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The Columbine section of the book came near the very end of my writing process. None of my interviewees talked directly about Columbine, but they did talk about NIN fandom as a red flag for parents, guidance counselors, and teachers, and some of the drastic consequences of those perceived "warning signs." One day my friend Christina, a NIN fan, told me a story about how she had been interrogated right after Columbine, and it all came together in my mind right there. When I went back and read the testimony and excerpts from the Columbine murderers' journals, I was pretty shocked about how similar Klebold's frustrations were to those that I experienced and my interviewees experienced, when young. Klebold was the depressed one, the one who followed because his life seemed hopeless. It scared me, but also made the fact that NIN became a successful way to explore and process those feelings much more powerful for me.
There’s one shadow-puppet that’s larger than all the others, the kayon, with a leaf-shaped profile that tapers like a flame, a tongue, or a tear. It is the only symmetrical puppet in the theater. It appears before any of the other puppets appear, and it’s the last puppet left at the end. “The kayon is thought in the form of a prayer or a spell” -- the mind of the world, but also the mind of the puppet-master. Gross talked to an old almost-retired puppet master in the village of Buduk, Bapak Sidja, who was contemptuous of younger puppeteers who used more than one kayon. "The kayon is your heart, you have only one heart,” he said. “You use it even if it is broken."
Psychopathy is hot right now, hot the way legitimate diagnoses sometimes become. For a while there, it seemed like every third person I knew claimed their ex suffered from borderline personality disorder. A couple of year ago, the hot self-diagnosis was Asperger’s syndrome. I was reminded of this phenomenon recently when Jon Ronson’s book, The Psychopath Test, was published to instant bestseller status. In the book, Ronson describes learning how to administer a psychological test developed by a researcher named Bob Hare that Hare claims can be used to quickly identify psychopaths, even from casual conversation.
Alongside the supernatural terrors of religion and mythology (and the epic poems that make use of them), every culture has developed its own eerie folklore about supernatural beings quite different from the gods: ghosts, goblins, sprites, witches, yurei, banshees, vampires, djinns, revenants, and not-fully-human hybrids. But their relationship to human beings is different from that of the gods of Greek and Norse mythology, or the God of the three great monotheisms. Their main purpose is not to compete with us, trick us, punish us, befriend us, or redeem us. What they want, above all, is to scare us.
"Henry Miller changed my life. Lydia Lunch loaned Black Spring to me and said read this. November 1983. I was twenty-two years and seven months old. I read that book and I've never recovered. That was like the first Clash album for me. You're allowed to write like that? It never occurred to me. And he made me think writing was easy. I thought he was just a dude saying stuff. But then you try to write like that yourself and you realize he's a black belt ninja motherfucker."
The men in American Masculine are big and brawny and deeply flawed but at their core, most of the men Ray writes are strong. Strength and masculinity are often considered synonymous. We expect men to be strong and when they reveal their weaknesses, they are lesser for it. The relationship between strength and masculinity is not new. There was more focus on form than function and the stories blurred into one rather stark portrait of the American West as a place where men are stoic (strong) and pensive (strong) and conflicted (strong) and fighting battles with themselves, with their pasts, and with their presents (strong). These men are at war in American Masculine but the war is winning.
I tried to get a visa recently. But I can't go because the Chinese consulate won't give me the visa. They say it's because of a lot of technical problems. I think the real reason is political... My mother has been ill, so I'm very eager to go back and see her. But at the moment, they won't give me the visa. It's impossible to even see my mother.