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An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 13.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Nine)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: January 22, 2017

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,690

ISSN 2369-6885

lh-5628-cropped-mar-22-15-ls

Abstract

An interview with Lawrence Hill. He discusses: success in the novels in humanization of the de-humanized; thoughts on the development of ideas about blood through non-scientific ideas as it relates to sexism; refugees crises informing The Illegal; ways the arts community can humanize the downtrodden, the desperate, the fleeing, and the suffering; family reaction to this fun and silliness, and the relationship between fun and silliness, and good prose; main message or messages of The Book of Negroes, The Illegal, Blood: The Stuff of Life, and Dear Sir, I intend to Burn Your Book.

Keywords: author, Lawrence Hill, novelist, writer.

An Interview with Lawrence Hill: Professor, Creative Writing, University of Guelph, and Author, Novelist, and Writer (Part Four)[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been mildly edited for clarity and readability.*

39. Earlier in the interview, your work, focus, and emphasis in literary work and in personal volunteer work is a humanistic perspective. I was half-right. Not half-wrong, I missed one crucial element. There is a humanitarianism. For example, The Book of Negroes and The Illegal aim to humanize the de-humanized. That is, the contextualization of the humanity of a slave and a refugee, respectively. Did these novels succeed in the humanization of the de-humanized?

I do not know if they have succeeded. I am not the best judge of my own work. Critics and readers are in a better position to judge my work. But yes, I did attempt to humanize the de-humanized in the world. Two types of people profoundly de-humanized in their experiences are those enslaved or subject to war and genocide — people forced to take refuge, often without legal documentation, in countries that don’t want them.

One of the justifications used by people who perpetuate genocide or state-sponsored oppression is to claim that the victims have impure blood, or are inferior human beings. It is almost a precondition to carrying out genocide and massive mistreatment of people. They are not the same as us. They are not human like us. They are less than us. Therefore, we can treat them badly.

In general, people hiding in countries where they do not belong – where they do not have any status as legal residents — are despised by the authorities. It is a negative thing living without legal right in a country that does not want you. You are made to feel base and less than human. You are not welcome. If you are caught, you may be deported. So how do you make a living? How do you care for your children? Who can help you if you are threatened or hurt? I tried in The Illegal and The Book of Negroes to give humanity to people whose humanity has been ignored.

40. Earlier in the interview and in the response, you mentioned the purity or impurity of blood. My favourite part of Blood: The Stuff of Life comes from discussion about misconceptions of menstruation. Those conceptions were wrong from modern scientific standards. It was used to see women as inferior. As you document, these wrong theories continue to arise. You showed non-scientific ideas can have terrible consequences. What are your thoughts on the development of ideas about blood through non-scientific ideas as it relates to sexism?

I do not know if we can blame sexism on Aristotle, but he did fulminate about the supposed inferiority of women’s blood and speculate about the reasons women’s menstrual blood makes them inferior to men

As far as I know, the Spanish Inquisition in Medieval Spain represents the first time that a state attempts to link the ideas of blood purity and race and uses this vile connection to perpetuate genocide, torture and deportation.

During the Spanish Inquisition, thousands of Jews and Muslims were burned at the stake, dispossessed or deported because their blood was deemed impure in relation to the reigning Catholic monarchs. Since that time, over and over again we have drawn upon absolute evil notions of blood to ‘whip up’ hatred and justify mistreatment of those that we wish to subjugate.

41. If you look at the early 20th century, we have The Holocaust. Similarly, if we look at the early 21st century, we have a singular tragedy in the Syrian refugee crisis. 12,000,000 Syrians are refugees, or more. By comparison with the total Canadian population, that is about 1/3 of Canada, at least. That rhetoric of those mentioned and unstated can be damaging to people in a similar manner as with blood or on being a ‘real [fill in the blank]’ (American, Canadian, and so on). These are individual human beings going through extraordinary circumstances.

You worked for the Ontario Welcome House at Toronto Pearson International Airport welcoming refugees at age 16.  My sense is deep empathy for refugees from you. Also, something unstated about them. This experience never leaves them. That is, it is important to get compassion right the first time. Related to The Book of Negroes, Aminata’s life is marked forever by the experience of being stolen and enslaved. Her entire travels, life story, and narrative of being taken against her will out of Bayo is ever after marked by this. This was important for The Illegal with Keita Ali as well. How did this and the current Syrian refugee crisis inform the foundation for this novel as the events in Syria progressed?

The refugee crisis in Syria did not inform the writing of The Illegal. Like many Canadians and most people around the world, I was not aware of the buildup of refugees in Syria when I wrote the novel. The novel was finished well before we talked openly in the West, about that particular refugee crisis. However, there were many other refugee crises in the world and they did inform The Illegal

42. We have images of the Vietnamese woman fleeing napalm bombs, Aylan Kurdi, and so on. The phenomenon of genocide neglect is real. Individual images and stories move hearts more than statistics and news reports. How might the arts community humanize the downtrodden, the desperate, the fleeing, and the suffering?

There is a role for every type of person in talking about the downtrodden and the suffering, and in this case the plight of refugees. There is a role for great humanitarians in the field attempting to alleviate immediate suffering in refugee camps. There are advocates working for organizations. They speak up. They tell us the results of studies. There are activists and university professors.

There are lawyers. There are politicians learning a great deal about the plight of refugees. There are endless numbers of organizations from the United Nations onward. They produce reports for the public to read about it. There are people and organizations with things to share. There are journalists. They do a great job bringing the information about the world to us.

There is narrative too. Artists can more intensely, efficiently, and with more ardor, passion, and success than a typical historian, journalist or university professor excite and trigger the imagination. The artist is capable of taking somebody by the collar and saying, “Look at this person. Behold this humanity!”

The role of the artist is to connect with the humanity of the individuals perceiving the art. It is to excite and stir and provoke people.

It is the work that I do in life. It is my contribution. I do not want to overstate it. I do not want to understate the role of the artist. The artist is not unlike the rabbi, the imam, or the priest. A person who evokes the story of humanity to evoke or elicit faith. We all need story to understand ourselves. We need narrative to understand the world and our place in it.

Some of us look to religion. Others look to art for the same thing: guidance. For words that tell us how to be, remind us of the deeper truer values, that set us on the right path. Religion plays a similar role in satisfying a fundamental need to be told a story, how to be, and how to be good in the world.

43. In the Hill household, you are known as the broom dancer, especially to some good R&B music. You mentioned the playful tone of A.A. Milne’s Disobedience What R&B music? What is the family reaction to this fun and silliness? What is the relationship between fun and silliness, and good prose?

All great R&B music whether Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and everything in between. There were several forms of music that dominated my childhood: jazz, blues (thanks to my mother and father), and R&B music. R&B music was ascendant as I entered into the teenage years, which was natural for anyone in my generation. I’m 59. It was a musical household.  I played poorly.

My brother went on to become a professional musician. My parents weren’t musicians. However, they played music in the house and sang all the time. R&B, jazz, and blues were staples of our musical expression in the living room and the kitchen in the household. It affected all of the children. My brother, sister, and I were affected profoundly. It emerges in our work too.

Playfulness and silliness is vital. You could not love well without being relaxed and able to be playful. You cannot learn language well if you’re too uptight and unwilling to make mistakes. One key to learning new languages is willingness to make mistakes and make a fool of yourself. Of course, if you’re a child or an infant, you do not need to worry about those things. You haven’t learned those worries.

You have to relax to love well. You have to relax to learn language. In my experience, you have to relax to produce good art. You have to be able to be fun, silly, playful, and to rejoice in life in all of its forms.

If you do not relax, you will not get the most out of your mind. As a writer, you should be rejoicing in human play and the play of language.

I tend to be too serious most of the time. So, people like to see me fool around, dance with brooms, and play with and entertain children – who are now grown. They still like to see it.  My father was an incredibly serious man in his role as a human rights activist and historian.[5] He would wind down by watching Westerns, boxing, or track-and-field on television, maybe football.

He would holler at the TV. He needed to relax to be able to go back the next day to work that was often soul crushing. Most people who have healthy balance in life would appreciate and need to be silly and playful. It takes a certain amount of trust to know that the people around you will not judge or despise you because you are letting your guard down in being playful and silly.

Without that, there’s no hope for humanity.

(Laugh)

44. If we take The Book of Negroes, The Illegal, Blood: The Stuff of Life, and Dear Sir, I intend to Burn Your Book, you more well-known works at least. What is the main message or set of messages that you wish to get across?

I always have trouble answering that type of question. I do not think about the message with a capital “M” when I write a work of fiction. Let’s set aside non-fiction for a minute, that is a little different. Readers do not like to be preached at or to be told what to think or feel. One stance to take as a writer is to assume that your reader is smarter than you. The reader does not need to be lectured on how to read or interpret things.

People come to their own conclusions. Present the story that you are able to present. Most discriminating readers react negatively to being held by the hand and told how to read, and having everything explained to them. It is dangerous to come to the job with a message to hammer into the heads of your, in my case, readers.

I do not begin writing a novel with the idea of disseminating a set of messages. Most writers of fiction hope that their messages will be a happy byproduct of drama. In my fiction, I meditate on the resilience of the human spirit and the miracle of being caring and loving even after suffering abuses of the worst kinds. Millions of people continue to display that resilience today. It is not Aminata Diallo or Keita Ali alone.

Many, many of them are showing the same resilience Aminata showed in The Book of Negroes. One message is to pause and appreciate the resilience of the human spirit. I do not try to jam that into the prose or attempt to willfully insert a message. I try to write a story. I hope that somehow between the lines the reader will divine the other things.

Thank you for your time, Larry.

I thank you for your time. I have to say that I don’t think I’ve ever been interviewed by somebody who had such a profound grasp of such a wide variety of things that I’ve shared, written, or spoken about whether they are personal, professional, or things to do with my books or my family life. I’ve been quite astounded by the reach of your work and I can only imagine that you’ve invested a huge amount of time in getting your head around a person’s life and expressions, in this case mine. Thank you for that.

Bibliography

  1. A. Milne. (2016). InEncyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/A-A-Milne.
  2. [Kelly Mark]. (2013, October 21). Hold On – Dan Hill. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFxfiWk3rT4&list=RDwFxfiWk3rT4#t=1.
  3. Hill, L. (2013). Blood: The Stuff of Life. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press.
  4. Hill, L. (2013). Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning. Edmonton, AB: The University of Alberta Press.
  5. Hill, L. (2007). The Book of Negroes. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
  6. Hill, L. (2015). The Illegal. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
  7. Hill, K. (2016). Café Babanussa: A Novel. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
  8. Milne, A.A. (n.d.). Disobedience. Retrieved from https://allpoetry.com/Disobedience.
  9. Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. (2016). The Freedom Seeker: The Life and Times of Daniel G. Hill. Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/online/dan_hill/index.aspx.
  10. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2016). The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Professor, Creative Writing, University of Guelph; Author; Novelist; and Writer.

[2] Individual Publication Date: January 22, 2017 at www.in-sightjournal.com; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017 at https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] B.A., Economics, Laval University; M.A., Creative Writing, John Hopkins University.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Hill and photograph credit to Lisa Sakulensky.

[5] Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. (2016). The Freedom Seeker: The Life and Times of Daniel G. Hill. Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/online/dan_hill/index.aspx.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four) [Online].January 2017; 13(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2017, January 22). An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A, January. 2017. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2017. “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A (January 2017). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 13.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 13.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 13.A (2017):January. 2017. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Four) [Internet]. (2017, January; 13(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-four.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 13.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Nine)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: January 15, 2017

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,860

ISSN 2369-6885

lh-5628-cropped-mar-22-15-ls

Abstract

An interview with Lawrence Hill. He discusses: most appealing ethical philosophy; humanistic tendencies; most appealing economic and political philosophy; reflection on Roy Groenberg and Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning (2013); emotion evoked from book burning; risks and benefits associated with the advent of the Internet and digitization of books; importance of freedom of speech, expression, and the press; The Book of Negroes (2007), transforming non-readers into readers, and the feeling that comes from this; means to volunteer for prisons; contents of the nightmares conveyed in The Book of Negroes; reason for the name Aminata Diallo; and The Illegal (2015) and The Book of Negroes common threads.

Keywords: Aminata Diallo, author, blood, Lawrence Hill, novelist, prisons, Roy Groenberg, writer.

An Interview with Lawrence Hill: Professor, Creative Writing, University of Guelph, and Author, Novelist, and Writer (Part Three)[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been mildly edited for clarity and readability.*

27. What ethical philosophy most appeals to you?

I don’t have an answer in my back pocket.

(Laugh)

(Laugh)

Clearly, we can draw a great inspiration from the great religious traditions. Not harming people, and showing respect and love is a great start.

28. That sounds humanistic to me. Does that seem accurate to you?

Is that opposed to religion?

There’s humanism in and of itself.

Yes, that is accurate. It is possible to borrow, embrace, and accept the great traditions from religious texts without accepting the religious beliefs on which they are predicated. If I have to go to an ethical philosophy, not doing harm and trying to do good, and not showing hate and showing love toward all people in the world would be a good starting point.

I am going to confess. I don’t know the real meaning of humanism. You might attribute specific meaning to the term. I attribute the meaning in a general way. If humanism means that to you, that is wonderful. However, you might have a more complex and nuanced definition.

29. That’s a good coda statement on it. What economic and political philosophy most appeals to you?[5]

I do not believe in unfettered capitalism. I do not believe in the Adam Smith idea. That is, the pursuit of one’s own individual profit above all as necessary to ensure that people thrive in society. Clearly, in pure capitalism, we would see some people abandoned and starving.

For people to thrive, in a loving definition of the word “thrive,” I flirted with ideas of socialism and communism at an early age. I find much to admire in it, but I am not a socialist or a communist. I believe in the hybrid of socialism and capitalism.

I believe that people should be free to pursue their individual economic interests, but that they should support a strong, democratically-elected government that tends to those who are disenfranchised or not thriving, and that focuses on the development and protection of public goods and services such as roads, schools, hospitals, health care, our environment, our water supply, foreign aid and international relations.

I also want to live in a society that embraces and encourages volunteer activity, non-profit groups and organizations serving a wide range of community needs.

30. You write at home. You might write at a friend’s cottage. You leave a couple to a few times a year to enter into isolation to write, intensely. You wrote an essay entitled Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning (2013) based on a letter from a Surinamese Dutchman named Roy Groenberg.[6] You wrote back in an “outrageously Canadian” way – with tact and politeness. Based on that tone, in hindsight, what would have been the appropriate response to Mr. Groenberg at the time?

I do not feel my response was inappropriate. There would not have been a point in being aggressive. I do not know if I would have done anything differently, if it happened today. I offered an explanation about the origins of the title of my novel The Book of Negroes in my first email to Mr. Groenberg. He was not interested in explanations, in reading the book, or in talking about it.

He was interested in escalating the conflict. It is hard to talk to somebody who seeks to escalate conflict. There does not seem to be a point. The other possibility would have been to ignore him, and not to confront the issue in an essay for The Toronto Star.

I don’t know if I wrote things perfectly. I don’t walk around with a great sense of pride about it, but I do feel that I reacted to the issue in accordance with my own values. I would not have reacted any differently today.

31. On page 31 to 32, you closed:

The very purpose of literature is to enlighten, disturb, awaken and provoke. Literature should get us talking – even when we disagree. Literature should bring us into the same room – not over matches, but over coffee and conversation it should inspire recognition of our mutual humanity. Together. I can’t see any good coming out of burning or banning books. Let’s talk, instead.[7]

What emotion does book burning evoke you?

Fear and horror, a sense that we are witnessing a precursor to physical violence. It makes me think of people whose anger has run amok and are interested in wreaking vengeance and hurting. It makes me think of the Holocaust during which huge numbers of books by Jewish writers were burned.

It makes me think of a person or a group of people who have decided that there is no point in civil dialogue. It makes me think about people who want to intimidate, silence and hurt others.  I am troubled by book burning – even a book that I despise. Every person should be entitled to write a book, or to despise a book, but when we discover differences of opinion, they should be addressed through conversation and debate – not by means of book burning or violence.

32. With the advent of the Internet or the World Wide Web, and the distribution of books via digitization, are there greater risks or lesser risks with respect to that form of prevention of certain ideas getting out in books (or electronic books “e-books”) – whether someone hates them or loves them?

I am not sure. If you write a blog, you can disseminate your ideas infinitely faster than if you are writing a book. You have the potential to reach millions of people immediately. On the other hand, if you live in a country that oppresses freedom of speech, the state can use the same type of electronic technology to find you, punish you and stifle public discussion.

33. All texts, and therefore authors, are susceptible to this drastic and emotive form of censorship. What makes freedom of speech, expression, and press important to you?

As a writer in a democracy, and as a consumer of literature and media of all forms, I’m not alone in treasuring freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, and freedom to read. These freedoms are fundamental to democratic societies.

However, there are limits to such freedoms, especially when individual freedom collides with public interest. For example, I believe in anti-hate legislation. I don’t believe that you should be allowed to stand on a street corner and incite violence, or publish a document that advocates genocide, or publish child pornography.

So I believe in freedom of speech but recognize that in a few limited instances, the public good will outweigh individual freedom.

34. Your most well-known work, The Book of Negroes (2007)[8], took five years to write. Many consider The Book of Negroes a masterpiece and its author a genius. As discussed earlier, that is a long time to write a text, work within your own imagination, and not know if there is an interest in the general Canadian culture and the international literary world. You have a woman, a hairdresser, named Rebecca Hill – no relation. She cuts the hair for the family. She graduated from high school and never read a book. You gave her The Book of Negroes. She has become an avid reader ever since. You contributed to a non-reader becoming a reader in personal life. The novel has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, which means, statistically, this transformation of non-readers into readers seems reasonable to expect for numerous others as well. How does this feel to you?

To witness a person – and sometimes an adult – discover the joy of reading brings me great pleasure and satisfaction. Becky Hill is a friend of my wife, children and me. I gave her The Book of Negroes. She read it, loved it, and then let me know that it was the first book she had ever read. Since that day, she has become an inveterate reader and when I stop by to get my hair cut, she always tells me what she has been reading. When I come across a book that is “rooftop good” – good enough to shout about from a rooftop – I like to give it to her. Books have given us the means to share a friendship.

Years ago, I had a wonderful experience working in a prison for young offenders in Oakville, Ontario, for one school term. I was asked to work with a small group of incarcerated teenage boys. My job was to try to get them reading. They were reluctant to read, even though they knew how to read. By the end of the term, they avidly read.

It felt like a glorious achievement. To work with young people who are down on their luck and living behind bars, and to turn them into avid readers, felt like one of the greatest achievements in my life.

35. With respect to the prison population and literacy, how might someone volunteer for prisons in the area?

Often, one of the best things to do is to align with an active, reputable organization. I have been one of many volunteers for a non-profit, charitable group called Book Clubs for Inmates. It distributes books without charge to inmates in federal penitentiaries and organizes book club discussions in those same institutions.

So a person who is interested in promoting reading and literacy among prisoners might choose to volunteer for a group such as Book Clubs for Inmates.

I have recently become a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph in Ontario, and one form of community service that I have been contemplating would be to be a mentor or teacher of creative writing to prison inmates. That is something I plan to explore.

36. The Book of Negroes discusses the narrative of Aminata Diallo. A young African stolen from Bayo, Mali and sailed to America and enslaved. She was the same age as your eldest child at the time. You had nightmares in constructing this narrative. It was painful. In fact, you worked to write past this part, quickly. What were the contents of those nightmares?

People being murdered, orphaned, thrown overboard into the sea, watching their families or villages being burned down. All of the things that happened in the book.

37. You’ve volunteered with Crossroads International in Cameroon, Mali, Niger, and Swaziland. To name your protagonist, you used the common Malian name Aminata based on meeting a midwife in Mali. The name means “trustworthy” and Diallo means “bold.” Selecting the name for a character is vital, why this name?

It is vital. It is a beautiful name. It is a common name. It is as common as Mary and Joanne in Canada. I could have chosen another name. It struck me as an immensely beautiful name. It is a mouthful, Aminata, but not too much of a mouthful. In North America, it seems foreign, but accessible. I love the sound of it. All of the vowels. It evokes the name of a midwife who was dignified, splendid, and courageous in her work. With my daughter, it helped me imagine a young woman who was in a way my own daughter.

38. Your recent novel, The Illegal (2015), focuses on a man that runs in a literal and metaphorical way.[9] For instance, he was in a place, Zantoroland, where there were great runners. He hoped to join the Olympics. That was shoved to the side in a moment. He was running for life. In one part of The Book of Negroes, I noticed Aminata described African peoples are “travelling people” and moves out of necessity, akin to Keita Ali, throughout the novel from Bayo to Carolina to New York to Nova Scotia to Mali to London. I note a thread through these two texts with movement, history, ownership, literacy, bonds, and survival. Each seem like threads in The Book of Negroes and The Illegal. What were some other threads brought into the novel that reflect personal concerns about the downtrodden for you?

I am interested in movement, voluntary and involuntary. We can agree Aminata’s abduction in Africa, being sent to North America, and enslaved until freeing herself is a form of involuntary migration. She did not choose to leave a village in Africa. She did not choose to move to America and leave Africa. That was involuntary. Keita’s movement in The Illegal might be considered voluntary. He chooses to leave the country. Although, it is a country where he is not welcome. His movement is voluntary on the one hand, but he does not have many options. If he does not leave his country, he will be killed.

In an earlier novel of mine called Any Known Blood (1997), I followed a family of five generations of men who move back-and-forth between Maryland and Ontario.[10] Each generation leaves one jurisdiction and goes into the other over five generations. Those were, for the most part, voluntary as well, but we have people escaping slavery.

For instance, we have the underground railroad. You might see that as voluntary, but attempting to save their lives and freedom at the same time. I am interested in migration, dislocation, and alienation. I have an interest in how identity alters in one’s eyes and in the eyes of those around you, especially as you move across the world or a piece of land. These seem to be continually arising issues: dislocation and marginality.

Many writers have themes to which they return in their books. For example, the Canadian novelist Jane Urquhart writes about people in the Irish diaspora and explores the lives of visual artists, over and over again in her books. My work is preoccupied by dislocation, migration, and alienation.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Professor, Creative Writing, University of Guelph; Author; Novelist; and Writer.

[2] Individual Publication Date: January 15, 2017 at www.in-sightjournal.com; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017 at https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] B.A., Economics, Laval University; M.A., Creative Writing, John Hopkins University.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Hill and photograph credit to Lisa Sakulensky.

[5] Mr. Hill earned a B.A. in Economics from Laval University.

[6] Hill, L. (2013). Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning. Edmonton, AB: The University of Alberta Press.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Hill, L. (2007). The Book of Negroes. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

[9] Hill, L. (2015). The Illegal. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

[10] Hill, L. (1997). Any Known Blood. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

 

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three) [Online].January 2017; 13(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2017, January 15). An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A, January. 2017. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2017. “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A (January 2017). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 13.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 13.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 13.A (2017):January. 2017. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Three) [Internet]. (2017, January; 13(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-three.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 13.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Nine)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: January 8, 2017

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,767

ISSN 2369-6885

lh-5628-cropped-mar-22-15-ls

Abstract

An interview with Lawrence Hill. He discusses: the motivation for compassionate truth; religious or secular worldview influencing it; long time to write novels and this as either part of habit or personality; view on books in terms of their personal importance; strengths and weaknesses of the writing style; reason for writing more non-fiction than fiction; importance of nearly dying; importance of Malcolm X as an influence on him; influence of Martin Luther King on him; meaning of blood to him; and the dangers of associating blood with race or religion.

Keywords: author, blood, Lawrence Hill, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, novelist, race, religion, writer.

An Interview with Lawrence Hill: Professor, Creative Writing, University of Guelph, and Author, Novelist, and Writer (Part Two)[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been mildly edited for clarity and readability.*

16. One thing that comes from the written word by you. For me, the genuine compassion and open-heartedness in pursuit of real narratives and concern for people. You write on slaves. You write on immigrants. You write on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press. Uncomfortable truths are still truths. The truth matters. To me, this seems humanistic. Universal truths relevant to everyone. What motivates this passion for compassionate truth?

It’s giving back. Most writers examine issues of injustice, imbalance, or societal wrongs, whether they are tiny wrongs or tiny instances of public awareness. No matter how heinous, tiny wrongs done in the household up to genocides perpetuated on the whole mass of people.

Writers tend to explore inhumanity. Hopefully, to put a stop to it or protest against it, I’m not alone in this. Writing is a profoundly moral act. You’re asserting your morality every time that you pick up a pen and take it to the page. For me, writing is engaging with the world.

Writing is a way of expressing our own humanity, failings, a way of struggling to make sense of life and inhumanity, and to push ourselves to a better place. But when I am at work writing, I don’t think on such a grand scale. Typically, it is pedestrian and manageable. I am burning to tell a story.

17. Any religious or secular framework, perspective, or worldview supporting it?

No. Certainly, not a religious framework, I was raised by two atheists. Those two atheists in turn were raised by two religious people. On my father’s side, my grandfather and great grandfather were both ministers in the African Episcopal Church in the United States.

My father went from being a church minister to being an atheist. I have great interest in religion and people’s perception of religion throughout history. Religion sometimes informs my stories, but I’m not a religious person myself.

18. You take three to five years to write a novel. You let the ideas, the contexts, and the personalities percolate for some time. Does this seem like an aspect of habit or personality?

I let them percolate in a passive way. I’m writing, writing, and writing, and not feeling happy with drafts. I keep writing again, and then rewriting. I take a long time.

(Laugh)

Unfortunately, it takes me that long, 3 to 5 years, to write a novel. I need to feel satisfied with it.

I wish I could write faster, but I don’t seem to be able to do so. It takes time for characters to form, show themselves to me, and to get my head around the story. It is like giving birth on the page to a whole life or a set of lives. It’s hard for me to get my head around all of that and to bring it to the page.

Generally, I write non-fiction more quickly. I take 6-12 months to write a work of non-fiction.

19. You used the phrase “giving birth.” That seems to mirror some common themes among many writers. In a way, their book is like a child to them. How do you view your books in terms of their personal importance, especially based on the effort and time put into them?

I’m using the expressions of my own soul. Each form is different. In general, I try not to rank them in terms of value. It is better for other people to decide which book is better or worse. I don’t want to be in competition with myself.

That is, I don’t want to love any work more than another. I want to love them all in their own way. Each book is part of my mind, heart, and soul at the time of writing. However, once you’re done the production, the healthiest thing is to set them aside and move on.

I might read a translation or adapt a work for a mini-series. And I will tour and give readings and talks. But aside from working obligations, I don’t return to a book once I have finished writing it.

20. As you’re writing, it is not a passive percolation. Once done, the books are put to the side. At the same time, as you’ve noted, it takes time to get them out, but you’d rather get them out faster. What seems like the strengths and weaknesses of this writing style?

(Laugh)

The weakness is I’m a slow writer. Some writers might produce 40 or 50 books in their lifetime. That won’t be the case with me. I’ll be lucky to write 5 more. So, I don’t have a body of work as extensive as some.

Ultimately, that’s okay. I work on my own terms. In the final analysis, if I write 10 or 15 books, it doesn’t matter. I am pursuing art in the best way for me. That matters to me.

The upside, it is important to be honest and faithful to yourself. When I write and produce, I work on something that reflects my own heart. It is an authentic reflection of longing, loving, and living. I’ve managed to get in tune with myself. I’ve found a way to express myself that feels authentic and rich.

21. You’ve written more works of non-fiction than fiction. Why?

Yes, I have written more non-fiction than fiction. I can write non-fiction faster. That’s the most practical reason. Two of the works of non-fiction were very slight, minor books. They were early career productions. Nobody knows about them. They are not available or no longer in print. They are in Canadian history.

I am proud of them. Even so, they are slight, minor books. If you put those books away, the slate is mixed. It leaves four more substantial books of non-fiction and four of fiction. In general, the works of non-fiction are more focused. They are thinner. They hone in on more specific targets.

22. You worked in Niger. You suffered from gastroenteritis. It kills millions of people around the world every year. It is a prominent killer throughout the African Diaspora. You were given blood transfusions. You nearly died. You have pointed out the important aspect of this to you. What was the importance of this event to you – and the blood transfusion?

It was a turning point, emotionally. It was important because I almost died. Apart from getting over the moment of danger, it provided the chance to reflect on my own racial identity.

Something that had been worrying me until the time of when I got sick at the age of 22. With the illness, I dropped the worry in a nanosecond. I no longer felt anxious about my own racial identity or who I was, or what people saw in me.

I felt no need to worry about it anymore. I came to accept, much more calmly, being both black and white. I had family ancestry spanning two continents. I didn’t have to worry other people’s perceptions of me. It didn’t matter. I knew myself.

It was a significant moment triggered by the illness in Niger in 1979. It took me to a place of emotional calm and confidence with regard to my own identity.

23. At the age of 15, Malcolm X was an important influence for you. What was the importance to you? How did that develop over time?

The Autobiography of Malcolm X written by Alex Haley. It was one of the first books for adults that I read. If you read a book that transports you and shapes you in your youth, then you’ll probably never forget it.

Books have a real mark on a young person, if that young person adores the book. You don’t forget it. Malcolm X, as he’s moving through prison, stepping out of prison, embracing Islam, hating white people, and declaring white people were devils incarnate.

He argued white people were devils. He believed that. He mounts a very racist, hateful argument during his early militancy. However, before the assassination, he becomes more compassionate. He envisions a more diverse picture of Islam. He comes to accept through his travels around the world that people of different racial backgrounds can be Muslims.

He was hard to read in print. That is, some ideas were nonsensical and oppressive to me. For example, such as his saying white people were devils incarnate. At the same time, he went to a better place with the diverse image of Islam. I was moved and shaken by Malcolm X’s writings as a teenager. He stayed with me all of these decades.

24. Martin Luther King was concomitant with him in terms of the period and the importance. Did he have any influence on you as well?

Yes, I was born in 1957. It was easy to be influenced by Martin Luther King. Even though, I was a boy at the time of the assassination. I’m from a generation that was most affected by Martin Luther King. His message of love and peace, and a color blind world. It allowed people to search and develop regardless of their race, creed, and color.

Also, he was a pacifist. He gave his life to advance the cause of civil rights. He was a hero of the generation. He was essential to my notion of courage, dignity, love, and transcendence of human evil.

25. Cornel West describes that as a love that starts on the chocolate side of the city and spills over to the vanilla side. In any case, the ideas of the purity or impurity of blood can lead to atrocities: The Holocaust and the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition is the expelling and murder of Jews and Muslims from Spain based on the idea of their impurity. What is blood to you?

The perpetrators of the Spanish Inquisition expelled and murdered Jews and Muslims in great numbers. They burned them to death. They tortured them. They committed all manner of atrocities in addition to expelling tens of thousands or more.

“Blood” is many things to me. Blood is the physical fluid that pumps through our body. It keeps us alive. It can be given and replenished inside the body, which is rare. There aren’t many things that we can donate from our bodies.

People can’t donate a liver, a kidney, a toe, a finger, or an eyeball and have it grow back. In addition to being this ‘magical fluid’ that replenishes itself, blood represents life. It represents mortality.

It represents good. It represents religion. It represents nationhood. It represents gender. Blood evokes individual and collective identity. Blood can unite us. We can be generous and immediate in helping others with our blood.

When we see that our brothers or sisters are in danger, have been terrorized at the Boston Marathon or during 9/11, we can rush to the hospital and donate blood. We do this without public recognition or personal reward.

Blood can bring out the best in us. Also, it can bring out the worst in us such as nasty preoccupations, which can lead into the hell of genocide.

One of the easiest ways over time employed to demonize people and to justify murder is to suggest their blood is unequal to our blood. That their blood is impure. It is a very common, human feeling. We come back to this repeatedly to justify evil and murder.

We dehumanize victims. Blood has an important role as a metaphor. Sometimes for good. Sometimes for evil. It depends on personal conduct. It is more than the fruit of the body. It is a way of seeing ourselves. It is a way of loving. Also, it can be a way of hating.

26. We have the Rwandan genocide, Cambodian genocide, The Holocaust, and the Spanish Inquisition. Each relates to the ideas about the impurity of others’ blood. It justifies murder and subjugation in the mind of the murderer and subjugator. What other dangers exist with blood being associated with race or religion?

That’s a complicated question. I wrote about this in Blood: The Stuff of Life (2013).[5] In a nutshell, we have these ideas about blood, which are unscientific and unrelated to reality. Even as recent as the Second World War, the American government made it illegal for blood from black donors to be given to white recipients.

Even though, at the time, it was completely understood that compatibility between donor and recipient has nothing to do with race. Do the blood types match? That’s the question. If it’s a black donor and white recipient, or white donor and black recipient, it doesn’t matter.

Politics trump science. It becomes law because there’s fear of black people in white America. Bad science and bad social policies touch on this fear of blacks in white America. If you have wretchedly bad science forming wretchedly bad social policy and political interventions, even if it’s not a matter of genocide, it can lead to foul policy.

Also, it can lead to divisive ways of thinking about people. Over and over again, let’s say people in North America, have come to imagine, erroneously, that race can be equated to blood. That one’s blood parts can be counted up in racial bits. That you might be half black, quarter Japanese, and quarter Korean.

It doesn’t make any sense. However, we talk about racial mixtures. The language about racial mixing comes down to blood quantification. We’ve come to imagine that identity and racial identity can be defined by blood parts, which leads to vicious ways of thinking about people.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Professor, Creative Writing, University of Guelph; Author; Novelist; and Writer.

[2] Individual Publication Date: January 8, 2017 at www.in-sightjournal.com; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017 at https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] B.A., Economics, Laval University; M.A., Creative Writing, John Hopkins University.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Hill and photograph credit to Lisa Sakulensky.

[5] Hill, L. (2013). Blood: The Stuff of Life. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two) [Online].January 2017; 13(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2017, January 8). An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A, January. 2017. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2017. “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A (January 2017). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 13.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 13.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 13.A (2017):January. 2017. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part Two) [Internet]. (2017, January; 13(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-two.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 13.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Nine)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: January 1, 2017

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,243

ISSN 2369-6885

lh-5628-cropped-mar-22-15-ls

Abstract

An interview with Lawrence Hill. He discusses: geographic, cultural, and linguistic family background; familial influence on development; parents’ love story; influence on parents’ relationship on him; influences and pivotal moments in major cross-sections of life; being read to each night by his mother; journalistic experience influencing writing to date; self-editing for writers; number of drafts; singer-songwriter brother, Dan Hill, influence on professional work; recommended songs for listening pleasure by Dan; affect of Karen Hill’s mental illness and death on him; advice for coping with the emotional pain; Café Babanussa (2016) and an essay inside called On Being Crazy; and Karen’s written work and impact on him.

Keywords: author, Canadian, Dan Hill, Karen Hill, Lawrence Hill, novelist, writer.

An Interview with Lawrence Hill: Professor, Creative Writing, University of Guelph, and Author, Novelist, and Writer (Part One)[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been mildly edited for clarity and readability.*

1. To begin at the beginning, you were born in 1957 in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. Now, you’re one of Canada’s greatest novelists.[5] Let’s explore your story. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your familial background reside?

It is complicated, like most people. My early ancestors came from Europe and Africa. On both sides, they have been in the United States for many generations. My parents met in 1952 and married interracially the next year.  My family culture spans Africa, Europe, Canada, and the United States. In terms of my family cultural background, Canadian, American, and black and white cultures.

Language-wise, I was raised in an Anglophone family who spoke only English, but my sister and I became enthusiastic language learners. Learning other languages and living in them has become central in my life.

2. How did this familial history influence development from youth into adolescence?

It is difficult for a person to look inside of their own life and say, “This is how my family history influenced my development from childhood to adolescence.” However, a vivid interest in identity, in belonging, in the ambiguity of culture and race, in moving back and forth between different racial groups: all of these things marked my childhood and adolescence.

3. You mentioned your parents married in 1953. What was the origin and nature of your parents’ relationship with each other? Their love story.

They met in ‘52 in Washington, D.C. and fell in love, quickly. My father had just completed an MA in sociology at the University of Toronto. He went back to live in Washington and to teach at a college in Baltimore for a year. My parents met and married that year. The day after they married, they moved to Canada. They became ardent Canadians and never looked back. They never moved back to live in the United States, although they visited often and took my brother, sister and me with them.

4. How did this relationship influence you?

For one thing, they loved each other. They were opinionated and argumentative, not about domestic things, but about political and social issues. There was always debate around the kitchen table. I was steeped in that culture. A lot of talk, especially around meal time.

5. When looking at formal development, in standard major cross-sections in life, what about influences and pivotal moments in kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school, undergraduate studies (college/university)?

I had a fabulous Grade 1 teacher named Mrs. Rowe. She told us stories every day. I longed to get to school to be sure I didn’t miss any of her stories. My father was a great storyteller. My mother read every day to us. We came – brother, sister, and I – to love the readings.

My parents instilled a love of language and story. I had other great teachers. In high school, they encouraged me to write. I wanted to do it. I told them. They encouraged me, but they didn’t make me.

I was an avid runner and had a track coach. In addition to being my coach, he was a reporter for the Toronto Star. He was the first professional writer that I met. He encouraged me to write better and to expand the range of my reading. These were early formative developers. Adult figures looking on and leading me toward the excitement of writing.

6. I’m thinking about your mother reading these stories each day to you. Was there a common author for each night?

She read one a lot. I memorized it. It is by A.A. Milne.[6] One of her favourite poems that we memorized quite young called Disobedience.[7] It says:

…James James Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he;
“You must never go down
to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me…
[8]

On it goes, it is this crazy story about a woman who loses it. It is quite a story.

(Laugh)

(Laugh)

It is quite a dark story, actually. Also, it is playful, language-wise. Of course, we ate up Dr. Seuss. The crazier and more playful the language, the better.

7. Following that influence from the first professional writer that you met, you were a journalist for The Winnipeg Free Press and The Globe and Mail. How did the time as a journalist at these publications inform the work writing to date?

It helped me learn, quickly. I learned to edit myself. I was able to call people ‘out of the blue’ and say, “Hey, there’s something I need to understand. You’re apparently an expert in the field. Can you explain it to me?” It made me feel confident approaching strangers and asking them to help me get my head around things that I needed to know as a novelist.

I also learned that words aren’t sacrosanct. That is, my world wouldn’t come to an end if people altered words of mine. I realized everyone can be edited. First and foremost, we can edit ourselves. I learned to write more rapidly and to allow the natural rhythms of thought to percolate unfettered onto the page, and then to come back and edit myself. Those lessons come from journalism.

8. Would you consider self-editing one of the most important skills for writers?

Certainly, it is for me. Unless you’re born Mozart, your first drafts will be sloppy. Mine certainly are, so I have to rewrite my work and work it into shape. Editing is fundamental to progressing through the drafts of a novel.

9. How many drafts?

In a novel, I easily work through ten drafts.

10. Now, back to the family, your brother, Dan Hill, is a singer-songwriter.[9] Has this relationship influenced professional work at all?

First, it influenced me as a person, which influenced professional work in every imaginable way. He is (and was) totally passionate with art. He lived for it. It was exciting to see my brother as an artist doing his thing.

I could see the personal fulfillment for him. It normalized the possibility of achievement in the arts. The idea of going for it, pursuing the dream, and believing in its achievability. His most important influence: being there, seeing him, and showing the possibility for me too.

11. Any recommended songs by him for listening pleasure? Songs that you enjoy by your brother.

I love the song Hold On.[10] It came out in the 70s.

12. Your late sister, Karen, suffered from bipolar disorder. She went to a restaurant, choked, lost consciousness, and died in the hospital 5 days later. How did this life battle with mental illness and then the death affect you?

It affected me in all the imaginable ways. It took my sister from me. I lost one of the people that I most love in the world. It was a visceral, immediate, loss. Many will face it. It is hard to lose a loved one unexpectedly far before their time. It affected me by taking someone from me that I love very deeply.

13. For those that might read this in the future with family members suffering from mental illness, any advice for coping with the emotional pain that might coincide with it?

My advice: don’t be alone. It is tremendous work emotionally, intellectually, and financially to help somebody who suffers from mental illness. It is alienating if you have to do that alone. If you have a community of people to come and work together in supporting the ill person, it can help.

If you are alone, it can be brutally alienating, lonely, and crushing. However, if you have institutions, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, friends, family members and neighbours involved with the ill person, everyone can help in their respective ways. It can become less overwhelming. That’s one of the most important things: to build a network. If you are helping an ill person, you will need help too.

14. She wrote a book entitled Café Babanussa (2016) and an essay inside called On Being Crazy.[11]You have read these.

Yes, I read them.

15. Did her written work impact you?

I have been reading Karen’s fiction and non-fiction for decades. It has been a lifelong process. Karen worked on Café Babanussa for 20 years. I’ve been reading it, tuning into her life, commenting on it, encouraging her, and being a brotherly figure by reading her stuff for a long time now. The book was intertwined with her own life. Discussing it became an extension of our sibling relationship.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Professor, Creative Writing, University of Guelph; Author; Novelist; and Writer.

[2] Individual Publication Date: January 1, 2017 at www.in-sightjournal.com; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017 at https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] B.A., Economics, Laval University; M.A., Creative Writing, John Hopkins University.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Lawrence Hill and photograph credit to Lisa Sakulensky.

[5] The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2016). Lawrence Hill. Retrieved from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/lawrence-hill/.

[6] A.A. Milne. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/A-A-Milne.

[7] Disobedience (n.d.) states:

James James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he;
“You must never go down
to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me.”

James James
Morrison’s Mother
Put on a golden gown.
James James Morrison’s Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James Morrison’s Mother
Said to herself, said she:
“I can get right down
to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea.”

King John
Put up a notice,
“LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED!
JAMES JAMES MORRISON’S MOTHER
SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.
LAST SEEN
WANDERING VAGUELY:
QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD,
SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN
TO THE END OF THE TOWN –
FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!”

James James
Morrison Morrison
(Commonly known as Jim)
Told his
Other relations
Not to go blaming him.
James James
Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he:
“You must never go down to the end of the town
without consulting me.”

James James
Morrison’s mother
Hasn’t been heard of since.
King John said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
King John
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?”

(Now then, very softly)
J.J.
M.M.
W.G.Du P.
Took great
C/O his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J.J. said to his M*****
“M*****,” he said, said he:
“You-must-never-go-down-to-the-end-of-the-town-
if-you-don’t-go-down-with-ME!”

Milne, A.A. (n.d.). Disobedience. Retrieved from https://allpoetry.com/Disobedience.

[8] Ibid.

[9] The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2016). Dan Hill. Retrieved from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/dan-hill/.

[10] [Kelly Mark]. (2013, October 21). Hold On – Dan Hill. Retrieved from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFxfiWk3rT4&list=RDwFxfiWk3rT4#t=1.

[11] K., Hill. (2016). Café Babanussa: A Novel. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One) [Online].January 2017; 13(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2017, January 1). An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A, January. 2017. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2017. “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 13.A (January 2017). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 13.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 13.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Lawrence Hill (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 13.A (2017):January. 2017. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Lawrence Hill [Internet]. (2017, January; 13(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-lawrence-hill-part-one.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 12.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Eight)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: December 22, 2016

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,741

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

An interview with Tony Hendra. He discusses: sexual and social correctness; the simplification of life; importance of the free flow of information; most controversial thing at the moment regarding free speech; consequences if ongoing restriction of speech; and ‘last words’.

Keywords: Actor, Satirist, Tony Hendra, Writer.

An Interview with Tony Hendra: Actor, Satirist, and Writer (Part Four)[1],[2]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & bibliography & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been mildly edited for clarity and readability.*

12. You used phrases: “sexual correctness” and “social correctness.” Those seem to be the heart of the issue. The internet is part of it. It is less about individuals. It is about controlling the larger group and not hearing things the group would consider bad, and by implication you get the individual.

Right, yes. Sexual correctness is just prudery in another word. You might be watching porn all of your life, but when you actually come across real sexual opportunities. Maybe, it makes you very nervous. By the same token, female on female or whatever it might be. You don’t want to deal with the reality of actual things because it is very much more complicated and very much more likely to be disappointing and not be as easy to control, as it has been in your young life hitherto.

Similarly, with social encounters with diverse people and so forth, and people of different views, and people who present temperamental threats to you, you have not had to worry about that because you friend who like and unfriend people you don’t. I think we can say, “Thanks internet, for a lot of this.”

13. In a way, it is a simplification of the ecosystem of real life. People live in their bubbles.

Yea, exactly. There is actually a very good article by Andrew Sullivan on this, which is about giving it all up, giving up the connected, giving up your cell phone, giving up your computer, giving up your favourite blogs, and all of the rest of it. It may be the first of a number of articles like that, I think. I hope it is. Obviously, the internet is incredibly valuable in all kinds of ways, practical ways. It isn’t valuable to me in terms of my growth as an individual or my destiny as an individual either. I do not think.

To be reductionist about it, when you really get down to it, the internet is basically small television, litle television. Except, you can carry it in your fist rather than having it on a piece of furniture across the room. Since I am not interested in television, I am not very interested in the internet. This album is supposed to dramatize it. I think it probably does quite successfully.

14. It is targeting a set of ideas and activities that are ongoing and I, personally at least, find that it has the comedy, but that it is thematic at a deeper level. It is really looking at what is the absurdity in restriction of speech by others, for anyone. 

Right.

We’re in a pluralistic, democratic society, where it (free speech) is, in essence, to a large extent the fluid to keep things going – where you can have free flow of information from mind to mind, device to device, or whatever it may be.

Right, indeed. One thing that I say when I am talking about this in public, which I do, rarely. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between telling me I have to avoid a whole set of subjects and do so on the pain of not being able to make my living (the way I make my living), and the terrorist who says you’re not allowed to speak about the Prophet in any way, or speak about Islam in any way, or we’ll cut your head off. I don’t see much difference, frankly. I don’t see much difference between those two impulses. They’re both trying to stop me thinking and saying things that I have a perfect right to do – a perfect right to think and say.

15. What do you think is the most controversial ongoing topic at the moment, internationally, with respect to the theme we’ve been discussing so far about freedom of speech and freedom of ideas?

One of the recurrent themes is one that I don’t particularly want to get into with any detail, but it is certainly, at least within this country, extremely hard to have any real discussions about Israel without there being repercussions that you can’t particularly control. That’s a shame. Not necessarily that I have a rigid view about Israel, I have a lot of friends that live there and a lot that support Israel. I don’t take much issue with it.

But I think it is appalling that you can’t really have an open discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in this country without, as I say, it being fraught with landmines. In that sense, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is one of the main reasons we are encountering this huge antagonism from the Muslim world in one form or another. We need to have that discussion. We need to have it openly and frankly.

That would be where I would say American politics impinges on freedom of speech.

16. Also relevant to the new album is the fact that those who are in university become adults, become fully functional adults for the most part, those going through these experiences of restriction of their speech through trigger warnings, safe spaces, and so on. This could leave impacts on how they view things in society should be done. In a free society, in an open society in Karl Popper’s terms, that can be an issue. What do you think could be some of the consequences if these restrictions are ongoing?

You mean if my album isn’t a hit and doesn’t sell a million copies and becomes a bestseller and changes culture? That’s what you really mean, right?

(Laugh)

(Laugh)

If my album doesn’t sell a million copies and change the culture on campus, I will be very disappointed because it does deserve to sell a million copies and speech on campus needs to change. But clearly, if you grow up, or your formative years are formed, around the idea that you have the power, collectively or individually, to shut other people up, then that bodes extremely unwell for free speech, which is already under colossal threat.

The last thing anyone needs to be doing is trying to control speech, when they ought to be banding together to seize their democracy back from those in power who have taken it away from them, and are continuing to take it away from them. I would say that would be the most important reason why this particular trend on campus needs enormous pushback.

But friendly pushback, but real pushback, whether it is ridicule, whether it’s instruction, but I think ridicule is a more powerful way to do it; there should be consequences for trying to do this to other people. I don’t mean punitive ones, but I mean there should be consequences in terms of employment.

17. Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion about the subject matter discussed today? ‘Last words,’ as one might say.

That’s the title of a book I wrote about George Carlin. I think the burning issues of our time really do not have room for these essentially trivial attempts at suppression of speech. They really are trivial. I mean, you’re looking for a safe space. You find one. Now, you’re sitting in your safe space virtually or actually.

(Laugh)

There was a news story about a very large asteroid grazing the Earth’s atmosphere, which means it came considerably closer to Earth’s atmosphere than other asteroids have in quite some time. So if you’re sitting in your safe space and the asteroid comes through your room and atomizes you, where are you then? How safe are you then?

I’ve said enough about triggers and micro-aggressions, but that’s really the thought I want to leave people with. The other thought I want to leave people with is to buy the album and have a good time.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Hendra.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Actor, Satirist, and Writer

[2] St. Albans School; Cambridge University.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four) [Online].December 2016; 12(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2016, December 22). An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A, December. 2016. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2016. “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A (December 2016). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 12.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 12.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 12.A (2016):December. 2016. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four) [Internet]. (2016, December; 12(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-four.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 12.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Eight)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: December 15, 2016

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,662

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

An interview with Tony Hendra. He discusses: the political stances of the comedy world; Donald Wildman and ministerial values as Right values; and restrictions on free speech from the Left.

Keywords: Actor, Satirist, Tony Hendra, Writer.

An Interview with Tony Hendra: Actor, Satirist, and Writer (Part Three)[1],[2]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & bibliography & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been mildly edited for clarity and readability.*

9. One thing, in general, is the political Left, or left in political stance or persuasion, in the comedy world. Things like anarchism. Things that tend to ‘care more about people’ in George Carlin’s words. 

Right.

There are considerations about ‘people over property’ (Carlin). There are considerations about power and power relations, and ways to take down power. So if anything is, or claims to be, a source of power, then ask it for justification. If it cannot justify itself, then dismantle it. One methodology, mentioned before, is making fun of it, or comedy. I noticed in the examples discussed before: Lenny Bruce. Or Leonard Bruce since I never met him.

(Laugh)

George Carlin (as well as Richard Pryor, for some), it depends on the individual who is more prominent for them. It does seem to be one thing that is more prominent. Does that seem to reflect longer term experience and larger knowledge base than me with respect to the comedy world and its political stances?

I mean, let me speak on behalf of my group and history, at the Lampoon, we were just as satirical about the Left and the movement, and associated phenomena like rock music and drug use and all kinds of stuff – just as rough on that as we were on Nixon and the political structure. In that sense, we were observing a kind of fairness doctrine.

But then, I suppose one of the reasons a lot of satire comes from the Left is simply because of that perceived split between a concern for people versus a concern for private property. The concern for private property almost essentially demands that you wield power to protect it.

So, I think that’s probably why you end up with those in power being in the crosshairs of satirists. But that said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the satirist himself or herself is necessarily one way or the other. I mean, I like to say that I don’t believe in organized religion and I don’t believe in organized politics. I think George would have probably said the same thing if he would have thought of it.

It is just the way things are, but Evelyn Waugh was a very Right-wing person and a great admirer of the aristocracy and the aristocratic past of England, which he wanted to enjoy – even as it was slipping through his finger by the moment. Voltaire was certainly very hard on the Jesuits and other powerful entities, but he himself was not necessarily interested in the lower classes and the whole idea of revolution.

It is not necessarily true to say we are lefties rather than righties, but I do think the tendency, as I say, is that people versus power is probably just as good a way to define the Left versus the Right. It is natural that those who align themselves on the Right who tend to be religious, militaristic, and oppressive, and so forth – and fond of wielding power to control society and to protect property – are more often its targets than not. Wouldn’t you say?

10. Yea, it doesn’t seem to me an accident that Donald Wildman called into the radio station based on the small sketch by Carlin, the Seven Dirty Words. Carlin, then, followed this with a routine about knobs and being a minister.

(Laugh)

(Laugh)

Ministerial, pastoral, Christian values tend to lean Right. That reaction doesn’t seem a surprise to me. 

That’s what strange about the current restriction on free speech. If you probably took a quick survey, at least on most of the campuses where most of these movements have trigger warnings, safe spaces, and against microaggressions – and that’s one ‘wonderful’ thing: microaggressions; if you surveyed a handful of the kids that basically agreed with that approach, you would find they would describe themselves as Left-wing. They would’ve voted for Bernie if they could’ve.

That is distressing. That it is coming from that side. It is not that the Left does not have a tradition of restricting free speech, but it is depressing, not just distressing.

11. Those perspectives are matched by the professor and instructors. There was a study done with some big names such as Jonathan Haidt, who has done research into the moral values of the major political positions in the United States, Democrat and Republican.

In that research or analysis of political views in universities, those that leaned Left more than Right in the instructors on campus. That would be professors or a non-research based university (so just instructors). It was about a dozen, or a dozen and half, to one with Left political leaning to Right political leaning. There is something going on there. Something we haven’t discussed. Why is it coming bottom-up – cohort-wise?

Let me say, it is one of the things I find odd about it too. It is something in the album we’re trying to do it without saying it. If you are worried about having trigger warnings in articles, you should really be worried about the 300 million real triggers out in the country, and the itchy fingers that are longing to use them.

The microaggressions that people are worried about hardly match the macroaggressions we see in places like New York, which are obviously taking place on a regular basis for whatever reason. It scares the living shit out of me.

I don’t know why it doesn’t scare the shit out of these kids worried about trigger warnings, at least more than they are. That might be the trigger to explain what is going on here. I don’t think what is going on here is political correctness as much as sexual correctness and social correctness, or if you want to push the point solipsistic correctness. A lot of what is going on here is an actual evasion of the reality of these issues. That could be a simple fear, but I don’t think it is.

I hate to sound like an old fart here. I am certainly old, but I am not a fart.

(Laugh)

It does seem to have a great deal to do with all of these young people having grown up with the internet at their disposal. The internet, increasingly, is – it seems to me – turning us into a solipsistic race. You are able edit your own life and your own information. Your own pleasures and your own threats to whatever degree you want. So if you don’t want to hear about real aggressions, you don’t have to. Or if you don’t want to read articles with alarming or distressing ideas, you don’t have to.

That would seem to be at least a major factor as to why this is happening now and why this has not happened in this way before.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Actor, Satirist, and Writer

[2] St. Albans School; Cambridge University.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three) [Online].December 2016; 12(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2016, December 15). An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A, December. 2016. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2016. “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A (December 2016). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 12.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 12.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 12.A (2016):December. 2016. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Three) [Internet]. (2016, December; 12(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-three.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 12.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Eight)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: December 8, 2016

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,712

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

An interview with Tony Hendra. He discusses: Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Billy Connolly and the advancement of free speech;  Are There Any Triggers Here Tonight? and uptightness of speech in North America and Western Europe; and methodologies to ‘push the boundaries’.

Keywords: Actor, Satirist, Tony Hendra, Writer.

An Interview with Tony Hendra: Actor, Satirist, and Writer (Part Two)[1],[2]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & bibliography & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been mildly edited for clarity and readability.*

6. What do you think was the importance of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Billy Connolly to the advancement of free speech in ideas in comedy as well as in popular culture?

I wrote a book called Going Too Far. It was a history written after finishing with Spitting Image, and National Lampoon. It is an examination of post-war anti-establishment humor and attire in the States from 1965 until the mid-80s, when it more or less disappeared.

Lenny, and I call him Lenny, even though everyone calls him Lenny including those who never met him, and I, in fact, opened for him in New York in a club called the Café au Go Go. Lenny was a kind of failure. He was the one who showed us how much work had to be done, and where the pressure points came from. He sacrificed his career on doing that.

One of the ironical things to his downfall was that, although it was predicated on obscenity, it was not obscenity that caused Lenny’s downfall, but that he was extremely rude about the Catholic Church. He wasn’t Catholic. His actual downfall occurred after the show, which I opened for him in New York. Where he was busted twice by the NYPD during a 2-week booking, the DEA of Manhattan was a guy called Frank Hogan, who was an avowedly devout Catholic.

Obviously, he did not have a lot of charity about comedians. He pursued Lenny into privation and probably death. He did it because he had said things about the sacred, which he couldn’t be allowed to get away with. I thought that was a very significant of my growing up and of my entire generation.

Certainly, Lenny’s sacrifice, if you want to call it that, was so complete that it did ultimately open doors because people followed where he’d led. George Carlin, in particular, who I had a close friendship with, was one of those who obviously took it head on when he went through his transition from television comic to a real satirical and comedic spokesman with his most famous routine, Seven Dirty Words, which was about television censorship.

It was about the most empowered and tyrannical media in the nation deciding what you could and could not say. That was important both to the culture at large and to exposing how much there still had to be done. That routine of George’s is the only comedic routine that know of that has inspired a major Supreme Court decision, the Pacific case.

In which the court ruled against a radio station, the WBAI, who went against the routine, a minister from the South, of course, complained bitterly that he had to listen to it in his radio with his child in the front seat. The ministers always seem to be travelling and listening.

That’s how the Pacifica decision came about, and the Pacifica decision ruled against WBAI. It was a majority decision. The Supreme Court has, to this day, to undo Pacifica decision. It remains a vast lacuna on freedom of speech. Those two, themselves, did specific things, which opened up the culture at large to a great deal more freedom of speech than it thought it enjoyed before that.

7. I want to relate that to your recent work, where National Lampoon released, after 35 years, an album entitled Are There Any Triggers Here Tonight?. Much of the subject matter has to do with freedom of speech and freedom of expression of ideas. Do you think that the culture – North America and Western Europe – is more uptight about speech or less so than at those two prior times with the two exemplars, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin discussed before?

I want to make two points about that. The suppression of speech, such as it is, is localized to college campuses. It is certainly safe to say what you want on television with respect to language, whether you can say certain things about certain subjects is another question. With the whole, appalling term, ‘political correctness’ on college campuses is certainly tangible. It is so tangible that that is why we made the album.

It is in stark contrast to the days of National Lampoon, when we could say anything we liked to campus and they liked it. We were sold mostly, 99% of the Lampoons, on college campuses. That generation of Lampoon fans lapped it up. It is unfortunate that 40 years later it now appears to be closing down, especially as it doesn’t seem to be a faculty imposed form of suppression. It is voted on itself by the student body, which is odd, very odd.

I have yet to figure out exactly what causes it this time, but it also has to be said that this is not new. In the late 80s and the early 90s, similar kinds of attempt to control speech was quite rife on college campus….political corrected. This speech that they wanted to denigrate was pushed back by the overt racism and elitism of the neo-conservative movement. They didn’t like that. They did what they always did and had always done was to call its exponents “commies.”That’s where the term comes from. In the early days of the Communist Party, you had to be, as I’m sure you know, politically correct before you would be admitted to the party. So, that’s why I don’t like the term “political correctness.” I, nonetheless, acknowledge the conditions of speech that it approximates. So, I think the only good thing about it is you can satirize it. It is unusual. It is unusual to be able to satirize things happening on college campuses.

(Laugh)

The thing that I set out to do by doing this album is to make a, supposedly, live recording at a small community college called Artesia Community College in TrickleDown Ohio, in case anyone got Reaganomics. That’s where we find on the album that even the title of our album offends the audience instantly. They accuse us of using sarcasm and point out that there are sarcasm survivors in the audience.

(Laugh)

We love this. We take into account that at least don’t want to do our strongest material. We do our innocuous material first. And in the intermission between side one and side two, the campus is now in chaos and roving bands of youths are doing politically correct demonstrations like burning recycled materials in the recycle bin. One woman has a rape whistle, which she blows repeatedly when anyone laughs. It is all great.

We do side two. Side two is stronger stuff. Side three (there are three sides), we have completely cleared the campus. It is of great satisfaction to us, and then it concludes. We get ours too. It is dealing with this attempt to limit free speech on campus.

8. For those that are concerned about the restrictions on speech, freedom of ideas, and so on, one thing to do is to make fun of it. What other methodologies can we use to push back on the restrictions, or ‘push the boundaries’?

Yes, absolutely. There are other pieces. If you cant laugh at yourself, you have really given up.

(Laugh)

Certainly, satire’s job is to take issue with just these kinds of excessive things. Generally, satire is properly directed at power because power tends to become corrupted. The power in this sense is not exactly recognized as power. But the crowd has power. This is crowdsourced censorship, which is what makes it unusual – even though it is not new. Make relentless fun of everything you can, especially every evil you can, that’s the only way you can bring it down.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Actor, Satirist, and Writer

[2] St. Albans School; Cambridge University.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two) [Online].December 2016; 12(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2016, December 8). An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A, December. 2016. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2016. “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 12.A (December 2016). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 12.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 12.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 12.A (2016):December. 2016. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Two) [Internet]. (2016, December; 12(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-tony-hendra-part-two.

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