Sex, Politics, Religion, and Writing: Uncensored Interviews with the artists and authors of MLR Press
The Incredible William Maltese interviewed by Sarah Black
William Maltese is the author of A SLIP TO DIE FOR: A STUD DRAQUAL MYSTERY; THAI DIED: A STUD DRAQUAL MYSTERY; CALIFORNIA CREAMIN'; SUMMER SWEAT; BOND-SHATTERING; GERUN, THE HERETIC; BLOOD-RED RESOLUTION; THE GOMORRHA CONJURATIONS; ANAL COUSINS, CASE STUDIES IN VARIANT SEXUAL PRACTICES; SS MANN HUNT; A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS, A ONE-HAND READ®; circuSex, a ONE-HAND READ®; BEYOND MACHU, SLOVAKIAN BOY, GOLDSANDS, THE FAG IS NOT FOR BURNING; DIARY OF A HUSTLER; SS&M, FROM THE NAZI DEATH-HEAD FILES; HEART ON FIRE, A ROMANCE; WHEN SUMMER COMES; DOG ON A SURFBOARD AND THE REST OF THE ADVENTURE (writing as Billy Lambert); THE BRENTRIDGE GOLD (writing as W.J. Lambert III)... http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/104-7212263-1375901 .
Q: Okay, let's start with something easy. I don't want to jump right into your feelings about Roe vs. Wade, or the Republican presidential candidates. Tell me what you remember best about your first love.
A: I'm presuming, here, that you mean other than my from-the-get-go love of my parents and siblings. That the case, I draw a blank. I made the conscious decision very early in my life that love was interference and distraction, also known as a sacrifice of one's self (to someone else's ego), and that I was totally unprepared (and still am unprepared) to do. Of course, that was reinforced by a Korean fortune teller who, my having disembarked a train at Pusan en route to climbing the sacred mountain at Kyongu, read my palm and informed me that I wouldn't truly love until very late in my life and fall off my perch (she actually said,"die") shortly thereafter.
Now, if you're talking merely sex, it was with a female prostitute because, having realized, again early in life, that I was attracted to men, and vice versa, I wanted to be sure of my ability to function sexually within the more acceptable-by-society heterosexual norm.
Q: Wow, that Korean fortune teller gave you something to look forward to your whole life! Whose David is sexier, Michelangelo's or Donatello's?
A: Michelangelo's, and I came to this conclusion even before I saw each of them up close and personal. I like men (whether in real life or in art) to look like men and have the musculature of men. I've always found the Donatello David too feminine for my particular taste; I've actually had people tell me I'd never be a pederast, because I find the prepubescent body and mind so damned boring.
Q: What books are on your bedside table? Any new authors or books you'd like to recommend?
A: Well, a question like that always tempts me to come up with something like Dostoevsky's WAR AND PEACE (which I did manage to read, but only on a round-the-world cruise that provided lots and lots and lots of free time). The truth, though, is that, presently, the only books beside my bed are the galleys of my books (three) which need proofing before they can be sent on to the printer. Lately, I simply haven't had the time to read anyone else's work, although I admit to stacks of to-reads and intend-to-reads, teetering, in several corners of my bedroom (although not near the bed for fear they'll topple and crush me). Those piles include books by a whole gamut of authors with exceptional potential, especially my fellow authors at MLR Press whose works look absolutely fascinating...good-reading, marvelously wonderful...and have me chomping at the bit, to no avail, to get to their reading.
Q: William, I know my book is at the top of that teetering stack. Choose one of these men for an elegant dinner date, and tell me why: a) Gov. Bill Richardson, b) Sen. John McCain, c) Pres. Bill Clinton. What would you eat?
A: President Bill Clinton (that, by the way, is in answer to the first part, not the second).
Not because I would be out to take notes for a book on political erotica, either. I've just always believed in moving to the head of the line, top of the list, top of the heap, and you don't get any more the head of the line, top of the list, top of the heap (at least among those options in the list you've provided), than a one-time sitting (another little pun, there) President.
Probably, I wouldn't eat anything (unlike Monica Lewinsky), too busy asking questions and taking notes. After all, I can eat any day of the year, but how often do I get to sit down with an ex-President to chew the fat? (NOTE: Ah, so I guess that means I'd eat "fat"?).
Q: Is music important to your creative process? Tell me about that.
A: You know, I've discovered that if I have really fast music on when I'm thinking, writing, or typing, I can actually think, write, and type faster. And classical music, particularly fugues, just seem to keep me "in the mood" for doing whatever I'm doing at any particular moment. As regards the fast music, it's usually a Latin CD, the artist singing in his or her native language so I'm not distracted (as I am by English vernacular hip-hop and rap and a lot of other music-of-the-moment "stuff") by trying to figure out the lyrics (when I should be concentrating on my own work).
Q: Would you rather spend a weekend at the beach with Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock?
A: The only artist with whom I'd want to spend any time on any beach (and I've made it a crusade of mine to search out each and every beach there is out there in the big wide world), would be a sand-castle artist-or maybe a surfer who has the expertise to make surfing a genuine art form. Rothko or Jackson I would prefer spending time with in their studios or in a museum, surrounded by their artwork, and by other great art work, so as to have visuals for reference by way of eliciting informative comments highly unlikely if surrounds were merely water, sunshine, and sand.
Q: A surfer, huh? Back to the weekend at the beach- Captain James T. Kirk, or Jean Luc Picard? Favorite pirate? Best movie this year?
Give me Kirk and/or Jean Luc, but not on the beach but on the control deck of the respective Starship Enterprise (I am, you know, the guy who wrote STARSHIP INTERCOURSE?!).
Favorite pirate: Johnny Depp's character in all of those Pirate of the Caribbean movies (and that's saying something, since I'm not all that fond of Johnny, looks- or physique-wise).
And, alas!/alack!, what with my schedule what it is, these days, I've not even been able to "hit" a movie theater yet this year-much as I do love movies.
Q: Any new young artists you'd like to recommend?
A: Ah, here, I'm on dangerous ground. Firstly, because I've been involved in the art world for a good long time and, as a collector of Northwest art, I'm fearful of alienating any artist whose work I might like to add to my collection (at a bargain price) some time soon. Secondly, in connection with my ARTISTS "DO" author WILLIAM MALTESE art project, I've come in contact with a whole group of genuinely talented contemporary artists, any one of whom might well top any list of someone I might recommend. I might suggest that you head off to my web-page (http://www.williammaltese.com), select from the main menu and click on ARTISTS "DO" author WILLIAM MALTESE (a GALLERY), and proceed from there. Be forewarned, though, that all of the artwork in question is based upon one B&W nude photograph taken of me as a young man; best to approach the gallery with care and certainly not on a full stomach..
Q: But I can say that my favorite is St. Sebastian of the Western Plains, by Rick Chris. That is an awesome gallery, William. What do you think Jerry Falwell's first conversation with God was about?
A: All I can tell you is Jerry Falwell's opening line: "My God, you've horns and a tail!"
Q: Would you be more likely to read the winner of the National Book Award, the winner of the Edgar, or the winner of the Hugo-for best novel?
A: At the present time, awards play absolutely no part in my preferences, as regards what I do or do not read. I have so often, in the past, picked up an award-winner, only to find it, in my opinion, a virtual piece of shit, that I gave up that means of selection a long time ago. I'm, likewise, convinced that there are a whole lot of wrong reasons that awards are given books (popularity of the author, past work output of the writer, urban-vs.-rural literary politics, ins-vs.-the-outs, pseudo-literati-vs.-commercially-successful...). Whatever those reasons, they seldom, if ever, have anything to do with a book being a genuinely good read.
That said, I would humbly request, please, that you ask me that very same question again, after I've won one, or all, of the aforementioned awards.
Q: Will do- I've got my pen set on the National Book Award. What is the favorite nonfiction you've read this year?
A: M: THE MAN WHO BECAME CARAVAGGIO. Even before I got to see his original works in some of the world's great museums, I was fascinated by the why and how of some really otherwise seemingly smarmy characters having the true artistic genius to produce really spectacular works of art. That Caravaggio used prostitutes and hustlers and lovers as models in portraying characters from the Bible, just makes him-at least to me-fascinating as all hell. Then again, maybe, it, too, has to do with one of the artists in my ARTISTS "DO" author WILLIAM MALTESE (a GALLERY) having portrayed me as an angel (complete with wings), and another artist having portrayed me as St. Sebastian (complete with - ouch - phallic arrows).
Q: I liked that book, too-good pictures. Do you have a favorite Sci-Fi and Mystery author?
A: I'm my own very favorite author in Sci-Fi, in Mystery, and in each and every other genre (and I've written in all of them). Picking a favorite author, other than myself, like picking out a favorite artist, ends up with the same potential for leaving out someone I should have included, and/or including someone I should have left out - neither of which is good for survival in the publishing business (and, so far, I've managed to survive in this industry for over four decades, so I must be doing something right).
Q: Which of your own books is your favorite?
A: They're all my kids, or how I would imagine my kids, if I had any [God(dess) forbid!]. Each starts out as a seed, some of which I have fun seeding and germinating, others which don't provide quite as much fun. Some offer no trouble, some are hell. In the end, I send each out on its own and just hope for the best. Some succeed, some don't. In the long run, I don't particularly favor those who succeed over those who fail, since I'm too busy off seeding more while I'm still virile enough not to be shooting blanks.
Q: I have an idea. I'll send you my kid, and you can send me one of your books! No? Any suggestions you'd like to pass on to the Pope?
A: Holy Father, my beatification is way over-due.
Q: Care to make a small wager regarding our next President?
A: I'll only wager that whoever wins, it'll be the same-old, same-old. Individuals just don't really make that much difference, anymore, do they? While there are those who will argue that Bush, personally, has certainly managed a cock-up, I'm of the opinion that it's not so much his personal cock-up as a collective cock-up. The main political impetus, these days, is nothing more nor less than money; politicians (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents) just seem, by their very natures, and the nature of the business, to be susceptible to cash presented to them in plain brown envelopes, or in aluminum-foil (into your freezer, please!) wrapping. God(dess) help us one and all!
Q: Since I read The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, I've spent some time imagining the animal form my soul would take, it souls were animals. If your soul were an animal, what animal would it be?
A: For sure it would be an oak tree. Ooops, sorry, I mistook you for Barbara Walters, and I mistook myself for Katherine Hepburn (the latter pretty damned hard to do, because Katie was admittedly far more butch than I am).