morganandstefanyMorgan and Shuffy (Stefany’s nick name), why did you write a book about dead people?

Would you prefer that we write a book about live people? No, better the dead…

 

Are the essays in this book eulogies?

Yes…and no. We did try to take each of these dead persons seriously and therefore to write with some sympathy. In general, even with the living, we try to take people seriously and on their own terms. But the job of writing about recently deceased persons of note is not to say something nice simply for the sake of saying something nice. It is about digging and scratching at the lives in order to see what comes to the surface. Sometimes, this creates surprises.

 

deadpeoplecoverSun Ra

(1914 – 1993)

In the Egyptian section of the Penn Museum stands a man. He is next to a 12-ton sphinx and is wearing a multicolored dreamcoat. His beret shimmers; a red cape hangs about his shoulders. “Planet Earth can’t even be sufficient without the rain, it doesn’t produce rain, you know,” he tells the camera. “Sunshine… it doesn’t produce the sun. The wind, it doesn’t produce the wind. All planet Earth produces is the dead bodies of humanity. That’s its only creation.” The man pauses and slides his hand across the sphinx. “Everything else comes from outer space. From unknown regions. Humanity’s life depends on the unknown. Knowledge is laughable when attributed to a human being.”

levi-neptuneTwenty years ago, in 1994, the internet was very different from today. This was long before blogging, before the idea of social media (Mark Zuckerberg was only ten years old), and two years before Sergey Brin and Larry Page started the project that would end up becoming Google. It was the year that Lycos and Yahoo! (then known as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web”) were founded, that someone registered www.sex.com, and the White House, then occupied by Bill Clinton, moved online at www.whitehouse.gov. It was also the year that Levi Asher founded a website called Literary Kicks at http://www.charm.net/~brooklyn.1 It was one of only 2,738 websites occupying a rather uncluttered and unorganized internet, and it survives today as one of the longest running websites around.

41

A summary of I Fear the Black Hat’s conclusions about Chevy Chase: an arrogant, assholish monster of medium talent who consciously risks nothing and refuses to take himself seriously. 

I suppose I do sort of describe him in that way in the book, yeah.  Although I wouldn’t say I’m not a fan.  I fucking loved the first three seasons of Community.

hansenspplash

Tom Hansen is the guest. He is the author of the memoir American Junkie and a new novel called This is What We Do. Both are available from Emergency Press.

 

Get the free official app. Subscribe for free at iTunes.

“Nevermind will forever be remembered as a vehicle for ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ and its subversive effect on mainstream culture. It’s periodically brilliant, but half of the material on Nevermind is filler.”

-Chuck Klosterman

Okay. So. Part III.

One rule I set out for myself on my quest to vindicate Cobain from the evil clutches of Klosterman: I will not use the “you had to be there” argument to justify any of my feelings for Nevermind. Yes, much of the greatness of Nevermind lies in its social context, and especially its relationship to music that came before it like The Youngbloods, Aerosmith, Husker Du and so many more. But there is enough musical greatness within its contents not to need to resort to arguments relating to Nevermind’s “subversive effect on mainstream culture.” This is not a post about culture. It’s a reassessment of a great album 20 years later to see–with all of that other stuff out of the way–how great it really is, especially in relation to Appetite for Destruction, which I examined at length in Part II.

“[Appetite for Destruction] always comes across as tour de force and a classic rock masterpiece, while Nevermind will forever be remembered as a vehicle for ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ and its subversive effect on mainstream culture. It’s periodically brilliant, but half of the material on Nevermind is filler.”

-Chuck Klosterman, Fargo Rock City

Okay. So. Part II.

(For those of you not up to speed, this post is Part II of a series debunking the current trend in rock lit to laud Axl Rose at the expense of Kurt Cobain, and reassessing Appetite for Destruction and Nevermind about 20 years after their debuts. If you want to start at the beginning, Part I, which deals directly with the criticisms of Steve Almond and Chuck Klosterman, is here.)

Tommy Stinson, former bass player of the Replacements and also Axl Rose’s bass player-for-hire, once told reporters that Axl Rose is much easier to work with than Replacements’ lead singer Paul Westerberg, to which Westerberg’s responded, “Wouldn’t Van Gogh be more difficult than Norman Rockwell?”

I’m reminded of this dig whenever I see more evidence of what’s becoming a decade-long trend in rock lit to laud Axl Rose at the expense of Kurt Cobain.

Two of my favs, Steve Almond and Chuck Klosterman, are guilty of this charge.

Dealing to Kurt Cobain? Riding Layne Staley’s Hog? Hiding heroin for Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan?

TNB contributor Tom Hansen’s book American Junkie may be more than these mind boggling rub-ups with Pac Northwest music icons, but those details alone make us want to check it out. Read the full review over at City Arts.

There are a couple of scenes in A Common Pornography where you have sexual encounters with men. Were these moments erotic to you at the time?

You use the word “encounters” like they were aliens. But those particular moments were not really erotic. I’ve had other experiences with guys that were much hotter.


So, are you bisexual?

As Kurt Cobain said, “Everyone is gay.” But I would say that I mostly identify as a queer straight.


When you were driving around naked at the beginning of the book, something that happened just a couple of years ago, were you aroused?

No, but I’ve driven around like that too.


If you were to drive around naked now, what song would you crank on the car stereo?

Something perverse like Beethoven.


Do you have any bumper stickers on your car?

I have an Obama/Biden sticker that was printed by our union at Powell’s (the ILWU—longshoreman, bitches!) and a big Cardinals emblem because they’re my favorite football team.


Do you read the reviews of your books?

I do, and they’re good for the most part. I’ve gotten a few bad reviews too though. They do hurt my feelings sometimes. I could easily go to Twitter or Facebook or wherever and talk about how much of a bitch so and so from the Boston News or Minnesota Herald is, but I restrain myself. I don’t want to cause negative drama or to look like a baby. We’re all professionals here, right?


What’s the worst thing that someone has said about A Common Pornography?

One blogger said it was “one of the three worst books of the year.” A pretty funny thing to say actually—I mean to come up with the number three! Hahaha. He has the rest of the year to find two worse books than mine. But really, it’s no big deal. I know that some people are just not the right person or reader for the book. I want everyone to like it, but that’s not going to happen. Still, if you don’t like the book, then something is wrong with you.


You have been part of the independent publishing scene for about twenty years, what are some of the other publishers you admire?

That’s kind of a stock question, isn’t it?


Let me rephrase it. Which small publishers would you marry, fuck, and kill?

I would marry Akashic because they’re adventurous and treat their people well. I would fuck Cleis because they put out a lot of dirty books and they’re probably good in bed. And I’d kill Publishing Genius Press because they’re from Baltimore and I heard it’s easy to get away with murder there. Plus I think Adam Robinson owes me ten bucks.


Has anyone from your past contacted you about your book?

A couple of people. It’s interesting to hear the reaction from old girlfriends especially. Erin, who was my first girlfriend that I lived with said, “I don’t remember doing some of those awful things, but they sound true.” Another girl that I mention very briefly in the book sent me a message and said she was glad that I didn’t use her real name—but she meant it in a nice way I think. And I hate to even talk about this but my first high school girlfriend tracked me down and sent me a typo-riddled Facebook message. She’s one of the few people I really have no interest in talking to. It made me a little sick to see her note. I’m a really positive and friendly person and I don’t believe in hating people, but I have to say that I kind of hate her still.


After working on a memoir, is it hard to get back into fiction?

I’ve found it extremely hard. I tried to start a novel last year, a few months before ACP came out, and I hit a roadblock after about 20 pages. I still like the idea of it though, so I hope to get back into that. In the meantime, I have written a couple of other nonfiction pieces. One of them was about dirty talk and then something about music memories. l I also have a pretty funny essay about my vasectomy operation but I haven’t sold it to anyone yet.


Is it true that you proposed to your girlfriend at the end of your Powell’s reading back in February?

A: Why, yes, that is true. And no, we did not recreate the moment when I read in other cities, although some people wanted us to. You can actually see an across the room view of the proposal on Youtube. We’re hoping to get hitched before the end of the year.



kurt suicide scene

A despairing friend called late one night to say that he was looking at a photo of himself as a toddler holding his father’s rifle.

“I have an appointment with that rifle,” he told me. “I’ve always known I was going to end my life with it.”

He’s fine now, thank God, but his remark brought to mind a journal entry I made as a teenager, in which I said that I was sure I was going to kill myself one day; it was only a matter of how and when.