The Susannah Breslin Interview

October 24, 2003

Today is the day to blame the TV.


Oh my, John Leary is on Opium. Did I mention that I'm guest-editing this month?

I first met today's interviewee when she emailed me asking if I might be interested in contributing to a collection of stories about sex. While this was a terrifying prospect to me, she handles it with grace and aplomb, so much that her new book, full of literay and sexy goodness, has just been released. Also, she is the tallest woman I have ever interviewed on this site.

The Susannah Breslin Interview: Twenty Questions Total

So what exactly is Pornographic Postmodern Literature?
Well, Claire, I don't really know. I wanted to write something on the back of my book that sounded complicated, and that was it. It's polysyllabic, if nothing else. I think, basically, I am suggesting that if you are buying my book to use with a box of tissues for apres spank, you are looking in the wrong place.

Going from your press release, your new book, You're a Bad Man, Aren't You? "brings together the hilariously obscene and the obscenely hilarious." What's the difference between the two?

Hilariously obscene is like having sex with a mannequin into which you have drilled a hole. Obscenely hilarious is like your girlfriend leaves you, so you sit around masturbating, and fantasizing you could shoot your, um, "self," so to speak, out the door, down the street, and after her, so as to drown her car in it, so she cannot go. I think this pretty obvious stuff, Claire.

Are you really 6'2? What's the dumbest question people ask you when they find out or see how tall you are?

Actually, I'm not 6'2'. I'm, like, 6'1" and 3/4 or 1/2, or something. But that sounds sort of clunky, doesn't it? I love it when people tell me, "You're tall," because I did not know that. Some other asshats say stuff like, "I'd like to climb you." But, when people say, "You're a tall drink of water," I don't mind that. It sounds so refreshing, really.

Do you ever receive negative feedback about your subject matter?
Well, my favorite one, that I actually used on that page that comes at the beginning of one's book with the quotes on it, you know?, someone on Nerve wrote, "It is irresponsible to cause your readers to read something so disturbing without any proper warning." That is a funny one, indeed.

How did you get hooked up with Future Tense Books?
I read about Kevin Sampsell, El Presidente of Future Tense Books, on MobyLives. He sounded like my kind of cat, and his most recent book was entitled, "A Common Pornography." How could I go wrong? I sent him some links to my stories, and asked him did he maybe want to do something with them, i.e. not use them for toilet paper but maybe make a book out of them, and he wrote back and the subject header was "Yes." Thank you, Kevin Sampsell. You rock.

In reading about you finding a publisher for this book, I'm not totally surprised to hear that the publishing industry can be a bit reluctant to go crazy, but I was surprised to hear that it was that reluctant to explore the issues of pornography. What was some of the feedback you received when you tried to pitch your book?
Well, I didn't really go around pitching the book. But, I don't know, there's this existing weird hypocrisy where everyone knows sex sells, but everyone is still hesitant to sell it as cake, as they would rather sell it as frosting. Do you understand my meaning? So, dildos being waved around on HBO are one thing, but short stories about midget porn stars in literature are another.

Are you familiar with New York City's Cake Parties? Are these considered postfeminism? Or is it just a fad?
They sit around watching porn, and take off their shirts in clubs, and tongue each other for the boys. Hit me in the head with my mother's wooden spoon. I don't know if they consider themselves postfeminist. Postfeminism, when we bandied it about back in the day, was supposed to be about whatever came after feminism, which had something to do with lipstick and pornography, but it's all a little hazy now. Maybe they consider themselves slow in the head. It's a fad. Sure. But that's what I said about Christianity, back in the day, and, boy, was I ever wrong.

In an interview you say, "I had always been interested in weird, extremist subcultures." What are some other such subcultures that you've been interested in, other than pornography?
Is death a subculture? I am way into death. I'm a big fan of I like the photography of anyone who is surreptitiously taking pictures of dead bodies. Death is cool. I was also into gangbangers for awhile. I taught an undergrad class once that was about, well, I don't really remember anymore, but it had gangs in it. That was in Chicago. Those were the days.

One time I was in Spain and flipping through the channels and I came to the porn station, and it was a guy and a girl having sex on the bed, showing penetration, but the weird thing was that the music wasn't that wachika-wachika music but, I swear to god, some sort of Cole Porter "The Entertainer" type ragtime jazz. Have you ever seen anything like this? How was this supposed to be sexy?
Was your telling me this story supposed to be sexy? By telling me this story are you suggesting we go make sweet Sapphic love on the Isle of Lesbos? I think perhaps. Anyway, though, I don't know about all that. I've never seen anything like it. It sounds very Eurotrash.

How do you mix humor, sex and literature?
Well, sex is, like, kind of gross, isn't it? I mean, it is good times to do, but watching it is sort of gnarly. Too many danglers and spewers. You have to make it funny, or else people will barf, and then other people will start calling you the Pornographic Chuck Palahniuk or something.

Are there any subjects you feel uncomfortable writing about?

Yes. Me. And also my personal life. Go figure.

You studied at Berkeley and at University of Illinois at Chicago. Academically, was the climate very different between these two locations?
Academically, it was very Lacanian sunny at UCB and it was very Derrida chilly at UIC.

Do you watch "Sex and the City"? Is Samantha sex-positive? Because I'm kind of sick of her and want her to do something other than just screw.

I used to watch it, but now I don't have a TV or a radio. I'm tired of all that sex-positive yawp. I don't know what else Samantha can do but screw, except I read online that she's going to get cancer or something, but she'll probably keep screwing all the way through chemo, as well.

How did you get along with Erica Jong on "Politically Incorrect"?

We fought on camera. I cannot recall exactly what we fought about, but I believe that she was offended by the idea that feminism needed to be updated in any way, shape or form. I thought it was funny. Afterwards, I tried to make friendlies, and she ignored me. Then, I followed her out to her car. "Hey, Erica," I called out, in my best former-playground-bully-voice, and then she turned around, and I hit her square with a two-by-four that I had found, and she was like--well, I'm tired of that, but she ignored me, and that was it.

Would Larry Flynt make a better California governor than Arnold Schwartzenegger?

I don't know. I don't like this question. I don't like politics. Larry Flynt is a cool guy, though, sort of. I mean, the man fucked a chicken. Word up.

Here is a funny story leading to an actual question. I was reading my Gender and Art book on an airplane one time and turned the page to a new chapter and the jamolke next to me asked "Say, what are you reading?" I looked down at the chapter and it was called "C*nt Art." And I had to tell him that. Anyway, who are your favorite artists?

Merry Alpern. Dave Cooper. Mark Ryden. Helmut Newton. Lynda Barry. Kara Walker. Graham Roumieu. Anthony Ventura. Alexander McQueen. Larry Sultan. Laurenn McCubbin.

Why was the name of your Salon blog "Reverse Cowgirl"? What kind of information did you blog and which did you save to write for other projects?
My blog is dead now. Defunct. I took it out into a back field, like a rabid dog, and shot it. Goodnight. I know you are playing coy, Claire... "Oh, what's Reverse Cowgirl?" I hear you a real "pro" at it; at least that's what they tell me in the bars. Others can learn how to here. I wrote about sex, and art, and photography, and other things for the blog and for other places. No distinctions.

You're described as a faculty-brat here. What does that mean?
My parents are/were both English Professors. My father taught at UC Berkeley and my mother teaches at St. Mary's College in Moraga. This is the cross that I bear. That, plus bad grammar.

What you you working on now?
Well, thanks for asking. I'm working on a novel. I'm very excited about it. It's called If Only These Hands Could Talk. It's Dante's Inferno meets "Boogie Nights." It's also semi-autographical. It's about a guy names Xerxes, and his father dies, which propels him down The Truly Great State of California, to Porn Valley, to write The First Great American Novel Set in Porn Valley, and I would like to tell you more, but maybe I should save it. It is very fine. I have written a fair bit of it. I get to make use of all my mental problems, and my experiences on the frontlines of bukkakes, and gangbangs, and midget sex. And I'm thankful for that. The book I have coming out right now, "You're a Bad Man, Aren't You?," which will be debuting at the New Orleans Bookfair, also has some of the same obscene themes. The novel is more of an answer as to why someone would want to be exposed to that kind of freaky stuff.

How does it feel to be the 78th person interviewed for

Totally kinky.