Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Interview I did with Venezuelan newspaper today

1. Your texts tend to be – perhaps ironically – sober, straightforward, precise. Many have said they are minimalist. Does this respond to a time in which we are constantly showered with too much information? Are your texts a way of saying that we need to communicate just enough?

Some of my writing, like Shoplifting from American Apparel, is minimalist and conversational, but I also have writing, like in Taipei, that is florid and in long, complex sentences that I would never say in person. I think both convey, on average, around the same amount of information. Ten short, concrete sentences can convey more than three long, abstract sentences, I think. Books seem to me generally to be good at counteracting having too much information coming at us, since it's hard to multitask reading a book and doing other things.

2. The use of drugs – mainly adderall, xanax and mushrooms – has been very present in your writings, be them fictional or not. Should some drugs be tolerated, even promoted, for certain activities or chores? Are there any drugs we should be particularly concerned with?

I feel open to using any drug, in the same way I feel open to doing anything. I think I'm concerned with being damaged by drugs and getting addicted to drugs in a way that is detrimental to my life. I've been addicted to cannabis for years but I think it's helped my life more than it has harmed my life. I was addicted to Adderall for years and I think it harmed my life more than it helped my life. Generally, it seems that natural drugs are less harmful than synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs have the additional negative of being made by corporations, who aren't concerned about our well being when inventing new drugs, but are focused on profits, in my view.

 3. As a writer whose texts are usually autobiographical, is there really any sort of writing that is not even minimally autobiographical? Do we all leave stamps of our personalities and traumas in what we communicate, no matter how fantastic? Can we understand a work of art without knowledge of the artist’s experiences?

I would argue that some texts are more autobiographical than others. J.K. Rowling might put some details from her life in her Harry Potter books, but I wouldn't call her writing autobiographical. My definition of "autobiographical writing" is writing that is mostly based on events in one's life. Probably 95% of fiction includes feelings the author has experienced, but I wouldn't call books that just include the author's feelings autobiographical. I like autobiographical writing in part because you can know the artist's experiences and the artist's art in the same book, without having to read a biography of the author. It makes the text more charged and complex to me.

4. To many people around the globe, it might seem normal for a New Yorker to write about existential angst, suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. After all, the city that never sleeps is the city of the anonymous. Nonetheless, in Caracas, many friends have found the atmosphere of Taipei extremely familiar. Do you believe that your concerns about mental health correspond to the main concerns of today’s youth?

I do, to some degree. I think people over the past 12,000 years have gotten increasingly toxified, physically and mentally, and that it's an exponential rise, with the toxification probably more than doubling in just the past few decades. This causes a lot of dysfunction. My characters have always felt cursed and/or poisoned, and they are, by culture like TV and magazines, and by chemicals like pesticides and bovine growth hormones. This leads to mental health problems.

5. In Latin America, literature and politics tend to go hand in hand. Historically, most of our continent’s most important novelists and poets have also been statesmen. I believe this has not generally been the case in the US – of course there are politicians that write, but your most renowned writers have not been politicians. How much, do you think, should a writer be involved in politics? Are literature and politics poles of the same sphere, or should they be treated as different areas?

I like that in Latin America novelists and poets have been politicians. I'm not sure why that doesn't happen in the U.S. In the U.S., politicians get bought by corporations, and many writers write against corporations. In the U.S., a novelist and a politician seem kind of like opposites. A politician has to lie all the time in ways that simplify reality, while a novelist tries to tell complex truths. I don't think writers should or shouldn't be involved in politics, but that having a range of writers could be good, like some who don't care at all about politics, and some that do. Personally, I've fluctuated through my career in how much I care about politics, and my definition of politics has also changed. In the past few years, I've been more interested in being a "holistic writer" (a term I made up), a writer who doesn't block out any aspect of existence, but tries to integrate it into my books and life.

6. Are there any Latin American authors you could consider among your influences? If so, which ones and why?

Fernando Pessoa, who I know isn't Latin American but who does write in Portuguese, is one of my favorite writers and has influenced me. I've always been attracted to detachment, melancholy, and resignation, and Pessoa seems like a master of those things. He also has a sense of humor while discussing his own detachment and sadness, which I like.

7. You recently created a Patreon “for any nonfiction that would be hard to get published at most places due to the content.” Which type of content do you consider particularly difficult to publish in the US, a country historically known for valuing free speech?

Content going against the government's story of 9/11. Content that suggests ways to make vaccines safer. Content that suggests the CIA and/or other government groups with secret projects are still using false flag operations, psychological operations, and MKULTRA-like experiments on a large scale. Content that suggests there is such a thing as "mainstream media" in which there isn't free speech, but in which certain topics can't be discussed due to pharmaceutical influence through advertising money, Operation Mockingbird-esque CIA intervention, and other reasons.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

LS unused material 1

I want to post unused material from my forthcoming novel Leave Society on this blog once a week. If I do this once a week until it comes out next summer, I'll have done it 52 times, which seems okay/good. This is a sentence I tried to put in the novel for a while but that didn't fit:
In 2009, Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit founded by retired military leaders, published a report titled “Ready, Willing, and Unable to Serve” that said 75 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 to 24 were unfit to serve in the military because of health problems, mental illness, criminal record, lack of education, and other issues.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Pets: An Anthology

Pets: An Anthology is a literary anthology about pets. It includes essays, fiction, poetry, and art by writers on their pets. I was going to blog about every piece in the anthology but then decided to just blog about the pieces by the authors I've met in person.

Introduction by Jordan Castro

Jordan's introduction seemed refreshingly concise and non-belligerent, while also being generous and intellectually stimulating, to me. It begins with a brief paragraph that ends with Jordan recommending "that the reader turn now to the first page and begin." Jordan has two dogs. One of them, which I think he inherited, is named Bugsy. I like this video of Bugsy.

The Measure of Love by Michael W. Clune

Michael's essay is about his dog Laila. Michael has a distinct, Clune-esque, empathetic-yet-relentless sense of humor, which made me laugh in his essay and has made me laugh before in his memoirs White Out and Gamelife. He's also good at conveying interesting information in original language that changes how I view things. From his essay:
I read somewhere that, for a dog, sniffing represents the same vivifying aesthetic function as looking does for humans, and so as I admired the skies of June, I modified my pace to enable Laila to experience the summer scentworld.
Franny by Patty Yumi Cottrell

Patty's essay is a meta-essay about writing about her dying cat Franny. It was one of my favorite pieces in the book, emotional and funny and informative. Her essay also discusses her book Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, which I recommend:
When my brother committed suicide, I wanted to know everything about it. I scoured his closet for clues, and there were medical records detailing his attempt to donate his organs. I reached out to a friend of his from grade school. I eavesdropped on people's conversations at the funeral. I wrote about a book about that. When I finished it I felt better.
Dudu (2007-) by Tao Lin

My essay is a first-person version of a chapter of my forthcoming novel Leave Society. It's focused on Dudu. I like toy poodles a lot. Here's an essay about two toy poodles my family had when I was growing up in Florida. I also had two fish tanks in Florida—10 gallon and 50 gallon. I liked arranging rocks and plants in the fish tanks so the fish would have variety and places to hide and explore. I feel emotional and humble when thinking about my lonely child self interacting with fish.

The Great Bird Search by Nicolette Polek

Nicolette's essay is focused in part on the vagueness and uncertainty of memory. The search referenced in the title is a search through her memory for information that she wants to put in her essay about pet birds she had as a child. It includes three tiny photos, including one where a bird seems to be reading a newspaper:
This one is sitting on a banker lamp, reading the "news." I woudl tape various paper "books covers" on the lamp for the bird to "read," though it chewed on the paper instead. This bird looks mostly white.
Hat and Bonnie by Chelsea Hodson

Chelsea wrote about being obsessed as a child with wanting a dog, and having a subscription to Dog Fancy magazine, but not ever getting a dog because her mom was allergic to dogs and cats:
Instead, we had between twenty and thirty desert tortoises and box turtles in our backyard at any given time. My parents had adopted a few from an animal sanctuary, and I named them after things they reminded me of: Hat, and Bonnet (who we referred to as Bonnie).
Having many tortoises and turtles in one's backyard seems desirable and funny to me. Chelsea's family also had one other pet: "Fluffy, the Mexican red-knee tarantula."

Frankie by Kristen Iskandrian

Kristen wanted a cat but ended up with a dog, Frankie. Her essay is written from a perspective of three years after adopting Frankie from the Humane Society. Two days after bringing home Frankie, Frankie started barking—"sharp, loud, and continuous." This reminded me of my childhood toy poodles who would often bark loudly and continuously in a way that felt frustrating as we tried to watch TV or talk on the phone. Dudu only barks intermittently, and not too loudly, since she is so small. Frankie also destroyed things and "peed and shit all over the house." My childhood toy poodles also did this, but not Dudu. Frankie seemed to be a medium-to-medium-large dog, while my childhood toy poodles averaged 5 and 8 pounds, making their destruction, pee, and poo smaller.

Rainbow by Precious Okoyomon

Precious' essay is also about a toy poodle. I've met her toy poodle, Rainbow, around 10 times and once took care of him for around a week. Rainbow was quiet and calm and seemed wise and Zen. He liked to sit in the highest part of the room where he could sit, on a pile of blankets and pillows on the sofa. When I had sex, he would become active and try to lick me and my partner's groins. In dog runs in parks, Rainbow seemed to avoid the other dogs and enjoy doing things on his own. I recommend Precious' Instagram for more Rainbow content.

Midget by Scott McClanahan

Scott wrote about his great-aunt's chihuahua, named Midget. It's in five parts and includes Midget's death. I strongly associate chihuahuas with Taco Bell due to their commercials, and it was good to have new chihuahua associations. Chihuahuas seem kind of like furless, tan/brown toy poodles.

Chickens Are Real by Blake Butler

This was another of my favorites in the book. Blake wrote about the many chickens he and his wife Molly had, including many that died for various reasons. Some of the chickens' names: Bing Bong, Crusher, Magic Johnson. His essay is also about his dad and Alzheimer's. You can read it here.

Assignments by Yuka Igarashi

Yuka has one of the briefest essays in the book. It's about a pet snail she got from her kindergarten teacher. Yuka named the snail Emily and fed her lettuce and watermelon. "She was greedy and thorough, and this made her seem happy and smart to me," wrote Yuka. The essay also includes a scene where Yuka's dad bashes her mom's head against a door. I feel more interested in snails since meeting Yuka. I read a 500-page book on snails and write about snails in my next novel. Snails seem to promote the opposite of some of the worst-seeming parts of modern society—rushed, crazed, violent.

Grace Haikus by Mallory Whitten

Mallory contributed four haikus and four drawings about her dog Grace. The first one is "when she eats yogurt / she holds the container with / her paws, face submerged." The drawing for it shows a container that says "yogurt," Grace's head from the eyes up (the rest is in the container), and, in front of the container, her two front paws, holding the container. I think my favorite of the four haikus is one about how Grace likes to chase lights around and how she "doesn't understand."

Me and Duchene by Sam Pink

Sam's piece is a short story with a strong plot, shifting perspectives, and fight scenes that include guns and knives. It made me laugh. Sam relates the sound of a gun firing by writing "BOP." One sentence reads simply "BOP BOP BOP BOP BOP." Another sound Sam writes about is of a man choking. Sam writes it like this: "The man choked like 'glekk glekkkk.'" A favorite thing of Sam's writing of mine is his descriptions of sounds. I've tried to do this more in my writing, and have found it rewarding and somewhat difficult.

Training for Rio by Annie DeWitt

Annie's essay is about horse-riding. Annie seems to know a lot about horse-riding. I liked learning about professional horse-riding. Annie describes a man named George Morri as "the riding world's Gordon Lish."

Other authors in the anthology: Christine Schutt, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, David Nutt, Mark Leidner, Raegan Bird, Ann Beattie,  Kathryn Scanlan, Sarah Manguso.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Patreon thoughts

Patreon seemed like a good idea at first, but now I'm not sure. It doesn't seem good for writing that I edit for many days to only be available for ~150 people. Financially, it seems like my goal should be to make my writing available for everyone, so that more people can be interested in my writing, so that more people will buy my books, so that I can make more money off my books, which should be my main source of income.

I'm making ~$400 per post on Patreon now. Maybe it does seem like a good idea. I'm not sure. Even if I was making $1000 per post, it doesn't seem good for the posts to only be available to members. Part of the point of writing for me is to spread information. Patreon feels kind of like a museum where you have to pay to get in.

Maybe if I were making $1000/post it could be worth it. I could make $20k/year for 20 posts a year. But then part of my time would be spent making ~1000-word posts instead of writing another book.

I've felt guilty sometimes, on Patreon, thinking that people need to pay $3 to read ~1000-word posts by me, when they could pay $15 for ~75,000-word books by me.

Maybe I'll end my Patreon and make the posts I've made there free. This kind of doesn't seem fair to the people who paid, because then they'll have paid just to read the things on there earlier than other people. I feel troubled by Patreon.

*UPDATE* I added a post that's free and public titled Canadian Gay Porn Site. *UPDATE*

*AUG 28 UPDATE* I made all the posts free/public and am stopping using Patreon. *AUG 28 UPDATE* 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Newspapers and Magazines

I've written for many newspapers and magazines. This post will list and discuss some of the ones I've written for multiple times. I've included normal magazines and also literary magazines. This is an incomplete list. Maybe I'll add to it over time.

Vice (52 times from 2007 to 2014)

Most of these are from three columns I had. One was Tao of Terence (on Terence McKenna and psychedelics); one was iPhone Photos of Taipei (to promote Taipei before it came out); one was Drug-Related Photoshop Art. I was paid the most for Tao of Terence. They offered $350 per post and I asked if I could have $600 per post and they said yes. Tao of Terence was the first form of Trip. I never read Vice anymore.

Thought Catalog (39 from 2010 to 2014)

The founder of Thought Catalog offered me $500 to write something for them when they first started and I wrote about Marina Abramović. Later, I was paid less, but they let me write whatever I wanted, resulting in articles like "Critical Analysis of Four Shoppers in a Japanese Supermarket from the Perspectives of Their Disapproving, Estranged Mothers" and "Top 10 Reasons You Should Read This Article." They published long pieces by me on the novel Almost Transparent Blue (~11k words) and the gorilla Koko (~5k). I never read Thought Catalog anymore and don't know anyone who does.

The Stranger (6 times from 2007 to 2014)

The Stranger is Seattle's main alternative weekly newspaper. They paid $300 to $800 I think, which seemed good. They let me profile myself in 2010 and put me on their cover.

 (5 times from 2007 to 2020)

NOON published short stories by me in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2020. The stories from 2008, 2009, and 2010 were excerpts of Richard Yates. The one from 2020 was an excerpt of Leave Society. For each story, Diane Williams would edit me down by an average of, I estimate, 50%. She would also sometimes move one line to some place different. After one or two times of her edits, I would try to anticipate her edits, but she would still have more deletions. Her way of editing is my favorite way of editing: editing down by deleting.

New York Tyrant Magazine
 (5 times from 2016 to 2020)

My friend Jordan edits New York Tyrant Magazine's online magazine. I think the online magazine started in 2016. The print magazine which my friend Gian edits has been around seemingly forever.

Granta (thrice from 2013 to 2018)

My essay "Final Fantasy III" is the most I've been paid—around $2850—for one piece of non-book writing. The essay was for a while going to be the first chapter of Leave Society but now it's just mentioned in Leave Society and not included. The essay is about my first three times being stoned around my parents, though this isn't mentioned in the essay.

Mississippi Review (thrice in 2006 and 2007)

The last story in Bed, "Sasquatch," was first published in MR, and they published two things by me online. Their online magazine was later retitled Blip Magazine and then New World Writing. The archives are here. Mississippi Review was edited by Frederick Barthelme until 2010. He published many of my favorite writers—Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Raymond Carver. I think he just edits the online magazine now. This story by Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite stories.

bear parade (thrice in 2006 and 2007)

My friend Gene made this site.

New York Times (twice in 2013)

I wrote an opinion piece titled "When I Moved Online" that I was solicited for, and reviewed the novel Nothing by Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon.  When I was asked to review the novel, and started writing the review, I felt a lot of internalized pressure to write a review like what I imagined a NYTimes book review had to be like—summary of the book, state the books' positives and negatives, give a clear judgment on whether it was good, bad, terrible, brilliant, or what. I somehow was able to avoid doing all that, and my review ended up not offering any value judgment, but was more just analysis. I liked this because I don't like to think of art in terms of good or bad, or promote a view of art like that, but I don't think they liked it, and they didn't ask me to review again.

New York Observer (twice, in 2011 and 2014)

I wrote about the future of the novel (Christian Lorentzen solicited me for this and provided essays that I should read for it) and profiled Knausgaard.

Poetry Foundation (twice, in 2009 and 2010)

Poetry Foundation paid really well for short pieces. I think they paid $800 for this and $500 for this. They contacted and solicited me on their own.

Alice Blue Review (twice, in 2006 and 2007)

I'm surprised this still exists. They published pieces by me titled Exactly What I Want and Lisa Jarnot.

Eyeshot (twice, in I think 2005 and 2006)

These were among the first stories I published—"An E-mail I Sent Lorrie Moore" and "The Shark Was Stubborn & They Both Starved." When I started publishing in 2005 and 2006, I submitted to online magazines that mostly published short pieces—Pindeldyboz, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, It was fun.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Novel update and blog announcement

I turned in the second draft of my novel Leave Society, forthcoming summer 2021 from Vintage Books, on July 15. It’s ~82,000 words. Each of my novels has gotten longer. Eeeee Eee Eeee was ~35k words. Richard Yates was ~50k words. Taipei was ~75k words. I feel calm and wise having a steadily increasing novel length. I want my next novel to be shorter, though, maybe ~50k words.

Here are the word counts of all the drafts so far (the Jan 17, 2020 one counts as the first draft because it’s the first one I showed my editor/agent) of Leave Society:
Oct 12, 2018. 143,452 words.
Nov 22, 2018. 111,672 words, without prologue
Mar 6, 2019. 97,059 words, 7 parts, 50 chapters
May 7, 2019. 82,173 words, 4 parts, 40 chapters
Jul 21, 2019. 83,063 words, 4 parts, 36 chapters
Nov 4, 2019. 87,201 words, 4 parts, 35 chapters
Jan 17, 2020. 91,300 words, 4 parts, 32 chapters
July 15, 2020. 82,205 words, 4 parts, 31 chapters
The novel is set from November 2014 to January 2018. I used 526,939 words of notes—and probably around 100 hours of Voice Memos—that I took from October 2013 to January 2020 to help me write it. The 143,452 draft mentioned above is selections from the notes.

Some reasons I decided to start a blog:
1. I don't like everything I publish, on Medium, Patreon, Twitter, Instagram, having likes/favorites. It seems detrimental to mental health for everything I publish to have a number attached to it showing how much people like it.
2. I have a lot of extra material from writing Leave Society that I can talk about here, for example books or papers that I wanted to reference but didn't fit in the novel.
3. I liked having a blog from 2005-2013. It was called Reader of Depressing Books and four of the posts can still be read here. I regret deleting the rest of the blog. I probably had hundreds of posts. In 2013 and again in 2018 I had strong desires to winnow down my internet presence. Now it seems better to me to have more, rather than less, of my stuff online.
4. I liked when my friends had blogs and we all linked to each other's blogs on our blogs.
Another thought:
I decided to just have the default urls for my sites, for example having my main site by, and this blog be, in part because I used to have and somehow I couldn't get it renewed. There was some problem with Google, so I lost the url, and had to relink all my sites to my new url. Seems easier to just have the default url.