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Janice LeeJanice Lee is one of the more interesting writers I know. Period. And here is our conversation on her new book Damnation (Penny Ante Editions)contemporary literature, and the expectations of “identity” from the readers, editors, and publishers.

 (The Merry-Go-Round is Beginning to Taunt Me[1])

 

1. Author As [not circus] Dog Trainer (Cris)

You can’t lie to a dog. Or you can’t lie badly. While training dogs, you need to be “telling” them, with both body-language and voice, that they are the center of the universe to you, and that what they do for you—and what you’re doing together—makes you happier, and means more to you, than anything else in the world. They can tell if you’re lying. If you’re unconsciously communicating to them that you’re disappointed or upset because you’re thinking about something else, something offstage—whether your life’s true dilemma or your most current disappointment—they take it on as stress. To dogs, it’s all about them. So the trainer has to be able to convince the dog of that, whether it’s true in the trainer’s larger life or not. Problem is, the dog can usually tell. A good trainer doesn’t have “a larger life.” It’s never “just a dog” and therefore easy to lie to.

William S. Burroughs has led me many places, including to John Waters.

And when Yony Leyser, director of the excellent documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, suggested I invite John Waters to Lake Forest College, my first thought was, why hadn’t I come up with that?

1.Well, not really, but I have collected a quite large number of emails over the years as a function of my work as an editor, writer, and professor. On the rare occasion when I have a new book about to be released, I send out an email announcement.

2.I know, I know. How full of hubris! How can I get my big head through the motherboard?

A library

 

A bucket the bucket this bucket becomes my closest confidant in this octagonal cell. Instead of bars, I experience books—translated from misunderstood languages, dispatched from distant satellites. Thousands of years have burned language into a strange nothingness. A wounded Neanderthal scrawls The Epic of Gilgamesh in his own blood while munching on a roasted Homo sapiens arm. And so each syllable presages its own death.