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Too Much Like Reality Writer Frank Bill On Violence, Meth And Work – The Awl

byRob?

Brunner

Haveyouevergottenpunchedintheface?

Ihavenot。

NorhaveIeverpunchedanyoneintheface,orseriouslywantedtopunchanyoneintheface,orevenbeenthatclosetomanyfacesthatweregettingpunched。

Thewholeenterpriseoffacepunchingstrikesmeasbothdumband,ifI’mhonest,prettyterrifying。

SoIdidn’texpecttospendmuchtimewithFrankBill’sblood-soddenbone-crunchofadebutnovel,Donnybrook(outMarch5),oneofthemostunrepentantly,gleefullyviolentbooksI’veevercomeacross。

It’saboutabunchofloathsomeredneckthugswho,whilefeudingoverastolenbatchofmeth,rendezvousatabackwoodsbare-knuckle-fightingtournamenttopummeleachotherintoaheapofsteamingmush。

Whilethatsoundslikesomethingnohalf-rationaladultwouldeverwanttoslogthrough,it’sactuallyrivetingstuff,mostlybecauseBill’swritingbleedsstyleandenergy:there’sakindofpoetryinallthesmashedskulls。

“Wetdrippedfromthepartedcartilageofhisnose,”Billwrites。

“Blottedandcrustedontoflaredlips。

Randownhisbutt-crackchin。

Fertilizedhiscropofcurledchesthair。

AfewteethstucktoandstainedhispinkIzodshirt。

Eldon’stoughtalkhaddisappearedwhentheswelledslitsofhiseyesblinkedbackopen。

”Andso?

on。

ItturnsoutBillisaforkliftoperatoratasouthernIndianapaint-additivesplant,wherehe’sworkedforalmost19years。

Donnybrookishissecondbook(afterthewell-received2011storycollectionCrimesinSouthernIndiana)。

Hegetsupat3:30everymorningtowriteasmuchashecanbeforeheadingtoworkaround7。

Inperson,he’sactuallyaniceguy。

Lesssowhenhe’satthecomputer。

“I’mnotgonnaeverwritepuppydogsandponiesandtheCareBears,”hesays。

Icalledhimonerecenteveningafterhisshiftatthefactory。

Here’swhathehadto?

say。

RobBrunner:SoDonnybrookisastonishinglyviolent。

Whyareyousointerestedinthatkindofpainandangerandblood-splatteringandcartilagecrunching?

FrankBill:Violencedoesn’tbotherme。

Imean,grewuparoundhuntingandskinninganimals。

That’saviolentritualtoeatfood。

ThentherewerethestoriesIgrewupwithabout[someoneafamilymemberknew]whowasaveryviolentman。

Heabused[variouspeople]foraboutsixyears。

Igrewuparoundthosestories?

—?

conversationsabouthimcominghomefromworkandshootingadogorbeating[someone]halfthenight,youknow,notlettingthekidseatanything。

Theotherthingisjust,whenIwason[thenightshift]Iwouldreadthepapereverynight。

Iwaskindoflike,man,lookatthisstuff。

AndthenmoviesIlike,thingslikeQuentinTarantino,they’reviolent,butthere’sagoodstorythere。

TheoldClintEastwoodmovies。

NotthatI’maviolentperson,butthosearethekindsofthingsthatinterestme。

WhenIwritesomethingIwanttoputyouinthescene。

Iwantyoutofeelit,tasteitandseeit,andmaybeevenberepulsedby?

it。

ThefightinginDonnybrookfeltsomuchroughertomethanwhatyouseeinmovies。

DoyouthinkpeoplereactdifferentlytotheviolenceinyourwritingthantomovieandTVviolence,whichwe’remaybemorenumb?

to?

Probablypeoplethatdidn’tlikemybooks。

[Laughs]ButIunderstandwhatthey’resaying。

They’relike,“Thisistoomuchlikereality。

”Especiallyifyouwriteaboutmethortheinfluenceofdrugsoralcoholonpeople。

Well,thendon’treadit!

WhenIwrite,Idon’tnecessarilysitdownandthinkaboutviolence。

Ithinkalotaboutlanguageandcharacterandmovement。

IwishsometimespeoplewouldpaymoreattentiontohowIwriteratherthanwhatIwriteabout。

It’snoteasytositthereandcomeupwiththings。

Mystuff’sjustnotforeverybody。

Iunderstandthat。

Ihavetosay,youseemlikeaprettymellowdude。

Areyousecretly,like,aseethingmonsterunderneaththenice-guyexterior?

Imean,Ihaveatemper,butI’mnotreallyanangryperson。

SometimesIsitdownandwriteandIcanreleasemyfrustrationonthepage。

Iamprettylaidback,butit’skindalike,ifpushcomestoshovethenI’mpushingback,youknowwhatI?

mean?

Whenwasthelasttimeyouwereina?

fight?

I’veneverreallyactuallybeeninafight。

I’veneverbeenin,like,agreatbigfree-for-alloranything。

Whataboutjustapunchthrownatabarorsomething?

Gosh,it’sprobablybeenalongtimeago。

Theseguys,weusedto[studymartialarts]togetherandweusedtogobarhoppingallthetime。

That’sprobablybackin94,95。

Youknowhowlongafightactuallylastsisbasicallytwoorthreemovements:somebodyreacts,theotherpersonreacts,andit’sprettymuchdecidedinthatquickofascenario。

It’sjustoneofthosethingswheresomebodyknowswhentobackoff。

Ifsomebodymakesyouhurt,you’renotgoingtokeeptryingtodosomething。

Whatkindofresearchdidyoudoforthisbook?

Arethereactualundergroundfightingeventsliketheonesyoudescribe?

Therewasaguythatstudied[martialarts]withus,andIdon’tknowhowmuchtruththereistothis,buthewouldalwaystalkabouttheseundergroundfights。

Ofcourse,weneverwenttoanyofthem,butthatwassomethingthatalwaysstuckinmyhead。

TheonlyresearchIdidforthisbook?

—?

otherthanwhenIwasyoungerandtriedcrystalmeth?

—?

wasIinterviewedanex-methaddicttogeta[meth]recipe。

Heexplainedtomehowtheycooked?

it。

Wait,youtriedcrystal?

meth?

AguyIranaroundwithwhenIwasinhighschoolinthemid-90susedtogetcrystalmethinthemail。

He’sdeadnow。

Hedidn’tdiefromdrugsoranything。

Hehadacarwreck。

Wespentoneentireweekdoingit。

That’stheonlytimeI’veeverdone?

it。

Didyoulike?

it?

Yeah,Icanseehowyoucangetaddictedtoit。

ButIdidn’tgetaddictedtoit。

EverycigaretteIlititwaslike,man,thisisthebestdamncigaretteI’veeverhad。

Ithadthateuphoria。

Itgotyourfeel-goodsgoinginyourbrain。

ItmadeyoufeellikeSuperman:everythingyoudidwasgood。

IfIwasgonnahugmygirlfriend,itwasprobablythebesthugIcouldget。

MybuddyandIwentbacktomyhousetogotosleep。

Itriedtolieinmybedforaboutandhour。

Igotup,andhewasgiggling。

Hewaslike,“Youcan’tsleep,canyou?

”I’mlike,“no,Ican’tsleep。

”Andhe’slike,“Yourheartfeelslikeit’sgonnaexplode,don’tit?

”Isaid,“Yeah。

”He’slike,“Yeah,minetoo!

”God,itwashorrible。

Icouldn’tsleepthatfirstnight。

I’mlike,“jeez,Idon’twanttodothisshitagain。

”Itwasaprettywild?

week。

There’sobviouslyalotoftalkrightnowaboutviolenceinentertainmentandtowhatextentitmightbecontributingtovarioushorrificincidents。

Whatdoyoumakeofthatdebate,anddoyouthinkthere’sanythingirresponsibleaboutthekindofstoriesyou’re?

telling?

Idon’tseeitthatway。

ThemoreIlookattheviolencethathappens,I’mkindoflike,yeah,thesekidswatchedamovieandyoucanblameitonthatmovie,butthere’ssomethingwrongintheirperceptionofreality。

Therewasalreadysomethingwrongwiththatindividual。

Theydidn’tneedtohaveaguntobeginwith。

I’llprobablygetalotofshitforsayingthis,butI’veneverbeenabigautomatic-weaponsfan。

Igrewupwithashotgunanda?

22。

Itwasforhunting。

Ihavetwohandgunsforprotection。

I’vebeenaroundguns,andI’vebeenpickedonatschool,too。

ButI’veneverwantedtojustgooutandmurderpeople,youknow?

You’vegottaknowrightfromwrong。

Idon’treallyhavealltheanswers,butIdon’tseemyselfassomebodythatyoupointthefingeratbecause[myworkis]soviolent。

There’salotworsethingsthanme,you?

know?

SoyouliveinCorydon,Indiana。

What’sthat?

like?

I’vealwayslivedinCorydon。

IwasbornandraisedhereinsouthernIndiana。

It’sasmalltown。

Igrewupreadingcomicbooks,hangingoutwithmygrandparentsandmydad。

Mydadwasalwaysgoinghuntingandhelpingmygrandfathercutwood。

Theylivedonafarmanddidn’thaveelectricheat。

Mydadandgrandfatherhuntedalot。

Theyhuntedeverythingfromsquirreltodeertorabbit。

Ofcoursemygrandpawasalsoanavidcoonhunter。

Iwasabigrabbitandsquirrel?

hunter。

Whatwereyoulikeinhigh?

school?

Peoplealwayslaughatthis,butIwaskindofcleancut。

Iplayedbasketballinelementaryschool,andthensomewherebetweenfifthandsixthgradeIstartedstudyingmartialarts。

IstudiedthatuntilIwasprobably16or17,atthatagewhenkidsstartgettingoutanddrinkingandsmokingandpartying。

Istillhadaninterestinit,butIhadotherthingsIwantedto?

do。

Likedrinkingandsmokingandpartying?

Right。

[Laughs]Allthat?

stuff。

Tellmeaboutyourdayjob。

Youworkinachemical?

plant?

Yeah,it’sapaintadditivesfactory。

Iworkinthewarehouse。

Basically,Iloadalltheshipmentsupwithaforklift。

It’sbasicallydrivinginandoutofacontainerwhentheybackintoyour?

dock。

Sohowdidyoustart?

writing?

IwasneverabigbookreaderwhenIwasakid。

Icouldneverfindanythingthatreallyinterestedme。

Probablyaround1999mywifeandIwenttoseethemovieFightClub。

Iwasblownaway。

InthecreditsitsaiditwasbasedabookbyChuckPalahniuk。

Ofcourse,bookstoresweresoldoutofit,soIboughthisInvisibleMonsters。

Ilovedit。

Alotofthingsthathewouldwriteabout,thewayhewouldcoinsentencesandthings,itwasjustkindoflike,“Man,youknow,I’veeithersaidthisordonethis,ormyfriendshavedoneit。

He’saguythat’sactuallywritingaboutit。

”Itmademethink,well,Icanwrite?

too。

Donnybrookhassuchastrongsenseofplaceandadistinctiveatmosphere,alotofwhichcomesfromthewaycharacterstalk。

Basically,that’showpeoplespeakaroundhere。

It’sadialect。

I’msureIhaveadistinctivewaythatIspeak。

Mywordsarerounded。

Itcansometimescomeofflike[I’m]ahick。

UntilIreadsomebodylike[thelateMississippiauthor]LarryBrownIdidn’tunderstandthatyoucouldwritethatway?

—?

thatIcouldactuallywritewhereIwas?

from。

Finally,tellmeaboutthatamazingcover。

Ithurtsjustlookingatthat?

thing。

Ireallydidn’thaveanyinputotherthan[FSGsaying],“Here’sthecover。

Whatdoyou?

think?



Whatdidyou?

think?

Ithoughtitwas?

badass。

RobBrunnerisawriterandeditorbasedintheNewYorkarea(okay,NewJersey)。


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