Article by Chris Mosher:
We will be adding a new section to our site to commemorate individuals within our city who have made an impact on our community. The first person up is
Jimmy Jazz, an underground writer. He's been a DIY publisher since releasing his first three novels back in 1993 and selling them at coffee shops and punk rock shows alike.
Having read his way across the country from New York's Fringe Fest to San Francisco’s City Lights Books store, Jazz is no stranger to the stage.
His novel The Sub has been used in course ciriculum at Cal State San Marcos and Point Loma Nazarene. For the past six years he’s been writing a book that is "as heavy in your hand as a newborn baby" about every book he's ever read, and he is by no means exaggerating.
Me: So give me a bit of background, what were your introductions to writing and the punk/DIY aesthetic, and where they might intersect?
Jimmy: With writing, Before 1986 or 87 the most I’d ever written was 5 pages, and then my screenwriting teacher said, "you gotta write 120 pages." so I guess that's how I became a writer.
In 1980, the guy in the KGB van gave me a cassette with The Ramones.
My musical tastes vary with mood from Joy Division to the Germs.
The thing about punk rock, that was different than the rock that came before it, was that it left you with a feeling like ‘Hey I can do this.’ You could do things that seemed closed--like start a band, make a movie or write a book. If you wanted to hear music that fit with the way you were feeling or read books that touched on where you were at, you had to do it yourself. Or do it together with your friends. I never did anything by myself. There was always some mutual aid going on, from the music that moved me, the writers who dared me to be candid and speak the truth—the beats, the Last Poets, Jim Carroll, Patti Smith, Jello Biafra, Karen Finley—and my friends. I never did anything without my friends—Angela Arthur, Pat Haley, Shinya Artworkshop, Cecil Hayduke, Tamara Johnson, Michael Klam, and you.
Me: How have you changed over the course of your life as a writer? Not everyone has such a vivid catalog to reference, in 20 years of published material, presumably still available to you, there has to be some marked differences...
Jimmy: Well, I'm still fucking angry. I just make prettier sentences.
I’ve neglected my friends for the past six years, in favor of BoB (The Book of Books) my book, my only friend.
Me: What's being a DIY author like? The setbacks must outweigh the advantages, right? I mean, you're your own publisher, this isn't a burden OR privilege that most writers have, especially when they're in a place where production houses might seek out their work.
Jimmy: In 1993, I wrote 3 novels and printed them at Cal Copy for a penny a page. I bound them up and tried to sell them at coffee houses like Gas Haus and Chabalaba.
One advantage of having a publisher was that they flew me to New York, Chicago, Austin, SF etc to do readings, which was fun. In the end a writer writes books, and a writer who publishes his own books has to worry about selling them.
Me: Can you give me a little story about being a DIY author?
Jimmy: Here’s an excerpt from the forthcoming Book of Books:
Shinya and I were sitting on the sidewalk in front of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, drinking coffee, taking in the urban cantata, waiting for that evening’s reading with Dave Alvin and Steve Abee. A reading where we’d be paid like poet laureates since Chaucer—in wine. This was before we knew Alvin had a 750+ word spread in the SF Examiner, before the line formed out the door. Before Abee asked if I would go first. It’s hard to read first, terrifying, a disaster, almost a suicide. A fool reads first. Gripping the axe of his words to have a go at the icy sea of faces. This was before we realized it didn’t matter who went first since the mob was waiting to glimpse their hero Dave Alvin. Shinya and I were on the sidewalk absorbing the mad rush, when I heard a clink ka-clink, as of spare change dropping through a hole in your pocket. I tilted my head in time to see an old Chinese woman dropping seventy-five cents into my coffee cup. She took Shinya with his paint-covered dungarees for a silent beggar, and me bundled in my dad's old winter coat for an indigent hobo.
Me: Before we wrap up tell me just a little bit more about, "The Book of Books."
Jimmy: My new book is going to appear, initially, in print form. At 627 pages, 228,789 words it cuts a striking figure. As heavy in your hand as a new born baby. Even though it makes fun of the idea that print books are dead, it is also the last book. It is both fiction and non-fiction, it is a novel, an autobiography, memoir, history book, and piece of journalism. It has a Preamble, Appreciation (by my mom), Preface, Introduction, Foreword, Prologue, Afterword, Epilogue, Postscript, Postface and Outro. It has everything that was ever in a book. It has a thumb index! And includes commentary on every book that I claim to have read in my adult life, which thanks to me being a slow reader is a manageable 1300 or so. It also contains observations of some of the best writers of my generation in the wild, reading from their work, looking for love, blowing themselves up etc.
Jimmy will be releasing his "Book of Books" on November 5th at The San Diego Art Institute. He'll be reading alongside many talented writers, such as Michael Klam, Kimberly Dark, Steve Abee, and Ted Washington. Show starts @6:30P.M.
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