JORDAN SULLIVAN IS AN ARTIST, WRITER, AND THE AUTHOR OF BOOZE, BULLSHIT & BUTTFUCKING, A BIZARRELY CONSTRUCTED NOVEL CAPTURING A DERANGED PSYCHE TORMENTED BY MEDIA, CELEBRITY (MOST NOTABLY, TOM HANKS), AND CORRUPTION. BB&B IS A THICK, BUT QUICK READ; AN INCOHERENT SPATTER OF TWEETS (BY ONE “JUSTIN DREW BIEBER” @STEPHENDEDLAUS666), QUOTES, LISTS, AND LIES THAT, MUCH LIKE SULLIVAN’S ARTWORK, FITS PEOPLE, PLACES, AND THINGS WHERE THEY DON’T BELONG. IN THIS INTERVIEW, SULLIVAN SAYS THAT SEEING HIS VISUAL WORKS OF ART IS “NOT ALL THAT IMPORTANT” TO UNDERSTANDING HIS BOOK, BUT YOU SHOULD CHECK THEM OUT REGARDLESS: BB&B READS LIKE THE GRAYSCALE WRITTEN WORD ANALOGUE TO HIS COLORFUL ICONOCLASTIC ILLUSTRATIONS AND PAINTINGS. BOOZE, BULLSHIT & BUTTFUCKING IS PUBLISHED BY AMYGDALA BOOKS.
Your latest novel is about the 3 B’s of Business: Booze, Bullshit & Buttfucking. When and why did you decide to write this book?
It took me twenty years to write this book, but honestly I have no idea why I do anything.
You also have an art exhibition titled Booze, Bullshit & Buttfucking. How important is it for readers to see these paintings to understand this book?
It’s not all that important.
The synopsis glued to the back cover of my copy of this book provides just a little bit of context and moral framing to this story — as per the synopsis, Booze, Bullshit & Buttfucking is “a work of demented Americana, and a portrait of mental and cultural collapse.” Without this little summary (and even with it), the book feels truly sinister and unsettling in its disorder and completely anonymous point-of-view — and it’s all the more effective and memorable for this. Is there a moral to this story or was it purely observational/expressive for you?
I don’t think there is any moral to this story.
Many of your paintings and illustrated works have a typographic sense of American madness — there are neon motel signs, bar & liquor advertisements, billboards, “ATM,” “DOLLAR TREE,” etc. etc. amid out-of-place anachronistic scuzzy characters. Words don’t signify their usual meanings nor contexts. The same can be said for much of Booze, Bullshit & Buttfucking, except the written word here displaces ideas instead of images. The idea of Tom Hanks, the idea of tweeting, the idea of the novel itself — and so on. This sort of (mis)use of language seems like a throughline in your work, and I’m curious how you’d characterize this throughline. Are you creating new meanings, observing a collapse of meaning, an absence of meaning, or…?
I think all of us, in our own way, create meaning. I generally believe life is meaningless, and we have to invent our own meaning in order to survive to some degree. If there is any meaning to our existence it is most likely beyond our comprehension. Life is a blessing and a curse, and so is the invention of meaning.
The attention to surroundings found in your artwork relocates to more cerebral, digital, abstract terrain in BB&B. The sort of demented archetype that @stephendedlaus666 represents I can only imagine as someone who spends too much time inside and online. Where were you at, physically and mentally, while writing this book?
I work as a substance use disorder counselor and art therapist at a residential rehab facility for teenagers. I work with a lot kids who have witnessed and been victim to so much horrific shit — abuse, neglect, prison, violence associated gang affiliations, etc. In a sense I work in the bowels of the capitalist system, and though clinical social work can be rewarding it’s also deeply disturbing to see how little help and aid America has for those who need it. Physically I spend a lot of time in that space, which is a high stress environment. Thankfully my home life with my partner is calm, which is a blessing because I personally have never had much talent for happiness, so mentally I have a tendency to drift into fairly dark places. Writing and making art is what saves me – that’s where I can express this shit, hopefully make someone laugh or vomit. I guess the ultimate goal is to write a book or paint a picture that makes someone shit his pants.
How much of @stephendedlaus666 is Jordan Sullivan?
I don’t know Bieber and I hardly know myself, so who knows.
Do you have sympathy or revulsion (or…?) for @stephendedlaus666?
We are eating out of the same trash can. I have sympathy for all of us.
The Marquis de Sade was forced away from finishing his work-in-progress 120 Days of Sodom, which ends in a series of perverse scenes of torture written as short notes akin to @stephendedlaus666’s deranged tweets. However, unlike Sade, you got to finish your book on your own terms — but what were those terms? In other words, when did you decide that the book was finished?
I’ve been waiting a long time to be mentioned in the same breath as Marquis de Sade, so thank you. Regarding the novel, I think the fact that it is kind of unfinished is what I like about it. The whole thing is basically of out of order. Somewhere in there is a beginning middle and end, but you can really read the book in whatever order you want. It’s basically a choose your own adventure.
What is your favorite song by Justin Drew Bieber?
I’m an old head, so I’m going to throw it back to ‘09 and go with Down To Earth from Bieber’s album My World.
Aside from writing and painting, you also do photography and music — much of which is quite beautiful and even melancholic at times. (I’m currently listening to The Sun at Night track “Every Angel is Terrible” on Spotify.) What drives you to choose one medium over another? Is there one you generally prefer over the others?
I prefer writing and painting. I was smoking a lot of crack when I was making my photography, and that’s really the only justification I have for making that work. The music is really just a soundtrack for the paintings.
What do you resent the most?
Capitalism and the fact that the McRib isn’t permanently on the McDonalds menu.
What do you look forward to?
Eating ass and passing out.
booze, Bullshit & Buttfucking is available at Amygdala Books here
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