by James Kendrick
James Kendrick: You work in a lot of different fields. What project(s) are you working on at the moment?
Geoff Berner: I’m writing the next album, a klezmer album with trombone. I’m taking many deep breaths in preparation to write the 3rd book in my Festival Man trilogy. The Fiddler Is a Good Woman is the 2nd. Sometimes 1000s of deep breaths are necessary.
JK: In addition to writing for TV, you also write novels and songs. Do you take a different approach to all three, or do they all mesh together for you?
GB: Writing for TV is different. Someone else is paying for it, so they get to tell you what they want. Sometimes that helps. Mostly it just makes the writing worse, if someone who is “too busy” to write anything themselves tries to “fix” stuff. Most TV network executives are stupid at everything except kissing the asses of people with more power than them. That’s the skill set that brought them where they are. That’s TV, unless one artist is given complete control, which is rare. Even then, the network can still fuck you over by airing your episodes out of sequence. Prose and songs, I do whatever I want. But the pay is lower.
JK: Can you talk a little bit about what you’ll be doing at the festival?
GB: I’m going to read a bit of my book and play a few songs. I will drink whiskey. I will also shout at people.
JK: Why do you think it’s important to have a festival like this?
GB: It’s important that writers, people with often poor social skills and hygiene, people with an aversion to speaking into microphones, have the chance to use their repellent opinions, smells, looks and manners to alienate readers who once fell in love with their books. For instance, it was a key element to the necessary tamping down of the Knausgard craze, a couple of years ago, for people to actually meet Knausgard.
JK: Are there any other writers that you’re a fan of, whom you’re excited to see at the festival?
GB: I’m a huge fan of Zsuzsi Gartner. For me, she is writing on the cutting edge of where we are as a culture. She sees clearly the particular ways in which we are fucked up. I’ve always loved Patrick Lane, since my old creative writing teacher turned us on to him in the 80s. Red Dog, Red Dog is the Canadian novel that everyone should have read. I bought it because the clerk at Shakespeare and Co. in Paris pushed it on me, without knowing I was from Canada. That’s fate, man. It is more powerful than Canadian fiction is usually allowed to be.
Geoff Berner will be appearing Thursday, September 28th at The Literary Twist, 7:30 at the Vancouver Island School of Arts.