April 1, 2008

At 4am, a wrong answer hovers right outside the door

artist unknown, via neoist impulse

* Found in the Margins interviews Will Oldham. excerpt:

Q: Growing up, how did reading play into your life? How did these books help you grow?

WO: I believe that reading has always been integral to my thinking and living. Only books and writing give God validity; it's much easier for there to be one God in the written language. More fun to have multiple gods if we are only speaking.

When you say growing up, I must guess that you mean as a small child? I remember most the books of Ezra Jack Keats and Maurice Sendak, then Ellen Raskin and Roald Dahl. There was a book I liked called The Witches Of Worm. My fifth-grade teacher read to us, from Bram Stoker and Agatha Christie. I liked Harold and the Purple Crayon. I liked the covers and titles of the Hardy Boys books, but the stories were dull. Then in high school I remember reading books like On The Road, Interview With The Vampire, Crime and Punishment, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read the James Bond books, the Kurt Vonnegut books, and All the King’s Men. I'm sure I forget many of the books that our culture does not remind me of in the passing years.

Q: What are your favorite books? What are the books you re-read?

WO: In the past decade I think my favorite writers are probably Charles Willeford, Ian MacMillan, Mohammed Mrabet and Knut Hamsun. I feel very very at-home when I read their language. I am not sure that I have ever re-read a book; at least I cannot think of one now that I have re-read.

Q: What are you reading now?

WO: In the morning I am reading an account of the lives of a family from Kentucky who traveled to Hawaii and the Marquesas in the 1830's as missionaries. This book is from a limited printing, and was distributed primarily or exclusively to family members. I found it in my grandparents' collection. The main subject of the book, William Patterson Alexander, was my great grandmother's great-uncle!

In the afternoon I am reading a book called Fig Tree John by Edwin Corle. The book is fiction, about an Apache in desert California around what we used to call the turn of the century.

And at night I am reading Teach Yourself: Islam. In between, I am trying to read snippets of a sailing instruction manual, a book about local (Northern California) plant life, and a book about food that pushes the eating of animal products, specifically fats and organs.

Q: What is it that you most enjoy about these books? Is it the characters, the plot, the authors' writing styles?

WO: Maybe style is the most important, or most appealing, part of the equation. But structure and character are essential as well. If it is an instructional book, the assumed protagonist is myself and if the author can't keep me interested in THAT, they're fucked.

Q: Do the characters or resonating themes from the books you read ever make their way into your songs?

WO: I am sure in the past they have...or really that style has. I can't say that themes from what I read make their way into songs, at least not as much as from themes distilled by other songs or movies. I only stick with a book if it resonates, and it only resonates if the themes are bubbling inside me in some way to begin with.

Q: As a lyricist, do you enjoy reading poetry?

WO: As a rule, with the accompanying exceptions, no.

Q: Do you find your writing style and storytelling is inspired by books you read?

WO: Yes. I love to read writers with a style my brain can catch up with, because it helps me get up to speed when I try to flesh out an idea. The big beacons from my now distant past would be hammerheads like Kerouac (On The Road, Tristessa, The Subterraneans), Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian), Faulkner (Intruder in the Dust and Sanctuary). These are writers that I find I have had to painfully, at times, bend my thinking patterns to get the most out of the work; once the patterns are bent, new ways of expressing come forward. As I get older and more practiced, I hope that I can read someone along the lines of Truman Capote and somehow access his incredible way of getting an image or idea across. Or Mark Twain. I am using big obvious examples, because it would not be helpful to a reader for me to reference the more perverse or obscure in order to make a point.

Q: What type of non-fiction do you read?

WO: I grew up imagining that I would always be an actor. When I got to be about 18, I started to really know that acting was not what I had imagined it to be. And yet there are some few actors who personify, against odds, some of the potential I saw in that life. I like to read books about these people. Warren Beatty, Burt Lancaster, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Harvey Keitel. If there was a book by or about Holly Hunter, I would read it. If I could find the Living Theater book by Julian Beck, I would read it. I like to read books by or about certain musicians whose lives I hold up as example. Merle Haggard, Peggy Lee, Elvis Presley, Roky Erikson. Life has been a long time, even so far, and it is so hard to remember all of the books. The Harpo Marx autobiography was a huge favorite. I liked Mikal Gilmore's book about his family (Shot in the Heart). I like to read books about Hawaii, and by extension Polynesia. I think this is because my mother was born in Honolulu and also because the Mekons (1950’s British comics) and Bugs Bunny got me into the Bounty story (a history of the true mutiny of the HMS Bounty in 1789).

* Twofer Tuesday: Red Kitchen, hailing from Quebec City, via Los Angeles. According to their myspace page, Red Kitchen sounds like "A Verbatim Recital of Herbert Hoover's 1929 Presidential Acceptance Speech."

Two songs from their upcoming album, The Second Person:

-- 4 am

-- Still Life From Courtroom

* "By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more." -- Albert Camus


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