[MetroActive Books]

[ Books Index | SF Metropolitan | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

Shock Talk

[whitespace] Jason Flores-Williams
A Man's Man: Novelist Jason Flores-Williams believes he has the ability to save literature.

Jason Flores-Williams' will to power

By Michelle Goldberg

San Francisco novelist Jason Flores-Williams is so convinced of his own genius that one is almost tempted to believe him. "If Dostoyevsky or Melville is going to come up to anyone and say, 'Here's the torch, go forward, you've got to hold up the mirror to the contemporary American condition,' then I see myself as being able to do that," he says. He's written five novels and published two. His first published book was the alternately despairing and exuberant Kerouac-esque The End of the West, which was completed in a San Francisco residential hotel and published four years ago when he was 24.

But his latest novel, The Last Stand of Mr. America, is so brutally, intensely offensive that it's equally tempting to see Flores-Williams as a self-aggrandizing lunatic. So which is it? A bit of both, most likely--a fitting contradiction for a man who works both as the director of development for the Mexican art gallery Galeria de la Raza and as a political columnist for Hustler magazine.

Published by the local writers collective Caught Inside Press, The Last Stand of Mr. America has moments of dark, raw, sex-stained poetry, as well as ejaculations of sneering adolescent hatred. The story of Sam, a craven, sadistic, self-loathing PR executive who almost finds redemption with a beautiful transsexual in a San Francisco sex club, includes many outbursts such as this:

"The American male must understand that the American Female will have sex at the drop of a hat if treated in cavemanesque fashion. ... Women, in spite of themselves and their protestations, want that thing between their legs to be used properly. Blood and piss comes out there, nasty stuff all the way around and in that capacity they're like fags. A sense of dirtiness is always dogging them. The ultimate, farcical, cover-up bullshit is this Earth Mother crap where vaginal excretions and other crotch products are made to be holy."

Impressed with some of his prose but frightened by his work's hostility, I met Flores-Williams at a Potrero Hill coffee shop to talk about nihilism, misogyny and the future of American literature.

The Last Stand of Mr. America is much angrier and more nihilistic than your other novel, The End of the West. Why?

As I've gotten older or developed more, I've narrowed my belief structure down. To express reality in a novel, the best you can do is to express what you see before you without pulling any punches and without trying to bring any light into it. To be a man of literature, you must have the courage to face the darkness that is the reality in our culture. That's what defines great writers to me, and that's the only thing that's interesting to me.

There is happiness in life, there is meaning in life. However, who we are, and what the contemporary American condition is about, is not about any sincere joy or existential meaning. It's a bunch of people walking around in zombielike fashion who tell themselves that they have meaningful lives, when in actuality we're living in some abysmal hole that's horrific to look at. I can imagine at some point writing about cheerier stuff, but never in a way that's going to relieve anyone of looking in the mirror that is American society, which is a very ugly mirror.

Is The Last Stand of Mr. America a satire?

No. The male in American society is in a pit of shit. He's already dead. The American male is an abjectly lost, foolish person. To put him in any circumstance other than some trenchant buttfucking scene--which is nothing but a metaphor for his daily existence--to me is lying.

How did you research the sex club scenes?

This is what I do. The novel is not really autobiographical, but the way I identify myself sexually is to get into what society would consider perverted situations and just get down and boogie, make it happen. That's what turns me on. When I write, I write 15 hours a day for six months, and I don't even come out of the garage. When I want to fuck, I want to go out and fuck six different people at the same time with everyone on acid. Once you start getting down and dirty and realize that we are human beings and there's glory in that, then we're going to have a chance to go somewhere.

Isn't there a contradiction between working at the relatively PC Galeria de la Raza and for Hustler?

The truly intelligent person doesn't recognize things like PC. You recognize justice. In my personal paradigms, on the one hand I believe in freedom of expression, on the other hand I believe in working for my people.

How did you come to write for Hustler?

My father is serving a 30-year sentence in prison right now for massive drug dealing back in the early '80s. So I began to become a prison activist through my writing, and eventually I became the managing editor of Prison Life. The people at Hustler came to my work through Prison Life and asked me to write on prison issues. I said I'd not only do that, I'll write about a bunch of other shit for you also.

Are you a misogynist?

In all honesty, I've never felt as comfortable as some men feel around women. I've never been completely enamored with the feminine mystique. I wish that I knew women better. But when it comes down to whether or not a person gets an opportunity, or to looking someone in the eye, gender has nothing to do with it. But I'm a man's man.

Is Sam's sexual sadism a reflection of you?

Absolutely. When you hear about domination, pure power over other individuals, it's always given me a boner. My sexuality ties into [Nietzsche's] Will to Power and that sort of thing--and also being dominated, I like that just as much. I guess there's no way out. If you write that kind of stuff and that's part of you, then I guess you are misogynistic.

Are you very influenced by Nietzsche?

If I have a father in this world, it's Friedrich Nietzsche. In fact, I would hope that in some way, down the line--and this is a grand statement--that I would be considered a literary heir to Friedrich Nietzsche.

Where do you get so much arrogance?

I've been involved in literary scenes in New York and here since I was 18 years old. What I've found is that at the age of 28, there might be people who are trying to write novels, or there might be people who are talented spoken-word people, but no one else at the age of 28 has exhibited the ability to grab the literary torch and pass it on. I want to save literature, and I think I have the ability to do that.

[ San Francisco | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the November 2-15, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.