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A Bum is the Main Human Vocation: Joe Sacksteder Interviews Sean Kilpatrick photo

“I have a master’s in exactly sugar,” Sean Kilpatrick writes in a recent love song to Brad Listi. I first met Sean in the auditorium of the Mark Jefferson Science Building for a creative writing graduate student orientation at Eastern Michigan University. “Who the hell did they let in this year?” I thought of the only other early arrival. But we immediately bonded over Werner Herzog and spent the next year high on sugar. In a class called “Theory, Method, Practice,” I believe he worked on the same half-page poem the entire semester. You’d receive your workshop piece months later and would no longer recognize it. That was four years ago. On the day of this interview, we both needed to write reviews of Palo Alto, so we went to see it at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak. Afterwards, we ate some Comic burgers and walked among the hip ruins of former shabbiness looking for the last authentic bar in Royal Oak. It also needed to be relatively quiet. We ended up here:

-- Joe Sacksteder


Joe: Can you tell us how your experience working at Toys R Us led to the short androgyny character in Gil the Nihilist and its quote “I’m doing your horoscope every time I blink”? Tell us that story.

Sean: I started working at Toys R Us. It’s a bunch of high school kids being hired for Christmas. And you’re sat at a picnic table and shown training videos that are very insane and condescending. Just poisonous. And then when you’re being hired you have to go pick an item from the store and explain its use and why it appeals to you even though it’s a fucking toy store. And they’re druggies and lobotomy fans. I’m there because I’m less than that working late at night scanning boxes. Thought it was the perfect job. The next day they came and got me and put me on an assembly line and didn’t tell me what to do at all. Here come these boxes and I’m supposed to pick them up and move them into an order, but I have no idea. They’re saying “Arrange these boxes by the title that’s written on the box,” but I don’t know where to put the boxes down into these piles because I don’t know what the relevance is of the title. No one would tell me either, or they would tell me and it wouldn’t make any sense. It was the bad kind of absurd. So I’m just setting them down in my own area and doing work just to do work. And here comes this very small girl – this fairly attractive small girl – getting real thug with me suddenly. Suddenly thug. This petite white girl getting suddenly thug. And she physically pushed me saying “Wrong fucking pile!” She was angry about this pile. And she shoved me while I had this eighty pound, or fifty pound box – I don’t know, it was almost hernia heavy if you eat bad and tilt. You shouldn’t fuck with someone’s balance when they’re carrying merchandise.

Joe: Yeah, you don’t push a pregnant woman.

Sean: Yeah right, I was pregnant with toys. She got thug as hell. I don’t know how to respond to that, because, first, I’m at work, so I’m shut off to any kind of human ­– I’m just doing work. Very mechanical, stupid work. She’s a tiny female person getting thug with me, so I don’t know how to socially respond on that hilarious level. Third, I’m kind of turned on. Not just that. That’s one thing, but she’s everywhere! Next to me, suddenly, in this slow procession of boxes. Then she’s over here haunting my position. They threw us on this price gun gadget, so you’re tagging babydoll wetemself. They don’t tell you how to do that either, which is nice. And so here she is, kind of keeping corrective watch on me, even though that’s not her job.

Joe: The little thug?

Sean: Kindergarten Jason Voorheeves. She wasn’t acting out of turn. It’s people’s appropriate response to my unfortunate existence. I never need any behavior to illicit an attack, pissing in my hair is as natural as breathing for everyone, or she’s just a mongoose bitch hopping mad about her trailer tits, just acting really aggressive and very witchy. I don’t know what the word is. But she was talking during break about how she’s another hex-proud Wiccan. Anyone who thinks they’re psychic was left too long in diapers.

Joe: She might have loved you.

Sean: I wish it would have fulminated elsewhere. Like in fair Verona. It was just a doomed, star-crossed thing. No, I think her disgust was pretty palpable. Who could blame her? I’ll hate anyone back.

Joe: How did your time at Toys R Us end?

Sean: I took the price gun and walked out while she was getting viable. She was doing weird (makes humming noise and gestures). Kooky in my presence. And I took the price gun and left. No, not the price gun. I took the razor. We had to cut boxes, and I had the razor and I was thinking of parlaying. That was the other tension I should have left in there. The tension is that we all had razors. She’s in my periphery – you know what I’m saying? She’s armed and in my periphery. And I’m ready to spin with it.

Joe: Because of growing up in the ghetto?

Sean: I’m ready to go all the way over any ridiculous shit.

Joe: In your Blue Ruin review, you talk about writing as a form of revenge. Is the answer just yes here?

Sean: Right.

Joe: Is that why Toys R Us works its way into Gil the Nihilist, because you can’t cut the person so you have to write about it?

Sean: No, I could, with luck and in a better world, cut people, too. But, yeah, if the writing is not done the cutting will be more immanent.

Joe: You did a little revenge writing last night, I understand. Regarding a certain local community college…

Sean: You know I’m called in for a teaching demonstration and treated like a fucking felon on sight. I come in with a suit and quaffed parts and I designed a class, basic sentence diagrams to headier crap, a range, and taught it quite vigorously and didn’t scream once. Nearly competently. Here’s what it is, both genders: Schoolmarm, the schoolmarm parvenu, the schoolmarmery of many current college situations, especially community colleges, I’m sure, which is like bustling for elementary grammar without any passion. A passionless and–

Waitress: Do you guys want me to clear away the menus?

Sean: Yes, thank you.

Joe: Thank you.

Sean: So a very lukewarm– Why are these people teaching literature? They have no business there. They should be working at a bank. They should be meeting their numbers, toeing the line. Mediocrity on wheels. It’s the “Get their money and get them out” thing. Babysitters in loafers. This is why censorship is president.

Joe: So what happened now? You interviewed, you did the teaching demonstration, and you didn’t feel like you were welcomed.

Sean: Yes. The mistake I made was that I put 10% of myself into it when I should have put in 0% of myself. If I did 100% it would be crazy as hell and it wouldn’t be okay. But 10% of me slipped into it because I got too happy while doing it. They saw this and promptly went cold. Marmed out. They freaked out and they said in effect, cynical, sarcastic, smartass, smarm-assed: “Our students aren’t ready for you.” They’re condescending people, condescending from a stance of mediocrity. I need to learn how to dice in exactly 0% of myself in all situations, especially a fucking relationship.

Joe: And I take it you didn’t get this job.

Sean: They said they’d call me in a few days, emailed a paragraph two weeks later. I had hope. That was my mistake. But I let my guard down because I attended this community college long ago. I thought they would have interest in helping a former student, perhaps. That’s not what it’s about. It’s a tap dance for yuppies and cool snowboarding dads.

Joe: Alright. I understand that I missed quite a performance at The Moth the other night. Want to give us a taste of this performance? How long of a story is it?

Sean: Their limit is five minutes, and it was off the top of my head because they didn’t let you bring notes or anything. And the theme was animals. The Moth is like this… The Moth is like this…

Joe: Sing it.

Sean: It’s like this NPR friendly, faux-poignant, cathartic–

Waitress: You still alright?

Sean: Yeah, very good.

Joe: Want another one?

Sean: Yeah, I’ll do another one of these.

Joe: Yeah, go ahead.

Sean: The Moth is what we’re talking about here. The Moth is the story without adornment. The Moth is a communal and friendly thing.

Joe: That sounds terrible.

Sean: It’s an embracement of life. It’s like people gathered around the fire and telling a story. Okay, that can be good. And it is sometimes well done. I mean good people have done it. Anything can be done right. But mostly it’s a donned sweater discussing its cats. The guy who won – by way of example – was a guy who told this very tender story about his pet bunny when he was a child. Let me also emphasize that they also say your story has to have stakes. Which no one’s did because it’s in Ann Arbor.

Joe: Not like the steaks you eat? That would have been a great story about a bunny.

Sean: No, it’s all very salmonella. To win The Moth you have to have a good standup routine or you have to have a deep story that happened to you. Then you’ll succeed in life. You will succeed if you write about some event in your life and your life has events in it and you write about them. The end. You will succeed. You will go to the top of a seller list, to the top of any fucking thing like that. The Moth people are grandmotherly hipster timeout marmosets of marm. The Moth is pet bunnies. I guess he put a leash on it and pulled the leash too hard and it had a little cough and he thought it was his fault. It might have led to some respiratory failure down the line, but otherwise it turned out okay. Everything turned out okay.

Joe: That was his story?

Sean: And that won.

Joe: Tell us your story.

Sean: Okay, my story. It was annoyingly better received than I had hoped, but I still need to improve my craft. I got laughs at the right places. I was surprised because it was very “Fuck The Moth.” I gave my dead cat head, or my dead cat’s head, or I’m the cat, was the belabored point. It got the highest score and the lowest score from the judges. It would have won if the last judge hadn’t given it the lowest score. But it got a response from the over-sized crowd.

Joe: Maybe you’re way more Ann Arbor than you realize.

Sean: I have such a wily and spastic vibe, Joe. My Libra rising stays far in the suburbs where that much free thinking lies. They grind little cum-moans like they’ve been busy gentrifying, like sex was waiting for them slow as ever. Anyone who tells you you’re connected prays to the wallet and has another brewery leaking in their shorts. But the only thing more lose-lose than writing is being in love.

Joe: I didn’t want to go to The Moth thing because I don’t like NPR.

Sean: Yeah, it’s pretty prissy shit.

Joe: I have trouble articulating to people why I hate public radio. I don’t like how Terry Gross always insists on people saying whether they believe in God or not. I really didn’t like when she did that to Herzog, and to Stephen King. Plus, I felt like she just hated Herzog and I could tell. And part of it’s that, when I paint houses with people and did construction work, NPR was always on. And all those musical interludes that introduce the shows would get stuck in my head and they would signal different times of the day. And I remember one – I don’t know, All Things Considered? ­–­ and it always came on at 4:00, but my boss never thought 4:00 was the real end of the day. And so that music created this Pavlovian response of “This day is not over yet.” That’s another reason I hate it. Plus I think it’s always about boring stuff. Like I was arguing with a friend about this once and it was perfect timing; the next segment was “Next up on NPR, the history of parking garages.”

Sean: You know, it’s a disappointment because that’s the closest we’ll have to something wide-spread literate and that’s what it has to be, its own bedpan hope. Something that nationally involves literature has to be this well fucking meant.

Joe: What do you dislike about NPR?

Sean: It’s like Whole Foods. It’s like going to Whole Foods and counting the correct civilians.

Joe: Don’t you want to “Feel good about where you shop” though?

Sean: That’s exactly it. People feel good when they listen to it, and that’s the fucking problem. That’s exactly it. I think we nailed the problem. People shouldn’t feel good about anything they do. Ever. Especially concerning art. Especially that. It should be a torment. At best.

Joe: Speaking of Whole Foods. One thing I like about Gil the Nihilist is that it is so bold in that “exercising sentence construction” way that Carr seems to talk about. For example “Ah spiffy. Ah shone best for last. Yuppie entitlement. Marathon winners. Clout of Whole Food enema gassing uppity.” But it is also very much about life, even the everyday, the every day: the indignity of shitty employment, trying to live in a country founded by puritans, and most of all it’s about love. It’s unabashedly a book about love. This is from Gil: “I love this girl who left. She was tiny. She sang me songs she wrote me. I love her more than all the pretty others’ petty takings. I mauled her till she escaped. I can’t even spit because of this girl.” From Edmund we get: “The problem was I tried. I love you. Without apology! I want you comfortable, sated, willfully mine!” Christopher Higgs praised the book’s newness and its now-ness, but in some senses it’s also kind of ancient: in its Shakespearean palace balcony and wilderness wandering scenes, in taking on a topic – love – that other writers have written about certainly, and sometimes even in word choice and sentence construction. And I’m wondering if you as a writer think about trying to navigate between the new and the now versus the old and familiar.

Sean: I don’t think there’s any way to set about being of any time without sacrificing your art. That’s stuff said after it’s done. Because it’s a response, critical – Not even a response. Let’s not try to connote any kind of message, any kind of hold on any kind of zeitgeist with the work itself. I don’t even think the kids doing the zeitgeist shit mean to. The alt lit youngins. I don’t think they aim at their age. Who’s born that natural? Ultra sexy. I’m too born.

Joe: For me as a reader I had trouble discerning the logistics of this love triangle. I thought because it was called Gil the Nihilist, Gil would be the sad, doomed hero. And I thought Edmund was going to take the role of the one who gets Starr and doesn’t deserve her. But Edmund has lots of really beautiful things to say about love too and seems to be in a similar plight as Gil. So I guess I was wondering why is the book named after Gil? How would you describe what unites Gil and Edmund and also the difference between them? What separates them in your mind?

Sean: The subject is love, lack of its return, so the focus has to be hate. And so Edmund behaves with hatred and Gil personifies apathetic disgust. Everything I do concerns hatred. Gil’s maybe closer to indifference because he doesn’t act out. He doesn’t do any big actions in the book. Starr and Edmund do the work. She’s equally a piece of shit because she represents love, and no one alive can represent that. And so they’re kind of the same, they’re me saying I hate people, myself foremost, more as an action than a sadness. Edmund’s main articulation about love can only come through the corpse of a child he’s fucking.

Joe: There’s this one– actually not even a sentence, but a direction, when Starr is talking to the bum, and just those words “(shy, genuine) Oh I’m flat out not good enough for you.” That was such a weird moment for me in the book. What happened there? Why is she suddenly shy and genuine with this bum?

Sean: I wrote the phrase without parentheses and it sounded smartass. But I thought: she means it. She means that Gil, her, and Edmund are way below the station of a bum. The book’s not a statement about how the author, the characters, or anybody are better than society because they’re poetasters or clever. It’s about how they’re below, away from, full of hate about, not because they want to be part of it, but because they are isolated by birth.

Joe: The bum was born too, though. What makes them different and lesser?

Sean: What sets anyone aside doesn’t make them special. Being a bum is the main human vocation. And the bum in this situation is trying to help, is being shown as way more of a human being than them because of it. He might have went to college too, but a degree often shows you as the highest sucker and lowest human these days.

Joe: They’ve been warped somehow, would you say? How did they get to that?

Sean: They’re non-men, and they go into the world, and world the way it is is enough to make them, and myself, want nothing to do with it in any sense. Societally, on a human level, on any level. I mean, you can’t avoid the fucking world, but you can want to. There’s no explanation. They’re coasting fungal. They’re not partaking, they’re not trying to be part of life. That’s why I like Carr, I like his work, because what we’re doing is similar, but flipped. We’re doing inverse things. We both cover life, but he’s covering a palpable life, even when absurd. His style is more coherent. When people write kind of autobiographically or straightforward I take it as a type of optimism. It’s an embrace. That’s why, conversely, people who do arty shit are called faggots. Arty shit divorces itself from life even if it’s reflecting it, just by practice. A straightforward thing is not shying away. It’s like saying I’m not going to be pretentious enough to place myself above life. I’m in it and I’m not going to ignore the fact that I’m in it. And you need both sides – you can’t be just one way or the other. If it was all just arty shit there’d be no value in it. Because the arty shit needs a life to bemoan. It has to be chickenshit, it has to be craven, it has to be fuck you. It has to be anti-life, and then they balance each other out. They can coexist. There’s all kinds of art. But the art for art for art’s art side should be trampled as it is. That’s what I was trying to dookie in the Grand Budapest review.

Joe: So you know I’m a big fan of your movie reviews, but you also know I’m not always a fan of the movies you like. Only God Forgives being a prime example.

Sean: Yeah, we gotta talk about that!

Joe: It’s my favorite review you’ve ever written. I know it was your first, but it’s also my favorite, especially “Aren’t we begging to lose a fight every time art is made” and “Chips a space there at which doctors will shrug.” So I just wanna know, how did you feel when I told E to tell you “Daddy Goz is a piece of furniture, and what is Ann Coulter doing in the film?”

Sean: I remember that. Did she relay my message that “You’re cutting off my hands”?

Joe: I think it was “Joe’s cutting off my hands and my heart.” One thing that I particularly objected to in the movie that you actually point out– You have this quote “I have beheld Gosling long since proven far above his prettiness… dragging someone nowhere by the roof of their mouth.” I like your sentence a lot, but I totally didn’t buy that scene because you can’t drag someone around by the roof of their mouth. You know why you’ve never seen this in a movie before? It’s not because it’s such a bold idea. It’s cuz logistically it wouldn’t work. If you tried to do that you’d just get your fingers bitten off. You don’t put your fingers in the mouth of someone you’re beating up.

Sean: I think it was supposed to start the film. The first thing I heard about the film is that it starts with him dragging someone by the roof of their mouth. And I go: fuck, this sounds amazing. Then, it’s not in the beginning. It’s very detached. The film is maybe the most detached film ever made. I like when things don’t make sense, but it’s purposefully troubling. And I don’t know that it works necessarily. Not that it’s suppose to.

Joe: No, I want you to fight me.

Sean: I don’t know how to defend it.

Joe: I mean, it sets Gosling up as this big badass, so we’re expecting him to beat up the cop at the end, so when that doesn’t happen that’s certainly interesting because it subverts our expectations.

Sean: You know what it is? I thought that that scene would set him up as a badass, but I took it as a very impotent thing. Everything he does is impotent. The guy he beat up didn’t do anything. I don’t remember any motivation for him to do that. I remember him just doing it. And when he screams at that girl to take her dress off, anything he does – the few things he accomplishes – are totally pointless and very impotent. He’s on a castration holiday. Or is a writer. It’s all very goddam it.

Joe: Alright, we both just saw Palo Alto. We’re both writing reviews about Palo Alto right now. So maybe we can help each other out. Your review of a film that’s not by Franco said of Franco that “He has intentions and brings attention to something so far below his pretty, unhurt face – The world just wants your face you survivable cunt… Franco so far officially defines the idea of pretension and pretentious art.” What did you think of Palo Alto?

Sean: You know I gave it a really harsh take before because he’s fuckable. But there’s books where you think just make the movie. That book doesn’t need to be a book. A director gave it style. Because he doesn’t have any style. He’s not even straightforward; he’s just doing a literary jig. His fashion sense isn’t aware, isn’t on par with the passing local singularity that sucks us. He’s clingy about time. People who are never punched can’t see outer space.

Joe: One thing I noticed about his stories is that he’s always talking about famous authors.

Sean: You can’t give the canon road head.

Joe: And this is something – I read Palo Alto really recently – and for me I thought it was fine. I didn’t think there was any real reason to dislike his writing.

Sean: It’s not necessarily terrible or anything.

Joe: Well, in a way it really reminded me of teenage writers who suddenly–

Sean: Yeah, it’s amateurish in a crotch way.

Joe: Who suddenly realize that they can do certain things: they can write really violent stuff, they’re allowed to take down conversations that don’t advance the plot, they are allowed to just use the word “good” as an adjective like Ernest Hemingway rather than finding a more precise adjective. That they can do these things. And the book is full of these sort of teenage writer delights – which could be annoying, but that’s also what the book is about in a way. It’s about this sense of reckless teenage freedom that we wish we had back, and the boldness that can come with that. So in some ways it seemed appropriate to me. And I was wondering when I watched the movie if that was going to be sort of replicated in Gia Coppola’s take on it, since she’s a freshman director, whether she was a great choice because of that rather than somebody who was more experienced. And it might be the case. It didn’t seem like a perfect film to me from a director’s standpoint, but she brought a rawness to it that a veteran director might not have accomplished.

Sean: No, I agree totally. I was just thinking how divorced I feel from the world. Franco has big status in the world. Someone who lives that life and looks like that – I will never allow them in my mind to be an artist. But I know it’s happened. I know beautiful rich famous people have written great art. It has happened. But not him. He doesn’t get it. He’s the scapegoat for me. I’m scapegoating him. And I don’t know about Palo Alto, but I’ve seen terrible writing by him that’s lukewarm as fuck. The lukewarmness of it. To be that famous and to be that lukewarm and to have that and to say I can just step into this literary art scum town… There’s something cocky about it, something without pain. Here’s the thing. I’m not going to mentally acknowledge him until he does something that I can’t deny, you know? I got a thing, a prejudice, I got prejudices, a Franco prejudice. Broken Tower hurt my feelings, cuz I went into it thinking “Someone’s doing a film about Hart Crane? I don’t care if they fuck it up, just do a film about Hart Crane.” I mean he fucked it up so much he actually pissed me off. And I thought, how do you piss me off with a Hart Crane film? If it does anything, if it’s just someone reading his work over blackness… He made it annoying somehow. No matter, we’re all only in his fingernail forever. Let me say this real quick. When Franco was in the news for almost fucking the seventeen-year-old, I said nice try, you almost made me like you for a minute. But she’s too old. That’s my take. That’s all I have to say about Franco.

Joe: Glad we got that sound bite into the world.

Sean: Franco. His pencil-dicked try at being cool. At being wrong. A pencil-dicked try at being wrong. I already cornered the market on being fucking complicit.

Joe: In the book (Palo Alto) there’s also a lot more bullying and more racist stuff, so one thing I was stricken with – this movies’ softer core in a lot of ways. What’s wrong with these kids. I mean what’s the tragedy here? That a guy and a girl both like each other and just can’t say it? What’s the problem in their lives? Their parents seem to like them, they get along with everyone around them.

Sean: It’s very zeitgeisty, very Bret Easton Ellis rich problems. Which Ellis is the man for – he’s the guy to go to for that. Franco will never be Ellis. Ellis gets it. And it’s a different generation, too. The generation we’re in, or below us or whatever, that’s currently young kids is like– It’s not nihilism, it’s like this obnoxious positivity that’s somehow nihilistic without wanting to be. It’s also random but trying to be genuine. I’d fuck it.

Joe: I’m pretty sick myself of the ironic / genuine dichotomy.

Sean: Yeah, that’s for young folks. That’s for beautiful people. Both of those things are for beautiful people. I have no idea about either one. I don’t practice irony or genuineness. I don’t even know what either one of those are. I’m nickel and diming hatred and revenge.

Joe: In “Buff Ruins,” which appears in Hobart 13, you tell us the story, sort of, of how you agreed to attend a nightmarish basketball camp in exchange for your parents’ permission to see Reservoir Dogs. Basic question: what movies or books have been formative experiences for you, where you realized this is what you want to do and this is how you want to do it?

Sean: Possession. When I was 18. My first girlfriend began my lifelong domino punchline of being fucked over for loving too mean. Possession was the formation of all my shit, and also why I didn’t blow bubbles in her piss. Cuz of Possession.

Joe: A.S. Byatt’s Possession?

Sean: Oh, no. That’s the English writer, right?

Joe: Yeah.

Sean: No, what’s that? That’s kind of dark fabulist, right?

Joe: What’s your Possession?

Sean: Possession is a Polish film with Sam Neill. Way before he was famous.

Joe: Okay, good. I was hoping it wasn’t the A.S. Byatt book.

Sean: What’s that book?

Joe: Don’t worry about that.

Sean: Yeah, Possession’s a Zulawski film from 1980 with Isabel Adjani.

Joe: This is hilarious because I went on your Facebook page the other day to message you for this interview, and I saw that one of your favorite movies was Possession, but Facebook misinterpreted it.

Sean: Yeah, cuz it put up the poster–

Joe: The poster of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, which is based on the A.S. Byatt book. So when I saw that– It’s based off this book that doesn’t seem Sean Kilpatrick-y at all.

Sean: Oh yeah, I never saw that. If you click on it it takes you to the right Possession movie.

Joe: I just thought that I didn’t know you any more.

Sean: They used to have the right poster. I don’t know why they did that. So this movie is– Zulawski is everything I want to do with my life. He’s the perfect guy for me. He’s my guy. It’s the most intense movie ever made. Speaking of cocky assholes, I showed it to my ex and she cried just from the trauma of it. That’s why she’ll always be a loveless folk singer who squats on the floor. We’re all boys at the bar picking beer over being her pa. Anyway, her bust gets applauded without me. Possession’s probably the only statement about love ever made. It’s two people in full seizure with each other. I don’t know how to describe it. There’s nothing that’s ever been made like his films. The destruction, the love through hate – it all comes from Zulawski. His ecstatic crimes. Bertrand Blier’s Menage is a big influence on Gil. People flanking the caste system by being sublime. With books, the Beats brought me into other shit as a teenager. As they did many. Naked Lunch was my book back then. Still is. I think Burroughs holds up. People try to say, you know, that’s for teenagers. Burroughs holds up throughout for me. He holds up. Because I’m not the type of tinkler who believes I must mature into something – or anything where maturity’s involved. Maturity – Billy Collins mannequin maturity, quirky is okay, blood spray is not – is not involved for me at all with the process. Besides developing better lines.

Joe: Maturity can be safe. It can be too safe. Too self-assured.

Sean: Yes, in this country it’s used that way. It should be used in the proper way, just literal improvement of a specific technicality. But we’re all humping the idea of a voice.

Joe: To become bolder and more reckless and more experimental rather than to become more and more neutered and more and more limited as an artist.

Sean: It’s used in a very neutered way in this country, as is every motherfucking thing. I don’t know where else, but especially in America it’s used as a pillow, the idea of maturity. And it’s used to sucker people into a type of life. There’s no life in America worth living. At all. The end.

Joe: Any thoughts on the Isla Vista killings? I haven’t studied it–

Sean: Yeah.

Joe: But there’s seems to be a glaring irony in his lines–

Sean: This guy. Oh yeah.

Joe: “I don’t know what you girls don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.” Part of me wants to say I have a pretty good idea of what these girls didn’t see in him, or what they did see in him.

Sean: This kid has stolen, by his looks, as has Franco, the art from geeks and punked it out into a cliché, and his beef with women is unearned, and confusing, because he basically was a lady, if you stare into his eyes dreamily enough. He should have dated me, and rejected my love, and I should have hereafter cooked and eaten him tank top first! He’s as merely beautiful as anyone I’ve touched.

Joe: I witnessed your crisis during the film Happy Birthday to Me. It was not pretty. You who writes some of the weirdest stuff I’ve ever read, clutching a bottle of Wild Turkey like a buoy and screaming out for some kind of meaning. I’m just wondering how you explain the sort of contradiction, that you’re somebody who writes very weird stuff but at some points you just want a story?

Sean: There has to be some kind of path back from narration. Even if it’s abstract, there has to be something indescribably gone. That movie was aloof and it was afloat. And I don’t think it was anything except having me cry. I love this story about Jackson Pollack. You know everyone’s always saying my kid could do that and all this garbage? He was drunk and on the floor because he was tubular, etc. So he’s on the floor holding a paintbrush at a party. A critic within earshot goes “This is random, this is random gebbeh-geh.” He goes, oh yeah? There’s a door across the room, a doorknob, the door closed. Okay, he goes, dips his paintbrush and flips the paint all the way to the doorknob, hits the doorknob. Oh yeah, that’s random. Nails the doorknob. That’s what you gotta have. You gotta be able to do that. 


image: Sean Kilpatrick