It’s been a weird year for America. Has the way you think about the country changed in some fundamental way?
No, in fact, not many things change the way I think, it's not a viable way to be, having malleable morals that is. It's weak, and when people see weakness they strike, that's what my dad used to say when we had the occasional chat through a prison phone and two inches of acrylic.
Well, there are obviously characters in your novels who are unlovable.
Firstly, that's definitely rude. Secondly, everyone is unlovable in some unique way, that's the beauty of humanity, we're all terrible somehow. I'm especially unlovable, I pretended to be a lawyer for six months to get my rent paid, once I got so high I actually stole candy from a baby because I thought I could trade it to my dealer for more pills. Being unlovable is intrinsically human, that's what my dad used to say.
I was wondering what you meant by love, actually.
Being able to stand the smell of your partner's diarrhoea and still be kind of ready to fuck.
Have you ever gotten obsessed with what people are saying about you?
I've gotten obsessed with people, I'm always obsessed with someone actually. Right now it's Liv Tyler, I watched Empire Records recently and have since decided it is, objectively, Liv Tyler's best performance, better than Lord of the Rings.
It seems like you are very willing to weigh in on controversial subjects.
Fuck yes, I am. Peter Jackson can go to hell with all that jewellery and lava vomit, I don't care about his god-damn post-war fantastical ramblings, it's too many pages. A wizard dies but not really, and now he's white but before he was grey, and now the devil or Hitler or something is back, and this really spry centuries old little man has to go throw this gold ring in a volcano to stop Hitler. Fuck off, Jackson.
Tolkien. Did you ever read Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano?
No, and I probably never will. Why? Who is Malcolm Lowry? That name, it's an asshole name. Malcolm Lowry. A name with a semi-silent L can go ahead and suck on some of my used toilet paper, if I do say so myself. In fact, Lowry was so shitty he probably shit himself to death.
He died from alcohol, you’re not afraid of that?
Honey, I'm afraid all the time, of everything. I'm scared I left the oven on, I'm scared my father is going to be resurrected and make me star in another 'movie', I'm scared of cats, sometimes I'm scared I'm still dreaming halfway through the day, I'm scared of most insects. Are you not afraid of things? Some kind of Jean-Claude Van Damme ready to do the splits and kick two guys in the face at once?
I was talking about Lowry, he died of alcohol, you’re not afraid?
Of alcohol? Yes, definitely, don't touch a drop of it. I was raised by authoritarian teetotalers with a penchant for film, and unfortunately, I've retained many of their practices in my day-to-day. I don't touch alcohol, but prescription drugs tend to seep into my rituals, you know, time to time. Every now and then. Sometimes.
Right, but those things have a way of coming back to us.
My great aunt Theresa used to say, if you toss a bowl of linguini at your neighbour on Tuesday, they'll come back and cover you with over-cooked penne on Thursday. The world is cyclical, damn it, of course my medicine cabinet will bite my ass at some point, but I will probably be very famous and successful by then. My prescription induced psychosis will greatly increase the sales of my existing work, things I've scrawled on the backs of cigarette packs can be published for more profit, I can feature on an XXXTENTACION track and further balloon the worth of the veritable Wardrobe estate.
Do stupid comments on social media get to you? What about a long and thoughtful review? Do you engage with that sort of thing?
I don't even engage with the people that I love.
Yep, well. Here we are, doing an interview.
Yes, I am doing that right now.
It's really nice.
Are there writers you envy?
Tolkien, because he's dead.
I am sure this feeling extends to other professions too, though.
Wanting to be dead? Oh, oh no, wait, envy, yes. Yes, I'm sure it does. I'm sure envy extends to most every aspect of a living life. I often envy my dog, sometimes the gardener, but not too often.
How do you balance not wanting to hear criticism on social media with the fact that you find issues regarding the internet and democracy important and presumably you want to engage with them? To understand social media, do you have to engage with it?
It's important to research as little as possible and brazenly state your viewpoint as fact instead, this is the way to drive your idea home. You want eyes on your work? You gotta become one of those 'Deep Web Intellectuals' like Shapiro or Peterson, you gotta sell it and get them followers and always, always, keep those blinders on, baby.
I assume you aren’t spending your day on Twitter.
No, I'm spending it looking for prescription drugs and trying to forget my childhood.
Have you thought about writing a shorter book or short stories? Your last few books have been big.
Yes, I'm actually working on a 26-page children's book, it has no pictures but the words are very big. It's about grieving, like Robert Munsch's Love You Forever but at a funeral and there's no babies or pretty illustrations and it's all just the bleak reality these kids are speeding toward.
Thank you for your time, Roland. It's been––informative.