« Previous Month
Next Month »
Kate Christensen: "'It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how,' as Dr. Seuss said. Or, 'Moderation in all things,' as my grandmother said, to which she always added, with a twinkle, 'especially moderation.' The attraction of a writer's brain and body to alcohol is one I profoundly understand, but you also have to take care of your brain and body -- they're all you have. It's an attenuated balancing act, I think, at least it can be. That high-wire balls-out giving of yourself to your work is an existence of extremes. It's all too easy to crave a dousing of that brain that was on fire all day. I can't judge anyone for going overboard with booze. I did it myself for many years. I still let myself do it on occasion. It's a tonic for the writer's brain that's only toxic if you're not careful; otherwise it's a balm."
"I was tired of brilliant writers being forced by publishers or culture or themselves to forgo the outlandishness of their prose for the fit of plot. The cog. Contiguity. Sense, revelation. For me, I have always felt, You want plot? Here's a plot. A writer was compelled (because of culture, because of her life, because of you, because of other books, because of the war, because of what isn't a book) to make this. It's the story of her thinking she has to."
"I was a terrible fiction writer in part because I never had that experience where a character takes on a life of his own and starts walking, talking, speaking, and behaving seemingly independent of the author's intentions, where the character surprises the author in some way. But I do experience that feeling of surprise now with the ideas at the center of my essays. It's my ideas that wake me up in the middle of the night and they begin to grow and take on a life of their own. They become what I like to call, 'sticky,' and suddenly everything I see or read or recollect seems connected, however tangentially, to that idea."
"The same things happen generation after generation, and it's just that our explanations for them change. Scientific racism was the result of science. It grew out of Darwinism. We have such faith in science, but this was one of the results. Now, of course, we dismiss it as pseudoscience, but they certainly didn't at the time. Eugenics was progressive. Eugenics and racism are very closely knit. To an earlier generation who wanted to assert their racial superiority, they went back to the Bible, the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japheth. We're just changing the explanations. The same attitudes continue."
"The occult is actually a deep and important part of the human imagination. I almost wish I didn't have to use the word, because what I am talking about is that aspect of the human psyche. Rock music, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, was able to tap into and expose this part of the imagination. The pop culture fed off this; commercials had their LSD-inspired graphics, movies and television dealt with occult themes regularly, and even Playboy magazine had an article with women dressed (or undressed as it were) as Tarot card trumps. But more importantly, rock was able to generate an ancient energy, a kind of Bacchic sensibility that had to do with excess, spiritual danger, and sex."
"Roadkill raises the specter of class in a big way, which is the Big Unspoken in all of the chatter about food politics in the US Elite, education notwithstanding. My views of the land and its resources are working class, probably because I have seen a lot of the world that doesn't appear on tourist routes. This is another perk -- or drawback -- of being a nonlinear person. I tend to weeble off the path and end up vaguely lost but in illuminating situations. To handle salvaged meat requires experience, so I don't recommend it for novices. But I've whipped up crow pâté and served roadkill venison to guests. Don't worry, I warn people before I serve it."
The photographs of Vivian Maier were discovered in a similar fashion, at an auction of belongings from repossessed storage lockers. Henri Rousseau's work was brought to wider acclaim when Picasso happened to chance upon one of his jungle paintings, which was being sold by a street vendor as a reusable canvas. Grandma Moses rose to national celebrity when an art collector was passing through Upstate New York and saw her paintings displayed in a drug store window. Literature, on the other hand, occupies a comparatively shorter entry in the history of outsider art. Despite priding itself on its outsider pedigree, contemporary letters lacks a true outsider influence. From the freewheeling beats to the blue-collar troubadours of dirty realism, all were decided insiders, surrounded by tight-knit communities of likeminded artists, nurtured in the sheltering cocoon of higher education. No matter how you slice it, literature is fundamentally a medium of insiders.