For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Dennis Cooper wrote that “Kevin Killian is the greatest unsung genius in contemporary American literature.” Part of me thinks, “That seems about right,” but of course he is being very very kind.
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
I’ve read the new biography of Sybil Thorndike (A Star of Life, by Jonathan Croall)—it’s cool; I’ve watched the film (Untitled), a biting satire of the contemporary art world; I’ve listened to Glen Campbell’s 1964 single “Guess I’m Dumb,” written and produced by Brian Wilson; I’ve looked at the giant monograph the Philadelphia Museum put out on Duchamp’s Etant Donnes; I’ve eaten a new kind of supposedly organic marshmallow—and most of these things I’ve reviewed on Amazon, where I maintain my originary status as one of Amazon’s top 100 reviewers more or less by telling what I think about everything.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
L Magazine’s readers keen on the poet Jack Spicer (1925-1965) might queue up for the 1961 memoir Twelve Dead Geese by Eugene de Thassy. 12DG is the heartwarming story of a Hungarian boy’s flight from Communist tyranny into a postwar Paris filled with glamour, gorgeous women, and geese, and it was partially written by Spicer during a period of poverty De Thassy’s handouts helped to alleviate. (What a sentence!) Some of it has that Unbearable Lightness of Being charm to it. But De Thassy wasn’t a celebrity per se, so let me think again. Oh! I understand that Raquel Welch is coming out with a tell-all memoir. I’ll vote for that, she is a goddess.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I’m old enough to remember the days when one could pay the rent in a horrid Manhattan apartment merely by selling one’s blood. The blood banks wouldn’t let you come in more than once a week, but there were four of them in a neat ring all around Times Square, so you could rotate and go four times a week, eating lots of doughnuts in between. It didn’t make me brilliant, but I was very light-headed.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
A reader in the Midwest read my story, “Spurt,” that’s in Impossible Princess, when it first appeared in an anthology Michael Lowenthal edited. Some time later Michael forwarded me a letter of complaint from the reader. He (Midwestern guy) had been on a public bus going to work, reading Michael’s anthology, and my story grew so grotesque and upsetting that he, an epileptic, had thrown a fit and wound up wetting the pants of his best suit. Now he wanted his dry-cleaning bill paid. To this day I rate that bill as the zenith of interactivity with my readers.
Have you ever written anything you’d like to take back?
Ha, I was tricked once by a print arts journal whose editors asked the contribitors to submit our “juvenilia. It was all going to be good fun. Was I ever shocked to see that every one of the contributors, but me, chose to regard as their juvenilia their very first poem they got published in The New Yorker or whatever, whereas the editors printed a facsimile version of a “novel” my cousin and I wrote when we were eight and nine years old. It was called Purple Death. Who looked sillier then? But I guess I wouldn’t not have wanted to have written Purple Death, so let me think about this regret thing some more. Didn’t Chaucer ultimately recant the Canterbury Tales? Maybe our older selves should be forcibly removed from our younger selves, to protect all parties.