Sex creates love and love creates sex

Dennis Cooper, Donatien Grau, Richard Hell

"I’d rather live in a book"

Veröffentlicht am 13.08.2021

Donatien Grau: The first subject I would love to discuss with you is the relation between a text and life. I know that you Richard wanted to be a poet, and then out of a poet came a musician, who is now a writer…

Richard Hell: Okay. Well, I like books more than people, so for me it’s a false dichotomy, this punk versus text issue which you said you wanted to discuss, because books are my life. I much prefer them to daily experience outside of books. I’d rather live in a book. I get my direct experience from books, not from walking down the street or having a conversation with you.

Donatien Grau: Growing up, did you feel you wanted to write your life, as if your life were a book?

Richard Hell: I thought of it more as a movie, but yeah that definitely occurred to me as being an ideal.

Donatien Grau: When you were growing up, when you were 18, 19, 20, and then you were basically designing and inventing what was to become punk, did you feel a bit being like in a book, being like a movie? You could say music, punk music, appearing, appearances, creating a person, an image of yourself, was it a way of writing life?

Richard Hell: Kind of. The way I decided what to do next was what would produce the most satisfying memory. Real life is a state of constant flux and uncertainty that doesn’t even have a reality till afterwards, until it’s past. It’s like that confusing situation in subatomic physics where an electron is literally nowhere, or it’s somewhere but only probabilistically, and it only acquires an actual location by being observed, which is to say, in the past, because that won’t tell you anything about where it’s going to be next. It’s in the same thread of thought as the idea of writing your life as a book or a movie. You create a narrative as you go along, and you perceive it that way. It’s a kind of alienation I suppose.

Donatien Grau: When you were in the early to mid ‘70s and later ‘70s, when you were making your performances, did you tell yourself, “I want to make memories for myself”?

Richard Hell: Well, the sort of intentions that went into me doing the things that became a tributary of punk were about me starting fresh as a musician, after having been thinking of myself as a writer, and considering what I thought music and the life of a musician in a rock and roll band was capable of achieving, of saying. I thought of being in a rock and roll band and taking on the role I was taking on by starting a rock and roll band, as a kind of project to communicate my reactions to the world at that time, that were contrary to what music was doing then. I had a view of how things are that I wanted to express through having a band.
I thought it through carefully, considering all the potential for sending messages being in a band had. Obviously there’s the songs. There’s also the interviews, the design of the graphics, the clothes you wear, and I wanted all those things to express something. And since I hadn’t been a musician before, I saw that all freshly and considered carefully how I wanted everything to operate, rather than just stumbling through it out of love for music-playing or whatever.

Donatien Grau: Did you see music, this new music you were embarking into as a break from writing, as a break from poetry or was it a different way of writing for you?

Richard Hell: Well, part of what I really liked about it was that I felt as if I had learned certain things about writing and since rock and roll songs incorporate writing I could use the chops that I’d developed as a writer within rock and roll as a lyricist. At the same time writing lyrics is different for me than it is for other songwriters. Writing lyrics for me was very, very different from any other kind of writing I’d done, but I really loved it.
In fact, in a way, the way I was writing before, when I was writing poems, which people compare to song lyrics, was very informal, conversational and not highly structured, whereas lyrics for me was the opposite of that. It would be more like, say, the way John Donne wrote poems or Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote poems, or something like that, where it’s like clockwork. Every element is very highly structured.
I don’t know why it came out that way for me, but I really loved doing it that way, where it was verse-chorus, verse-chorus, verse-chorus and a given song would have its own structure of rhyme scheme and number of syllables, really symmetrical and highly, highly constructed, so it turned out to be a very different kind of writing from my poems. It was nothing like my poems except for whatever I’d learned about saying things effectively—but in the form and style, nothing. Also, I always wrote the music first—it was never a matter of setting lyrics to music. I’d write the music and then think, how does this music make me feel, and that’s what the lyrics would be.

Donatien Grau: In a way, the music was a way for you to experiment with writing.

Richard Hell: No. The lyrics in a song were an opportunity to use what I knew about writing. It wasn’t about experimenting in particular. It was just a new form that was really interesting.

Dennis Cooper: I first discovered Richard’s music through “Another World”, that very first EP you did. Other people had previously turned poetry from a folk music-related material into rock fodder, but the way Richard used language just felt revolutionary to me.
I think the first Patti Smith 45 and the Horses album are great things, but even there you could still connect what she was doing with Blonde on Blonde or the Velvet Underground. It still felt like she was a poet utilizing rock music, and it was somehow connected to the past, whereas Richard’s stuff was just this nuclear thing where not only was the language extremely volatile and interesting and exciting, but it was full wedded with the music.
The way the lyrics and the music converged and kind of destroyed the borderline was just something I felt like had never heard before. To me as a poet or writer, it was revolutionary to hear Richard because I’d never heard a fully literary kind of rock, if you want to use the horrible word “literary”.
It was startling. Really, you managed to just merge the two poles such that the music seemed as language-y as the words and vice versa. It didn’t feel like a poet singing a song. It felt like lyrics that had become poetry by necessity or something.

Richard Hell: Well, thank you Dennis. I’ll tell you, a highlight of my first few years as a musician was getting a copy of a book of yours where you had a poem called “Blank Generation”. It made me feel like what I was doing was having a worthwhile effect, if someone as interesting as you could be responding to it.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, well ...

Richard Hell: Yes, because I’ve never seen writing as you did it, in those books and poems, when you were basically a poet. I guess maybe you’d done Tenderness of the Wolves, but it was pretty much poems and that poetry was what I read.

Dennis Cooper: Your music gave me courage, so that helped a lot.

Donatien Grau: There’s a word I was thinking about, looking forward to our conversation of today, which is a word that you used Dennis, to describe what you would like your writing to achieve. It’s charisma, and for me charisma has to do with our conversation: it can pertain to language, a person, music, and I would love to hear both of you discuss it.

Dennis Cooper: I don’t know. I just ended up with that word or with that idea, because all the other ways of describing the act of finishing something or making something right, something powerful, were so limiting—polished, beautiful, etc. I wasn’t interested in that kind of lucid and elegant wording. But charisma is something you need to think about. A person can be really charismatic and you have no idea why. It doesn’t make any sense really.
If you’re with someone who’s really charismatic you’re trying to figure out what exactly are the properties that make this person so charismatic. You can go, yeah, they’re physically attractive or something. But I was always trying to find that quality within charisma that was so ineffable, because something charismatic can be anything. There are no historical models.
I never learned how to write, I never studied writing in school, I never even attended a fiction writing workshop. I wanted to be a writer and I read a million books and I thought. Very early on I just thought that charisma was the right goal. If I could write something that I believed was charismatic, then it would succeed.
All the problems and weaknesses in my early work, I thought, well, charisma will overcome them, hide them, make them unimportant or even excitingly bad. Charisma also seems like a generous quality. If you read something and you say, well, this is obviously a very good poem or novel because it’s so well written and it’s so knowledgeable about its subject, etc., you’re just buying into the program, but if you say this writing is very charismatic you’re also saying: “what is this? This is really sticking with me. It’s haunting me ... ” I like that effect better.

Richard Hell: I love that idea. I saw that too. I can’t remember where you might have mentioned that, but I’d never heard that word before applied to writing. I’ve wondered about charisma myself. When it’s present in people, what are the qualities that go to making up charisma?
My conclusion finally was that it’s a certain just impenetrable, natural confidence, or maybe complete indifference to confidence, which is confidence by another name. When people find other people charismatic it doesn’t have anything to do with their virtues or their lack of them. It has to do with their ease of movement in the world. That kind of unassuming confidence that everybody wants and very few people have. To use a word even cornier than “literary”, it’s what people sometimes call grace. It’s not that you don’t make mistakes, but that you recover from your mistakes, or transform them, so gracefully and imperturbably it’s better than being flawless, which nobody can be anyway. So, to apply that idea to writing. I can sure see it in your case, how you could have consciously thought “that’s what I’m aiming for in my writing.” I want it to have the power of an idol, maybe even an abject idol. This individual rightness that makes the reader sort of gasp.
I think it’s really fascinating to look at writing that way, and your writing is a special case of it to me. Now that I have the word you supplied for it.

Dennis Cooper: Not to belabor the Blank Generation thing, but that’s an enormously charismatic idea and phrase. If you start taking it apart you’re like, well, no one can actually be blank, so that’s inaccurate, but the words were so powerful in relationship to what they were describing. That’s a really good example of a turn of phrase that raises the question: why does that term work? Why is that the perfect shorthand way to talk about this thing?

Richard Hell: Yeah. I have conflicting feelings about how that all worked. Sometimes I’m really embarrassed by it, because it sounds so pretentious in certain respects, from certain angles. I remember the origins of it though, and frankly there was a lot of humor in it. It was about rejecting the whole concept of affirming your generation, but that is what made it work. It gives endless opportunities for attempted interpretation.

Dennis Cooper: Well, it was very funny and ironic and sincere all at the same time, and that was ultra-clear to anybody who heard those words come out of your mouth rather just seeing them in print somewhere. It has turned into almost this kind of corporate logo or something, but in your devising and pronouncing of it, it was very funny and complicated.

Donatien Grau: It’s still about charisma. Let’s go back to this idea of writing life: when you were performing, Richard, did you feel that the notion of charisma was also part of the performance, as well as of the music and of the word-based? Did you see a unity?

Richard Hell: I don’t think I’m a natural performer. That’s what I’ve ultimately concluded. I don’t have that specific charisma. On a good night, I’m adequate, but that’s not really my forte, performing. I was self-conscious on stage. I had to fight that all the time. I remember, in my very earliest days performing. I was always trying to hit this pitch where I was completely melded with the messages of the music, but I was really self-conscious and it was hard. Early in Television, one gig, I drank five White Russians and passed out and had to be shaken awake in order to go on stage and it was the best performance I ever gave. I thought so anyway, and so I thought I’d found the formula, and for months I drank five White Russians before, but it didn’t sustain. I’m full of self-doubt. I don’t have that kind of charisma.

Donatien Grau: Did you want the art you were making, this blend of music and poetry, to have a charisma separate from you?

Richard Hell: I didn’t blend music and poetry. I just wrote songs. It didn’t have anything to do with poetry, it didn’t have anything to do with blending. I was just trying to write good songs. I didn’t think in terms of the songs having charisma, because I hadn’t had Dennis offer the description, until this year. I just was trying to write well and the music part was harder, because I didn’t have any experience at it. I wasn’t aiming for charisma. I was just aiming to write a successful song.

Donatien Grau: When you say, “I was trying to write well”, what did writing well mean?

Richard Hell: Well, it’s different every day, isn’t it? I hope so anyway, because I don’t want to repeat myself. You’re always trying to push the frontier. Writing well means subverting what you did yesterday.

Donatien Grau: This notion of subversion seems to me to be an interesting one. Subverting different sets of orders...

Richard Hell: Every artist knows that. Complacency is the absolute enemy of ­doing anything well; thinking that you’ve found how to do it well, is the enemy. It’s built in, once you’ve done something you have to subvert it and still make something interesting. Don’t you agree, Dennis?

Dennis Cooper: I totally agree. I can’t do anything the same twice. I know some people think my concentration on a particular subject matter makes everything I write the same, but I always start from scratch whenever I write something new. I just try to completely throw away what I did before and then if I end up somewhat near where I was before, I do. It’s less about subverting than about always being absolutely true to what you exactly want to express.

Richard Hell: I just mean subverting in the sense that once you succeeded at doing something, well, once you’ve figured something out, then you’ve got to do something different. You can’t continue doing what you figured out how to do. You just take that as the ground and then penetrate further.

Dennis Cooper: There are certain skills I think I’ve figured out I have. I make something and then I know how to do that, so now I have that skill, and I try something new and harder and more foreign, and there’s an accumulation of skills that gives me more and more to play with.

Richard Hell: Yeah. It’s just that classic thing of finding your voice. Well, that’s fatal in a way. It’s what everybody has recommended to them, and I suppose there’s a way in which it’s legitimate, but...

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, but it’s dangerous. It’s super dangerous. I look at a lot of art and you see that in visual art all the time. It’s like hey, I’ll make everything look like a page in a comic book! So then the artist spends 50 years making everything look like a page in a comic book, and it becomes the art’s brand, and it’s very successful, but there’s never any growth. You see that all the time.

Richard Hell: Yeah, absolutely.

Donatien Grau: There seems to me to be potentially a tension between being true to oneself and subverting what could be a social order or a political order: how do you see the two playing out together?

Dennis Cooper: It comes naturally, right? If you’re true to yourself. You don’t even have to think about it.

Richard Hell: I don’t know. I feel like I’m getting out of my element here with this kind of, true to yourself versus subversion. Subverting what? You can be true to yourself by being 10 different people. It’s just abstract.

Dennis Cooper: Well, I just never think about those things. I don’t think about it in relationship to other peoples’ work, you know? I’m just trying to do something. I believe that originality is a possibility, I still believe in originality, so I’m just trying to do something that’s my own. Ideally it will not resemble other things very much if at all, but I never think “this is the establishment and I have to do something contrary and fight this.” I never feel any fight or anything. It’s completely solitary. You’re in your head, you’re by yourself, you imagine this space and you’re just making something. I never make things in reaction to anything.

Richard Hell: I agree with that, but with a little caveat: I do think that, for me, this is consistent with what we’ve been saying. There’s this constant effort to resist received ideas and conventions and also one’s own habits. The kind of habit that is so built in that you’re not even aware of it: it is the big enemy for me. That’s part of what I mean by subverting what I did the day before. It’s a constant battle.
Proust talked about that too, about habit being the great enemy. I question everything I write as being reflexive, as possibly just being reflexive. Worry that I’ve developed some pat way of going from here to there. Is that really the most effective and most faithful to my intentions way of doing things? Of course you have to also have some judgement about it and not just be vacillating all the time…

Dennis Cooper: I actually don’t disagree with you at all. That totally makes sense.

Donatien Grau: You were using a very interesting and important word Dennis, which is originality. Maybe you can elaborate a little bit more on that, both of you, originality. What is it?

Dennis Cooper: I don’t know. It’s like charisma. It’s just this ridiculous idea: originality. It’s just a concept to hold onto and to place ahead of you as a dream goal. I feel like I discover things that are new and fresh to me constantly, whether it’s in books or movies or music. Things I know I’ve never seen before.
Originality is ultimately just an exciting term, something that helps me. I want what I write or make to be entirely unlike anything else. I want it to be exactly like me, and I’m not like anybody else.
That’s kind of blather, but it’s hard to describe. Richard and I both like Bresson. Bresson did this thing where he would not allow anyone in his films to ever be in a previous film, because he wanted people to watch his films and just believe. He wanted the performers to be blank slates, and that plus his specific way of directing makes his films feel absolutely unique and original. Whether that’s technical true or not, you feel it. You just feel it. Originality is a useful term for me emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, to think about when I’m making something. The idea of originality and the idea of charisma. Those words have power over me. They push me.

Richard Hell: The originality idea, to me, is incidental. It will follow from you doing your work as well as you can. I really don’t think there is anything original. Maybe I’m switching levels in the discussion, but I’m constantly discovering precedents for everything I’ve ever done. I think I have the most profound, great idea and I’ll operate on that assumption for years, and then I will find some ancient Greek who said exactly the same thing, had exactly the same perception. My feeling is really that nothing ever changes.
Also, speaking of Bresson, I don’t even think we have free will, frankly, but nothing ever changes. Things just modulate and every generation has to say the same things that all the previous generations have said, in their own language, but what’s being said hasn’t really changed. It’s just that there’s different emphases and different resources of technique.
There really isn’t anything new, but people have to work. You’ve got to fill the days somehow and that’s how we’re put together. That’s where we get a lot of our fulfillment. From trying to do work that is satisfying, but in 500 years—from five years to 500 years—everything that everybody’s done right now will be forgotten.
You’re just trying to stay busy and stay interested.

Dennis Cooper: Richard, when you’re working on something, do you ever think about the expectation of what “Richard Hell” would do? You’re very well-known for being Richard Hell and people have an idea of who “Richard Hell” is, so do you take that into account or do you just say, “I’m not even going to think about that”?

Richard Hell: That’s an interesting question. I used to sometimes look in the mirror and say: what would it be interesting for that person to do next? But I guess you can’t help but have some consciousness of people’s preconceptions about you; people treat you differently if they have some awareness of you, apart from personal friendship, so you can’t help being conscious of that—it’s the same for you, Dennis—and that might have some bearing on how you deal with them.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, but does it affect your work, when you think about the kind of work you want to make?

Richard Hell: If it does, it would just be as further tendency to defy what people would expect. But also I think people’s reactions are interesting. I think the audience’s take about any work is as legitimate as the artist’s. And there can be a little back and forth between the artist and their audience’s responses to works. But I don’t usually take into account my expectations of their expectations. That would get really twisted.

Dennis Cooper: Right.

Richard Hell: I don’t think I’m really conscious of it very much. In fact, I don’t know how much there can be left of it. Anybody who really has followed what I’ve done, there can’t be very much left of. It’s only people who are stuck in some public image that’s connected to 1975, and that doesn’t have any meaning to it.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah. Sure.

Donatien Grau: I wanted to ask you about modernism:  the idea that you’re making art to move forward. That there is a history, and that the music, the poetry, the writing, any form of writing you make belongs to history. These things that came before led to this thing you’re doing now, that’s going to lead to other things: do you believe in that, in that notion of creative progress, or not?

Richard Hell: No. I don’t believe in progress, no. I believe that yes, things become tired and cliché, and in a given moment you inevitably feel like you have to reject what’s already been fully explored. To me it’s not progress in the sense of things improving and improving and improving. It’s just living in your moment as fully as possible. Being as fully sensitive to everything that’s going on and being as present as you can be, and that your work reflects that.

Dennis Cooper: I basically agree with Richard. No, I don’t think about it in any broad sense. I don’t think of things getting better. I hate nostalgia. It’s the enemy, so I hate the idea that things were once better, which is the way most people in the 30s and older seem to feel. It’s like, “well, when I used to get laid a lot and do a lot of drugs, the music I was listening to then is better than the music I’m listening to now,” so no.
To me, based on my experience and what I know, I think things are continually new and fresh, but I don’t think of what’s happening now as being example of forward progress. I just don’t think that things are getting worse. I don’t think we’re dead in the water or anything. I think art is alive, and it keeps reinventing itself and there are always new things, and they are either less exciting or more exciting individually than previous things.

Richard Hell: It’s funny what you say about nostalgia:  I’ve always felt that same way too, for sure, but in fact in recent years there’s been a new development in that area, which is that this idea of never looking fondly back at the past at all had become reflexive for me. Being 70 years old has changed the way I look at my life in a few ways.
One of them is that it’s horrifying, because I have to acknowledge that all my bad behavior that I had regarded as I went along as being aberrant, I can see, now that it’s too late for that bad behavior to change, that it’s not aberrant. In times past I would think it’s a passing mistake. No, it wasn’t. It’s who I actually am.

Dennis Cooper: Right.

Richard Hell: Heartbreaking. But, regarding rejection of nostalgia, I found myself going like “okay, I’m going to drop that idea, because it turned out to have some inhibiting effect.” Now that I’m this old I often have the feeling—which is also related to Proust— you’re a Proust scholar, right, Donatien?

Donatien Grau: Yeah.

Dennis Cooper: I’ve never read Proust you know…

Richard Hell: Well, I didn’t do it till I was in my 50s, but it really did change things for me.

Dennis Cooper: I hear that. It’s intimidating.

Richard Hell: Yeah, but it’s such a pleasure.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, so I hear.

Richard Hell: Really, it just turns out to be a complete pleasure. He wrote those books, because he wanted to have his whole life at once. That’s what the whole involuntary memory thing and all is about. He didn’t want to have to just be who he was that day. He wanted to have his whole past at the same time. Every once in a while I get little glimpses of the previous people I’ve been. You’ll come across an old interview or somebody will write you a letter.
I had this funny experience when I was doing my autobiography, where my sister sent me a letter that I’d written her when I was 17 and I literally did not recognize the person who wrote that letter. It was a long complex letter, and if somebody had just shown it to me in type, I would not have realized it was me. I feel like your whole life is like that.
There’s all these separate moments that ­aren’t sometimes smooth transitions, where you build upon the previous stratum, to the next, to the next, but rather it’s unpredictable and erratic. It’s just all these extreme experiences and various beings of yourself manifesting, and situations you undergo, and it’s frustrating that you can’t have all that life at once. I don’t agree with people talking about wanting to live forever. I think that 70 years is plenty, frankly. So much has gone on, and a lot of people have had more eventful lives than me, but to me I do have this experience of looking back in the last few years. This actual appreciation of moments in the past that my fear of nostalgia kept me from appreciating before now, while now I wish that I could have it all.
That’s part of the reason I wrote an autobiography. There were other lessons for me in writing that, but I didn’t achieve what I hoped to. My hope had been to create this object, where all the complexities were present in one place, so I could see it. For instance, I’ve never had in my house mementos on the wall or anything like that. Like old—an album cover or a poster, old photos, some kind of press release or—

Dennis Cooper: Gold record.

Richard Hell: Yeah, whatever.

Dennis Cooper: Is that a gold record back there, on your wall?

Richard Hell: Ha ha. That actually is a sculpture called “Voidoid”. Do you know who Jim Lambie is? [Scottish artist.]

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, sure. Nice.

Richard Hell: But I came across this photograph, which is the first photograph I’d ever seen that captured CBGB’s the way it felt to me.  I don’t know how well that comes out [points laptop camera at framed photo in office], but it was CBGB at closing time, at 4:00 AM in 1977, by David Godlis, and that’s what feels like CBGB’s to me. And I was so happy to find that, because it’s like a genuine way of being able to incorporate something that was really real to me into my present, but to me doesn’t feel nostalgic in a negative way. I mean, I don’t miss that room at all, but I like having it present for me, as a long-gone formative experience, when it’s unsentimentally caught, as in that photo.

Dennis Cooper: Sure, totally.

Donatien Grau: You could say that the lesson of Proust is that it’s basically “enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think”. Basically the book is a bit like a vampire. You’re giving time to it. You’re spending two months, three months to read it, and then after that you know that you have to enjoy yourself.

Richard Hell: It was three years for me. I found that book to be much more than a book. He feels the same way I do. He likes books more than people, and he felt like the only way you could actually know another person was if they’d written a book that was good and you could read the book. It’s a way fuller, more genuine presentation of a human being than having a conversation with somebody like this is. It’s to read their good book.
It wasn’t for me that you give three months or three years to the book, and then you go back to your life. I felt like I got more of real life from that book than I ever would have taking a road trip or going anywhere, however else I would be spending my life. It’s not like: you close the book and go back to real life. It’s you close the book having learned more about real life.
Donatien Grau: There’s the famous quote by Proust:  a reader is as they read the very readers of themselves. That’s quite close to the notion you have of imagination Dennis. You’re triggering peoples’ imagination, and your imagination meets their imagination.

Dennis Cooper: Well, I feel like, ever since I was a kid, I’ve always lived in this imagined space, and occasionally the real world intrudes for a while. I took a great deal of LSD in my teens, which enhanced that idea, but I do think of my books as being drugs: you’re giving someone the linguistic equivalent of acid, and you have to calculate the drug’s construction really, really well; if it’s perfectly calibrated then it works in their imagination. They build something out of this material you gave them. I do think of the books as being this kind of drug-like formula that creates an intimacy between you and the reader. The art that interests me works that way for me.

Richard Hell: What Proust was saying there is also something Burroughs has said, which is self-evident: you can’t really understand anything that you read except to the extent that you already know it. What happens when you read a book is that when a book strikes you as really meaningful or profound, whatever, just really good, it’s because it’s describing something very effectively that resonates inside you. It’s because the writer is saying something that you already knew, but you hadn’t become fully conscious of yet. I think Burroughs put it that you’re getting something you knew, but didn’t know you knew. You’re reading yourself. It’s the same reason the best books change when you re-read them five or ten years later when there are new things you can read in yourself via the book. The book hasn’t changed—you have.

Donatien Grau: Richard, you’ve been a writer all along: a writer of poetry, writer of lyrics, writer of nonfiction and fiction. You, Dennis, are a writer who also uses other means to write, like the novel with animated gifs. How do you see the relationship, if any, between your writing and life?

Richard Hell: I don’t know what you mean. The relationship between writing and life?

Donatien Grau: How do you see your relationship between your activity of writing and your life?

Richard Hell: It’s my work. As I was saying before, it’s another obvious clichéd idea, but it seems to be the case to me that : what else is there besides work and love? That’s all you’ve got in life, and my work happens to be writing, and there’s no incongruity, there’s no discrepancy, there’s no division. You keep wanting to set up this dichotomy between the writing and the life. To me, there’s no dichotomy.

Donatien Grau: Between love and writing?

Richard Hell: I think love can take care of itself. It can be a subject in your writing, but love is part of life and writing is part of life. They’re all intermingled. I don’t think there’s a big distinction. I don’t think there’s much of a distinction between love and sex either. Sex creates love and love creates sex.

Dennis Cooper: I’m really a workaholic, so I’m always making stuff, and I always have mostly made stuff, and so my life revolves around work, whether I’m writing a novel or thinking about a film I want to make, devising an animated GIF fiction, making the blog, which in and of itself is a huge amount of work. Everything else seems like it’s just happening around all of that.
I live in Paris and I don’t have that many close friends here. My closest friends are Zac, who I make films with, and Gisèle, who I make theater with. They’re the people I see the most and, when we’re together we talk about making things... For me, it’s very rare that I’m not just in a situation where other people aren’t part of the creative act for me.
I don’t really enjoy being with people where I can’t talk about work, theirs, ours. If I meet someone I’ll immediately think we should collaborate. So I’m always making things, and when I’m not making things I’m having weird fantasies about making things. I don’t know about real life. My real life is really boring. I just sit on this fucking computer all day, and go out and look at art or something.

Richard Hell: It’s all integrated.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah. I never would ever in a million years think of them as being separate things.

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Dennis Cooper

Dennis Cooper

is a writer. He transformed American fiction, incorporating new narratives and forms into it, perturbing reality by leading it to the most extreme invention. He recently extended the field of writing itself with novels composed using animated GIFs.
Donatien Grau

Donatien Grau

ist derzeit Head of Contemporary Programs am Louvre, Paris, und Vorsitzender der Association Pierre Guyotat. Er ist Herausgeber und Autor mehrerer Bücher. Zuletzt erschien sein Buch über Leben und Werk Azzedine Alaïas (Actes Sud, 2020) und Living Museums. Conversations with Leading Museum Directors (Hatje Cantz, 2020).
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Richard Hell

Richard Hell

is the founder of Neon Boys, Television, the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, groups that helped create New York punk—most notably with the 1977 album Blank Generation. He is the author of over a dozen books.