Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Because animal-named blogs are awesome:

Perhaps hypocritically, I'm not a huge fan of blogs. There are several that I enjoy, but too many are poorly written and banal.

If you're suffering from holiday-induced delirium, though, treat yourself to a jolt of wicked good humor from Darci Ratliff and Heather Havrilesky. You'll laugh so hard you'll shoot egg nog through your nose:

Darci Ratliff's Kittenpants
kittenpants: the site for cats, pants, Keith Gordon

Heather Havrilesky's Rabbit Blog
rabbit blog

Monday, December 20, 2004

JT and Harold:

1) My Poets and Writers interview with my friend, JT LeRoy, is up. We discuss his books, films, past, the subjective nature of fiction and of autobiography, how surviving the streets is akin to war, R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Charles Bukowski, James Ellroy, and JT's "Sophie's Choice" moment between Dave Eggers and Billy Corgan:

Poets&Writers, Inc.

2) Read JT's new novella, "Harold's End", when you get a chance: its story wrenches like a meat hook and the language imbeds itself like a great song. Cherry Hood's watercolor illustrations stun and a well-racked smart girl gets thanked on p.95. Mr. Eggers wrote the introduction, too. What more could you want from a literary experience? :)

jt leroy - writing - harold's end

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Great moments in diametric opposition:

Last time, I wrote that "An Open Letter to Keith Richards' Immune System" had been linked to a science humor site. Today I discovered it on a Lynyrd Skynyrd message board:

Frynds of Skynyrd - Off Topics

Sunday, December 12, 2004

"Analysis and freaky sensitivity/We've got to live on science alone..." --"Scientist", The Dandy Warhols

The editor of the science humor site, The Abhorrent and Secret World of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, just emailed me and said that he linked my McSweeney's piece, "An Open Letter to Keith Richards' Immune System", to his publication. (Scroll halfway down and click on "C.F.I.D.S.".)

I read some of their other stuff and I like their smart-geek humor:

Science Humour: The Abhorrent and Secret World of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Brava, L.H!:

Laura Hillenbrand's New Yorker essay on her life with CFIDS, "A Sudden Illness", has been chosen for both the prestigious "Best American Essays 2004" and "Best American Magazine Writing 2004".

"A Sudden Illness" is a masterwork and I'd say that even if I didn't have CFIDS. With eloquence and a slow-burning anger, Hillenbrand lays bare the heartbreak of having one's life--particularly one's youth--upended by incurable illness.

I know someone is going to ask, "If she's so sick how did she write such a long piece?" Answer: It took her two years and she often had to write lying down and/or with her eyes closed to quell the vertigo. Being ill doesn't diminish one's talent: it makes it more difficult to access. If one has the tenacity of a rabid dog, though, great things can happen.


CFIDS Books: The Best American Essays 2004 (Best American Essays) Books: The Best American Magazine Writing 2004 (Best American Magazine Writing)

Friday, December 10, 2004


My new pieces for McSweeney's and for The Black Table both went online today. (Kinda makes up for the fact that I was only able to leave the house for an hour.) Anyway, I'm happy.

"An Open Letter to Keith Richards' Immune System":
McSweeney's Internet Tendency: An Open Letter to Keith Richards' Immune System.

"Who Would I Kill: A Partial List":

Monday, December 06, 2004

If the speculation about Ann Coultier turns out to be true, I'll never stop laughing:

One of my favorite authors, Jerry Stahl ("Permanent Midnight", "I, Fatty"), gives a new interview to Salon: Books | "All my heroes were dope fiends"

An excerpt:

"On a more serious note, you have to give Rush [Limbaugh] credit -- he's probably done more to curb the spread of opiate use in this country than anybody. When I was coming up, you had this hipster dope-fiend legacy: Lenny Bruce, Miles Davis, Burroughs, Richards and Nick Cave. Now you've got ... Rush Limbaugh. I mean, who wants to do the same drug as some overfed, unlaid right-wing toady? I can just picture Rush scratching his nose and explaining his anti-immigration policy to the maid he bought his shit from. Buying Dilaudid from your maid -- does it get any more Republican?"

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Have yourself a sticky little Christmas:

The Black Table recently ran my piece, "Ivory Christmas", in its monthly "Waxing Off" section. I've posted the link here, as well as the original version, which I prefer. (Two of my favorite lines were cut! Who dares to alter my story of adolescent fake masturbation?)

Anyway, enjoy!


I was a teenage art-geek. Frizzy haired and studious, I hadn't yet learned to work a prodigious vocabulary and ample rack to my advantage. But I had my first real boyfriend, Pete. We discussed Dylan Thomas at lunch and he played King Crimson riffs for me over the phone. I was in love.

My parents, both Greek, both prosecutors, insisted on meeting him. I balked, but relented when my dad threatened to run Pete's license plates. "This house is like a cop show!" I yelled and stormed from the room.

The next day after school, Pete loaded his books into my used Mustang and we drove home. It was two weeks before Christmas and I'd told him my folks wanted to include him in a traditional Greek holiday meal. Once inside, we sat on the living room couch by the Christmas tree. Mom and Dad wouldn't be home for a couple of hours and I thought my brother was at soccer practice.

"You're my other half," Pete said and put his hand on my knee. As we kissed, a moaning sound wafted down the hall. Barely audible at first, it grew louder. I realized it was my brother. "It sounds like someone's jacking off," Pete said, alarmed.

The bathroom door flung open and my brother raced into the room. "Aaaahhhhh!" he yelled and ran toward Pete. His hands were coated in viscous white liquid and he waved them around maniacally. "Pete! I love you, Pete!"

"Is he retarded?" Pete asked frantically, tripping over the hassock in an effort to get away. "I want to give you my baby juice!" my brother continued and chased Pete into the kitchen. I heard my mom's planter knock into a wall.

By now, I knew what was going on. My brother, a smart-ass and more than slightly nuts, was hazing my boyfriend. My boyfriend, however, had no clue.

"Goddamn it, George! Leave him alone!" I called after them. I sprinted into the kitchen, caught George by the shirt and yanked. He stopped and burst out laughing.

"Oh my God! Dude, you should have seen the look on your face!" he told Pete. "Lighten up there, pal. It's just Ivory Liquid. I would have had to crank it eight or nine times to get that much jizz."

"What the hell's wrong with you?" Pete cried, visibly shaken.

Later at dinner, Pete endured my parents' inquisition with aplomb. He made polite conversation with my brother as if nothing had happened. And he left me the next week for a cheerleader.

He said it was because she would blow him. Though perhaps Pete liked his Christmases white, not Ivory.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

NYC odds and sods, part 2:

--My first night in town I went to the much-touted Cupcake Reading Series at Lolita on the LES with my friend, Caryn. Martha Witt read from her new novel, "Broken As Things Are" and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche read from her new novel, "Purple Hibiscus". Katherine Lanpher, co-host of "The Al Franken Show" on Air America, moderated. Witt is undeniably talented, but Adiche blew the room away. After the Q and A, Witt and Adiche went upstairs to sell and sign books. I felt bad that I only purchased Adiche's "Hibiscus"--the authors were seated next to each other--but we're all big girls, and I couldn't see the point of buying a book I knew I wouldn't read. I'm finishing Arthur Bradford's "Dogwalker" now (more on him in a sec) but I can't wait to begin "Hibiscus" when I'm done.

--Purchased some gunmetal silver kitten heels at Bounce in Soho that I like more than most people. At the Punk Silver boutique within Bounce, I did some early Christmas shopping for my cousins, Ellie and Helena. The 25 year old jewelry maker asked me out, and while he wasn't my type, I enjoyed it when he told me, "You have the best smile in the city".

--Met Arthur Bradford at JT's after party at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. I'd heard of him, but hadn't yet read his work. Knew he'd be brilliant, though, after hearing him sing to JT earlier that evening at Deitch: his lyrics were hilarious, warm, and spot-on. (I'll post them here after JT's webmaster gets them online.)

--The squirrels at Tompkins Square Park are quintessential New Yorkers: they literally sit on your lap and get in your face. Split a chocolate croissant with two of them--my friend, Christy, took some fun pics--and C and I enjoyed unwinding on this cold, sunny afternoon, our last day in town.

For further info:

Guardian Unlimited Books | Special Reports | A4 challenge: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Martha Witt > Broken As Things Are


identity theory | the narrative thread - arthur bradford

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

NYC odds and sods:

I've been swamped since I returned from New York. I've written about the trip in my journal but I haven't recapped it here. So, a few desultory thoughts before I turn in uncharacteristically early:

--The roasted potatoes at Babbo are quite possibly the world's most perfect food. They're fingerling potatoes split lengthwise and roasted w/ olive oil, rosemary, sea salt, and garlic so tender you can eat the skin. I've read that Elizabeth Taylor used to have tubs of Chasen's chili flown to the set of "Cleopatra" and I always thought this was an incredibly wasteful and indulgent act. However, if I had the resources, I can't guarantee that I wouldn't do the same with Babbo's potatoes.

Runners up: the cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery and the matzoh ball soup at Katz's Deli. At the former, I asked the guys behind the counter if anyone had ever offered sex in exchange for cupcakes. Strangely, they said no. Both of them--one straight, the other gay--thought it was a fantastic idea, though, and said they might post a sign with rates.

--The plastic molded green and orange subway seats remind me of the chairs we used during first grade art hour. On one mid-afternoon ride with my friend, Christy, a man in his sixties--who otherwise appeared stately, like a professor in a '50s movie--got way too into watching me reapply my lipstick. Seriously, I could (should?) have charged him.

--I want to live in the indoor garden at the Frick Museum. I could prop my laptop on one of the stone benches and the bunnies could frolic among the orchids. I'd be happy to live in any of the rooms at the Frick, actually: their beauty is surreal.

--St. Patrick's Cathedral remains my favorite place on earth.

--The showing/reading/performance at Deitch Projects and the afterparty at the Tribeca Grand Hotel were frenetic, phenomenal. If you're interested, check out pages 128-129 in the November 29 issue of New York Magazine for details. I'm so glad my friends, Christy and Caryn, could make it! Much thanks to my lad, JT!

More next time. G'night!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

From today's New York Times:

If inclined, please read and forward:

The New York Times > Washington > Negotiators Add Abortion Clause to Spending Bill

Excerpt: "The abortion language would bar federal, state and local agencies from withholding taxpayer money from health care providers that refuse to provide or pay for abortions or refuse to offer abortion counseling or referrals. Current federal law, aimed at protecting Roman Catholic doctors, provides such "conscience protection'' to doctors who do not want to undergo abortion training. The new language would expand that protection to all health care providers, including hospitals, doctors, clinics and insurers."

Monday, November 08, 2004

"I'm going back to New York City/I do believe I've had enough..."--Bob Dylan

I leave for New York in twenty-two hours and not a moment too soon. This past week has been surreal for everyone, though it contained some bright spots, too. A number of my friends and I are even more committed to change and are focusing on the 2006 mid-term elections. I've donated time, money, and/or letter writing skills to progressive causes since I was sixteen and it would be pathetic to succumb to defeatism now. Also, I found out yesterday that McSweeney's has accepted another one of my pieces and that it will run in December. I don't understand why that cocksucker, Karl Rove, should detract from a moment of my joy.

To those who have lost their hearts and heads, I offer the immortal words of Dorothy Parker:

"Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
and drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live."

More when I return.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

This makes more sense than anything I've read today:

Stand and Fight

To which I add: *We have to fight.* If we quit, we hasten what we're trying to prevent. If we quit, we say that a paltry 51% majority can scare us into inaction. If we quit, we're as guilty as the far right in destroying our country. If we quit, we deserve what we get.

*We have to fight.*

A scintilla of good news (via Drudge): - Specter warns Bush on high court nominations

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

None of us are going to sleep tonight:

As I write this, CNN is projecting 112 electoral votes for John Kerry and 176 for George W. Bush. Election officials in Florida's Miami-Dade County have announced that they won't have their vote total until Thursday afternoon--inept cocksuckers--and Senate Minority Leader, Tom Daschle, might be unseated.

Fuck: Arkansas and Missouri have just been called for Bush, bumping his total to 193.

Best news so far: Barack Obama is the new senator from Illinois. Halle-fucking-lujah.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Thirty-three and a half hours and counting:

I get irked when I hear someone say that she or he will leave the U.S. if Bush wins a second term: it's candy-ass. You can be damned sure Republicans wouldn't talk about abdicating--even as a joke--if the situation were reversed and it's ludicrous when progressives do it. My dad grew up under Nazi occupation and survived the Greek civil war, so I'm confident that I can endure four more years of a president whose policies I loathe. Also, if you love your country, you fight for it. You don't turn tail and run.

All of us agree, though, that the thought of another recount is gut-rupturing. I sometimes think the 2000 election was more heartbreaking than the September 11 attacks--though, obviously, it wasn't--because we did it to ourselves. History's most accomplished democracy imploded and in two days we'll know whether the damage was permanent. Two sequential contested elections would render this country forever altered, something not America. And none of us wants that.

I don't believe that God or divine forces alter elections. But I'm hoping with each synapse that when I open my eyes Wednesday morning, I'll know who the president is. Even if it's Bush.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

My friend, Caryn Rose...

...writes the frenetic and essential music blog, Jukebox Graduate. Here she posts the Supersucker's Eddie Spaghetti's analogy wherein he compares the Republicans to Van Halen: eddie spaghetti on the election

Monday, October 25, 2004

You, too, Mary Beth Cahill:

As everyone knows, John Kerry and George W. Bush are locked in a dead heat. Both parties are flipping out.

My friend and I are particularly concerned. The last thing we said to each other when we got off the phone at midnight on election night 2000 was something like, "Hey! In the morning we'll have a new president." Then, on September 10, 2001, also around midnight, we wrapped up an otherwise ordinary phone conversation by making plans to get together so that I could retrieve a photo that I wanted to use for my MovieMaker bio.

Neither phone call has anything in common with the other except that *both of them inadvertantly triggered disaster.* Neither of us is superstitous, but we're not taking chances, either. Next Monday, November 1, we've agreed to a phone block with regards to the other. Just in case, I won't hit my favorite coffee house--located in his neighborhood--and he won't take his usual route past my place on the way to the gym.

You won't get prescient strategy like this from the DNC. Terry McAuliffe, *call me.*

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Hard to say who would be more pissed off, George W. Bush or Al Gore:

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, is reporting--via UPI--that Bill Clinton wants to be the next Secretary General of the United Nations:

Haaretz - Israel News

Monday, October 18, 2004

You can email the author, Rebecca Skloot, with suggestions and/or support at

I'm horrified that our country's most sophisticated city, New York, permits wild dogs to attack pets and their owners, but allows the victims no legal recourse. I know that all of us are caught up in the election, but this story is so egregious, so fucking *wrong*, and yet solvable through legal channels (letter writing campaigns, press conferences) or extra-legal ones (poisoned meat). I've emailed Ms. Skloot to let her know that if she's starting an online petition, to count me in and that I'll forward it accordingly. In the meantime, if you love animals, please read her incisive and heartbreaking New York Magazine piece, "When Pets Attack":

When Pets Attack

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Of course, nothing compares to the hymm we sang at St. John's Elementary...

..."Peace is Flowing Like a River", wherein we changed "peace" to "piss" and giggled uncontrollably because we were *so* clever:

In Bill Clinton's autobiography, "My Life", he writes that one of his favorite hymns intones, "the darker the night, the sweeter the victory".
That's how I feel about the past six months: I would have enjoyed them anyway, but they've been particularly sweet in light of the excruciating three years that proceeded them. It's with joy, not arrogance, that I post my good news here. The latest:

1) I found out earlier this week that the print and online versions of Kitchen Sink's Issue 10 will run my piece, "50 Questions for God". I wrote it fourteen months ago and I think it fits well with Kitchen Sink's ethos. Said piece hits stands in December. In the meantime, peruse the current issue:

kitchen sink magazine - for people who think too much

2) Yesterday I discovered that my Black Table and Bookslut interviews with Augusten Burroughs have been linked to his official site. Burroughs boasts one of the most comprehensive and best designed author sites around and it's worth checking out if you're a writer or a fan of his work:


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

America's newspaper and sodomy:

My writing continues to advance while my health continues to, well, *not* advance. At this rate, by the time I make the New York Times bestseller list, my lymph nodes will be the size of hubcaps.

Found out today that USA Today's "Hip Clicks" column featured my Paper Magazine profile on Augusten Burroughs and that Salon ran my letter re--god help us all--anal sex memoirist, Toni Bentley.

Enjoy! - Beer for club kids; Sarah McLachlan's cheap video Life | Letters

Monday, October 11, 2004

Good night and God bless:

The New York Times > Arts > Christopher Reeve, 'Superman' Star, Dies at 52

"I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I live my life. I don't mean to be reckless, but setting a goal that seems a bit daunting actually is very helpful toward recovery." --Christopher Reeve, 1952-2004

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Stay tuned for more--yea!:

My Black Table essay, "Seizure Sex":

My Paper Magazine profile on Augusten Burroughs:

My Skirt Magazine essay, "The Not So Great Cookie Offering" (aka "Baking and Fucking"):

My Poets and Writers interview with Augusten Burroughs:
Poets&Writers, Inc.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Don't let the title fool you:

My friend, Jade Walker, writes The Blog of Death. Her obituaries for the celebrated, infamous, and everyday folk are eloquent and sharp. What I love most, though, is that in acknowledging death, she celebrates life:

The Blog of Death

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Though D-Day was good, too:

Today (now yesterday) my first piece for BlackBook Magazine hit the stands. It's short, but they didn't alter a word. Eight months after I first pitched them, it's fun to hold the tangible results. (I'm reviewing The Long Winters' upcoming disc for BB's Dec/Jan issue, too. Yea!) Also, the new issue contains the winners of their "Hemingway Challenge Contest", wherein readers were asked to submit six-word stories inspired by Hemingway's renowned, "For sale: baby shoes, never used." I didn't know until this evening that I had made the cut ("We removed the wrong eye. Braille?") as did two members of my beloved and freakishly talented writing group. Bono graces the cover--literally--and Tony Bennett's version of "New York State of Mind" piped over the speakers as I paid at the newsstand.

This is, quite possibly, the best day of all time.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Damn it, I'll go over your head if I have to:

How cool would it be if "E.R." had some kind of internal power struggle that manifested itself in the operating room? Then someone could yell something like, "You just exposed this entire hospital to a lawsuit in there!" Then two staff members could have joyless sex . Really, they should look into that.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Of course, I would be The Godmother:

My parents and I went to lunch today at Niko's in Seattle's Magnolia Village. I had a mouth full of souvlaki when a woman approached our table and asked me, "Excuse me, but were you on a blind date about six weeks ago at The Still Life in Fremont? You and a guy were sitting at a table outside?"

"Um, yes. That was me," I replied, a bit startled.

"My friend and I were sitting at the table next to you and I want you to know we felt awful for you. That guy was a jerk. We talked about it after you left. You were all dressed up and funny and asking him questions and he was boring and rude and *then he didn't even pay.* We were mad on your behalf," she explained, genuinely fired up.

"Thanks," I replied. "It's nice to have it coroborated. He was an asshole and I can't understand why he kept emailing me saying he wanted to meet me, because when I got there he made no effort."

"I know," she continued. "He complained about *everything*. Like how his company sent him to London and he hated it? Who hates London?"

"Exactly! And what about when he said he hates New York?"

"That's when I knew he was sunk. Why would you go out with a writer and then say you hate New York? What's wrong with him? I hope you don't think we were eavesdropping, but the tables are so close at The Still Life that we heard everything. By the way, my name is Renee."

"Hey, Renee. I'm Litsa." We shook hands.

"She told me she thought the women at the next table caught on and were sympathetic," Mom said. "Remember, honey? The biotech researcher I told you about who made her pay for her own coffee?" she asked my dad.

"I said it then and I'll say it now: she should have poured it in his lap," Dad added matter-of-factly.

"Guys like that are the worst," the woman at the next table chimed in.

"I know," Renee and I responded simultaneously.

Renee had to get going, but I thanked her for her input and for objectively verifying my take on a crappy evening. The woman at the next table smiled at both of us and returned to her book.

Lately, I've been thinking that there needs to be a Girl Mafia. We wouldn't kill anyone--or even permanently injure them--but, when called, we would burst in and kick dickwad guys in the shins. So they learned a lesson. Behavior modification, as it were.

Of course, the world is full of bitches, too. I love my guy friends and I've seen some of them get their hearts stomped, but it's not funny to joke about kicking women because it happens all the time in real life. However, I've long maintained that a guy can use the "c word" if the object of his affection has crushed him, as long as two other women sign off on it. (Once, my friend, Tony, took a woman to Canlis and the Seattle Opera on a Saturday night. On the way home, she told him, "I hope you don't think this was *a date*. I would never go on *a date* with you." My friend, Eva, and I signed off immediately.)

Anyway, if you see a biotech engineer with an office in Belltown and a hideous dad-man golf shirt wearing shin guards, you can smile, knowing he's a changed man.

Postscript: I know the above examples only apply to breeders. I'm working on solutions to my gay friends' dating snags, too.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sick and tired of being sick and tired. Ha, ha, ha:

For those keeping track at home, my mom's surgery on Tuesday went quite well--much better than expected--and she's recovering rapidly. Thanks, all, for thoughts and prayers. I relayed messages to her and she was touched.

But here's what gets me: it's so fucked up that she needed surgery in the first place. The nerve damage from the fibromyalgia began loosening her teeth two years ago and they had been falling out since then. On Tuesday, she had to have all of them pulled and dentures inserted.

Mom has been in unremitting pain for over a decade and it breaks my heart. She hides it well and I'm amazed by how many folks haven't grasped the obvious: they only see her when she's able to leave the house, which, on average, is twice a week. She's wearing a cute ensemble and she's got her cane and she's lively and funny and makes self-deprecating jokes about how slowly she moves.

They don't see the hours that went into getting ready: showering from the night before and getting dressed in increments. Put on bra and underwear; lie down. Put on pantyhose and jewelry; lie down. Same for hair, makeup, shirt, pants and shoes. And this is someone who logged the second number of trial hours for several years running at the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

She's already outlived her own mom, who also had acute fibromyalgia--though no one was sure what to make of it then--and who succumbed to a heart attack at forty-eight after a two year stroke-induced coma.

The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health have thus far concluded that: 1) one is probably born with a genetic predisposition to fibromyalgia and/or CFIDS; 2) the symptoms from both illnesses significantly overlap and are probably related; and 3) both illnesses tend to run in families. I, of course, developed CFIDS at twenty-four and my second cousin became severely ill with fibromyalgia in his early twenties, so the evidence is definitely born out in our family.

Last week I told Mom that I have a sort of survivor's guilt: I was struck younger than she and her mom, but I will probably benefit more from current research because I will be younger than her when a treatment or cure is discovered. Ampligen is in FDA test phases and, if approved, will be the first drug developed specifically for the treatment of CFIDS and fibromyalgia. If it works, Mom and I could have new lives.

Which isn't to say we don't love the lives we have. Like I said, Mom's spirits are good--we both have a deeply ingrained "never say die" mentality--and I have sold or placed fourteen articles since May. I love my family and my friends--here I'm truly blessed--and I'm going to New York again, halle-fucking-lujah.

But the toll has been high: I've been much less ambulatory and in much more pain since mid-July. I have daily intestinal cramps and a fever as often as not. I walk with a cane several days a week. I've made it out of the house less than ten hours all week and on Thursday, the chills were so bad, I almost cried in public. (If you know me, you know it takes a lot--like a fucking anvil on my head--to induce public tears.)

More so than anything, I feel isolated. I once wrote, "I don't want to live with my nose pressed against the glass" and I don't. Which is why I remain hopeful: the alternative is unthinkable.

For more on the new Centers for Disease Control study that concludes the U.S. loses $9.1 billion annually due to CFIDS:

CFIDS -- Legislative Alerts and Updates

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Preaching to the choir, loudly:

One of President Bush's Harvard Business School professors is publicly decrying his former student as a boorish, hypocritical ideologue. I wish both Democrats and Republicans would stick to the pertinent issues--jobs, health care, terrorism, Iraq, AIDS, the enivironment, the deficit, poverty, education--and stop debating who did what thirty years ago.

On the other hand, I got a kick out of this. It won't change anyone's mind--Democrats know Bush is intellectually deficient and Republicans don't care--but it underscores a point I've long maintained: If Bush had been born into Clinton's circumstances (or Reagan's, for that matter), he would be a gas-pumping dropout. He's accomplished nothing without his family's help. (Obviously, Gore and McCain benefited from their senator and admiral forebearers, respectively. However, both men proceeded to work their asses off. Therein lies the difference.)

Enjoy, fellow choir members: News | The dunce

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Best campaign '04 quote so far:

"Politicians are doing what politicians do. I liken it to when you go to the zoo, and the monkeys are sitting in there jerking off and throwing their shit. And you just gotta go, 'Well, they're monkeys.' But you can yell at the media and go, 'You know, your job is to tell them when they're being bad monkeys.'"--Jon Stewart, Entertainment Weekly, September 17, 2004 issue

Thursday, September 09, 2004

These little town blues are melting away:

I'm going to New York again in November and I'm literally counting the days. My friend, JT LeRoy, will have a new book out in December and I've been invited to the launch party. Also, I just found out I'm going to interview him again--this time for The Black Table--and I'm psyched. (I'm still sending out queries. Hopefully, I'll interview him for additional publications.) His upcoming novella, "Harold's End", is like a fish hook: it punctures you, gets under your skin and stays there. I can't wait to discuss it in print.

Near the topic, if not quite on it, at tonight's writing group Jade suggested a freewrite about "a city that we hate". She and Margaret thought that I should post my results here:

I can't be objective about this. I love my family and friends--adore them, really--but when I think about Seattle, I think of that Bob Dylan line from "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight": "It's like I'm stuck inside a painting/ that's hanging in the Lourve/ My throat starts to tickle/ and my nose itches/ but I know that I can't move".

As anyone who's known me longer than ten minutes discovers, I love New York truly, madly, deeply. I feel at home there in a way I never do here. And as everyone who knows me finds out soon enough, I've been sick for the past thirteen years. I haven't had enough health and cash simultaneously to make the leap.

I'm optimistic, though. No one has heard me say I'm staying in Seattle nor will they ever. And like I said, I can't be objective about this because I feel like I'm being held against my will. I've lived here my entire life and what bothers me most about Seattle is the pervasive anemia, the toxic mellowness that hangs over it like a mushroom cloud. Obviously, there are notable exceptions--we've got some amazing writers and musicians, for starters--but ambition is a dirty word here and I don't get it. I return to this again and again in my work and in my life: this is finite and we're going to be dead one day. I can't see the point in *not* running toward the highest bar.

Monday, August 30, 2004

In the August 9, 2004 issue of New York Magazine, John Buffalo Mailer...

...interviewed his father, Norman Mailer. The elder Mailer makes the most salient point I've read re the RNC convention:

"Do the activists really know what they're going into? That's my concern. Or do they assume that expressing their rage is equal to getting Kerry elected? It could have exactly the opposite effect. The better mode may be to frustrate the Republicans by coming up with orderly demonstrations. Now, when I was young, the suggestion to be moderate was like a stink bomb to me. An orderly demonstration? What were we, cattle? You have to speak out with your rage. Well, I'm trying to say, we would do well to realize that on this occassion, there are more important things than a good outburst. I wish we could remind everyone who goes out to march of the old Italian saying, 'Revenge is a dish that people of taste eat cold.' Instead of expressing yourself at the end of August, think of how nicely you will be able to keep expressing yourself over the four years to come if we win. Just keep thinking how much the Republicans want anarchy on the street. I say, don't march right into their trap."

Norman Mailer and John Buffalo Mailer Discuss Protests at the Republican National Convention

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Happy stuff:

My Black Table interview with Augusten Burroughs is here! This is the second time I've interviewed Burroughs and each time he was unfailingly polite, refreshingly grounded, and instinctively hilarious. We spoke last month on the phone:


Saturday, August 21, 2004

Come back to the five and dime, Fran Lebowitz, Fran Lebowitz:

I'm on deadline now--more on that once everything is turned in and published and/or posted--so instead of concocting my own Slippery Fish bon mots this afternoon, I thought I'd share my two fave quotes from "The Fran Lebowitz Reader", which I recently finished reading. (For the uninitiated: before she was a judge on "Law and Order"--a role she got by calling the producers and asking--Lebowitz was one of the country's premiere essayists.)

"To put it rather bluntly, I am not the type who wants to go back to the land--I am the type who wants to go back to the hotel."

"A great many people in Los Angeles are on special diets that restrict their intake of synthetic foods. The reason for this appears to be a widely held belief that organically grown fruits and vegetables make the cocaine work faster."

Now, if anyone wants to bring me dinner--say, phad thai with barbequed pork, two stars--that'd be supercool. Back to work.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Socket wrench...seeks nuts to crack:

First, I click on my Nerve account and discover the worst tag line ever and possibly the most horrifying metaphor in recorded human history:

"Shovel...seeks butter clam for harvest."

Then I look up and discover (my husband) Jon Stewart interviewing (talented lunatic) Burt Reynolds. But Reynolds' visage now resembles that of a burn survivor: taut skin and features askew. And it's heartbreaking, really, because he *chose* to mangle his face.

Some nights I think the only things standing between me and a felony are four bunnies, Green and Black's Chocolate Mint Bar, and a delightful array of shoes.

P.S. My writing group kicks ass.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

At least it wasn't a blood relative:

The letter writer (see previous post) revealed himself yesterday. Turns out--for reasons I won't go into--that he was neither sweet nor creepy. Harmless, though, so no worries.

I'd really prefer not to discuss this again. Thanks.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Sweet or creepy?

I received the following missive (see below) in my Nerve mailbox yesterday and I'm stumped. The sender left his entire profile blank, except to say he's 32 and "gainfully employed". I acknowledged the kind sentiments and thanked him for taking the time to write them. I explained that his anonymity was more frustrating than beguiling, though, and if I could put my picture out there, he could reveal himself.


Late last night--I couldn't sleep for a bunch of reasons--I replied again and explained that I'm already on the brink of getting an anti-harassment order against one of my neighbors and that the anonymous thing was disconcerting.


He obviously knows me, but he doesn't know me well. All of the guys with whom I'm close are either: 1) platonic, or 2) exes w/ whom I'm now friends. Also, anyone who knows me at all knows that gutless men get on my nerves. I've asked out guys and taken the initiative a whole bunch of times: I know what it's like to risk your heart. But life is short--cliched but true--and (mixed metaphor alert!) sometimes ya gotta dive right in.

He's probably a friend of a friend, at which point it could be anyone. I have a few hunches, but if you've got a hypothesis, please let me know:


32 | Seattle, Washington
Butterfly? or Moth?
To: writerstrumpet
Subject: Just wanted to tell you...

Hi Litsa,

I know it's a little strange being greeted by your first name in a response to a personal ad. When I saw it, though, I realized it could only be you.

We know each other in real life, and I have admired you since the day I met you. However, these are things I don't think I'd have the courage to tell you in person. Honestly, I've been debating writing this note since I saw your profile. So, allow me to whisper to you from the only cover of darkness I have.

From what I know of you, I think you're a talented writer, amazingly well read, stylish, wicked smart, and yes, quite lovely both in person and in spirit. (you picked a great picture, it really highlights your amazing smile). I have thought, at times, about asking for a chance to get to know you better. But, in the end, I doubt I'm the sort of man you're looking for.

Still, I wanted to drop you a note to wish you luck in your search, and in life. I sincerely hope you find the person you seek. Any man who earns your love would be lucky indeed.

Best regards,
- C

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Summer's almost over. May your Winters be Long:

I was at Seattle's Easy Street Records on Sunday night when the most luscious rock/pop --notice I didn't phrase it the other way around--burst from their speakers and changed everything. That's how I discovered The Long Winters. Their second CD, "When I Pretend to Fall", is magnetic: I didn't return someone's call last night because I wanted to keep listening uninterrupted. Today I bought three more copies for friends who have upcoming birthdays and tomorrow morning I tear the cellophane off their first disc, "The Worst You Can Do is Harm".

If you don't hear from me by the weekend, please send mochas:

The Long Winters | Seattle, WA

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

In a perfect universe:

Bill Clinton would still be president.

There would be a BLT w/ thinly sliced avacodo and a side order of hash browns on my bedside table tomorrow morning.

War, poverty, disease, illiteracy, religious fanaticism, overpopulation and global warming would disappear faster than paychecks at casinos.

Most men wouldn't be easily threatened.

I'd have *all the clothes.*

My parents would be healthy and I'd be living in New York, right this second.

Love--and bunnies--would last forever.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

If inclined, please disseminate this post from Salon's War Room '04 column: Politics

Hersh: Children sodomized at Abu Ghraib, on tape

After Donald Rumsfeld testified on the Hill about Abu Ghraib in May, there was talk of more photos and video in the Pentagon's custody more horrific than anything made public so far. "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse," Rumsfeld said. Since then, the Washington Post has disclosed some new details and images of abuse at the prison. But if Seymour Hersh is right, it all gets much worse.

Hersh gave a speech last week to the ACLU making the charge that children were sodomized in front of women in the prison, and the Pentagon has tape of it. The speech was first reported in a New York Sun story last week, which was in turn posted on Jim Romenesko's media blog, and now and other blogs are linking to the video. We transcribed the critical section here (it starts at about 1:31:00 into the ACLU video.) At the start of the transcript here, you can see how Hersh was struggling over what he should say:

"Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

"It's impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers and so we're dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will. We will. You know there's enough out there, they can't (Applause). .... So it's going to be an interesting election year."

Notes from a similar speech Hersh gave in Chicago in June were posted on Brad DeLong's blog. Rick Pearlstein, who watched the speech, wrote: "[Hersh] said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, 'You haven't begun to see evil...' then trailed off. He said, 'horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.' He looked frightened."

So, there are several questions here: Has Hersh actually seen the video he described to the ACLU, and why hasn't he written about it yet? Will he be forced to elaborate in more public venues now that these two speeches are getting so much attention, at least in the blogosphere? And who else has seen the video, if it exists -- will journalists see and report on it? did senators see these images when they had their closed-door sessions with the Abu Ghraib evidence? -- and what is being done about it?

-- Geraldine Sealey

[09:26 PDT, July 15, 2004]

Monday, July 05, 2004

And then Dave Eggers and I went shopping for pants in SoHo...

...and grabbed coffee at Dean and DeLuca. (You know, the one in my mind):

My first piece for McSweeney's is here!

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: If Charles Bukowski Had Written Children's Books.

Six strangers have linked it to their blogs, so I thought I'd do the same. It ran on McSweeney's front page for three days--I have a screenshot--but I don't know how to hyperlink it, so y'all are going to have to take my word for it.

My mom likes to say, "Life shits on everyone eventually. Enjoy the good times while they're here."

I agree and I'm enjoying.

(Not now, Dave. I'm on deadline.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Lou Reed's late-eighties Honda scooter ads came dangerously close:

When Stephen Dorff played proto-Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe in the film, "Backbeat", he embodied the hushed, aching loveliness of the doomed bassist. A decade later, Dorff portrays some wanged-out jealous boyfriend in the new Britney Spears video.

Has there ever been a more precipitous decline in rock 'n' coolness?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Late Night Confessions:

1) I don't like yoga.

2) I have a subscription to US Magazine.

3) My brother and my two first cousins all married virgins, making me--by default--the family whore.

4) One of my exes married a woman whose IQ rivals that of the average cobb salad.

5) I made up two words this week, "awesomeosity" and "dicklicker":

"I got accepted into McSweeney's! *Awesomeosity!*"

"Nice lane change, *dicklicker!*"

6) When I see people wearing fleece pullovers and Tevas, I sometimes want to kick them.

7) Other times, I want to trip them.

8) I'm always thinking of you, New York.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Handi-Wipes Might Be Good, Too:

The past six weeks have been surreal. I haven't divulged most details to even my closest friends and I'm not ready to spill them here, either.

I need a distraction. If Amazon let you compile a life wish list, mine would read:

#1 Courtney Taylor's penis
#2 32 oz. of Kahlua
#3 A clean, flat surface

I've got #3 locked and it's only Monday. Think I'll slip into my fishnets. Just in case.

Monday, March 22, 2004

I'm also the Henry Miller of shoes:

My theater friends used to say that I'm the Bukowski of desserts, so I know whereof I speak when I vociferously recommend the new line of chocolates, Cocoa Pete's. The flavors, textures, packaging, and price comprise the perfect dessert, or PMS dinner.

If only writers landed endorsement deals.

Cocoa Pete's Chocolate Adventures

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Buckingham's Chalice:

A few months ago, I wrote that Lindsey Buckingham now looks like a haggard English professor.

A retraction of sorts: I'm watching the Fleetwood Mac documentary on VH1 and next to Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, Buckingham's visage is positively dewy. In addition to the bongwater, Buckingham clearly drank from the cup of life, too.

[Note: Dear Stevie, your cracked gravel voice still breaks my heart.]

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Blair Bitch Project:

I'm really ill and missed most of my friend's birthday party tonight. (By the time I got there, I had to leave. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to drive home safely.) I was looking forward to toasting her on her big night and I'm bummed.

I've got awful chills so I've changed into flannel pajamas, my robe with the puppy dogs on it, and thick wool socks. (The latter comprise the only garments I own from that style-chomping black hole, REI.)

It is in this mood and under these circumstances that I've turned on the television and inadvertantly encountered Katie Couric's interview with Jayson Blair. I loathe Blair for all the obvious reasons, but here's the truly absurd thing: he's explaining to Couric that his bipolar disorder played a role in the grotesque deception he perpetrated at The New York Times. A manic depressive New York writer: that's *historically unprecedented.* He must feel like a two-headed baby. With fins. If mood disorders gave writers permission not to do their jobs, homo sapiens would still be scrawling in the dirt with sticks.

This day is over. I'm going to sleep.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

And now, [expletive] stuff I'm not at all grateful for and loathe in the very core of my being:

1) These goddamned fucking chills.
2) This cocksucking fever.
3) Whatever the hell is making my lymph nodes feel like rocks.
4) This ass-sucking, motherfucking nausea.
5) Apparently having pissed off gravity.
6) Running out of profanity, not symptoms.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Or anyone else's kids, either:

Re John Kerry and the buzz that he might--or might not--have nailed someone else while married to Teresa (DRUDGE REPORT 2004?), could we all just agree that as long as the candidates aren't fucking their own kids, *it just doesn't matter?*

Friday, February 13, 2004

"Said it once before/But it bears repeating now"--The White Stripes

Today is my birthday: five and a half hours in, and so far, 37 is quite fun. One of my friends (affectionately) teased me about my recent entry re gratefulness, but on your birthday, you can't help but get a bit contemplative.

So, fuck it: I've got some wonderful people in my life and I love what I do. I really am grateful.

Let the mockery resume.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A momentary lapse of glibness:

Some days are so good, so unexpectedly delightful, that all you can do is give thanks.

To all of the extraordinarily intelligent and kind people in my life--living and dead--and to Whomever got the ball rolling: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Dude, where's my adrenaline?

An alarmingly talented and really sweet new friend asked me to pitch something to his editor. I emailed my ideas yesterday and now I'm punchy, but in a really good mood.

I'm allergic to everything in them, but today I celebrate: w/in the hour, two slices of pizza and a Diet Coke will sit before me. Woo-hoo! (That's how Fitzgerald and Bukowski tore it up, right?) For health reasons and totally against my will, I might be one of the more monastic writers of all time.

But, hey, except for Sofia Coppola, I've got the best shoes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

They should hear my dad discuss "that asshole" Aaron Brown:

Since June, I've maintained that Senator John Kerry provides the Democrats' best hope for reclaiming the White House, so I'm delighted with the results of Iowa's caucus. I agree with w/ Governor Howard Dean's critics: he's unelectable on a national level; he's a huge fucking crybaby; and his understanding of foreign affairs is limited at best. (Try Osama bin Laden before a jury? I'm a lifelong progressive, but I think that's an inane and dangerous response to the most blatant act of war committed against the U.S. in the past fifty years.)

That being said, the pundits are making way too big of a deal out of Dean's post-Iowa speech to his supporters. ( Politics) Yes, Dean got riled up and, yes, there was some yelling involved, but it's not as if he took a swig of Jim Beam and gutted a volunteer with a shiv. He publicly displayed emotion and spoke with his hands. Perhaps said pundits should interact with Mediterranean families and gain some perspective.

To the teams at CNN, The New York Times, Salon, and Fox, I extend an invitation: Join us for Sunday dinner. I dare you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I recently stumbled across Ralph Waldo Emerson's definition of success:

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children ... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived."

To which I'll add: the affection of rabbits, too.

Friday, January 16, 2004

My Digittante interview with photographer Amanda Koster is up--yea!


Amanda Koster is the rare artist who prompts you to call your friends and issue mandates: “You’ve got to check out this person’s stuff. No, really, right now.” When my editor first told me about “this great photographer”, I was skeptical. Not because I don’t trust his judgement—I do—but because, like writing, photography seems to attract poseurs and dilettantes. Someone picks up a camera, shoots their roommate in black and white, and—boom—they think they’re Diane Arbus. Then I went to her web site,, and viewed a collection of her work.

| d i g i t t a n t e | get right by art |

Thursday, January 15, 2004

How do you do that haiku that you do:

My writing group has been experimenting with haikus. Some of mine:

Asshole at Starbuck's
I do not want to discuss
my iBook with you

The fastest way to
prompt a guy's call is to say
I'm over you now

I will not fuck you
if you wear Dockers unless
I am very bored

Straight man please listen
Forego your braided belt and
go to Kenneth Cole

Christy Turlington
has Ed Burn's love but can't have
Nutella on toast

Natalie Merchant
Please crack a smile and don't sing
about Osama

By 2005
Jennifer Aniston will
have purchased us all

My downstairs neighbor
thinks he's an artist but he's
just boozy and loud

Passive agressive
people suck lots of ass and
hopefully die young

Dear Bono please know
I am a double D and
must lie down a lot

My last date despised
Elvis Costello so I
won't return his calls

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

My interview w/ JT LeRoy:

Like the first time someone entered you or the first time a loved one died, you remember the first time you read JT LeRoy.

It was two years ago, the night I finished "Sarah", LeRoy's 2000 tale of a boy who becomes a "lot lizard" (truck stop whore) to compete with his mother, assuming her identity in the mouths and arms of tricks. In his quest for a bigger raccoon bone (a signal to others of his prowess as a whore) "Cherry Vanilla" endures rape, beatings, and the ritual shearing of his hair. Abandoned by his mother and forsaken by his pimp, he is alone and desecrated because he had the hubris to want a better life. I sobbed until I threw up.

LeRoy completed the stories in 2001's "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things" before "Sarah", but he felt "Sarah" was the more artful book and wanted it released first. "Deceitful" chronicles his years on the road with his speed-addled mother and her lovers, all of whom beat or rape the young Jeremiah. When he writes, "His long white buck teeth hang out from a smile, like a wolf dog", he is describing Bugs Bunny. LeRoy's assessment of these tales is debatable, though: "Deceitful" 's impact is immediate and unshakable, like a fist to the stomach. The film adaptation, which he co-wrote, will be released in 2004.

LeRoy's reviews are uniformly spectacular, but reporters fixate on his friendships with Madonna and Winona Ryder, his penchant for female attire, and his years as a prostitute. Insightful readers, though, tune out the hype like so much static. They know LeRoy's work is the stuff of cave painters--ash and blood--and that he crawls through the same dark, jagged spaces to create.

On deadline for his 2004 book, LeRoy initially agrees to an email interview, ten questions only. I comply, then find out from his assistant that he likes the questions and has decided to do a phone interview. Elated and nervous, I call the next day, unsure of what to expect. But when he asks, "How are you?", his tone is intimate and kind and the next thing I know, it's two hours later and we're still on the phone. We discuss the "Venus flytrap" in which he ensnares readers, protecting his child like he couldn't protect himself, his passion for organic dark chocolate, how he wants a mom like Sharon Osbourne, and why asking someone to read your work is "like putting your pussy in someone's face".

JT LeRoy: Hello?

Litsa Dremousis for Bookslut: Hey, it's Litsa with Bookslut.

JT: Oh, hey, how are you?

Bookslut: Doing okay. How are you doing?

JT: Um, aaahhh [pauses]. I'm recovering from the party.

Bookslut: [laughs] Did you guys have a wrap party for the film ["The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things"]?

JT: Yeah.

Bookslut: How'd it go?

JT: It was, well, there were a lot of people that I'd invited that I was really looking forward to seeing. But, like, two thousand people showed up for a space that only fits a few hundred.

Bookslut: [Laughs.]

JT: The fire department threatened to shut it down, and people like, Tim Armstrong from Rancid, who's in the movie, and [in-demand songwriter] Linda Perry, all these really great people, they didn't get in.

Bookslut: Oh, shit.

JT: We had to get Chloe Sevigny in--they didn't want to let her in.

Bookslut: [laughs] I guess that says something about who was inside, though.

JT: Well, there were some great people. I met Sharon Osbourne and I started to cry.

Bookslut: How was she?

JT: She was nice, but I didn't know how to handle it. She represents to me the mother, the uber-mother.

Bookslut: That makes sense.

JT: She'll do anything for her kids. She's like a bear that would rip someone's heart out for her kids, and I always wanted a mother like that.

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: And you can't--you have to be born into a situation like that. So when I met her, I'd thought a lot about her, and it doesn't matter what you think about

Bookslut: --I think she's great-

JT: --she's one of those people, people say she's doing it for her, or whatever, but the ultimate thing is: I think she would kill someone for her children. I relate to that feeling, because I have a child. I feel like, I'm grateful I have that capacity inside me.

Bookslut: Right.

JT: I think she totally misinterpreted it, because when I saw her, I just burst into tears. I'm standing there, and I just lose it.

Bookslut: Ultimately, though, she had to be touched.

JT: No, I don't know. Imagine you meet someone and they just start freaking out, and I did. I feel bad.

Bookslut: I bet if you email her, she'll totally understand.

JT: Yeah, I don't have her email address.

Bookslut: I bet you could get it.

JT: Yeah, I've got her daughter's, so I can get hers [Sharon's]. I should call up her daughter.

Bookslut: That had to be really profound, though. Also, I'm sure that you're emotions were heightened with it being a big party.

JT: And I was loaded.

Bookslut: [Laughs.]

JT: That's the only way I've learned to deal with situations like that, with large groups of people.

Bookslut: I think it's great that you've had the capacity to--like you said, you are a parent-to not make the same mistakes that you had to live through. I think it takes a lot of guts and a lot of courage to turn it around. And you're doing it.

JT: [sweetly] Ahhh.

Bookslut: I'm not just saying that. I'm so not. Because I am lucky. I was born into a very close family, and it's just dumb luck.

JT: Yeah, I think it's because I had that family, that real family [his foster family], until I was five, so I had that grounding, you know?

Bookslut: Yeah.

JT: Because if you look at people who have never had that connection, who've never bonded with a mother, they're just lost. There's no way, you can't get that back. I mean, you can't build a foundation on quicksand. The work I did with my therapist [Dr. Terrence Owens of San Francisco's Child Crisis Center] was knocking down a structure that was built on a very solid foundation.

Bookslut: And look at how much you've done. You just turned twenty-two, right?

JT: No, no, no. I just turned twenty-four.

Bookslut: [laughs] Well, still. It's still pretty remarkable.

JT: [laughs] Hey, I'm getting younger. You just took two years off. I think that's pretty good.

Bookslut: I'd read your work before, obviously, but I've been reading a ton of articles about you--I've noticed this with other artists, too--and your age jumps around, even in pieces that are written in the same year. People can't seem to keep your age straight.

JT: I know, I have to think about how old I am, too. Like, didn't I just turn twenty-three? [Laughs.]

Bookslut: When is the new book coming out?

JT: Well, as soon as I finish it. That's been a problem. But I'm going to do it like "Harold's End". You know that story that I did for McSweeney's?

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: We're doing it-it's going to be beautiful. We're doing it on Last Gasp [the renowned publisher and distributor of eclectic books and comics] and I found the illustrator-are we doing the "interview" now?

Bookslut: [laughs] Sure.

JT: Okay, cool. And by the way, I really liked your questions.

Bookslut: Thank you.

JT: The energy with which you wrote them really came through. So, you know Gretchen [Koss, his publicist at Viking Press]?

Bookslut: I've talked to Gretchen on the phone, and she's wonderful.

JT: She's amazing. She's why I'm over at Viking. I have to tell you that whole story. Things happen like that with me, where, it's like you're blown into things, and as long as you stay true to your intention--it's not looking at it through ego--but if you're chasing art, the right people get put in your place, and you never know what your gift is, or how things will look. And it's not trying to put your structure on how things will look. It's letting go of that, and letting it be what it's supposed to be, and it's amazing where the gift comes.

Bookslut: Right.

JT: But it's really like that. It's really fucking like that, because there were times I can remember when I would stare out at the world and think, "I don't feel like I can take this pain anymore. I can't take this incredible pain. Am I supposed to die?" It always felt like, well, I hear a lot of voices, that I talk to, or whatever.

Bookslut: Right.

JT: And one would say, "No, you're meant to...". [Pauses]

Bookslut: I believe in all of that.

JT: I do. It's like in [the 1996 Lars Von Trier film] "Breaking the Waves", when she talks to God?

Bookslut: Yeah.

JT: It's kind of like that, but I don't mean it's talking to God, but I talk to different people, and whatever, you know? And it would always say, "You'll see, it's going to work out." It's not like it said, "You're going to be taken care of". I can't even put it into words, what it would tell me. I'm better when I'm talking to them, and asking, you know? Being in that place of spirituality-[Pleasantly to his assistant, "I'm doing an interview. I'll call him later."]

Bookslut: I completely understand what you're saying.

JT: When I saw "Breaking the Waves", I understood it. I mean, that's what it feels like for me, you know? But for me, it's not this punishing voice. I mean, I've got the really horrible [voices], because I disassociate. I can have, like, I can have people inside me.

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: I can have those really horrible ones, but when I connect, it's with the more spiritual, caretaker parts, who would tell me--it just always felt that I was meant to do something with this. I feel the worst thing that can happen to someone is when they're being tortured and someone tells them, "Nobody knows you're here. And nobody cares".

Bookslut: Right.

JT: And that breaks people more than any amount of pain. When people think that somebody out there remembers them, and that their suffering is not in vain--

Bookslut: --right--

JT: --people can endure unbelievable torture. And I just got to the point where I believed, this is not in vain. I would read these accounts--I remember being really obsessed with the people from Ireland who were taken to Australia. You'd have little, little kids, who'd be sent on this voyage and put into servitude for stealing a loaf of bread, you know?

Bookslut: Yes.

JT: And they were starving, and only a couple of voices survived, because all these people couldn't write. But there were a few, and I just thought, my god, all those voices of people who were silenced throughout history. How many people get to record their voice? The loneliness of suffering is what I've wanted to overcome, [in] the search for family and community.

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: For me, with writing, I want to create an experience that's like a Venus flytrap. I was reading something about horror filmmakers, about being so obsessed with violence and death, but that as a filmmaker, you have control over it, violence and death.

Bookslut: Right.

JT: And I think there's a way of sharing an experience that gives you a feeling of control over it. But it's not just that. The twist is, it's not "let me drag you into this hell", because it's not transgressive. It might have been, it started out like that, which might have been my attraction to the early Dennis Cooper ["Frisk", "My Loose Thread"] work. It's similar to the work I did psychologically, in a place of love and support, where my work can resonate with people who are like these middle-aged women, like this woman [I know] from Norway, who has nothing in common with the experience. There's a universal truth that got touched on, because I think I went into a universal unconscious type place, and wrote about themes that went beyond these stories, their content.

Bookslut: That's one of the things I think is so remarkable about your work, is that there's a purity to it. Given the stories and given all that you've lived through, I think there's a real purity that comes through. So it makes sense--it ties in with everything you're saying.

JT: It's like I was saying, I want you to be in the Venus flytrap, I want you so to be in the experience. I've been reading these really well-written books, but they're linguistic-not linguistic, they're lingo books-they're just how we talk. I love books where you pick them up and you know what it smells like. When I walk down the street, I have no idea of the names of the flowers that I pass, but when I'm writing, I love that there's a crispness when I hear the flower is a "loganvillia-oola-boola". [Laughs.]

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: And not just thrown in there, tell me what it looks like. I do that research. I do that work. I was always obsessed with how movies--I lived a lot in movies, in movie theaters-I spent a lot of time there. It was always painful for me that no matter how encompassing you make the experience in words, it just cannot compete with movies. Movies are so in your face, and I want to get as close to that experience, I want to you to know what the weather feels like, I want you to know what it smells like, what kinds of plants are around you. And that takes a lot of work, but I want you in my Venus flytrap as much possible. Because I want that connection, you know? I want you in my world.

Bookslut: I would get hungry with all the diner scenes in "Sarah", where you were describing the food. I would seriously get hungry, so you're doing it well.

JT: I joke with this friend of mine: I'm just doing this all for the free food. [Laughs.] I get the free clothes, I get invited to the dinners, and now it's like, I'm very snotty about even my chocolate. I used to live on candy bars, and now I only eat organic cocoa with 70-something percent chocolate. It's really funny.

Bookslut: I know Nancy [JT's assistant] told me, but what's your favorite?

JT: Well, I love the Black and Tan in England, but any organic-it doesn't even have to be organic, but fucking pure dark chocolate, with seventy-something percent and above. [Laughs.] I live on that. I mean, people can't send me that enough.

Bookslut: That's why I asked: you know people will send it to you. What the fuck? Go for it.

JT: There's this thing, it's kind of painful, where people read about me a certain amount and they assume, "Oh, you're loaded". I think if I was a musician, which I am, but if I was in a rock band, or was an actor, and had this kind of level of press, I would be making serious money.

Bookslut: Right.

JT: Because I write books, and I signed deals when I was a teenager, and I was never offered one of those million dollar advances, or anything even close, anything even remotely close, I'm broke. [Laughs.] I could make more money herding cows in Africa. And I write for a lot of alternative magazines, where they pay one hundred dollars here and there. I mean, I don't have money. I really, really don't have money. And the movie deals, these are low budget fucking movies. So, people have this idea, they don't understand why I'm pursuing the free chocolate or some of these things. I mean, dude, my phone got cut off last week. Just because you read about me, doesn't mean that that's translated into hard, cold cash. People don't buy books the way people buy CDs, and people are all up in arms about the Internet-

Bookslut: --with music piracy-

JT: --and we have libraries. People lend books. [Laughs.]

Bookslut: There's libraries, there's used book stores-

JT: --yeah, we've been dealing with that shit all along. I ain't got no pity for those motherfuckers. [Laughs.] Whenever someone asks me about my books, I tell them, "Go get them at the library-I'm not trying to make money off of you". But if they've got money, I say, "Go buy them".

Bookslut: Have you read Augusten Burroughs? He wrote "Running With Scissors" and "Dry".

JT: Yeah, he actually asked me for a blurb.

Bookslut: Cool.

JT: Well, it was for the first book. I get asked for a lot of blurbs. The problem is, these things pile up.

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: They get lost in my huge mound of crap.

Bookslut: I interviewed him two months ago [for Bookslut] and I asked him about you, because I think, in some ways, there's a similarity to your work. In other ways, not at all, obviously. He had really good things to say about you, he thought you were very good, but we were talking about what you're saying: he calls literary fame, "fourth tier".

JT: Fourth tier?

Bookslut: Fourth tier, like it's the lowest level.

JT: Oh.

Bookslut: You've got the rock stars, and the movie stars, and the TV stars, and like he said, with literary fame, there's a small audience that knows exactly who you are, and they're rabid, and they're fanatical.

JT: Yeah.

Bookslut: He was saying exactly that, that doesn't necessarily translate--

JT: --it doesn't.

Bookslut: Literary aficionados, we assume most of the country is reading. And it's not.

JT: That's right. Or they're reading Danielle Steele ["Jewels", "Journey"], or Stephen King ["It", "Apt Pupil"]--

Bookslut: --or Tom Clancy ["Red Storm Rising", "Balance of Power"].

JT: Stephen King, though, I can totally relate to that. I mean, god bless him. I worship him. I think he's a great writer. But the others, I mean, whatever. It's hard for them to branch out and try something that's a little out of the loop.

Bookslut: Especially with the consolidation of so many publishing houses, too. It seems like there are fewer and fewer publishing houses that are willing to take a chance.

JT: "Sarah" really surprised people. I mean, my original publisher was Crown, and they were so happy to see me go, because I let go from my original deal. I was, like, seventeen years old? I got signed when I was like, eighteen.

Bookslut: That's mind blowing. I didn't know that.

JT: My editor quit, she left, and I lost my deal. They were so happy to see me go, that they forgave my advance.

Bookslut: Wow.

JT: It was something like eight thousand, which was chump change for them. My take of it was maybe five or six after taxes. They were just so, like, get that fucking freak out of here.

Bookslut: [Laughs.]

JT: But now they're like, who let JT LeRoy go? You know, afterwards, they can look back.

Bookslut: That's really fucking funny.

JT: But you take someone who won't tour, who won't do readings, who won't come to the business meetings, who is a known drug, alcohol, whatever, user, abuser, and generally seems like a freak, and you're going to put this book out? It's like, uh huh. And that's part of why I didn't want to put out "The Heart is Deceitful" first, I didn't want to, I knew it wasn't--I wrote those things in therapy.

Bookslut: Right.

JT: I never wrote them with the idea that this was going to be a book. I remember when Dennis Cooper would say to me, like, you know, maybe you can get this published someday, and I would just laugh. It was like you're dancing in your living room, and someone says maybe you can dance ballet in Carnegie Hall. Or even on a stage somewhere. And you're just like, whatever. It wasn't even a purpose, when I would contact writers. When I get these letters from writers, they don't even bother telling me they've read my book. They just say, "Can you pass this to your agent? Can you read this?" They don't realize it's like putting your pussy in someone's face. Or putting your penis in someone's face and saying, "Here, suck me off". You know what I'm mean?

Bookslut: Yeah.

JT: I mean, sharing work is a very sacred thing, and asking someone to do that, it's kind of like asking someone to kiss you.

Bookslut: There's something really crass about it--

JT: --to me it's like--

Bookslut: --vulgar in the truest sense of the word.

JT: When I would write to writers--

Bookslut: --you wrote to Mary Karr ["The Liars Club", "Cherry"], didn't you?

JT: Oh, yeah, very early on. And it's amazing how, I mean, the whole way, how it happened, everything that happened was very organic. I have these writers now ask me, "How did you do it? How do I get people, how do I get stars to read for me blah blah blah?" It all happened very, very organically and innocently, the way a lot of good art happens, you know? And it all happened out of irritation.

Bookslut: [Laughs.]

JT: It's the oyster and the pearl. I mean, do you know the whole story, do you want to hear the whole story?

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: My shrink, Dr. Terrance Owens, the head of the adolescence unit here at St. Mary's, the one we just did a benefit for--

Bookslut: --you've done a couple of benefits for them, right?

JT: Yeah, Winona Ryder hosted this one and we raised five thousand for the one in New York, at the New York one that we did. It's really cool to be at that place where you can give back. You know, he felt I had a problem with continuity and he kept asking me to write. [Responds nicely to assistant, "No, I shredded them".] Um, so he kept asking me to write, and I was like whatever. He taught at the University of San Francisco, which he still does, and he was teaching these social workers, or people who wanted to be social workers. So he said, why don't you write about the real deal on the street, because he knew I hated social workers because so many of them had fucked me over and they had no idea what they were doing.

Bookslut: Right.

JT: And he was like, why don't you tell them the real deal, and maybe, in turn, they could help someone. Because, I was like, you know, they don't know what they're doing to these kids out there, and I like the idea of making a difference in someone else's experience. I felt it was too late for me, but maybe something I did could help someone, and I liked that idea of power, of being able to have them listen to me for a minute.

Bookslut: Yeah.

JT: So, I did that. That appealed to me, you know? Because I never had any power with these fuckers, so I was like, wow, I get the power. And something happened when I sat down to write, this higher thing, and it was just like [pauses]. I think most of us in the world don't find what we're meant to do. It's almost as if we're all given a gift of [pauses].

Bookslut: I completely believe this.

JT: Yeah. You know what it is? In indigenous societies, everything was imbued with art. Like, a basket. There have been books written about the basket weaver. If you look at a basket, it was functional, but it told the story. And the one who wove the basket didn't think, "I am an artiste". They were just making a functional basket, but when they wove it, because in their society, every act was imbued with storytelling, with a connection to who they were, and the universe, and spirituality, whatever their spirituality was. And their storytelling--there was storytelling on the basket. So, we turn that into an object of art, you know?

Bookslut: Right.

JT: But for them, the basket weaver wasn't a fetishized artist, they were just part of the society. And now, you have to fight to be an artist. I'm amazed by how many people come up to me and say, "I don't have a creative bone in my body". I'm just mortified, because to me, that's like saying, "I love to molest small children".

Bookslut: [Laughs.] But it's true. I don't get it when people say that, because obviously, they do [have creativity].

JT: And they're so--

Bookslut: --they're so removed from it--

JT: --yeah, they really are. I really feel like in order to be an artist in our society, we have to fight. To me, an artist is like the face of God. It's telling the story of who we are, our connections, the more true we can be. Who we are and where we're going. All right, so this is what happened: I wrote this thing, and it felt like that click. I was so hungry for feedback. I can remember the first time I got feedback that had nothing to do with how I looked or how good I sucked a dick. Whatever, any of that shit. It was just this pure thing. And it relieved something. It relieved this pressure. Kind of like of like when you remove a brain tumor and the blood can flow again? I really, really felt it like that. Because I was using drugs and alcohol, and I wasn't really into them, but it was like a way of relieving some of the pressure, the pain. And this [writing] was much more effective, and right away. And drugs and alcohol got in the way of writing, so I was like, this is a much better drug. I looked at it almost like a substance, like, oh, this is much better. And this whole thing happened where I would write for these classes, I would write these pieces, and I was like, tell me what they said, you know?

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: And I wasn't getting the feedback, like, he doesn't behave appropriately, and this and that. I was getting these guys' respect, and it was magic. These words were coming out of me, everything I had recorded, because it always felt like I was recording, like I could hit the playback button and there it was. I was an obsessive reader as it was, and it was like, things would store in me, and I would hit playback and I would hand write this stuff. Of course, I'd wait for the last minute, and I never knew where I was gonna be, and I got a trick to buy me a fax machine. I had to get it in by Monday morning, and I had to rewrite it so it was legible, and they wouldn't let me into the hospital, so I would have to fax it to him before the class, so there was this bathroom. You could pull back this thing, and there was a jack in the wall. Everyone used to fix in this bathroom, but I'd go in there and hook up my fax machine.

Bookslut: [Laughs.]

JT: And they'd bang on the door and say, "We know you're fixing." And I'm like, "No, I'm faxing." [Laughs.]

Bookslut: [Laughs.] Oh, god.

JT: So, that was really funny, and I'd fax stuff. Anyway, I'd say to Terry, Dr. Owens, give me some critical feedback, I want to get better, I want to get better. Because I knew there was a difference between my writing and Tobias Wolf ["This Boy's Life", "Old School"] you know? And he said, "Well, I can't do that. That's not my role". But he had an upstairs neighbor who was an editor. His name is Eric Walinski. Eric Walinski, he just made a film, and now he works with Dave Eggers at Valencia Street [826 Valencia Street, the Bay Area children's writing center Eggers founded in 2002].

Bookslut: Yeah.

JT: So, Eric Walinski was the first person to give me critical feedback. At first, he gave me a letter, and then we started talking. He would really gently guide me, and I was so hungry for it. And then, we would talk about books. And Lewis Nordan ["Wolf Whistle, Lightning Song"], who wrote "Music of the Swamp", which a masterpiece of a book, a masterpiece of a book, we'd talk. The guy is the sweetest, most amazing guy. Older man, recovered alcoholic, and the book is a beautiful fucking work of art.

Bookslut: Outstanding.

JT: I had this one trick who would turn me onto books. I hated poetry, but there was this one poet, and the trick would say, read this, read this. And he gave me this book by Sharon Olds ["The Dead and the Living", "The Unswept Room"]. And I hated poetry, but I read "The Golden Cell" and it was the first time I understood a parent's love. I just never understood that connection, and I think it reawakened what was inside me from when I was a child. It almost makes me cry, every time I talk about it. Or maybe it was "The Dead and the Living" I can't remember which one. And I was talking about it with Eric, and Eric, and again, it was just one of those circles, where it just happened like that, he had studied with her. She was his teacher at NYU, and they had become friends. He told me, "I talked to Sharon, and she wants you to write her and tell her all of what you told me". And I told him, "Go fuck yourself".

Bookslut: [Laughs.]

JT: And he was like, no, she's for real. So, I did. I wrote to her and she wrote me back.

Bookslut: Wow.

JT: We've had this correspondence ever since then. She read for me, she was one of the readers at this one reading. She read the Sex Pistols part, "I am a Annie-Christ, I am a Annie-kiss" [from the story, "Foolishness is Bound in the Heart of a Child", in "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things"]. When I heard it out loud, I just couldn't stop sobbing. Because it's like, here it is. It opened this door.

Bookslut: Right.

JT: It's like you can write to God, and God will write you back. It opened this world to me, and I was like, "Holy shit". It's like when you first discover your body, and you start masturbating and it's like, "Holy shit! I can do this? I can make this feeling?"

Bookslut: [Laughs.]

JT: I went to the library, because I was really obsessed with this book, "Try", by Dennis Cooper. So I asked the librarian, "How do I contact him? How do I write to a writer?" I had the Eric Walinski connection, but I didn't know anybody else. And he said, here's a book, and showed me a book of agents. So, I called, we had all of these stolen calling card numbers. Everyone has them on the street, you know?

Bookslut: Sure.

JT: So, I called, and I spoke to his agent. And she said, well, fax a request. And I had a fax machine, so I made up a story-that I had a fanzine--and it was so obvious. It was just like the kid in the book. ["Try" 's protagonist, Ziggy, who writes the fanzine, "I Apologize".] I wanted to interview him [Cooper]. And I had Timothy--what was his name, who wrote "Maximum Rock N Roll"? [Tim Yo.] This was before he died, and I had a friend who was friends with him. And I said, "Ask him if I can interview Dennis Cooper". And they didn't know who Dennis Cooper was at the time. This was almost ten years ago, and I was like, ask him if I can write something for him, and they were like, well, we don't know, whatever, sure. These were the guys from "Maximum Rock N Roll". So, I said I had my own fanzine, just like the kid in the book. And I had a phone number where I was staying that night, and they were like, yeah, call him [Cooper], call him. And I did, and he screens all his calls, but he picked up, and we had this connection. And eventually, I don't know, how it happened, but I started reading [more] and I told him, "Yeah, I'm writing" and down the line, because I was really shy about this stuff, down the line, I started reading it to him.

Bookslut: JT, I'm going to cut you off. This phone is dying. I'm going to call you back on my other phone.

JT: Sounds good. Bye.

Unfortunately, my recorder worked ineffectively on the second phone. What follows are my notes of his statements, with chunks of personal information omitted.

JT: Bruce Benderson is one of the most amazing writers alive right now. He wrote "User", and it's an amazing book.

Agents are like pimps. They don't beat you, but they've got their ways. [Laughs.] I shouldn't say that, though. I've got an amazing fucking agent.

I've never fallen in love with a woman, but when I met Mary Gaitskill ["Bad Behavior", "Two Girls, Fat and Thin"], it was a very intense relationship. She took off the kid gloves and told me what I was doing wrong. She sent me Nabokov and Flannery O'Connor.

"Elephant" is amazing. I wrote many [of the earlier] drafts of the script for a year. Gus [Van Zant] is great. He never wrote me out of the film. He could have, but he didn't. That's not his way.

Being an artist is like being a supertaster.

It's like I have Tourette's Syndrome. I feel like I have to spit out metaphors. They'd kid me about it on the street. Every time I'd say, "like", they'd flip me shit, like, "Oh, god, here he goes again".

I can protect my child like I couldn't protect myself.

"Sarah" is a better book--it has more craft. After Mary Gaitskill, I learned craft. It's not enough to tell your story. You need art, craft, and humor.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Bring me the head of Barry Manilow:

I feel awful laughing at it--9/11 humor is dicey at best--but each time I view the sketch below, I completely crack up. Gawker and Blogaloo posted it, too. Should this assuage my guilt? ("New Yorkers are laughing at it, Mommy. Can I, too? Pleeeease?")

From The London News Review:

Fitting Footprints


New Year, Ancient Truths:

1) Loved ones make it all worthwhile. (Hey, family! Hey, friends!)

2) Passive/agressive individuals should be kicked in the shins repeatedly.
(Really, let's codify this.)

May 2004 bring you (and me) only good things! Onward!