March 22, 2004

Interview #10

I just had a really interesting interview here with Kelly, who is one of the grad students who works with me in the office and I lost it. It's floating around cyberspace out there. I hate computers sometimes, I really do. I started interviewing Kelly to help diffuse some of the tension she's feeling because of a lot of interest she's generating from literary agents. So, we'll just start again.

KC: How do you feel knowing that we've just lost all that material?

KK: Well, it's made me nervous again about agents. A little disappointing, but I'll live through it. Although I'm glad we lost that comment about me grinding up on agents' legs.

KC: Don't you know nothing's ever really lost.

KK: It's floating around on the internet.

KC: Yeah, and right here again, too.

KK: Dammit. Thwarted again. I'm never going to be at a point where I can take responsibility for the things I say, just like Jonathan Franzen.

KC: Funny you should mention him since we talked about Oprah in the lost interview. So, will you turn Oprah down?

KK: Hell no. I think the literary world now, it complains that people don't read good things, but when they do, they complain because they want to be set apart. They're just a bunch of snobs. Hell, no. If Oprah wants me, I'll grind on her leg too. I think Oprah should run for president. I think she's the only black person and the only female who could run right now and possibly win. Because I think there would be a whole new turnout of people who'd vote. Like housewives who don't vote. Oprah and Arnold. What duo.

KC: It could happen. You never know. So, what's the title of your book so people can run out and buy once it hits the shelves?

KK: Born-Again.

KC: Tell us a little about it.

KK: Stock reply: It's a story of an intelligent 13 year-old-girl who is very religious. She's been raised pentecostal revivalist born-again christian. She is assigned to read "The Origin of Species" for an academic camp that awards her a scholarship. She forges the permission slip that lists required readings, convincing herself that it is not a sin to read it as long as she doesn't believe it.

KC: What are the primary themes you're tackling in your book?

KK: The sort of vacuum that evangelical doctrine creates for itself. The perpetuation of ignorance and fear that somehow justifies religion. Fundamentalist religions.

KC: What do you hope readers take away from the book once they've read it?

KK: I think people, I mean the born-agains, people really fear and demonize these people and although I feel they're destroying other cultures, I want people to understand why they do this and how they cultivate their members, and that they're not really bad people. Some are very good people who have been through bad experiences and want to share love. But you have mass herders like Pat Robertson who makes them afraid of death and chaos. The fact, that in Darwin's world, they're insignificant on an individual level, but serve a higher purpose in evolution.

KC: Now, you mentioned wanting to make it as a novelist first so that you have the freedom to write your poetry. Do you ever envision writing poetry exclusively?

KK: No. I think since poetry is really dying in this country. I want to be able to use all sides of my writings. Short stories, I have a book of short stories. I have a book of poetry that's ready to go out. Stories I find I can't write in poetry, I can write in short stories and vice versa. I think they all compliment each other.

KC: What do you attribute this death of poetry to?

KK: Definitely laziness. I think the entire culture. People just want to sit back and not put any effort into anything. They just want to come home, sit back and be entertained. I think there are two components to story, spectacle and narrative. And more and more, I think people only focus on the spectacle. It's all equivalent to pornography.

KC: So do you think there's any hope for the literary arts in America? What needs to happen?

KK: Not under George Bush's idea of education. My mother's friend teaches 8th grade English and this new program has her handing out worksheets where they just do abstract reasoning instead of learning abstract reasoning through reading books. Everything is becoming standardized. We insist on the uniqueness of people, but everything we do is standardized.

KC: Do you think any of this has come about because of complaints of results on standardized tests and whatnot, where minority groups complain they don't have the same educational foundation to succeed, and that this is an attempt to provide that?

KK: I mean standardized testing doesn't make up for socio-economic differences. I went to Bowdoin and I had never even written a paper in high school. I don't think it changes that wealthy people get better education because they can buy it. I think these programs are for people who just want to follow the rules and not think for themselves. I think we should encourage people to think for themselves. I think the most academically stagnant environment would be one were everyone only knows the same stuff and have never learned anything different.

KC: Having gone to two fairly affluent universities, would you prefer now to have attended more widely accessible schools (like state university?

KK: It's yes and no. In smaller institutions, you get more attention. The entire english department at Bowdoin knew me and encouraged me and because these schools accept so many rich students, they have the resources for better education. But I've never known so many silver spoon children. They're not there because they want to learn. They treat it like a social retreat. It's hard to make a real decision on a question to like that. But people who haven't been taught to value education in the first place, they tend to be in those larger universities. So it's definitely a problem and I think always having that balance, the affirmative action, letting kids into colleges that can't contribute to the wealth of the college, but can contribute to the academic are important.

KC: Well, it's just about time to call it a day. Thanks for talking to us. It's been really interesting.

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