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April 29, 2016

Paula Bomer "Questions I Wanted to Send Mark Kozelek But He Didn't Want Them"

In the "Largehearted Boy Cross-Media Cultural Exchange Program" series (thanks to Jami Attenberg for the title), authors interview musicians (and vice versa).

Paula Bomer is an author, her most recent book is the short story collection Inside Madeleine.

Mark Kozelek is a singer-songwriter and frontman for the bands Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters. His covers album Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites will be released on May 27th.

Author Paula Bomer doesn't interview musician Mark Kozelek:

1. Insomnia, exhaustion from travelling, how you belong on the road, that playing music is without a doubt your calling, but how it can be lonely- you write almost nostalgically about your home in San Francisco and girlfriend and write of suffering homesickness. You also sing of your infidelities, the part of you that is "alleycat", the beautiful girls in the front row, all of your lovers. All of these things seem connected and you render them inevitable.

2. I'm also a Midwestern transplant. Growing up in Indiana, at around the age of twelve, I realized I wanted out, I wanted more, I wanted the big cities and big dreams that I felt I couldn't fulfill in Indiana. And yet, after twenty-four years in New York, not to mention times in other cities, I still have my childhood in Indiana in me- it doesn't go away, it deeply informs who I am. Ohio is so much a part of what you're singing about now, more than ever in the past few years, it seems. In some ways, the older I get, the more my childhood informs me. Somewhere you wrote that in Ohio, you just went out and got a dog, and in San Francisco, people spend a year figuring out which dog to rescue. In essence, there are ways in which you'll always be an outsider. I find it helpful as a writer, to be a forever outsider.

3. One thing people are accusing you of lately is being a grumpy middle-aged man. In one interview you say, "I was a grumpy young man". While I have no doubt this is true, you also sing of melancholia and the two are the same to me, just seeing things as they are, not wearing rose colored glasses, so to speak. This is not to say you don't have an incredible love of life, an awe for the beauty of this world. But you call it like you see it, and to refer back to my last question, this feels to me like a particularly Midwestern trait. Sort of less bullshitty than the coasts. And even though you were "grumpy" when younger, you write eloquently of getting older, your body hurting, people start dying on you, and you're at a place where you can say whatever you want and not give a shit. That's the freeing part of aging, isn't it? There is so much pressure in the literary world to all be supportive of each other, but man, do I just want to dump a drink on so many people's heads at some events.

4. Is playing festivals sort of awful? Do you always feel like "wallpaper"? I'm sure they vary, but maybe you can generalize in saying that it's not your ideal audience? That you prefer more attention when you're out there putting your hard work and your love out there?

5. You did a Christmas album. So did Aimee Mann. I love that about you two. I grew up in a church going family, saying grace before dinner saying. Lately, I've been going to church again for the first time in a long time due to a trauma in my life. I'm a little guilty of being one of those "there are no Atheists in a foxhole" sort of person, but it's more than that, too. My childhood relationship to the church really informs who I am, all those years of Sunday school, family prayer at night. What drew you to do this album? I'm assuming your childhood involved church going like me. That it's not just about the songs.

6. People are referring to your recent writing as "stream of consciousness" and you yourself have used that term. It's a term used often to describe some literary writers, too. But even though I acknowledge that this term is applicable to what you're doing, what strikes me the most is how expertly crafted they are. Lyrically every line sort of belongs and seems crafted, not that you just sing whatever comes to your mind, but that what comes to your mind is then carefully placed in the song, not to mention the way you often eat the last words of a line, that the way you sing is also a huge part of your art.

7. There is a saying- we become what we hated and I added once to this, that we become what we once pitied. You discussed once that a friend of your father's sat around watching old fights all day long and you found it baffling and now that's what you do. It's bewildering how much we change and how certain behaviors seem inevitable, how much we stay the same, how much we are in control of our destinies and how little we are in control. Basically, the mysteries of our existence are endless.

8. Processing emotions as intense as horrible loss, violent losses, as well as rage, frustration, massive regret, love and need, are all the reasons for making art. And yet there is something perfect where you balance all that with the delicious banality of life, the flights, the meals, the street names. And that's how it is- your loved one dies, you have to eat and walk, everything should stop, and a life has stopped, but the world continues on- blending the truth of these two disparate things is how I understand what I feel you are purposefully doing.

9. Here's where you can vent a bit more than you already have on for lack of a better word, hipster culture and well- for me- young people in general. I love it in your songs and in your interviews. If you could vent here a bit more, it would please me immensely.

10. Lastly, how much is it a daily struggle to wrestle with the desires of the body versus the need for companionship and true love, and the desire to not hurt the ones you love?

Paula Bomer links:

Paula Bomer's website

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Baby & Other Stories
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Nine Months
Largehearted Boy interview with Jimmy LaValle

also at Largehearted Boy:

other musician/author interviews

Antiheroines (Jami Attenberg interviews comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (directors and composers discuss their film's soundtracks)