Rosicky Jones sat down with Pitchfork for a wide-ranging interview about his background, his writing style, and the genius of *NSYNC. This is what happened.
Pitchfork: Do you crave critical feedback?
RosickyJones: There was a Mitch Hedberg joke about questions worded with the intention of tripping up the subject…
To do this show, I had to take a physical, and they asked me a lot of medical questions. And they were, like, yes and no questions, but they were very strangely worded. Like, ‘Have you ever tried sugar — or PCP?’
So, no, I don’t crave critical feedback, or the feedback cycle at all. The whole writing process is such an isolated, lonely task. You often grow so close to the words, that you’re unable to see the flaws. Then handing it off to someone only to find out that you’ve created 2000 words of shit, well, it takes a toll.
The odd thing is that for the most part the feedback is usually spot on, you were too close to see it until someone else slapped you cross the face with it. I went away one summer and fell for this bastard of a woman named Heidi. We had spent three months with nary an English speaker within 3-hours of us. I thought she was fantastic and prepped my friends for this incredible girl that I’d met. Once my friends met her, every one, to a man, hated her, she was a chronic one-upper and she had simian features. I was too removed from society, too exclusive with her, to comprehend her horribleness.
So craving feedback is incorrect… I crave approval. I crave bringing home a girl that leaves my friends with semis the first time they lay eyes on her. I crave that moment when someone is moved enough to tell their world about what they’ve just read. And it’s that desire that pervades those pathetic nights spent trying to find an original way to describe a concert, or some other event that I need to write about.
Pitchfork: Your new material is geared toward tougher life issues– aging, mostly, and entering real adulthood. Is that harder to write about?
RJ: Nah, man, you know what’s hard to write… Dr. Seuss. You’re smiling, but I’m serious.
Writing about “tougher issues,” like adulthood and aging, and all the grown up bullshit we encounter on a daily basis is fairly easy, if you’re honest. The differentiating proviso being honesty, that’s why Franzen’s throwaway lines make Nicolas Sparks books seem like the mutterings of a tongue-less illiterate. The more truth the better, but adult topics for an honest writer are not that hard to write about. But childhood, well, we spend our youth trying to escape it; we watch adults and mimic them. We steal as much adulthood as we can hold in our sticky fingers. And now, fully entrenched in adulthood, the ethos of maturity is too obnoxious to avoid. Writing for kids is hard. We spent our childhood running away from it. And we spend adulthood too obtuse to recall that childhood. And when people try and write for kids they dumb it down to a neonatal level.
Syd Hoff made a huge impression on me as a kid. I remember being specifically aware that his writing was gently psychedelic even though I had no idea what psychedelic meant. I knew that his writing was something I hadn’t learned yet. Danny the Dinosaur, Sammy the Seal & and the rest had a greater effect on me than The Grapes of Wrath or any other classic “adult” novel ever had; because those kid books were so good, so moving, that it put me on a lifelong hunt for that feeling. Syd was one of the reasons I read The Grapes of Wrath, because of the fascination he gave me.
That is why writing for kids is the hardest thing to do.
The fucked up part about adults who don’t read or who aren’t the slightest bit interested in learning is that that wasn’t how they came out of the womb. Every little kid comes out fascinated with the world, curious about every little thing, put a book in front of a kid and its first inclination is to open it and try to read, but then something happens that kills that spirit. If we were somehow able to solve that mutation we’d solve so much more than this question asked.
But the Syd Hoffs of the world who have the ability to fuel that flame are special people. And that is why any issues I tackle pale in comparison.
Pitchfork: At the start of your career, you could speak as an outsider to celebrity culture, but now you’re inside of it. Did that shift change your material?
RJ: Bill Maher says that he only wrote one book because writers end up writing the same book over and over. I see his point, and even if I were to concede the point and agree with him, I would counter with a “so.” If that one voice, or that series of redundant books are good, why stop. Yet, I doubt that I am even capable of changing my voice regardless of where I shift my viewpoint.
The advantage that I have is that I am aware of celebrity culture while I’m experiencing it. I don’t want to get too Charlie Kaufman, but the meta-analysis available to someone aware of their position inside celebrity culture has to be rich… it has to have value.
Pitchfork: Social media was a big focus of your writing early on– you had some hilarious correspondences with fans, but you’ve moved away from that, too.
RJ: That’s not really a question, so apparently we’ve moved away from the interview format and are engaged in an actual conversation, so congrats on sidestepping my defenses, hahahaha… hey when I laugh can you please not type ‘lol’ or ‘hahahaha,’ can you actually try and capture the sound of my laugh through text, mphehe cough cough huhuheeee.
Twitter has helped me craft punchier jokes, but I find myself thinking in Tweets when I’m on there too long. I usually have that epiphany when I’m watching a really engaging basketball game while Tweeting. I lay down some gold and begin to think in 140-characters, but I probably should have been taking notes and crafting a column. But damn it, that instant gratification is sometimes too much to discount, too hard to avoid.
Plus, I’m at a weird crossroad where I’m gaining enough readers that are willing to engage with me on Twitter and Facebook, but too many for me to continue saying retarded shit. For example, Rosicky Jones of 2011 can get away with saying “retarded shit” but today’s Rosicky will lose followers and get yelled at for saying the words “retarded shit.”
Pitchfork: There’s a shot of you singing NSYNC at the top of your lungs on South Beach over the weekend, for someone who has clearly branded himself as a hip hop aficionado, how do you explain this?
RJ: I love NSYNC. They were ubiquitous during some of the seminal moments of my life. My first kiss, my first eff, my first joint, my first bloody stool, my first gaydar-fueled assumption (Lance), my first gay-fueled thoughts (Justin), they were everywhere. And, well, the music was good. Well, why explain it when I can play it…
Jones queued up No Strings Attached shockingly quickly and we spent the afternoon drinking cognac lost in Justin’s falsetto.
For more from Rosicky…