INTERVIEW — TAPE #218, SIDE #2
Q: Mark Russell Bell
B: Michael Russell, brother
J: Jose, parking attendant
A: “Bookworm” Announcer (radio broadcast)
L: Theme song lyrics
S: Michael Silverblatt (radio broadcast)
V: Vikram Chandra (radio broadcast)
M: Mac McCormick (acquaintance at Hotline)
E: Eric Sawyer (radio broadcast)
W: Warren Olney (radio broadcast)
D: Dr. Baltimore (radio broadcast)
T: Mr. Truitt (radio broadcast)
R: John Barclift, realtor (message left on answering machine)
Q: So Michael and I went out to lunch at The Greenery and now we’re having yogurt. Isn’t the yogurt good, Michael, with those carob chips on top?
Q: People always do that around me. Mighael isn’t very subtle.
( . . . )
Q: So I’m reading Michael some of the paragraphs from New Testament and this is what he has to say.
B: You can’t put that on the website. (“I”)
Q: I refuse to be censored. That’s what got mankind into all this mess — is not being honest with himself.
B: This was said to you confidentially. She didn’t mean for it to be published.
Q: But I explained to her. I told her. She knew she was being interviewed. (“BUT SHE” “I GUESS”) It came up in our conversation and she said, ‘Well you have to change the names later’ and I explained that Mighael never lets me change the name. Anyway — (“SHE WANTED A JOB” “IT WON’T”) it won’t harm her in Hollywood because she’s got multiple sclerosis.
B: I know but she’ll be very upset.
Q: Well, fuck, everyone in the world’s going to be very upset. You’re going to be very upset. Everyone’s very upset. I can’t help it. We have to do this for God. What’s more important, Michael? Doing something for God or worrying about our own selfish self-interests?
B: The latter. The latter.
Q: Now you know why Chandler is the way she is. She’s got two daddies who don’t let her know what really is going on in the world.
( . . . )
B: I realize that I take work too seriously.
Q: What led you to the realization?
B: When I’m all stressed-out about stupidity. That’s what.
Q: Who is stressed-out?
Q: Do you get stressed-out?
B: Yeah because I’m just too devoted to my work.
Q: It’s called finding religion. And how’s James, by the way, back from his Cannes Film Festival? Did he lose anything like his camera or anything?
B: No, I don’t think so.
Q: No news? No updates for the readers? Does he ever mention me?
B: Does he mention you? No. He just says how are you.
Q: How am I?
( . . . )
Q: And what did you think of that Ramona Bell conversation? What?
B: What? (“SO WHAT DO YOU” “WHY”)
Q: Why was she so upset with me?
B: Well I don’t think she was upset. (“WELL THEY”)
Q: She didn’t want to book me — the way she was so abrupt. (“YOU CAN’T”)
B: She just thought you were nuts.
Q: She did?
Q: Because of what? The word meaning. (“RA” “WHEN YOU”)
B: The Egyptian Ra. That’s what did it.
B: Obviously. Because it’s so — I mean you’re talking about abom(inable) — you’re talking about —
Q: It’s factual.
B: — from bigfoot to this to that and then all of a sudden you’re talking about — I mean it’s just too much. People just go, “Oh — ” (“JE”)
Q: That’s why people need to read. These people don’t read.
B: I have to go back to work.
Q: I thought you weren’t going to take your job too seriously.
B: Well no but I’ve still got to go back.
Q: I’m still trying to remember — Who was the person who saw the dyke party at Jodie Foster’s house?
B: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Q: Oh, Michael, that was a publicist — your friend. What was his name?
B: I don’t know. I take the fifth.
B: I take the fifth.
Q: The fifth what?
B: I plead the fifth.
Q: The fifth element?
( . . . )
Q: Our horoscope for today is: “Refuse to have reading material censored.” Oh Michael, you made my horoscope come true. “Fight for freedom to teach, learn. Disseminate information.”
B: I got to go.
Q: “Aquarian becomes ally in a most unusual manner.” Did anybody try to make you change something today? A letter or something?
B: It happens everyday.
( . . . )
Q: So we’re ta(lking) (or “SO WE’RE TA”) — Michael’s got a headache, of course. Another migraine headache. I’m just so upset about that whole conversation. Did she sound like a Bell witch to you?
B: No. (“WHY WAS THIS”)
Q: She was upset because I was crazy?
B: She thought you were — she probably didn’t understand many of the things you were saying.
Q: But it wasn’t just that because they have lots of ‘nutty’ people on who’ve invented time machines and things.
B: Yes but you dared to ask for control.
Q: How did I do that?
B: You wanted — you criticized —
Q: I began making demands.
B: — the choice — (“YOU MADE”) exactly.
Q: So who can’t take criticism? I mean everyone — I mean I can take criticism. (“THEY”)
B: They think that you should be honored that they would even consider you and how dare —
Q: Well, hell, they should be honored that I would even consider them.
B: That’s not the way it works. (“YOU KNOW” “MM MY”)
Q: See, everyone is their own little god but if they really want to express love to the Creator they have to become Christed and that means looking at themselves to see in their own heart how they can make themselves more valuable to society in terms of taking a stand when you hear something you don’t believe in on your radio show or TV show and not letting people get away with shit. Isn’t that well-said?
Q: Do you have any requests for Mighael?
B: I want to win the lottery.
( . . . )
J: Thank you.
Q: I couldn’t help notice — was that man on the phone named Mike that you were speaking to?
J: Pardon me?
Q: You mentioned the name Michael?
Q: Is that who you were speaking to?
Q: Okay — (“THIS WAS A”) a coincidence. (“I”) Okay, thank you, Jose.
( . . . )
Q: (driving) It’s so funny. I don’t know why I bother but it’s like constantly — I’m leaving the garage and the attendant’s busy because the phone rings and it’s someone by the name of Michael. (“THERE’S”) Hundreds of times that I haven’t been taping when the same thing has happened because people look puzzled and think you’re crazy. (“WHY”) “Why do you care?”
( . . . )
Q: There’s someone on the radio talking about Hindu stories and Mighael wants me to record from it because I saw an alien face and the bumper sticker in front of me (“HAS”) is (on) a Ram 2500 van.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: I LATER PURCHASED A COPY OF THE ENTIRE SHOW SO I COULD PROVIDE A COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT OF THIS INTERVIEW.)
A: Funds for “Bookworm” are provided in part by Lannan Foundation.
L: You are a human animal. You are a very special breed. For you are the only animal who can think, who can reason, who can read . . .
S: Hello and welcome to “Bookworm.” My name is Michael Silverblatt. Today my guest is Vikram Chandra. He’s the author, most recently, of Love and Longing in Bombay, a collection of stories from Little, Brown (and Company). They’ve also brought out from their Back Bay imprint his first novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain in paperback. And I wanted to begin by acknowledging that we share something of a background. Among your writing teachers were John Barth and Donald Barthelme, who were mentors and enormously influential figures in my life, so I can’t help but ask you to begin with what led you to them?
V: When I understood and realized that I was going to try and write a novel, I thought I needed a place to live and exist while I was doing this and the resources of a university. So the Johns Hopkins program seemed a good place to start at and that’s where I met John Barth, who became enormously influential in the structuring of the book — (he) had interesting and precise things to say about craft. I thought actually that I’d take a year to write this book.
V: And at the end of the first year I hadn’t even gotten my protagonist born so at that point it became clear that there was a problem. So Jack asked, “Well what are you going to do next?” And I said, “Well I don’t know.” So he said, “Maybe you should think of going to Houston where Donald Barthelme runs a program.” So that’s how I ended up in Houston, where I spent the next five years getting this thing done.
S: So it took six years to write the first novel?
S: Now I’m curious. One of the heroes of that first novel, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, is a typewriting monkey. And I know — I love a comment in a Louie Simpson poem. It’s a recent poem. He’s talking about the numbers of monkeys and typewriters that it would take to produce “Hamlet” and in the poem his wife says, “Well Shakespeare was the monkey who produced ‘Hamlet.'” (laughs)
S: But I did want to talk to you about that idea of randomness. Randomness in structure seemed to be the poles of that novel.
V: Right. Well there’s this very old Indian tradition of story telling, which has stories within stories within stories in a sort of recursive manner. The great Indian epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata both follow that structure. There’s an apparent shapelessness — a sort of confusion to which the Western eye especially, I think, reacts with terror when it confronts it.
V: So — I mean even if you think architecturally of the front of a big Hindu Temple in South India — those big, huge pyramid-like structures covered with thousands and thousands of sculptures so that became for me the model for structuring this book and then also the rhetoric that went on within colonial times about the shape of Indian narrative and its relative virtues as compared to the clean Aristotelian narrative, which was supposed to be the way that one told a story. So within the book itself — those rhetorics sort of encounter each other and collide.
S: Colonial and classical. Now of course John Barth as a writer is someone who’s always recurring to the story Scheherazade and to those stories within stories of The Arabian Nights. Not just those but the ocean of story as well. And, in addition, the problems of translating stories from within certain traditions to others that have no receptivity for them. So it would seem almost as if for that book Barth would’ve been an ideal teacher.
V: Absolutely. Right. I think he saw it clearly in the very first stuff that I brought in to workshop —
V: — what I was going to do. And perhaps even sooner than I did because I actually, when I started writing it, I didn’t have clearly in my head this structure — this branching structure. But then it became very clear in the first thirty pages that it was going to do that. And I think also within the book itself one of the problems that I was interested in was how do you translate that older tradition, which in my head exists in Indian Sanskrit, into English. In fact, one of the characters in the book, Sandhya, actually says something like, “In English the true heart and soul of a nation is forever left unsaid.” And so the problem was how do you say in English something that you can’t say in English? And so then the form of the book, I think, for me was an attempt to answer that question.
S: Love and Longing in Bombay, the new book of stories from my guest Vikram Chandra is a similar book in that questions of absence are central. But this book takes place virtually entirely in India. Mostly in Bombay. And I (“BB”) (be)gan to wonder is it written for an American audience or just in America because the book seems very self-conscious in using Indian phrases and making very few concessions to a reader who is not yet familiar with the topography.
V: Right. Well my audience is Indian in my estimation. (“I MEAN THAT”) I mean that quite literally. I wrote specifically for a few people. That is my sisters and one friend of mine who’s American but is familiar with India and my mother and a couple of other people so literally those are the people that I see when I write. And I send them by post or by Email what I’ve written pretty soon after I’ve written it and then they talk back at me. So in Red Earth and Pouring Rain the monkey sits inside a house talking to an immediate family that sits around the typewriter listening to what he’s writing. And then outside on the maidan or the field there are concentric circles of other listeners — this larger audience, which is also listening. So I think—at least for me as a writer—I find it impossible to imagine a larger audience. I mean who are they? I have no idea who they are. So I write for that innermost circle and if other people are listening — eavesdropping, that’s very good for me but I can’t think of them.
S: On the page before the final page of Love and Longing in Bombay—what we call the penultimate page among those of us who are multi-syllabic—we learn for the first time the person’s name to whom these stories are being told and what interests me is that in the conventional way of structuring framed tales and stories, the frame is what’s defined first. Here, we learn on the last page what the outermost layer of narrative transmission is. A young man in Bombay is being told stories in a smoky bar by an older man. The young man is a computer programmer and it seems as if in an almost preternatural way, the older man is telling stories that are meant to heal him without our being told exactly what his problems are. The young man’s problems are suggested but not directly named. He seems to be, one, homesick; two, recovering from a relationship that’s gone awry; three, consequently suffering some kind of sexual confusion that may to do with the death of a sibling early on or at least a disappearance of a mirroring figure.
S: And to be entertaining a kind of yearning toward marriage — marriage at all costs; perhaps with someone who might tell him stories. (laughs) Am I doing okay?
V: Absolutely. Yeah. That’s a pretty fair profile, I think. I suppose both the listener and the teller I wanted somehow absent on the page. So that is that you get a sense of both of them more through the story that is being told and listened to rather than an editorial voice telling us who they are. So I mean I suppose it’s kind of obvious that the stories that are told are the teller’s voices. They’re Subramaniam’s yearnings and loves and longings that are contained within them. And then also I’m hoping that also in some sense the listener is contained in those stories so that somehow suggestively through the erotic act of telling a story and listening to it we get a sense of the two human beings who are involved with each other. And they’re more at the table but primarily these two.
S: Well in the final story, which is the most complicated in terms of its narrative structure or the most inversions occur, there is a story about the function of storytelling. A young man has come back to India and told about the bomb that has exploded in Japan. The children in the village are slowly experiencing cracks—hairline fractures that seem to extend and extend—and it’s not until a mother tells a praising story that the cracks begin to heal. So somehow or other growing up is presented as a process of fracturing and that modernity seems to be something that only increases the possibility of fracture: the bomb, computers, computer programs, forms of communication that are not face-to-face and that may be destructive or manipulated; and stories seem to be the mediating or healing possibility. Now I wonder do you really think that or is that a convenient metaphor?
V: I suppose — I mean honestly I really do believe that and I suppose I mean it also that when story stops then nothing exists; that we exist in a sense as narrative creatures in the most ordinary ways. I suppose also this has something to do with the old Hindu idea of existence as an encounter with maya, which is usually translated as illusion but I think it means more the sort of slippery perceptual apparatus that surrounds us. In other words, the world is a story we tell ourselves about the world. And when you destruct that storytelling, what exists is not even chaos. It’s a vacuum. So I think for me the narrative act is the primal act. It’s the one that comes first and must be revived again and again—and lost again and again—in a sort of endless cycle to make life happen.
S: Well you mentioned maya. The stories are each of them given a name and only one, the story “Shanti,” is the name a figure that appears in the story. And, true to form, most American reviewers that I’ve read don’t mention this or do the footwork or question the stories’ titles. Now I am fortunate enough to have you here so that you can help me through but can you tell me about the titles of these tales?
V: Sure. In the Hindu understanding of life, you’re born into the world and then you have four aims or purposes, which are namely ‘dharma,’ which is usually translated as duty — I think badly. I think a better translation would be something like ‘the way’ or ‘what you must become in the wheel.’ So there’s dharma, there’s ‘artha,’ which is material gain. It’s what you feed yourself with. It’s what you give back to the world. There’s ‘kama,’ which is pleasure — sexual but also all other kinds of pleasure. And then finally ‘moksha,’ which means liberation or release from the endless cycle of rebirth. So the stories in this collection are titled — the first one is “Dharma,” which is a ghost story and attempts to explore some other possible meanings of that word. The second one is something that sort of entered the collection at an angle and so I put it in there even though its title doesn’t follow the structure. It’s called “Shakti,” which is Sanskrit for power or energy and also can mean goddess. Power within the Hindu cosmos also is always feminine. And “Shakti” is a story of social climbing in Malabar Hill, which is at the southern tip of Bombay.
S: And a really funny story. It has that quality of those goddesses that competed for Paris’s attention when awarding the golden apples of the sun. These are women who are very much determining the economic future of India.
V: Right. Exactly. And then the third story is “Kama,” which is my attempt at a detective story which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I should tell you. But it has Sartaj Singh who’s a Sikh policeman who is investigating what seems to be a common robbery/murder which turns out to be much more complicated and has at its center a kind of sexual secret — sexual secrets. The fourth story is “Artha,” which means ‘gain’—economic gain—and it’s a hard story to describe. It moves from the world of art and painters to the world of programmers who are trying to make a killing in the software market; and the underworld of Bombay which feeds off the speculation in real estate and the booming real estate market. And I suppose it’s about ambition in all of those things. And then the final one, “Shanti,” literally meaning peace — or, as T. S. Elliot used it at the end of The Waste Land, “the peace that passes understanding” he puts in his footnote, which I suppose I thought of as some sort of analogue to moksha. But “Shanti” is a love story and in it the teller of the tales reveals something about himself by telling that story.
S: Now in the fourth story, a man loses his lover—his male lover—to the gangster underworld and receives in his place a painting by an artist who one senses is pretentious, disloyal, unfaithful but who has captured something of the energy of the missing man as if in some crazy sense art is simultaneously insufficient and more than sufficient.
S: And I wondered if you could talk about that.
V: Right. Well yes, I think the painter, Anubhar, is as Iqbal describes him — Iqbal is the man who loses his lover — he says, “Anubhar is a leach, a liar and a whore and yet I owe him for his talent,” which is to say quite obviously that I don’t think artistic talent has anything to do with moral virtue which is what Iqbal seems to realize at the end of the story — and, yes, that in some rich way art suggests to us all that we lose, all that we yearn for, everything that exists outside of our grasp and yet in some inexplicable way is made available to us in these flecks of paint on canvas. And so, again in some way, perhaps doesn’t heal us but at least it gives us a way to survive this wilderness that exists at the end of the story.
S: I’m speaking to Vikram Chandra, the author most recently of Love and Longing in Bombay collection of stories. Now, oddly enough, that painting put me in mind of some of the other representations in the book—mostly representations of gods and goddesses—and I began to wonder what the relationship is in Hindu culture to the representation of Gods.
V: Right. Well I suppose in some direct way I’m an idol worshiper.
S: (small laugh)
V: I trust form. I like the surfaces of things. I like to touch them. And I think to be able to trust the surface of a thing is to worship it. And I suppose that is in direct contradiction with the kind of idea or the kind of thinking that says that the truth is always something that’s far behind the curtain. I think sometimes the truth is on the surface. And so the idea in traditional Hindu culture is that the idol represents — the idol itself is sacred because in this slippery veil of maya, it’s a vortex of energy that becomes sacred because you worship it and so therefore the relationship between you and the idol is meaningful and you can actually get close to divinity by feeling the idol or rocking it in your hands. (“SO”) I like very much that idea. And so the surface of the story itself I think is meaningful.
S: Well — because it occurred to me as I was reading and trying to fit together the world view or cosmogony implicit in these stories that in certainly the Judeo-Christian tradition — it’s a tradition of iconoclasm: the destruction of the representation of the God — that the God should be unrepresented and that goes hand in hand with the Platonic tradition and therefore the Aristotelian position and narrative that finally truth is unrepresentable and goals unreachable. There seems to be a distinct difference here in that truth is reachable and its absence is also acceptable. The characters by the end of these stories if the solutions have not come, what has come is acceptable as solution. Solution does not have to be final.
V: Right. There’s a couplet from the Mahabarata which goes something like, “The images sweat in the temples and the truth is hard to find.” And I think the realization at the ends of, I suppose, many of these stories is—exactly as you put it—that we only have provisional truths, which doesn’t mean that they’re any less. There is no one great truth but all these surfaces finally reveal to us something real about life. At the very last sentence of the book, the narrator Ranjit Sharma says something like, “If we search together we may find not heaven or its opposite but only life itself.” And so I think through these sort of chards arranged against each other, this representation is an attempt to find something true about life. Not necessarily the truth but a few scattered ones.
S: What’s lovely here is that while the stories have, one comes to suspect, a theoretical matrix that generates them, they also have a very strong physical connection to life and, in fact, there are two erotic set pieces, one of them heterosexual, one homosexual that sort of stand as, what would you say, pillars in the book for the fleshy world, (“I”) you know, and its importance. And I wondered if you could talk about that.
V: Well, as I was saying earlier, I tell my stories for people that actually do read them or listen to them for you’re the author. And my sisters are a tough audience. They don’t give any — and my other friend who reads them also. So whatever the theoretical construction I’m always aware and they will tell me, “Don’t give us any arty horse excreta. You have to pleasure us first.” So I suppose I’m always aware in this and in the other book — actually in the other book the monkey is suspended at the edge of death on the condition of pleasure. If you do not give pleasure as a writer then you’re dead. And that seems to me essentially true so I think the idea that life springs from desire and finds its flowering in desire is certainly at the heart for me at the act of writing itself. And therefore I think the attempt also to do desire in the stories. When I first wrote the story “Kama,” the one which has the heterosexual lovemaking scene, the love scene actually wasn’t in there. I got to the end and I thought, “There’s a hole in here and it occurred it to me, “How can you write a story which is called ‘Kama’ and make a specific reference in it to the Kama Sutra and not have a sex scene in it? It’s just aesthetically dishonest. You’ve got to do like a big sex scene.”
V: (laughs) So then I went back and constructed it and, of course, that became the very center of the story. It’s the turning point in the narrative and I think Sartaj the detective can only solve his mystery once he has had that sex. He can’t do it before then. It’s through the flesh that he comes to what he calls “the first cause.”
S: A final question, which is what is it like to be an Indian writer writing in America? Has the influence of Rushdie made things easier for you? Do you wish people knew the work of Narayan better? How do you feel about the sudden re-emergence, at least over the last several years, of the “Pather Panchali” trilogy, etc.? Can you speak of this?
V: Yeah. I think we live — as an Indian writer I actually spend half my time in India and half in the States. And I think on both sides of the globe, there’s—at least in English language publishing—a tremendous renaissance in Indian writing. Every year there’s a couple more what I think are major writers. So I think we live in a time of expanding opportunity and the landscape is larger. So that’s very encouraging. As to finding sort of a readership in the West, again I suppose I would argue that, at least me, I can’t really think of that because it’s too large a question. I mean even within India when you sit down to tell a story, India is a huge county. Who are you telling the story for? I don’t know what they think of it in Mizoram, for instance. And they’re in a sense also Indian and yet their context is so different. So I’m glad it’s happening. I don’t understand the reasons for it completely but I think it’s a good thing.
S: I’ve been speaking to Vikram Chandra, the author most recently of Love and Longing in Bombay recently published by Little, Brown. His first novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain has been issued in paperback by Back Bay Books. Thank you for joining me today.
V: Thank you for inviting (me). Thanks.
S: My associate producer is Melinda Segal. The engineer today is Jennifer Swattuck. I’m Michael Silverblatt. Join me again next week on “Bookworm.”
L: To the jungles you can go in books . . .
A: Funds for “Bookworm” are provided in part my Lannon Foundation. This program is made available to the public radio system by SAS, a satellite service of KCRW Santa Monica. Cassette copies of this and other “Bookworm” programs are available. For ordering information, call KCRW at (gives number).
L: . . . Books make you laugh and sing. Books tell you everything. They’re your treasure, friends and prose and rhyme . . . (final line hard to distinguish).
Q: Funny. I’ve never heard that show before. I sent him my book — Michael Silverblatt.
( . . . )
Q: Well I’m thrilled that somebody actually sent in an order for my book. Thank you, Carolyn. I’m also sending her some postcards, the Cassini Mission photocopy and the Hubble eye photo for being so enlightened as to want my book. If I had to guess, I’d say somehow it would have to be one of my Internet things. I’m going to send the book out the same day that I got the order. That’s how good I am. And that’s how many orders I have. But I haven’t checked my post office for a couple days — does that count?
( . . . )
Q: So I mailed it. There’s a new employee at the post office. You’ll never guess what her name is. Christina. Maybe she’s just filling in during a vacation or something. I didn’t ask.
( . . . )
Q: So I think my new — my second website account is operational. Tony was very nice and helped me set it up. It’s a little complicated when you have two different websites on the same connector but he explained how to use it. I just hope that I got the right name. I think this is the right one. So I’ll see. Tony — sometimes when I don’t mention their last name, it’s because they wouldn’t tell me when I told them I might thank them in one of my books or my website.
( . . . )
Q: Well I had to call GTE back because it wasn’t working and it turns out that what I thought was my account wasn’t the one that was assigned to me. It was my third choice so my first two choices were taken so, anyway, it wasn’t a big deal but guess who I spoke to. Patty Young. So we had a nice little discussion because she loves unexplained shows and she’s going to visit my website later on. (“AND”) We might be cousins related through her marriage. She told me her maiden name was O’Doran so I got to tell her that O means ‘son’ and she has ‘ra’ in her name which is the original name for God. (“AND”) Anyway, we really had a good rapport so maybe we really are related — through marriage, at least. Cousins. So the reason why I’ve been sort of relaxing and chatty with people tonight is because I was looking through a magazine that Michael gave me when I visited him for lunch today and there was an ad for Southern Comfort that said “A son needs quality time” and son was crossed out and it said “A dad needs quality time. Take it easy.” Like when I saw the T-shirt over at the UCLA book festival so I said, “Well obviously I have more time — because, you know, I’m always in a hurry to get everything done so everyone else can feel the love that I feel and God can be happy and all that. So I guess this was why I (“DID” “WW”) was able to take time. (“AND”) And you find out some amazing things when you take the time. She was telling me a story about somebody (“IN A”) jumping out of a plane whose parachute didn’t open and, anyway, I’m not even sure exactly what happened but (“HE DIDN’T HAVE”) his parachute didn’t open and he survived or something. Anyway, there’s just so much love in the world. By the way, this was Entertainment Weekly number 379 — the May 16th issue. “The inside stories on a hundred new films.”
( . . . )
Q: Well I thought I was doing everything to set up my new web space but it wasn’t working so I called up Andrew Kowalski—like in “A Streetcar Named Desire” Stanley—who helped but I don’t know. I’ll try it again. And the Email’s all fucked. You can’t have two different Email addresses apparently unless you change it each time back and forth so I think I’ll just keep my first one and not worry about the new Email. I don’t really need two Emails.
( . . . )
Q: So I’m listening to Art Bell’s show while I’m struggling with my Internet madness and Mike in Campbell, California just sent a fax or Email or something to Art about him having said he was a Christian and yet he was also advocating revenge and he said that was a contradiction so now Art’s talking about how he will not give up the aspect of revenge.
( . . . )
Q: Well I forgot to open my account before working on the homepage. Arrin Withey helped me — isn’t that unusual spelling for Aaron? Ra in reverse. He was very nice. He thinks it means basket-maker — the last name. He knows he has some English ancestry and his father’s name is Orrin. Anyway, it’s amazing what you can find out (“WHEN YOU”) when you speak to people. And they always record — it says “These conversations are recorded.” (“SO”) I don’t really even have to ask their permission. I can go ahead and record the conversations but I think that they would be rather — anyway.
( . . . )
Q: By the way, I don’t believe in revenge. I don’t believe in going against the will of God. If somebody wants to do that, let them endure the cost of it. I wouldn’t dare such a thing. But, of course, Art really isn’t a Christ-ian, if you know what I mean, because he doesn’t read. You have to read the holy bible, which is my new book, before you can even know what it is.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: I CONDUCTED A BRIEF INTERVIEW WITH ANOTHER VOLUNTEER LISTENER AT THE END OF A SESSION AT THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HIV/AIDS HOTLINE. THERE ARE EXTREME PROBLEMS WITH THIS SECTION OF THE TAPE DUE TO TAPE RECORDER PLACEMENT AND THE SLOWER SPEED.)
Q: Off the record, of course, in terms of — how long were you altogether in the military in the secret organizations or whatever?
M: Oh I don’t know. After I was out, I was in the reserve . . . (“BUT”)
Q: But you’re talking a good career like twenty years or —
M: Oh no. Ten.
Q: Ten. Oh I see. (“FOR”) For the ultra-clearance?
M: Well I could — I was in the reserve when I got out. We didn’t get discharged but — I mean we were still in the reserve.
Q: Right. (“RIGHT”)
M: But they could call us any time they . . .
Q: But how many years did you have ultra-clearance — were you working under ultra.
M: Oh I guess about ten and a half . . .
Q: Were there a lot of cover-ups?
M: What do you mean cover-ups?
Q: Way back then? Even though that was in the ’50s I guess.
M: I don’t know what you mean by cover-ups.
Q: I know — exactly. Well times have changed. Back then, people didn’t cover everything up like they do now. Like now, the military covers up everything. Have you noticed that?
M: . . . I remember we used to . . . we’d meet with the . . . in the army.
Q: What year was that? I mean what decade was that?
M: ’45. And compare notes to see how we were doing. They purposely wouldn’t tell them everything because we were working on a project and we wanted to be the first to get to the White House to say the army did it. So the navy — I mean they, you know, it was just sort of a sham. And then they got together and they —
Q: Because that was in your own self-interest — your best interest.
M: The navy’s self-interest.
Q: Right. So you didn’t share information with the navy. The army.
M: . . . you didn’t tell them too much. (“YEAH”)
Q: Well . . . magnified like 100 times (“IN THE”) . . . society. . . . I’d always wondered about the Department of Naval Intelligence because, like I said (“TO THINK THAT”) I thought it’d be the air force that would be involved in the alien — the fact that Naval Intelligence has gotten involved in that — it just blows my mind. I bet you know some things that would blow my mind . . . if you could tell . . . I’m so late today but I did my two hours . . . okay well thank you.
( . . . )
Q: AIDS Project Los Angeles . . . leading toward the back parking lot. Funny how I wasn’t going to mention his name because when I surreptitiously tape people and don’t ask them permission I think it can be unfair to get information. Especially when they have military secret clearance such as ultra clearance even way back in the ’40s. He got a commendation for doing things like arranging for alcohol for people watching the Bikini atomic bomb testing (“WITH”) for people with diplomatic immunity. So, anyway, all these secrets and cover-ups and I guess it is a sin. Thou shalt not cover-up. There’s no need for it really if you’re living in obeisance with God’s commandments.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: HOTLINE VOLUNTEERS WERE TOLD THAT APLA DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION LEE KLOSINSKI WOULD BE INTERVIEWED ON THE RADIO SO I TURNED IT ON AT THE MENTIONED TIME.)
E: It’s going to be very difficult to develop a vaccine that will be effective.
W: As Sandy Thurman said, though, we’ve learned more in science in the past ten years than—I think she said—the previous 100 so isn’t it always worth trying?
E: Most definitely. It’s definitely worth trying. It would be terrific to have a vaccine but I think the money would be much better spent on other initiatives such as an initiative to find a cure. The President had announced when he was campaigning to be elected that he would like to find a cure for this disease during his presidency. That is not going to be possible at all . . . no (or “NO”). Attention has eroded away from finding a cure.
W: Okay. Let me ask you to pause for a moment. We’re having a little problem with your line and while it’s getting — being fixed, let me go back to Dr. Baltimore. What about this, Dr.? Obviously . . . but Dr. Gallo, the discoverer, is not. Are you being polite? Is there, in fact, a great deal more difficulty here than it’s polite to say, given the fact that the President of the United States has announced his position?
D: . . . I think that if we put our efforts behind a vaccine for ten years . . . (if?) ten years from now we’d say, “We don’t have anything better to offer than we do now. Then I think we really have to say, “Can you make a vaccine or is it really impossible?” But I’m not prepared to start being pessimistic without a good shot at it.
D: And I don’t believe we’ve taken the shot yet.
W: Alright. But we are talking about spending an enormous amount of time. What about Mr. Sawyer’s—(“AND”) time and money—contention that we’d be better off trying to find a cure?
D: Well I don’t know what he means exactly. But I think that we may have a cure and certainly we have very good new drugs and those drugs are getting better and better. The second generation, third generation’s coming along quickly — pharmaceutical industry has very good economic reason to want to improve those drugs and sell them because they’re making a lot of money. I think that’s a problem the pharmaceutical industry can deal with and it’s the government’s job to deal with the vaccine issue because the profitability there is much further off and the profit levels are less.
W: Mr Truitt, let me go back to you. What do you say to that? Is it better then for you to continue with the drugs that you’re working on now — work toward a cure and let the government deal with the vaccine?
T: I think we have to move on both fronts. I think it’s important for pharmaceutical companies to be also involved in the vaccine research and we are moving on both fronts. The fact is that right now there are more than 100 treatment medicines in development for AIDS and AIDS-related conditions. And then on top of that there are twelve vaccines in development and I think we need to continue moving on both fronts.
W: Okay. Now we do have Eric Sawyer back once again — a founding member of Act Up. What do you say to this and what’s going on with these new medicines? And what about the cost? (“I”) I think its definitely worthwhile pursuing a vaccine — don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want to discourage that but I don’t think it’s a likely event and I think that it is diverting resources that would be better spent towards finding a cure and also I think not enough effort’s being put into prevention. We all know that preventing someone from getting infected is the most cost effective thing to do and —
Q: Well I haven’t heard Lee. I have to have lunch now. It’s 1:30. But that was an interesting snippet with Warren Olney on his show on 89.9.
( . . . )
Q: I’m registering a complaint with Mighael. I have too much on my mind. He’s simply got — the Ford in front of me says “PRAY HARD” and I already have, goddamnit. I’ve been in such a hurry after being late to APLA that I got a ticket while I was outside of AstroBurger. I was having papoutsakia which is baked stuff eggplant with fresh tomato sauce and fresh herbs topped with feta cheese; served with roast potatoes for $4.95. Is that normal fast food fare? It just shows that there are lots of vegetarian things to eat that are good. What’s wrong with McDonald’s? Anyway, I’m upset. I can’t believe I got a ticket. I have enough change. I just forgot. I’m in such a rush. J. Morgan was the officer. So upset — now I’ve got to go in and buy paintings even though I can’t afford it. If I’m homeless and lose everything, it’s because I trusted you, Boo. You better come through for me if you want it to be a good metaphor.
( . . . )
Q: Well I guess I shouldn’t have been concerned about getting a ticket because Dae Man Yang gave me such a wonderful price on (“THESE”) my three favorite paintings that I could find in the shop. One of them apparently he thinks he knows who the artist is a little bit even though he couldn’t remember the name and it’s not on the painting—it’s of a woman—because there’s another painting—a very small one—of a child that’s apparently by the same artist. (“BUT”) This is the one I liked the most. And then I also bought the two others that I was especially impressed by the time before. And for all three of them he only charged me $1,000, which came to $1,082.50 including tax. So three superb lost art masterpieces for my museum. I also saw a beautiful Russian mosaic that I adored and I saw what looked like a Victorian watercolor that was quite affordable. Anyway, there are oodles more. I guess when people think I’m superficial — why would an antichrist or messiah or whatever have to do this? Again, finding art treasures is something that most people would consider impossible to find a lost art treasure. Especially to find so many lost art treasures.
( . . . )
Q: It was so funny when I was — we were chatting as I was buying the paintings and I was talking about the Italian woman and I said, “I guess the reason why I can get it for such a good price is because people don’t like frowning people in their paintings. They don’t like portraits with frowning women. And he said that back them that was part of the style, etc. and I said my usual smalltalk like. “Well, a frown is just an upside-down smile” and that kind of Pollyanna shit. And so I said, “I like her expression. I mean I wouldn’t want to be married to her but I like the expression in the painting.” And then he said, “Oh well you’re married to a ghost.” And I said, “What? Excuse me?” And he said, “A ghost. A ghost.” And I said — I wanted to say, “How do you know?” because he obviously hasn’t read the book yet and, anyway, I guess what he meant was that she’s long since dead so she’s a ghost. But he was right. I am married to a ghost.
( . . . )
Q: So I decided not to go to the gym today and just go tomorrow instead. Maybe I can get my package off to Paradigm or maybe — I can always Email him the instructions to have him get started on the color ones. (“BUT”) Well I’ll see. I’ll just do the best I can. The traffic’s miserable. So I’m just thinking how nice Dae Man Yang is in terms of the pricing and everything. He always gives me a price break on his already unbelievably low prices and I’m just thinking for him to complain about rich people dickering — can you imagine how completely obnoxious they must be? Oh my gosh. By the way, it turns out (“THERE’S”) one chronic caller who calls all the time just hysterical with fear and just wanting to tell the listeners of the Hotline to tell her that she’s okay even though we’ve gone over the information with her countless times. Of course, it turns out that she has a son of man name too. Can you believe it? (“LET JUS”) I can’t of course (say her name) — people are entitled to their anonymity. And so she basically has one of the son of man names and maybe even something special like one of the ‘rose’ names that keep on coming up.
( . . . )
Q: So I was just listening to Elvis Mitchell interview Chaka Khan because I’ve long since missed that AIDS interview program. I hope Lee had a good time with it. (“AND”) I was just thinking though — I wonder if Chaka Khan really knows how lucky she truly is. (“I’M”) People say that they do yet it’s hard to grasp. (“THOUGH” “BECAUSE”) People always — as soon as they achieve something, they just set a new goal. (“SO IT” “IMPORTANT”) Sometimes look back at what we’ve been able to achieve and really appreciate the opportunities that life has afforded us and how important it is to share our success with those who will never have those opportunities.
( . . . )
R: Mark, hey, it’s John Barclift. I’ve just heard from Susan Austin and she’s asking if I can squeeze the buyer up so that she can get a net of $56,000. I upped her net from $40-something to $53,283 and now I’ll try to squeeze a little bit more. It’s very interesting — I left her a message telling her that she had asked me to bring her $59,000 as a sales price and I brought her $60,000 so, you know, in fact I left her that message and told her that in order to get the $56,000 net that she’s looking for I’ve got to go back to the buyer at $62,750 so I want to put a counter offer together and if you will call me and leave me your fax number that I don’t seem to be able to find here anywhere, I will go ahead — I’m going to try to fax it to this number that I just called and push the start button and see if it takes. If it doesn’t, then just give me the — give me a call with your fax number and I’ll fax it over for your signature and we’ll go back to the buyer and try and get this $62,750 wrapped up this weekend so we can go back to the buyer’s bank and find out if they are willing to stretch her that far. That’s all we can do. I’ll talk to you later on. (gives number that includes 666) I’m at the office until four at (gives number). Bye.
Q: I’m glad I came home or I wouldn’t have gotten that message.
( . . . )
Q: So I just went to Lucky and I didn’t even bother to ask if anyone had turned in a pair of sunglasses. I looked again at the check-out stand and it’s very obvious when someone leaves something behind. I just don’t understand how no one could have reported it. Maybe sometime years from now people will be writing term papers on subtle passive-aggressive tendencies as reflected in my transcripts. Could you “take it easy” if you were in my position even if you know it’s an illusion? I mean I never believed that God was inept. I just never had much certainty that I would have it very good. And I’m so insulated from other people except for my volunteer hours and a few social get-togethers with my brother occasionally — like once every other week. It’s like I could say any crazy thing into my tape recorder and I’m so out of touch with the commonality of experience that the triviality of a lot of what I say — it just makes me realize how pointless everything is. This must be — I can’t remember the word. Oh my God. That’s the lowest triviality of them all. When you can’t think of the word (“EX”) existentialism. This is the existential part of my book, I guess.
( . . . )
Q: I guess what I’ve done—since I know that God is love and I have no fear of God because that I know that God is love and I know that I always try to do the best I can—is that I try to separate God into a myriad of different gods such as ‘Boo’ and ‘Dad’ and ‘The Creator’ and just ‘God’ and then ‘Mighael’ because each one of them has His own personality, depending on what mood I’m in. So I equate each one of these designations with my mood. I really don’t want to go to the PRS this Sunday. I have nothing to say, nothing to hear anymore. I’m all listened, patiented, everything — I’m just all whatever out. Oh I’ll go. Unless it’s channeled to me not to. I can’t think of myself first, as you well know. My bark is worse than my bite and all that. So the UPS package is going to be delivered tomorrow. I paid a little bit extra. I don’t know why I’m so impatient. I’m home. Sometimes I say, “Boo, I’m home.” It gives me some semblance of a normal life. So I went to Mailboxes, Etc. near Lucky where I shop sometimes and the owner was very nice. His name is James and his partner, of course, is named Michael but he wasn’t there. So I’m looking now — I have a beautiful apartment that could use some organizing. I have my new paintings up on the wall already. The — I don’t know if it’s French or Italian or what — of the Roman boy painting an urn while a very masculine woman looks on — (is) in my livingroom in the French section — (“BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE”) what seemed the best place and then I have my new beautiful ‘woman reading a book with a dog’ in my dining area. And then I have my morose—or I should say bellicose or belligerent—woman with an upside down smile — scornful, disdainful glance or whatever in my hall area. The frame — that’s how he said they were able to date this as an 18th century painting. Because of the frame. But, of course, how can you —