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Jimmy Chen is pensive in bed

In Interviews on May 2, 2009 at 9:30 am

Jimmy Chen is the swoonsome grey matter behind Typewriter – a ticklish new, modern magic (but not in a corny way) selection of little-in-size-not-content stories recently published by Magic Helicopter Press.

I cunningly convinced Jimmy to let me interview him, and I didn’t even have to show him my boobs. Score.

AS: Chenchen … may I call you Chenchen? I really like it, Chenchen.
JC: ‘jimmychen’ was taken at Yahoo when I set up my mail account, and I didn’t want to be ‘jimmychen0291’ or some crap like that. I think a similar thing happened when I was getting a web domain. There are too many Jimmy Chens in this world. I would be happy to try to be every single one, but that’s asking too much of my schizophrenia.

AS: Chenchen, let’s cut to the chase. You are very smart and very funny. Very, very funny. According to every woman’s magazine on the rack it makes sense that you are not single. How do you stop yourself from making clever, insightful and hilarious yet wholly inappropriate remarks during sex with your girlfriend? (Feel free to describe the act in lascivious detail.)
JC: Lord Byron once said “A woman’s heart is traced in sand”. That’s why you need to pour Elmer’s glue all over to pack it into something which resembles a cat turd in the litter box, or a de Kooning sculpture. Note the symbolism of Elmer’s glue and another kind of fluid. Funny thing is – my girlfriend’s the one who makes inappropriate remarks, mostly involving a French cornichon (small pickle) and my anus. Note that ‘cornichon’ sounds awfully similar to ‘cornish hen,’ so let’s just say I’m pensive in bed.

AS: The settings and situations for the stories in Typewriter, which utilise things like Facebook and email, will be very familiar to a lot of us. Do you think the social networking thing (did I really just use that phrase?!) increases feelings of loneliness by feigning or replicating or approximating (help me think of the right word here, Chenchen!) interpersonal connections? Or do we really have the potential for more meaningful linkage thanks to the internet (and/or do you give a shit)?
JC: Intimacy and vicinity are unrelated. Being stuffed in a subway train in Japan is probably a very lonely experience. I think the internet is a very intimate place, especially the blogging literature scene. For example, when I read someone’s blog, I can focus on their words entirely, and we all know the cliché of how intimate reading is. If I were to meet this same person in ‘real life’ at a bar, we would probably feel weird and vulnerable, thus defensive – and unlikely to act ourselves. The internet is highly mediated, but so is life itself. The internet tends to strip the baggage of ‘normal’ social interaction; it’s hyper real. Plus, if you don’t bathe, you don’t smell.

AS: How often do you google yourself, Chenchen? Be honest. It’s okay if it’s a lot because I heard that every time a writer googles himself an angel gets its wings.
JC: I don’t google myself as much as I google ‘blogsearch’ myself, because 90% of the time I’m mentioned is on a blog. I also tumblr search myself, which is how I found you, dear Ani. I google blogsearch myself about 20 – 25 times a day.

AS: In a certain light – like the purplish fluorescent of my addled brain – Typewriter can be seen as perhaps somewhat apocalyptic. Do you think we are accelerating our demise through technology? Will you and I come to see radical change in society, maybe even the destruction of our current way of life, Chenchen?! Please expand while I hyperventilate into this brown paper bag.
JC: I don’t believe in the Apocalypse. People are always saying how things are getting worse. If you look back at human history, our suffering is basically decreasing. For example: In 1347 we had the Black Death: really really bad. In 1987 we had Whitesnake: just really bad. Now in 2009 we have Typewriter, just bad. See? Things are looking up.

AS: Are you one of those strange people that goes tits for typography, Chenchen? Because no one I know, specially no one that edits this site, has huge green ampersands on their coffee table or anything.
JC: My tit-meter on typography is probably a 7 out of 10. I like it, but I’m not some annoying modern guy with a square couch, a square fruit bowl, and square ass.

AS: But really, serif or sans? Or maybe you want to extol the many virtues of Comic Sans? Go on, you know you want to.
JC: Comic Sans blows. Arial rounded bold is much better. I like sans for web, and serif for print. I prefer Veranda 9pt. for web, and Garamond or Caslon 10pt. for print. I can’t stand the Papyrus font. All the yoga and Chinese restaurants here print their stuff in Papyrus. The last time I did yoga something translucent came out of my ass. The last time I ate at a Chinese restaurant something opaque came out of my ass. I’m very well balanced.

AS: Look, Chenchen, everyone knows that I don’t know shit about writing, but I will attempt a relatively straightforward writing type, writerly question to appease the masses. I felt semi-strongly (unless someone much smarter such as yourself corrects me) that the narrator in Typewriter is detached or aloof or something. I mean, the narrator is often humorous and compassionate but also feels removed and all-knowing. Was that intentional? Do you sit there and think about stuff like that before you write stories?
JC: Smithsmith, you are too self-deprecating. You make a good point about the narrator, which I never thought about. I prefer third-person omniscient, mainly because you have to be really fucking good to write in the first-person in a way that’s remotely interesting. Lolita and Catcher in the Rye are good examples of great first-person, but mostly I find it boring. Basically, other people, or other things, are more interesting than oneself. When I do write in the first-person, it’s never ‘Jimmy Chen,’ but some narrator that’s conceptually tied to the piece.

AS: Totally earnestly, as is my wont: I consider you a successful writer, even though you are not loaded like that Harry Potter lady. I base that on my own definitions of ‘success’ and ‘writer’. Do you consider yourself successful as a writer? What are your definitions of those words, Chenchen?
JC: I don’t feel successful because I don’t have a book out in print that sells a lot. I know that’s a very shallow definition of success, but it’s very persuasive/pervasive. If ‘success’ is being proud of one’s work, then I feel at best ambivalent. If ‘success’ is getting interviewed by the great expatriate Ani Smith, then I’m big time honey. But seriously, I think all people – not just writers – want to be more than they are. For some, it’s salary. For others, it’s physical beauty. The idea of ‘The Embassy of Misguided Zen’ stems from exactly this: being so embedded in ‘western individuality,’ which is essentially narcissism, while unrealistically glorifying Eastern philosophies in an attempt to be ‘detached’ from one’s inherent narcissism. The act of wanting nothing is wanting something. Lydia Davis wrote a great thing which deals with this paradox.

AS: Where does your sexy and slightly inappropriate love of puns come from? I know you have it, Chenchen, don’t lie. You’ve got it bad, baby.
JC: I dunno. I use puns to begin stories, to have something to write about. I don’t feel any imperative subjects to write about. Like, I would never think “I’m going to write a story about two kids on a road trip.” I would just think of a random and absurd pun, and base the story entirely off that. I think I use a lot of devices to distance – as you pointed out earlier – myself from the writing. Maybe I’m afraid of how I really feel. I mean, we’ve all endured existentialism already; there’s no need for chenchen to lament the emptiness within.

AS: Typewriter‘s ending made me smile and I feel like telling everyone about it and ruining it for them so it can be mine all mine and only mine. How are you going to stop me, Chenchen?
JC: I can’t stop you – you’re a woman. When people call me a misogynist, I say “it’s only miso soup, relax bitch”. These puns are out of control, sorry.

AS: What’s your favourite thing in the world right now?
JC: Haha, you spelled favourite like a Brit – welcome to the Commonwealth. My favorite thing in the world right now is avocado. I have high cholesterol and cannot eat bacon or pate or all that stuff I love. Avocado has this fatty feeling which I like in my mouth. Okay everyone, one blowjob joke each …

Ani Smith writes, piffles, tumbles. She’s getting used to this interview thing and holds out hope that it’ll get her laid eventually.

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  1. Possibly the most refreshing interview I’ve read since that vampire one. The level of lasciviousness has got me in stitches. I must insist on more of these witty dialogues.

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