This essay originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 17, Issue 3/4.
Hoping the American Empire Lasts a Few More Decades: I Need the Book Sales
I’m just a regular Joe with a regular job
I’m your average white suburbanite slob
I like football and porno and books about war
I’ve got an average house with a nice hardwood floor
- Denis Leary, “Asshole”
[Begin transcript of unaired interview conducted in Manhattan]
SWAY CALLOWAY: So I’m sittin’ down with … wait, who the … Christie? Hey, Christie? Who is this guy? I thought we were doing the –
JEFF SOMERS: Take off your hat.
SC: What? Wait – thanks Christie, but – wait, what?
JS: I’ve never seen you without the little hat. Take it off. I want to see what you’re hiding under there.
SC: I never take off my hat, dude. Now hold tight while the PA gets the sheets for today. I have no idea who you are, or why I’m sitting here with you. I thought we were –
JS: Don’t worry, Jay-Z will be fine.
SC: Uh, what?
JS: He’ll be fine. He’s just unconscious and locked in the trunk of a car that’s probably in Bayonne by now. But we’ll release him as soon as I’m done here, no worries.
SC: No worries. You … you touched Hova?
JS: No worries. I just want you to interview me, and once that’s done, no one needs to get hurt. Would I hurt Shawn? No, I would not.
SC: Christie! How about calling the police, instead, babe, huh?
JS: That’s fine. Just get on with the interview.
SC: Interview? About what, man?
JS: I’m offering all my money to the Presidential Candidate who promises to increase the military budget the most and start the most new wars.
SC: Again: What?
JS: I’m going to sell off my entire zine-publishing empire and take all my book royalties and advances and such and offer the whole mess of cash to the candidate for President who promises to increase military spending and our involvement in foreign wars the most.
SC: Shit, do we not have any kind of security in this place? Is that liquor?
JS: Technically, it’s mouthwash. But it gets the job done.
SC: Holy shit.
JS: Look, we have at least five minutes before they wrestle me away. Why not ask me some questions? Like, why are you giving your fortune to promote military spending and war?
SC: Let’s start with: How much money are we talking about?
JS: Let’s see. Sell the house, the car … the Inner Swine office party fund … IRAs … royalties on six novels … random cash from TIS subscribers … About Five hundred and six dollars, Sway.
SC: That … that is not a lot of money, man.
JS: Maybe not to you, big-shot MTV VJ rapper guy. But to the poor, sincere farmers and carpenters who want to be President, I assure you it is. And all they have to do is rain hell down on the world around us.
SC: Uh … okay, fine. Why?
JS: I’m glad you asked, Sway. You see –
SC: Wait a second.
JS: – I’ve never been able to learn a foreign language.
SC: Wait. Wait … I have a headache. Christie? Do we have any –
JS: TAKE YOUR HAT OFF, MAN!
SC: Very well. You were saying about languages?
JS: I have tried, often, to learn another language, but my brain, it is … not good … at such things. Bork! Bork!
JS: Excuse me.
SC: So, uh, what does your inability to learn a language have to do with military spending and war?
JS: Obviously, I can only write novels in English. So I need the United States to remain the dominant cultural force in the world, to make sure I have the largest market to sell books to. If we were to, say, become Belgium in terms of market share, I’d be screwed.
SC: Why’s that?
JS: What’s the last Belgian novelist you read?
SC: I can’t believe I’am about to … point taken. So, you want the United States to maintain your book market share through military adventures?
JS: Sure! We’re an empire. As an empire we’re doomed to a certain cycle: We spend too much money on our military to maintain our empire, and thus our infrastructure rots away and our population grows less educated and less capable. Eventually we collapse. Right now, English is still the dominant language around the world. People from all over email me about my books. What happens when we collapse into something resembling England, and China is exporting all the films and entertainments? That’s right: I’m back to dancing on street corners for pennies. I WILL NEVER GO BACK!
SC: Oh shit –
JS: AS GOD AS MY WITNESS I WILL GET YOU TO REMOVE YOUR HAT, SIR!
SC: Are we sure these belts are tight around his wrists and ankles? Hello? Christie? Are we sure?
JS: Since I’m tied to this chair now, you might as well finish the interview before the police come.
SC: Actually, there are plenty of better –
JS: Yes! See, the reason Shakespeare and Chaucer and Hemingway are the most famous writers in history is because we’ve had centuries of culture dominated by Western, English-speaking cultures. And thank god, because I can’t learn another language. I can barely muster the wit to memorize how to ask where is the toilet, I have consumed too much brandy in French, much less write a novel in Mandarin. If the whole cultural paradigm of the world shifts, I’m screwed.
SC: Well, you may be doing some prison time here, so you’re probably screwed anyway.
JS: Eh, prison doesn’t slow down writing careers. They’re pretty much at a full stop as it is. Am I right? High five!
JS: You, sir, are rude. Anyway, I figure if we continue to bomb the hell out of the world, they will continue to buy our books and movies and terrible Lady Ga Ga records. I don’t really understand why that is, but it appears to be so. The more we bomb the world, the more they want our Adam Sandler movies. And, I hope, Jeff Somers novels.
SC: I doubt it. Over here, officers!