The interview series “How Are You So Hot?” is a thirsty journey into fascinating people’s attractions, peculiar charismas, and every other thing we want to copy about them.
“Oh, she loved to yell, loved to be inconsistent, loved to make no sense in the little awestruck hours of the night,” Patricia Lockwood writes in her first novel, No One Is Talking About This, which will be published on February 16. The character she’s describing, who is closely based on herself, is arguing about a dildo with her husband, “waving the dildo at him like a sex conductor.”
This is pure Lockwood—as a protagonist, and as a poet, essayist, and, now, mesmerizing novelist. She knows that to love discordance isn’t to justify it but to let it gleam. She digs up every piece of foolishness she can find in the world, dusts it off, holds it up to the light, lets it shine, pockets it like a treasure.
No One Is Talking About This follows her 2014 collection of porny landscape poetry, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, and her 2017 memoir, Priestdaddy, which foisted an instantly iconic “porcine king,” as Lockwood referred to her priest father on a recent video call, onto an unprepared world. This third book is autobiographical, too, though the Lockwood character at the center is treated with intimate, yet almost alien observation. Her attention bounces from America’s founding fathers to saxophones to a cat vomit that sounds like “praxis” within half a moment. The novel questions the nature of this distraction as it progresses: Lockwood’s character is a cork on the waters of “the portal,” aka the internet, flung high on the surf until she makes a breathtaking crash landing back in reality.
In her work's explicit and fantastical splendor and beyond, Lockwood is obviously very cool and hot. VICE wanted to know more about that, so, in early January, I talked to Lockwood while she drank a tart-seeming juice and laughed about mask fetishization, getting it up for Jesus lookalikes, and the very premise of hotness itself.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
PATRICIA LOCKWOOD: First, I can’t believe we’re talking about hotness. I’m in my bed right now, I have a weighted blanket on my lower half, I have a stuffed pig that I’m sitting with [NB: The stuffed pig is larger than you think it is], and I’m eternally haunted, here with my panda eyes ever since last March when I had COVID. Is anyone hot right now?
VICE: Do you think so?
I’m in Savannah, Georgia, where there are real hot people. All the design students are very hot, very fashion-forward, and we’ve just been arrested. I went out and existed in the real world to do Christmas shopping in December—and there’s this truce between people [that] no one is there to find hot or be found hot. Nothing has moved, everyone’s wearing the same jeans and tops. We’re just like frozen wooly mammoths in a block of ice.
At the same time, everything is incredibly horny, as well. You can’t see someone’s face, but people are out-of-control horny. Hungry for full faces.
Anyone whose full face I see on, like, a Zoom, I’m starstruck. They’re all beautiful!
A bunch of hot 4s.
Never been a better time to be a 4.
There will be mask fetishization, and I can’t wait. The point that we don’t need them anymore, that will be the point where it’s a luxury in the sexual imagination, and I’m very interested to see where this goes. People can do erotic role-playing nose swabs. I’m already building a city in my mind.
Your book is so much about attention. What in your life has drawn your eye recently?
I feel like I’m doing the opposite thing, in terms of horniness, because a lot of my friends are now on OnlyFans. So I’m scrolling, and I’m like, Should I be supporting my friends’ OnlyFans? Should I be helping them out? Because I actually feel quite prudish! You don’t want your friend to like, want to see your ass! But you want to support them.
What unusual thing did you find appealing recently?
Every year on Christmas Eve, for one night, I become horny for Bing Crosby when I watch White Christmas. It’s like a special type of moon, and everyone has to go outside to look at it. When it originally happened, I think it was because I was ovulating: that simultaneous moment when the egg hits and you’re looking at Bing Crosby’s face and two become one. It happened a couple years ago, and it was so bizarre, and so beautiful, as well, that I now work myself up to it every year. Because, guess what? It’s not the nuclear family anymore. You don’t make cookies and leave them out for Santa Claus. You make your own traditions. My tradition is getting horny for Bing Crosby on Christmas Eve every year, and there’s nothing you can do to stop that.
What accessory (literal or not) do you adopt for a fresh feeling of hotness?
I have a lot of jewelry I’m connected to. It’s usually jewelry, almost never clothes, because I’m clumsy and I have a bunch of cats, so I will get nice things that will end up pretty much immediately ruined through my own haphazardness and my cats' claws. But a cat can’t hurt an amulet. A cat can’t hurt a rock. That’s how I will focus my intensity.
I have what I feel are a lot of amulets. In order to change myself, I choose a new amulet for that day. A lot of the time, it’s earrings. The ones I wear are these little Herkimer diamond ones. I wear them to enter a new mind space.
It’s interesting [that] this question is about hotness, because that’s almost never applicable. My thought is: what makes me more magical that day, what increases my psychic power, or, like, [intensifies] the laser beam I’m shooting through the universe. Going forward, we’ll specify that when I say “hotness,” that’s what I mean.
What appetites do you indulge, and what do you regulate?
The only thing I’ve ever had to regulate my appetite for is this compulsion to either read or write. If I didn’t control that, I would be doing that for 24 hours a day. I was raised Catholic, and you would think a person like that enjoys denying herself things, but I’m also my father's daughter, and my dad is basically like a porcine king—a hog king who thinks that everything is coming to him. I am the same, I am the hog king and I think everything is coming to me. I don’t deny myself that. My compulsive behaviors are mostly centered around what everyone else would consider to be the most virtuous sites of inquiry possible, like reading and writing.
What’s a smokeshow quality that you can’t help but fall for?
Looking like Jesus. It’s just a holdover from my youth group days, where everyone’s hair was parted in the middle and they could just comb it down like spaniel ears and wear a little piece of the one true cross on their neck. I’ll still respond to that aesthetic, which has returned, thankfully. But if, from a distance, someone slightly resembles Jesus, my head flips to: Jesus is over there! I better be paying attention! And then it moves into: I could fuck that Jesus there.
You can’t go too deeply to investigate it. It’s like dissecting a butterfly’s wings. It’s too fragile. It’s just there to be beautiful.
What do you think you’ll find hot in 10 years?
In 10 years, I’ll be 49. Anything could happen then! Maybe I’ll finally get into younger men because I’ve always been like, Nah. uh uh. It’s never going to happen! They look like glow worms, like little larvae. You know—people are like [does a very springy voice], Timothée Chalamet, and I’m like, excuse yourself and go to prison. Maybe in 10 years, I’ll be finally into Timothée Chalamet.
He’ll be in his mid-30s then!
That’s insane! I’m kind of a weirdo with this stuff; people are like, “Do you prefer tall men or short men? Tall women or short women?” I don’t know how tall anyone is. I don’t work that way. I don’t have the capacity to notice.
It changes! Some people are gay one year—this is always true for me—and the next year, they’re not as gay. I always get less gay when I go to Ohio. Ohio is where I grew up, not where I was born. When I go to Ohio, I become 40 percent more heterosexual, and it’s really upsetting to me. Where are you from?
Are they talking about what they might find hot in 10 years in D.C.?
No way, D.C. is the worst. No one has ever had sex there.
I felt that about D.C., and I felt that about Boston. Or, there’s a sexuality in Boston I don’t understand. In Chicago, you can’t access it because everyone’s coats are too big. I went to D.C. once before Trump was president and then after, and I was like: Oh, is anyone having sex in this town? Is anyone enjoying themselves erotically while that man is occupying?
What’s something you fell in love with for the first time recently, and what do you love about it?
After I had COVID, I got more into rocks than usual. I’m not a crystal person, I don’t need to keep a piece of rose quartz with me so I can open a chakra: I am a ROCK HOUND. If I go into a rock store, I’ll feel a particular erotic connection, a tactile connection, to a stone and I’ll bring that home. I’m someone who gets a wild hair.
I don’t like to use that phrase, because a wild hair is up your ass, right?
Well, I’ve never heard of it, so it could be anywhere.
It’s up your ass. Research this when you’re off this call. I have a hard time saying certain idioms because I picture them. When I was a kid, whenever I heard phrases like “shit-eating grin," I would physically picture it. It was the curse of my life.
Extreme literalism. I am always the person who gets the wild hair. I get a wild focus on something, I focus extremely hard. I was getting a lot into particular writers when I was trying to teach myself to read again, all these New York Review of Books reissues. Patrick Leigh Fermor, Leonora Carrington. It feels a lot better to be reading physical books right now than to be reading the internet. I read Kindle books for a long time, and I didn’t remember them as well because I had no sense memories. The fonts were never different, you’re just eternally sinking down into this fake watery page, there’s nothing anchoring you to the text. I’ve been attempting to get back into physical things.
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