstate; it turned out complete and self-sufficient by the nature of its story. Then I thought I’d continue the novel from where I left off, but that turned out to be too traditional an approach for me and the language was wooden if not dead. Then it came to me how to do it: I wanted the subsequent Interstates to extrapolate on what I wrote in the first Interstate, and to unearth the things between and in the lines; I wanted an extension, tightening, focusing, reimagining of the events, a zeroing in on certain choice events, and a chance to broaden the emotional content of the first part by elaborating or changing. I also saw it as a new kind of road novel, where the characters get closer to their destination in each Interstate (chapter) till a final chapter, which is both ambiguous and a wrapping up, and where they’ve arrived safely home.

Sorrentino: (2) Could you discuss the recurring concern in your work with the idea of varied and conflicting results occurring from an initial set of circumstances?  What seems to separate your work from the usual use of this RASHOMON-like technique is that frequently the divergent stories are attributed to one narrator.  INTERSTATE is like that, though it slips from first to second to third person, and I'm also thinking of stories like "Goodbye to Goodbye."

SD: It is Rashomon-like except, as you say, the narrator stays the same. What's different is that my different persons telling the story are first, second, and third persons; I also wanted to tell it in the major tenses, far as I'm concerned: past, present, future, conditional. In other words, I wanted the same or somewhat changed event told from every person and perspective and tense device. A modern Rashomon, though I wasn't thinking of Rashomon when I wrote it.

Sorrentino: (3)   You have published nearly twenty books in twenty years, yet your work is much less well-known than that of many of your contemporaries, perhaps in part because until recently you were published by such houses as Street Fiction Press, Johns Hopkins, and British American Publishing.  Also, you've said that you decline to write reviews or essays of any kind.  Have you turned to small presses and rejected "commercial" assignments because of the compromises trade houses and such assignments demand that you make?  You seem to have found a home with Henry Holt for the time being, and  INTERSTATE seems to have been positioned as the book with which you might gain exposure to a wider audience.  Are you gratified that your work is finally beginning to receive widespread attention? 

SD: I could care less how my work is received. Long ago I decided that worrying about getting published and getting reviewed and about the qualities published and the places where one's reviewed and what page the review is on, etc., was a waste of time and would take time away from what I liked doing most in life and that's writing. I don't write for an audience or to be published and certainly not to get attention or reviews or fellowships or prizes. None of that means anything to me. I write because it's what I like to do, and that Holt is doing my work now is fine if Holt does a good job of it, which is printing it so normal eyes can read it and putting a cover on a book that doesn't repulse me and mislead the reader. I haven't abandoned the publishing world that nourished me for so long: small presses. Hijinx Press, a small publisher in Davis, CA, will be publishing a book of mine in Spring 96 called MAN ON STAGE: Play Stories, four pieces of fiction written for the stage or four one-act plays written for book form. I'm excited about that book as I am about anything I've done. I don't write for money, have never cared for money, realize the necessity of SOME money, but have never written a word or directed a work of mine to any place for money. Worrying about dough is another thing that'll stop the flow.

Laurence: (4)   Why do you think that you wrote a book dealing with such an intense emotional situation?

SD: To me, the best fiction is about emotion. And I wanted to write the most emotional book I could. There's no emotional occurrence greater than the love of a parent for a child and the possible or actual loss of that child, which is why I used that theme for my novel. Why not write about intense situations? It's probably more challenging to a writer to make banal events interesting, but it's never been rewarding to me. The mundane should only be written in fiction as a reward for the emotional intensity that preceded it.

Laurence: (5)   Could you tell us a little about your meticulous writing habits?

SD: I write whenever I can and I do all my other nonwriting work to make room for my fiction writing. All the other work is an interference to my writing but, contradictorily and ironically and painfully, that nonwriting work is necessary to my writing because it gives me a little income to have a family and lead a fairly normal life and have a modest home to write in. I get all the nonwriting things out of the way before I write. That way I've cleared time for myself to write. And then I just write, soon as I can in the morning (I teach in the afternoons) and with as few distractions as I can manage. I don't gripe about my nonwriting work because that would be futile. And if I let the nonwriting work build up, I'd have to face it some day so best to get it out of the way now. I write on a manual typewriter, nonelectronic and certainly not a word processor. The WP gives writers the illusion there work is better because it looks better on the monitor and printout. I write a first draft quickly, let it just pour from my head, since I believe that my imagination will furnish me material forever and furnish me ways to write that material forever too. I rely on my imagination and it's never failed me. I've never had a writer's block in 35 years of writing and I've probably written every day in 35 years but about 50 of them (time off for getting from NYC to Maine; sickness, funerals, hangovers, day I got married and my two-day honeymoon, the rest...)
          My first drafts are written in hour to two-hour spurts, as I mentioned. The novel chapters are usually written in similar spurts. First drafts of ten pages have turned into 5-page stories and 200 page novels. Things take off sometimes, and sometimes they really take off and I have to run behind with a whip trying to stop them, and sometimes things need to be reduced, like a 10-page story to five pages. I never know what I'm going to write about, unless it's a novel. Then the ideas come in relation to what was written before it. And style follows the story; I don't know what the style will be till it's there on the page, though I hate repeating styles and repeating stories, unless the repeat is a variation of what came before it. I write hard and I type fast and I redo a page from twenty to forty times and sometimes sixty times till I'm satisfied but completely satisfied with it. And yes, I drink a couple of cups of coffee while I write. Coffee to me--this isn't a plug, you know--keeps my mind alert and doesn't stuff me and make me tired and gives me something to do if I need a break. But the writing ... I write page one of the first draft of page one twenty to sixty times till I'm satisfied and then I go to page two of the first draft, and that's how I write, slowly building up pages, sticking with the same story or novel till I'm finished with it, and then starting a new novel or story or playstory the following day. For I try to write every day.

Laurence: (6)   What sort of writers of the past do you think are important influences for you?

SD: Many important influences and the most important of them I had to stop reading because they were being too influential. I never wanted to sound like any other writer but I certainly wanted to be as good a writer as the writers I liked to read. I never read drecht; I don't read genre fiction. I read seriously and for an intense reading experience. Thus, there are very few writers that come up to my standards of reading and very few very good writers who have sustained the quality of their fiction in book after book or story after story. But I don't see why a writer can't do that, always be good and always grow from his or her earlier works. If a work is lousy, one shouldn't be reluctant to abandon and destroy it. Each year I throw out works I wrote first drafts of but which stunk, which is why I never went back to them. And I have four apprentice novels, though at the time I didn't think they were apprentice works, which I have given in their unpublished versions (manuscripts) to the John Hopkins Library, which has my papers. I'll never go back to them and anybody can look at them as works where I practiced how to write but not works that I now want to see in print. The writers I've loved: Homer, Virgil, Dante, Dostoevski, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Babel, Hemingway, Bellow, Malamud, Richard Wright, Kafka, Beckett, Joyce, Mann, Camus, Tanizaki, Sartre, T. S. Eliot, Böll, Conrad, Doris Lessing, F. W. Dixon, James Robert Dixon, a story by Landolfi, a play by this guy, a poem by that woman, some children's literature: Milne, Carroll, and so on... The list is endless and I am always reading.

Laurence: (7)   You seem to have an amazing energy when it comes to writing fiction. Where do you think this comes from? And what sort of fiction do you see yourself engaging with in the future?

SD: No matter how many drafts of a page I write, I always want it to have the spontaneity and freshness of the first draft. Some writers take the juice out of a work by rewriting or overwriting it. I try to always make those lines and characters and dialog and situations bounce around on the page and keep bouncing. The energy in my writing might come about from my love of the act of writing and rewriting. I don't think exciting or even interesting work comes from a writer who doesn't like the act of writing. I write with this premise in mine: that nobody asked me to write; I'm writing because I love to write. What sort of writing in the future? I don't know, and I love not knowing. I am always in a rush to work on and finish a new work so I can see what'll come out of my head with the next work. But I never finish a work till I am entirely satisfied with it. So as excited as I am when I write a piece now, I look excitedly forward to what I'll write in the future. What I do now lays the groundwork for what I do in the future. There's a certain irony in wanting to advance to the next work while tying yourself down with your current work till it is in your mind perfect, or till you can't do anything more with it. Anyway, let's just say writing is an exciting process and maybe that's why my writing comes out energetically.

Laurence: (8)   A certain amount of writers have lived like professors: dealing with a dead culture in an often predictable way, a culture which only produced cultivated entertainments. Do you think that since you have worked in an assortment of jobs and have lived an unwriterly life, that has helped you keep your interest and language alive?

SD: Having lots of jobs certainly gave me material to write about. There's just about nothing to write about in academia which is why I've written so little about it. The language around campus is usually stiff and careful, while the characters I like to write about have language that's lively and ungrammatical and careless. Now, I don't need the jobs for material, though, since my writing for the last ten years has been so interior and getting more interior all the time. That doesn't come about because I'm working in rather dry academia; it's because I'm exploring themes and material and subject matter in myself that I've never before approached, dug at and unearthed.

Laurence: (9)    How do you see future of magazines and publishers? And good advice for today's young writers?

SD: There'll always be lots of magazines but only a few that'll publish fiction or just literature of quality. That's because there aren't enough readers to support magazines that publish stuff like that, and because serious literature doesn't service commercial magazines. As for publishing: if I can be published, can't anyone? My books never made money yet publishers have backed them, though sometimes it's taken forty publishers to look at my work before one took it. I don't care who publishes me as long as that publisher publishes me well. I know there's a lot of talk about how publishers are part of conglomerates and good work is having more difficulty finding a publisher, but maybe good writers haven't tried as hard as I have to get the work published, or have been willing to just have a one-man operation (Garbage, by Cane Hill Press), (FRIENDS, by Asylum Press), or a two-man operation (WORK and NO RELIEF: Street Fiction Press) publish their work.
          Good advice for writers: Write very hard, keep the prose lively and original, never sell out, never overexcuse yourself why you're not writing, never let a word of yours be edited unless you think the editing is helping that work, never despair about not being published, not being recognized, not getting that grant, not getting reviewed or the attention you think you deserve. In fact, never think you deserve anything. Be thankful you are able to write and enjoy writing. What I also wouldn't do is show my unpublished work to my friends. Let agents and editors see it--people who can get you published--and maybe your best friend or spouse, if not letting them see it causes friction in your relationship. To just write and not worry too much about the perfect phrase and the right grammar unless the wrong grammar confuses the line, and to become the characters, and to live through, on the page, the experiences you're writing about. To involve yourself totally with your characters and situations and never be afraid of writing about anything. To never resort to cheap tricks, silly lines that you know are silly--pat endings, words, phrases, situations, and to turn the TV off and keep it off except if it's showing something as good as a good Ingmar Bergman movie. To keep reading, only the best works, carry a book with you everywhere, even in your car in case you get caught in some hours-long gridlock. To be totally honest about yourself in your writing and never take the shortest, fastest, easiest way out. To give up writing when it's given to you, or just rest when it dictates a need for resting; though to continue writing is you're still excited by writing. To be as generous as your time permits to young writers who have gone through the same thing as you (that is, once you become as old as I am now). To not write because you want to be an artist or to say you're a writer. And to be honest about the good stuff that other writers, old and your contemporaries, do too. And not to think that any stimulant stronger than a coupla cups of coffee will help your writing. Sleep helps it, keeping in shape, but little else, along those lines. And not to listen to God himself if he tells you that you aren't a writer and will never be one, if you still think you are a writer or can become a good one, or if you get a kick out of writing. There are a lot of writers my age out there who can't stand young writers because they're young and full of potential and because they have a clean slate and nowhere to go but up and who are still exciting about the act of writing.

September 1995

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Susan Daitch Interview

Stories and Houses (not real houses)
Susan Daitch Interview
by Alexander Laurence

Susan Daitch is the author of two novels, L. C. and The Colorist, and a new book of stories, Storytown. She lives in New York City.

Alexander Laurence: You have written a few novels, and now you have turned to short stories. Why did this happen?

Susan Daitch: I'd been working on these stories intermittently for over ten years, while working on L. C. and The Colorist. Some of the stories were the result of assignments. "Analogue," for example was written for a video shot in the Wexner Art Center. Like other visual pieces commissioned for the opening of the building my story was intended to have a site specific relationship to the space designed by Peter Eisenman. I read his writings about architecture, about the design of that building in particular, as well as his correspondence with Jacques Derrida. The resulting piece, "Analogue," made references to some of Eisenman's concerns: the Gothic components present in the "ghost" of the previous building, an armory which had burned down on the site of the Wexner Center, and referring to his interest in Duchamp I used Rrose Selavy as a character. I also used elements from the Henry James story "The Turn of The Screw" in which apparitions were sited in particularly Gothic spaces. "Fishwanda" was also an assigned project written for an anthology, So Very English. Each story in the book was meant to comment on Englishness in some way, but most of the contributors weren't from the U.K. After a stab at placing some Americans in London in the first sections I reversed the circumstances and, drawing stories from their biographies, wrote about Eleanor Marx visiting the Lower East Side and Oscar Wilde's fascination with Coney Island. "On Habit" was written for a Documents magazine survey on habits. "Scissors and Rocks" was written for the "Rhetorical Image" exhibition at the New Museum, a show about how artists of different generations and backgrounds address political issues in their work.

AL: In some of these stories you are very interested in the idea of home and with architectural elements.

SD: Hitchcock and David Lynch have written about how they wanted to subvert the image of the iconographic suburban house behind a picket fence, to reveal perverse goings on within it. Suburbs really aren't my landscape but what kind of theater does a house present for its inhabitants? What are safe spaces, what are uncanny ones and why? In "Aedicule" a house-like box offers shelter for an illegal alien, in "Storytown" the house-like structures are parodies and offer no shelter. When is a house not a house? I've just finished reading The Grid by Philip Kerr about an intelligent, that is to say completely computerized, office building who becomes a serial killer. It's miss-your-stop subway reading.

AL: You have these stories where you write about characters on the periphery, characters that are doing odd jobs, who you might not notice right away. People that you don't read too much about. Why do you write about these people?

SD: I was more interested in the person who adjusts the microphone than the one speaking into it. Don't you ever think, it's someone's job to do that, to color comic frames or assemble those Statues of Liberty? Some of the stories come from those kinds of questions. In "Asylum" two people work in rooms next to one another, translating subtitles for films. One of the translators, Krelnikov, can't watch a potentially violent scene in a German language film. The setting is based on Bladerunner but the inhabitants, the squatters in the abandoned hotel, are Vietnamese stalked by a man who's maybe a skinhead, maybe not. It's left somewhat vague because the movie itself doesn't matter. I didn't want to say why Krelnikov can't watch the scene but because of his name, his age and the implied year of immigration to New York, one can intuit that he's witnessed certain things. He prefers to translate movies about people given second chances, It's a Wonderful Life, Wings of Desire, films like that. Eve, the translator in the next room, will watch anything that moves.

AL: How do you fit this idea of "avant-pop?" I see it as a blurring the boundaries of pop culture and art. Several of these writer have been born in the age of television and under the influence of computers.

SD: I think that when you put writers in groups, usually they don't fit entirely as if they have one foot in that sensibility and one foot somewhere else that has nothing to do with it. Every other day my stories are avant-pop and every other day they aren't. It's very much a boy's club, but what isn't? Sometimes I need a certain kind of logic: people have to be doing something. I need that kind of justification. On the other hand I'm always accused of writing flat characters.  I'm not sure what people mean when they say "characters" because of course they're flat, there on pieces of paper! Maybe someday someone will explain to me what they mean when they say "3-D characters."

AL: There's the conventions of storytelling that has beginning, middle, end, and you can lose the fact that it's fiction. Your stories often have little dialogue and your always aware of the act of reading.

SD: The conventions of storytelling are very seductive but can be at odds with the whole idea of whether you want to advance the form which, if you do, tends to mean throwing a wrench in those alluring works. Suspense matters in any case, it makes us turn the pages and the construction of suspense often relies on a certain amount of narrative predictability, certain conventions the reader thinks he or she knows before the rug is pulled out from under. Hitchcock's Truffaut interviews were very instructive to me. Sometimes I think the process of patching together fictions which have their own logic isn't very different from solving math problems or puzzles. The relationship between Georges Perec's books, for example, and puzzles is pretty transparent.

AL: That reminds me Alain Robbe-Grillet's idea of revolutionary forms inciting some sort of revolutionary ideas in culture, which is sort of a Marxist and Surrealist thought I guess. You were influenced by that?

SD: I think that the writers that influenced when I first started writing came out of those Nouveau Roman and Oulipo groups: Georges Perec especially, and Nathalie Sarraute's Tropisms was a huge influence. There's a lot of reality out there, and people make choices. People are always manipulating form. The whole point is to edit reality into this propagandistic shape that you want. I'm a practicioner of this too. Even Robbe-Grillet's lapidary attention to detail was a way of delivering an experience. Also Italo Svevo who was groupless as far as I know.

AL: In some of those novels the process is revealed as your reading it, and you can see the architecture. How are you similar?

SD: Yes. I am very interested in how characters know what they know, how information is arrived at. The characters in "Storytown" have very limited access to the world outside their town. Despite the obvious things, television, movies and so on, that would give them a picture, an idea of what Lebanon, for example, might be like they don't ever get it. Anything not particularly identifiable as American is an opaque culture to them, ridiculous and undefined, impossible. One of the characters joins the marines and is sent to Lebanon just before the marine barracks are to be bombed. He's ignorant of the place he's sent and never questions why he's being shipped across the Atlantic when he could just as easily been sent to the missile base up the lake. His friend Alice's ideas about the world are mediated through what used to be called Late Night Movies on television. Her atlas is very limited, and her sense of geography is like medieval maps where Spain is enormous and Mexico is a speck.
          Storytown is an actual amusement park near Lake George in upstate New York. I spent most of my childhood not far from it, and the town of Spartacus which appears briefly in L. C. and the Dreyfus book I'm working on now is based on this place. The "cultural workers" here, if you want to call them that, are very different from the other stories. Actually there's a character in "Incunabula #2" a temp who works in a museum basement during the Christmas rush whose brother has a job in Storytown. She works in the basement of the Metropolitan as a temp. Some of the stories are interconnected.

AL: So many of these stories take place in a very urban New York City though, and I was wondering why that was?

SD: I love this geography and feel, though I'm not from New York, that this is an addictive, delirious landscape with its constant destruction and rebuilding, populated not just by immigrants but by emigrants who contribute to that process. Benjamin wrote of what he called the fateful pleasures to be enjoyed and enormous anxieties to be overcome in discovering a city. Storytown itself was a kind of proto city, a semi-urban space inhabited by characters from books, while its neighbor Frontiertown was a nascent city also inhabited by characters from stories. You paid one admission to get into both.
          The city, New York, is a tremendously vilified landscape, the source of terrible social experimentation according to the Christian right, and in constant need of make overs according to fantastically greedy developers who try to make New York look like every other city. Still, for the moment, those "fateful pleasures" seem to have a tenacious foothold.

AL: As a writer who is also a woman, do you think that this is an issue the many readers should bear in mind?

SD: I'm not sure how it could not be an important issue. People have certain expectations of books that are written by women, that they'll be in this certain domain of sentimental realism. It's not easy. I am usually subverting these expectations which are reinforced by the publishing industry. That's what they perceive will sell books. Women find a different set of problems than men when you try to get your work out there. That's not imaginary. There were three women in The Avant-Pop Anthology, and you look at a lot of journals of find the same imbalance.

May 1996

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Will Self Interview

Will Self in New York City

by Alexander Laurence

Hadn't seen the tall English dude for three years or so, and it was surprising to see him at Coffee Shop at Union Square hunched over the bar ordering a drink and hitting on the waitress. Some people really go for that English accent. What are you saying, mate? Speak English. Get that tongue out of yer mouth. I had been hanging out at Coffee Shop, trying to turn it into a literary hangout. I don't know if it's working? Mr Self go into the back where it's quiet. The place is packed (what a cliché?). What would Mr Self say? I don't know. He's a prolific writer. A number of books about several things: Cock & Bull, about waking up with the opposite sex as your own, My Idea of Fun, an American Psycho, as if written by an Oxbridge Celine, Grey Areas and The Quantity Theory of Insanity, two collections of short stories, Junk Mail, a collection of non-fiction, and now Great Apes, a novelisation of The Planet of the Apes or just another mindgame? Take your pick. With a lot of self-importance, more than needed, Mr Self sat in the booth and started throwing down a few bloody mary's and devoring some oysters. Married life has been good to Mr Self. He doesn't look like he has been getting much sleep lately. Maybe it's because of the new baby. Will Self had too much to say and I listened, and I must admit, Will Self is being very "Will Self" today!!!

AL: What was it like for Will Self today?

WS: It was kind of odd. Huh! My infant son is here from London so we were up quite a bit during the night as you are with babies. We watched the stock markets tumble. I don't follow it at the level in investing in it, but I certainly follow it at the level as seeing it as an example of the extraordinary popular delusions of madness of crowds. The way people behave like animals in mass context in flock-type behavior. It's fascinating. It's also nice to see how provincial London is regarded in New York.

AL: How did you start writing Great Apes? Can you explain to us how you were seized in a room and had a vision of this book then began to write it?

WS: The idea was actually provoked by a British actor, Jim Broadbent, who's in a lot of Mike Leigh films. I came up with the elements of the guy waking up in bed with his girlfriend having turned into a chimpanzee during the night. Then being carried off by a chimpanzee crash team, having been considered mad. But the inspiration for it was like a flash when I realized that I knew very little about chimpanzees. I found the notion of being with a feral male adult chimpanzee in an enclosed space to be deeply worrying and upsetting. I set out to find out if I was right, and I was. That's what the engine of the book is predicated on and got it going. I knew that they are our closest living relatives. I knew that they shared an enormous amount of essential material. We all know the baisc facts about chimpanzees. And yet, I felt within myself a real basic desire not to know about them. That they did represent some indefineable and sinister other, and to look into it was going to be dangerous.

AL: There are certain theories of Darwin about relationships and survival that interest us all . What do you think about those sorts of models?

WS: I suppose that I do manage to tackle an aspect of Darwinian thought by creating a chimpanzee world. This is a world where chimpanzees are evolutionarily successful because of the same reasons which Social Darwinians say about our world. That we like to regard things through the lens of scientific enquiry as instinctive animal behavior. That's not a meaningful way of looking at it. Many of our forms of our social behavior remain highly instinctive. I suppose that there's satire in the book of course that's aimed at precisely pinpointing that, in saying that people compete for sex in the way that chimpanzees do, that people compete for status the way the chimpanzees do, people resolve conflicts within certain situations in the same way. I think that our professed ideologies of monogomy are in fact are far from it. They are practically paradoxical in the male aim for constructing most Western human relationships, where it uses monogomy where hardly anyone is monogomous. All these things are quite satrical points that you can make in the chimp world.

AL: I felt that with Cock & Bull, and in a few of your stories, that you flip-flopped all the assumptions, and in the new book, Great Apes, there's also the tendency to turn things upside down and look at the world through that lens. Could you comment on that?

WS: Yeah. I suppose that this is the most complete comedy of reversal that I have done in this sense, a full world reversal. The others have been parallel worlds that walked or mutated out of our own. This is as well but it's meant to be comprehensively flipped over. At its most elevated level, it's a means of commenting on what our most basic ideas of reality really are. The novel itself is this sort of ontologically dangerous form in that way. It presents a reality that may not correspond to our own. Even in the most naturalistic book has features that are quite clearly not like the way the word is. It is not clear whether the world derives from the novel, or the novel derives from the world. And I suppose at its most exalted level it's an attempt to comment on that very fact. I rather dislike loose labels like "Post-Modern" or anything like that but I do suppose that I come of generation who had an innate suspicion about the conventions of orthodox narrative, and one who thought it was very difficult to believe in character and orderly narrative in that way. My parallel and mutated worlds are in part a response to those difficulties.

AL: Has the interest in the novel and the readership of the novel is growing or dwindling?

WS: Who could say? It's hard to know. Of some of the magazines we talked about earlier, it would hard to judge what the RPC, the readers per copy, is. It's difficult to get an RPC on books. You can notionally create one. I don't know. What do you think? It comes in waxes and wanes, that one.

AL: Well, you see the sort of books that are constantly being published, from the books by celebrities to the "My father abused me, now I'm writing about it" sort. The serious book, or the more literary ones, gets lost in the shuffle....

WS: Yes. There's an enormous mass. I suppose that some people feel that literary fiction may have been slightly knocked off the pedestal just by the sheer mass by whatever, general fiction titles, to diet books, or books by Princess Diana that are being published. Britain is a big publishing country. The total amount of books published and the various titles published constantly rises. My perception is that there is a decline in sales and readership or literary fiction.

AL: I wanted to ask about comic writing and also satirical writing and those modes were still valid forms to comment on current events?

WS: The problem is that, as the critic Adams Phillips pointed out, satrical temperments are inherantly unstable insofar in relation to the work. There's a tendency to either view the world highly idealistically and therefore to want to present this corrective, but that has to be reined in by a conscious desire not to appear serious because the satire will be ruined. In good satirical writing I think that you have to cultivate an absolutely high degree of facetiousness. People really have to be in doubt as to whether you are remotely serious about at all. That sits ill with wanting to present anything earnest or genuinously purposeful. You have to be constantly drawing back. The aim is to constantly agitate the reader to make them think morally for themselves, but indeed even that cannot be publicly stated as an aim or can be included in any sense in the text. That would be disastrous. So it's a very funny business. I think that some of my books really aren't satires in some ways. A friend of mine thinks that Apes is much more of a distopian/utopian novel like Huxley's Island, that it's actually a perverse utopian book in order to comment philosophically on our society rather than a straightforward satire.

AL: You wrote a few pieces on William Burroughs in your book of Non-fiction, Junk Mail. Did you have any thoughts about him since he died a few months ago?

WS: I had wanted to meet him. There is a sort of genuis' touch among writers. There's an idea of.... You want to press the flesh but you don't neccessarily want to talk to them, or anything. You feel like any other sort of fan. I finally received this summons that I could go to meet him this year on this book tour. I was going out to the Midwest, and the old fucker died. Screwed that up! I'm not particularly sad about it. Without speaking unnessarily ill of the dead, the nice thing about them is that's precisely what you can do. Burroughs never struck me as being a particularly nice man.

AL: What is your working schedule like?

WS: When I'm working the aim is to do first drafts fairly early in the morning, and then revisions after lunch. I never aim to do more than four good hours a day. But the practice is that I can't maintain a discipline and then it gets closer and closer to deadlines, and then I find myself engaged in orgies of writing, which I quite like. I get really mad working 16 hours a day. You have the advantage of working like that because you really do have the whole book in your mind very comprehensively. I find it very difficult to do over two years.

Favorite Book: The phone book
Recent Book: A Biography of Augustus John by Michael Holroid
Coffee: Drinks a little coffee, hardly any tea
Has an espresso machine at home and present makes two a day
Quote: All rituals are unfortunately pretty bloody important in writing. It's a highly ritualized activity because you have to develop a structure for something completely by itself. The best way to do that is by rituals of all sorts, coffee drinking, smoking, whatever, gets bound into it intrinsically.


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Pink Mountaintops @ The Echo

All photos taken in Vancouver BC by Bev Davies.

PINK MOUNTAINTOPS play tonight at the Echo, Friday, May 30th 2014.

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Watch Nikki Lane Raise Hell In The Feisty New Video

Watch Nikki Lane Raise Hell In The Feisty New Video For “Right Time”

New Album All Or Nothin’ Out Now

US Summer Headlining Tour Starts June 1st 

On Nikki Lane’s acclaimed sophomore album, All Or Nothin’, she sings about misbehaving and raising hell. And, in the video for her single “Right Time,” the Nashville chanteuse shows us just what happens when you cross her, or her friends. Named one of CMT’s “Next Women of Country,” the country music tastemakers just premiered the music video, which showcases the fierce singer as a weapon-wielding revenge specialist that all bad boys should fear. Watch and share it HERE.

Since Lane’s record was released earlier this month, her classic country meets rocker chic has struck a big chord. Currently on newsstands, Rolling Stone features her in a breaking artist profile titled, “The Rise of a Country Rebel,” while Rhapsody chose her as their “Ones to Watch” artist for the month of May – exclaiming that Lane’s “playful bad-girl imagery, vintage guitars and garage-rock beats keep luring us in.”

Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys in his Nashville studio, Easy Eye Sound, the 12 tracks of All Or Nothin’ (out now on New West Records) tell tales about misbehaving, wanton desires, heartache, love and lust. "It's always the right time to do the wrong thing," Lane repeats like a mantra during the infectious opener "Right Time" and that statement defines All Or Nothin' as good as anything will.

From the whimsical, dreamy sensation of “I Don’t Care” to the stripped-down acoustic duet with Auerbach, “Love’s On Fire,” to the plaintive ballad “Out of My Mind,” written with former touring partner J. Spaceman of Spiritualized and the woozy, blue-eyed soul of the title track, the album showcases the many sides of Lane and her diverse influences.

Lane is also currently winning over radio. Earlier this month she set history for 2014 as the #1 most added at Americana radio this year with 35 first week adds. She also scored highest first week chart debut by an artist this year at #18. She is currently #3 on the Americana chart for the third week and #14 on the FMQB Non Comm chart with airplay at such notable stations as WFUV, KEXP, KUTX, WXPN, KCMP and KCSN.

Just off the road with Athens rockers The Whigs and alt-country act Old 97’s, Lane will embark on a headlining tour in June. Support will be provided by New Mexico singer/songwriter Max Gomez and the Wisconsin-based “north country” group Hugh Bob & The Hustle.

Like the thoughts and emotions behind them, Lane’s songs shift and ebb in the live setting but she promises whether she’s playing solo or with a full band she approaches each song “in the most badass way possible.” Full routing is below.

Tour Dates

6/1 – Nashville, TN – 3rd & Lindsley (w/ Howlin’ Brothers)
6/4 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade%
6/6 – New Orleans, LA – The Parish @ House of Blues%
6/7 – Houston, TX – The Continental%
6/8 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s Jr.%
6/10 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues%
6/11 – Lawrence, KS – Replay Lounge#
6/12 – St Louis, MI – The Demo
6/13 – Chicago, IL – Schuba’s Tavern#
6/14 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry#
6/16 – Madison, WI – The High Noon Saloon%
6/17 – Indianapolis, IN – Do317 Lounge%
6/18 – Milwaukee, WI – Cactus Club#
6/21 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Tavern%
6/22 – New York, NY – The Mercury Lounge%
6/24 – Brooklyn, NY – Union Pool%
6/25 – Allston, MA – Great Scott%
6/26 – Philadelphia, PA – North Star Bar%
6/27 – Washington DC – Gypsy Sally’s%
6/28 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506%

% = Max Gomez
# = Hugh Bob & The Hustle


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Andrew Bird's "Tin Foiled" premieres on Pitchfork

Photograph by Shervin Lainez
“Bird is a force”—The Huffington Post
“Andrew Bird is a musician’s musician. The classically trained multi-instrumentalist writes delightful pop songs disguised as beautiful violin and whistle-laden ballads.”—Time
Pitchfork is premiering “Tin Foiled,” the first track from Andrew Bird’s forthcoming collection of Handsome Family covers, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…, out June 3 digitally. Stream “Tin Foiled” via Soundcloud here and watch a trailer for the tour and album here.
Bird will embark on a North American tour this summer with his band Hands of Glory (Tift MerrittAlan Hampton (bass), Eric Heywood (pedal steel) Kevin O’Donnell (drums)) including dates at Summerstage,Telluride and Bonnaroo. The tour begins June 6th with a special live appearance on Studio 360 at theBrooklyn Academy of Music and two intimate shows at Rough Trade NYC on June 7Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… is available for pre-order here.
The Handsome Family (husband and wife duo Brett and Rennie Sparks) have collaborated as a couple for more than 20 years. The band has garnered widespread critical acclaim, SPIN says “The songs are an effortless blend of vintage country and pre-rock ‘n’ roll pop, but New Mexico’s Handsome Family are no cutesy nostalgia act.” Bird, who has long be a fan and first covered their track “Don’t Be Scared” in 2003, toured with the band last fall.
Things are Really Great Here, Sort Of… includes an updated rendition of “Don’t Be Scared,” along with “Far From Any Road,” the main title theme song for the HBO series True Detective. Watch The Handsome Family perform their track “So Much Wine” with Bird in Santa Barbara last fall here.
The new album follows Bird’s 2013 release of the seven track EP I Want to See Pulaski at Night, and his 2012 release Hands of Glory, which was dubbed to be “A quiet, careful grower…it blooms into something beautiful.” byNPR, while gaining praise from Rolling Stone, calling Bird a man whose “emotional urgency energizes his fluid multi-instrumental elocution.”
Chicago-based film score composer, multi-instrumentalist and lyricist, Andrew Bird, picked up his first violin at the age of four and spent his formative years soaking up classical repertoire completely by ear. As a teen Bird became interested in a variety of styles including early jazz, country blues and gypsy music, synthesizing them into his unique brand of pop. Since beginning his recording career in 1997, he has released 11 albums, his first solo record Weather Systems coming in 2003. Bird has gone on to record with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Most recently Bird composed his first ever film score for the movieNorman (hailed as “a probing, thoughtful score” by The New York Times; available now on Mom + Pop), contributed to the soundtrack of The Muppets and collaborated with inventor Ian Schneller on Sonic Arboretum, an installation at New York’s Guggenheim Museum and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
June 6                                            Brooklyn Academy of Music                               Brooklyn, NY
June 7                                                         Rough Trade                                             Brooklyn, NY
June 8                                                       Lincoln Theatre                                       Washington, DC
June 9                                                       Lincoln Theatre                                       Washington, DC
June 10                                                        Cat’s Cradle                                              Carrboro, NC
June 12                                                        Orange Peel                                              Asheville, TN
June 13                                                          Bonnaroo                                           Manchester, TN
June 15                                                     Cain’s Ballroom                                                Tulsa, OK
June 16                                               The Paramount Theater                                        Austin, TX
June 19                                        Chautauqua Community House                                Boulder, CO
June 20                                        Chautauqua Community House                                Boulder, CO
June 21                                                           Telluride                                                 Telluride, CO
July 2                                                         Power Center                                          Ann Arbor, MI
July 4                                               Toronto Urban Roots Fest                                   Toronto, ON
July 5                                                     Ottawa Blues Fest                                           Ottawa, ON
July 6                                                            Jazz Fest                                                Montreal, QC
July 8                                                          Summerstage                                           New York, NY
July 10                              Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center                    Hanover, NH
July 11                                                          The Klein                                             Bridgeport, CT
July 12                                           Lowell Summer Music Series                                   Lowell, MA
July 18                                                 Vancouver Folk Fest                                     Vancouver, BC
July 24                                                    Calgary Folk Fest                                            Calgary, AB
July 26                                                    Interstellar Rodeo                                       Edmonton, AB
August 1                                              Henry Miller Library                                         Big Sur, CA
August 2                                                 Mountain Winery                                          Saratoga, CA
August 3                                              Sigmund Stern Grove                               San Francisco, CA
September 19                                              Humphrey’s                                            San Diego, CA
September 21                                          Hollywood Bowl                                     Los Angeles, CA
Visit the official Andrew Bird website (http://www.andrewbird.net/home/)
for additional resources.

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First Aid Kit @ El Rey Theater

photo: Angel Ceballos

FIRST AID KIT is playing the El Rey Theater tonight, May 28th, 2014.
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Blood Red Shoes @ The Echo

photo: Angel Ceballos

Blood Red Shoes play the Echo tonight, Tuesday, May 27th 2014.

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Liars @ Henry Fonda

LIARS are playing at the Henry Fonda tonight, Tuesday, May 27th, 2014.

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Trash Talk shares new video, announces tour




  Trash Talk photographed by Thursday Friday
Today, Trash Talk releases their 5th studio album No Peace via Odd Future Records in conjunction with the announcement of a free US tour put together in collaboration with Grenco Science (home of the G Pen). Fittingly titled "Free Tour," Trash Talk and G Pen are taking the band's notoriously raucous live show to 17 cities across the country this June. To attend, fans can RSVP for the show in their city at gpen.com/freetour. Venues will be revealed to those that RSVP closer to show date. Odd Future's Left Brain will be opening all dates with other special guest appearances along the way. 
In addition to the tour, Trash Talk has partnered with G Pen to present fans with a limited-edition Trash Talk "No Peace" microG travel case and capsule collection. Available now for pre-order, a la carte and bundles on gpen.com, the fully-customized microG travel case is the first to include the new microG Tank and the new microG Herbal Tank, all in one case.

Finally, the band is sharing a new music video for No Peace track "The Hole" today. Directed by Focus Creeps, the video is a portrait of the band - culling footage from their antics on the road and at home in Los Angeles. Check it out below along with more info on their upcoming tour.
WATCH: "The Hole" - http://youtu.be/Ud1S25WXN9I
BUY: No Peace - http://smarturl.it/ttnopeace

Tour Dates
6/9 Tampa, FL
6/10 Miami, FL
6/12 Atlanta, GA
6/13 Richmond, VA
6/14 Baltimore, MD
6/15 Philadelphia, PA
6/17 Brooklyn, NY
6/18 Pittsburgh, PA
6/19 Columbus, OH
6/20 Detroit, MI
6/21 Chicago, IL
6/22 Iowa City, IA
6/23 Omaha, NE
6/24 Denver, CO
6/25 Salt Lake City, UT
6/27 Oakland, CA
6/28 Los Angeles, CA

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Mac DeMarco shares new video + announces tour dates




After recently wrapping a full run of European tour dates, Mac DeMarco is back to share the video forSalad Days single "Passing Out Pieces" in conjunction with the announcement of more upcoming tour dates. The video, directed by Mac's bassist Pierce McGarry, sees Mac both giving and taking life, and features appearances from his drummer Joe McMurrary as well as Alex Calder. It's the first clip from Mac's lauded new album Salad Days, but anyone that's been keeping tabs on Mac for some time now knows to expect even more great and bizarre videos to come. Check out all of Mac's upcoming tour dates, the "Passing Out Pieces" video and what the press has been saying about Salad Days below.
WATCH: "Passing Out Pieces" - http://youtu.be/vF7P3oq8Enc

What the press is saying about Salad Days:
"a great album in a tradition of no-big-deal great albums" Pitchfork (Best New Music)
"a dreamy piece of self-reflection" - The New York Times
"a thematically tight, formally slender album full of sun-dappled songs" - NPR
"like a meeting of Stephen Malkmus and Marc Bolan" - Rolling Stone (3.5 stars)
Tour Dates
06-04 Dawson City, Yukon- SOVA
06-12 Brooklyn, NY- House of Vans ~
06-18 Sainte-Therese-De-Blainville, QC- Bar Le Cha Cha #
06-20 Toronto, ON- Opera House [NXNE] &
06-21 Toronto, ON- Dundas Square [NXNE] !
06-23 Minneapolis, MN- First Avenue and 7th Street Entry  #
06-24 Winnipeg, MB- The Park Theatre  #
06-25 Saskatoon, SK - Amigos Cantina [Saskatachewan Jazz Festival] #
06-27 Edmonton, AB- Starlite Room  #
06-28 Calgary, AB- Republik  #
07-01 Vancouver, BC- Vogue Theatre  #
07-02 Victoria, BC- Sugar  #
07-04 Trois-Riviere,Quebec- Trois-Rivières FestiVoix Festival 
07-06 Ottawa, Ontario- Ottawa Bluesfest
07-08 San Francisco, CA- Great American Music Hall  $
07-09 San Francisco, CA- Great American Music Hall  #
07-10 Big Sur, CA- Loma Vista +
07-11 Los Angeles, CA- The Fonda %
07-14 Denver CO- Bluebird Theater +
07-15 Lincoln, NE- Vega +
07-16 St. Louis, MO- Old Rock House +
07-17 Columbus, OH- Skully's *
07-18 Buffalo, NY- Tralf Music Hall *
07-19 Washington DC- 9:30 Club @
08-01 Montreal, QC- Osheaga Festival
08-02 Happy Valley, OR- Pickathon
08-03 Happy Valley, OR- Pickathon
08-08 Gothenburg, Sweden- Tradgam, Stay Out West Festival
08-09 Oslo, Norway- Oya Festival
08-10 Helsinki, Finland- Flow Festival
08-13 Tel Aviv, Israel- Barby
08-14 Hasselt, Belgium- Pukklepop
08-15 Glanusk, UK- Green Man Festival
08-16 Saint Malo, France- La Route du Rock
08-17 Hamburg, Germany- Dockville
08-18 Copenhagen, Denmark- Pumpehuset
08-21 Parades De Coura, Portugal- Parades de Coura Festival
08-22 Paris, France- Rock En Seine 
08-24 Los Angeles, CA - FYF Fest
08-30 Seattle, WA - Bumbershoot
10-04 Austin TX - Austin City Limits
10-11 Austin, TX -Austin City Limits
10-12 Miami, FL- MANA Wynwood (Mac solo show)
11-11 San Francisco, CA- The Fillmore
11-21 Berlin, Germany- Heimathafen Neukölln
11-23 Brighton, UK- Concorde 2
11-24 Leeds, UK- The Irish Centre
11-25 London, UK- The Forum
11-27 Lyon, France- Epicerie Moderne
11-28 Barcelona, Spain- Sala Apolo
11-29 Nimes, France- Paloma
11-30 Milan, Italy- Magnolia
12-01 Zurich, Switzerland- Clubraum Rote Fabrik

~ with Charles Bradley
# w/ Calvin Love, Meatbodies
+ with Calvin Love
^ with Meatbodies
& w/ Panache NXNE Showcase w/ Calvin Love, Saint Rich, Meatbodies
! with Spoon
$  w/ Calvin Love, Holy Shit
% w/ Calvin Love, Meatbodies, Holy Shit
@ w/ Delicate Steve, Calvin Love
* w/ Delicate Steve

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