The Literary Chick Interview – Lily Morris

The Literary Chick Interview – Lily Morris

What do you think the purpose of art is?

The purpose of art is limitless and different for everyone. It’s a receipt of your life force, a map, a fantasy world, a mirror… so many things. If you’re asking what the purpose is for me, right now? In This 4am online chat with my brilliant friend Michael Corvo, he distilled a sentiment that can really relate to.

“I just think the way to fight superficial goal-oriented media-driven living is to make art that recognizes the vulnerability of the solitary human spirit.”

What is your background?

I grew up on the small island of Martha’s Vineyard in an incredibly close and loving community. People value creativity and nature above all else. My parents make political documentaries and are involved in human rights work and so I was around their artistic and soul fueled pursuits from day one.

Your recent show, American Dream, featured hyper realistic paintings of icons of the American Dream with a singular disturbing element shattering that dream, a man on his magnificent yacht with his head bowed in despair, a glamorous celebrity being started down by the eyes of wolves, an Architectural Digest type house with a dead deer in pool. What led you to take this approach?

I wanted to depict images where one element brings the entire story and nature of the scene into question. A person betrays the fantasy of luxury by being totally depleted or internally deprived. The ultra-modern dream-home with its chlorinated pool intended to replicate nature, creates problems for the actual nature that lives around it. And yet these luxurious places are feats of human effort, they’re beautiful and places I would dream of living myself. I made these paintings as a way to think further about shared cultural aspirations. 

In your series POV, (which refers to Point of View), we are placed in the position of voyeurs of couples in moments of intimacy and also with slight resistance in that intimacy, such as in Meeting. What motivated you to do this series?

The paintings in this series are about intimacy. I struggle with the desire to polarize everything. A great connection, a good partner, a terrible relationship, a bad chapter. These paintings deal with reconciling impulse, desire, and successful closeness.
The goal with this was to make more room in my definition of love and what it means to be close to someone else. Including myself.

What reactions or feelings do you hope to arouse in people who view your work?

My ultimate goal is to have other people see my work and reach into their own bank of experiences, their own thoughts, feelings, and realizations. We all share moments of intimacy and questions about the future, I’m just a person asking other people through imagery, have you felt anything like this? Am I alone here?

Your paintings seem to be reality superimposed with unreality. What led you to formulate that cerebral contradiction?

The simple fact that no one knows what life is and the experience of being alive is so ever changing, I’m confident that they hold equal merit and are often the same.

Do you paint from principals, images, or from what directives and why?

I pursue strangers and friends to pose for me. right now I’m working with images of people fighting, falling, sneezing, wasted… moments when they’re totally unselfconscious. I’m fixated on the honesty in people when they are out of their heads, the honesty contained in that gesture. 

You’ve had a history of slashing your canvases. Why leads to that kind of expression, or rather, destruction?

If it’s a weak composition, instead of pushing through because I can, I’d rather make that impossible and be freed to start something that’s more clear.

What artists/thinkers living or dead have you been drawn to? What in their oeuvre spoke to you?

My current influences are Avery Singer, and Christain Rex Van Minnen for how they deal with the intersection between painting and technology.

Jordan Wolfson has a poignant and often biting sense of humor that he incorporates into his art that I really delight in, along with his acute sense of emotional self-awareness.  

David Altmedj creates figurative sculptures that although sometimes grotesque, for me generate a feeling of spiritual seeking and chaos. I find comfort and wonder in his sculptures. 

Can you describe what a typical day in the studio is like for you?

-YouTubing videos of animals and insects
-Screenshots of textures or colors I love
-Checking in with the other vampire painters I’m connected with through social media
-Putting on a podcast to hear another human voice while I get ready to paint
-Tricking myself into starting by doing one small “fix” 6 hours later I’m ready to stop
-Sitting on my steps outside and looking at the sky
-Wandering around the garden lifting the bowed heads of my monster sunflowers
-Feeling like an alien
-Imagining the people I love and laughing out loud like a crazy person
-Laying in different strange configurations among the trash of my studio and looking at my work, either elated or filled with despair.

Lily Morris’s paintings will be featured in Bird Box, with Sandra Bullock, coming out December 21, 2018. 

For more on Lily Morris, check out

The Literary Chick Interview – Dave Barbarossa

The Literary Chick Interview – Dave Barbarossa

What books are currently on your nightstand?

== I have a kindle. Just finished reading ‘High Rollers’ by Jack Bowman. I think I’ll take the ferry after reading that.

What is the last great book you’ve read?

== erm…‘The Human Stain’ by Phillip Roth.

What moves you most in a work of literature? In music?

== Escape. To be transported.

What 3 authors are you most drawn to?

I am drawn to scores of great authors. I loved John Updike and Dickens, Henry Miller growing up. I admire the modern big hitters: Donna Tartt, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan etc.

What kind of reader were you as a child? What were your favorite books?

== I devoured everything. I’ve had to have a book with me for as long as I can remember.

Who are your favorite literary heroes?

== Sam Spade and ‘Boris’ in The Goldfinch.

If you could have one book on a high school curriculum, what would it be?

== Probably ‘Catcher In The Rye’…pretty sure it is a curriculum staple. I left school at 15 so I don’t know.

Why was that?

== I was expelled from school at 14, actually. I was working at 15. I was a very angry and disruptive child. I came from a violent family. I simply couldn’t cope with school. I write about it all in Mud Sharks.

What was it like as a teenager in West London at that time?

= I grew up in Hackney, so that’s north/east London. As a teenager I was bullied and battered at home and in school, but I had the music of the glam rock, tamla motown and dub reggae to keep me sane. I had books too. I loved reading. Then I found the drums and my real family, the musicians I’ve been so honoured to work with.

I feel self-conscious talking about my childhood. It was easier to create a character that suffered these indignities in my book, than talk about them myself.

Mat Johnson. I was at a VONA Voices faculty reading and this dude read a short story about a guy trying to start a career “henching” – working as a henchman for some low-level wannabe supervillain. It was hilarious and violent. I was like, “Word? This is a thing?” So I read a bunch of Mat and eventually met him and did a workshop with him. Mat took a lot of time reading Knucklehead and giving me feedback that was absolutely priceless. He helped me take the book to the next level. This all would not be happening without his mentorship.

Congratulations on your new novel, Mud Sharks. How much of this book would you say is autobiographical?

== It’s a book about my childhood, school days and early years in the punk scene. It’s a fabricated story based on true events…a novel. That make sense?

What inspired you to write Mud Sharks?

== I just felt it rising up. I wanted to explain to my children why I was like I am.

Mud Sharks deals with many issues pertinent today, such as racism. How do you think the problem of racism has evolved or devolved since you were a teenager in in London?

== It has been a lot less blatant since I was a kid at school. Sadly, it is raising its pug ugly head again…maybe not in the black v white way it did in the 70’s, but in an insidious cultural sense. Troubling.

What things if any, socio-economic, human, political, media do you think exacerbate racism?

== Always fear and poverty.

Do you think music and art can be used to combat racism?

== I think that all art can touch the most unreasonable person, and from there, melt their hearts and deliver them amazing grace.

You’ve quite a career as a musician, Adam and the Ants, Bow Bow Wow. . .were you a writer all this time as well? Journals, short stories or the like?

== No, never dabbled. I came off a world tour playing the drums for Republica and said, ‘right, that’s enough of that, time to write!’, sort of.

What were your musical influences growing up?

== Too many to say. I love all music…I love all writing. It’s quality I’m into. I’m that sort of a bloke.

Whom would you want to write your life story?

== Paul Hawksby (Talk Sport presenter)

What do you plan to read next?

== Don’t know. Exciting!

Do you have any signings or events coming up?

== I’m appearing at The Dublin Castle next Wednesday 7th at the ‘Rock and Roll book club’ where I’ll be interviewed and read from my novel Mud Sharks. I’ll also play a little drum solo.

The Literary Chick Interview – Adam Smyer

The Literary Chick Interview – Adam Smyer

Adam Smyer is the author of Knucklehead, which has been accurately described as “A fierce, intelligent, and often hilarious novel about a young African-Attorney who struggles to keep his cool in the personally and political turbulent ‘90’s”.  The Literary Chick was lucky enough to interview him following his successful book tour in South Africa.

The narrative and dialogue in Knucklehead flow so smoothly. How much of the book is autobiographical, if any?

I would love to say “None,” because I think that the question distracts somewhat, but I couldn’t get away with that. Even though in a way it’s true. None of it is journalism. I could also make the argument that it is all autobiographical, in a way—every word I write is unavoidably the product of my thoughts and experiences. So instead I will just say that some of it is autobiographical.

The most egregious events did indeed happen pretty much the way I wrote them. To me, “the most egregious events” would be the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the videotaped murder of Latasha Harlins and her convicted killer’s release in 1991, the assassination of Yitzak Rabin in 1995—things like that. Totally happened.

How did you come to decide to write the novel?

I didn’t. I wrote a short story, and then another, and eventually I realized that I was in the early stages of a novel. That is consistent with my personal experience. I do what I do, and at some point I look around and figure out what it is that I am doing. My greatest accomplishments began with no particular goal in mind.

Knucklehead’s prologue is extremely powerful. How would you say it connects to the book thematically?

Really glad you asked this. For me, the prologue is an exercise to aid in the reading of the book. There’s the obvious interpretation. And then there is the opportunity to view the action in context. I could say a lot more, but I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

I understand there is already an audio book out. Who is the narrator?

The audio book is read by L. Steven Taylor. Audio books are just his side hustle. By day he is Mufasa in The Lion King on Broadway. When I heard him read the first chapter, I started dancing around and pumping my fist in the air like I was watching sports. He is awesome.

Who were your literary inspirations?

Frank McCourt was my homeroom teacher in high school, and I took a number of English classes with him as well. This was decades before Angela’s Ashes, but Mr. McCourt was always an extraordinary and generous human being. He loved us. He expanded our minds.

Mat Johnson. I was at a VONA Voices faculty reading and this dude read a short story about a guy trying to start a career “henching” – working as a henchman for some low-level wannabe supervillain. It was hilarious and violent. I was like, “Word? This is a thing?” So I read a bunch of Mat and eventually met him and did a workshop with him. Mat took a lot of time reading Knucklehead and giving me feedback that was absolutely priceless. He helped me take the book to the next level.

In recent years I have come to avoid taking on other people’s trauma. I have enough of my own already. I also don’t like gratuitously flowery prose. Telling me something real in direct and beautiful way is what speaks to me personally.

I guess I don’t read romance novels, but in general I try not to get hung up on genre.

If Knucklehead is optioned for a movie, who would be in your dream cast?

If the entire cast and crew of Black Panther could reconvene and shoot Knucklehead, I would really appreciate it. 

BIO: Adam Smyer is an attorney, martial artist, and mediocre bass player. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and cats. Knucklehead (Akashic Books) is his debut novel

Cyberpunk in Berlin and Los Angeles: A Conversation Between Marilyn Macron and Stefan Kiesbye

Cyberpunk in Berlin and Los Angeles: A Conversation Between Marilyn Macron and Stefan Kiesbye

Marilyn Macron is a practicing attorney and promoter of reading under The Literary Chick™. Here, she talks with Stefan Kiesbye about his latest book, BerlingelesBerlingeles is a move towards cyberpunk, a genre that is new to Kiesbye, who has worked mostly in the German Gothic vein. In Berlingeles, Kiesbye gives us a Los Angeles on the precipice of a civil war, superimposing the upheaval of Germany and its resulting Wall on the City of Angels through a cyberpunk lens. Kiesbye was the recipient of the Low Fidelity Press Novella Award and teaches creative writing at Sonoma State University.  He and his wife Sanaz live with their two dogs near Santa Rosa, California.

MARILYN MACRON: Berlingeles is quite a different ride than your German Gothic tales. Cyberpunk, apocalyptic, dystopian, social commentary, political, what would you categorize it as?
STEFAN KIESBYE: The book is all that, but those categories are usually hindsight, once you think about marketing the book. And usually it’s your publisher who puts the book into a category to maximize sales. I started with K., who wants to stay alive to be reunited with his erstwhile lover, B., and the apocalyptic and dystopian developed because I was trying to figure out where K. would live, and what I thought might happen to Los Angeles in the future. I’m a pessimist — we’re not confronting the great problems of our time, from environmental disasters to a reemergence of the right, racism, and discrimination; we’re hiding. Berlingeles gives that pessimism a shape.
What inspired you to write this?
To some degree it’s my curiosity about what will happen once I’m gone from this planet. I’m very attached to this world, and scientists and the tech community are taking steps to prolong human life. K. is desperate to see B. again — after spending forty years apart — and he does what it takes to keep his limbs moving, to keep his hearing and eyesight intact. He’s afraid he’ll die before his life is completed. That fear really drives the book.
What comparable trauma do you see with the culture or populace of Berlin and Los Angeles that would give you the idea to create a story about a civil war and a Wall in Los Angeles?
Berlin and Los Angeles are cities that attract young people with outsized dreams. A few are fulfilled, and many of those dreams die young. Others stick around and fade slowly, some end messily. And both cities show gaps between their reputation and reality. They always seem more — more vibrant, more important, more global — than they truly are. They are never quite sure of their place in the world. Both cities feel like impostors — LA’s dreams are invaded and ridiculed by New York, Berlin is afraid it will never be Paris or London. And yet, they also infuse their citizens’ life with meaning, with a sensation of “we’re part of something big.”

Berlin and LA, to me, display lifestyles atypical to the rest of the country. The sensation of living on an island is mostly cultural. In West Berlin from 1961-89, there was, of course, a physical barrier, but the main difference was not the Wall, it was the way Berliners felt excused from Nazi atrocities. It was about showcasing Western democracy in the middle of East Germany. West Berlin created its own myth and lifestyle — David Bowie resided in the Dschungel, Peter Gabriel and U2 and Depeche Mode recorded in the city. Berlin was a feeling, a statement, a terminally ill patient everybody wanted to hold hands with.

Los Angeles is not enclosed by a wall, but by the desert. It’s a city that shouldn’t “be there.” It’s the capital of gated communities, of people moving behind walls to feel safe. It’s money that buys you a spot in a small enclave of people with similar incomes. The better the money, the higher the wall. Then there’s the odd phenomenon of people not leaving their neighborhoods. When we moved from Koreatown to Long Beach, we lost all our friends, as though there really was a wall around the neighborhoods.

Berlin was too important to be abandoned by the West. Similarly, if America were to be divided geographically, I don’t think either side would willingly surrender Los Angeles. As K. writes to B., “LA was the center of dreams, making up the narratives for the whole nation. A body needs to rest and dream, and how could America ever rest again without Los Angeles providing its dreams?”

In some of your other works such as Knives, Forks, Scissors, Flames and Your House Is On Fire Your Children All Gone, there is a tension in the villages that appears it could ignite into Elias Canetti’s worst mob mentality scenarios in Crowds and Power. Is it the urban nature of cities as opposed to villages that brought that latent threat in your previous books to this cataclysmic point?
Mobs can build everywhere, but the power in towns and villages is more absolute. Most often, the violence is not directed at destroying institutions. A small town is more homogenous, so violence is turned against the outsider, the witch, the “other.” That “other” can be erased quickly and without a trace.

In cities, violence and power are fractured and can cause the system to fracture. Nothing can be concluded quickly. Violence can spread and set other communities ablaze. Violence in cities is less personal and not easily quelled. It’s also more destructive. Villagers own their village and want to preserve it, but nobody owns large cities.

The Fleece seems to indicate an augmented reality. How would you define The Fleece?
It’s a fluid and more absolute form of cyberspace, a repository of information, misinformation, dreams and personal channels. The Fleece also adds to the visible city, erecting digital monuments, houses, facades. It has its hidden corners, its walls, digital animals and vehicles. There’s one city outside the Fleece, and a different one inside. Yet since Los Angeles is riddled with poverty, the Fleece isn’t seamless or perfect. There are gaps and ghost storms.
Why are K. and B. the only characters who are referred to by only their initials?
Traditionally, using only initials in literature signified a kind of delicacy, secrecy (for example, in Heinrich von Kleist’s The Marquise of O…). The conceit was that the names, if fully published, would be recognized, and the story could cause a scandal. It made the narrative feel more authentic. So the use of initials in Berlingeles is definitely a nostalgic nod. In K.’s and B.’s particular case it’s very fitting, since their love was never publicly acknowledged out of fear it would destroy their marriages. Waiting most of his life for B., K. has become the idea of himself. He has ceased to exist as a person, is waiting to become a person yet again.
The story is told from multiple points of view. What made you create and employ these characters to tell it?
I love that none of the characters ‘exist.’ They appear in public, and yet they don’t have a public life. Sophie, the prostitute, is being chauffeured through the city, only to be seen in confined spaces. Gaz, the young thug, is in love with the Maze and the Tunnel, and only underground, away from prying eyes, does he feel like himself. In order to be successful at robbing and even killing people, he needs to be invisible. The most extreme case is Sophie’s grandmother Ida, who is long dead, but still bosses her granddaughter around. None of the characters own their identity, and yet their lives continue and expand and collide.
The characters in many of your books are often described as having what could be considered odd or jarring physical characteristics and in this book, real mutilations. Why is that? In Berlingeles, is any of it because of the radioactive fallout from the nuclear explosion in Texas?
The fallout will contribute to it later, but the event is a recent one in the book, and the results will only become visible later. What I’m fascinated by, though, are how people create an identity based on looks. How we create a ranking system according to physical attributes. Once you don’t fit that system anymore — because of abnormalities, mutilations, or other reasons — you become both, extremely visible and invisible. You stick out, and yet nobody wants to look at you. You are able to/forced to construct an identity that is outside our normal system. That freedom is terrifying. Shakespeare’s Richard III is such a character. He can’t win anyone over with his appearance, but that gives him the power to manipulate the people around him. K., with his artificial limbs and savagely scarred skin, is waiting for the only person who will still recognize him as a body. His only chance at being seen is B. All other human connections have been severed.
In the story, the band Neuwerk released the concept album Berlingeles linking the history of the two cities. How would you imagine this album to sound?
If the Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk, Einstürzende Neubauten, Section 25, Françoise Hardy, and Father John Misty got together and worked on an album, it might approach that sound.
To come around to you, what books made an impression on you as a child? Teenager? And what has hit you especially hard as an adult?
As a teenager, I was in love with Otfried Preußler’s Krabat, a novel (based on old legends) about a cursed Mill and the thirteen apprentices in service of dark forces. But for a long time I read mostly crime novels. Everything from Dorothy L. Sayers to Dashiell Hammett. I was drawn to things that happen outside of what should happen. Things that don’t have a “place” in our society because they are too dark, too inappropriate to talk about. Some of the literary novels I admire go much further than any crime story I’ve ever read — Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird; Agota Kristof’s The Notebook; Jeannette Winterson’s The Passion.
If you could select one book to be required reading on a high school curriculum, what would it be?
Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, because the book never strives to be efficient. The world is recognizable ours, and yet the ways in which Bolaño captures it are full of detours, strewn with revelations that make the reader feel alive to the multitude of voices around us. There’s nothing to “get,” no easy message, no moralizing, no redemption. You have to be along for the ride.

The Literary Chick Interview – Kerry Wallach

by Kerry Wallach, Associate Professor of German Studies at Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College website (could link my name to this page):

Passing Illusions website:

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to see the discussion on your book, Passing Illusions, at the Leo Baeck Institute, New York at the Center for Jewish History Can you tell us a bit about the book?

Thanks very much for this opportunity to share my work with your readers. My book deals with Jews and Jewish identity in the Weimar Republic (1919–1933). I am especially interested in Jewish visibility and invisibility, as well as instances when Jewishness was concealed, revealed, or contested. The book’s cultural studies approach blends close analysis of cultural texts (literature, film, images, advertisements) and discourses with an analysis of sources used by historians: periodicals, personal memoirs, and archival documents. In addition to focusing on Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s, the book’s introduction and conclusion bring German-Jewish passing into dialogue with African American racial passing and queer passing to offer insight into minority visibility more broadly.

What inspired you to write this?

I have long been interested in the Weimar period because of the tensions and paradoxes it embodied. Even though it was Germany’s first democracy, it remained politically tumultuous. Jews finally gained full access to the privileges afforded to other German citizens, yet still thought twice before openly or publicly announcing their Jewishness. I am further fascinated by the strategies people use to figure out whether someone else is Jewish the first time they meet (the same goes for other identities, especially LGBT identities).

You write of “coding” and “passing” in Passing Illusions. Could you explain this?

Passing is a widely known concept that indicates a type of concealing: either deliberately presenting or being taken for something that one is not. In the United States, it is most often associated with the history of African American racial passing (Black passing for white) as well as sexual or queer passing (nonheterosexual for heterosexual). In order to pass or not-pass, people might choose to display or conceal aspects that are associated with one identity or the other.

In my book, I write about attributes that are coded Jewish, including racialized embodied characteristics (dark hair and dark coloring, noses of a certain shape); material signifiers (certain forms of clothing, head coverings, and jewelry); and other elements that are influenced by antisemitic stereotypes.

I found it interesting how at the discussion you tied it in with the current Netflix series Berlin Babylon. Could you explain the connection?

The hit German television series Babylon Berlin (first two seasons released in 2017) is a period drama set in 1929, just a few years before the end of the Weimar Republic. It features one clearly Jewish character (August Benda) and references Jewishness in a number of other ways. I have written more about this in a forthcoming piece, so I won’t go into great detail here, but it’s easy to find examples of passing in this crime show: police inspector Gereon Rath attempts to pass for members of various groups; others working undercover pass for whatever they need to be; Nazis pass for Communists.

Is the idea of “coding” or “passing” relevant today?

Yes, the idea of passing remains highly relevant today, especially for members of persecuted minority groups. There is often a great deal at stake when someone chooses to pass. For Jews in Weimar Germany, Jewishness could hinder professional or personal success. Choosing to pass under those circumstances—representing oneself as non-Jewish or concealing Jewishness—generally served as a means to obtain privileges, rights, luxuries, power, or a stronger sense of personal safety and security. But other minority populations (past and present) are often dealing with vastly different circumstances and have considerably more to lose. The discovery of a concealed identity or status could result in someone being blackmailed, arrested, imprisoned, or killed.

What type of reader were you as a child? And what books influenced you as a person the most?

As a child, I already loved books about the first half of the twentieth century (All-of-a-Kind Family, Cheaper by the Dozen). In hindsight, it’s not surprising that I read everything I could find about the Holocaust at a relatively young age – I was only about 10 when I read Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic (and later Briar Rose).
My college major focused on the “great books” in historical context, and I’ll never forget reading Dante’s Divine Comedy, Lessing’s Nathan the Wise, and Goethe’s Faust. My senior thesis focused on the German-Jewish poet Else Lasker-Schüler.

After college, I was incredibly moved by Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex. I also read as much American Jewish fiction as I could, including lots of Philip Roth (Goodbye, Columbus was especially memorable).

In graduate school I found my way to a wide range of books: memoirs and autobiographies by such 18th-century writers as Glikl bas Judah Leib (Glückel of Hameln) and Salomon Maimon; stories about New York’s Lower East Side by Anzia Yezierska and Abraham Cahan; Weimar-era works by Joseph Roth, Vicki Baum, and Irmgard Keun; feminist and gender theory by Judith Butler and later Sara Ahmed.

Recently, I found both Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing to be stunning and incredibly powerful works of fiction.

If you could choose one book to be on a high school curriculum, what would it be?

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) is a classic that already makes it onto many high school reading lists. It also provides important insight into some of the topics I deal with in my book. I think high school students could also learn a lot from Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929), which is the novel that helped popularized the term.

The Literary Chick Interview – French Filmmaker Patrick Morell

The Literary Chick Interview – French Filmmaker Patrick Morell

1. What books are currently on your nightstand?
I am re reading “The Power of Myth” from Joseph Campbell. Conversations between Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers published in 1988. It is a book that every or almost every American intellectual interested in mythologies, whether these are aboriginals, Christians or from classic Greece have read.
I guess that it is probably because of the film about the rituals of Theyyam in Kerala in south India I am currently making.
There is so much in this book about the origins of the myths. Where these myths come from and how they happened to live in our consciousness or subconscious for thousands of years, and also how we are going to lose this important part of ourselves as humans in this age of robots.
I am also reading Chris Hedges books. I like and respect Chris Hedges very much, his writings, essays and some of his articles for the New York Times.
He is a true cold reader and writer, and no bullshit American intellectual.
I like “Unspeakable” a most recent conversation with David Talbot. It is better than “The Empire of Illusion so far. That he wrote few years back and which is so premonitory. It starts with the deconstruction of an American television show.
I only went through it quick. It reminds me of a contemporary version of “La Société du Spectacle”, from Guy Debord. A pamphlet of only 70 pages when the film series is at least 10 hours. How the time of the concept translated in a few words can take so much time in images, is perhaps something to look at. But the book is in Paris. The series is on You Tube It is a great series on Capitalism and Spectacle. The footage is beautifully black and white. Old newsreels from around the world. There is Art and Fashion, in the series, Rock and factories, protests and wars, poetry ads and discourses and women in bikinis.
2. Who is your favorite novelist of all time?
To me there is not “A favorite or best novelist of all time.” Every season of your life has its own favorite novelist and books. ’International Situationiste” for example, was one the greatest political book I have read. ..
Thank to Gilles Deleuze, Proust came in 1979..I was in Love. His script, images, words and long sentences, life long panoramic were flowing like a river of time and lineal. It conveys deep emotions based on his perceptions, senses and all resonated in me profoundly.
I had just read the philosopher Henri Bergson. On the phenomenology of the senses. I was living in the South of France after film school and before the return to Los Angeles. For bout 2 years. The light was magnificent and I studied art or rather I discover with videos and children
Proust was one of my favorites for sure. I loved to smell the flowers. his madeleines, his insights, He was very photographic if not cinematic. I like his dark rooms. They brought me farther in film introspection whether with experimental cinema, Buster Keaton’s, or Godard.
Histoire du Cinema by Jean Luc Godard , the long videos series of Godard he did 20 years ago, at least, was a long series of videos and news and art and fashion and great cinematography and faces and nature and scenes of wars in Russia,
Lawrence of Arabia. From Lawrence Book. The 7 pillars of wisdom. Big influence. I took a nap under his Rock in the desert of Wadi Rum, at the order and border of Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Books of exploration have always been in my mind when I think of literature because of the incentives to travel and explore the world and your selves.
Even if when you come back you fall into a Rabbit hole and find gold. But cannot get out.. Into a dark Room, and you are alone, besides the corteges of jeune filles en fleurs, alone in your dusty room, sick and dying like the light of the day, like Proust.
But I could tell the same thing about Fyodor Dostoevsky or Faulkner or Rimbaud. All of them contribute to a certain extent to your experience of life and if your craft is to become your life, then to the development of your craft. All Arts proceed but Cinema encompasses literature, painting and music all in the same medium. With time you can do anything. The there is death which strikes. Make it fast old witch!
Blade Runner reminds me of Ray Bradbury that I was reading under a beautiful mahogany American desk in West Los Angeles. In 1985. (University of UCLA) Orwell came back in the air in the early 80’s. Orson Died. I was downtown LA taking with a junkie. There was a sense of epidemy and death. It was the time when AIDS were not treated properly.
Every book and author is the best in its own time. I think.
James Joyce Ulysses my camera once and Kerouac too. When we were “On the road.” Too too. Like a train entering the station with blue lights.
Jean Genet was extraordinary for me in words and images by Fassbinder. Geniuses.….. I think one of my favorite book of my life maybe would be “Look Homeward Angel” from Thomas Wolfe. It would be too long to explain why. Let’s say, it was of this chapter where you are really lost and searching. I was living in a refuge in West LA, I was in a permanent quest in the beautiful Hollywood hills while still dreaming of the South.
The East had no mystery anymore; so I thought. I was wrong.
This was in 1985.
After that, I went back east but I was not interested in philosophy anymore. I had enough reading I wanted to film the world. And I did with artists.
And new beginnings. Only art books and biographies.
The last 10 years, I have liked Philip Roth very much.
He passed away a couple of weeks ago. If I was doing fiction films, I would like to do in films what Mr. Roth has done in books. I like his crude American existential stuff as far as you can see, as dark as you can be and as cold as you can feel .
Same with Look Homeward Angel now that I think of it. Blacks and White and Red in between. I saw a great documentary on Philip Roth in Paris on T.V two years ago. He was true to his craft. It is not rare but important to mention. And he did not seem as crazy as Salinger.
American Pastoral and Exit Ghost, are the 2 books I can talk about but I let others do a film on him and screenwriters adapt his stories.
Be my guest, ha ha ha ! I would love to see.
Today in France there is Michel Houellebecq. I read Soumission.
I like his crude exploration of flesh and mental submission.
Reflecting also in the politics of our times of Populism/ Fascism.
Anyway, I cannot answer your question correctly about one novelist in particular. I am sorry.
But maybe what follow will help.
3. What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I love cartoons. Bandes dessinees. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and his greedy uncle.
My father had talent for drawing faces and cartoons. Walt Disney like so he always bought me “bandes dessinees”. Like cartoons. French language mostly but American.
And he was also a pilot and likes airplanes, so St Experty’s “Le Petit Prince” existed. It is a classic anyway for French children and adults alike.
A kid who ends up with total strangers, in Arabic lands and how he learns life and falls in love with a princess of the desert. Sky is the limit.
And What a beautiful romance!
But yes, there is also Fritz the Cat. Fantastic. And all the American stoners great cartoonists of the 60’s and 70’s . Like Crumb and Friedman.
The first novel per say was: |L’Assomoir” from Emile Zola.
I was 13. I suppose. It was 1968.
It was mandatory to read this book in public schools in France, in and after 1968. (The riots. The Revolution. The Workers. The factories.)
The French teacher was bringing the class to demonstrations and we had to clash with the cops. The second one is “L’Idiot” de Dostoevsky. We had to study and discourse by writing about the book.
There was revolution in the air and the discovery of sex. And Hashish.
Opium came later with Rimbaud and ended up with Thomas De Quincey. Making teenage schemes in the dark, there was Henry Miller sexual revolution in words, colors, energies.
And later, the discovery of the Buddha.
Tropic of the Cancer. But then I was not a child anymore. I had seen death already.
4. What book, if any, contributed to your artistic development?
Nabokov!!!. Just kidding ! I love Nabokov. I love Lolita. So handsome characters.
As with novelists,. All books you like, you read, more or less contribute to your development, artistic or other.
If it is there, coming to you, falling from a tree or the sky, especially when you are young, it already means something.
Every book for me is a path to take in the journey of life. And there are so many roads. So, may avatars! But only one life: Yours. For example, William Faulkner was an extraordinary discovery when I was studying film, script and montage, in the late 70’s.
Peter Handke (The left-handed woman) in late seventies. for insightful shots.
Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler in the 80’s Los Angeles, for the colors. the dark, the atmosphere. I like atmosphere and dimmer the lights are, best it is.
I like Sam Shepard for his dialogues and was a great contributor to film and theater.
He was humble. That also contribute to your work. You find crossroads and a few drinks in between. Knocking knocking on Heaven’s Gates.
These are the books,
Bob Dylan Biography. Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
“Pylone” from Faulkner.
“The left-handed woman” from Peter Handke.
“Histoire de l’Oeil” from Geoges Bataille.
“Journey through the End of the Night”. from Celine.
“La Vagabonde” “L’autre Femme” “La Chatte” from Colette.
Anais Ninn “Henry and June””Bue Movie” and “Transfigured…”
“Tropic of Cancer “Henry Miller and “Sweet Days in Clichy”
“The Maltese Falcon”, “The Thin Man” or “Red Harvest” from Dashiell Hammett.
“The Big sleep” from Raymond Chandler and some essays.
“Fool for love” from Sam Shepard. D.H Lawrence. Lady Chatterley and the Snake God. All Books about sexuality are important for me.
The absurd of Samuel Beckett and August Wilson. In texts theater. earlier in New York 1981. Jean Genet. Querelle. And the adaptation by Fassbinder.
Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness.
and many other titles from this incredible author who still push my boundaries in films and exploration
Jack London “Call of the Wild “obviously and very soon his south pacific tales.
I am not at the end. This is only an interview.
John Krakauer. “Into the Wild”. “Into Thin Air.” All have been adapted into screenplays. There is a reason for it. I lived in the wilds of Alaska and I have seen the hidden face of Everest.
In the mid 90’s it was more Alain Robbe-Grillet books.
“Le Voyeur” has contributed in my love for black and white in Cinematography. If not photography.
Much more colors in Balzac or Flaubert. They Set the decor and the costumes like we do in story boards.
Hemingway ? I was reading Hemingway, “For whom the bells toll” when I was attending the 1984 Olympics Games in Los Angeles. I thought this was appropriate. Grandioso!
I went to his house in Havana in 2015.. When I arrived, it was a Sunday…it was closed and there was some wind. A huge branch fell from an enormous tree, and me and the guard almost got killed….so I don’t know about Hemingway.
He is heavy prose. Words which weight a thousands pounds. Like a heavy panoramic. Heavy Camera. Long shots. Heavy drinking. Not much sex but Big ego. Big Fish. I think of him from time to time. I never like his big ego but I cared for his daughter. You are also vulnerable when you rub with fame and glory and guns and father figures.
I painted a house next to his and his 39 disgusting cats in Key West in 1991.
Thoreau and Emerson were more refined American writers. They were my “favorite ”authors when I was living in Boston (in the early 90’s) and shoplifting. They contribute a lot to my film research in Harvard at the time. Films about Nature and Native Americans. Films about India with Robert Gardner.
Nathaniel Hawthorne too. and then later Jean Malaurie about The Wilderness of the Soul.
Much later, I made “Les Grunewald du Musee de Colmar” based on the critical essay by Joris- Karl Huysman (contemporary of Beaudelaire) . There was wine and blood on the walls.. This was 15 years ago. But I am proud of this 45’ minutes piece (in French only) The text is very very hard to translate. I am not even sure it is possible or the translator would have to be a star.
Most recently, I attempted in my film “INUIT LANDS The Melting Point” (2012- 2016) to re actualize the thinking of the wild, with the writings of Jean Malaurie (“The Last Kings of Thule”. “Hummocks” and other) and the film got the Jack London Spirit Award in Glenn Ellen in California in September 2017.
So we were happy.
The Phenomenology of Maurice Merleau Ponty was very important in understanding perceptions long time ago, and that remain definitely key in my camera work.
Henry Bergson too.
And again the rhizomes of Gilles Deleuze and some Dostoevsky’s scenes and Ingmar Bergman’s writings and Godard’s. And Kurosawa’s.
I hope this answers your question.
5. If you could make any book into a film, which would it be? How do you visualize it?
“Pylone” from William Faulkner.
Hollywood did it already with Rock Hudson. (Black and white) I am happy they did. I love old American films from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s But yes I would like to do a re make of that…book.
I don’t know how I would visualize it. I still don’t know even if I wrote a script based on the book in 1978. Now I don’t do fictions. So, it is Hard to visualize. Or it takes some time for it to come to fruition. With Documentary is more immediate. It is here and now. And that’s it.
6. At what age did you develop an interest in film?
I was 20. I was coming back from a 2/ 3 years travel in the USA, Mexico and Canada.(I was guitar player in a French Rock Band based in Paris then in Montreal Canada)
But Cinema, has been in me since my childhood, thanks to my father and also my mother (later) .
She was more a theater lady but she likes French Cinema.
My father loved Westerns and John Ford and John Wayne. I like Jack Palance and Laureen Bacall.
And then I liked Maupassant and Robert Bresson. All contributed something I am sure.
Robert Bresson especially. I learnt a lot reading his Book “Le Cinematographe. A real Master for me, with J.L Godard, John Cassavetts, Wim Wenders and Francis Ford Copolla.
When I came back from the US. IN 1976/ 77 I made the choice to enter a film school.
So, I made filming my profession, it was more than just an artistic interest.
It was for real this time..
And since then, Cinema never left me and I never left it either.
And I don’t think I will ever will.

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