Lee Klein is the author of Incidents of Egotourism in the Temporary World, now available from Better Non Sequitur Books (www.betternonsequitur.com), and the editor of Eyeshot.net, a lighthouse for online writing since 1999. Incidents is arriving at a transitional time in Klein’s life, as he finds himself moving from Brooklyn to Iowa City to attend the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His novel is a transition as well: the story of a young man called the Egotourist who sustains himself on temp jobs in order to leave suburbia and the cloying intellectualism of his abstract-painter mother (The Post-Menopausalist) and accountant father for adventure in Central America. Incidents is post-college angst at its finest, written in prose not afraid to take on layers and loop-de-loops that leave the reader amazed and satisfied. Klein flips easily from antiquarian bookstores to backyard parties featuring Black Sabbath cover bands. His territory is mostly interior — but concerned with the intersection between a young man’s expectations of the world and the world’s of him. There are some very funny scenes and some very sad ones, too.
Like his novel, Eyeshot.net seems in continuous transition, showcasing writing that defies classification. Klein says he edits on instinct. His instinct sets a high standard, and Eyeshot can be counted on for consistently excellent prose — something that is increasingly rare as the Internet stretches on.
This interview was conducted by instant messenger between Iowa City and Frankfurt, with many long pauses for coffee, water and bathroom in between, with one especially long halt after Klein discovered his cat had cornered a bunny in the backyard.
James Stegall: All right. Welcome to the interview. First, I want to say Incidents rocks. I read it in four hours.
Lee Klein: Four hours? It took much longer to write.
JS: Yes. The first Proust-like chapter about Edgar running was a bit of a hurdle, but once I got past that it was smooth sailing.
LK: That first part was intended as a hurdle like in The Corrections, the academic (Chip?) who said he put the unreadable part up front in his dissertation to test his readers’ endurance.
JS: Hah. I was on to you then. Where are you now?
LK: Iowa City. Two weeks since I left Brooklyn.
JS: You like it so far?
LK: Very much. Cats, lawn work, tornado warnings, silence, incredible clouds, greenery, haven’t heard 50 Cent blaring from a car radio yet . . .
JS: Okay: Egotourism. . . what is it? Can you encapsulate the concept for those who haven’t read the book?
LK: A cab driver named Ralf from East Berlin coined the word egotourism. I met him in Oaxaca at a cafe. He had a massively scary scar across his neck. I thought he’d slit his throat and survived. But he’d had throat cancer. It was a surgical scar. He’d come to Mexico to travel around and get his bearings and have some adventure and life after the nearness of the other. So we were talking about ecotourism and he slipped and said “egotourism” and we went off for about half an hour (maybe a bit too far into a few rounds of Bohemia-brand beer) about what this “egotourism” could be, for example, it probably involved swanky spas out in the jungle that catered to your self-esteem, told you how wonderful you were, massaged your body and your ego both. That talk was early on during a four-month solo trip through Central America I took when I was 23. Later on in the trip I started thinking about how egotourism was actually like an alternative to antidepressants — to get out there and travel and experience and see things and fill the empty sack within. This sort of thing became especially relevant after being insanely (almost psychotically) depressed in Boston in 1996 and early 1997 when I was handwriting a lot of impossibly confused allegories and looking sort of like a carbohydrate-addled American version of Antonin Artuad and working at an antiquarian bookstore and finally decided I needed another dose of egotourism to pull me out of the empty sack in the middle of that particular psychological shitstorm.
JS: Do you see the emptiness as a major source of motivation now?
LK: Do you mean “now” in terms of writing?
JS: I suppose I should back up and ask just how fictional Incidents is, because I see the book as the result of a process on which the main character — or you — has come out on the other side.
LK: It’s fictional in the Thomas Wolfe sense, that fiction is fact selected, arranged, and charged with purpose. So much of what’s in the book had a realistic precedent, but certainly none of it happened as it appears in the book, literally as black words on creamy grayish-white paper. It’s fictional, and a lot of it happened, and so it’s not strictly a memoir at all. Genre categorization is a capitalist (rather than artistic) thing, a symptom of marketing and major-chain bookshelf placement . . . I’m pretty sure at this point that I’m sort of like most writers in that I filter fact through the fiction. The book I’m about to finish right now is very much unlike my life — fantastic at times, unlike anyone’s actual life, I hope — and yet I’m the one who’s filled the characters with life (ideally) and perceptions and thoughts and tics and sensations solely originating from yours truly. So yeah the process is still going on but it’s more highly fictionalized now, the more recent characters have been more like separate entities, not loose parodies of myself, friends, and family.
JS: I suppose I latch onto the idea of Egotourism being a function of inner emptiness because I’ve often thought that a personal or cultural vacuum is what drives us to do most of what we do in our lives, trying to fill the “sack.” Coming from a middle-class, mostly educated background, do you see Edgar as having an empty life? If he had a different background, would he be so driven to leave home and do possibly dangerous things in Central America? Is this a weakness or a strength?
LK: Funny that you call him Edgar. He’s really just called the Egotourist
JS: That’s the only name I could find. Edgar the Egotourist. And I looked, trust me.
LK: There’s that one time he jokingly says his name is Edgar the Egotourist. Just a joke . . . Okay. So this is sort of a class question, right?
JS: I’m just trying to get at the driving force behind the Egotourist . . . why is he so restless when he seems to have everything?
LK: There’s a line or two in the book about how the Egotourist rails against whatever makes an easy life even easier. I really don’t think it’s all that odd an instinct for a kid in his twenties, regardless of his or her family’s tax bracket, to feel restless and dissatisfied and have that urge to move and see and challenge oneself (especially in some romantic, exotic, and selfish way) all with the unspoken goal of individuation. Also called “finding yourself,” which has too much 70’s baggage, I think. Part of the restlessness and depression and all that affects the narrator comes from his being faced with so-called “real life,” working at restaurants and bookstores for not much pay and no prestige or native interest, all the while barely covering the rent and expenses and all that, all the while feeling “owned” and “trapped,” all the while looking for an escape into another reality, one that’s more independent and active and dramatic and exotic and filled with hot European travelers and handguns and howler monkeys and cheap orange juice and volcanoes and winos and humbling third-world UNICEF poverty as opposed to the American poverty the educated lower-upper-middle-class kid confronts. I met people from all over the world from all classes when traveling. It’s not so hard for the young and the restless to save some cash working shit jobs and convert it to traveler’s checks and then light out for the territories.
JS: Does his father being such a non-entity have anything to do with it? I ask because the mother-son relationship reminded me a lot of Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise — how he set up his Romantic Egoist — which was the first thing Egotourism made me think of. Amory Blain’s father is a non-entity with a habit for drowsing over the Encyclopedia Britannica, like the Egotourist’s father does with tennis videos and VHS’d TV movies.
LK: I wouldn’t say the father is a non-entity at all . . . The father’s consistent dedication to corporate work is a correction for the narrator’s grandfather’s inconsistency (and troubles with that inconsistency), and so the Egotourist corrects for the father’s consistency and perceived stasis by trying to live a life that’s a bit more inconsistent and dynamic. I haven’t read This Side of Paradise so please realize I didn’t bite Fitzgerald! Personally I have a very good relationship with both my parents. The ones in the book are exaggerations.
JS: Heh. Just curious. I thought of the grandfather angle, too. The Post-Menopausalist is so powerful a force in the Egotourist’s life that the father stands out as an imbalance. But I see where you’re coming from. Another area where I was curious about fact/fiction. The mother-son relationship is the continuous thread that everything seems to hang from.
LK: The mother is an abstract expressionist painter. The father, an accountant. That’s true in life, too. Pretty extreme, if not the most extreme possibilities. The mother’s abstractions parallel and confirm the son’s skewed perceptions and wanderlust. But there’s a rationality to it as well that’s probably more from the father, an organizing principle in “The Alphabet of Cities,” for example.
JS: “The Alphabet of Cities” was a great life quest. Do you think it’s really a possible goal? Or as the Egotourist kept getting asked, when would he choose relationships over this quest? Would that mean, then, that he had found himself?
LK: Moving every year for twenty-four years from Austin to Boston to Cuzco to Durham to Fez to Gdansk etc is possible, I suppose. Not probable, but possible. Even as an ESL teacher, like the Egotourist, it’d be hard to do, emotionally, psychologically, financially, and the thing is, “The Alphabet of Cities” is conceived from the beginning as a therapeutic delusion. It’s the Egotourism speaking. It’s an impossible plan that he says he’s intent on fulfilling, and the saying is what’s important — it’s one of the things he’s concocted to pull himself out of the zero-confidence of situational depression. It works, but only for a while. Choosing people over places is maybe a step toward no longer needing the far-flung delusion.
JS: Okay. Was the book really rejected by a hundred agents?
LK: It was “passed on,” as they say, by about forty.
JS: What did that do to you and your confidence? For what it’s worth, I found the plot pretty easy to find and follow.
LK: It didn’t affect my confidence at all since I didn’t write the book with “the publishing industry” in mind. It was always an absolute long shot to find an agent, let alone a publisher who’d pay for it . . . You found the plot easy to find and follow because you are not a nimwit, Mr. Stegall.
JS: We haven’t shaken hands yet. Then you can make your decision.
LK: We put that blurb on the back from the literary agent about its overwritten plotlessness as sort of a “Primus Sucks” marketing ploy, I guess.
JS: It worked. I was just surprised if that was actually a critique someone gave you, and I read the book thinking “How is this hard to follow?”
LK: Right. Which makes me wonder what the fuck agents and editors are thinking about the cognitive abilities of English speakers worldwide. Readers’ abilities are really underestimated in general, I think. Oh my god! A multi-compound sentence! How can we market an unreadable beast like that!
JS: Background questions: Where are you from originally?
LK: Lawrenceville, NJ. A small town between Trenton and Princeton. Two places as different as my mother and father.
JS: Did you grow up there?
LK: Yes. 17 years. My parents still live there. I visited often when in Brooklyn.
JS: Where did you go to school?
LK: I went to Lawrenceville, a private school in my hometown that James Merrill, Malcolm Forbes, Michael Eisner, and Huey Lewis attended. And Oberlin, where Liz Phair, John McEntire, and a few hundred writers went. And will attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the fall.
JS: You must feel their shadows looming over you. Huey Lewis is actually a well-balanced, successful guy. Strangely enough. His VH1 Special is actually uplifting.
LK: His real name is Hubert Clegg the Third or something . . .
JS: Okay: This question is rough but I love to ask it. What has been your most formative experience so far?
LK: Shitting on top of a Mayan ruin at Tikal in Guatemala.
JS: Gah! It’s true then.
LK: Only cowards claim fiction! I want the Ancient Mayan World to put a fatwa on my ass! I wanna be the Rushdie of the Mayan World!
JS: Okay, if you’re calling that one the most formative on you as a person today, we’ll move on.
LK: Well, what do you mean by formative? There are fifteen hundred thousand factors that’ve contributed to my formation.
JS: For me, I’d call basic training an extremely formative event in my life: first time I left home, came face-to-face with the rest of America. That kind of thing.
LK: How about this? I once scored all the points in a recreation league basketball game when I was eight or nine. I hit a corner jumper in the third quarter and my team (The Squires) beat the Lakers by a score of 2-0. I have the clipping somewhere to prove it. It probably dangerously inflated my ego at an early age, thereby making me react so ridiculously to whatever frustrates that sense of self, etc.
JS: Ah. Okay, I can see where the need to maintain that would come in. Since I suck at basketball, it’s not something I can understand, but I can empathize.
LK: I see what you’re saying about basic training, but everything’s fragmented for me. Sports when young, music and drugs when a bit older, work and travel and relationships when older, the slow pendulum between happiness and depression, living in NYC on 9-11, Brooklyn, Iowa, on and on . . . all those things are my basic training.
JS: Like the Post-Menopausalist’s abstract paintings?
LK: They’re sort of fundamental, I guess. I grew up among them, got dragged to NYC galleries all the time when a tiny child. I took some art history classes in college and have always been into museums and galleries. One of my best memories is listening to Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica and sitting in one room (for an hour after having eaten a chunk of hashish) of the Prado where they keep Goya’s Black Paintings, totally freaking out the security guard . . . Do you think basic training changed your writing?
JS: Oh yeah. I suddenly realized there are people who have lived vastly different lives than I have, lives I will probably never understand. And that there isn’t always time to waste on introspection. . . but later I got angry because I felt like I’d been stripped of my right to worry about myself.
LK: I’d say that an introspective instinct is a gift no different than a jump shot or Giambi-like vision at the plate.
JS: Back to questions: How was working with a small press? Are you glad the book came out with Better Non Sequitur? Do you see yourself preferring this to whatever you’ve imagined about big publishing?
LK: Working with Better Non Sequitur was amazing. I know a little about the Big Publishing process, and I’m actually not against it, since it seems like in exchange for a few concessions and annoyances, they tend to pay solid (sometimes obscene) amounts of money and get the word out pretty effectively at times. I’m actually sitting in a room of a house in Iowa City that was purchased with Big Publishing Money, and I’m thankful for the fact that companies pay people unearthly sums for their fiction. It’s amazing and wondrous and primarily good and, like most things, seems to involve some necessary evils . . . Publishing with a small press has its benefits, too, of course. In exchange for no money, I’ve pretty much received complete creative control and 75 copies of the book to send to friends and family and bookstores and literary acquaintances and whoever. And the process of working with Steven Coy, each of us on either coasts, zapping files back and forth, snipping words from sentences to make paragraphs land perfectly at the end of pages, choosing the artwork from my mama’s files, getting a friend to photograph them, etc, all of it was worth a six-figure advance in soul points.
JS: I notice quite a few bookstores have picked it up. What’s the best method for people to get hold of the book?
LK: The easiest way to buy it is through betternonsequitur.com, either with a credit card or Pay Pal or a check. That’s certainly the best way because the publisher gets pretty much all the money, and since I’m terrified that the publisher will lose money, I suggest people buy books that way. It’s also in four bookstores in Brooklyn, St Mark’s in NYC, Micawber Books in Princeton, Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Big Jar Books in Philly, Powell’s in Portland, and will probably be in a few more in Boston and thereabouts by August. It’s also on Amazon.
JS: Speaking of soul points. I wanted to ask you about Eyeshot.
JS: How long has this temple of online literature been constructed?
LK: This so-called temple (upon which I have often shat) been in the business of saving lost literary souls since August 1999.
JS: So like a thousand Internet years. Why do you do it?
LK: I do it for the love, for the exchange, for the correspondence, for the dynamics of generosity (giving and getting), for the so-called creative outlet, for the wonderful literate honey-babes I’ve met through it (seriously), for the idealism of providing free, internationally accessible bits of writing, for the ability to respond as honestly and as entertainingly as possible to submitting writers in the least amount of time, and again, for the love, and the sex, and the international dispersal.
JS: What I admire most about Eyeshot is that you have standards. Standards are the one small thing online lit seems to lack so thoroughly, and which continue to be, I think, its greatest hurdle on the road to legitimacy. How would you characterize your philosophy as an editor?
LK: I don’t have a philosophy. I have an instinct. I accept stuff that I like. That makes me laugh. That I appreciate on some level. That’s been written by someone I’ve met and liked in person. The site’s very inconsistent, I think, and so am I, and so are things, and so it’s what it is, and so it’ll hopefully persist as long as I do. Maybe longer.
JS: Aside from gratuitous sex, have other good offline things come out of the site?
LK: The sex has been reasonable and lovely, not gratuitous, Mr. Stegall. Other good things? Some independent record companies from Montreal have sent me compact discs. Someone sent me a very lovely anonymous postcard of a child standing on a planet in outer space with very wonderfully weird writing on the back. And I’ve met dozens of good people through it. Am where I am in Iowa City partially because of it. Went to the Yankees/Diamondbacks’ World Series game on Halloween 2001 and saw Tino Martinez hit a home run right at me in the rightfield bleachers to tie it in the bottom of the ninth, two strikes, two outs, man on first, partially because of the site. And among many other wonders, I met Jamie Allen, an Eyeshot contributor and former pitcher who once struck out Tino Martinez in high school, at a bar in NYC, absolutely because of the site. And then there’s also this book that wouldn’t have been published if it weren’t online for about three years.
JS: So what do you think about this whole online lit thing?
LK: I’m not as evangelical about it as some. The Internet is perfect for delivering large blocks of text to people throughout the world for free. That’s a plus. The downside is the ADD, the Internet-addled Attention Deficit Disorder. I really wouldn’t call a lot of what’s online “literature” since that word, to me, refers to a sub-genre of writing that belongs to the heavy-hitters, the canonical writers, Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Dostoevsky, Kafka, and even Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Thomas Bernhard, Sebald, Borges, DFW, e.g. Considering that “literary fiction” is a sub-genre that’s not quite the same as “literature,” either, it follows that the short, semi-humorous bits posted online for all to see are something absolutely other, uniquely themselves compared to canonical short stories, for example, and so it’d probably be best to call it something other than “online lit” since I honestly think very little of it can compare to so-called “literature.” It’s transmitted through a different medium and is generally way more flighty and superficial (necessarily) than “literature” or even “literary fiction” . . .
JS: “The New Fiction” as Jamie Allen calls it?
LK: Well, the problem with the term “The New Fiction” is that the fiction will inevitably be old. The same could have been said about the work of any generation of writers. But I think for our generation, especially when writing something expressly for an eventual online appearance, we’ve got to deal with medium’s formal necessities, right? Which means we pretty much have to cater to the reader’s aforementioned ADD. Start quick and maintain the narrative gravity so the reader sets the scroll in motion.
JS: I like to think of it as Macro fiction. So often it begins with a reference that shortcuts exposition. A vignette about life as a Cobra Recruit in the world of GI Joe calls up an entire universe of childhood memories, connects to a specific generation and age group, so that it almost doesn’t matter what the story is — it’s subject keeps people reading. But only one person gets to use this Macro, so the hunt is always on for new, unused tricks. This creates inbreeding. Stories become bad James Ellroy imitations, breathless to keep people reading. I have a hard time gathering the cumulative effect. I try and save everything I can by any given author because by themselves the pieces are too short for me to figure out what the writer is about beyond trickiness.
LK: There can’t really be a cumulative effect or whatever online, since you only get snippets, but it seems like a few publishers like So New Media and Better Non Sequitur and Word Riot and whoever else are collecting those snippets for people — an obvious good thing . . . Not being a fan of shorthand and gratuitous space breaks, I try to post (and encourage people to send) denser blocks of attentively composed prose. A few scrolling feet of space-break-less prose, that’s what I really like to see, especially if an intelligence pulses through the sentences and it entertains.
JS: But I think you’re somewhat alone in doing that. I like that you do . . . And I think there has to be an effect. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time. I want it to say something, to possibly define a genre.
LK: I really like writers like Thomas Bernhard and WG Sebald and Bruno Schulz and Danilo Kis — Europeans, all of them, and I think they do something that could translate online, even though it seems to make sense that dense language wouldn’t work at all online — it’s counterintuitive and therefore correct . . . By “it” you mean the effect — you want the effect to define a genre? A print genre?
JS: I suppose it’s okay if the point of all online writing is ultimately to get offline, in print — but I would like to look back in 20 years and be able to say a certain taste, style, movement, whatever, came out of this time, that there was a voice and not just a bunch of people trying to entertain somebody for 30 seconds before they click away to something else . . . Who was the standard-bearer? McSweeney’s? Eyeshot? Cherrybleeds? Is there a common voice?
LK: I really hope a bunch of people aren’t doing the same thing, aren’t a part of a movement. I’m an only child and an American and am wholly in favor of uniqueness of voice in everything, especially music and writing . . . The worst and most insidious thing about Mcsweeneys.net was the syntax that seemed to develop in early 2000 on that site: “where they looked, the sentences, like this. Did they look like that? They did!” It was a virus that went around and affected people for a while, especially those writers just starting out.
JS: So where is the American voice? I would love to think it’s online in all the people toiling away for free to write the best they can — that really strikes an Enlightenment ideal to me — but I don’t see the force that should be rising out of this massed writing. What is it changing?
LK: I’m saying “No Common Voice — for fuck’s sake!”
JS: Why not?
LK: What about the old idea about various voices rising up . . .
JS: It’s exactly that — there is no voice, there is no shared vision, there is no shared concept of what is good or bad. No one has a clear idea of what anyone is saying so ultimately nothing gets said.
LK: The melting pot idea pretty much got abandoned long ago . . .
JS: Yes, that frustrates me.
LK: America’s all about the various voices, right? When we all speak with a common voice we verge on fascism, which is militaristic, and fundamentally anti-American. I also think that a ton gets said, and there’s no clear idea, and that’s what life is like, and has always been like, and organizing principles limit things and are false and yet are good for magazine articles about hot new trends and selling hot new trends — a common voice is a commodity . . .
JS: I suppose I got excited there. In terms of the writing that is found online, I suppose it’s a good thing that it can’t be pinned down, but this will always subjugate it to the sidelines and it will change nothing.
LK: America is from sea to shining sea. NASCAR is the favorite sport. All the men in Chelsea have big arms and little dogs. People in Chicago wear thick glasses. People in Boston like Elvis Costello too much. People in Texas say “do what now?” Online writing can’t change these things. Or anything else. Online writing can’t compete with major-league literature, and it shouldn’t be positioned as such. Doing that raises expectations that won’t be met. The idea is to keep expectations low, then to exceed them. Online writing is supplementary, complementary, another part of the whole, something that’s only as important as one’s investment in it.
JS: But it’s very democracy should make it important. Here is something that could be free of the machine that tells us what is literature, that fills Barnes & Noble and gets on Fresh Air on NPR. This could be separate and better, but no one pays attention because there is nothing to grab onto.
LK: If you want to change things in the USA it’s best not to spend all your time writing but to take action against the ol’ sea of troubles. Most writers are like Hamlet, like us in this IM conversation, debating whether ‘tis nobler etc, and that’s generally the role of writers somewhat, reflecting the confusion. Somewhat, somewhat, somewhat . . . And who is the “no one” who pays attention to online writing? A few thousand people visit Eyeshot every day. That’s not “no one.” A ton of people read stuff online. But they’re all there for different reasons. And I really don’t go for the “better” talk, even in the name of the publisher of the Egotourism book. I don’t think any of it is better, necessarily. There’s so much out there and so many people out there: better is totally based on taste. People love Harry Potter or Steven King or Dean Koontz. And they always have. And always will. And thankfully there’s an opportunity to post and print what we’d like to post and print and hopefully the execution of that instinct will find people with a similar eye out for such things. I don’t think it’s just a footnote (as you typed at one point originally and then deleted from the transcript when you revised it). It’s certainly not a footnote in my life.
JS: I simply want something good to be available and for it to be recognized as so, and that will bring about its own change. I’m not talking about political change, I mean a change in taste. Will all these words on the screen ever earn any respect, or are they as transient as their medium? I find it depressing if the answer is no. I just wonder how all this will be looked back upon.
LK: There’s a ton of good art and music and writing out there offline among a ton of trash, and the same goes with what’s online. The Web ultimately is a medium used by real offline people, and as such, it’ll probably be whatever we are. Somewhere on “Black on Both Sides,” Mos Def says something like “People looking for hip hop like it’s some giant up in the hills, but we’re hip hop — you want to know what’s going on with hip hop, look at what’s going on with you” . . . I think the same is true of online writing. It all depends on what’s put into it. The medium is electronic but the effort (and ideally the work) is absolutely not.
LK: And in terms of wondering “how all this will be looked back upon,” I say “posterity can suck my posterior.”
JS: Posterity is quite possibly all we’ve got. You don’t have kids yet.
LK: I really hope the good people of the future don’t look back on all this and say those early online writer people were constantly worried about how we’d think about them . . .
JS: I mean that if my son looks up what Dad did twenty years from now, he will find that he contributed to a movement of writers who were focused on writing because they loved it, not because their sole purpose was to sell books.
LK: Artists used to argue about art for art’s sake versus social realism etc, and now it’s like the most dominate argument is related to “art for the market’s sake.” It’s a necessity, somewhat, for some people. Especially for the ones, for example, who pay $40K a year to get an MFA from Columbia. They absolutely must try to make that money back by making market-minded concessions. Their original artistic impulse must be swayed and shaped by the market. Selling out is a necessity for them so they can pay for having learned the skills to make their money back. It’s vicious, as they say.
JS: I guess I get a little evangelical about indie publishing/online writing solely because I would like to believe that it’s writing for its own sake, without the constraints of the dollar. It doesn’t have an editor who’s worried about advertising space or “Are we going to piss off the advertisers/readers with this? Can’t run it!”
LK: Right — the freedom. But it’s nothing entirely new. Ulysses was published by Shakespeare & Co., I think, not Random House. But then again for every total sell out (or as Bill Hicks would say, “sucker of Satan’s pecker”), there are people like the Flaming Lips, Stereolab, Beck, Sofia Coppola, Charlie Kaufman, George Saunders, DFW, Ben Marcus, Zadie, and a ton others who are able to do what they want and get it out there through traditional routes . . . Everything’s so damned complicated. I love it!
JS: I guess what I admire about Eyeshot is that in the site, whether you see it or not, I see a standard-bearer. If someone can look back and say they were published there, that’s something important — to me that is the best of the writing that is online. Like whatever magazine both Hemingway and Faulkner were published in. That’s why I get frustrated when I hear that there is no voice. Because I think there is, and whether you like it or not, you are a big part of what’s establishing it.
LK: Thanks, man. And I hope that everyone who’s contributed to Eyeshot keeps working and recognizes that the little spiels posted online are little spiels and not the final work, not the masterpiece, that writing (whether it appears online or off) is “a life sport.”
JS: I agree with that.
LK: And so I try to encourage certain things and discourage other things and hopefully do whatever I can and follow my instincts so what you wrote above comes true for some people if that’s what they want.
LK: Again: there’s no “one voice.” There can’t be. By nature. Accept it.
JS: . . .
LK: Wait a sec! The things you’ve sent to Eyeshot have totally had their own voice! You write sort of clipped, beautiful sentences. Sort of macho, but also tender. You have a voice that’s very much unlike Jamie Allen or Scott Bryan Wilson’s. That proves it right there . . . You have your own voice, not a “common” one. And having a voice unlike another means you’ve “found yourself” as a writer somewhat . . .
JS: Okay. I’ll give up until I get some more fuel for my argument.
LK: You can’t argue with the way things are . . . It’s beautiful here. My ass hurts. I want to go for a run. Then do some freelance work.
JS: This has been the longest IM of my life.