21 sep. 2009

Diálogo de Bípedos: Jason Flores-Williams

Truth, madness, lies, crazytalk and buttspank:

Jason Flores-Wiliams

Mayra Barraza


1969. John Lennon and Yoko Ono spend their highly publicized honeymoon in presidential suite No. 702. For a whole week they stage the famous Amsterdam bed-in sharing bed and kisses, pajama clad, hair uncombed, promoting world peace with press correspondents stationed daily around their bed with cameras and microphones.

Ono and Lennon knew well. Oh yes they did: every act – private or public- is a political act. Bed-in, sex, nudity, sex, workers march, sex, art and literature and sex, all are political acts in the face of a controlling state.

40 years after and a couple of wars, invasions, acts of terrorism, veiled acts of systemic violence against immigrants, the poor, and the ostracized different on part of most democratic governments; the Ono/Lennon act of bringing intimacy into the public eye to make a political statement against war still seems fresh and potent.

1. Make love not war

You have constantly and actively spoken out against these abuses of power and personal liberties. What makes “The Last Stand of Mr. America” a remarkable novel is your ability to weave your political standpoints into a literary venture where each act is a rich concoction of symbolic representation of current state of affairs.

I am thinking specifically here on how Sam -the all-american protagonist- dwells on his homocentric cultural heritage as he feels more and more attracted to transvestite Lady California. Personal is political and political turns personal is the clear message here.

What makes this sexual encounter so dramatically charged?

Jason Flores-Williams: People like to think of themselves as liberal and open-minded, but are really conservative and uptight when it comes to sex. Same can be said of people and politics. They like to think of themselves as progressive and ready for change, but are really traditional and status quo. The common theme here, is that people like to bullshit themselves about how badass they are… A dangerous form of self-deception, because then moderate and meaningless things start to be seen as original and compelling. This is okay, save for when the culture needs to be refreshed by new ideas.

My job as a writer – no matter what the subject – is to do battle with bullshit. Sometimes it’s a dialogue at a dinner party, sometimes it’s a touch of poetry in nature, and sometimes it’s a methed-out fuck scene in an underground sex club. As long as its pissing off the starbelly sneeches, it makes no difference to me.

2. Same-sex marriage

This century’s gay rights activism is one of several examples of the political battle over sexuality, over that fertile and autonomous domain which is the human body. Certainly you will agree that same-sex marriage has become one of the foremost legal battles in that terrain.

It is interesting how your novel’s main thread is an extraordinary internal dialogue in the voice of Sam on the limits of sexuality. What was your starting point for the conception of the argument for the novel?

JFW: The last line of the novel is really the first: there are things to do.

Sam spends the entire novel talking, but in the end he actually does something, That’s the point: time to stand up, fight the good fight, count for something. Nobody wants to hear that, because then it gets all icky and uncomfortable, but maybe right now people need to feel icky and uncomfortable.

MB: What has been the reaction from gay rights activists and their opponents to the contents in your novel?

JFW: I am gay. Maybe not sexually – although there have been some wild after hours parties - but in spirit, in outlook, melodrama, horniness, world weariness, jadedness, openness, sense of humor and arty sophistication….you ask anyone, I’m a queen.

So there’s never any friction between me and the gay boys when it comes to my work. If there ever was, we’d all just put on dresses and go get cocktails.

3. Clinton cigars

Sex is a political act, I dare say (in the risk of it sounding wild and far-fetched) in favor of anarchism. Every time someone engages in sex, walls tumble down. Sex is a powerful venue of self affirmation, an expression of utmost liberty between consenting individuals where law and state enforcement have no say.

Politicians are well aware of this. Political sex scandals are so notorious! In part because they question the very status quo politicians work so hard to withhold, in part because we all live in this hypocritical society where false morals are upheld in spite of better judgments and common sense.

Sam and several secondary characters in your novel deal with this double persona: one mask leading normal 9-5 job and life in a safe neighborhood and the other engaging in after-hours explorations with sex, drugs and violence. It seems you have taken upon yourself the task of unveiling “real” America. Has this always been one of your spear points and why so?

JFW: I grew up poor with a father in prison. I know the darkness in this country. I know how it discards people. I know how it rolls over the defenseless and exploits the vulnerable.

So as long as I have a voice, I will speak the truth about America. I will speak about its greed, its selfishness, its hypocrisy, apathy, sickness and soullessness.

I will also speak about its funky wildness and its unpretentiousness coolness. Problem with that, though, is that the second you criticize this country, then nobody hears anything else you have to say. You are immediately labeled, dark skeptical, unpatriotic and worse, uncommercial and unmarketable.

You can escape almost any able in this country, but if people perceive you as not being able to make them any money, then you’re screwed.

4. Big (Incestual) Brothers

Dear George Orwell delved deeply into the subject matter of politics and sex in his famous and sadly relegated “1984”, where sex is described as a political act against all established teachings by the Party. The Party imposes “antisexualism” upon its members (as manifested in the Junior Anti-Sex-League), because sexual attachments diminish their loyalty.

Taking a step further on the matter of sex and politics it seems it is in the name of safeguard against violence that sex is most regulated. Sex and violence do seem at times like incestual brothers, coupling away in dark corners of human history. The will to surrender and the will to cause suffering seem to crisscross in your novel at deranged times.

How do you think violence and sex feed into each other in your novel and why so? What is the point where pleasure and pain turn into abuse? Who are your literary references in this realm?

JFW: Real sex, good sex, heavy sex, honest sex comes from deep from within the psychological store room, spent years down there handcuffed next to violence, power and my coach from little league, Mr. Sandoval. (Total perv.) Fucking is a fantastic free for all – truth, madness, lies, crazytalk and buttspank. And there’s the cathartic element. All those social frustrations: rejection, pain, suffering, insecurity, failure… the stuff that people try to hide, but that makes up who we are more than almost anything else.

We live in such a conservative time. I refuse to let that penetrate (or even perform oral) on my erotic life, both real and literary. If people want safe, well adjusted writers who play softball and fuck their wives – fine, go read them. I’ll hang out here with Miller, Burroughs and De Sade.

5. Long live porn

Cicciolina – the porn actress turned Italian politician (she was a Parliament member for the Radical Italian Party) and peace activist- is an extraordinary example of turning the privacy of sex into public domain and using her body as a powerful tool to make herself seen and heard on issues as human rights and ecological battles.

Hers is an extraordinary life. Is it possible to continue to lead an ordinary life in the face of injustice? Even in the face of risking one’s own life as Sam does towards the end of your novel?

What do you believe is the role of a writer in society?

JFW: First, let me say this: now that we can look back on the Bush administration, there needs to be a reckoning. We have a right to ask the well known and well funded American artists of our time - why did you fail this generation by remaining silent during an eight year reign of war, lies, fear, manipulation, torture and control?

Now, I believe that a writer should be the voice for the voiceless, the enemy of hypocrisy, the champion of the lower classes and a person unafraid to speak the truth in an age of lies and self-deception.

Or, at the very least: if you’re going to be a writer, then have something relevant and important to say. I spent a lot of time being pissed about these people who were putting themselves out there (and being perceived) as “important writers”, but have never written one meaningful or compelling word about the American condition.

But I’m tired of thinking about the limp and bloated writers of our age. Truth is, I’ve already outlasted a lot of them anyway. My only goal now, is to show the next generation how its supposed to be done. Give them something real, a place to stand. The brave and smart ones need to know that they’re not alone.