The writer presently known as Delicious Tacos is responsible for, among other things, a series of short confessional narratives that chronicle his agonizing ordeal with an anorectal abscess. That micro-memoir of butthole affliction – the "Ass Variations," as I have dubbed it, though the actual chapter headings are styled “Ass Part 1,” “Ass Part 2,” etc.) – is nested like a polyp somewhere between the covers of Mr. Tacos' outrageously problematic self-published story anthology, The Pussy.
I will return briefly to the writer’s rectum. First, here is something you can do for fun: The next time you visit your local brick & mortar Barnes & Noble, tell the bespectacled store clerk that you're looking for The Pussy by Delicious Tacos. They won't have it, but you will get to say, “I am looking for The Pussy by Delicious Tacos,” and then you will get to watch as the clerk – who looks to be about 23, plump but pretty, milky-white skin, auburn hair, a few tattoos, smells like peppermint – pecks these ridiculous words onto the keyboard to check the warehouse inventory.
Now, back to the butt vignettes – the “Ass Variations.” You have to read these. Tell the Barnes & Noble clerk – her name is Rosemary; it’s right there on her tag – that she has to read them, too. They’re hilarious, but also sort of … harrowing. They’ll make you clench your sphincter on reflex, which is something you don’t get from most literature.
Yet the truly curious thing that happens when you read about the suffering poop chute of a man who calls himself Delicious Tacos in a book called The Pussy is that it soon hits you just how improbably good it is – how, by means of comic timing and sharply rendered sense-rattling prose, Delicious Tacos slyly delivers on a lot of what's promised in a fucking Norton Anthology. If you're looking for writing that limns the penetralia of sensual and emotive experience, well, you should probably read Proust. But after you’ve emerged from the madeleine-scented memory maze, I want you to try slumming with this serialized account of acute rectal trauma. Compare and contrast. See what jogs.
The Barnes & Noble clerk – Rosemary – is probably hoping you will leave her alone by now. But not quite yet. Go ahead and ask about the other one – tell her it’s an apocalyptic novel called Finally, Some Good News. Tell her it doesn’t have zombies. Tell her it’s also a kind of love story and be sure to address her as “Rosemary” repeatedly (because that’s why they give them name tags, right?). Notice how she avoids eye contact as she dutifully keys in the title and says, “Sorry, we don’t have that one, either. Um, you might have to order these online?”
Very well, then. Delicious Tacos will have to be our little secret, Rosemary. At least for now.
You want the links? Here are the links:
This is too bad, really. Because The Pussy is a bang-up showcase. It's wickedly funny and often shocking in its frank disclosure of such refractory vanities and desires and lusts and longings and manias that addle the minds of men. And I love the author's genre-straddling nous, the way the detours into speculative fiction, noir, horror, etc. seamlessly interface with the gritty autobiographical threads, being somehow unified under a grim thematic rubric and a relaxed verbal fluency that slightly resembles whatever it was that Vonnegut did when he was doing things right.
Another layer of connective tissue might have something to do with irony – including old-fashioned Rod Serling irony. Delicious Tacos is an adept ironist. He inflects his stories and anecdotes with ironic low notes, I suspect, in order to temper the bleak pessimism that skips into focus when you stop being amused. The Pussy is more keenly attuned to our present crisis than most of what gets noticed in the New York Review of Books. It should be displayed prominently at the Barnes & Noble, maybe stacked next to the one by the “Cat Person” person, where it is sure to pique Rosemary’s curiosity. Then she will flip to the “Ass Variations” – which aren’t even the best part – and her sphincter will clench, just like yours did. Maybe you should ask her about her tattoos.
And fuck me, Finally, Some Good News – which, full disclosure, I read first – is, fuck you, better. It's a brilliantly crafted full-plot novel that hooks you early and then subverts your expectations in the best way possible. If you thought The Pussy was a fluke, it proves you wrong. If you thought irony was twee, you'll see. FSGN is also a perfect misery companion for those of us – maybe all of us – who, at least on a bad day, would sooner see the skyline flattened than spend another hour on the clock. It should be made into a movie, maybe with John Paul Reynolds as the male lead. Not sure about the chick. Not Alia Shawkat – too distracting. Maybe Olivia Cooke? I don't know. Directed by Mike Judge. Or Mel Gibson.
It is the fate of too many talented writers to languish in obscurity. This has always been the case, but the situation seems worse now. Or different, uglier – especially for the ones who don't yield to the capricious dictates of scolds. Should something genuinely provocative get past the ramparts, mercenary reviewers will be dispatched to blunt the impact. Your local independent bookstore has a display featuring books with the word “Fuck” the title, which is cute, but they have decided, as is their right, not to stock the new Bret Easton Ellis.
American Psycho is still on the shelf – maybe it’s even a “Bookseller’s Pick” with a handwritten review on cardstock by “Joe,” who manages to use every variant of the word “satire” in the space allotted. But we know it wouldn’t be published today. Nor would The Prisoner of Sex or Sexual Personae or anything by Bukowski. The implicit grandfather clauses that keep such books in print are now subject to endless degrees of cloying editorial annotation, thus are we informed that Robert Crumb belongs in the attic. Just watch what happens when the next Houellebecq comes out. Rent control is nice if you can get it, but the landlord is always looking for loopholes.
Of course, the rent seekers are pretty good at finding loopholes of their own. For the time being, this means self-publishing. Which means self-promotion. It’s usually a dead end, just the same. Most self-published books are, after all, astoundingly bad. These books are so bad in so many predictable and sloppy and downright bizarre ways that the vanity press stigma stinks up the ones that maybe aren’t quite so bad, even if you’ll never know because who has the time and money to waste on a dim chance, right?
But a few of them are interesting enough to get noticed and passed around and reviewed and discussed in Reddit threads. You bookmark those, or judge them by the covers. Usually you forget to follow up. But there are also some select few that poke up from the teeming heap of vanity-inanities, just enough to insinuate their way into your timeline on repeat, maybe enough to burn a longer impression. Until the day comes when you receive an email or two or three from distant but trusted acquaintance…
“Seriously, you have to read this one.”
“Have you read ___ yet?”
And that, more or less, is how I came to the work of Delicious Tacos, the lapidary exception, the rara avis.
Self-publishing means self-promotion. (Red means dead.) So I knew there was a chance that the Scrumptious Burritos guy would agree to an interview. And I had some questions. He wrote back, suggesting we should do a podcast instead. But I have no idea how that works. I seem to be physically incapable of speaking in complete sentences, regardless. “I would prefer not to,” I Bartleby’d back. But here are some questions, if you find time. To my surprise, he did.
I think it reads well, all on account of the wit and insight that DC brought to the occasion. There’s a lot of stuff about the craft of storytelling. The PUA business also comes up. And Ted Kaczynski, who didn't like work either. The interview recently ran in an online magazine called The Autistic Mercury. You can read it there by clicking here. I'm also posting the text below, in case it should disappear elsewhere. I hope it moves some units.
I decided not to ask about his ass. If you think you may be suffering from an anorectal abscess, please contact your physician.
DELICIOUS TACOS INTERVIEW
NINE-BANDED BOOKS: You write under a pen-name that, when you Google it, yields mostly recipes and restaurant reviews. You self-publish books that don’t exist in the eyes of literary gatekeepers, that aren’t advertised except by Amazon bots, and that are reviewed and discussed only in dodgy crevices of the Internet. Yet you seem to be pulling it off. I suppose by dint of on word-of-mouth momentum, which is how I became aware of your work, you have attracted an enthusiastic cult following that appears to be growing. This is really quite remarkable and it goes against all professional advice. Did you ever try going the traditional route – securing a literary agent and shopping your work to established publishers? Submitting stories to The Paris Review?
DELICIOUS TACOS: Pulling it off would be making a living from it. I make enough from it now to live in Southeast Asia if I were to put out a book every five months, and books take me two years to write. I did submit to an agent for the first time last week. A friend talked me into it. Non-high-powered agent here in Southern California. She said she could never work with someone who wrote a blog post called “Fuck Cunt Pussy.” Also she sort of politely disparaged my being a self-published author.
I worked in Hollywood film development for 9 years. I used to read Publishers Marketplace and go through every publishing deal made that week. Circle ones that might be movies. Even beyond the humiliation of sending my work as a slush pile submission to someone I know will hate it, there’s no example of a book in the last 15 years that’s like mine that has made somebody money. Thus agents and publishers would see my stuff as unsellable. And they’d be right. When I show stuff to people in “real life” they hate it, lose respect for me, and distance themselves from me. And I’d get a publisher to market my books, but publishers want people who can market their own books.
Plus, the semi-ironic Nazis and rape advocates I’m associated with online are correct about publishers. It’s the ne plus ultra “SJW” industry. They want to publish YA about taking down Galactic Emperor Drumph by trans teens of color. This is a convenient argument for not subjecting yourself to rejection at their hands. But it’s also true.
My friend continues to submit my work to agents. It will continue to be a worse than useless exercise in self-flagellation. I hate it and I regret giving him permission to do it. Obviously I’m saying this because she said no.
I also don’t want anyone to edit my prose. I don’t want anyone giving me ideas of what to write. I don’t even care what my readers think about my work, unless they tell me I’m great. I don’t care about the money. If it stays a hobby that’s fine. Basically everyone can suck my dick. My job is to write stuff that is true.
I gather that part of the mystique surrounding your work derives from your early participation in online forums devoted to “game” – the stuff associated with Roosh, Roissy/Heartiste, Neil Strauss, et al. It’s very clear to me that your writing transcends this niche, but the residue is there. What are your thoughts on PUA subculture and how it has evolved in recent years – in particular, why do you think it has become infused with MAGA-flavored political extremism? And what distinguishes your work from that of a guy like Roosh, who also writes about sexual adventure and rejection?
Yes, I’m associated with “the manosphere.” I took advantage of this when “the manosphere” could get you page views. And I liked Roosh’s work and still do. But when I was getting involved in this “scene” in 2012 the parts I saw were guys talking honestly about getting laid. I remember when the Roosh V Forum, which I still post on, was abuzz about ABC News doing a segment on “the manosphere.” I tuned in and it was fat ugly mushmouth men I’d never heard of complaining about divorce law. This was my first hint that there was a larger “scene” of freakish repugnant famewhores using the “manosphere” label. I understood I would now be associated with these men forever, having taken no precautions to protect my anonymity. And now I am.
I used to write PUA-adjacent stuff, though it was never corny shit for money. But then in 2013 I wrote a story called “Autopilot” and realized I could actually be a “writer” in some sense. Not long after that Roosh wrote a fictional story called “Patricia’s Smartphone” that even anti-rape activists admitted was interesting. What if we all blossom into real artists, I thought. What if this “movement” takes its honesty about sex and love and turns it into something good. Years passed and I’m the only one who did this. Everyone else is shilling merch or bashing Jews.
PUA turned into neo-Nazi politics because PUA tactics stopped working. There’s no “game” in the age of Tinder. Your picture’s hot or it isn’t. I’m lucky to have lived through OKCupid. You could be merely OK looking and type words into a keyboard and girls came out. Guys still ask me how to get laid. I tell them move to the Philippines.
What are your thoughts on deplatforming and online censorship? Do you worry that Jeff Bezos and other corporate powerbrokers might ban your books? They began with pederasty manuals and Holocaust revisionism, but the target has been moving – as Roosh, among others, will attest. What’s to keep them from shutting you down?
There’s nothing to stop them from shutting me down. There’s nothing to stop me from using drones carrying IEDs made from (REMOVING THIS DETAIL- DON’T MAKE BOMBS) to blow up the power lines next to Amazon fulfillment centers. Nothing to stop me from buying a printing press. Slipping autographed copies of The Pussy into school libraries across America. Or there’s nothing to stop me from putting all my books online free, except my desire for money. I don’t make a living from this, which sucks, but it’s also liberating. I don’t have to have a spinning ad block my web page selling you a free online pussy guide. And I don’t have to be acceptable to the horrifying stereotypes made flesh who run tech, media and society.
What would suck about an Amazon ban is: they really are a monopoly. And reading the physical book, which they do a beautiful job of printing and distributing, is the best way to read my stuff. But I’d use Lulu or some other printer. Or give out a free PDF and ask people to donate. Once rich guy could easily pay a lifetime of book royalties. Writing is the least economically valued work in the world. This is why it can be the most honest art form.
Is it true that you went for ten years without writing? Was this a conscious choice, or more to do with circumstances? Writer’s block? Inertia? How do you think this affected your eventual development as a writer?
Yes, I won an arts competition when I was 17 and people called me a genius. This crippled my ability to write from age 18-28. I thought if I wrote something, it had to be successful and good. Yet I still conceived of myself as a “writer.” I had long horrible OCD rituals where I had to pretend to write every day. It was just writing the letter “I” on notebook paper on certain odd-numbered lines. The word “writer” still makes me sick. I don’t like to call myself that.
One good thing about this was I became a polished talker. My ideas and turns of phrase would go into conversation with other human beings. Now I’m a social idiot.
As for how it affected my development – it probably severely retarded my development. Maybe I really could have been great. But we’ll never know. At the same time, you can put it down for ten years and pick it up and after a while you can be good.
The way you write about sex – or, perhaps more accurately, sexual desire – is fascinating to me. The effect is very often outrageously funny, but there’s also a kind of graphic frankness that can be shocking – both viscerally and in a way that provokes introspection. It seems effortless going down, but I sense you’re walking on a tightrope. Do you have any thoughts on what makes your approach to a well-worn subject so original and affecting?
I write about horniness while experiencing it. My most horny work is journal entries where I’m on my laptop at the beach/ park/ coffee shop leering at women. Looking at that stuff after, the magnitude of horniness is shown via attention to detail rather than told in the abstract. The horny man’s mind is at once painstakingly focused on weird details of the woman’s anatomy but also flying off into baroque fantasies about sex acts, picturing the ruined abandoned woman 8 months pregnant with your baby still googling the fake name you gave her, etc.
What can I say – I’m not exaggerating. I don’t know if other men get as horny as me or not. But people ask about my degenerate persona or my “character”– it’s not a character. I think everyone wants to tongue down a fat high school girl’s taint. Most men just lie about it.
Your language in many stories and essays could be described as pornographic, but the effect is almost never titillating. I might even describe it as anti-erotic. Is erotic literature possible in a cultural environment saturated with pornography and Skinner-box dating apps?
Like so much else in this technological age: what’s the point of erotic literature. I guess women enjoy it.
It used to be a truism that a writer had to “find his subject.” I believe your subject, beneath so much comedy and confession, is longing. Am I wrong?
This is correct.
Your collection The Pussy shows you working across a range of genres. This might be easy to overlook because a strong autobiographical voice sort of runs through everything, but alongside work that might be described as Carveresque, readers will find examples of speculative fiction, allegory, prose poetry, narrative journalism, flash fiction, and I really want to mention that the story “Jack” (perhaps my favorite) is an efficient work of uncanny literature that bears comparison to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti. So I’m curious about your approach to genre, but I suppose this an obvious cue to ask about influences – what did you read growing up? Are there writers that have directly or indirectly influenced your work? And for that matter, are there writers – or literary trends – that strike you as especially overrated, pernicious, or just bad?
Horror is the right key for what we’re experiencing. Behind these sitcom-tier problems of “oh she dumped me” is the horrific idea of dying alone. More and more inevitable every day.
My favorite recent horror story I’ve done is What’s Out There. I wrote it after reading Gogol’s Viy. They’re not that similar except the character is killed by his own fear. I watched a clip of the movie adaptation of Viy, which I found infuriating. I won’t spoil it but they fucked up that key element.
Horror is the right key because it’s your own mistake that gets you. Only the camp counselors who fuck get killed. You’ll die alone and the worst part is you can’t even blame society. It’s your own fucking fault.
You’re often compared to Houellebecq. What do you make of the comparison?
I’m not fit to lick his boots. I’m glad he’s alive and putting stuff out because it takes the pressure off. No one else can be that good. The rest of us are just fucking around.
I know you’re a fan of Cat Marnell’s Vice columns. Any thoughts on her memoir, How to Murder Your Life?
I read the free sample and didn’t buy it. I thought a lot of her columns were genius. But the memoir felt like a product commissioned for big money by a big publishing house, guided at every step by generic publishing forces (Ivy League women on psych meds). Maybe it gets better after the sample, who knows. It felt like an honest book crossed with a wish fulfillment for women book. Dad’s money, famous men, makeup. Shoes, horses. I’m sure my book sucks worse than hers but that’s for someone else to judge.
I feel like I have to ask about Kristen Roupenian. I know you’ve blogged about her book contract, and it does seem unfair. But what did you think of “Cat Person” – the story itself? And what do you make of the unprecedented social media reverberations that followed its publication in The New Yorker?
I loved Cat Person. I wrote a whole review of her book for Autistic Mercury. I liked it and people should buy it.
You express profound pessimism about contemporary relations between men and women, at least in western culture. How and why do you think things went off course? Do you see a path for improving the situation?
Like a lot of people I have nostalgia for something I’ve never experienced. That no one may have ever experienced. The past, where you got a free wife, may have sucked worse. But yes men and women in America, at least in the cities, hate each other.
My path for improving the situation is for at least 6.5 billion people to die, depopulate the earth, de-industrialize, go back to chucking sticks at wooly mammoths and fucking pubescent morons doggystyle.
How do you respond to those who say you’re being cynical – that your take on the modern sex economy is jaundiced by your immersion in low-rung online dating culture and pickup artistry? I mean, I don’t personally know anyone who met their wife through Farmers Only, but I’ve heard stories.
If their life is so great, good for them. Look, the way I respond to anyone who disagrees with me is: I’m a genius, you’re an idiot, and you’re fucking wrong. My “take is jaundiced by my immersion in low-rung online dating” – as opposed to what? Mormon soda pop socials? Low rung online dating is the only dating there is. Low rung online religion, low rung online journalism, low rung online intellectual life – that’s what there is now. I may have seemed deep in it in 2012 when people thought there was an alternative. But I was just slightly ahead of the times. The world caught up.
Accusations of misogyny are inevitable, and often trite. But I think there are thematic currents in your writing – and explicit expressions in your narrative voice – that lend the question a bit more resonance. How would you characterize your feelings about women? And what do you make of misogynistic sentiments that seem to have acuminated in various manifestations of contemporary web culture? Was Elliot Roger a harbinger, or just a dipshit?
I resent the power they have to choose me or not choose me. I hate myself for respecting their opinion on the matter.
Do you find that men and women react differently to your writing? I imagine the one about the cat gets passed around by chicks. Then again, I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up reading it.
It used to be this way. Women liked my work. When they read it now they’re still more sympathetic to it. But mostly women don’t read it since I stopped showing face online. If you look at the Goodreads reviews about 2% are women. The women who talk about it on Twitter are the few who interact with me there. They’ll only grudgingly, coyly admit to buying it. They won’t tell me it’s good.
When women did read my work, in 2015 or before – back when there were women, back when they were interested in things, back when they had a sense of humor – their responses to it were deeper and more understanding than those of men. I used to get wonderful emails from women. Again, it completely stopped – 100% – when I stopped showing face. My emails now are exclusively from men, often asking me for advice on things I know nothing about. Relationships, money.
I’m sort of coming to your work in reverse. A guy kept insisting I read Finally, Some Good News, so that’s where it started. Then I read the other stuff. Anyway, I’m not sure what I was expecting with your novel, maybe an absurdist diversion or something “alt-lit.” So it really caught me off guard. It’s propulsive and deftly crafted and full of insight and pathos and wicked humor, but I also felt you were tapping into something – like a kind of mounting crisis or breakdown that we all sense but can’t articulate, a collective tension that prefigures the apocalyptic events in the narrative. How did the book come about?
Thank you. The book came from a feeling. Every day at work I felt like the meteor needed to hit and I needed to die. We all needed to die. That’s where the cover image came to me, a mushroom cloud blowing up everything and the title “Finally, Some Good News.” The apocalypse fantasy is the men’s version of a rape fantasy. Horrible violence that you’re not morally accountable for. We’re all pathetic worms now and the dream is to have a big reshuffle where men are actually useful again.
You’ve described it as an “anti-dystopian” apocalyptic novel (or something to that effect, so please correct me; I can’t find the quote). What does this mean?
We live in a dystopia. I do anyway. I mean look, I don’t always feel like this – sometimes I water the garden and there’s a nice finch eating seeds and shit is OK. But work dominates your life. Even a good job. It makes other necessary things such as love impossible. And most jobs are not good jobs; they’re hustling sales bullshit for nothing. There’s no escape from it.
So most apocalyptic stories are about the dystopia after the big bang, and oh man do we wish we could get back to homes restaurants and TV. But I sometimes look at the homeless camps and think: those people have better lives than me. They get high, fuck, sleep in the street, no bills. No homework. Every day’s a vacation. We’re in the dystopia now. The utopia is not having to be in it.
If there’s an element of wish fulfillment or escapism behind the premise, this is soon complicated by events in the post-apocalyptic setting. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s uglier than hardscrabble as the collapse of traditional order gives way to brutish collective behavior. Is this a reflection of your view of human nature?
There was a simple initial idea of: before the nuke: bad, after the nuke: good. But that doesn’t have enough gas in the tank for a whole book.
I had this idea that the two characters would extricate themselves from this office building. 45 minutes would pass. Then their first encounter with the outside, where they get an idea of what the world is like, would just be comedically bad. The scene in the grocery store was supposed to be in the parking lot. They turn the corner and just see street orgies of rape cannibalism. But in writing it got more “grounded.” She has a reason to know something he doesn’t. She knows what men are really like. He has to learn. Then we learn how she knows.
In the middle of so much devastation, there’s also a tender human connection. Do you consider FSGN to be a love story?
One of the things I keep thinking about is if/ how the book actually works as a Hollywood 3-act structure. It does and doesn’t. But if you think about it as a romantic comedy, it works perfectly.
You have an act 1 where they’re “right for each other” but neither knows it. Act 2 where they’re on a journey of coming together, an end of act 2 where they come apart. Act 3 he has to win her back. Their love is born, dies and is resurrected. So yes, it’s a love story. As I said in the only break the fourth wall part of the book – this is the most fantastical element. The idea that a 2010’s American man and woman could fall in love with one another. The nuclear holocaust is more plausible.
I imagine that feminist readers who pick up your novel expecting the worst may be disarmed by what they discover. The way men are depicted could be described as uncharitable, and to my mind the most sympathetic character is a well-drawn female character with a heart-wrenching backstory. I wouldn’t call it a bait & switch exactly, but I do wonder if you were aware of how the story might cut against your literary reputation.
Let’s see if a feminist reader ever picks up my novel. Plenty of other stuff fighting for their attention. But yes, I know men, I am a man, so I know how to trash men properly. I know the innermost secrets of a man. Some men are good, some bad. The good ones lose and the bad ones win. I think human beings innately worship evil, especially women. But I don’t know women as well, so I end up cutting them a break. I suspect they’re evil but I haven’t experienced it as my own inner thoughts.
One recurring theme in the book is: almost every woman he talks to knows something he doesn’t, and holds it back. Either that there’s a plot to blow up the world, or something about human nature and men, or just that he’s being used.
Regarding Marcy’s backstory, I fought so long and hard over writing that chapter that I kept trying to find ways to cut it down, or leave it out. I talked to a lot of women and gathered stories. I wanted to make that chapter real. Ultimately it’s based on one friend’s story, except in real life it happened when she was four.
Then I had to write from her point of view, which took a long time to get to. I got there by focusing on her interpretations of nature. This is something she has in common with me and with the main character. Two birdwatchers survive a nuclear holocaust.
The book is ingeniously structured, with intersecting timelines that converge in a very satisfying way. Was this your original concept, to evoke a kind of disorienting feeling to be resolved? Or did the nonlinear form suggest itself as you were developing the story? Was it a challenge to map out the threads so everything would fall neatly into place?
Thank you. When I started writing it every chapter was his birthday. I didn’t know where I was going with this. But I had this concept of following a guy through his birthdays as snapshots of the ways his life sucked impossibly bad, then somehow got worse. Maybe that’s where the jumpy chronology came from – honestly I don’t remember. But the first two chapters are his 39th and 40th birthday. Third chapter is his 36th birthday. With the finished book this is an early signal that we’re jumping around in time.
There are three timelines in the book:
Timeline 1: before the first nuke. The hero is trapped in working life. His romantic and emotional life, which were gross to begin with, become even more pathetic as he ages. This is what was happening to me. It continues to happen, to get worse and more desperate in new ways. The job is a job I had. The dates are dates I had. The Belinda chapter is a real story a girl told me on a date. She really wouldn’t kiss me. A lot of people have pointed this chapter out as a “Red Pill” parable I engineered. But it happened verbatim in real life. She found out I wrote about it and was infuriated. Usually I mix up girls’ stories so they’re not too close to life, but this girl can suck my dick.
The girl who works for the pubic radio station is based on details from a close friend. But not on her actual character. The real person would never fuck a guy with her kid in the room. She’s still mad at me for writing that. I’m surprised she’s even talking to me. The kid from that chapter is a real kid. I just visited him last month; I mailed him the book and still haven’t heard back. Maybe he’s pissed. More likely he doesn’t want to read some jerkoff’s self published novel.
Timeline 2: the “plot” timeline. I had to figure out the big mechanical question. How does the guy from Timeline 1 plausibly destroy the world. This was Hollywood training coming back to me (see below) – the initial concept was the world just blows up, but for it to be a story the character had to drive the action. That led to a character question: does he pull the trigger, or does he back out, but the things he’s set in motion are too far along and it happens anyway. Is it a cartoon nihilistic black comedy or is this character a real guy. If you’ve read the book you know how it had to go. This set up a bunch of other plot puzzles. You have to ask yourself: how real do you want the plot to be. And my answer was: fuck it. The emotions have to be real. But the plot is going to have insane coincidences and hand waves, and that’s just the fucking way it is. You have to be free to be stupid.
Timeline 3: post-apocalypse. Simple. Get from point A to point B and live. You can use or “subvert” every trope from every other post apocalypse book and movie along this Odyssey plotline. Or Aeneid plotline, since there’s a dalliance in cave. The “dark” version of this timeline is: they end up in the exact same place as before. Society being rebuilt and they have jobs again. Another “dark” version is: they don’t stay together. He loses her. Do they go backwards. The possibility of these things has to exist for the ending to be meaningful. They have to find the strength to escape. He has to find a way to keep his woman through the only way a woman can be kept: brutal physical domination.
I always bitched about working in Hollywood “developing” scripts. But plotting out the book was like a street fight. You get popped in the face and go back to your training. Whatever your junior high school wrestling coach taught you. I went right back to character arc, story beats, act breaks. The shit he doesn’t want to do in Adaptation. You can think of it as a “subverted” three act structure, like a horror movie or comedy where the character loses or goes backwards, or you can interpret it as a heroic three act structure, but it’s there. And each act has its own structure within it. In the first timeline, he makes no progress. In the second, he almost gets there but falls back. In the third, he finally pulls the trigger.
The chronology is mixed up so emotional beats can be next to each other. The first time they have sex, which is written as a prose poem, is followed by them in the office and he can’t talk to her. The beauty and simplicity of the post-apocalyptic life, where people can experience feelings, is next to the stilted complexity and horror of the life we experience now. Because the world really does need to go, and you need to feel it.
With the possible exception of Charles Bukowksi (especially in Factotum), I don’t know of anyone who writes more incisively than you about the soul-crushing reality of work. This is something that runs through much of your writing, but it assumes thematic salience in FSGN, where the of the end of civilized life on Earth is presented as a preferable alternative to the prospect of more hours on the clock, poring over spreadsheets or PowerPoint slides or lines of code, or tending Big Macs, widgets, whatever. There’s a memorable – and pivotal – scene where the protagonist sort of lets it all out, giving vent to sentiments that so many of us feel but never express as we go through the daily motions. It might be the longest dialogue sequence in the book, and it’s a dead-on gut punch. So I guess my question is: How the fuck did this situation come to pass, where we’re obliged to be grateful for the opportunity to trade more than half our waking hours for subsistence wages and the tenuous promise of a few end-of-life years of constrained leisure under a stock cashout? Why is the root source of such profound anguish so roundly celebrated?
I don’t know, man. Our society is Satanic. We worship money and success. This is a big question that I had to write several books to address.
It’s interesting that you bring up that section because that’s a thing I always wanted to cut down, or at least make into more naturalistic dialogue. But that on-the-nose YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH movie monologue got left in. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. It’s one of the passages that people bring up as their favorite part of the book. The other one is the “snow day” passage which again, I thought might be too on the nose. Both parts are places where I’m violating “show don’t tell,” so maybe that rule is horseshit.
Part of the plot involves weaponized blackmail, with personal data being leveraged by a terrorist cell. In the wake of the Ashley Madison dump and so many instances of doxing, it’s an eerily plausible scenario – and of course this ties in with our increasing technological dependence. Maybe there’s not a nuclear holocaust at the end of the chain, but do you see things coming to a head?
The good version of this would be: everyone’s innermost secrets are revealed. We all realize that we’re all racist, horny, greedy, hateful. We all jerk off to unspeakable things. We all hate our husbands, wives, children etc. Everyone’s secrets come out at once and no secret has leverage over another.
At the same time, it might have already come to a head with the metoo controversies. It’s been revealed that old rich guys molest women, and this surprises people. Women are shocked that men are horny, even ugly men. There’s a regression in basic knowledge about human beings. Everyone’s a shocked innocent at all times. But in the book the “in the know” character mentions the terrorists looking for pedophiles specifically, which is what you’d have to do with a blackmail plot. I don’t think anyone would give a shit if the president was sucking adult black cock.
In the book people are blackmailing for a movement, which I don’t think will happen. People will just keep doing it for money.
You have expressed admiration for the writings – if not the deeds – of Theodore Kaczynski. What can we learn from Uncle Ted?
Industrial Society and Its Future is brilliant and he’s right about everything. But reading his stuff is less of a learning process. More of a confirming what you already knew process.
His other writings don’t pop the same way because he gets into what a revolutionary movement should do. It’s the natural next step, you think. I’ve outlined the problem. Now what’s the solution. But there is no solution. Industrial Society said: here’s what’s wrong. That’s something Uncle Ted knows perfectly.
He follows it up with: here’s what we should do about it, which he doesn’t know at all. Nobody does, because nobody can, because nothing can be done. The Earth will be destroyed for money. Not could be: will be. If you doubt this, spend five minutes with any human being. We are fucked. Your children or your children’s children will suffer and die horribly and you might as well just try to forget about it. That’s something that Houellebecq gets right. There’s no fixing anything.
In terms of mechanics, Ted was kind of a cautionary example. Industrial Society is a brilliant, true book that doesn’t end, it just stops. If it had been a better book he wouldn’t have had to blow off people’s faces and hands. Write your ending first. That way it’s the best part of the book and the whole book works together.
Do you want to say anything about your next book? It’s called True Love, right?
The next one is another collection like The Pussy. I’d like to put that out in December. First I have to write 10-20 more things worth putting in it. And I haven’t been writing well lately.
After that, yes, the next novel is called True Love and I want to take my time with it. Finally, Some Good News is a pretty tight, heavily plotted novella. I want this to be a long, rambling, non-mechanical novel that digresses all over the place. I wrote the last sentence first. Then there are a bunch of other connected ideas I’ll put into it, like I did with this one. With FSGN I had 30 different ideas about how the world should be destroyed and the mechanical aspect of it was how to make them all hang together.
This one is everything I think about love and women. Who the fuck knows though. The fantasy was: I’d research it by experiencing true love. But I can barely get a fucking date. This is because I work. My job is a great job; it’s far less grueling than other jobs I’ve had. But you can only have relationships if you work around hot women or you’re a rich NEET. So my day-to-day life is closer to the book I just wrote than this putative one where I live a natural life with emotions. After I wrote FSGN I had five minutes of a “got it out of my system” feeling. Now I’m back to thinking the world should be annihilated.