Episode 340 — Chelsea Hodson | Transcript


Air date: January 7, 2015


[00:01:07] Okay everybody here we go again. This is it. This is Otherppl. This is made of ones and zeros. This is me making it up as I go. Hello.  How are you? I’m Brad Listi. I’m in Los Angeles. It’s nice to be with you. I appreciate you tuning in. I have a great show for you today. I have an airplane flying over my house. My guest—actually it’s a chainsaw. I have a man with a chainsaw approaching me.  

[00:01:32] My guest today is Chelsea, uh, Hodson. Hodson. Not Chelsea uh Hodson. Chelsea Hodson. God this is a fucking disaster in this garage. [Pause] It’s probably a leaf blower.  There is a car honking. [Laughs] 

[00:02:00] My guest today is Chelsea Hodson. She has a chapbook out called Pity the Animal. It’s originally published by Future Tense Books.  It’s now available in an e-book edition from Emily Books.   If you would like a print copy of Pity the Animal it is available from Powell’s and it’s also currently available electronically in a fine e-book edition from Emily Books as a Kindle single over at Amazon. So you can check that out. It’s a very riveting read.

[00:02:31] It’s getting a lot of buzz for a chapbook.  I mean, you know, chapbooks come out, they don’t usually generate this much buzz.  This a chapbook people are talking about. Which is a big part of the reason why I was interested in talking with Chelsea. 

So I hope you are doing well. Happy 2015. I think this is the first show of 2015 if I’m not mistaken. Did you make a New Year’s resolution?  Are you all geared up for the new year? Are you unveiling a new you? Do you have that energy, that optimism? Are you doing that, or just letting it be?

[00:03:03] Or are you just treating it like a normal day, a normal time, a normal week? 

Always the noise. Can you hear it? Maybe you can’t hear it? I can hear it.

My guest today is Chelsea Hodson. [Laughs]  I’m just going to get going with the show. Why don’t we do that? My guest today is Chelsea Hodson. [00:03:33] She has a chapbook out.  It’s called Pity the Animal.  If you want a print copy you’ve got to go to Powell’s.  If you want an e-book edition from Emily Books, you can go to Amazon.  It’s a Kindle single. So the print edition is available from Future Tense.  The e-book edition is available from Emily Books via Amazon. The print edition is via Powell’s.  [Laughs] I think this goes down as my worst monologue. I’m going to leave it just, like, I’m going to leave it like this.   

[00:04:02] This is it.  Right here. This is me.  I’m a human being. I deal with circumstances.  I can’t control the leaf blower next door. I could re-record this but I’m running short of time.  I also sort of just wanted to provide you guys an episode where you get to hear the sort of things that I usually edit out.  Usually I sit here in my, if you can picture this, like usually when this happens, I’ll sit down to record, I’ll finally get my shit together, I’ll turn the recorder on and just as I begin to speak, something will intrude. [00:04:36] Whether it’s an airplane or a chainsaw or a leaf blower or cars honking or sirens.  And so what will happen is I’ll turn the recorder off. I might unleash a string of expletives quietly or even silently and then I will sit here, sometimes up to seven minutes or ten minutes or something while the, you know, the sound intrusion goes away.  

[00:05:05] That’s a long time to sit quietly in front of a microphone in a garage especially one that’s unheated when it’s cold.  That’s what I do. That’s how I operate here.

My guest today is Chelsea. [Laughs] Sorry. I’m way overtired. My guest today is Chelsea Hodson. [00:05:29] She has a chapbook out called Pity the Animal.  It’s originally published by Future Tense.  It’s available now in print from Future Tense but you got to get it over at Powell’s, powells.com has the print edition exclusively. It’s also available in ebook format from Emily Books over at Amazon as a Kindle single.  Here she is ladies and gentlemen, this is Chelsea Hodson and her chapbook, one more time, is called Pity the Animal.

* * *     


[00:05:55] Chelsea Hodson: Um no, I don’t think that’s a misreading. But mostly it’s, I mean the way that I live, is being very aware of what makes me comfortable and what makes me anxious.  So, like, it really puts me at ease to see everything one boring color. I mean, it’s not even a color, it’s just white. And yeah, you know, material possessions are not super-important to me.  It’s more about living in a space that inspires me and has people around that I can read with and go see their work and that’s what really matters to me.

[00:06:34] BL: Okay, so your book, I guess it’s a chapbook.  How do we classify these things? It’s a book.

[00:06:41] CH: Yeah, it’s a chapbook.

[00:06:43] BL: It seems concerned with—there are financial concerns at the heart of it. You know, or at least maybe they’re peripheral, but you are talking about, uh, I think, like, how to make it in the city.  How to make it as an artist. Um, how to make ends meet while you are doing your art. And you start to consider, uh, like, commodifying your body.  Like that’s the meditation, right?

[00:07:04] CH: Right. Yeah.  Yeah.

[00:07:07] BL: Okay so, this is a question that I like to ask of a lot of people.  I’m very fascinated with this. I’m very fascinated with people’s perceptions of themselves and how they read their own physicality.  And I feel like a lot of times self-deprecation is sort of like the de facto mode. Where people who are attractive or striking will talk themselves down, or people who aren’t quite as attractive at least by conventional standards, will talk themselves, everyone kind of talks themselves down.  Do you know what I’m saying? Very rarely do you hear someone say, “Yeah, I think I’m, like, an eight out of ten.” [Laughs]  

[00:07:44] CH: [Laughs]  Right.

[00:07:45] BL: No, but you are, I mean I’ve only seen pictures, but you’re tall, you’re striking. People probably your whole life have told you that, no?

[00:07:54] CH: Um, yeah.

[00:07:56] BL: How do you read, how do you evaluate yourself in terms of, I guess the broader culture, people out there, how they react to you.  Like, are you aware of what your physicality generally does to people? Or is it something that you have a blindness to?  

[00:08:14] CH: That’s an interesting question.  Um, it’s something that took me awhile to get used to?  I guess just being comfortable in my own skin? And then from that I can start acknowledging and being aware of other things or like how others perceive me?  But, like, I know this awkward phase in middle school, which I know a lot of people have, which is nice. [Laughs] I know I just kind of coasted through school. Like, I didn’t have any, like, traumatic events like that in middle school.  Like, I was just kind of normal and, you know, ran track. I look at photos from that era and I think, like, I was okay I guess.

[00:08:45] BL: Right.

[00:08:52] CH: But it was in high school that, um, I got really into photography?  And there was one place, I grew up in Phoenix? And there was this one place in a neighboring city, Tempe, where you could get your photos printed with a matt finish.  And that was the only place I got my film developed, because I just thought glossy was so ugly, and it was the only place I knew of that printed with a matt finish. So I would always be there.  And the people who worked there were photographers. And this one photographer, um, asked me if I could model for her. And I was sixteen.  [00:09:30] And I ended up doing it and the photos were great.  Like, she was this really talented photographer that was just, when I came in, she was like, “Oh my God.  You’re so striking. And, like, you have such a cool nose.” My nose is kind of large actually and just through modeling and working with her and then other photographers, I started to really um, I guess appreciate my body in a way that I think most teenage girls don’t.  And if I would have had a more traditional, like, successful modeling route, I don’t think my experience would have been the same. [00:10:04] I think it would have been negative actually.  Because once I started really professionally modeling, I didn’t do it hardly at all, but I did have a couple jobs that were national campaigns and stuff.  And they made me feel really negative about my body actually. And that’s something I talk about in Pity the Animal, my chapbook, is that, you know, sometimes it seems like a good idea and then once you’re there, it’s not a good idea and it’s actually not what you thought it would be at all.      

[00:10:36] BL: Yeah, you know I have this thing, I watch a lot of documentaries and I love fashion documentaries?  [Laughs] It’s just a world that is very alien to me. And you know, I think I’ve gotten a richer appreciation for the people who do that stuff.  I think they’re artists. But it’s a really decadent world. You know, especially at the highest echelon. Where you’re, like, these fashion designers, like Valentino.  Like the world of Anna Wintour. Like all that stuff, it’s really sort of crazy how much money there is floating up at the top. The other thing about it is there are these documentaries about models and modeling and, you know, the hunt for, like, supermodels out in like Siberia.  I forget what the name of the doc was.

[00:11:17] CH: Yeah I think I know what you are talking about.  I forget the name of it too, but I saw that.

[00:11:20] BL: It’s really, uh, it’s really brutal.  Like the way they, you know, the people who work in the machinery evaluating these girls and teaching them how to walk on a catwalk.  They are like, “Yeah, she’s too fat. She needs to lose weight. It’s not the right look.” It’s very cold. They just sort of, uh, it’s all business to them.  And you see the looks on these poor girl’s faces and it’s just painful. 

[00:11:44] CH: Yeah, the stuff I was doing in high school when I would have been, like, really scared by something like that, was so like entry level?  I wasn’t getting paid in high school. And I was just working a lot for local photographers who were really great. And um, just sort of experimented with, like, local magazines and angling my body and working with light and things like that.  Which really interested me as a photographer as well. So I really liked it. And high fashion is really harmful in terms of projecting, um, you know, people being really skinny, underweight and really young. But for a girl that felt in high school that she—I didn’t really feel like I was sexually attractive because I didn’t have boobs, for example. [Laughs]  

[00:12:34] BL: Right.

[00:12:35] CH: And like, high fashion, there’s certain things where it just fell in line with what I was experiencing and my insecurities were suddenly celebrated because the clothes hung on me in a certain way?  So I was just really lucky that I had kind of a low-level but somewhat glamorous experience with it?     

[00:12:52] BL: Yeah, it’s kind of like the sweet spot.  It’s like you know, it’s kind of local, fun…

[00:12:57] CH: It was like serious but not…yeah, it was like I actually did it but it wasn’t too serious.  And everyone there was really supportive. So it was a serious experience but I do attribute that with my comfort with myself and how I present myself.  That’s kind of how I learned that all different kinds of bodies can be beautiful.   

[00:13:17] BL: How tall are you? 

[00:13:19] CH: Five nine.

[00:13:20] BL: Okay.  So I mean tall, but not like, you know I think women over six feet that’s like unusual for women to be over six feet.  But you’re tall so that’s part of being striking. Taller women get noticed more or something.      

[00:13:31] CH: Yeah, I usually wear heels too. I like it.  [Laughs] 

[00:13:35] BL: You do, yeah.  My wife is like five ten and when she wears heels, she’s taller than me.  

[00:13:40] CH: Oh wow. Yeah. [Laughs]  

[00:13:43] BL: She likes to tease me.  So you grew up in Phoenix. What did your folks do?  What was your childhood like? It sounds like, you sound well adjusted.  Is that the case?

[00:13:53] CH: [Laughs]  Thanks. Yeah, grew up in Phoenix.  My dad worked as an estimator for a contracting construction company.  Which means he takes budgets for, like, hospitals and malls and he figures out what materials it takes to build them and how much it will cost.  So his whole career is based on guessing in a way. But, like, educated guessing. 

[00:14:21] BL: Sure.  

[00:14:22] CH: So he’s done that my whole life.  My mom used to work for a parks department and now she works for the diversity department. So she had city jobs growing up.  And they were really outdoorsy, so we were always going on camping trips or river trips. And I have a younger sister. So I feel like boys would have done really well in our family?  We were kind of…

[00:14:47] BL: [Laughs]  You’re like, “Dad.  I’m sick of camping. Let’s go to a hotel.”

[00:14:51] CH: Yeah.  Like, we were, my mom is like not a girly girl at all!  So, we had her as a role model, but I don’t think we were ever as much of a tomboy as you would need to be to really get down and dirty and, like, go into the river that’s just full of mud and not shower for a couple days. [Laughs]  We would have trips almost every summer for a couple years, where we would be on the river for I think seven or eight days.  

[00:15:20] BL: Which river?

[00:15:21] CH: Um, it’s called the San Juan.  It’s in Utah?

[00:15:25] BL: Okay.  Like what southeastern Utah?

[00:15:28] CH: I forget, to be honest.  

[00:15:31] BL: Like Canyonlands?

[00:15:33] CH: We would drive from Arizona and go north.  And I kind of forget what area it is.  

[00:15:36] BL: Alright.  

[00:15:37] CH: But I believe so.  

[00:15:38] BL: Okay.

[00:15:39] CH: But yeah.  So we, a lot of my childhood is formed from being outdoors in the desert.   

[00:15:45] BL: Now you’re in Williamsburg, as far away from nature as possible, you know.

[00:15:50] CH: [Laughs]  Yeah. The city really, really appealed to me.  And my mom was kind enough to take me here when I was sixteen and my mind was fully blown and ever since then I thought Well, that’s where I’ll end up someday.  Like I’ll just do everything I can to be there.  

[00:16:05] BL: And your parents are supportive? They support your artistic pursuits?

[00:16:09] CH: Absolutely.  My dad is not allowed to read what I write which is interesting.  [Laughs] 

[00:16:16] BL: [Laughs] 

[00:16:17] CH: But he’s blindly supportive, so that’s nice.  I just got back from Christmas and he’s like “Well, you know I haven’t read it but we’re glad you’re doing well.”  [Laughs] 

[00:16:25] BL: So wait, wait, why? Like, did you tell him you can’t read this?

[00:16:29] CH: Yeah. Yeah. Please don’t read it.

[00:16:33] BL: Yeah I thought about that as I was reading, you know.  It deals frankly with sexual matters. And I think you either have to be in a situation where your posture towards your parents is fuck off, or I don’t care, or you’re in a situation where your parents are, like you say, blindly supportive.  And you feel comfortable enough to be that candid. And you know that’s sort of cool. That’s a gift.

[00:16:59] CH: Yeah.  Yeah I’m really lucky that my parents aren’t really like—like, they aren’t religious for example.  They’re not super, they aren’t at all uptight actually. They just, that’s got to be like so awkward to read. [Laughs]  Like, your daughter writing about sex. So I wish my mom wouldn’t read it but she’s the type of person that would have read it anyway if I told her not to.  So I sent it to her and I just said you know, “I’m sorry?” [Laughs] But you know, I just reached a certain point where that’s what I wanted to write. The whole thing isn’t explicit, but I wanted there to be parts of it that were real and true and uncomfortable.  And I just thought well, they’ll just have to understand. [Laughs] 

[00:17:42] BL: So yeah let’s talk about this.  Let’s talk about what you did—like, experientially.  Because it’s interesting. Like for instance, Seeking Arrangements, this website that I was not really familiar with until I read Pity.  But it’s like what? Rich men who want basically prostitution, but they want it under the guise of legitimacy?  They pay you. You get together. You’re their girlfriend or whatever. Explain it. How does this thing work?

[00:18:09] CH: Um, well I say in the chapbook it’s essentially a loophole for prostitution.  Which I believe that it is. Um, I believe that in many cases both parties do not acknowledge that fact it is prostitution.  I don’t know that for sure, but that’s what I suspect. The men involved see it as this, I don’t know, this removed element of, you know…they’re, like, providing for these young women, um… 

[00:18:37] BL: And you were considering this?  You were thinking, like, maybe I’ll do this.  I’ll get some sugar daddy to pay me you know, 10K a month, and…

[00:18:45] CH: Yeah well, as I write about in the chapbook, it didn’t feel that removed from what I was already doing.  In terms of, like, for instance, I worked at American Apparel in college. Working retail is very much, as a woman and especially in a store like that, it’s very much about your body.  You know, like, I write about in the chapbook about how they give free swimsuits to anyone who would wear them to work. And we all did it.   

[00:19:14] BL: Wait.  Is that for real?  You wear a swimming suit to work? 

[00:19:17] CH: Yeah.  It’s real.  

[00:19:18] BL: I didn’t know that.  I should start going to American Apparel.  

[00:19:23] CH: Oh no, it was like a one-time promotion. The company was still very new, but they were, like, you know, if anyone wants to wear it to work, you can have it.

[00:19:32] BL: [Laughs] So wait. So was it a bikini?

[00:19:36] CH: [Laughs] Yeah.

[00:19:37] BL: I’ve gotta stop you.  So you’re going into American Apparel, which is, you know, like The Gap or whatever, it’s a clothing store.  And you’re walking around the sales floor in a bikini?

[00:19:47] CH: Everyone was, yeah.  We all did it. Like, no one said no to that.  Everyone wanted the free swimsuit. Like, we’re college students, you know? Why not?  [Laughs]

[00:19:57] BL: Alright.  

[00:19:59] CH: I’m just saying that my thought—you know, this is years ago—my thought process at that point was, like, you know, if I’m single, I like older men, it’s not really that different than someone paying me to walk around in a store in a swimsuit while I ring people up.  Like, a lot of the sense of commodification didn’t feel that different from actually doing that. The line felt very blurry to me. And I know that sounds a little absurd, but that’s how I really felt. It’s like, well, you know, if it benefits my art, then why not? [Laughs]  That’s what part of me felt, and so I would, like, obsessively read things like, a lot of girls who have done it have articles online, like about their experiences with it? Some of them were really positive. So…   

[00:20:46] BL: And so what? For people listening. So you start to investigate this, you put up a profile…

[00:20:53] CH: Yeah, um the website is really weird.  And it’s surprisingly, like, low budget? So it looks horrible.  It looks like MySpace from 2005? [Laughs]

[00:21:10] BL: [Laughs]

[00:21:11] CH: Yeah, I wish that I still had my first profile because the event I talk about happened years ago.  So I’m not sure what my profile said. And I don’t have very many documented conversations. The one that stuck with me is the one I saved and included in the chapbook, of engaging with this man, of like asking him what exactly he wanted and what exactly he would give me and engaging him in that way.  

[00:21:39] BL: Yeah, some guys, like, some of the responses, you know, included in the book are pretty extraordinary.  Sadly not that surprising in a way? Like, I know guys. It’s very porny. I feel that so much of men’s, or a lot of men’s sexual imagination is informed by porn.  It’s really toxic, you know? You can sort of see it coming through. Like, maybe it was this way before? But I feel like it’s gotten more explicit and more uh, sort of, I don’t know if delusional is the word but do you know what I’m saying?  Do you agree?

[00:22:14] CH: Yeah, now I hope that in the chapbook that it didn’t come off as one-sided because I felt like I was baiting these people in a lot of ways.  Like even if I wasn’t going to go through with it, I genuinely wanted to know what these men thought they were going to do to me.  

[00:22:31] BL: [Laughs]

[00:22:32] CH: That really excited me in a lot of ways.  And I felt really compelled to instigate that kind of behavior.  So it wasn’t like it was coming out of nowhere. It was, like, my own doing.  

[00:22:42] BL: Okay, so let me ask you this: as a woman, I hear a lot of women complaining about the pornification of sex and, like, it’s out of touch with how women actually experience sex and desire and all this stuff.  Do you disagree? Is the pornification of sex, is that something you’re not entirely opposed to?  

[00:23:01] CH: Um yeah, not at all.  I’m sure that a lot of women feel that way, but I don’t.  That doesn’t bother me. [Laughs]

[00:23:10] BL: Alright.  But yeah, it gets down to the heart of your book and the objectification of the body, and you know, presenting yourself as an object.  You talk about Marina Abramovic. Like, I’m not an expert about talking about all this stuff, but I get what your concerns are. Um, I don’t know.  I suppose we are all out there in the streets presenting ourselves one way or the other. [00:23:42] Like, I like to think I’m detached from that but the truth is that, and I sort of talked about this when I had Sheila Heti and Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits on the show talking about women and clothes.  You start getting into things like fashion and physical presentation, you often hear people say, like, I don’t give a shit. A lot of guys will say that. But, like, not giving a shit is, you know, a way of presenting too.  You know, one way or another you’re out there and you’re an object, and you’re showing yourself off. Um, you know, I guess you have to sort of make peace with that. Like, how do you view it?

[00:24:14] CH:  Well I was interested in writing about commodification because I felt so conflicted about it.  I thought, How can I think of myself as a feminist and also want to sell my own body for men? You know?  Or to men rather.  

[00:24:29] BL: [Laughs]  Right.  

[00:24:31] CH: Like, how do I reconcile that?  Because in one sense it horrifies me that that happens to women, and on the other side I’m really excited by it.  Like, so how do I reconcile that? And I think a lot of people’s sexual desires are that way. They are, like, informed by fear or a traumatic event or something that’s, like, so foreign it excites them. 

[00:24:55] BL: Or it’s morality.  When it’s bad it’s like it’s attractive, you know.  And it heightens the excitement or whatever when it’s forbidden.

[00:25:06] CH: Yeah.  That’s like so much, like women are commodified all the time in our culture, and I just thought why would I want to contribute to that?  But at the same time I felt compelled, and it was really on my mind. So that’s kind of why I wanted to explore that topic. Because it felt taboo to me in a way.  It took me a long time to write about it.  

[00:25:26] BL: Yeah.  Well, you have to get some perspective.  So you never actually, did you ever actually go through with it and meet up with any of these guys?  

[00:25:31] CH: No.

[00:25:32] BL: Never?

[00:25:32] CH: No I didn’t.  No

[00:25:34] BL: Did you ever get close?  

[00:25:35] CH: No.

[00:25:36] BL: No.

[00:25:37] CH: Yeah, yeah I did.  But ultimately it was just too extreme.  

[00:25:43] BL: You couldn’t do it. 

[00:25:44] CH: Yeah.

[0025:45] BL: Did you ever, like, were you ever like in a lobby of a hotel and like what the fuck am I doing and then bailed?

[00:25:49] CH: [Laughs]  No. Um, a couple people bailed on me and as I talk about in the chapbook, it just became so much of a negotiation?  There are so many logistical details to work out? But like, I would lose interest. [Laughs]

[00:26:07] BL: Yeah, yeah. So how do you settle on money?  And how do you know they’re going to come through?  Like, are they PayPaling you? [Laughs]

[00:26:10] CH: I mean, you would have to ask someone who actually did it.  I’m not sure. Yeah, I don’t know. I just hated all the details of it. So if it was like, I guess I had an uninformed, like, movie version of it, where it’s just, oh it would be this way and it will be really straightforward—and it’s so complicated. And I would just kind of essentially be turned off by it. Okay, like, I’m done.  

[00:26:37] BL: It is crazy.  There are relationships like that.  I guess it works both ways. It cuts both ways, gender-wise, but I think it’s most often male to female where there are relationships that have financial transactions at their core.  I’m thinking for whatever reason of Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Clippers. [Laughs]

[00:27:00] CH: Oh right.

[00:27:01] BL: But his girlfriend or whatever; that was just all so strange to me.  She owned a home and a Porsche. I was like, why is she with this guy? He’s just paying, basically cuts her a check and gives her things like a house.  [Laughs]  

[00:27:15] CH: Yeah.  That goes back to what I was saying, this kind of stuff happens all the time, where, like, it’s not that crazy.  [Laughs] It is pretty extreme. But I do think it happens all the time in many different forms. Not just money.  Any kind of relationship is an exchange.  

[00:27:33] BL: Okay and you say you like older men?  You mentioned that earlier. Is that a thing?

[00:27:37] CH: I do, yes.  

[00:27:39] BL: Okay.  Like how much older?  Like you are into fifty year old guys? 

[00:27:44] CH: I don’t know. I don’t have a specific age group.  My partner now is twelve years older than me.  

[00:27:50] BL: Okay. Just not like geriatric or, like, I don’t know.

[00:27:55] CH: No.  [Laughs] I don’t know.  I guess ideal is guys in their fifties.  There is something distinguished about it.

[00:28:01] BL: Yeah.  Silver fox. No but…

[00:28:02] CH: I like the element of being so removed.  Like we would be so different.  There is something about that, that I think I tune into and like.  

[00:28:12] BL: Okay, and what about transactional stuff.  Older men are typically more established, they aren’t searching for themselves, they might have some income.  Is that part of the evaluation?

[00:28:23] CH: Yeah.  It just plays into the whole, what I call like the movie aspect of it.  It’s the whole package.  

[00:28:30] BL: Yeah. It’s tough for me because, you know, I feel like the cruelty, there can be cruelty in love and relationships and when I was younger I always thought that the cruelest thing was, like, unrequited love.  Which really is, in terms of the human experience, profoundly shitty. You love someone. You really love them and they just don’t love you. [Laughs] It’s fucking awful.  

[00:28:52] CH: Right.  

[00:28:53] BL: And then as you get older, like another component of it that can be pretty cruel is, like, where men are judging women for their bodies or their weight for example.  Or their age. You know what I’m saying? There are physical calculations that men make where there’s not much a woman can do. If she just isn’t genetically wired a certain way.  And then the flip of that is that women will judge men for their money or lack thereof. Which I guess a guy could potentially rectify but typically, it’s heading one way or the other.  Do you know what I’m saying? Sometimes I just find myself depressed by all that.  

[00:29:36] CH: You can work yourself up into depression about anything, right?  

[00:29:39] BL: [Laughs]  Yeah I know, but it’s just like goddamn, people .  This is how the world works. And sometimes I feel like I’m being too soft or too naive or unrealistic and it bums me out.  This is actually how most people are and I need to be more accepting of that, or aware of it, rather than living in this dream world where people fall in love and just like the person for their heart.  [Laughs] You know.  

[00:30:03] CH: Right.

[00:30:04] BL: It’s a little bit naive.  Maybe not as battle-hardened as I should be or something?

[00:30:09] CH: I don’t know.  There’s something to be said for the line between fantasy and reality.  What you would actually want to live your life doing versus what you would maybe fantasize about or what you would think you want.  And there are only so many ways to find that out or draw that line. So I think that is something I explore a lot in my writing. How do you distinguish the difference between those two, in terms of your own desires.   

[00:30:37] BL: Yeah.  So how do you distinguish?   [Laughs]

[00:30:41] CH: Oh god, I don’t know!   [Laughs] I’m writing essays about it.  I have no idea.  

[00:30:45] BL: So okay, do you have, what are your thoughts on, like, marriage?  Do you have definitive thoughts on that? Is that something you would want?  Is it an institution you feel at odds with?  

[00:30:57] CH: I used to be really against it in terms of what it stood for and the tradition behind it, but honestly just something as simple as going to my best friend’s wedding and being in her wedding really changed my mind.  I just thought, oh well this can be really beautiful and this is really special.

[00:31:15] BL: Yeah.  No, I get that.

[00:31:16] CH: I still don’t want kids and I still don’t think I will get married but at the same time I don’t feel that my stance on that is that strong in one direction or another.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I changed my mind one day but at this point in time I feel really committed to my partner and we’ve been together almost five years. Yeah, I don’t know.  In terms of the tradition of it, I don’t like it. It’s so much about ownership, which is what I write a lot about but it doesn’t interest me at the moment. But I love when my friends get married.  

[00:31:55] BL: What about, would you ever change your mind on kids?  Or are you one hundred percent on that? 

[00:32:00] CH: I’m pretty one hundred percent on it.  I feel pretty strongly.  

[00:32:04] BL: May I ask why?

[00:32:06] CH: It’s something that I’m still trying to work out.  It’s just mostly comes down to that I’ve never envisioned myself as a mother.  Never had that urge or had a vision of myself tending to a baby. The thought really scares me because of how much it would take away from my work and that’s something that I feel really comfortable with at the moment.  [00:32:32g] I just think, if I don’t have that urge I’m not going to go there.  I’m so, I’m going back to school right now and I do so many things. I just go from thing to thing to thing throughout the day.  The thought of caring for another life is so overwhelming to me that I can’t imagine it, but it’s kind of like marriage. That’s where I am right now.  So that’s all I can do with it.  

[00:32:58] BL: So you say you’re going back to school?

[00:33:00] CH:  Yeah, I’m going to get my MFA at Bennington.  I’m doing the low-residency nonfiction program.  

[00:33:07] BL:  What do you want to do?  Do you see yourself like an author, writer of nonfiction, essayist?  Or do you have a wider, are you casting a wider net artistically including the visual arts and stuff like that?

[00:33:24] CH:  Right now I’m really honing in on finishing a book of essays.  So in terms of, like… Pity the Animal would ideally be one of them.  Right now I’m doing a lot of research for them.  So that’s a really time-consuming element of what I do in terms of lyric essays, they weave in and out but I need a lot of research to complete them.  So that’s what I’m focusing on right now. But I just assisted Marina Abramovic on her recent solo exhibition at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. It was called “Generator.”  And I was a performance facilitator for that. And that really, working with her really piqued my interest in doing more performance work.

[00:34:10] BL:  Yeah, okay so let’s talk about her.  Because you write about her in Pity the Animal.  You went to her show at MOMA. “The Artist is Present.” Which they did a big documentary about, which I saw.  But you never went and sat across from her?

[00:34:24] CH: That’s correct.  It felt very overwhelming to me, even to just be in the room with her.  I felt that she had this presence that I could not endure. And I know that sounds kind of silly but it’s just like I couldn’t handle it.  

[00:34:40] BL: No, people would sit across from her and weep.  It’s very rare in our culture, especially nowadays with everyone diving into their phones every five seconds, that you would actually sit across from somebody and stare into their eyes, and just, like, be with them.  I think that’s intolerable for people, in ways that maybe they don’t even know how to articulate. So I get how people could crumple emotionally in matters that probably mystify them or feel strange and unexpected.   

[00:35:13] CH: Yeah.  She has this intensity that’s very rare, this, like, openness.  And from studying her work and seeing her interact with her own art, it really taught me how much intensity can be derived from the simplest of actions.  

[00:35:35] BL: Talk about somebody who’s all in!

[00:35:38] CH: Yeah.  Exactly. Exactly.  So she’s inspiring to me in many, many ways. I think that is one thing that really struck me, the simplicity of her just sitting in a room.  I know that came across as pretentious to a lot of people, but to me it was very pure and I’m interested in that kind of purity and clarity.

[00:36:01] BL: Yeah.  It’s a very privileged position she’s got herself to in the art community, because she can do these things that I think from the outside looking in, especially when people give it a cursory glance, they don’t like art.  [Laughs] They can kind of scoff at it or whatever. But she’s done the work. Like you say, I think you have to have a level of commitment to that particular way of being over the long haul in order to have a chance at that.  And she’s there. She’s able to put these things on and people show up. I think it’s super cool. I’m curious how you went from kind of obsessively stalking, not stalking, but standing on the sidelines…

[00:36:44] CH: [Laughs]  Hopefully not stalking.

[00:36:46] BL: Mostly, like, circling her essentially.  Like going to MOMA, watching her sit with people, feeling fascinated, feeling drawn to her but not having the courage to go sit, to getting to the point where you’re working with her.  How did you get there?

[00:37:01] CH: Yeah, mostly the chapbook.  The MOMA show was the first time I had even heard of her really.  I know she’s very famous but I have a very limited knowledge of art.  Even modern art or art history. I’ve never studied it. So a lot of things are very new to me.  And she was new to me and the retrospective really blew my mind. I just thought I have to study everything that she’s done.  [00:37:33] So I did.  I read her biographies.  I studied every book I could find on her.  And that began informing my understanding of commodification and how she used her body as art.  Because in a sense that was what I was interested in. Like, what can one body do? And with her, it was so many different things and that kind of flipped the switch for me.  Like okay, you can, for instance—she—in the chapbook I write about that she switched places, positions with a prostitute. And the prostitute went to her gallery opening as Marina and Marina stood guard in her, the prostitute’s red light district window.   

[00:38:20] BL: In Amsterdam?  

[00:38:21] CH: Yeah, in Amsterdam.

[00:38:23] BL: Did she have sex with customers?

[00:38:25] CH: No, she didn’t.

[00:38:27] BL: Okay.  So she didn’t, I’m not as impressed.  [Laughs]

[00:38:30] CH: Yeah.  [Laughs] She’s not as intense as you thought she was.  

[00:38:34] BL: No, she needs to be more intense.  

[00:38:37] CH: So she just really informed the chapbook and that’s why I thought it was worth writing about my experience going to see her.  And the gaze that I was observing.

[00:38:53] BL: And so did she read it?

[00:38:55] CH: I sent it to Marina Abramovic Institute because I met someone through there.  The Marina Abramovic Institute hosted a marathon reading of Solaris and it was ten hours long and I went there.  

[00:39:13] BL: Wait, a marathon reading of what?

[00:39:16] CH: Solaris, the sci-fi novel.

[00:39:21] BL: Oh, right.  Yeah.

[00:39:23] CH: And I sat in the back for eight hours without moving and wrote an essay continuously throughout the piece.  And I’d never read the novel but I, any sort of tidbit I would include in the essay in italics, and then keep writing.  So it became this kind of lyric personal essay that I wrote while I was there. [00:39:51]  I was allowed to cut things afterward but I didn’t add anything.  And so it served as kind of a document of the performance. And they liked that and published it.  And when I finished the chapbook I thought, Oh well, I would like the Institute to have this. Marina was such a big part of it.  Through that I became, I was invited to be a performance facilitator for the show “Generator.”  

[00:40:18] BL: Wow.  

[00:40:19] CH: It was her first solo show since the one I wrote about.  Since “The Artist is Present.”  

[00:40:26] BL: So you got to hang with her?

[00:40:31] CH: [Laughs]  Yeah, we workshopped with her and she helped me with a performance I did with my blog, Inventory.  That was a seven-and-a-half-hour performance and I got to see, when I met her, the Institute showed her my blog.  And I got to see her look at Inventory for the first time. [Laughs]

[00:40:54] BL: Did you cry?  What’s it like to actually be with her?

[00:40:57] CH: Oh my God. Well, it was just, I don’t know.  She’s just so great and down to earth, so sincere and encouraging.  She looked at it and she helped me figure out how I should present the piece itself.  That was really invaluable. And it was great to work on her show “Generator” in which it was a space of sensory deprivation.  So that was really interesting. Where me and other facilitators would blindfold and put noise cancelling headphones on the visitors and guide them into a space that they hadn’t seen.  And they are allowed to stay as long as they want.  

[00:41:39] BL: So wait, but do they get to take off the headphones and stuff once they are in the space?  They are just in there.

[00:41:43] CH: No they don’t.  

[00:41:45] BL: Alright.

[00:41:46] CH: No they don’t.  They never see the space.  [Laughs]

[00:41:48] BL: What is the space like?  Is it gorgeous or is it just like a room?

[00:41:52] CH: No, it’s just a big white room at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. 

[00:41:56] BL: And so people walk in and they are standing there blindfolded wearing noise cancelling headphones or do they sit down?

[00:42:03] CH: You can move however you like, sit, lay down, walk but you just have to move slowly.

[00:42:11] BL: [Laughs]  I was going to say, are people running into one another?

[00:42:13] CH: No, no.  Whenever teens would visit they would walk really fast.  I’m such a rule follower that I would always lift their headphones and say “please walk more slowly.”  I took it way too seriously.  

[00:42:27] BL: [Laughs]

[00:42:29] CH: That’s just my nature.

[00:42:31] BL: So how long did you do this for?

[00:42:33] CH: That exhibition was six weeks.

[00:42:38] BL: Okay, and are you going to do anything else with Marina?

[00:42:40] CH: Not that I know of.  Not at the moment.

[00:42:43] BL: Alright.

[00:42:45] CH: That was a once in a lifetime thing for me.  [Laughs]

[00:42:47] BL: Totally.

[00:42:49] CH: And then through that, with other facilitators, we did a workshop with her. And we did the mutual gaze with each other.  So that was interesting. I never did it with Marina but Marina led me [Laughs] to do it with other people and it was really intense.  

[00:43:05] BL: Like where you just sit down across somebody and look at them? 

[00:43:07] CH: Yeah, one of them was sitting but one was standing.  And the standing one was more effective for me where I just started hallucinating instantly.  It’s crazy. You just focus on one thing. I’ve never done drugs but people that I’ve told this to say the effects are just like hallucinogenics.  Where the face just starts to morph and look like a monstrous version of itself. The girl that I was staring into her eyes started weeping and I felt really stoic.  I felt like a statute and I was fine not moving. It was just really bizarre.     

[00:43:42] BL:  Well yeah.  And it’s all so emotionally loaded.  I’m sort of into meditation. It’s very meditative.  It’s like being with people, actually experiencing their presence.  It’s hard stuff to talk about because you sort of sound like an asshole when you start talking about presence… [Laughs]  I don’t know. It’s difficult I find. I think that’s kind of what she was getting at. I think that’s part of what she wanted to do.  And I think one of the things that was recommended to me was mindful eating. Where you sit down and you actually chew each bite of food and you’re with other people.  They were even recommending this is how your family should eat.  

[00:44:23] CH: Oh wow.  That seems really unrealistic.  

[00:44:26] BL: It does!  And I can’t stand the sound of people chewing and the last thing I want is a quiet dinner table.  I gotta do it some other way. Maybe we will all just stare at each other after we eat. [Laughs] But I feel like I still don’t think I could do that.  I understand that’s it’s probably, that there is some wisdom in it. Because we really don’t take a moment. Everyone is in such a fucking hurry to distract themselves and sort of not pay attention and cover up whatever is bothering them with food, media and whatever else we consume.  

[00:45:05] CH: Yeah.  Yeah. Definitely. And one thing I was skeptical of before my experience with “Generator” was the concept of energy.  I always thought it was, like, a new age thing that people in LA said, no offense. [Laughs]

[00:45:18] BL: [Laughs]

[00:45:19] CH: I lived in LA too and all I heard was like, oh your energy and your vibe.

[00:45:27] BL: Your chi.   [Laughs]

[00:45:28] CH: And I guess I just casually dismissed it and didn’t actually think about it. After working that show I would see how people reacted without their vision.  Some people would be repelled from other people instantly. Like, they didn’t want to engage and other people it’s like they had magnets that would draw them to each other.  These strangers from across the room would come towards each other.  

[00:45:55] BL: Yeah.

[00:45:56] CH: I just felt like it couldn’t be explained and I thought, you know I think there is something to what all those LA people were talking about.   [Laughs]

[00:46:04] BL: Now I’m worried.  Am I a magnet or am I a repellent?  I don’t know. I’d have to see.  

[00:46:09] CH: In that space at least, it was how you engaged in unknowability.  So it’s like you don’t know who you are going to run into, how many people are in the room with you, or what’s going to happen.  But you can choose to be open to it or you can choose to be really afraid. That’s what seemed to be the difference.  

[00:46:29] BL: Do you think people are afraid they’re going to get fondled or something?   

[00:46:32] CH: I didn’t see that much.  It was really just this discomfort with not knowing when you were going to bump into someone?

[00:46:42] BL: It’s like some couple from Ohio who just like popped in with their daughter or something.  You know their daughter’s in art school and they’re suddenly, like, you know… [Laughs]

[00:46:49] CH: Exactly. [Laughs]  There were some people who were really not into it and other people would stay for hours.  A couple people fell asleep. You know, it’s fascinating.  

[00:46:57] BL: Yeah.  I wonder what I would’ve done.  I don’t know what I would’ve done.  But I like Marina. I’m down for that.  I see the beauty in what she’s doing. I don’t find it silly so I think I probably would have given it a shot.

[00:47:12] CH: Yeah.  Yeah.

[00:47:14] BL: Okay. So you said you lived in LA for a while and then you got to New York.  I feel like you’ve done, I have a good eye for this, but you are doing a good job at setting yourself up for when your next book is done.  I feel a lot of chatter happening. Do you know a lot of people in the literary community? Are you out there actively networking and meeting people and going to things?  Is that a part of it for you, or is it more like you’re living your life and you happen to run into these people? Serendipity?

[00:47:46] CH: Yeah, I was in New York for a year, straight out of college from Arizona.  And I worked so much that I was never able to engage with readings or the literary world in the way I hoped that I would.  So I could never see readings. I was always working at night. I had, like, five part time jobs.  

[00:48:07] BL: Oh, okay.

[00:48:09] CH: And I just couldn’t make it work.  I was just doing so much. And I moved to LA.  I got a job there that was a full-time job. I had a couple friends from Arizona who had moved there and it seemed really appealing.  Because I had grown up in Arizona and moved to New York where I didn’t see the sun for months at a time, and it really depressed me. [Laughs]

[00:48:32] BL: Right?   [Laughs]

[00:48:33] CH: I was going through a bad breakup, and when something like that is offered to you, it’s like yeah, okay, I’ll go.  [Laughs] Why not?

[00:48:41] BL: What did you do out here?

[00:48:43] CH: I worked for a music licensing company.  For a guy who also runs a small publishing company called Kill Your Idols.  I helped edit his books as well as doing the whole office job thing. That was good but I was dating my partner the whole time I was there.  We met shortly before I moved and we dated long distance for three years. And I decided I wanted to move back.

[00:49:15] BL: Wow.  Three years? I mean, good for you.  Long distance is hard to do.

[00:49:20] CH: Yeah, we never dated in New York.  We met but dated long distance for that time.

[00:49:26] BL: That’s rare.  

[00:49:31] CH: It was very difficult but it was also exciting.  

[00:49:32] BL: Yeah.  No, it’s good.  It’s exciting for the first six months and then it’s oh shit, I gotta get on a plane again?  Ya know? How do you sustain that?

[00:49:39] CH: [Laughs]  I don’t know. I thought it was exciting the whole time.  

[00:49:42] BL: You did.  

[00:49:43] CH: We’re both—he’s an artist too so we both cherish our alone time.  It was actually a really good way to get to know someone without bombarding them and still having your own time to do your own thing…   

[00:49:57] BL: What does he do?

[00:49:58] CH: …and assess how you feel.  He runs a record label called Youth Attack and he is a fine artist.  He does these really gorgeous ink drawings.  

[00:50:09] BL: Wow.  What’s his name?  Let’s plug him. Does he have a website?

[00:50:11] CH: Sure it’s Mark McCoy.  

[00:50:13] BL: Okay.  Mark McCoy.  Mark McCoy.com?

[00:50:19] CH: [Laughs]  MarkMcCoyArt.com

[00:50:21] BL: See?  I’m glad I asked.  So you go back to New York and this time around did you have a new game plan?  I guess you have somebody else, you have a partner, so maybe that makes it easier.  It sounds like you’ve had a bit of a different experience with the city this time. You’ve been able to engage in ways in you wanted to the first go around.

[00:50:39] CH: Yeah.  It hasn’t been easier financially for instance.  But I made a very conscious effort to work freelance in a way that would enable me to potentially go to a low residency MFA program which I’m now doing.  Go to things like Tin House which I did last year. And do these things that I’ve always wanted to do and things that I thought would enable me to take my writing more seriously.  

[00:51:07] BL: We talked a little bit about this but what’s the goal?  The goal is you want to make your living publishing books. You want to incorporate maybe a performance aspect.  That might be, the performance aspect, particularly in the Marina Abramovic vein. I don’t know if there are that many.  Am I thinking of Sophie Calle? Am I thinking of the right person?

[00:51:32] CH:  Yeah.  I love her.  Yeah.

[00:51:34] BL:  She’s the one who got in bed with people and did all that experimental, fun, arty stuff.  I think there is some precedent for it but to be a writer, working nonfiction, writing essays, the kind of work that you do, and that I think you will continue to do, coupled with that performance, there’s not a huge amount of people doing that sort of thing.

[00:52:00] CH: No, and I just used to make really long-term plans and I don’t anymore.  I just kind of focus on one or two things at a time. A year ago I thought, okay well maybe I should get my MFA.  And now I’m doing that so now I’ll do my MFA and work on my book. I just kind of do one step at a time and make the best thing I can make and hope that thing leads to the next thing.  I don’t really know what to do besides that without totally overwhelming myself. I used to have a lot of problems with anxiety and thinking so far in advance that I would just think all the time, what if this, what if this.  And it was never useful. It was never helpful [Laughs]

[00:52:48] BL: Right.  

[00:52:49] CH: It was really harmful.  So I make a conscious to try to make the best thing that I am working on at that moment.  If I can just make that the best chapbook that I can write, then that’s a good thing.  

[00:53:05] BL: Okay, so how do you reconcile this? I think it’s an issue for a lot of us.  How do you reconcile that approach with the financial realities of life? I think there’s wisdom in what you’re saying.  You can easily overwhelm yourself and it’s impossible to figure out the future in some sort of long-term way. It’s expensive to live in Manhattan.  To live, period.

[00:53:34] CH: Yeah.

[00:53:35] BL: I don’t know.  How do you do it? [Laughs]  How do you think you’re going to do it?  Do you worry about that stuff?

[00:53:40] CH: I do, yeah, to some extent.  But what I do is I look at my favorite writers and think okay, how did they make it work?  Because I don’t expect to become sufficient off of one book of essays. Like, that’s insane.  So obviously I know there are going to have to be other things going on. All of the writers that I really appreciate and like their careers, teach, so that’s something I’m interested in and part of the reason I’m going to get my MFA.  

[00:54:12] BL: Okay, so you want to do the academia thing.

[00:54:13] CH: I would like it to be an option some day when it gets to that point.  

[00:54:17] BL: Yeah.

[00:54:18] CH: Right now I work as an assistant for several different people on a freelance basis, for writers or people in the literary world doing anything from transcribing interviews, to researching, to website correspondence, planning events.  I do any kind of administrative type stuff for writers. 

[00:54:41] BL: Anybody, any high profile writers?  Obviously if they are hiring assistants they have to be doing okay.

[00:54:46] CH: Yeah, I would rather not say who they are.  A couple different people, and they are all great to work for.  That turned out to be a really good thing for me. One person kind of leads to another and so it’s built up to be essentially full-time but it’s flexible and I can do it mostly by myself and from home.  I much prefer that to interacting with people in an office all day. I’m too much of an introvert to deal with it.  

[00:55:14] BL: It’s exhausting.  

[00:55:16] CH: I’m pretty self motivated so it’s working out okay.  I like it.  

[00:55:22] BL: Do you work at home in this white room, or do you go to coffee shops and do that or libraries?

[00:55:26] CH: There is this place in Long Island City called The Oracle Club that I joined.  I work out of there in addition to my little white room.  

[00:55:36] BL: What’s The Oracle?  Is it a writing room where people have a shared office space?

[00:55:39] CH: Yeah it’s this really gorgeous library full of old books and they have desks and there’s usually only a few people there at any given time.

[00:55:50] BL: That sounds great.

[00:55:52] CH: Yeah it is great.

[00:55:54] BL: So that’s, like, you pay monthly and you can belong there?

[00:55:58] CH: Yeah.  

[00:56:00] BL: I feel like LA needs some of that.  I think there are some office places, like little shared cafes.

[00:56:05] CH: I can’t remember.  I had a great studio when I lived in LA, so I didn’t really need another place to work.  Here I feel like, it hasn’t been so much of a problem anymore but there are some dogs in the building that would just bark all day long.  [Laughs]

[00:56:23] BL: [Laughs]

[00:56:24] CH: I felt like okay, my sanity is at stake.  Something needs to change.

[00:56:28] BL: Yeah.

[00:56:30] CH: So I found this space and I joined it. And it’s been great.

[00:56:32] BL: Wow.  Okay. So the next book you said is a collection of essays?  Like, are they thematically linked? Are you working on more material that’s like or has the same concerns as Pity? Or is it completely different?

[00:56:46] CH: Yeah.  They’re about power and desire and a lot of them are on some level about voyeurism or perception.  Those are the themes I’m working with at the moment. And I’m doing a lot of research, like I said, for the themes surrounding that.  I’m doing research on spies at the moment and architecture.

[00:57:10] BL: On spies?

[00:57:11] CH: Spies.  [Laughs]

[00:57:12] BL: Like who? Like, what does this entail?

[00:57:14] CH: I would rather not say exactly who I’m working on because it might change.  

[00:57:23] BL: No but I mean like CIA?  Like people who spy? 

[00:57:27] CH: Yeah.  CIA people.  If I’m writing something and I have an idea for a research avenue I want to go down, I just always do it.   [Laughs] Like, even if it sounds absurd. I’m going to research spies now. I think: why not?

[00:57:44] BL: Yeah.  Where do you even start?  What do you do? I guess there are books out there on spies.  

[00:57:50] CH: Yeah, like with Pity the Animal, I started with breaking in horses which I didn’t end up writing about.  That lead me to books about hunting wild animals in India. So I always just sort of look at stuff I’m interested in and see where it leads.  

[00:58:09] BL: So you’re looking at spies. And what else did you say?  Spies…

[00:58:12] CH: Architecture.  

[00:58:14] BL: Architecture.  Like famous architects or the actual buildings?

[00:58:21] CH: I’m a little secretive about what I’m working on.  I don’t know. I’m just not going to say. [Laughs]

[00:58:27] BL: Alright.  So okay. When you’re conceiving this collection of essays, are you conceiving it as an entire thing or is each individual essay its own thing?

[00:58:39] CH: Yeah, each individual essay is its own thing and it’s fortunate in a way that I’m obsessed with certain topics so they inevitably have things in common with each other.  I feel like it will work well as a collection.  

[00:58:58] BL: And Pity is written, I love the style it’s written in.  It’s, like, one of my favorite types of reading is this like pointillistic, short bursts, you know, type writing.  I don’t know how to describe it. But you know what I’m saying.  

[00:59:13] CH: Thanks.  Yeah. I like sparse.

[00:59:15] BL: Pared down but not at the expense of thematic weight or whatever.  It still feels like you’re getting a full read. Is that the way the other essays are going to be?

[00:59:29] CH: Yeah, that’s how I write.  I just cut and cut and cut and cut.   [Laughs] Until it’s the way that it is.  It starts much bigger because it doesn’t naturally flow out of me that way but I can kind of pinpoint what…you know, if I’m writing five sentences sometimes it will take me four sentences to get to saying what I actually want to say.  

[00:59:53] BL: It’s a tricky, it can trick you, that kind of writing, because it can seem like this might be easier but I actually think it’s harder.  It’s harder to pare things down to their essence and to also string together each bit in a way that feels rhythmic and fluid. You know what I’m saying?  To get it so the full reading experience moves properly. That’s the way I like to write but I also find it harder than its opposite. So I guess I’m a masochist?   [Laughs]

[1:00:27] CH: [Laughs]

[01:00:28] BL: It seems like, Oh I should be more expansive but I can never be satisfied with the expansive.  I always see where I need to cut you know?

[01:00:35] CH: Yeah.  I’ve used books that I’ve really connected to as guides.  So whenever I feel lost or feel like how can I make this clearer, I’ll just go back to my favorites.

[01:00:48] BL: Which are?

[01:00:49] CH: Sarah Manguso, Maggie Nelson, Eula Biss.  Those are my, what do you call them, holy grail?  They will always lead me in the right direction.  

[01:01:01] BL: Yeah.  No. 

[01:01:05] CH: You can pick up any of their books and they will teach you something.

[01:01:05] BL: I’ve talked to both Sarah and Maggie on the show.  Who was the third one?

[01:01:09] CH: Yeah.  Eula Biss?

[01:01:12] BL: Eula Biss.  Okay, I’ll have to pick her up.  I love Sarah’s work and Maggie’s work.  That’s a good option to pick up somebody who’s got it  done it right. I have, like, Mary Robison’s book here. I like Kate Zambreno.  She kind of does similar stuff.  

[01:01:30] CH: Oh yeah, she’s great.  I liked the phrase you used when you were talking to, I think Atticus Lish, I think you said when you needed to hear the music.  I thought, that’s what I do. When you need to hear someone else’s voice kind of guide you in the right direction.  

[01:01:45] BL: Right.  The thing, too, is I guess you’re working on essays. Like, if you are working on a longer-form book, the challenge I think sometimes in trying make sure there is connective tissue or a narrative that the reader can follow.  Or at least that’s what I’m up against right now with the thing that I’m working on. What I’m trying to say is if you are working pointillistically and you have these bursts, like, there has to be something driving, or otherwise it’s just an assembly of bursts.  [Laughs] Is that a struggle for you? Like, when you’re trying to string together these essays… like, making sure there’s some sort of storyline or thought process?

[01:02:31] CH: Yeah, absolutely because I don’t necessarily write from beginning to end.  So I just kind of accept it as a longer process because it seems to work for me.  It makes more sense to write from beginning to end but if I have these pieces usually I will reach a point where I have some research, some little pieces, like, fragments, and I will print them all out and arrange them on the floor, cut them up and see how physically moving them feels and reads.  And that usually helps where at a point in the essay I’m kind of halfway done maybe, I’ll print it out, cut it up and see how it looks and reads in a different form. In a different order.

[01:03:18] BL: Okay.  So you are actually physically collaging it?

[01 :03:21] CH: Yeah.

[01:03:23] BL: In your white antiseptic room.  [Laughs]

[01:03:26] CH: Yeah.  I have barely enough floor room so sometimes I do it on the bed.  

[01:03:31] BL: I’m picturing you for some reason in, like, surgical scrubs and forceps and picking up each piece.

[01:03:36] CH: Yeah I wish.  I feel like if I had more OCD tendencies I would get to that point but I’m not quite there.

[01:03:43] BL: Nope.  Give it time.  There’s still time.  You’re young. [Laughs]

[01:03:46] CH:  [Laughs]  Yeah there is so much time.

[01:03:49] BL: Well it’s been, I really enjoyed the chapbook.  It’s been super fun talking with you and I wish you well at Bennington getting your MFA.  I can see you eventually teaching. I think that’s going to manifest.  

[01:04:01] CH: [Laughs]  Thanks.

[01:04:03] BL: I also wish you well with this collection of essays and your white room.

[01:04:08] CH: Thank you so much Brad.  It was great to talk with you.  

* * *


[01:04:12] BL: Alright guys. There you have it.  That is Chelsea Hodson and her chapbook is called Pity the Animal.  It’s out there now from Future Tense Books in print.  If you want to get a copy in print go to powells.com and if you want to get the e-book it’s available from Emily Books and you can get that at Amazon as a Kindle single.  Check out chelseahodson.com and follow Chelsea on Twitter @chelseahodson.  [01:06:36] Thank you very much to Chelsea Hodson, the folks at Future Tense, the folks at Emily Books.  Go get Pity the Animal.  It fits in your pocket.  And thanks to you guys for listening.  I appreciate it. Have I already said that?  I appreciate it. Happy New Year. I mean that in a non-jaded way.  If you’ve made resolutions, I don’t mean to mock you. That’s good.  [01:07:03] Everybody does a little bit of that.  It’s a new year. Let’s make it happen.  What do I want to do in the new year? Create something without it being too painful.  Have fun creating something. Experience joy. [Laughs] 

[01:07:34] I experience joy while doing this podcast, contrary to what the tone of my monologue might indicate.  Be excited in the act of creation. Be feverish. That would be nice. Not lose my temper when someone approaches with a leaf blower.[01:08:06] That would be great.  Get in better shape. I’d like to be able to run a long way, like ten miles or something.  I guess I could do that if I had to but I would just be hurting afterwards. I never do that.  I can’t tell you the last time I ran more than a mile or two. I want to have lots of energy.