February 7, 2011

An interview with Jordan Castro

Jordan Castro and 'Supercomputer'

Our buddies over at pop-culture guide Deckfight have been a big supporter of the center over the years; so when I heard that they had recently started their own small press, I wanted to return the favor and make sure that all of you knew about their first published writer. That would be Jordan Castro, a remarkable teenage author from suburban Ohio, whose Deckfight title Supercomputer is believe it or not the fifth book he's published before even graduating high school yet, and who has as well a performance DVD coming out soon from Tao Lin's small press in New York, Muumuu House. I got a chance to "talk" with Jordan the other day through GChat, where we discussed all these topics and more; the entire transcript can be found below, or "after the jump" as the kids say if you're reading this on the front page of the website.

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CCLaP: Hi, everyone; Jason Pettus here on February 5th, talking with Jordan Castro. Jordan, thanks for joining us today.

Jordan Castro: you're welcome, thank you for inviting me

CCLaP: Are you joining us from Solon, Ohio, like your Facebook profile says, or have you moved since then?

JC: i live in solon, ohio and will until september of next year when i move to kent, ohio for college

CCLaP: Right, you just finished high school not too long ago, correct? What is Solon like as far as the arts? I saw at Wikipedia that it's consistently voted as one of the top 25 places in the US to live.

JC: jesus... top 25 places to live, sweet. i am actually still in high school. on facebook it says i "went" to solon high school, because i put my graduation year as 2011 (which, technically, it is) but i think facebook changed it to "went" to solon high school in january. i'm not really sure how solon "is" in terms of art, i think. i know there is an arts center that puts on plays and that our showchoir wins things sometimes. our library also hosts d.i.y. punk rock shows sometimes

CCLaP: What about your fellow writers? "Supercomputer" is far from your first project, which is kind of remarkable for a teen; did you have local friends who were encouraging you to get your work out there like that?

JC: thank you. i don't think i had any friends encouraging me to get things published. i used to hang out with some friends who were also in punk bands at the time, and we would talk about writing sometimes, but besides that i don't really know what happened. i think i just found out about "the blogosphere" or "the online literary scene" or whatever one calls it, and sent my work places and met other writers that way.

CCLaP: Oh, so is that how you ended up at Deckfight? Or did they seek you out?

JC: i think what happened was i began following the deckfight press tumblr, or another tumblr that josh, the editor, maintained. josh emailed me telling me that i was the first person to follow [aforementioned tumblr] and sent me a link to what is now the deckfight press tumblr, i think. we emailed a couple of times and at some point, i sent him two stories from 'supercomputer.' he said he liked them and that he'd publish 'supercomputer.'

CCLaP: Is this advice that you'd give other young writers who are starting out? Has your experiences with sending out work cold generally been good like this, or more often discouraging? I think there's a lot of teen writers out there who just literally are not sure where to even start, when it comes to getting their work out.

JC: i feel hesitant, i think, to "give advice," without a specified context and goal. i think my goal, starting out and still, is to write things that seem artistically satisfying to me, and to share that with other people who could potentially like it too. i think my advice, if i have any advice to give, would be to try to figure out why you write, then act in ways that you think will help enable you to achieve your goals. i think i've gotten probably ~1 out of every 9 things i've submitted accepted, but i don't think i view that as "discouraging," because if i like what i've written, i think i just understand that people like different things and that the editor(s) of the place who chose not to publish my writing like something different than me, which is ok

CCLaP: And then I saw that you've also fallen in recently with Tao Lin and Megan Boyle and that whole crowd at Muumuu House. I was reading about how that happened in your 17,000-word review of Lin's latest novel, but I was wondering if you'd give CCLaP's readers the short version? And can you tell us a little more about this Muumuu House DVD coming out soon that you're on?

JC: tao ordered my first chapbook ('think tank for human beings in general') and i was excited, because i liked his writing. i wrote him a letter with the chapbook. we emailed each other sometimes. we gmail chatted at some point, late at night, for an extended period of time, then continued to email and gmail chat at other times. i've since hung out with and read with tao in physical reality a number of times.

CCLaP: Right -- you hosted a whole group of them there in Ohio at a certain point, yes? How did that go?

JC: there was a music/literature "festival" called "DIT Fest" that tao, megan and sam pink came in to read at. noah cicero and mallory whitten, who are also affiliated with muumuu house, already live in ohio and are good friends of mine. everyone had fun and liked each other a lot, i think. the dvd, which was filmed on my 18th birthday - the second time tao and megan came to ohio - at a bookstore in cleveland heights, ohio. there is also footage of megan, tao and i playing a 'neva dinova' song in my basement

CCLaP: And how much do you think these writers have had an influence on you? I noticed, for example, that the stories in "Supercomputer" are similar in many ways to what people say about Lin's work -- they often take on bland subjects, written in this deliberately sort of flat style, with plot arcs that are more like gently rolling hills than mountains.

JC: i'm not sure to what degree their writing has influenced me. i think that, due to certain worldviews and "lifestyles," many external circumstances that would usually make up a "plot," aren't a part of mine or tao's or [other "muumuu house" writer's] lives or thought processes. for example, we all seem to like spending time alone in front of computers and tend to not talk a lot. this might be why many of our pieces are written in the "flat style" you're referring to, because, to us - or me, at least - many external situations are viewed in a "flat" manner, and other things are focused on.

CCLaP: So as the actual author, what do you feel about the electronic and sorta nebulous nature of "Supercomputer" and Deckfight? Is it disappointing to not have the book out in paper form, or exciting that it has the potential to reach so many more people? Or a mixture of both?

JC: i think, to me, it doesn't matter if something is published online or in print, in terms of how i view its content. if the sentence "i like coffee" is written on a napkin or published in an anthology of famous authors, i think i would interpret it the same. i think i'd ideally like to view "everything" in this manner; perceiving it in terms of its content and not in terms of [some other, unrelated abstraction]. i think if "literature" were a person, "online literature" and "print literature" would be two different "races" of people. it wouldn't be logical to point at one race of person who is doing something and say "that is good" then look at another race of person doing the same thing and say "that is bad." it would be logical, i think, to focus on the thing that the people were doing.

CCLaP: You have a contest going on for the book at your blog right now, right? What other kinds of things have you and Deckfight talked about as far as trying to get the word out? I noticed, for example, that you're all geared up online -- Facebook, blog, Twitter, Goodreads and a lot more -- although it sounds like that's more of your general lifestyle than something you did specifically to promote your work. Will you be making one of those YouTube "commercials" for your book?

JC: yes, the contest is still going on. one can design and/or describe his or her "ideal supercomputer," post it on his or her blog, tumblr, etc, and potentially win prizes. to encourage donations to deckfight press and myself, josh and i are offering to send every 7th donor of [any amount of money] a personalized supercomputer image and couplet, written by me. i also have made it my goal to bring the ebook to the attention of jake bellows, the singer of 'neva dinova,' whose song "supercomputer" is where the title of the ebook comes from. i made a video trailer for 'supercomputer' with mallory whitten, which is currently on youtube.

CCLaP: And before we go, there was something in the book I came across that I just had to ask about, to see whether this was something you read online or just made up. Lil Wayne hires people to preroll his blunts for him?!

JC: haha. i actually read that in a "rolling stone" article while sitting in the library. the person profiling lil wayne wrote something like "weezy continually smokes marijuana blunts like cigarettes. he has [someone] roll the blunts, then put them back in the swisher box."

CCLaP: Ha ha! Well, Jordan, thanks again for sitting down and talking with all of us, and I wish you the best of luck with both the new book and coming DVD.

JC: thanks, jason.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:30 PM, February 7, 2011. Filed under: Arts news | Literature | Profiles |