April 13, 2009

have faith in wordless knowledge

Kim Manfredi, Galactic Core, 2009

* Unpublished portion of this recent Anthem Magazine interview of Bill Callahan (thanks, Donna!):

Q: I know you have been expanding your written work into a novel lately. An epistolary novel/epic poem titled Letters to Emma Bowlcut. What made you choose to write in just antiquated styles? How did the
story develop into these forms?

A: The form is antiquated, but the style is ripped open by making it epistolary. It is anything but formal, except in parts. There is a freeness in writing in letter form. I wanted to write something shrouded in a classic form (the epic poem), but that didn't conform to meter. It is allowed to succumb to vagaries with the knowledge that a discussion between two people who are familiar with each other doesn't have to be explicit. And that there is an assumed knowingness between letter writers, a portion of which is supported by the fact that there are letters coming from the other person, too. And that there are past
letters and future letters. Writing is a form of seduction.

Q: You are able to encapsulate a short story within three or four minutes. Your writing style is very straightforward, tending towards simple, beautiful narratives about a person in a particular place or mode of thinking coming alive through your strong hold on language, like you’re choking the stories out of the words. How do you think your style fits in among your contemporaries? Most writers today seem to favor long, winding, elliptical styles, how did you grow into the
way you write?

A: It has always been the style that speaks the most to me. With something like GG Marquez I feel like I only need to read a third of the book to know the whole thing. That could be wrong of me. I don't think my style either fits or doesn't fit among my contemporaries. Anyone worth their salt has their own thing going on. I think when you start out you are more influenced by what has come before you, but as you go on you get your own voice. I've always written in shortness. In high school I could never make the word limit on essays but the teachers always had to admit I said enough. There is a prejudice against the terse.

Q: I tend to think the seeming simplicity of your language gets lost on a lot of people. I was once in an audience where the people behind me kept interpreting your lyrics, drunkenly, passionately shouting “This song is about sex” and “This one is about sex too!” Why did you choose to apply your language skills to music? Why write songs when your writing can easily stand alone?

A: I'm not sure my songwriting can stand alone. It's not supposed to, really. It's supposed to be with all that comes with a song -- the phrasing, the music behind it, the person standing on stage to deliver it. I chose music because it is a more varied experience. You aren't just writing words. There's the singing which makes me feel good. You work with a lot of people, it's not just you and a blank page all the time. Music is more social. I thought it'd be good for me. It is.

-- Callahan’s Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle is out tomorrow.

* Check out this video promo for Black Nasty's new album, Shark Tank, out now.

* "Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities." -- Frank Lloyd Wright


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