i’m a bullhole cliche / assshit: An Interview with Victoria Trott
When I started reading online literature, sometime in mid-2008, I discovered a short list of bloggers/writers (Tao Lin, Ellen Kennedy, Zachary German) with similar attitudes and approaches to literature. Later, when Muumuu House was established, I found, among them, a new name: Victoria Trott. I read her poems, her blog, and it was all very strange, funny, and poignant. On Halloween 2009, I met her at a late night get together in (where else) Williamsburg. She seemed quiet, estranged, grinning aimlessly. By then she’d sort of disappeared from the online scene, leaving behind only a few publications (not to mention an unreleased forthcoming issue of German’s now-discontinued litmag), an altered moniker, and a lot of questions. In late 2009, she created a hilarious, ingenious Twitter account, and in summer 2010, a wonderful new blog. Finally there was some clarity, openness, continuity, but still, I was curious. Last fall, I compiled a list of questions I had for (and regarding) Victoria in a Gmail draft. Then I emailed her some of those questions, commencing a slow correspondence, spanning three months. Here are the results:
David Fishkind: Hi Victoria, How are you?
Victoria Trott: Hey David, someone bought me breakfast today and I took half of a Ritalin, I feel pretty good. How are you?
How did you get involved with online literature? Or maybe, what is your time line of involvement?
Here’s a timeline of my involvement with online literature, which has the stuff about blog switching, I think
2007 – high school sophomore, read Hikikomori on Bear Parade. showed Tao Lin’s blog to my friend, she said “amoeba ass?” and laughed with a puzzled face.
August 2008 – made a blog at kickk.blogspot.com (b. August 15, 2008, d. August 4, 2009), and started commenting on Tao Lin’s blog using name “victoria.”
Tao Lin commented on my blog and I felt excited. Brandon Scott Gorrell commented on my blog sometimes. I wrote non-sequiter blog comments on a lot of blogs. I remember commenting “sex bitches” on Brandon’s blog and him replying “sex hat.” One time Brandon commented on my blog with “let’s do something literary together,” to which I don’t think I ever responded.
I made a secret blog and commented with that one on kickk.blogspot.com. Ryan and Tao commented on secret blog sometimes.
July 2008 – friended Tao on Facebook.
August 2008 – Ryan Manning wrote a poem about me with sentence like “I think I’d like to have sex with her” in it. I commented “okay,” I think. We discussed it in the comments section. Then we became gmail chat friends. Ryan deleted the discussing comments and left the “okay,” I think. My mom discovered poem in internet history and said “Come here” to me while I was playing the piano. She showed me the poem and I said “it’s not me, its someone else named Victoria” and she was like “What would you do if you were me… I mean, it doesn’t seem this Victoria person is actually considering it seriously” or something. I think I felt adrenaline and it felt really important to just “stay calm and fix this.”
After that I changed name from “victoria” to “barack obama”
September 2008 – Tao commented my blog and asked if he could publish a poem called “the world would be happier with me dead in it” on 3am where he was poetry editor.
November 2008 maybe – I posted “qim drunk” poem on blog, Tao asked to publish it on Muumuu House.
December 2008 – Tao published “Shoplifting from Urban Outfitters” on Muumuu House, which he solicited after hearing me mention that I’d done that on my blog.
I think in first half of 2009 I was blogging pretty happily, writing things that felt nice and getting comments that felt nice.
March 2009 – Zachary solicited poems from me for “the name of this band is the talking heads.”
April 2009 – “ran away from home” in Philadelphia to Zachary and Tao’s apartment in NYC, felt scared I guess, sat on floor of Tao’s room, he gave me some food and like, his laptop. Later he took a shower and went to bed. Zachary and Jamie went with me to a roof. Drank beer and felt better.
May 2009 – commented on a Tao’s blog under name “barack obama.” Zachary German commented “@barack obama, what are you doing commenting on blogs without submiting to ‘the name of this band is the talking heads,’ what jonathan letham calls ‘the last vestige, perhaps, of conservative intellectualism’?”
Felt excited maybe. Seems like it always took me long time to decide to work on solicited writing. Sent some poems to Zachary German a lot later, I feel, and he said “good, send like 100 more” or something, and I never sent more.
July 2009 – “ran away from home” to a party at Zachary German and Tao’s apartment. Put clothes in my bed to look like a person. Overslept, called Dad next morning from NYC to try to make up something, he was like “where are you really though.” and I told him, jeez. My parents said I was grounded until… I did what I knew I had to do. In my memory they didn’t say what this was. Asked me questions about what kind of party it was. After two weeks I apologized while “weeping,” and became ungrounded. Seems like maybe a couple days later, or maybe while I was grounded, but I think maybe after, maybe like a month after, my mom took me to get sushi and said that she’d heard from one of my siblings or something about my internet presence. Asked me questions about shoplifting, and being depressed I think. Might have complimented my writing. I felt confused. The sushi tasted good. My mom seemed to feel only positivity towards me. I think I felt happy with my mom. “we need to talk to dad about this,” she said.
Later, I sat in the living room with my parents. They asked me where I shoplifted from and why, I think. I think I felt sullen. They planned a day for my dad not to go to work so my mom could drive me to these places. In Whole Foods, we walked to the customer service counter. My mom said, “my daughter left the store without paying for some items, and she’d like to pay for them now,” or something. The customer service bro looked alert and said “I’ll call the manager.” I was wearing a giant t shirt with eagles on it, and hair looked straggly. The manager seemed fat and deadly serious. Feels like he said “oh wow” or something when my mom repeated what she’d said. We decided that we would get the items I stole and re-check them. Feels like I led them to almond butter aisle and selected a 18 dollar jar of raw almond butter. “So how did you… like, do it, like I’m curious how you stole from my store,” said the manager. “um, I just like walked in, and put things in my bag,” I said. “wow, that easy,” he said. “yeah, it was easy,” I said. I think he might’ve made a disgusted face.
Then we went to the Korean supermarket and to Urban Outfitters. I don’t think the Koreans understood. After my mom repeated her thing the manager smiled big and said “adolescents have so much on their mind, these days, you know, like school…” and my mom made a face.
In Urban Outfitters I felt amused, I think. Me and my mom talked to each other with friendly tones the whole time. At one point, I was backing up my dad’s 15-seat van near Rittenhouse Square into like a parking garage, and I almost hit a person or something, and my mom got a little mad and made me stop driving.
August 2009 – Seemed better to delete my blog now, I guess, I just imagined all my siblings reading it and didn’t want them to, and deleted it. Emailed Tao and asked him to change my name to “Michelle Williams” on Muumuu House.
Still looked at things in the internet literary community a lot, I think.
Asked Tao to change name to “Victoria Trock”
August 2009 – Brandon wrote at the Nervous Breakdown in an article about everyone on the internet: “Victoria Trock – Seems like she’ll be the next to have a book at Muumuu House. Seems to achieve a very good balance of “irony”, “fuck-the-world-irony”, “apathy”, “sarcasm”, and “deadpan emotional revelation”. Think she has positive feelings about me. Wonder what she looks like.”
October 2009 – Tao offered free SFAA for good gchats or blog posts about him. I started victoria-cullen.blogspot.com to post a post about him, then started posting other things sometimes.
January 2010 – started secret blog and posted a lot in it. Then started copy and pasting posts I liked into victoria-cullen.blogspot.com
Sweet. So comprehensive. I appreciate that. I’m going to immediately get specific. I like how in “Shoplifting from Urban Outfitters,” and in a few others I’ve read, you use commas to separate like ideas that should technically be sentences, like, for example, “They are in European sizes, she thinks about how Urban Outfitters is stupid for trying to be European.” That is funny to me. Do you write like that a lot?
I write like that a lot I think. I guess I want to have to two phrases less separated than if there were a period. My thoughts have commas like that, I think. I’m glad that is funny to you.
I read a lot of your writing thinking about this interview, and I couldn’t find anything quite like this sentence: “A woman comes into the corner in a wheelchair maybe.” It felt, to me, emotionally overwhelming. Like this rampant sense of insecurity, so much so that it affects even the supposedly objective sense of physical observation. What do you think about that?
That seems nice that you saw a “rampant sense of insecurity” in that. Seems like what I am trying to describe sometimes. It seems emotional to me also. To me the physical world doesn’t seem secure, like sight seems subjective, maybe.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Damn. You seem to really have a command on things like that–perception as reality sort of. Like in the story “Today” you write about parents, and it is interesting because it sets up a definition of control. There is the protagonist doing something, the mother commanding the protagonist to do something, and the protagonist deciding to what to do. I really like the moment in which the mother tells the protagonist to mow the lawn while she is gone and the protagonist makes a sad face and then the mother says she can wait to do it later, but the protagonist says, “What difference does it make.” How would you characterize this idea of control? What do you think about tone and perspective set up in this story?
Feels like I wrote that story to understand those events.
I hated feeling compulsion to mop the floor. I’d feel bad at the beginning but by the end, I would be thinking about something else and the consistent, easy physical task of mopping would start to be pleasant.
Whenever I feel anything it is maybe affected by the awareness that my feelings change a lot.
The tone might be trying not to assign value to any one character’s perspective, even if the protagonist does that.
Hulu is also in that story a couple times. I like Hulu. What’s your favorite thing to watch on Hulu?
I felt really happy watching this show called “The Riches” with Eddie Izzard about some gypsies.
In “Shoplifting from Urban Outfitters” the relationship between Jane and her parents is pretty interesting: “Every time her parents say words her brain finds things she doesn’t like about what they say. When they stop eating Jane’s mom says something about singing a song and starts to get up and Jane’s dad says ‘don’t get up’ and Jane’s mom sits back down. Her mom says ‘how about o come all ye faithful?’ and raises her eyebrows and Jane’s dad starts singing ‘o come all ye faithful’ and Jane’s mom sings with him and Jane sings not loudly. She feels like an asshole for not singing loudly because she knows her mom likes it when she sings loudly and feels supported and like the holy spirit is present. She is showing she doesn’t support singing after dinner but the message her mom is receiving is ‘I’m all alone’ and the message her dad is receiving is ‘insubordinate bitch,’ maybe.” How do you think your parents influence your writing? Do you think there is a feeling a pity regarding these parental characters set up in your stories?
My parents read books a lot and argued about precise meanings of things. That might’ve made me want to be more precise or something. I think the characters feel confused about their parents.
Your poetry is very different from your prose, in my opinion. Your prose is direct and without a lot of emotion, while your poetry seems extremely emotionally confessional to me. Also, they seem really rhythmic in a cool way. Like, let’s talk about “the world would be happier with me dead in it.” It ends “i do not want this to happen / i already am an assshit bullhole / fuck / / i can’t even use concrete images / / blue flower / dyed industrially / / that was not connected to anything / it was an image / a cliche image / fuck / i’m a bullhole cliche / assshit.” Seems really intense sort of comparison. I don’t know. I just wanted to look at that. Do you want to talk about that?
Sure. Seems like I write anything I think about in poems, but in prose I try to write about events that happened, maybe. Yeah, I like, intensely criticize myself, it doesn’t seem productive.
“qim drunk” is sort of similar to that in form. Misspellings and stuff. I’m assuming you were drunk when you wrote that. Seems like very intense emotionally, yeah? Do you feel intense emotionally when you drink?
Yeah, when I drink I feel more emotional.
Do you think writing when drunk changes anything about your writing or the way you view [life/existence/other people/whatever]?
When I’m drunk I want to take advantage of how uninhibited I feel and write a lot of confessional type things. I think I admit more things, but those things are still part of my worldview when sober. I’m not sure though, I haven’t been drunk in a while.
After reading that poem and a Gmail chat between you and Tao Lin about drinking, I seemed to assume you were in your 20s. It felt natural to assume that. I remember then, I met you last year at Tao’s apartment and thought you lived in NYC and were in your twenties. Do you want to talk about that? Your age.
Sweet that you thought I was 20. I remember on my old blog someone didn’t believe I was 16 and I felt good. I don’t know what that means, exactly. “I still have social problems.”
Do you want to talk about meeting me that night?
Before we came my friend didn’t want to, and then afterwards she said it was uncomfortable. I felt aware of my shoes. I didn’t know who you were at all. You sounded emotional on the phone. I felt confused and probably thought “am I doing the wrong thing…” several times without trying to answer, assuming yes, maybe. When Jamie and Zachary were […] outside, I wanted them to come back and be entertaining. I remember Jamie said “I like Victoria, she’s so chill,” and I felt confused and pleased.
What do you think about the time Brandon Scott Gorrell commented on your boobs in a Gmail chat with Tao? He said, “her breasts look good in the lydia davis photo.”
Thought something like “damn, whatever i guess” I think. Seemed unsurprising that Brandon said “wasnt really attracted on facebook…” Was already aware also that Brandon and Tao like, were attracted to skinny girls and I wasn’t skinny. [I don’t know], felt bad I think, probably felt more negative towards Brandon after that, and vaguely pleased when Zachary shit talked him…
Did you take down the Lydia Davis post on your blog because of that correspondence?
No, I can’t remember why I took down the giant post about Tao and the post about Lydia Davis. Seems silly. Probably I felt that they were stupid posts or something.
So you created a new blog early last year. I was happy about that. Since then, you’ve only posted sixteen times. I thought it was more than that. Damn… Anyway, here there are a lot of sweet new poems and a few prose pieces. One of my favorite posts is “david foster wallace.” It is comprised of six short poems that seem pretty different from the ones on Muumuu House. They are more declaratory and detached and less hinged on emotion, connection, repetition, or other things that seemed to happen in some of your earlier stuff. For example, I think “do i even like these shirts” is pretty amazing. Simply it states, “i like the way they look, the letters and the shirt together / / i like the way they feel / / (terribly soft).” Also “social networking site mention” seems really vacant and funny and distant. It is very different in form especially in its ending with a quote: “‘We drink gin straight out the handle, will cut a heffer need be, begin and end every sentence with ‘word,’ and are convinced that this makes us true gangstas … in other words we are bunch of crazy broads who should not be tested.’” What do you think brought about these poems? Do you want to talk about your poetic form, in general? Like, the difference between poems in “david foster wallace” and “optimistic poem i wrote on july 16” and those published on Muumuu House.
I am glad you like my blog posts. For the “david foster wallace” post I wanted my blog to become less dramatic, because my life felt less dramatic. Also I wanted to decide about the shirts. Interesting. I hadn’t thought about those things, I don’t think. Seems unintentional. Before I wrote that post, I thought about it a little, and then I edited it after. Which is different from Muumuu House poems, where I felt emotion and then just typed them. I see what you mean about distance. I like that also in my own writing. Seems funnier. I wrote it in the summer, when I was riding my bike every day, feeling rational, excited to go to New Mexico.
I also really liked “description of being high on a water tower at night and being paranoid.” Seems like one of the best stories I’ve read recently. The style is very interesting, pretty much entirely taking place in one train of thought, separated by a lot of commas and dividing up dialogue against thoughts. Do you want to talk about that story?
Thank you. For that story, I remembered things that seemed interesting and wrote them down, in a document where I was trying to write everything I could remember about that boy, to understand like… my life or something. Seems like how I would tell a story to my friend out loud, I like that. When I think about the event compared to story, there are still discrepancies I wish I could fix.
You’ve been pretty distant from the Internet lately, though, I’ve noticed. Is there a reason for that?
[I don’t know] […] I spent much of last month sitting on a couch or lying in a bed next to a male human, thinking about the internet less than usual, maybe.
Are you working on any writing currently?
I have a lot of words on my computer. And I type new words into my computer sometimes. Not sure if I feel good about all the words or not.
Do you like college?
I don’t know, I have social anxiety disorder maybe. I like walking around in Santa Fe.
Is there anything else you would be interested in talking about?
Everyone should go to my fashion blog lacy-ass-dress.blogspot.com, it’s developing, comment with suggestions and stuff.
Did you ever end up trying Four Loko?
No but I had some Red Bull and vodka, seemed nice. Someone drinking Four Loko sort of “accused” my roommate of being a pothead and said “you should just tell your parents, they’ll still accept you.”