Sam Pink: I think the longest book I read and enjoyed was The Demons by Dostoevsky. I don’t think I think about length while doing something, I just add and cut based on what feels right. It almost always ends up shorter/shortened though because I think I’m focusing on it being ‘digestible.’Like after reading/editing it a thousand times it’s easier to take stuff out rather than add stuff, because the stuff already there feels like it went to school together or whatever, and anything new would contrast too much. The debate about book length seems ridiculous. Extremely long things can feel more tight than shorter things, and shorter things can feel bloated, etc. When I think of ‘minimalism’ I think it’s what everyone strives for. I mean, I don’t think anyone willfully uses shit they know is extra, it’s all part of the plan. But on a sentence by sentence level, I like stuff to have the poetic quality that Tao mentioned, which is like, dimension and feeling and completeness to each line. That’s what was cool about Darcie’s book. Each line stood on its own but then I was really struck with how they began to add up/cross reference, etc. Also, I’ve been enjoying stuff that explores more, like how Trip is written. Aside from any of the content, the style feels more flowing and open and exploring. The main character/Tao, feels like he is discovering more, rather than telling the reader. That kind of stuff excites me more and more, like the ability to wander with writing, or, it being a place where the discovery happens, before the reader.
Tao Lin: I like that you noticed that and it excites you. I wanted to share how I learned things, and not just the things I learned, because I want to remember what I was like before I learned whatever thing. For example from 2001 to 2011 I didn’t know about building 7—I only knew that the towers were destroyed—then I saw it on YouTube, and it changed what I thought about 9/11. Then in 2017 I encountered Judy Wood, and my view of 9/11 changed again. Another example is that I mostly believed psychedelics caused insanity and were risky and pointless for most of my life. I want to remember all the times I’ve been wrong or believed inaccurate information. Sarah Manguso’s book 300 Arguments reminded me of both your books. It’s in 300 fragments, and one of them, which is on the backcover of my copy, says: “Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book’s quotable passages.” I think Megan Boyle’s Liveblog will be the longest novel I’ve read when I read it. I was describing it to someone the other day, saying it was long but the writing was like writing you’d find in a short book. Sam, you said at your discussion at McNally Jackson that you were going to try writing in paragraphs. How is that going? Have you continued writing in the style used in literally show me a healthy person, Darcie?
Sam Pink: Yeah I’m really interested in the ‘wandering’ or ‘learning in front of’ aspect of writing now. Sometimes I think about it like a map with interactive nodes. Like the map is the general area of your life/topic, and the nodes are things that can be expanded upon. I remember while working on White Ibis feeling excited about these points of expansion. Like it made me want to know more about the girl scouts in general, or ecosystems, etc. I think the stuff in Trip, and that general style, is going to become even more important because so much information is prepackaged now. There isn’t much to the ‘here’s how I came to this’ side, which is more true than ‘the truth.’ so yeah, the pharmaceutical drug use in trip, is important, because it shows how you got where you are, and from experience, rather than parroting the anti drug myths. So like, by wandering around in the misery of pharmaceutical drug use, you taught even more about the benefits of psychedelics, as opposed to someone who just says ‘pills are bad.’ Darcies book does that but in reverse almost, like a line will say something, and you think about it one way, and then later on something that seems random will add dimension to that and you realize that all the ‘truths’ in that book are like, floating around and nebulous and it made me interested in ‘learning more.’ for me, that’s what feels free and nice about you all’s books, is that nothing seems settled, but instead like, cooking. It feels like constrained and ‘math problem-y.’ i like that Sarah Manguso idea, it reminds me of a Nietzsche line, which is something like how he wants to say in ten sentences what other people can’t in a whole book.
Yeah I want to start writing in paragraphs, or like, try. I think the more I do stuff, the less I am worried about the right approach or any kind of outcome, and instead just try things, like each thing is just a try, and different things happen from different tries.
Darcie, is the way you approach healthy person the result of being involved in film? Like I’m thinking about the character of your dad. And instead of ‘writing’ him, we just see/experience him in different scenes/images. So sometimes he’d be funny, or endearing, and sometimes dark or seemingly distant. It made me both appreciate him as a character, but also as a person, in that he didn’t feel created, and also, that sometimes a five second image/soundbyte of someone kind of says more that any analysis. Also, did you have in mind any ‘goal’ when writing it, like did you lay out certain things you want to show/discuss, or did that just come together naturally?
Darcie Wilder: Hm, I think so. I’ve said a lot that I assembled it in the way I edited my diary films, which were experimental documentaries based on real/writer interviews interspersed with candid stuff I filmed, and that’s pretty much how I approached LSMHP. But I didn’t realize this until you just said it, but I do think that that taught me to try to get in and out of a scene as quickly as possible, and show what you want to show through action instead of explaining it. Like that thing you hear over and over about showing instead of telling, and also just what happens if you value being concise, it leads to that. And valuing ambiguity. This reminds me of one of the most valuable – and maybe cold – pieces of feedback I ever got, which was in college after making a short diary film on 16mm about my mom dying. My professor said that he was concerned that I would make something that was very sad and poignant to myself, but that wouldn’t communicate something to an unfamiliar audience beyond or outside of that. For me that draws the line of like, scrapbooking and base-level feelings versus a piece of work that stands on its own and is of service to others. I recommend that line of thinking.
My goal for writing LSMHP was to write something that felt true to my experience, and to communicate the way I experienced thoughts and feelings at that time, which I couldn’t differentiate between. Which is why I took lines that I had already tweeted, I wanted the feeling of something happening as it was being written, which isn’t the same as if you write it six hours later pretending to be in the moment. Otherwise I didn’t have like, a thesis to prove, like in high school when they made us say what we wanted to prove with our essays or stories. That, in retrospect, is probably one of the most destructive things school did to me, it got it in my head – thank god it’s mostly gone – that art sets out to prove a point instead of engaging in a conversation. Now I’m trying to write in paragraphs, but it would be cool to return to that style eventually.
Read more here.