Patrick deWitt

It was our blood and guts: an interview with Patrick deWitt

Last year, many of us read Patrick deWitt’s excellent Western The Sisters Brothers. The novel (which I reviewed here) concerns two brothers, Eli and Charlie, who hurt and kill men for a living. A great work in a little-appreciated genre, the book went on to win a Governor’s General Literary Award and a Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. It is newly released in paperback (though I’ll admit I like the hardback’s cover better, and for my part, I read it on the Kindle). He is also, though the interview doesn’t touch on this, the screenwriter behind the recent film Terri. Mr. deWitt was kind enough to spend a little time with some questions I sent him. I don’t know if I touched his soul or anything, but his answers were good, and his book is very much worth your time.

In an interview for the Man Booker Prize, you said: “It would be harder for me to write those same scenes without the twist. In real life, violence is graceless, pathetic, weird, or simply funny. But it’s almost never righteous or noble, and I tried to avoid writing about it that way.” I think a lot about violence, but I’ve never really experienced it myself. The idea that it’s not noble or righteous isn’t too surprising, but “pathetic” and “weird” are two adjectives I’ve encountered less often, I think, and I like them. Reading this made me curious about your experience with violence, and what leads you to see it in the way that you do.

I was never a violent person. It was never something I had any stomach or aptitude or reverence for. I went to a lot of punk etc. shows starting at the age of 12. This was in the San Fernando Valley in the late 80s, and anyone going to these shows certainly saw a lot of violence, though it wasn’t mandatory to take part, and I found it easy enough to skirt. Later on my friends and I got into drinking and drugs, and this was a blood-and-guts period of time, but it was our blood-and-guts. It was ugly but we weren’t, you know, marauders. Later still, working at a bar, fights were common, and these usually matched the description above (pathetic, weird). This was probably where I adopted that attitude toward violence, actually. We’d just stand there and watch. I remember these two meaty white guys with shaved heads going at it on the floor. They’d ripped each other’s shirts off, and a customer looked at me and said, “It’s like babies fucking.” Physical confrontation is just an awkward social interaction taken to the extreme, it seems to me.  READ MORE >

Author Spotlight / 4 Comments
February 22nd, 2012 / 10:48 am

All the books I read in 2011: go to your local independent bookseller—if such a thing exists in your town—and reserve a copy of Patrick deWitt’s dark, deep, and deadly funny upcoming novel The Sisters Brothers. It’s a western. It’s spare and has existential undercurrents. The narrator is a husky-bodied, quiet-talking killer. It’ll be out in May.

On Dennis Cooper’s blog, Patrick deWitt introduces us to writer Paul Buccholz.

Some Things to Do Today that Aren’t the Super Bowl

Not that I’m against the Super Bowl, but hey, maybe you are. Or maybe you’re just killing time Until. Anyway, here are some ways to do whatever it is you’re doing.

There’s a new installment of Weiden+Kennedy’s Story Time. They’ve got Patrick deWitt reading from his first novel, Ablutions, with music by his brother Nick deWitt, whom you may also know as the dude from Pretty Girls Make Graves and/or Murder City Devils. NdW also offers an entry into WKE’s mixtapes series.

You could (read=should) also check out the video for Rock Plaza Central’s “(Don’t You Believe the Words of) Handsome Men.”

Oh and last but not least, after watching the “I Am Not a Lawyer” Mr. Show clip that Blake posted in a comment thread about something else, I started playing the YouTube association clickaround game, and stumbled upon this open letter from David Cross to Larry the Cable Guy.


Random / 16 Comments
February 7th, 2010 / 11:59 am