Andrew Byrds: Throughout the book, the few insights we have into Anthony, a spree killing megalomaniac, presents him as having a haphazard philosophy on life, constantly contradicting himself and feigning a prophet in the eyes of his brother, KP. Would Anthony’s character be considered a personification of the empty cynical/nihilistic outlook that’s risen during this generation, or an example of someone not wanting to be right, but just to be heard?
Brielle Brilliant: He’s playing. With the questions of nihilism, the impact of kick verse sentence, water verse beer, gun, etc. But his materials are shitty; they’re so obvious, it disappoints me. Gun? Come on. Can’t you just throw a bunch of spoons at people or tie yourself to a chair and whisper Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to the walking? It’d be a lot more exciting, still mean nothing, and no one would die. But maybe he did that already, I dunno. I wonder about want.
AB:I wondered about want myself while reading THE SPUD. Every character has this semblance of desire but never fully achieving anything, some of their goals seem obvious but either they are too mired up by the past to move forward (KP) or they supplement their own identities with someone else’s (JD), so they become husks of obsession. It’d be nice if the broken/tired minds of wayward people would bloodlet their anger through bizarre performance art, yeah? Anthony seemed obsessed with legacy, so he went out in violence and pseudo-fuck-the-man fashion, do you think building up/maintaining a legacy is what drives people to err more towards unspeakable acts than quiet, respectable lives?
BB: Well desire is not an individual room in a house of identity, it’s the plumbing or the insulation. You can’t isolate it from the other arrangements, socieconomicperceptual. And they all re-orient. “I wanna cigarette” meets “Health” meets “There’s my friend” meets “No Cash” meets “Fresh Air” meets “Nicotine gum $” and then you find yourself outside bumming a cigarette from your friend. And someone looks at that person and says “I can’t understand her. Does she actually want to quit?” as if the want is singular, clear, and chosen. It’s impossible to locate singular reasons for actions or lack of action. And to only have a few semblances of sentences and actions of a hyper-linguistic, adrenalized script-flipper like Anthony, no certainty in saying it came from his thinking-legacy or in a minute perception of gun plus bore. We want explanations to find a fix. So did Anthony, he couldn’t endure a life of continuous desire-webs; he couldn’t find all the joy or connection in them.
AB:KP spends most of the novel doing deliveries alongside JD, an admiring fan of Anthony’s. Though they are a few instances of contemplation/lamentations from KP about his brother, rarely does he consider the whys of what happened, instead there is more focus on JD’s fanboying for Anthony as she gradually wants more and more to become him. Does our culture’s fascination with violence take precedent over the victims of such events? Is understanding the shadow of the action itself even conceivable when these instances could be random acts of lashing out against society?
BB: Yeah, easy to get distracted by the narratives (which are funded, so better publicized and then contagious) but it’s a public health problem. There needs to be funding for the CDC to study and publish the risks of using firearms. We don’t like to talk about money since it’s technical/boring/ugly, but there are so many people devoted to breaking /adjusting the narratives, in hopes of moving toward more helpful, human movements, but it’s hard without funding.
Did you see Spring Breakers?
AB:I actually haven’t seen Spring Breakers (yet). Why do you ask?
BB: The poppy loop of a nightmare feat. $, disney, yung girls, bjs etc
AB: aaahhh, I see what you mean. Does the glorification of fucked up behavior in media romanticize the idea that these people are rebelling against a society that’s too constrictive?
BB: Hmmm I dunno, but I fucking love Spring Breakers, it’s exact and sticks in freaky ways that make sense to me in all sorts of my ages. I wonder what you’d think.
*AB watches Spring Breakers for the first time*
AB: Hokay, I see what you mean about it now. The creeds most of the characters live by are believable, yet puerile, and because of this leads to hedonistic bullfuckery, etc, etc. I liked it, though. It complements THE SPUD rather well in that what drives the characters aren’t anymore ambitious than small-town boredom and wanting to make things less mundane. Would you say that’s an apt deduction?
BB: In that word “drive,” I see steering wheels, pedals, carriages, baseball announcers, computer storage, grocery trips, revved faces, the letter “d” the letter “r” the letter “i” the letter “v” the letter “e,” and a certain kind of acting prep that involves highlighting and drawing arrows on scenes. Other actors prefer to repeat the same line over and over and over and that’s how they get to understand (and become) the character. Others find images, memories, colors, in the situations in front of them, to build. Some only need makeup or a slouch to be there. Others just take a script and show up.
I guess I’m thinking of how we measure performances. The words we use. We say they’re “convincing” “real” “forced” “apt” etc. Reminds me of this meditation teacher talking about measurement. The teacher repeated the word over and over, laughing. Then he became very quiet. His students were confused. Then, he screamed. That was the end of the talk. That made a lot of sense to me. I think about it a lot.
AB:Do you have a theatre background at all? The non-linear structure of the SPUD, especially in how the dialogue is shaped, seems geared in the same way naturalism theatre is.
BB: Mostly playmobiles, movies, and prank calls, but my mom taught Peter and the Wolf dance classes in our living room, and sometimes, I’d play The Wolf or wait in the bathroom. We didn’t really go to many plays where you buy tickets for a stage, but lots of movies. I was always “at the movies.” There’s permission. I’d be sitting in a ditch with an older guy but it was allowed because “I was at the movies.” And the internet.
AB:Did you have any cinematic influences when it came to writing THE SPUD?
BB: What do you mean by influences?
AB:I dunno, usually my own approaches to imagery and description stem from the cinematography of my favorite films. Sometimes the narrative is influenced by films I’ve seen, Like LOST HIGHWAY or THE ROAD.
BB: Yeah, at what point do you see the stem? Like when does a stem happen for you? As Andrew.
Articulating the stem usually builds it for me, which is fun and also weird because it grants an arbitrary kind of authority to the articulation. But in other peoples images words sounds, it’s usually a specific moment that I see a stem. And then I’m traveling. Which can be really fun and also boring and also scary. It’s crazy how much we all travel. It’s cool you travelled to Lost Highway and The Road during The SPUD; I’ve been to those places too, feels like a long time ago.
Many of us talk about the same movies and read about the same movies and watch the same movies, so we live in the same movies. We don’t always get to choose. Like living in a re-occurring horror movie of shootings and sex commercials. So the influence for me was more movie itself. Moving images. The whens of the stem. How one movie feels like another movie that feels like that time in gym class that feels like reading that feels like kissing. I dunno. How we organize our information and sight. To be helpful, harmful, both, neither.
When I choose, the movies I prefer to live in are like, Herzog’s How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck or desert walks with laughing and stuff.
AB:Going off on your thought that everyone lives in the same movie, was that a reason you set your novel in Idaho? Usually one of the last states people look towards is Idaho.
BB: To clarify: we don’t all live in the same movie, but it feels that way when similar images and speech patterns are being circulated. That’s why the book is a movie re-run and can feel nauseating.
And yeah, I was living in Idaho and a lot of people didn’t know where or what it was. It’s a geographic mystery, but it looks and sounds familiar. It feels very American in that way.
AB:Did you actively try to write THE SPUD in such a way that it would be different than other books that approach such topics? As in, do you feel it has taken a ubiquitous subject matter like semi passionate acts of violence and offered an otherwise underplayed perspective?
Also, the geographical places in THE SPUD, would someone be able to take a road trip and see these places based on actual locations?
BB: Yeah, the structure is intentional, and yeah, if someone wanted to, they can take a drive and see the places.
Have you ever done that with a book/movie? Do you see interviewing as a way of doing that?
AB:as in, have I ever done interviews in such a way that it would be different than typical approaches? Like, trying to break the patterns of traditional interviews?
BB: I was referring to the road trip-part, your 2nd question. Like do you see interviewing as a way of making that kinda road trip. But also curious literally, if you’ve ever gone somewhere specifically because it’s in a book or movie.
AB:in some respects interviewing people allows me to see the world as they perceive it, not just from a philosophical standpoint but literally as they describe the places they grew up. I was born and raised in small town Iowa, still here and working my way out. I’ve interviewed people from Jersey, LA, Florida, NYC, a lot of places. And I see that in their writing: I think there is some truth to this idea of east coast/West coast/southern/Midwestern writing styles. It’s all about echopraxia as well–usually I take on their mannerisms and feel as if I’ve grown up in their cities and see everything they’ve talked about. It makes me feel less lonely. Sometimes.
I haven’t taken any road trips based on books I’ve read. I want to at some point. Steinbeck made Salinas sound amazing.
BB: Yeah, that’s incredible. All the travel that talking/reading can do. One sentence and an identity turns. One image and you’re a new person. I really believe in that. I have to.
AB:It seems apparent that not only with writing in general, but with your writing of THE SPUD has had an impact on your identity. Most writers create a work as a means of telling a story, others as a means of exploring new territory. How has the process of creating THE SPUD affected your own growth as a writer?
BB: I don’t have a growth ruler, but I’ve learned a little more about how people see and speak words, in books, movies, and talking. And I’ve become increasingly connected to 3s.
After “finishing” all The SPUD stuff, I made this film about a little girl who becomes a streaker. Streaking feels like a direct adjustment to the spud questions. And in October, I made a three-piece series Illocutionary Hay, which is speech acts of hay in different forms –a 17 minute 35 second long video on an iPhone, a 63 page book , and message on a voice recorder. It’s that 3, again.
I don’t know if I’d call any of this growth, but adjustments to the question(s).
AB:I look at it as a way of seeing one’s previous work as, in even the smallest ways, tailoring how the next project goes for an artist. Not necessarily in terms of content, but using those adjustments, as you say, to galvanize further creative endeavors. A lot of work seems to be, wham bam thank you ma’am, like a writer or a painter finishes something and that’s that, it’s a finished thing. Which is boring to me and is somewhat disingenuous to why people may create art in the first place. I guess that philosophy is constantly in flux, though. Like, one purpose for me is to recognize the brutality of the world while challenging myself to create something beautiful when it seems impossible to reclaim beauty. All of that is to say, it’s admirable to see that you didn’t go through a break period in creating art, ya know?
Also, how was the book tour?
BB: I don’t see the separations so much. Reasons and impulses and breaks and starts. All discrete extensions. Like, having an idea is a celebration in itself.
The book tour was so special. To live in strangers’ homes and words n drives and meet so many people. It was also just really special to be with two of my best friends and favorite artists, Leah Danze and Lace Carter. They’re two of my favorite people in the world and I hardly get to spend time with them since we all live in different places now, so having a whole week and a half to be together and make things and perform and read and just fucking eat dinner casually instead of This Is Our Only Hour kinda hang was so fun n nourishing. There were some super dreamy days in Vermont where they worked on a mural and I filmed them and walked in the snow and thought I saw a frozen duck but it was just icicle.
Oh and philly! I loved philly and and two of my other best friends were there, so, yeah, fRiEnDsHiP. Very important. Who knew? Has taken me like, decades to learn. And now I’m cheesy.
AB:Did the tour help galvanize your creative energy to get working on new projects? You managed some a few questions ago, but since then are you working on anything specific next or just rolling with the punches?
BB: Yeah, a feature film to shoot next year. Looking for gut lamp people. And some microscopic dances.