Kendra Grant Malone was born in Minnesota. She is the author of several chapbooks and e-books of prose and poetry, including All The Ways I Have Failed You (Achilles, forthcoming), Chasing Pigeons Makes Me Feel More Powerful (Bearcreekfeed, forthcoming), and Conor Oberst Sex (Happy Cobra Books 2009). Kendra joins NOÖ as our new social editor. She will be splendidly and cleverly conducting interviews and negotiating the presentation of our splendid contributors on this here bloggy-blog. To introduce you to Kendra, we had a little conversation. Enjoy! And welcome to the family, KGM!
How did you get started writing? What's your earliest memory of realizing that language could affect people?
I got started writing when I went to film school. I really adored writing scripts. I still do. I could never understand why a director would want to tell someone else's story, considering the time, money and unbelievable effort it takes just to complete a 10 min short film. I sort of found my way into poetry and literature accidentally. When I moved to NYC I had no friends really and came for a job writing copy for reality television. The first friend I made here on my own was Tao and he was really encouraging to me about writing more and looking into submitting things. I think at first it was out of boredom and curiosity and then things have snowballed into whatever they are now, but I like it so, cool.
I think I first learned how language could affect people when I was little and learned to lie to get my sister in trouble.
You have a background in film and visual art. Does your work in these mediums overlap at all with your writing?
I think my background in film has had a direct effect on how I write in a really silly way. When I was writing projects for film I constantly had to think "is this filmable? will i be able to afford the production value this requires?" and things like that, which made it very limiting. Inadvertently I fell in love with books and film that felt true to life, that were not about effects, fantasy, exclusive/flamboyantly educated language, or expensive cameras. My favorite director would be Lars Von Trier (go ahead everyone and roll your eyes) because of the Dogme95 movement, how the filmmaker was pushed to make a simple character narrative something attractive and exciting, by stripped means. It's funny though, I'm not a very visual person, for example, I dream in only touch and sounds like a blind person and always have. I'm also red green color blind, which I guess is rare for women. So I suppose it was a matter of time before I started to value story over image.
A lot of your writing seems both very honest and frank, and very aware of its own frankness, while still being urgent and unharangued by the self-indulgence of "confessionalism." What are your thoughts on frankness? How would you define honesty in writing?
Oh geesze, I feel like I have a conversation about what honesty is with various people every day. I find myself to be very dishonest personally. I lie a lot through omission, by keeping half truths to myself, by keeping secrets. Honesty is such a malleable idea to speak of. It seems so abstracted that what the word defines differs slightly for everyone. Personally my own exhibitionism is a bit compulsive. Sometimes I romanticize it to myself. Sharing one's own condition in life is seductive because of the desire to be seen and also the desire to alleviate confusion in the world. Every problem I see happen around me, I feel, can almost always be boiled down to people not being frank enough with each other. Speaking in stupid euphemisms because they are afraid to say what they want, to appear selfish. I get a lot of emails from women from all over about more humiliating things I've admitted to within my writing, and that makes me feel like, see this is good, you are doing good.
I really like your project We Will Always Live In These Houses. There is something really striking in seeing the manicured privacy of those lawns and driveways and then reading your accounts of who exits those houses and how they move around the world. Struggles with privacy seems to abound in your work: bucking privacy for exhibitionism, the tenderness that arises from the privacy of feelings between two people, wanting to protect a loved one's privacy, the anxious privacy of always living in one's own head. I know talking about privacy might be just the flip of talking about frankness, but what do you think of how privacy works in today's culture? Do you feel your writing interacting at all with our cultural attitudes toward privacy?
Personally I struggle with my lack of personal privacy in public situations all the time. It bothers a lot of people to talk about a morning shit or the consistency of menstrual blot clots in casual conversation, I know this. And it's not that I don't care or empathize with how people meet might feel pushed and cornered by this kind of conversational offering. Watching people become uncomfortable makes me feel squeamish and embarrassed too. Often I get accused of using "shock value" to turn heads, for attention. The issue for me, in both conversations like this and in writing, isn't shock for shock's sake, but to encourage other people towards breaking out of mundaneness and claustrophobic speaking patterns by sort of lying down at their feet as an example, even if I get hated or humiliated along the way. For instance, once I had a boyfriend who was often irrationally cranky and irritable. It was months and months of dating before one day he told me that every day his stomach hurt in this certain way. Later that night I talked to my sister about it and she had the same thing years before. The next day he went to the doctor with her encouragement and it turned out he had a systemic yeast infection for years. He fixed it within the week. He had years of pain because he was afraid to talk about his shit. That moved me so deeply that I think about it while writing a lot.
How did you feel about that Guardian article bashing internet writers?
I was a bit confused by that. I thought, this person really hasn't done much research. I mean, although Tao and I get along well and some of the other writers named as well, I don't think I write much like them. I don't think I have ever used sarcasm as a tool. I'm pretty sure the Muumuu House writers all see me as too melodramatic and flowery. As far as the rest of the article it seemed very presumptuous. How do they know I'm "spoilt"? This person knows nothing of my background, my financial struggles, and the things I've overcome in life. And I don't think any of us need to qualify that. Also, for an article accusing us of being boring, he could have made it a bit less boring itself.
Boring is bad. Yes. Recommend for us some recent favorites that aren't boring: books, stories, poems, movies, etc
Books: Woman on The Edge Of Time, Blasted, Voyage in The Dark, Ask The Dust, Story of The Eye, Skies by Eileen Myles, The Lover by Marguerite Duras
Movies: The Idiots, 13 Tzameti, The Piano Teacher, The Butcher Boy, Breaking the Waves, My Dinner With Andre, The Dreamlife of Angels, The Celebration, Masculine/Feminine
What are your current projects/plans?
I've been reading a lot a screen plays lately because a producer solicited me for one. Any suggestions?
What is your favorite breakfast?
What is your ideal shower experience?
I like when people watch me shower.