Henceforth there will be no letters to answer; I have bade farewell to first performances and the literary and other discussions which come from them.
The-Beat has closed it’s doors.
Originally reviewed in May 2002 at the Thirteenth Street Repertory.)
The wistfully lyrical “Jack Kerouac — Last Call” is really meant for Beat Generation fans only, but if that’s you, it will reward you well.
We see Kerouac sitting alone next to a bottle of Johnnie Walker and a plastic cup, doing what he did best in the later years of his life — drinking and brooding. Approaching the end of his life, he’s visited by his past and his future, as it were — the past in the form of literary pals Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg, the future in the form of two biographers deciding how to portray him for posterity.
|The play is more about impressions of Kerouac than revelations about him. It conveys some sense of his passion for life and people, his free-associative, jazzlike writing style, and his alcoholic breakdown. Even more, as he spars with his writing pals over the past, we get a feeling for how he bridged Cassady’s free spirit and Ginsberg’s intellect without ever equaling either one in these respects. We’re meant to see the “On the Road” author’s achievements and originality through the melancholy perceptions of a sad and dying middle-aged man.
John Jordan does a capable job as Kerouac, while Kyle Pierson plays the more macho, adventurous anti-intellectual Cassady and Gavin Smith is nebbishy as Ginsberg. It helps to have a little knowledge about the characters involved (at least you should know that Ginsberg was openly gay, the other writers were not above sleeping with one another whether technically bisexual or whatever, and Kerouac is well known to have drunk himself to death while living miserably with his mother). The play is not likely to stimulate an interest in the Beat writers in audience members who don’t know them, but for those who do, it tries to give a deeper feeling for their most prominent member’s life, death, spirit and what he’s left to us today.
|MAY 16, 2002
OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK
On the 20 February 2005, a gunshot rang out on a farm in Colorado that echoed around the world. Dr Hunter S Thompson had committed suicide. His final piece of writing: the word ‘counselor’ typed on an otherwise empty page. Thompson’s unique brand of invective-laced journalism, Gonzo (like Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism, but more renegade), discarded traditional reporting rules in favour of a subjective, free-wheeling narrative in which he was the star player. An acute chronicler of America, he was a countercultural icon (particularly at the height of the Watergate era). The “cunning bastard checked out before he had to,” writes Ralph Steadman, “leaving behind a battlefield of unexploded land mines, unused ammunition, guns, powders, salves, several bottles of the cheapest whiskies a self-proclaimed connoisseur would ever want to be seen dead with, uppers, downers, loofahs, quaaludes, a treasure trove of hilarious prose … but he left it to others to clear up the glorious mess.”
If you’ve never read a book by Hunter S Thompson – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hell’s Angels, The Great Shark Hunt, The Rum Dairy, Better Than Sex – aside from being ashamed of yourself, you can at least comfort yourself with the fact that you’ll be familiar with one of his well-honed mantras: “When the going gets weird, the weird turned pro.” But thank god for small mercies like Ralph Steadman, partner-in-crime for over thirty inglorious years, whose reflections on his time with Hunter keeps the Gonzo spirit alive. His take on Thompson will serve you well as a bluffer’s guide, a Brodie’s Notes if you like on one elegant thug of a wordsmith and a great American man who stood, as Steadman says, as “the antidote to the New Dumb.” From their first assignment together for Scanlan’s Monthly on the 1970 Kentucky Derby (though Pat Oliphant was HST’s first choice), Ralph Steadman was Thomspon’s “hired hitman”, his “psycho-artistic vomit[s]” bringing Hunter’s “exceeding personal, desperately brilliant writings” (as Kurt Vonnegut writes in the introduction) to life. Steadman’s first meeting ended with Thompson macing him in the face, but it was to be the start of a beautiful and twisted friendship. For Steadman, Thompson was “a different animal. He seemed to gain strength from rakish marathons..he learned the balance between living out on the edge of lunacy and apparently normal discourse with everyday events,” convincing “those around him that they were the ones who were mad, irrational or just plain dumb and he was behaving as a decent law-abiding citizen.”
That get-together made the Kentucky Derby look like Hogarth’s Gin Lane, “the gristle, the blood-throbbing veins” of the crowd, a “savage binge” in the genteel South. Their next, the America’s Cup, was “a defining moment in the evolution of Gonzo,” then it was downhill from here on in. Hunter S Thompson broke all the rules, shitting on everything until his rebellious inclinations were honed to fever pitch for a Rolling Stone assignment, an assignment that was supposed to cover a cop convention and the “fabulous Mint 400″ but mutated in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Steadman wasn’t with him on that trip, but: “It was as though I already knew the story. I had been there before. Not the same place, not the same story, not even in the same skin, but a shock of recognition from a suppressed well of personal experience and personal dread. An exciting resonance with something suicidal emerged and I settled down at my ink-stained drawing board in the back bay-window of our living room on the slightly raised first floor of a Georgian terraced house at 103, New King’s Road, Fulham, London SW6. I dipped my steel pen – now a lethal weapon – into a blood-black cauldron of bile and began, accompanied by beer and brandy chasers, the therapeutic exercise of expunging from my mind all those trapped demons that lay in wait for their mark of recognition, so that they might emerge blinking and grimacing into the harsh daylight of reality. I was there to give them life in whatever form they chose for themselves, like a theatre costume department handing out wigs, gelatine masks and rudimentary skin-tight costumes for each to play its role, as it saw fit.”
In his introduction to The Joke’s Over (a phrase Thomspon repeated to Steadman a lot over the years, but never more as biting as when he followed it with, “You’ve sucked on my back long enough”) Kurt Vonnegut compares the relationship to a marriage, and like most marriages, things weren’t always peachy between the two men. Steadman is honest about this, claiming “thirty-five years of verbal abuse and criminal usury.” Thomspon was a notorious letter writer (he later moved to fax), and Ralph shares with the reader with some of the wild and angry broadsides the pair exchanged. Writing to Hunter for advise on parenting, Ralph, a “snivelling, hypocritical bastard” according to Thompson, is comforted with: “What the fuck do you think we’ve been doing all these years? Do you think you were getting paid for yr. goddam silly art? No, Ralph. You were getting paid to smash windows. And that is an art in itself. The trick is getting paid for it.” Taken in and flogged like a stray dog (like many who knew Hunter), Steadman came to realise that Hunter was “more into deals than personal affection.” The first cinematic outing for Thomspon was Where The Buffalo Roam (with Bill Murray as the Doctor), a film that attempted the unthinkable: “to catch the abandoned pure essence of Gonzotic madness which can only happen in uncontrolled conditions.” Steadman was stiffed on this project, told by director Art Linston that it was Hunter and Oscar’s relationship that was “an integral part of what’s been happening in American politics since flower and up to Watergate.” In fact, Steadman was kicked repeatedly in the nuts over the years – from being shut out on the copyright deal for the Fear and Loathing drawings (“Where is Winnie the Pooh without its illustrations? Where is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas without its Gonzo drawings?”), to having the drawings stolen ’til, with The Curse of Lono, he realises that the bigger the Gonzo legend grew, the less Steadman was required. In the Eighties his drawings had become baggage to Thompson. Philosophically Steadman writes, “Quite by chance I became a part of this man’s life, more as an infection than a friend. I fooled myself that there was something in me that he found important. Actually, as time went by, he hated the very idea that something as putrid as a cartoon drawing could ever capture the essence of what it was he was trying to describe.”
Thompson never wrote an autobiography – he didn’t need to, it’s all there in his work: “He was his own best story.” Yet, despite being the “Mark Twain of the late twentieth century” (an amazing writer), there was plenty of bullshit around Hunter S Thompson. “The gun nut and drug user and heaver consumer of grain alcohol” [Kurt Vonnegut], his ball-breaking displays of boyish high-jinks, Hunter “allowed people to fit into his world in the Owl Farm kitchen as bit-players in a grander scheme of his own design,” people like John Belushi who “tumbled through one weekend, reeking of fatigue and rocket-fuel adrenaline.” Steadman says: “Shady people of the shadiest kind fascinated Hunter and, like a fly detecting a heap of shit, he would alight, to the manner born, on such a dump. ‘All part of the job, Ralph. You will never learn anything, or stay ahead, unless you mingle, otherwise the dump’s on you.'” Steadman’s memories of Hunter are a unique insight into not only Steadman’s work, but the work of Thompson’s and the very essence of Gonzo itself, that “strange kind of magic that appeals to the beast that lurks in the dark heart of most of us.” The letters, drawings and photographs that litter the text in The Joke’s Over serve as battlefield exhibits of the carnage. Playing Sancho Panza to a man that wanted to wake up the world, who lived his live in the fast lane and was “in revolt against life itself all his life,” Steadman is more “just another fish wrap who got lucky.” “Don’t write, Ralph. You’ll bring shame on your family,” Thompson once told him. But Ralph’s “gibberish” (as HST was so prone to calling it) is a berserk, warts-and-all record of an American legend and last word goes to Ralph Steadman: “Let me say it here and now. For all Hunter’s mindless self-indulgence, which is legendary and crude, he always impressed me with his blind, selfless urge to cut out the crony bestiality of modern society and political calumny that scarred that era. He was, for God’s sake, one of us. I believed him, was inspired by him and allowed him in his crusade to do what was necessary. He never let me down and as far as I know, when we were on that ride, whichever one it was, he got from me as good as he gave.”
Political memorabilia of Archibald Gorrie (died 1941) relating to the Labour movement in Leicestershire in the period ca.1889 -1909. Gorrie was a supporter of the socialist pioneer Thomas Barclay after hearing him lecture, and subsequently became the branch secretary and benefactor of the Socialist League (Branch 13, Leicester). (Lancaster, B. 1987 Radicalism, Cooperation and Socialism:
Leicester working-class politics 1860-1906. Leicester Universty Press. pp. 88-89)
The collection consists of 2 boxes off loose papers containing many press cuttings, posters, handbills, circulars, invitations, etc. (some loosely inserted) concerning local groups such as the Leicester Radical Club, Leicester Branch of the Socialist League (of which Gorrie was a founder-member), Leicester Christian Socialist Society and the Leicester Socialist & Anarchist Society. In addition there are 9 mounted posters advertising political meetings and demonstrations.Among the speakers at meetings were Prince Kropotkin, Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, John Burns, Annie Besant, representatives of striking miners and dockers, and leading
Leicester socialists. Also included are manuscript notes by Gorrie of the first two meetings of the Leicester Branch of the Socialist League, 11 & 18 October 1889
It is impossible, one cannot continue with the all-powerful Word, the Word that reigns over all. One cannot continue to admit it to every house, and listen to it everywhere describe us and describe events, tell us how to vote, and whom we should obey.
I, personally, would prefer the chaos and disorder which each of us would strive to master, in terms of his own ingenuousness, to the order imposed by the Word which everybody uses indiscriminately, always for the benefit of a capitol, of a church, of a socialism, etc….
No one has ever tried to establish chaos as a system, or to let it come. Perhaps there would be more dead among the weak constitutions, but certainly there could be fewer than there are in that order which defends the Word, from the socialisms to the capitalisms. Undoubtedly there would be more alive beings and fewer dead beings, such as employees, bureaucrats, business and government executives, who are all dead and who forget the essential thing: to be alive.
The Word has created profit, it has justified work, it has made obligatory the confusion of occupation (to be doing something), it has permitted life to lie. The Word has become incarnate in the Vatican, on the rostrums of Peking, at the Elysee, and even if, often, it creates the inaccurate SIGNIFICATION, which signifies differently for each of us unless one accepts and obeys, if, often, it imposes multiple points of view which never adhere to the life of a single person and which one accepts by default, in what way can it be useful to us? I answer: in no way.
Because it is not useful that anyone should understand me, it is not useful that anyone should be able to order me to do this or that thing. It is not useful to have a cult that all can understand and that is there for all, it is not necessary that I should know myself to be imposed upon in my life by an all-powerful Word which was created for past epochs that will never return: that adequate to tribes, to small nations, to small ethnic groups which were disseminated around the globe into places whose origins escape us.
The Word today serves no one except to say to the grocer: give me a pound of lentils.
The Word is useful no more; it even becomes an enemy when a single man uses it as a divine word to speak of a problematic god or of a problematic dictator. The Word becomes the cancer of humanity when it vulgarizes itself to the point of impoverishment trying to make words for all, promises for all, which will not be kept, descriptions of life which will be either scholarly or literary which will take centuries to elaborate upon with no time left for life.
The Word is responsible for the phallic death because it dominates the senses and the phallus which are submissive to it; it is responsible for the birth of the exasperated who serve verbose principles.
It is responsible for the general incomprehension of beings who succumb to murders, racisms, concentrations, the laws, etc.
In short, the Word is responsible because instead of making it a way of life we’ve made it an end. Prisoner of the Word is the child, and so he will be all his adult life.
But, without falling into anecdote, one can mention the names of some who insisted upon breaking the bonds imposed by the Word. If timid essays by Aristophanes showed that sound was indispensable- the sound imitative of an element or an animal then -that does not mean that it was sought after for its own sake. In that case, the sound uttered by the mouth was cut off, since it only came from an imagined and subordinated usage, when in fact it is the major element.
It will not be investigated for its importance in the sixteenth century either since it must be molded by musical polyphony. It will not be liberated by the Expressionists since they needed the support of syllables and letters as did the Futurists, Dadaists and Lettristes.
The buccal sound, the human sound, in fact, will come to meet us only around 1953, with Wolmann, Brau, Dufrene, and somewhat later with my audiopoems.
But why want these a-significant human sounds, without alphabet, without reference to an explicative clarity? Simply, I have implied it, the Word is incomprehensible and abusive, because it is in all the hands, rather in all the mouths, which are being given orders by a few mostly unauthorized voices.
The mimetic sound of man, the human sound, does not explain, it transmits emotions, it suggests exchanges, affective communications; it does not state precisely, it is precise. And I would say well that the act of love of a couple is precise, is voluntary, if it does not explain! What then is the function of the Word, which has the pretension to affirm that such and such a thing is clear? I defy that Word.
I accused it and I still accuse it as an impediment to living, it makes us lose the meager decades of our existence explaining ourselves to a so-called spiritual, political, social, or religious court. Through it we must render accounts to the entire world; we are dependent upon the mediocrities Sartre, Mauriac, De Gaulle. They own us in every area; we are slaves of rhetoric, prisoners of explanation that explains nothing. Nothing is yet explainable.
That is why a suggestive art which leaves the body, that resonator and that receptacle, animated, breathed and acted, that + and-, that is why a suggestive art was made; it had to come, and nourish, and in no way affirm. You will like this art, or you will not like it, that is of no importance! In spite of yourself it will embrace you, it will circulate in you. That is its role. It must open our effectors to our own biological, physical and mental potentialities beyond all intellect; art must be valued like a vegetable, it feeds us differently, that is all. And when it gets into you, it makes you want to embrace it. That way the Word is reduced to its proper role subordinate to life; it serves only to propose intelligible usages, elementary exchanges, but never will it canal the admirable powers of life, because this meager canaling, as I have implied, finally provokes usury in us through the absence of real life.
Let us not lose 4/5ths of intense life without Word to the benefit of the small l/5th of verbiage. Let us be frank and just. Let us know that the day is of oxygen, that the night eliminates our poisons, that the entire body breathes and that it is a wholeness, without the vanity of a Word that can reduce us.
I prefer the sun, I’m fond of the night, I’m fond of my noises and of my sounds, I admire the immense complex factory of a body, I’m fond of my glances that touch, of my ears that see, of my eyes that receive…. But I do not have to have the benediction of the written idea. I do not have to have my life derived from the intelligible. I do not want to bc subject to the true word which is forever misleading or Iying, I can stand no longer to be destroyed by the Lord, that lie that abolishes itself on paper.
It was such a privilege for me to interview and pick the brain of Scott Holstad, a writer I’ve known for many years. Though we’ve never met, we’ve been in some sort of contact, usually through blogging or email.
Boston born, Scott has lived all over the continent including Tempe, Arizona where I also lived, though not at the same time. So, I know Scott is familiar with the Mill Avenue scene and Changing Hands bookstore as I am.
A poet, technical writer, English professor and over-educated man, Holstad holds degrees from three Universities.
Most current book is a full length poetry collection entitled Cells. Confessions, his latest is due for release soon.
You recently celebrated your 40th birthday isn’t that right? Happy birthday.
Yes, I did. In September. It was shocking! I can’t believe I’m that old, you know? But it was a nice birthday. We had a little party and 40 of my friends came to celebrate with me. It was fun.
Throughout the nineties you released 13 books, one of which, Places (1996) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Since then you’ve written three more books of poetry, Artifacts, Cells and Confessions due out sometime this Fall.
That was a massive output for one decade, referring back to 1991 through 1999. Do you feel that you’ve slowed down creatively or is it simply a matter of time and opportunity?
For you especially, based off your past history, most people spend years creating one book.
Oh, I have definitely slowed down! Imagine, five poetry collections in 1999 alone! That’s astonishing output. But I had so much to get out of my system. It simply welled up within me and I had to get it out, or I’d go insane. Actually, I did go insane, now that I think about it. (Laughs.)
I don’t think most people can keep that type of pace up. I do know several who can pump out books: my buddy, Gerald Locklin over in Long Beach, CA has published nearly 100 by now. Bukowski called him L.A.’s best writer. And, of course, Lyn Lifshin is well over the 100 book mark too. She’s amazing!
But to put out 13 books of poems in an eight year span – that was hard work! I seriously put some time andeffort into my writing. I know you do too, so you can relate to that.
My last two projects, Cells and Confessions, have taken a really long time to get published. Cells was was such a big book (over 200 pages) that many publishers were afraid to take it on. After all, most poetry books lose money. That’s why most poetry books are around 72 pages in length. I signed the contract with my publisher for Confessions in very early 2005, but the book is still not out. It’s also going to be a big book, about 180 pages. My biggest book before Cells was under 100 pages, so it was easier for publishers to produce those collections.
But, like I said, I’ve really slowed over the past year in my writing.
I first discovered you sometime in the mid-nineties. I was just a fledgling then, barely getting my feet wet in the poetic world. You were very gracious at that time, offering advice and sharing some of your history. I remember I couldn’t visit any magazine or web based journal without finding your name. Are you still a regular contributor to ezines, journals, and small press magazines?
No, not really. I’m now out of the loop. There are magazines and webzines that solicit my work, but I rarely submit anymore. I used to be a regular with SO many magazines, especially during the 1990s. It seemed very different to me 15 years ago. Bukowski was still pumping out material, and it felt wonderful to get published alongside him in Cokefish and other mags like Caffeine. I used to make regular appearances in Cokefish, Sivullinen over in Finland, Pearl in Long Beach, Saturday Afternoon Journal in Hollywood, Caffeine in L.A., Shockbox, Chiron Review and so many others. More recently, The Awakenings Review, published by the University of Chicago, has published many of my poems.
At my peak, I would have hundreds of poems out under consideration at over 100 magazines at any given point. Even as recently as two years ago, I was still maintaining submissions out at about 75 magazines.
By the way, thank you for your kind words about me being gracious to you when you were starting out. That’s good, I’m glad I was!
Your work has been likened to that of Charles Bukowski, whom I happen to know you are a big fan of. Does the comparison irritate you at all or do you feel you’ve made your own distinction?
Many of my poems from certain years, particularly the early to mid-nineties, were definitely influenced by Bukowski. But I’ve also been influenced by Ferlinghetti and Gerry Locklin and Bill Shields and several others. Like many writers, I’ve gone through what one might call “stages” or phases in my writing. I guess, ultimately, I feel like I’ve made a distinction. Sure, I’ve written about women and sex and madhouses, just like Bukowski did, but I’ve also written about many other topics, often utilizing other stylistic methods in doing so. Bukowski would probably have been annoyed with the rambling tone of my poems in Cells.
Still, I was able to appear in many magazines with Buk, and that was exciting. In fact, he and I appeared on the cover of a Finnish magazine back in the day. We were both very popular in Finland, and this magazine did a big piece on the two of us. It was a lot of fun. Fortunately, I had a Finnish friend in Los Angeles who translated it for me. They said nice things. Heh.
I remember you told me you met Lawrence Ferlinghetti once. Refresh my memory, didn’t you just happen to run into him along the boardwalk in San Francisco?
It was in January of 1994 in his bookstore, City Lights, up in San Francisco. It was widely known at the time that he didn’t come into the store that often anymore, that he stayed home and painted and wrote. I found myself in the poetry section upstairs in the store, all by myself. And I found several doors, most closed. But one was cracked open and I peeked in, and there he was! I knocked and entered and we spoke for quite a while. Definitely one of the highlights of my life! At the time, I was seriously considering going somewhere to do a Ph.D. On Ferlinghetti and other San Francisco poets, such as Rexroth and Duncan and Spicer. He advised me, I remember, to look into UC Santa Cruz, that they might be open to such an endeavor. Strangely, a year or so later, I did decide to go to the University of New Mexico to do this with a scholar there who specialized in west coast poetics, only to have my now-ex-wife tell me she’d leave me if I did it. So I backed down, and have always regretted that.
Who else do you admire as writers, poets, artists and the like?
There aren’t too many, frankly. I used to love Bill Shields, published by Henry Rollins’ press, 2.13.61. However, his work and his background have been discredited to a degree and he’s disappeared from public. Henry told me this himself in an email early this year.
Gerald Locklin is another, as I’ve mentioned. Oh, Edward Field and Edward Dorn. And I love old Kenneth Patchen’s work! You already know about Bukowski and Ferlinghetti.
Those were primarily poets. Writers I like include Camus, Sartre, Kafka, Martin Amis and a few others. Edward Lee and Poppy Z. Brite have written a few good horror novels.
As far as artists go, I’m really into H.R. Giger.
You’ve struggled with varying degrees of psychological illness most of your life and many of your poems reflect what you have been through and are going through.
For example, in Cloudy, But Who Cares from The Napalmed Soul (Chiron Review Press, 1999) you write:
I’ve been cutting for months –
it’s addictive. I like the blood,
the flow, the look, feel, taste –
it soothes, comforts, controls.
My wife thinks I want to be
proclaimed a schizo. Actually,
the people who usually do this
are Borderlines, but why make
a distinction in this case? She
thinks I enjoy the drama of
I think I knife myself to keep
from knifing everyone else
I run into…
Yeah. I love that book. And so many other people find it a tough read. It’s primarily about cutting, which is something I did to deal with severe emotional and mental pain … for quite some time. I still have scars. I love that book because I lived it and I made it through alive and I’m better off for it.
Yes, I’m Bipolar and I have Social Anxiety Disorder, and I’ve also officially been diagnosed ADD and OCD, but I’ve never been treated for either of those.
It’s been a tough ride. I went through a rough period, about three years, as you know. It cost me my marriage and a great job, as well as, perhaps, some friends too.
You’ve been on many different medications, been placed in hospitals. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been arrested. Can you elaborate on any of this, perhaps your age when you felt that something was not right, the feelings you had at certain points in your life, did you ever contemplate suicide/attempt suicide, and any words on your recovery. Do you still try to balance your mental health and your life with medicine?
One whole section of Cells is about jail, is actually titled “Jail,” so I guess that answers that part of it. Heh.
I felt something was not right at age eight, and it became more pronounced by age 12, when I first attempted to cut my wrists. I did a poor job of it. I was sent to shrinks, but not medicated. This would have been back in the mid-seventies, and psychiatrists weren’t as … popular (?) as they are now.
I had strange teen years and then went absolutely wild in college and through my 20s. However, I did not
really notice anything wrong with me. It was other people – wife, doctors, etc. – who urged me to seek treatment as I neared age 30. This was before I had a severe nervous breakdown and tried to hang myself in a mental hospital. My last suicide attempt occurred in 1999, when I swallowed a bottle of Xanax and a bottle of Ambien. I severely OD’d, but survived. I was “found” and rushed to the hospital and got to stay in a psych ward for the fourth time in two years. Memories….
Yes, I’m medicated. I’ve been on a good prescription “cocktail” for several years now, thank goodness! And it’s really helped. I’ve been stable for a long time now.
Is freedom from drugs an option for you at all or do you believe you’ll need to take them for the rest of your life?
I’m taking them forever. Freedom isn’t an option. I – and others – have seen what happens when I’m not properly medicated.
Your chapbook, Artifacts (Sick Puppy Press) opens with two stanzas from a poem I’d written about you. In the poem I write:
…it’s he who carries
a storm in his head,
carries wind, carries rain,
carries the thought
that every breath
is a dangerous decision.
At the time, I truly believed that. Is every breath still a dangerous decision?
I guess I’d have to say no. So many of my poems and books written between 1998 and 2002 were about insanity, depression, jail, suicide, death, etc. For a long while, it did seem that every breath was a dangerous decision. But like I just mentioned, I’ve been stable for about four years now and I intend to remain that way. I think it’s evened me out. Have I lost my edge? Perhaps. Has it been worth it? Yep.
In the books closing poem, Anticipation, you state that you are Bipolar. The final stanza reads:
I’ve wanted to die for a
long time, and one day,
I’m going out like a
Texas lightening storm –
big, bold, beautiful,
deadly, dead, and
What is a normal day for you?
That’s tough to answer. You know, I’ve attended six universities, getting three degrees in the process, for a total of about 13 years. So, much of my life has been about school. Then, there’s a normal “work” day, which I guess is similar to most everyone else’s work day. I have not worked much over the past few years, concentrating on other things, such as my books, my new marriage, another academic degree, etc. So, I get up, do the online thing for a bit, run errands, read/write/do chores, help my wife with her work, work on dinner, play a little Playstation 2 or do TiVo with the wife and hit the sack. Not too exciting, to be honest.
You are a technical writer too, correct? And do you also write textbooks or am I remembering incorrectly, perhaps you edit them. Are these college textbooks? How do you like that type of work? Is it rewarding, tedious, challenging?
I’ve done technical writing off and on for years, for several companies, most prominently, EarthLink Network in Pasadena. And I’ve been working recently on my own textbook – at least, it’s designed to be a textbook – of literary criticism. Critical essays, all of which have been published in various journals. I greatly love writing those things, although, like poetry, there aren’t too many readers. I find it very rewarding. In fact, I recently had an essay on Carl Sandburg published in the Best of the Asheville Poetry Review. Quite enjoyable.
How many hours would you say you spend each day writing? Is it something you consider a discipline or do you write mainly when the creative imagination to do so takes over?
These days, not so many. I USED to spend two to three hours a day writing and at least an hour a day submitting material to magazines and publishers. But that has slowed dramatically.
Anything new in the works?
I’ve put together a collection of essays – literary criticism – boring, academic stuff which probably only I find exciting. I’ve been trying it out with the university presses. One, Ohio State University Press, looked like they were going to take it on, but did not ultimately. Otherwise, the reaction has been disappointing. I keep getting told from these presses that they are no longer putting out essay collections by one author! That seems to be a major distraction for them. Strange.
I’m also trying to put together a collection of my early works. So many recent and current readers never got to read my early stuff, which is quite different in tone and style and subject matter to my later stuff. I think that will be fun.
Something I’ve had going on for a long time, but need to finish is a small book on getting your poetry published. It’s about 50-60% complete, and I simply need to take the time to finish it.
People have been asking me for years now to write my memoirs. I’ve been meaning to, but I want to get all of this other stuff of my plate first, you know?
Something I meant to ask you earlier, favorite musicians? Favorite bands? Music is a large part of my life and I know it is a large part of yours as well. Who are you currently spinning?
Current: Collide, Rhea’s Obsession, Android Lust, Frank Sinatra.
Favorites: Dead Can Dance, Skinny Puppy, Lovespirals, Faith and the Muse
Faith and the Muse, sounds like it could be a theme for your life. Thank you Scott for your willingness to participate in an interview I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Peace and stability.
-To find out more about Scott C. Holstad and his work visit:
David Fincher’s Fight Club is a fable about postmodern consumer society, loss of masculine identity amongst male gray-collar workers and the social stratification created by our materialistic society. The story line begins with a nameless narrator referred to as Jack, (Edward Norton) explaining to us how exactly he came to know Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) who we come to find out in the end is actually the alter ego of our narrator. The “two of them” create a men-only underground boxing club and as Tyler Durden progresses closer to becoming the dominant personality, Fight Club evolves into Project Mayhem, multi-celled secret society of oppressed gray-collar workers. The narrator and Tyler hold conversations as if Tyler was really a person and the narrator tends to refer to his current emotional state with phrases such as “I am Jack’s sense of rejection.” (Fincher 1999) We also come to know Marla Singer, who the narrator met while touring support groups, as the femme fatal that Tyler was sleeping with and antagonized Jack’s relationship to Tyler. She knew him as Tyler because it was he who related to her. Through the whole process, Marla Singer’s role in the narrator’s life eventually causes him to realize that he is the elusive Tyler Durden and he was merely projecting a figment of his imagination.
Jack spends his days at a job he despises and his nights ransacking mail-order catalogs, desperate to give some meaning to his life all the while giving himself severe insomnia. As Tyler proclaims at a particular session of Fight Club: “We are an entire generation pumping gas – waiting tables – slaves to the white collars. Advertisement has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate, so we can buy shit we don’t need.” (Fincher 1999) These men, gray-collar workers are proletarians, “people who sell their productive labor for wages.” (Macionis 196) In reference to stratification, gray-collar employees are higher than blue-collar employees but are still serving the capitalists above them. They can never achieve the advertised ideal because according to the social-conflict paradigm “stratification provides some people with advantages over others” thus causing an overwhelming sense of alienation due the reality of their powerlessness. (Macionis 196)
for more info visit: http://domspe.org/fight_club/
“All things beat…” I’ve seriously got tooooooooooooooooooooooo much time on my hands!
A collective expression of Brian Ho, Paul Koh, Michelle Chang and Wahyuni A. Hadi
They found them – these lost and discarded μnon-collectibles. 4 artists discovered them on the streets of Singapore and captured them on film, print and canvas. A sublime connection between these μnon-collectiblesξ is immediately apparent ρ when, how and why they became dispossessed, nobody knows. But they were certainly once made a beauty, or born a beauty – that much we know.
DVD. Duration 7 minutes 12 seconds.
by: Sam Taylor-Wood
Bram Stoker’s Chair VI, 2005
C-print. Image size: 48 x 38 in. (121.9 x 96.5 cm).
by: Sam Taylor-Wood