SUSANNAH BRESLIN INTERVIEW
Q: What are your views on pornography and post feminism? How do they manifest in your writing?
A: First, I was a postfeminist. Then, the porn videos just started showing up in the mail. Basically, interviewing a scantily-clad Jenna Jameson, as I did in 1997, fundamentally changed me as a writer. How could one write an homage to an introspective sheep-herder in Iowa suitable for publication in The New Yorker after that? In the late '90s, I was running a website that no longer exists, The Postfeminist Playground, with author Lily James. I interviewed Jenna for it, and, after that, I was invited to Los Angeles to visit an adult movie set. Watching seven people have an orgy on a fire truck in the hot Koreatown sun, I knew there was no turning back. I moved to L.A. not long after. These days, I spend the majority of my time helming the Pornographic Postmodern Literature Movement. So far, I'm the only member. It's exciting to be in the vanguard.
Q: Did you start off as a writer of fiction or non-fiction?
A: I started off writing a story about a buffalo in kindergarten at Black Pine Circle, a hippie-run private school in Berkeley, California. In seventh grade, I wrote a story about a baby that lived inside a city that was, in fact, a womb. Later, I dropped out of high school. Eventually, I scored a B.A. in Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. I went on to get a M.A. in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 1998, I moved to L.A., as a freelance journalist. I've written all kinds of things--from crappy celebrity profiles to the L.A.P.D.'s crackdown on extreme pornography. Today, fiction is the most important writing to me.
Q: You've done some work in television too, haven't you? What do you want to accomplish in that field?
A: You can't let that skeleton be, can you? I have done many embarrassing things on TV. I said penis a lot on "Politically Incorrect" for reasons I can no longer comprehend. I was interviewed in a bubble bath for "Pornography: The Secret History of Civilization." I spent a weekend at a bondage B&B in Michigan for Playboy TV. The only thing to accomplish on TV is going to hell in a hand basket at an extremely high rate of speed.
Q: What's it like being a writer in a place like Los Angeles?
A: I love/hate living and writing in Los Angeles. First of all, this city wants you to love/hate it, so youre all set right there. For me, it provides the ideal backdrop for my fiction, as it unites the real and the surreal. It's like living in Disneyland year-round. I mean, there's a hill that reads, "HOLLYWOOD," and a river made of cement, and the entire population is completely insane. How can that not be inspirational?
(EDITORS NOTE: Shortly after this interview, Susannah moved to New Orleans!)
Q: What other kinds of art do you do?
A: I do digital photography. I like taking pictures behind the scenes in Porn Valley and of sex in the public sphere--strip clubs, obscene graffiti, half-naked mannequins. I also create comics. I can't draw, so I run my photos through a Photoshop process called Stamp. Then, it looks like I drew it. Next, I fool around with the images and add some words, and voila, we have a comic.
Q: I've heard that, sometimes, upon reading your stories, some are shocked or offended. Why?
A: You write a few stories about midget porn stars, and all of a sudden, everyone thinks you're strange. My question to you is: How could I not? Why should a writer write about what everyone else is writing about? Wouldn't it be more interesting to venture into the most out-there, extreme areas of our contemporary culture and write about the strange psyches that inhabit it? These are the people who fascinate me. They're the ones who live torn between reality and obscenity.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm writing a semi-autobiographical novel, If Only These Hands Could Talk, based on my experiences traveling from Berkeley to Porn Valley over the last five years. The central character is a man, though. The character from the story, "You're a Bad Man, Aren't You?," is also in it. I'm doing another book, The Fetish Alphabet, with illustrator Anthony Ventura. It was inspired by Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies. Instead of dead kids, this one has unusual fetishes. And, I'm doing an anthology of literary short stories that happen to feature extreme sex. It's called Sextreme.
Q: What would your porn name be?
A: Licky Avis.
Q: What are your favorite porn movies?
A: The best porn ever made isn't a porn movie, but everyone should see it. "The Operation" is only 15 minutes long, and it was shot entirely in infra-red. It's directed by Jacob Pander and stars Gina Velour. It is mind-alteringly amazing.
Q: Who's the Kurtis your book is dedicated to?
A: Kurtis was my cat. He was named for Kurtis Blow. He was a great and wonderful cat who came from Chicago. He was a wonderfully unique champagne color, and he had large, round golden eyes, and he was a skilled muse. You could rap Kurtis Blow to him or sing "Golden Eye" in a Tina Turner croak, and he would still give you his disdainful, holier-than-thou look. When we moved to California, he got allergies, and over the years, he got sick. He died last June. I miss Kurtis.