October 6th, 2010 WW Editorial Staff | Special Section Stories
 

Stephen Elliott

     
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Wickedly funny TheRumpus.net rouser and The Adderall Diaries madman (psst! James Franco just bought the movie rights to the BDSM, drugs and death-filled tome). He appears 4:30 pm Saturday with Ander Monson on the Columbia Sportswear stage.

What are your favorite themes to write about?

Previously I’ve written a lot about sex, because I’m a sexually complicated person. Before that I wrote a lot about group homes because I was raised in group homes. Sometimes I write about sex and group homes, like in Happy Baby, which was my best novel. But right now I don’t feel like writing about sex; I’ve been writing about intimacy instead. Sex can be a big part of intimacy, but it’s not the part I’m really interested in currently. Also, weirdly, I’m writing a lot about media and the fractured media landscape, trying to make sense of it.

Name three books on your nightstand or shelf right now.

I’m not saying I read them, but Termite Parade by Josh Mohr, Inferno by Eileen Myles (I’m very excited about this book), and The Insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolaño.

What’s your personal writing ritual?

I write in the morning, generally on my computer (MacBook). I try to write before checking email or going online, for at least a couple of hours. These days I spend my creative time on the Daily Rumpus, an email I send out four or five times a week.

The most beautiful word in the English language is:

This is like some kind of trick question. Someone is going to have a great answer for this.

What authors made you want to pick up a pen in the first place?

Bukowski was hugely important to me when I was younger. I read Bukowski and I just loved him and I thought, “Oh, it’s totally OK to be a self-involved poet.” The important part of the equation is that I really liked his writing in a way that I hadn’t connected with any other author. I saw that writing from personal experience could be really powerful and more than just an exercise in narcissism.

Name a book you think is highly overrated. Be honest.

Probably also Bukowski? I don’t know, he was certainly inconsistent. His worst stuff is way below his best stuff. But he put it all out there. I can’t think of a highly overrated book off the top of my head. If I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it. How about a movie? Inception was highly overrated.

The dumbest thing I ever did is…

Maybe running away from the children’s shelter. Or there was the first time I met a dominatrix (without paying for it). I was like 21. I should have stayed with her but I left town like a coward. I should have made porn when I was younger.

The best piece of advice I ever got was…

I think it was something Tobias Wolff said about integrity. The gist was: integrity.

What’s your literary guilty pleasure?

Malcolm Gladwell. But I don’t feel guilty about it, so I guess that doesn’t count. Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, was kind of a guilty pleasure.

The closest I’ve ever come to quitting is…

Quitting writing? Why would I do that? It’s not like a job.

Most recent nightmare:

I was at a Metallica concert.

Your cure for writer’s block:

Time.

A dead person you’d like to meet (they’d be alive during the meeting):

Jean Genet.

What was your favorite book as a kid?

In fourth grade I was obsessed with Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind, both by V.C. Andrews.

Please paste a short paragraph from a story, poem, article, blog post, etc., you’re currently working on below:

From this morning’s Daily Rumpus email: Went down to the water then rode from north Brooklyn to south. A meeting, credit cards. Then back, a movie. Bank heists, movie stars. Everything was right there on the screen, nothing to think about. A sandwich. This morning, like you’re going to step through the stairs they’re so soft, and if you were to actually lean on the railings they’d fall off. Across the street Duane Reade is opening directly in front of a pharmacy that’s been in the neighborhood for years. He was thinking about lying. He had sworn off lying, but he was coming back around. He said he missed her. She said she was in love. He asked with who and she said someone she’d known for a while but hadn’t known she’d had feelings for. He said You’re always falling in love and she said, Same. And he said, No. Then he wanted to say dirty things but knew what happened last time. She just stopped talking to him altogether. Then she said You only like me because you want to fuck me. And he said, You know what, I’ve been a much better friend to you than you’ve been to me. Why didn’t she go? She only liked him because he wanted to fuck her. She was attracted to his attraction. She needed something to reject. But they weren’t supposed to talk about it. It was the current running across their wires but they were only allowed to mention the rubber casing. Once a year, maybe, if he was careful. It was basically worth it. He stood in front of the closed pharmacy. The one across the street would be open 24 hours. Would the old man hire someone to compete? He called her back. She said she couldn’t talk; she was driving. Everyone talks and drives, he said. We text and drive too. What was it about his girlfriend? It was like an outdoor cage, he thought, with no bars and no roof. But you need a roof. I’m getting off the phone, she said. I miss you, he said. He was thinking about the last time he saw her. They were finished, lying on the couch, and he was running his fingers along her waist and her hips and her thighs. When you touch me it’s like you’re really touching me, she said, It’s like you’re trying to memorize me with your fingertips. That was exactly what he was trying to do, because he had a bad memory and didn’t know how to paint.

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