Brian Allen Carr is one of the best writers working today. And yes, I’m willing to throw down if you care to disagree on that level. His work is fresh and unique and exciting in a really weird way. He also gave me goose bumps the last time I saw/heard him read. However, the best thing about Carr is his sense of humor. I’ve gotten drunk with many authors, and some of my best hazy memories come from getting drunk and talking nonsense/books/writing/frontera issues with this guy. In any case, he has a new collection out with Lazy Fascist Press, The Shape of Every Monster Yet to Come, so I decided to ask him a few things. Here’s what he had to say.
GI: So I pitched a review of Motherfucking Sharks to a venue. They said yes. I sent them the review. They couldn’t publish it because it had the word motherfucking in the title. Can you talk me through the process behind selecting that motherfucking title?
BAC: Man, I wish I could. Thing is, it’s not my title. The book’s not really my concept. It’s Cameron’s. He came up with the title, and I think he’d actually asked several people to write the book before he asked me. I was, maybe, the tenth person he asked. Cameron is perhaps the best young writer working, so why he didn’t write the thing himself is beyond me. But Jim Thompson is one of my favorite writers, and he didn’t come up with the title or concept for The Killer Inside Me, and Motherfucking Sharks gave me the opportunity to be like one of my idols, so I jumped at it.
GI: You teach people how to write. Why is grammar in this country in such a deplorable state?
BAC: See, you’re bilingual, which means, beyond most, you understand language. I don’t think anyone who speaks one language really understands how language functions. The same could be said of musicianship–you don’t know how music works just because you can play one song. Americans suck at English because we suck at every language. We’re faking it. It’s just the one song we know. Knowing two languages makes you question the functions, the rules.
But I’ll say this: language is made to change.
If there are flaws, consistently, it is because the language needs to be improved.
So: their, they’re, there. That needs to be fixed, in my opinion. Two and to, too.
GI: The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World was not your last book and a few authors have published horror novels since then. What were you trying to accomplish with the false advertisement?
BAC: Well, and it’s also a novella and not all that scary.
But that’s not my title either.
GI: You won the Wonderland Book Award at least year’s BizarroCon. How did that feel? Is it better than on of them Pulitzer things?
BAC: It felt great. I was super proud. Eraserhead is such a wonderful outfit, and Rose O’Keefe handing me that award made me go crazy. This was their fifteenth year, Eraserhead. I hope they’re around for a million years, and I hope they keep letting me come back to BizarroCon.
GI: I like you because you’re a fellow reader. Who are you reading right now? Any new voices we should all put on our radars?
BAC: Man, I’ve been reading Juan Pablo Villalobos!!!!!! HOLY SHIT THAT GUY IS AMAZING!!! You should check him out in Spanish and tell me if he’s as good in that language. He’s got two translated in English, both from FSG Originals, and I think he might do novella length as well as any living writer. He’s also pretty political, which, for a Mexican is insane–you know how many heads were cut off in Sinaloa since I started typing this sentence?
I don’t think enough people read Alain Mabanckou. Broken Glass is one of the best bar novels ever.
Anything Archipelago puts out is worth your time.
Rios de la Luz’s debut, The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert, is gonna make a ton of noise when it drops in March. So is Robert Paul Moreira’s Scores.
GI: Who’s the worst rapper alive?
BAC: I don’t know, but did you see Katy Perry try to dance at the Super Bowl?
White American pop stars are the least talented people in the entire universe.
GI: The Shape of Every Monster Yet to Come, your latest book, is a collection of tales that deserve to be called both funny and brutal. What gives you such insight into the darkest recesses of human nature? Why are you always showing us how we truly are? What’s your favorite taco?
BAC: Barbacoa with cilantro and onions and chile on corn. All day. Any day.
Man, I think the difference between me and most writers is I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve been arrested. It sounds like I’m being silly, but I’m serious as shit. It’s rare to find a writer who has spent the night in jail, and if they have they’re the kind of folks who think Jim Morrison was a great poet.
Why is that?
When did being a writer–a person who deeply examines life and questions everything–become being about following social rules?
Most writers are rich kids who’ve never done any real work or gotten into any real trouble. It’s all because the endeavor is so heavily subsidized by education and people who work in education have to be boring.
Just wait until you can teach rapping at a local college. Songs will get fucking meaningless.
GI: I see you on Twitter doing your thing, but you don’t show your face on Facebook any more. You should. We talk about you sometimes. Anyway, why did you abandon the bastion of common sense? How do you keep track of your readership’s Zeitgeist? How do you plug your work?
BAC: Um, I had to leave Facebook because it was making me insane, and because I am constantly battling alcoholism and Facebook just makes me want to drink and be an asshole. Twitter doesn’t seem to have the same negative effect on me. I’m not sure why.
Funny thing about me, my books sell better when I’m not doing social media stuff.
In terms of keeping up with the readership? I don’t know. I like Goodreads. I can usually get a sense of things there, like how people are reacting to the books.
I wish I was better about social media, but I’m just not.
GI: Como andan las cosas en la frontera?
BAC: It’s great. Next year they’re forecasting a weak peso which is supposed to have a pretty negative impact in the Rio Grande Valley, where I live. But we haven’t had a recession down here. The rest of America had woes and we just partied right through.
We’re ballerz like that.
PS: I woulda answered this in Spanish, but my Spanish is made of pharmaceutical-bottle plastic.
GI: TSOEMYTC. TLHNITHOTW. Can we agree that those sound like Chinatown versions of Lovecraftian monsters? Also, were you asked to blurb Harper Lee’s sophomore effort?
BAC: Haha. Well, when you put it like that.
Man, I would blurb the shit outta that.
“Harper Lee has written another book that freshmen will read while stoned and forget all over again.”
GI: We talked about how Austin claims to always shine a bright light on all cultural endeavors but they tend to leave local authors out of it. Why is that? Can we fix it? I’m sick of having to travel every time I want to read my stuff to a crowd.
BAC: I can’t talk about Austin because that city just makes me sad.
GI: You’re one smart dude. That’s not a question, but I wanted readers to know that. Dangerously smart.
BAC: Shit, you should see me try to do math. I had to take college algebra three times.
GI: All jokes aside, what’s up with ping pong in the 80’s?
BAC: Yeah, I don’t know. Someone told me I said that.
I should get a shirt made.
I was in a bar fight once that I don’t remember, but someone told me I won.
Ping Pong in the 80’s is a lot like that.