4/07/2008

Five with Pete Coco

Please welcome our next "Five with..." guest, Mr. Pete Coco, half of Please Don't literary webzine.

1. What are you working on now?

I'm writing a novel about a guy who lives at home and figures out how to recreationally overdose on his father's cholesterol medication. That's the beginning, anyway.

More short-term, I'm finishing up the second chapter of Axl Watch, Please Don't's serial-collaborative noir. I'm also starting on preliminary designs for my personal website, petecoco.org.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

If you care about writing and reading, you do so against the grain of the larger culture. Maybe that makes us noble, but only just a little. More than anything else, it just makes us lonely. These are pretty solitary endeavors, after all. So we get together now and then, pull a chunk of time and space out of the larger continuum and seal it off for party and conversation. I think that's pretty reasonable.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

There are so many good answers to this question. I'm always checking the catalogs of presses like Soft Skull, Akashic, Graywolf, McSweeneys, Future Tense, etc. With so many indie presses you know you're getting a labor of love, and that's meaningful. There's not enough money changing hands for this to be a cynical business.

I work in an academic library, and the other day I had occasion to pore over like ten shelves of Dalkey Archive back titles and select a bunch for our collection. The depth of that catalog is just astonishing, and I can't think of a press that better demonstrates the vital necessity of independent media. As self-evidently worthwhile as so many Dalkey titles are, most couldn't get in the front door of mainstream publishing. I don't want to demonize mainstream publishing for that, exactly, but it's vital that we have an alternative to that business model, a flood channel for art's sake.

Because, you know, art and commerce, blah, blah, blah. It's an evil pairing sometimes, those two.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

The best book I've read in ages is Dan Chaon's "You Remind Me of Me." It's been four months, give or take, since I finished it and I still think of it every time I sit down to write. It embodies this cosmic tenderness to which I think all writers should aspire. Or at least I aspire to it, anyway.

I hear Steve Earle has finished a novel. He's always been one of my favorite storytellers so that's a book I look forward to reading. If you want a nice, compact object lesson in story structure, his songs aren't a bad place to start.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

If I were in charge, I'd have to think up some elaborate justification for choosing something off this acoustic Peter Tosh album, "Talk Revolution," that I've been enjoying lately. It's lo-fi and sparse and just pretty damn great.

Also, while working on Axl Watch I've had occasion to watch the video for "Estranged" almost daily for the past couple months. So that song is on my brain. When I'm walking the dog, for example. We'll turn a corner and suddenly that menacing, plaintive guitar lead floods my consciousness.

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