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The Coffee Will Make You Black On-line Reading Group's Chat Transcript

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The Coffee Will Make You Black
Reading Group's On-line Chat Transcript 
for Our August
2001 Selection

 click to buy online nowTranscript of On-line Chat Featuring author Mat Johnson

Discussing Drop

Chat Held 
Wednesday September 5th, 2001

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Wed 5:58pm PDT
Thumper

hello

Wed 5:58pm PDT
Mat Johnson

Yo dude.

Wed 5:58pm PDT
Thumper

Hello Mat. How are you doing this evening?

Wed 5:59pm PDT
Mat Johnson

Cooling. Yourself?

Wed 5:59pm PDT
Thumper

I'm doing very well.

Wed 6:00pm PDT
Mat

Okay, now I see what you mean about the update issue.

Wed 6:00pm PDT
Thumper

Don't think anything if no one shows up. *smile* By the time Troy post the transcript it will get over a couple thousand hits the first day.

Wed 6:01pm PDT
Thumper

Yeah, it's our one little bug.

Wed 6:01pm PDT
Mat

Yeah, isn't that wild. I do it too, check out posts later.

Wed 6:01pm PDT
Thumper

How's it going with Drop. Is it flying off the shelves?

Wed 6:02pm PDT
Mat

Actually, Drop did surprisingly

Wed 6:02pm PDT
Mat

well. Long term buzz made up for a small marketing budget.

Wed 6:02pm PDT
Mat

Soft covers going to be a big deal this Feb.

Wed 6:02pm PDT
Thumper

Tell me, is Drop autobiographical or is it largely fiction?

Wed 6:03pm PDT
Mat

Black bookstores have been great, and I thought they'd hate it.

Wed 6:03pm PDT
Mat

Fiction. The publicity thing, they try to

Wed 6:03pm PDT
Mat

make everything sound like nonfiction just to get you interviews since

Wed 6:04pm PDT
Mat

no interviewers actually read the books.

Wed 6:04pm PDT
Mat

I made the whole thing up.

Wed 6:05pm PDT
Mat

I did live in London, I did work at the electric company in Philly, but

Wed 6:05pm PDT
Mat

no event actually happened.

Wed 6:05pm PDT
Mat

My real life is pretty boring.

Wed 6:06pm PDT
Thumper

Sadly, I wasn't aware of the fact that many intervieweres and reviewers haven't read the books that they are reviewing until a couple of months ago. I think that's very destructive.

Wed 6:06pm PDT
Mat

It's a sad industry, no

Wed 6:06pm PDT
Mat

interviewers have time to read the book, promo budgets are tiny, readers

Wed 6:07pm PDT
Mat

tend not to buy new authors, since books take so much time and money. But

Wed 6:07pm PDT
Mat

you just got to do it for the love.

Wed 6:07pm PDT
Thumper

Why were you surprised about the reaction of the black bookstores?

Wed 6:07pm PDT
Mat

But, Thump, that's why you rule.

Wed 6:08pm PDT
Thumper

LOL Yeah, right. LOL

Wed 6:08pm PDT
Mat

The book is irreverent and the black world

Wed 6:08pm PDT
Mat

is often a field of sacred cows.

Wed 6:08pm PDT
Mat

It's about men, too.

Wed 6:09pm PDT
Mat

It's not the literary equivalent of a soap opera, or overtly political and

Wed 6:09pm PDT
Mat

that's the pre-existing black market, its strength is

Wed 6:10pm PDT
Mat

its originality, which is also its marketing weakness.

Wed 6:10pm PDT
Mat

Thing is, I write for an imaginary black reader, so

Wed 6:10pm PDT
Mat

I was so happy about their response.

Wed 6:11pm PDT
Thumper

I believe most people in the industry make to big of a deal about what we are actually reading.

Wed 6:12pm PDT
Mat

They have no idea what we are actually reading, they

Wed 6:12pm PDT
Mat

just know what we are reading that is specifically marketed as black. We're bigger than that.

Wed 6:12pm PDT
Thumper

OK, Mat, forgive if I get the main characters name wrong, but I think his name is Brian and he is aching to get out of Philly. And he comes up with high placing entry in an advertising contest and he goes off to London to work in an ad firm.

Wed 6:13pm PDT
Mat

Close: Chris.

Wed 6:13pm PDT
Thumper

And his entry is an ad for oranges.

Wed 6:14pm PDT
Mat

It's a tale about a black man who isn't a thug, or athletic, or a mack, trying to find a place for himself in the world.

Wed 6:14pm PDT
Thumper

I knew I was going to do that. I'm sorry. I really did read the book. *smile*

Wed 6:14pm PDT
Thumper

Yeah, but he wants his world to be anywhere but Philly. Why?

Wed 6:14pm PDT
Mat

He wants desperately to get out of Philly, and does this ad campaign for oranges that ends up with him moving to black London.

Wed 6:15pm PDT
Mat

I LOVE Philly. That said, it's as big as a place can get and still be a small town. HJe wants to see the world. And

Wed 6:16pm PDT
Mat

he wants to find a place where he as a man, and as a black man, is appreciated and just...fits. Y'know?

Wed 6:16pm PDT
Mat

ps- I'm lost without my spellcheck!

Wed 6:17pm PDT
Mat

The book is also really about class. Where does this growing black middle class fit into the black self identity.

Wed 6:17pm PDT
Thumper

Me too! LOL Yeah, I understand. He goes to work for a man named David in David's small ad firm. Let me say up front, I wanted to smack the Hell out of David at the end of the book.

Wed 6:18pm PDT
Mat

Yeah, the bastards are the most enjoyable characters to write. David is based

Wed 6:19pm PDT
Mat

loosely on a writer named Ray Shell (Iced) who was my

Wed 6:19pm PDT
Mat

r in the writing life.

Wed 6:19pm PDT
Mat

fix- mentor in the writing life.

Wed 6:19pm PDT
Thumper

Now clear this up for me, without completely giving away the ending, David did what he did because of what?

Wed 6:20pm PDT
Mat

David is a man who wants desperatly to escape the mess of his life for America and

Wed 6:20pm PDT
Mat

Chris is the same way towards London. In many ways, David is who Chris would become if he never found himself.

Wed 6:21pm PDT
Mat

Because he was a nutter. Because he was out of control, and part of him released he was going down and taking this dude he loved with him and that the only way

Wed 6:21pm PDT
Thumper

Didn't David have some feelings for his wife? Why send her through all that trauma?

Wed 6:22pm PDT
Mat

to keep that from happening was create a situation where his adoring pupil had to walk away from him.

Wed 6:23pm PDT
Mat

There life was a mess. David is successful, but has been no better at finding a place for himself in the world. By the time Chris meets him, he's already pretty much destroyed himself.

Wed 6:23pm PDT
Mat

Why do any of us hurt the people we love? Damned if I know.

Wed 6:24pm PDT
Thumper

Speaking of hurting the ones we love, or who loves us...your girl Fionna (sp), I could have taken a swing at her myself. What's up with her?

Wed 6:26pm PDT
Mat

I think she actually cared about him, but she was there for the wrong reasons: crashing at his place. But he wanted her for the wrong reasons: her looks, international urbanity. Thing is, she doesn't just leave him. She makes love to him first, when she knows she's leaving and he doesn't, I thought it was kind of tender and pathetic.

Wed 6:27pm PDT
Mat

It sad, a cliche but one you see constantly. I think people get into relationships for the wrong reasons all the time, just sometimes something deeper builds that keeps them there.

Wed 6:27pm PDT
Thumper

But what about spending his money like it was water.

Wed 6:29pm PDT
Mat

He was spending it like water too, really. He gave it all up to David, didn't take responsibility for himself. That's relly why it couldn't last. He had to grow in order to get to the same point again and maintain it.

Wed 6:29pm PDT
Thumper

He loses his job, can't find another, she stays for 15 minutes, then she break camp.

Wed 6:30pm PDT
Mat

Then he plummets into depression, and gets pulled back to the place in his life that he hates the most: the 215!

Wed 6:31pm PDT
Mat

Thing is, his roots in that world weren't his own, they were David's, so when David's gone the ground literally falls out beneath him. See

Wed 6:31pm PDT
Thumper

He comes back home and really starts to grow up, mature. Was it necessary that he return home in order to accomplish this?

Wed 6:32pm PDT
Mat

David keeps trying to get him to believe in himself, he sees Chris's beauty, and tries to get Chris to too. But he never does, largely because he never did it back at home, where the opinions of the people like himself really matter to him. That's his trauma, and that's what he has to go back and deal with before he can move on.

Wed 6:33pm PDT
Mat

It's like the African parable that respect at home far outweighs success abroad.

Wed 6:33pm PDT
Mat

maybe that's why black readers mean so much to me as a writer.

Wed 6:34pm PDT
Thumper

I love the fact that when he returns to London, he's more sure of himself, able to stand on his own and doesn't seem as if he's running away from something, now he's running to. (OK, it's on run on sentence)

Wed 6:35pm PDT
Mat

Yeah, I liked doing that. For a while I thought he should stay in Philly, but then I thought, hell no, there's still not much there for what he wants, and I

Wed 6:36pm PDT
Mat

wanted to have him realize that the one place he picked in London to passionately adopt, Brixton, is as close as you can get to Philly on this side of the Atantic. That's what he didn't realize, even when he was hating his home, he was embracing it.

Wed 6:38pm PDT
Thumper

He was running away from himself.

Wed 6:39pm PDT
Mat

If the man would have just listened to Bob Marley, he would have known you can't do that.

Wed 6:41pm PDT
Mat

That's what literary fiction usually is: characters dealing with themselves.

Wed 6:42pm PDT
Thumper

Ah now, you can't do that, bring in listening to messages in music. *smile* Only I can do that. I like telling my friend didn't you listen when Bessie Smith told you about nobody wanting you when you're down and out. Would Chris have felt the same way if he was a white man, concerning his maturity or finding and accepting himself. Or is it something difference when you throw in the fact that he's black?

Wed 6:43pm PDT
Thumper

And being black throws a different flavor in the pot.

Wed 6:43pm PDT
Mat

Sure. This book could have been set in Boston and Amsterdam, or wherever. There was even movie talk of doing it with white characters but

Wed 6:44pm PDT
Mat

hat you bring to the table with black folks is the uniqu situation of the growing black middle class, and the growing international black community. As travels gotten so much cheaer in the last 20 years, our community has really started to branch out, cross influence. Its a cool time, for that.

Wed 6:45pm PDT
Mat

And the prose. How was I going to get away with riffing and rhythmic prose writing about anybody else?

Wed 6:46pm PDT
Thumper

Your first book is out. People are reading it. What's next? Are you working on your next book?

Wed 6:46pm PDT
Mat

It's sitting right in fron of me,it's called

Wed 6:47pm PDT
Mat

Hunting in Harlem. It's about these real estate agents that start killing of the lowlifes to make the neighborhood better.

Wed 6:47pm PDT
Mat

It'll be out between next fall and Feb 2003. Plus I got

Wed 6:47pm PDT
Thumper

*big smile* Really!! have you started rewrites yet? When can we expect to see it?

Wed 6:48pm PDT
Mat

a nonfiction book called the Great Negro Plot about the squashed slave revolt in NYC in 1741.

Wed 6:49pm PDT
Thumper

No kidding! I like books about slave revolts. I think mainly because they made sure that I didnt' read about them in school.

Wed 6:49pm PDT
Mat

Rewrting it now. When you write, you got to make sure it's the best you can do, because their is a ton of @#$^$#@$ ready to rip it to shreds, or read fifty pages and declare that it sucks so they can go back to watching Big Brother

Wed 6:50pm PDT
Thumper

LOL

Wed 6:50pm PDT
Mat

I like this one because nobody thinks about slaves in Manhattan. And they could have taken over the island too. It makes you think, what if...

Wed 6:52pm PDT
Mat

I'm looking forward to this Feb. though. Drop's being given a

Wed 6:52pm PDT
Thumper

I'm about to wrap it up Mat. Thanks for coming! I apologize for not getting in touch with you earlier in the month like I should have. Do you have any parting words for the people?

Wed 6:53pm PDT
Mat

new black image cover and they're sending me out to 24 cities to promote it. Most of my readers are really cool to.The creme.

Wed 6:53pm PDT
Mat

It's like you get to encounter all these friends you haven't met yet.

Wed 6:54pm PDT
Thumper

That's good, man.

Wed 6:54pm PDT
Mat

Thank you for having me, I check out the site on the regular. Thumper, thank you so much for your work promoting quality books. And if anybody wants to, I read the reader reviews on Amazon and here (ps-

Wed 6:56pm PDT
Mat

how is a dude who calls himself "Knowledge going to call me corny??? Is that name like when they call the bald guy in the Three Stooges "Curly?")

Wed 6:56pm PDT
Mat

I jest- Thanks again and good night- M

Wed 6:57pm PDT
Thumper

LOL Look, don't get me to lyin' LOL It's been a pleasure. We'll have to do this again. Keep in touch.

Wed 6:57pm PDT
Mat

Peace [has logged off the chat room]

Wed 6:57pm PDT
Thumper

Good night, Mat.














 

 

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