PRESS RESPONSE TO HOT AND COLD
"In postmillenial America, those who dictate such things like their geniuses to suffer in button-down shirts and horn rims, preferably with earplugs and Ivy league pedigrees. This relegates a scribe like Hell, whose well-documented life has played out far beyond the borders of Quality Lit land, to a kind of outsider, sideshow status. Which is Quality Litís loss.... Heartbreak, cynicism, insight, and loonily spot-on imagery...such a wondrous and wierdly inspiring compendium....he sought the sublime in the most squalid of circumstances. Whatís truly surprising, by the time you get to the end of this book, is that he has actually found it. Hell, as poet and essayist, has gone so deep into his own pain, heís come out the other side.... Think Burroughs with a soul. Or Beckett with a ten-year habit and a string of groupies in a motel room heís already checked out of.... I confess to a certain awe that someone who could stalk a stage like that could go home and write lines that blow your heart out of the back of your mouth.... From the beginning, Richard Hell has burned with the same blue flame of misfit insight and desperate beauty." --Jerry Stahl, Bookforum (see entire review at Bookforum site)
"...Largely previously unpublished, and typically irreverent, lewd, sublime, non-sequiturous and anti-establishment -- these works wrest the strange, funny, and disgusting out of most situations. In an early prose poem, Hell describes a bestiality fantasy; in a notebook entry, he describes a meeting with an ailing William Burroughs. Neo-punks and the alternative "whatever" crowd will enjoy this beautifully printed document of overlapping subcultures.--Publisherís Weekly
"Richard Hell is my hero, and this is why. Hot and Cold is a rhapsody of Hell's rigorous intentions, pure thoughts, and amazing feel for words. It's a defining history lesson, a moving, brainy personal exploration, and literature at its most uncompromising and greatest."--Dennis Cooper
"...a sort of omnium gatherum of Hellish stuff wherein are to be found: his complete song lyrics ("Blank Generation" and "Love Comes in Spurts" among them), absolutely great writing on rock (Johnny Thunders, Ramones, the Sex Pistols, etc.), more luminous notebook scribblings (1988-1998), essays, fiction, poetry, drawings and photos. Everything seen through a bemused, compound eye and filtered through a self-interrogating, complex mind. Here is Hell driving relentlessly through Interstates and disturbed states of mind, annotating anomalous roadside attractions with lyrical precision and recording his inner inquisitions with ruthless honesty. Cheek by jowl are metaphysical musings and narcissistic doodlings (there are enough loving renderings of his penis and nude photos of himself in this book that it might be subtitled -- pace Baudelaire -- Mon Corps mis ŗ nu).
"The Notebooks in Hot and Cold are also great. The self-interrogations, the comic-plaintive realizations ('Once again led to suspect that something about me provokes intense hostility on the part of airline employees'), ruminations on matters literary and metaphysical. Hellís also become something of an affectionate post-modern ethnographer of American kitsch und quatsch, among other things. I would love to read a whole book of Hellish travels. A benign form of Sartreís Nausea, an existential voyage through an alien and yet intimate American landscape. Blue Highways or Jonathan Rabanís books (or Babu Naipaul, for that matter) are all very well, but who writes motel epics for the Beatniks among us?
"Hell is a genuine writer... of all the rock literati Hell has always been the most soul-searching and the least pretentious, an experimental animal of his own existentialist dread... ...some of the best writing about rock Iíve ever read."--David Dalton, Gadfly (read Dalton's interview with Hell)
"Hot and Cold collects a bit of everything -- his first poems, which date back to 1969; lyrics from two classic albums; and later work: violent sexual fantasies, penis self-portraiture and piquant essays on heroin, youth and aging.... Hot and Cold is occasionally Ďshocking,í often shockingly good. It works as both punk memoir and a universal coming of age story about being young, rude and less stupid than you put on.--Gear
"...remarkable for its enthusiasm and generosity of spirit."--Blender
"Part history lesson, part stream-of-consciousness tirade, the book encompasses childhood, fatherhood, and everything in between. Although Hell is famously reluctant to discuss punk in interviews, Hot and Cold unearths it in all its glorious and grisly detail.....This is probably the closest the writer-turned-musician-turned-writer is ever going to get to an autobiography....Hot and Cold is an intensely visceral piece of work filled with pain, pleasure, and acute insight. It stands both as a monument to the various intellectual paths Hell has trod over the years and as piece of history from one of punk's greatest visionaries."--Tema Celeste
Hands Across The Ocean (memory)
Huck Hell & Legs Sawyer On The Mississippi (collaboration with Legs McNeil)
I'm Not That Kind Of Girl (memory)
Johnny Thunders And The Endless Party
Knotty, Knotty Boy
My First Television Set
The Problem With Heroin
The Ramones Mean Business
Sid and Nancy
What My Father Did The Second Time I Ran Away (memory)
The Heartbreakers (essay)
Interview (collaboration with Mary Harron)
Marionette Mon Amour (poem)
Room Half-Full Of Fly Skulls (poem)
Stars I Was (poem)
Untitled ("Finally I was born, the first poet not removed from...") (poem)
Untitled ("Though human "hands" are scissors...") (poem)
You Stranger I'm Tight And Juicy (poem)
Across The Years
At The Hour Before Dawn
Autobiography Of A Small Mean Man (I)
Dead Man Poem
Gerard de Nerval
In The Morning
It's All True
I Was A Spiral On The Floor
January & December
The Little Mouse
Once She Came Out Of My Heart. Now She's Lodged In My Left Temple
Poem By Someone
So You Like Dante
Smeared [from "Weather"]
That To The Sides Of The Dark Shine The Theories
Untitled ("After I died...")
Untitled ("Ah, mortal, there's a terrible smell in your refrigerator...")
Untitled ("By writing this...")
Untitled ("cartoons to cartoons...")
Untitled ("The cattle are barking...")
Untitled ("City first a stamped circuit...")
Untitled ("The color Polaroids I took of you naked...")
Untitled ("I do everything halfway...")
Untitled ("I got no future...")
Untitled ("I got up in the middle of the night...")
Untitled ("I knew she wanted me to fuck her in the ass...")
Untitled ("I love (hate) my rivals...")
Untitled ("in sticks a little hand...")
Untitled ("LORD have you felt the WRATH...")
Untitled ("Lying in bed with her one night...")
Untitled ("Off in the dusk at sea gather...")
Untitled ("This is my one thousandth appearance...")
Why Did The Air Have To Get Dressed?
28th Century (with Tom Verlaine)
At The Hour Before Dawn (with Cookie Mueller and H. M. Koutoukas)
The Drunken Boat (with Tom Verlaine)
The Drunken Boat (translation) (with Lizzy Mercier Descloux)
Forty-Four Smokeless (with Will Patton)
It's Cold In Here (with Michael DeCapite)
Keep A Few Things In Mind (with Cookie Mueller and H. M. Koutoukas)
Life Among The Alert Of Europe (with Cookie Mueller)
Poem #2 (with Patti Smith)
Swan (with Patti Smith)
Those Days (with Cookie Mueller and H. M. Koutoukas)
Untitled ("maybe this ain't a hangover...") (with Michael DeCapite)
All My Witches Come True
Betrayal Takes Two
Crack of Dawn
Dim Star Theme
Down At The Rock & Roll Club
Downtown At Dawn
Fuck Rock & Roll
High Heeled Wheels
The Hunter Was Drowned
I Been Sleepin On It
Ignore That Door
The Kid With The Replaceable Head
Love Comes In Spurts (1st version)
Love Comes In Spurts
Lowest Common Dominator
The Night Is Coming On
She Wants To Die
Staring In Her Eyes
That's All I Know (Right Now)
Who Says (It's Good To Be Alive)?
You Gotta Lose
ILLUSTRATIONS by R. Hell unless otherwise noted
look (male sex)[ca. 1979]
Mr. Flooey [date unknown]
Theresa Stern  (orig. photos by Charlotte Deutsch)
R. and T. present Theresa  (photog. unknown)
Helleresa  (photo by Charlotte Deutsch)
with Peter Laughner  (photo by Leee Black Childers)
facts of death [ca. 1977]
handle (male sex) [ca. 1980]
Lizzy on bed [ca. 1977]
hardon [ca. 1980]
don't know [date unknown]
in Italian woods  (by Marlene Hennessy)
Burroughs with swordcane 
Television  (by Jay Craven)
jewels, shoe, person [ca. 1981]
two with Thunders  (photos by Roberta Bayley)
Voidoids poster  (with photo by Roberta Bayley)
Dim Stars  (photo by Larry Busacca)
father [ca. 1949] (photo by Carolyn Meyers]
with Ruby  (photo by Babette Meyers]
wall eye page [ca. 1978]
Your Message Here [ca. 1983]
study [ca. 1979]
horizon [ca. 1979]
smoking monkey [ca. 1992]
Boy Meets Death, Boy Falls In Love
Three pieces of work from Hot and Cold:
That to the Sides of the Dark Shine the Theories [prosepoem]
Johnny Thunders and the Endless Party [postmortem essay]
Keep a Few Things [...] (w/ Cookie Mueller and H. M. Koutoukas) [collab. poem]
THAT TO THE SIDES OF THE DARK SHINE THE THEORIES
Yesterday late in the evening I started feeling thick and heavy as if I were being pulled down, as if something deep underground had started to exert a new kind of gravity that was sucking my body and senses towards it, while my floating mind stayed above. I could hardly keep my eyelids raised and I had to lie down. Once I did that, my body hollowed and lightened, like a drawing of itself. My mind seemed to float loose while leaking into my body like molecules: sex, sax, six, socks, sucks... It was like my body liquified, then evaporated, the whole prehistoric breathing, and my mind was a rudderless little boat that drifted in it. I seeped and haltingly flowed according to the permeability and slant. In the puddles at the bottom of the boat was a tumbled messy litter of everything imaginable that had happened or could happen to me. How could it be so small? My senses seemed to have returned, but were caught in the contents of the boat, as if perception were engendered by those objects.1 It seemed that if I looked at one item -- a tan-colored lifesize hobbyshop model of a robin, for instance -- everything else in the strew became possible, so that when my attention left the glued-together plastic bird, the items around it had become something other than what they'd been before. Oh, it was too beautiful, this surrender. It is the secret standard of worthiness. All who do it are good! My mind2 opened and the boat, being one, the only, wasn't a boat.3____________________________________________
1 Later I heard "that to the sides of the dark shine the theories."*
2 If the brain-neurons are buzzing, are individual, can choose, aren't they all of life and history? Each person is God and the brain's neurons are all the people of the history of the world. We are the neurons in God's brain. (Is God asleep? Will God awake? And then what happens to us? God's wakefulness the laws, God's sleep the activity...)
3 Somewhere in the ocean I started getting an erection. Marilyn Monroe had a penis. The boat sprang a leak. I "woke up"** with come all over me.
* If you want to be an artist, go to sleep.
** Falling, going to, then coming, up...
JOHNNY THUNDERS AND THE ENDLESS PARTY
Johnny's party is over. Thinking about him this morning (May 9) in New York. It's another drizzly colorless day as it was for his funeral last week.
I hope when I die people don't go soft about me. It's stupid. Apart from his family and four or five lifelong friends, probably the people who'll miss Johnny most are those he exploited. The ones who were made to feel important because he spent time with them in order to get them to do things for him. Of course, he never even really had to try to get this kind of treatment: people fell over themselves to get next to him. They liked to be near him just to look at him, as you would a jungle carnivore. And a girl could not be wrong to have him at her side. That's how he made his living, like a lot of rock and roll performers. I don't think Johnny would want people to go soft about him.
Then again, he lit into journalists a lot for not treating him with enough respect. He even wrote a song ("I Tell The Truth Even When I'm Lying") replying to what he considered their unfair and insulting treatment of him. It included this "open letter to the music press: I revoke your poetic license, you probably got on 42nd Street, the same place you got your lover, the same place your mother got your father..." When he told me how much he liked Japan, it was mostly because the people are "real polite and kind. I tell you I did 40 or 50 interviews and not one person asked me about drugs." That's what he attacked them for, asking him about drugs. While of course he himself exploited heroin's significance in the maintenance of his bad boy image. He included conspicuous syringes in publicity photos, and frequently mimed jamming needles into his forearm during his stage act.
I've found my try at writing this -- including viewing videos of recent Thunders shows, reading old interviews, listening to tapes and records, talking to some of his closest old and new friends, and, especially, recalling in detail a lot of time I spent with Johnny myself -- spooky and scary as well as sad (where's the good part?). Mainly because I find myself identifying with him, so that it becomes almost as if something I say about him I'm saying about myself. And that to feel something or evoke a feeling about him is to feel the same thing about myself. (Of course, that's what stars are good for.)
But the main qualities, the virtues, that set Johnny apart were that he didn't give a fuck and he dressed great.
Johnny, of course, was the rock and roll Dean Martin of heroin, at least in his last decade. I've known him since 1974, which I think was the last year before he had a real narcotics habit. I admired the Dolls; they inspired me. They were the first pure rock and roll group. "Pure" in that they knew and operated on the assumption that rock and roll is at least 50% (maybe 100%, maybe 200%) attitude. They were the first group that regarded themselves as stars rather than thinking of themselves as musicians, or writers, or vocalists. The Dolls were for New York groups sort of what the Sex Pistols were for British groups. They excited everybody by being flawless: in it for fun, never pretentious or pretending to be anything they weren't; they were ballsy, noisy, tough, funny, sharp, young, and real. Stupid and ill. They mocked the media, threw up on grownups, and kidded with the kids in a language of drugs and sex.
And I don't think there's really much an argument to be made against the observation that Johnny peaked with the Dolls, when he was 20-21. Even his most recent sets undeniably picked up whenever he played a Dolls tune. (He didn't do many of them, but you'd hear a "Lonely Planet Boy" or "Personality Crisis.") The next 17-18 years were just spent getting to know him a little better.
There was something perfect about Johnny. Though because he was a legendary archetype, you tended to think of him as predictable, as a type. You tended to condescend to him because you thought you had him nailed (and otherwise he might be a threat). But he always surprised me when I talked to him. The surprising thing was how smart he was. He was smart in the same way he dressed so perfectly. Smart the same way Elvis Presley was. You couldn't top him and he didn't delude himself.
(I remember the revelation it was to me when I realized I'd rather be smart in the way Elvis Presley was than in the way, say, Ludwig Wittgenstein was. The thing was, you could imagine you could be smart like Wittgenstein by just thinking hard enough, but Elvis just had it. It was almost spiritual. A kind of grace. A kind of innate ruling of the world. That's what you wanted and Johnny had it. And he knew it -- to him, the highest compliment was to be "as good as Frank Sinatra and Elvis.")
He was perfect because he made no apologies. He was just graceful. He instinctively knew how to make do with what he had. (Though he made a lot of bad records.)
Rock and roll, of course, is about not growing up and settling down, defying those who have, and living for sex and other types of fun. That's who Johnny was. The New York version.
Johnny made his choice, or lived out his destiny, and he had a right to it. He always went to drugs to be able to face the day, and he always went to his guitar to be himself. (Though he spent most of his time watching tv.) There's no judging to be done. It's like Marlene Deitrich in Touch of Evil when she sums up Quinlan with, "He was a man..." I've got to admit it annoys me too to see cynical, exploitive, self-centered, death-drive get glamorized. I hated the Chet Baker documentary for that reason and Chet and Johnny have a lot in common. They were both junkies who always put themselves first and treated their talent as just another little windfall they could squeeze for all the narcotics and fancy clothes they might be able to drain from it. (Johnny: "I would never become righteous. Everybody's entitled to do what they want if they don't hurt me." It took Johnny to say "me.")
Johnny though was the kind of person you always forgave. He did everything with such impenetrable confidence, everything about him was so up-front, with his soulful murmer in your ear making you feel like a human insider, you could only say "Well, that's J.T...." and write it off. (His most frequent companion of the last year telling me with real fondness how he'd always bring her something -- some knick-knack from his bedroom wrapped in a scarf -- before he asked to borrow money.)
It was impossible to insult him to his face; he could hold his own with anyone. You wouldn't want to anyway; he was so sweet and soft-spoken (still conveying that you'd better not touch his hair).
One of the most widely felt reactions to Johnny's death has got to be that the conclusion has been foregone for so long now that there isn't any drama left. In other words, we've considered him dead since 1980. That's a nasty thing to say, and, even though I myself must admit it occured to me, it isn't really true or fair. In fact, one of Johnny's distinctions was that he was always worth seeing. (For all the above reasons: he had that kernel of talent, he didn't give a fuck, and he dressed great.)
[April 29] Johnny's funeral today. At the cemetary, as words are spoken over the coffin, and flowers dropped on it, out in the dreary day, finally tapping into the sadness. Like the sadness is a dimension that is always there but we have developed over the years such a way of avoiding. Sort of like the way in his last concerts, in the light, he looked scary, like an accusation or a reminder you'd rather not get.
KEEP A FEW THINGS IN MIND
with Cookie Mueller and H. M. Koutoukas
Keep a few things in mind as you mount that bony pony:
no handwriting on the wall, not a word, not a picture, not
a stain. O eyelets of mental radiance
permit me to thread you on this length of braided eyelash --
keep all the roses you receive; the dead ones, the ones
that turn to dust in your hands. They make good gifts
and the warmest port of call
where the heart warms and sleeps
still, and its intoxicating effect
still, I wear your drifts of forgiveness
once the final s's have wilted, but, still
I'm still and still
The Chimera on broken legs has left backing as it goes, and
weaves a yarn on a winter's night
warming the way towards the web's center
where the fire's exaggerated display of lust resembled
nothing so much as a roomful of naked teenagers
the requiem continues like a song.
A candle against the daylight, somehow
preferring darkness, flickers and dreams the perverse.
V magazine (Sept/Oct 2001) interview by novelist Rick Moody:
Moody: Why Hot and Cold now?
Hell: Somebody asked me for it. I first had an idea of doing something like it in the early '80s but it's just as well it took this long because there's a lot more things to choose from and so the book's better. The book reminds me of some kind of horror movie -- or intense-one anyway -- like Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (or The Nutty Professor!), or Psycho, or Persona, where you're looking at a face and it shifts to being a different face (I donít want to say "morph") but it's one person. That would be a cool thing to hold in your hand and look at.
Moody: But what I wonder is, are you in a period, now, where it's easier to look back (without the really painful sensations) on the early developmental work? On the "punk rock" period, etc.?
Hell: No, I hate trying to "look back" like that and usually refuse to be drawn into it (I won't do interviews about the "punk" period unless I'm paid). But in this book I'm looking at my pretty dick and naked girls I've known and my immortal ideas and crunchy sentences. When I saw that Dennis Cooper referred to it in print as a kind of "punk memoir" I thought it was a mistake (and in a way it was -- he hadn't really seen the book at that point). That's not at all how I think of the book. To me it was just writing (and pictures). Then when I had to go through the book a last time start-to-finish proofreading, I saw how it is a kind of presentation of that time and place, even if it's ongoing... And even though that's incidental -- I am that time and place -- ongoing... And that was and is fine, and I'm glad to dispose of it.
Moody: I have heard that you have reassembled the original Voidoids for some recording recently, and I wonder if Hot and Cold isn't partly the written analogue to that endeavor, in that recording with that band also represents further investigation of your own past, while also looking forward.
Hell: On the contrary, the Voidoids recording was even less of an "investigation of the past" than the book seemed to me. It was just the best band I could assemble under the circumstances to record a new song. I didn't initiate the recording either -- I received an irresistible offer to do a new song with whatever musicians I gathered and it turned out that the best band I could put together for it was the one I recorded that Blank Generation album with in 1977.
Moody: The lyrics section of the book indicates that some of the songs contained therein are from 2000. Does this imply that notwithstanding your commitment more recently to publishing and writing, that you are still thinking generally about music too? In this context, especially moving in the book, is the poem which begins: "I got up in the middle of the night to read / a book when really what I want to do is sing to you."
Hell: Well the 2000 song is the "Oh" one I did with the Voidoids. The next most recent date from 1992, when I did the Dim Stars album with Thurston Moore, Steve Shelley, and Don Fleming. I've always wanted to make the CD I really want, but it's just that it's a big hassle to arrange. For me, it's more trouble than it's worth compared to writing. I will be sorry if I die without doing another one, but fuck it, I probably won't get to go to outer space either. In a way I think it's a little closer -- the making of another CD is -- after this last session with the Voidoids, because that was good. As for that poem -- Rick I wasn't dreaming of dropping the book I was reading and serenading my girlfriend instead like Robert Goulet or Adam Sandler or something ... The "sing" was strictly as a "poet" -- it was about wanting to sing the way a poem does to the person I was thinking of, it was about making words sing, not literally vocalizing.
Moody: What's with all the erotic material? Has this always been a part of your work? Or is it something that developed more in the eighties and nineties?
Hell: I first started doing really detailed and explicit sex writing (and drawing) in the mid-'70s. I don't know why exactly, except that I think that sex is such a big part of a person's life that in a way it's weirder not to treat the subject than it is to treat it. At the same time I'm capable of embarrassing myself, of feeling uptight about my own preoccupation with it, and wondering how to deal with it. The subject is so charged. I actually just wrote an essay about the problem, or the matter. The matter of sex writing. The thing in Hot and Cold that I vacillated the most about though was that naked photo of me. (Not the freakier stuff.) I couldn't tell what it would signify to publish that picture in the book. I know I wouldn't have done it if powerHouse didn't let me do it in color (the amazing Italian woods -- it's Capri). I think it came down to two things -- I was curious to see what effect it would have -- how it would read in three years or seven years for instance; and I thought if I'm going to publish those naked pictures of girls who are my friends I should put in the one of myself too to be fair...
Moody: Let me ask about the collaborations. Is it possible for you still to see what work is yours and what work is Verlaine's in the collaborations? How about the work with Patti Smith and Cookie Mueller?
Hell: I think I can most of the time, but I'm sure I'm often wrong. In fact, Tom and I were talking about this when I was putting the book together and I was surprised to see how often we disagreed about who wrote what. I really enjoy collaborating, though in a way I think it's a young man's game -- I don't know if I'd have the time and patience to do it now (in fact I tried doing some with Vincent Katz recently and it was kind of frustrating). In all of them I've been the instigator and the editor, except that it was Patti's idea to do those ones we did together. To me it's really interesting how a third style always emerges, but that each set of collaborations -- person by person -- is identifiable and distinct from the others.
Moody: Photographs/drawings: I'm assuming you took most of the pictures and did all the drawings. Is there more of this work and have you ever thought about showing it on its own? Or do you see it as mostly part and parcel of the written work.
Hell: Yeah, I did all the drawings, and where a photo was not by me it's attributed in the "List of Illustrations." I have had pictures in a few small gallery shows and in 1998 I had a one man show at a New York gallery called Rupert Goldsworthy. I don't know what you mean by seeing it as "part and parcel of the written work" but I like it in that it could mean that you think that in Hot and Cold the pictures are well enough integrated that you could think they were always intended to be placed where they are. That's not the case though. It's just that I've always been interested in and liked drawing and painting and designing and visuals in general and there've been periods and moments where I spent time making works of that kind and that was part of the conception of this book from the beginning, to include pictures. Back in the late '70s I had the idea of "writing" and publishing a tabloid-sized periodical, each page of which would work both as a poster and for whatever "news" (writing) information it carried. I was going to call it Slum Journal and certain pages in the book, for instance "wall eye" and "facts of death" were originally made to be published that way. Some of them subsequently ended up in the column I did for the East Village Eye around 1979-80 instead that I called "Slum Journal."
Moody: I'm wondering if, as a writer, you feel yourself allied with any particular poetical or philosophical movement. (I ask with some trepidation, since you admit in the book you'd rather be like Elvis than Wittgenstein.)
Hell: I'm into people who want art to outdo itself. Who want art to break the world like an egg. To me that's always the trick, to outwit, outdistance, the conventions in such a way that "reality" leaks into your work and vice versa. No "school," though it wouldn't be hard to name the approaches to writing that I'd estimate had the greatest influence on me and I'd say that would be 19th century French poets Lautreamont, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, then the original Surrealists (Breton and co.), The New York poets 1st & 2nd generation (Ashbery, O'Hara, Schuyler, Berrigan, Padgett, etc.), Bill Knott, Nabokov, Borges... There are many more. I also like writing that has no purpose but to convey information, like soap container labels, instruction sheets, encyclopedias, footnotes, indexes. I don't like "myself" -- I like writing.
Moody: Your love of the novel and fiction writing is implicit in this book (there are passages about Huck Finn, Nabokov, William Kennedy), but conventional fiction writing is the one thing that's least apparent in these pages. So is this book partly a stopgap while you work on the follow-up to Go Now? Or does it represent a turn away from extended prose work?
Hell: Well, it is partly to keep stuff coming out while I work on my second novel, but it's ironic because it's been such hard work and a lengthy process that it interfered with the work on the new novel. The reason there isn't fiction in the book is because -- as I try to explain in the proem -- Hot and Cold collects stuff that hasn't been published separately in books. I didn't want to do a "reader," I didn't want to print excerpts of any kind. I wanted everything to be both "standalone" and to fit in this book, and also to be not available elsewhere. We aim to please! I could have taken sections from my books of fiction The Voidoid or Go Now or the novel I'm working on, but I wanted to publish a book that worked as a single integrated whole, though it gathered many types of works. I didn't want it to overlap other existing books of mine. That's why there's only the one story (along with a few narrative-type prose poems) to represent fiction.
Moody: What else are your working on now?
Hell: I'm working on a novel set in the early '70s among crazed young poets in New York. There's a lot that's tricky about it, from including poems by the characters to recalling various kinds of specifics of the time and place, but what might be the trickiest is that the main characters are a boy and man (though the boy is more grown up than the man) who are boyfriends. I've almost changed that a couple of times because it can seem like kind of pointlessly creating problems for myself when I have enough already. I actually have never had sex with a man (to speak of), nor much exposure to the "mindset" or any "culture" of it. It's a problem, but kind of an interesting one and I'm going with it. I've also planned and written some of and made more notes towards a set of stories all in the same voice of a middle aged man in the present. The story "Boy Meets Death, Boy Falls in Love" that's in Hot and Cold is one of them. That project's kind of gotten indefinitely postponed though, because I've had too much else to do. I'm trying to decide whether to make a digital video movie because some friendly people have offered me all the facilities. I'm also adding little by little to a kind of indirect memoir that would be comprised of thoughtful memories, of digressive anecdotes. There are three of these in Hot and Cold -- the thing about running away when I was seven, the story of the afternoon with Eva in my motel in L.A. in 1996, and the Japanese rock band story from 1990.
Moody: In your own view, how has your work developed over the thirty years illustrated in this collection?
Hell: Probably mostly in its variety. I think doing work well is mostly a matter of figuring out how to use your means, whatever they are. To use myself for an example, I had very limited means as a singer. I mean I can hardly carry a tune -- itís very difficult for me to sing in key, but I found ways to be effective. I wish I had Sam Cookeís voice, or Al Greenís, or James Brownís, or even Lou Reedís (believe it), but I think Iím capable of matching a given cut any of them did under the right circumstances, in my style. But weíre talking about writing and this book. As I said, the more years I worked the more I did different things, so thereís that and I think thatís important. For me the way to stay interesting (and interested) is to keep trying new things. I hate repeating myself. Like Ron Padgett, I have to laugh at the notion of "finding oneís voice." That seems so limiting, so cramped. Itís like wanting to be a brand. How the hell are you going to get AWAY from your voice? (I can recognize a Ron Padgett poem in a second.) And I canít resist trying new methods (media). I have to force myself to contain myself. If I see something done well or Iím moved by something I want to try it myself. I remember reading not long ago about the phenomenon of genius scientists burning out by the time theyíre thirty or so. Itís almost invariable, mathematicians, physicists, etc. -- creative scientists -- donít do any important work after their youth. But thereíre a few exceptions and the exceptions are the researchers who switch disciplines, who move from one field of study to which theyíve contributed interesting work, say genetics, to another, a new one, say astronomy. That makes complete sense to me. Itís really fun to try and figure out how to do something well when you have hardly any experience doing it at all, and you have a certain advantage in that you arenít cooped up by the conventional ways of doing the thing because you donít know them. You canít possibly be stuck in any ruts. O.k., but apart from all this technical stuff and my egotistical ideas, ...Well, wait a minute, maybe all Iíve got to offer in this matter is the technical stuff and my egotistical ideas.
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