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Smoking With Anderson Holderness

Interview by Tara Laskowski (Read the Story) December 18, 2012

Anderson Holderness

art by Karrah Kobus

I have to ask—where in the world did the idea for this story come from?

I’m glad you asked this. I went to the art museum in Georgia last spring and one room was packed with blown-up prints of 50’s male fashion magazine cover art. One particular piece caught my eye, and, no surprises here, it was a samurai riding a giant koi fish. The original was made in early 1800’s Japan. Beautiful print. The characters jump out in bright golds and reds. The scales of the koi are like little orange firework bursts and the samurai—he looks bored, like he rides a giant koi fish to work every day and complains about it to his friends. Like his koi is last year’s model and he wants the new model koi with gatling guns and space travel.

Another thing that jostled me was the male fashion magazine’s label just below them—Gentry—in some weird Flinstone’s cartoon font. That got me thinking about the process: how this 1800’s traditional Japanese painting got to an art museum in Georgia 2012. Just for fun, let’s use metaphor to break it down. Let’s start with an antique, let’s say, a grandma. The grandma is created in Japan, 1800’s. She floats around for a few half-centuries, and makes her way into the hands of an American businessman. The businessman thinks she’s the bee’s knees and stamps “High Class!” in bold red ink across her forehead. He then copies her and distributes her amongst the population. Another half-century passes. Then someone finds one of the grandmas in a stack of old men’s magazines, blows her up five times her size and exhibits her in an art gallery.
There was something violent and beautiful and sad about it all—how art, how ideas build over time. So I decided to bastardize the piece a step further, personalize it like that American businessman did, like the Museum did, made it my own and sent it away.
Then y’all picked it up and help the art stretch even further. Can’t wait to see where it goes.

What’s your favorite cowboy movie?

Hard for me to choose a favorite. I can name some favorite details.
I think the first western I remember watching was “Wild Wild West” with Will Smith and Kevin Kline. I remember a scene where these guys have a decapitated head. They put the head in a machine, which shines light out its eyes, projecting onto a screen the last thing that the head saw before death. Also, the handicapped guy with eight machine legs that walked around like a spider. Also, the colossal fucking spider machine he rode around in. As widely panned as that movie was, it made quite an impression on my kid self.
Another thing, in the Spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Leone mainly used Italian actors for the minor roles. Many of these men didn’t speak English so they spoke their lines in Italian. So, you might have a scene where a man speaks to Blondie, Clint Eastwood’s character, and the man’s words don’t fit the way he moves his mouth. His voice was dubbed. In that same scene Eastwood listens and watches this guy like nothing is weird, and Eastwood talks back and his words fit his mouth just fine. They would go back and forth like this and it happened all the time. That confused the hell out of me at first. Other then Eastwood, I couldn’t tell who was really speaking English and who was speaking Italian, and sometimes I even doubted whether Eastwood was speaking English.

Do you usually write funny? Because you certainly do a fantastic job of it here. I so love the idea of someone saying, “Don’t mess with Texas” all the time and not having a clue what it means.

Thank you, Tara. I try to keep it light and accessible, and maybe a wee bit strange.

What do you do to pay the bills? What do you wish you did to pay the bills? (Besides writing).

I’ve been a line cook at a local restaurant for the past year, but I would really like to start a business. Do you remember sporting events? I wish I was one of those guys that shot T-shirts out of a cannon into the crowd. Except, me and my canon would be an independent company for hire. I would shoot t-shirts at all types of events: children’s birthday parties, wedding showers, funerals, grandma parties, whatever. Over time, with all the silver dollars coming in, I would hire more workers so we could get the t-shirts to the people more efficiently. I’m talking like 30 or so various sports mascots with high powered, laser-sighted t-shirt rifles storming into your church to help put the bang back into baptism. On-site monograms would be on the house.

There’s the grandma thing again! You should write a story about grandmas. Ok, so because I’m just curious where you’re going to take this: A friend, but not a really good friend, gives you their novel manuscript. You read it. It is not good. Where do you move in order to avoid having to ever tell them that?
Nebraska. I’d bury the book there. Then I’d come back and tell him I lost the manuscript. If he kept giving me manuscripts, I’d keep going to Nebraska and throwing them out the car window until Nebraska was full. Then I guess I would drive him to Nebraska to show him what I’d done and we wouldn’t talk for a long time. I’d sit on the hood of the car looking at the great wall of papers and he’d be running his fingers along the border until dusk. That’s when we would burn down Nebraska. After that he would stop trying to write and we would lose touch.

Excellent. I hope we can have a beer sometime, if for no other reason than so I can ask you more crazy questions and get even crazier answers.

About the Author

Anderson Holderness lives in Athens, Georgia. He explores the Internet daily. Today he found a sport called mutton busting. He has been published in PANK, > kill author, and others. He hopes you are finding your day dry and comfortable.

About the Interviewer

Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as “a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills.” She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

About the Artist

Karrah Kobus is a conceptual portrait artist and wedding photographer from Minneapolis, MN. Karrah stumbled upon the magic of photography while studying for an anthropology course—she came across a photo created by Rosie Hardy and knew immediately that she was meant to be a photographer also. With her budding career taking her across America and to Mexico and Canada, it has been an adventurous two years for Karrah. She’s driven across the country to meet perfect strangers and bathe in waterfalls after covering herself in mud. She’s spent countless nights, mornings and afternoons running around aimlessly and just because she had her camera; everything was, and always will be, okay. Sometimes she feels like photographers have uncovered a special secret. A crazy, amazing, and beautiful secret. The key to truly living. And all she wants is to be alive.

This interview appeared in Issue Thirty-Eight of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Eight
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