With Fugitives and Refugees, Chuck Palahniuk explores the city of Portland, OR. In that exploration, he comes across writer Jim Goad and his she-pug Cookie. Well, I'm here to capitalize on that name drop with a chuckpalahniuk.net exclusive interview with Mr. Goad. Love him or hate him, and most people seem to hate him, it is almost impossible to ignore the brutal honesty behind his work. Reading Shit Magnet, which Goad wrote while imprisoned for domestic violence, one finds themselves face to face with one of the oh-so-rare people in this country who can openly speak their minds without concern over what it will do to their image. Jim Goad doesn't care whether you like him or not, but his compelling prose and original thought will force you to continue reading no matter which side of the fence you fall on.
When I first contacted Jim Goad about doing an interview for chuckpalahniuk.net, he said he was very busy with writing projects, but being that "Chuck P. is a solid peckerwood" who was brave enough to say something positive about him in the Portland media (Chuck comments on Goad in the Portland Tribune here), he would give it a go. So in the early morning hours of June 13th, just after celebrating his 42nd birthday on the night of the 12th, Jim Goad granted me an interview via Instant Messenger.
Jim Goad: It's Jim.
Kevin Kölsch: Hey, Jim, Kevin.
Jim: Are you back east?
Kevin: Yeah, I'm on Long Island.
Jim: Are you an insomniac?
Kevin: No, I sleep well, just got myself on a strange sleep schedule.
Jim: Yeah, I know all about that. I mean...not your schedule...mine.
I got an e-mail from some Portland Tribune writer today. He said when he interviewed Chuck P. last month, Chuck asked how I was doing.
Kevin: You said Chuck was brave enough to say something good about you in the Portland press. Is your reputation really that bad out there?
Jim: Oh, my God...it's bad everywhere, but people really wish me dead here. At least people who don't know me and have never fucked me.
Kevin: Maybe I'm wrong but I heard Portland had its fair share off kooks, homeless drug addicts and an out of control sex industry. What makes you so bad?
Jim: Part of it is due to misinformation propagated by certain exes of mine. Part of it, at least among the media, is that they can just sense I'm not one of them and have never wished to be one of them. In Chuck P.'s comments about me in that Tribune article, he said something along the lines of "None of the writers I know want to have anything to do with him."
Kevin: I find that so strange. I felt Shit Magnet had the balls to address very real human feelings that most of us can't admit to. I applaud you for it. I don't see why others don't recognize it.
Jim: You want to know about balls? I'm going to get a high colonic tomorrow and a friend is videotaping it for my website. I mean, that's a guy who's secure with his sexuality. It's also a severe narcissist. I'd venture that a lot of these critics vaguely sense that I'm not the easily pigeonholed animal they'd like to think I am. And some of them...maybe I'm flattering myself, and it wouldn't be the first time...sense that in many ways, I'm more honest than they could ever be.
Kevin: Yeah, I just saw a PSA on Domestic Violence and it had an angry man beating on a perfectly nice woman for no reason. I found it so funny that instead of trying to understand why things like this happen, they just want to make the man out to be a monster. It’s like you say in Shit Magnet, "you never hit a woman" that’s what they believe and they don’t even want to understand the feeling behind such acts. They'd rather just think the man a monster.
Jim: It's a mantra. From the media depictions, one would never know that every serious study conducted on family violence shows that women hit men at LEAST as frequently as the inverse, and often more. You'd never know that an estimated 80% of people's first encounters with violence is at the hands of their mother.
And I should add that the "women are weaker" argument doesn't withstand serious scrutiny. You could beat the daylights out of a skinny man and not face nearly that outrage if you'd knocked around a 300-pound musclebound woman.
The fact is, women's bodies are more sacred in our culture. Cut through all the bullshit about them being second-class citizens. Their bodies are more esteemed than men's.
Kevin: Do you ever find it frustrating that people won't even listen to what you have to say. They don’t care to hear your side. You hit a woman and that’s it. Or have you come to accept that most people are not going to "get it?"
Jim: When I was in prison, a writer friend of mind opined that one day, what happened to me would be seen the same way as Robert Mitchum's pot bust...a lot of hysteria over something silly. I really believe I'm closer to the truth than the people who'd condemn me out-of-hand. And that's what drives me and what keeps me writing.
Kevin: You said before that you don't actually like the act of writing. How do you do it then? Does that drive push you? Do you have a set writing schedule that you've disciplined yourself to stick to?
Jim: I'm getting more disciplined about writing daily, which I never used to do. But in my head, I'm always arguing with the world. And again, I truly believe I'm right in many respects where they're tragically, foolishly wrong. I acknowledge that my instincts may be off, but one should follow one's instincts. I feel that I will win the argument one day, and that's what makes me write.
Kevin: Okay, I'm going to tell you a brief story that Id like you to comment on:
About a year and a half ago, my girlfriend took a psychology of discrimination course. For her final paper, I told her to read the Redneck Manifesto and do the report on White Trash. She did, thinking she'd address a relevant issue that no one in the class would pick. She ended up getting the worst grade she ever got in her college career. The teacher commented that he'd visited your website and it did not seem like an academic source.
So here we have a discrimination professor saying only theories from scholarly types are worth a damn.
Jim: Not academic, meaning:
1) Flaws in my logic?
2) Not de-sexed and sublimated like most academics?
I'll debate any of these academics on anything I've written...but I bet no one would accept...and I'd tear them to shreds.
Oh...and is Maya Angelou an academic? Are most ghetto authors academic?
I'm not sure that my website has any source materials on The Redneck Manifesto...but the book's bibliography is over 20 pages.
Jim: These are the SAME people who fifty years ago agreed with Will Durant that Africa was the only continent that never contributed anything to world culture. They're minnows swimming with the school.
Kevin: Yeah, I don’t really feel they look at the big picture and come to their own conclusions.
Jim: Cowards, just like most journalists. Just like most people.
Kevin: I feel that when you actually try to explain something to them, like your feeling in Shit Magnet that led to domestic violence, they have this reaction that says, "A reason behind it! How can there be a reason behind it!" as if being able to understand something means they support it. And they can't ever risk people thinking that.
Jim: Going back to something I had touched on previously...why am I hated?
In Shit Magnet, I theorize that criminals are hated with such fervor, especially by people who WEREN'T their victims, because they commit acts that most people want to commit but have been frightened into not committing. They resent that the criminal hasn't been as easily frightened into line as they've been, so they lash out.
Same goes with me and many writers. So many of them are afraid to speak the truth for fear that it would hurt their careers. I'm speculating that many of them are so rabidly opposed to me because I've always spoken my mind, fuck the consequences.
Kevin: Yeah, and I see that so clearly in the writing, yet these people are so scared of it and know that they are not practicing it, so they must make it out to be wrong.
Jim: Well, that's their problem for choosing to fall on the wrong side of history. I'm enough of an egomaniac to state that history will prove me right about many things.
Kevin: Hey, If you don't think that, why write it, right? A writer should believe what he's saying.
Jim: Everyone thinks they're right. Everyone. Even if someone says they're wrong, they're implying that they know what's right, anyway.
Kevin: Exactly. I have a friend that never says he was wrong. He says he was misinformed. Somebody else got it wrong, not him.
Jim: I think somewhere in Shit Magnet, I make a clear delineation between wanting to be right and wanting to know the truth. Those are the two camps of people. I've been wrong about a million things, but I was smart enough to realize it.
Kevin: Yeah, I know people that will jump to be the first to answer a question even if they don't know the correct answer. They just want to be the one who answered first. They want to appear to know all. But by speaking first, there is usually someone else (who they should have let answer) who just makes them look dumber by correcting them.
Jim: Yeah, but now that I'm looking at some of my comments during this session, I realize I go back and forth between the two camps I described.
Maybe people hate me because I'm so cocky.
Kevin: Well, if you're saving this, you can always go back and reword things, if you like and e-mail it to me.
Jim: No...save it in the organic version. I'm fine with that. Show me with all the pimples, you bastard!
Kevin: Sure will. On a lighter note, how did Jim Goad spend his B-day?
Jim: I was thrilled that a comedian, Patton Oswalt, mentioned that it was my birthday on the Conan O'Brien show. That was about an hour after midnight on my birthday.
Then, as a half-joke, I told readers to my site to send me money so I could live it up. I got over $300! God bless 'em!
Then someone who's dear to me took me out for dinner. We came back to my place and played with my pug for a while.
*Jim's pug Cookie
Kevin: How do you feel about being a character in Patton Oswalt's new Comic book?
Jim: The main character was based on me, that's all I know. I haven't seen it yet, so I have no idea how to take it.
Kevin: Yeah, he said it was a sunnier version than you. Now why would he want to take away all the charm?
Jim: He told me the company told him to make it sunnier.
Kevin: He really does look like Parfrey.
Jim: Yeah, I was wondering which one of them would get offended by that comparison.
Kevin: On the subject of Parfrey, is that publisher's note in Shit Magnet for real? (on the back page of Shit Magnet, where Feral House normally advertises three of their products, there is a publisher's note claiming that due to Mr. Goads objection to the titles being advertised, instead of an advertisement page, you get to read the publisher's note instead)
Jim: Yeah, and I thought it was unnecessarily pissy. I handed him a book that was laid-out, proofread, and ready to be printed. That's something that no other author does. He deals with all sorts of fuckups and junkies whose prose needs major work, and he winds up ghost-writing half of the books he publishes.
Kevin: If you want it could stay "off the record" but would you mind telling me which titles you had problems with?
Jim: All I wanted was for him to replace two of the books he was advertising. He has a few dozen books in his stable. He could have merely substituted them with two other ones. I objected to Lords of Chaos because I think its author is a big phony...plus, his girlfriend gave away my dog while I was in prison. I don't think I was being unreasonable in requesting that a book by someone I dislike be removed from something so autobiographical. The other book I objected to was a fluffy music book about bubblegum music. I don't think it hit the right chord after 320 pages of the hell that is Shit Magnet.
Kevin: I have that Bubblegum book but haven't read it yet.
Jim: Lords of Chaos is horribly written, too. The success of that book was a fluke for Moynihan. He's an awful writer. As wooden on the printed page as he is in person.
Kevin: Just so I know, are you taking me up on the "off the record" thing?
Jim: Not at all. Print every word.
Kevin: I knew you'd say that. It all goes back to the honesty thing we discussed. If you can think it, you can write it.
Jim: Want to hear more about him? He's the biggest racist I've ever met. Which is fine, as long as you're honest about it. But once he started getting on witch hunter's lists, he backtracked.
Kevin: I wanted to ask you, you talk in Redneck Manifesto about watching 2000 Maniacs and rooting for the rednecks. What do you think of the recent spurt of redneck horror movies? (House of 1000 Corpses, Wrong Turn)
Jim: You're asking the wrong guy. I don't watch movies after 1975. I haven't seen Fight Club.
Kevin: You did watch one about Bigfoot rapes though.
Jim: Only because they said I influenced the script and wanted a quote from me. That movie is Ape Canyon, and it's a small masterpiece.
Kevin: It sounds great. Can I buy a copy anywhere?
Jim: I could scrape up the URL in a minute...
Kevin: Excellent. You also acted in a film recently, right?
Jim: Explorer crashed when I tried finding that URL...
Kevin: Don't worry about it. I found the page once before, I'll find it again. (Read Jim's interview with Ape Canyon Director, Jon Olsen, here)
Jim: I co-starred along with my friend Debra Jean Danger in The Suzy Evans Story" which she scripted. I killed her in a 15-minute improvised murder scene.
*Jim Goad and Debra Jean Danger
in The Suzy Evans Story
Then the loser director shacked up with some stalker ex of DJD's current beau, and word has it that she destroyed all the tapes.
Kevin: How do you feel you did as an actor?
Jim: I'll put it this way...she lost consciousness during the murder scene. And the director, a generally cold-hearted type, was CRYING after the scene. He just looked at me and said, "POWER."
Kevin: Ha. "POWER" that's great.
Jim: It was one of those things you just KNOW is good. DJD went to the hospital, and I hopped in a cab and went to the airport, heading back to Portland.
Kevin: DJD didn't have any serious injuries, did she?
Jim: Her arm was a little banged-up. She got a bottle of pain pills for it.
We've been tossing around an idea for something called "Black...Like a Nigger," in which I play a semi-retarded, well-meaning white man who wanders around in blackface as a gesture of racial conciliation and can't figure out why everyone beats me up.
Kevin: I'd buy that one. That sounds hysterical.
Jim: Try getting financing for that one...try to imagine that title on a marquee...but it'd be cheap to do with a hand-held camera.
Kevin: Yeah, tell me about it. Dennis, the webmaster of chuckpalahniuk.net and I are working on a film and we can't find any financing. We're thinking of going cheaper, shooting on DV. So I can imagine just how hard it would be for a project like that. Impossible is the right word.
Jim: Financing is overrated. Steven Spielberg's films won't be remembered in 50 years.
Kevin: Yeah, I personally can't stand the guy.
Jim: That minute-long silence you heard was the sound of me taking a piss.
Kevin: And we got it for the website!!
Jim: Wow, Spielberg, it's really BRAVE to do movies that oppose the Holocaust and the slave trade! You're really gonna catch a lotta flak for that!
Kevin: I know, really. I loved the Crispin Glover article in Apocalypse Culture II.
Jim: Adam Parfrey did a great one ten years ago in ANSWER Me! #3. It was called "Pederastic Park?"
Kevin: Yeah, I read that. It had a great illustration as well.
Jim: Coop...before he blew up major.
Kevin: Speaking of Apocalypse Culture II, I meant to say something before, but we went off topic.
Jim: That's the charm of Instant Messenger.
Kevin: A friend of mine read your article in AC II and found it kinda frightening. Then he read Shit Magnet and he really liked that book. When he read the whole backstory behind the incident in AC he understood where you were coming from. Did you feel at all that the AC essay out of context from the rest of the book may be interpreted wrong? Or rather, get the wrong reaction.
Jim: Oh, of course. Weird thing about Shit Magnet was that I wrote the chapters all out of order. The first thing I wrote was "Roadkill," which is supposed to be frightening. But even that piece hints at a much broader context where this girl was repeatedly being violent toward me and threatening my life.
Just about everyone who knew her understood why I did what I did.
The picture of me as a shaved-head prisoner probably didn't help.
Kevin: Yeah, plus as much as you hint at what she was like until we get the full picture, our brainwashed minds say, "Hitting a woman is wrong." No exception.
Jim: Yeah, even if she's hitting you...or seriously threatening your life. It is brainwashing. And the ones who think that are the primitive ones, not me.
You could have a Chuck P. book where guys beat the fuck out of each other, and no one's upset. But once a woman's ultra-sacred body is transgressed upon, whoo-boy!
Kevin: Yeah, people try to understand the psychology behind Fight Club, but if you hit a woman, you're just a monster.
Jim: Well, they need to see monsters. It has nothing to do with me. That's their Jungian hang-up.
Kevin: Yeah, its kind of like the Redneck Manifesto. People can act very liberal but they still need someone to target.
Jim: Yup...one of my favorite lines in Shit Magnet is:
"What is the end result of me telling you that your morality play is a sham? You hand me a devil costume and tell me to stand stage right."