Illustration by Milano Chow
Vice: How long have you been writing fiction?
Risa: Always, but more in the last ten years.
What’s the best novel ever written and why?
Fuck everyone because it’s The Corrections. It’s about everything going on in America now and it’s ruthless but comic and deft and accessible and devastating and manages to be about so much within one family and is deeply and believably from each character’s point of view. It’s a perfect book.
Who’s the lamest famous novelist and why?
I don’t read lame famous novels. There’s too much good shit on the web.
Were your teen years like the life that you write about in your stories?
Yeah—a lot like that. I grew up in Connecticut. My world was a mix of Colonial and dirtball. GunneSax and GTOs. Ozzy meets Audubon Society. I love that world.
hate Stew but he sells weed. So one Saturday, me, Mike, and Mike’s brother Ross drive Stew’s fuck-friend Boudreau out to Stew’s house to cop. Boudreau sits up front which is fine with me except that I have to look at the back of her head with her blond hair feathering all the way back into gross split ends. Mike and Ross are clearly all hopped up that she’s in the car—she works with them at Mattatuck Manufacturing where they make brake cables and she’s like the only woman there so when she walks across the floor at the factory, everyone just goes nuts, sticking their tongues through their peace-sign fingers. Stew cheats on his wife with her, which is one reason that I hate him. Also he acts like he’s the shit, buying this huge new truck all on credit which Mike said they’re going to have to repo. Stew lives out by Holy Land, which I’ve driven past a million times but never been to and I always wondered about it. Holy Land is a hill with a big lit-up cross on it off of Exit 19 in Waterbury where some guy spent his life building a miniature Bethlehem. On the side of the hill it says in big letters: Holy Land U.S.A.
Turns out Holy Land is in a shitty neighborhood. Stew’s house is a real dump with those little diamond-shaped windows in the front door and dirty plastic toys all over the yard and a weight bench and Stew’s big red truck out front all wet and shiny from having just been washed.
His house smells like corn chips. Inside, there are about eight sectionals of a sofa that don’t fit together. They’re all blue and very padded and they take up the whole room.
Stew’s wife is sitting on the sofa and she’s rocking a baby and a cigarette. She’s really skinny and mean-looking and poor. I don’t know how else to describe it. You can’t blame her for looking mean with Boudreau right there with one erect nipple busting out of her t-shirt and flirting with her fat thighs spreading as she opens and shuts her knees, all keyed up being around Stew.
Stew slips off to the kitchen with Boudreau to I’m sure grab her ass and they get us beers and we all sit down on those weird sectionals of sofa while Ross cleans a big bag of weed.
They’re watching a Charles Bronson movie on the TV.
Death Wish II
Death Wish II
, these guys break into Charles Bronson’s house. Charles Bronson’s maid is home. She’s like 50 or something and they rape her. Well, first they make her kneel down and face the bed. Then one guy pulls up her dress and pulls down her underwear and kisses her butt and she’s crying and everything and then he rapes her—they all do—and the whole time they’re all hooting and laughing and jumping around.
While this is on, Stew has rolled a fat one and, as he’s passing it around, his other kid walks into the room. She’s like five. Or four. She’s young and she’s dressed like a sticky little K-Mart princess. I smile at her and I feel really sorry for her. She can’t stop staring at me. I imagine that she’s thinking that maybe I’m some kind of good example for her.
I have never seen a Charles Bronson movie before. It’s the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. They kept the TV on, even though the little girl was standing there. They kept passing the joint and Boudreau is sitting right there and the mother is smoking and the rapists were raping the maid who’s screaming and Stew’s little girl is just standing there watching me.
I don’t know what the fuck was wrong with me, but when Mike passed me the joint, I took a hit. I thought about not doing it but, in the end, I went ahead anyway.
Later on in the Charles Bronson movie, this lady said to one of the rapists who felt bad after what he did, “You dipped your wick just like the rest of them.” Dipped your wick. It was so disgusting.
But I did just what the rest of them did.
I wanted to go to Holy Land when we left, but Ross had someplace else to be.
Years later, I finally did get out to Holy Land. The place was all abandoned and decrepit and spooky with stuff like the Ten Commandments cut out of bits of carpet and verse spelled out in those gold letters you buy at the hardware store for mailboxes. The miniature Bethlehem was rotting and covered with graffiti. I was walking around by myself and I heard a scream in the bushes that scared the shit out of me and this peacock walked out. It was like it was a dream. Like I was on the grounds of some sultan’s palace.