Featuring the novel Chinese Gucci
by Hosho McCreesch
A sporadic round up of lit fiend news
Underground Lovers is evolving. Besides focusing on lit news from my own little bubble, I hope to make this a regular feature where I invite ‘Lit Fiends’ from around the world to discuss a book and share within this intimate word club, where we just chill back and see what happens.
I approached my good friend Russ Daum to be my first participant. We are both keen followers of the work of Hosho McCreesch. An American writer living in New Mexico, who this year, launched his debut novel Chinese Gucci onto the world.
What follows is the transcript of our conversation, a deciphering discussion on the author Hosho McCreesch. The hard task here, was trying not to give too much away.
A. So, I wanted to talk about the way Chinese Gucci starts. The dynamic to get the reader in, especially for those of similar age to CG’s main character, was an eye popping start don’t you think? I’m pretty sure one would know straight away if this was going to be the book for them. A quick cull of potential readers, though I was instantly drawn into his private thoughts. Once I had finished I knew this book broke through generations, linking an older audience, like ourselves, to think about our relationship with this current younger generation.
R. Yeah there are kids who feel lost and I agree on the appeal for all. What I connected with right away, when I read the opening chapter, was that it was titillating, didn’t know those type’s of contraptions existed! Though, through its inclusion from the start of Chinese Gucci I grew to understand that the story began with Akira’s drive for self-gratification and the only person he was capable of relating to was himself.
A. He is very alienated, do you think he is a loner or just lost? Theme of the loner runs through the whole book, about his angst and self-hatred
R. Right, he has many instances where he feels without connection to any people, totally without connection.
A. I feel he is a very disconnected hero in all this, pinpointing where his anger and frustration evolves from, that was the puzzle for me. Hosho McCreech’s storytelling gives us glimpses, triggering an unveiling, little polaroids inside Akira’s flashbacks. Especially from his parents, where does the self hatred start? I was getting the feeling that someone of Japanese heritage, which Akira is, could perhaps have the stereotypical ‘dishonour’, tarnishing the family guilt trip at play. Do you think his frustration revolves around cultural issues or just that age?
R. I think it’s probably both because we are a product of our environment and so I think that has a bit of a concrete hold in the culture his parents brought him up in. He is also a product of social media, expects everything to feel fantastical. Every day, social media shows the perfect, the hilarious, or the amazing and brilliant, and can separate us from what it really is like to live and be human.
A Exactly, I like how he uses social media in this book through his characters, the constant checking of Twitter, Facebook, emails, the angst and frustration of no phone signals, when the notification light flashes, that instant gratification of feeling wanted. Also a device to hone into the mundane, the shallow, directionless aspect of his life. I think, especially with his friends, that immediacy of social media pings doesn’t guarantee the mutual respect or rapport that you think you are going to have with these people. He was always searching and never getting that connection and to me it was so empty and so lonely and a really important part of the book.
R. I question if he really had any friends at all because he didn’t understand his connection to the people he did spend time with, for instance, those friends that went on the first trip. They had a lot of experiences there but Akira just decided he was the boss and he didn’t want to go home though the rest of them did. They were willing to pay good money and leave him there.
A. I don’t think he was giving those guys an opportunity to become true friends, he was not open to it because everyone else seemed less than perfect to him except of course for Zoe. Staying on things that influence Akira and why he is the way he is, do you think his mother, who I’m sure is the main catalyst for his erratic behavior and his breakthrough, for his anxiety and his self-hatred, was a result of how he was dealing with his life at that moment?
R. I think he was much closer to his mother than he was his dad. That is the dynamic that a lot of boys have, they kind of fear their fathers and feel the pressure of the standards a father would like to set for them, so they rely on their mothers to be more real with them and experience everyday life. It doesn’t sound to me that she was the perfect person, she had some things that were difficult about her but nevertheless they were close.
A. I felt his mum was his centre, connected more with his philosophy on life. She had some great lines, memories on common sense and she seemed quite street smart, knew all the hustles, but nothing compares to and teaches you more than to make your own mistakes.
R. The distance between he and his Dad and his culture, that was part of their lives and important to his parents and Akira couldn’t understand. I’m not sure why he didn’t feel like his Mom would not have wanted him to have done what his father requested. That was a mystery to me.
A. Possibly a part of his own personal rebellion. This is a book touching on one’s growth into manhood, decision time, he did not want to see her leave the place where he felt his own affinity and his memories remain. One constant theme running through the storyline, was that Akira was always on the verge of hurting himself. The negative feedback, getting himself in situations that ultimately led to punishing himself, it was a very masochistic ride. The constant upper cuts, the verge of cutting his wrists (though ultimately only interested in the accolades that it was cool to leave a scar) this pain and frustration having to permeate physically. It was a very clever device, a heart pump reminder that it was only going to get worse.
R. His self-view, his self-esteem was very low, but his expectations for himself were very high. In light of trying to be as cool as he possibly could and ignore the fact that he thought so lowly of himself.
A. An interesting thing about his self-loathing, I adored this line “just be cool, don’t be an asshole, don’t be yourself” I thought you poor bugger you just don’t want to be yourself. This theme kept building and building and it gave such a mood to the book, I felt on edge, felt that he wasn’t going to do something really stupid, though he does plenty of stupid, I felt he had the potential to.
R. Yes the sense of going into a situation too far and unable to extract himself from it. He was very close to that, many, many, times, he had way too many experiences where that could have gone wrong. Akira could be zany at times. In trying to gain results his approach to life was not built on past experiences. He didn’t realize he couldn’t always will a desired event to occur. He wanted to be someone else other than who he was and struggled to achieve that.
A. It did show a naivety and vulnerability and though that in itself can make you turn into the person that you want to be, I felt that Akira had no willpower for commitment, finally he finds something that he is proving to be quite good at but that is sabotaged and well we know what happens then.
R. I work daily with troubled kids and with them there’s a disconnect. They see their lives, they know where they have come from and they understand where they are at. It is difficult and causes problems but they don’t have any idea how to get out of it and move onto something positive. I feel like I saw a lot of him (Akira) in the kids I work with. They have a lot of positive attributes but they don’t know how to move themselves to a different perception of what’s possible.
A. Do you think Akira had those attributes to move himself to a different perception or did he need someone to do that for him?
R. Well, as the story of Chinese Gucci adds layers he has to make that decision. I felt like his mistakes were adding up and he was losing control and he had to decide. Akira thought “Here’s my father who I am at odds with most of the time. Am I going to trust him?”
A. Trusting his dad, “Im going to tell him I’m not a punk ass kid I’m a grown ass man”, he is at that juxtaposition isn’t he, not putting gender on it, just that feeling going from late teenage years to going into responsible. That is a moment where a light can come on, he has the potential whether he would go through with it was always on my mind.
R. Those were powerful parts of the book I could relate to. His dad was trying to understand him and didn’t want to lose him. To achieve this without putting more pressure on him was key.
A. Many memorable scenes for me, scenes where he showed nurturing qualities and beautiful concern. He has the making of a protector, in his fantasies, what he would do to the guys that were disrespecting women or anyone he didn’t like, there were glimpses of an emphatic kid but the testosterone and his mental state became a runaway train that would lead him to breaking point.
R. The situations where he wanted to leave but became mesmerized and couldn’t resist, were happening all too fast. He did exhibit parts of himself that were decent but when he did his thoughts and actions often traveled in opposite directions. Akira became judgmental about the behavior of a group of boys around Zoe. He ignored that he acted in the same way and neglected to turn his judgement of them upon his own self.
A. Very true. I liked that line “in the elevator down he looked at his bare feet and he fantasied again about a life lived in strange and beautiful hotels in exotic places full of interesting people full of interesting conversations and every few days they’d leave or he would and there would never be any pain, it seemed perfect”
R. Akira does not want to get to know people. He is afraid of them, that knowing would burst his bubble. He was outlandish. He acted like he was talking on the phone to set up his movie. He wasn’t kidding anyone, or convincing anyone, but he still tried to carry it out. He’s a funny kid. An excellent character.
A. He was obsessed with something I don’t think he could ever be. Influenced by the music he was listening to, loved the little pops of lyrics that he seemed to live in. Hosho’s dialogue and the way he connects a conversation is so amazing. Going back to the book yesterday to refresh my mind before our conversation, I found myself just re reading pages, like really re reading the pages, he has that way of totally absorbing you into his characters. Just having that wry smirk throughout the whole book, couldn’t predict what the kid was gonna come out with next, what he was going to do next.
R. I agree. Dialogue drove the book. Combined with Hosho’s ability to describe whatever situation Akira was in at that time, was the engine of the story. Whether among his friends, with Zoe, at the party, Nita at the hotel, the taxi cab driver, the person that sold purses, his father, it was written so well and really believable to me, I felt part of that story. Akira was a well defined character.
A. You mentioned you felt an affinity with Akira. I’m sure there were many aspects of Akira’s antics, not quite exact but sure you understand the days of waking up in your own vomit.
R. Oh yeah I’ve done that before,
A. Akira does that a lot
R. Oh wow yes, I did that plenty of times. I drove my parent’s car like crazy through people’s yards or like a mad man on country roads, thinking I’m gonna wreck it then all of a sudden something amazing happened and I was safe. I was reckless and went with my intuition, not really having an understanding that this isn’t really a good place I’m headed to.
A. He was the King of that
R. What was interesting was, I had this feeling that he was going to find some hard heavy drugs to consider taking and he didn’t go to that point which I was really glad of.
A. It was his talent for getting into stupid situations and his desperation and where that leads and how easy it is to make split second decisions that can really stuff up your life.
R. All within his boundaries of his trying to become what he envisioned for himself which was a successful, glorified by all, big man on campus. He was comic bookish, and focused on hero stuff, you used that word. He was so far removed, though, from that persona that it was not depressing. It was interesting to see how bad he was at achieving those ends.
A. Akira is that great Manga punk style hero, so I’m sure that is a reference that he grew up on Manga comics, those post apocalyptic, socially isolated stories. It really is a great modern book, any connection with Holden Caulfield and The Catcher In The Rye? Hmmmm I don’t really think this will be ‘de rigueur’ in serial killer’s pockets, it’s too big for that! But when they get arrested it would certainly mirror the feelings of the loner, the alienated, the future kids with blurred lines of what is real and what is fed to them through a life spent growing up online.
R. Yeah, you hope that the character reaches the point, that epiphany where he and the reader understands what he is doing isn’t working and he wants to feel safe. Like there is something clean and positive about what he hoped is going to happen. Will he give in? This book covers so much about this generation, the social media generation. It was amazing, imagined and worked so well. I was so curious that it was set in Albuquerque, New Mexico like it was. I would love to live there someday. Chinese Gucci has a universal appeal.
A. Hosho is a big fan of his home town and surrounds, having witnessed it first hand, no other place like it on earth, I didn’t want to leave. I liked the connection that the story ran a road between New Mexico to Mexico the old and the new. Let’s talk about Hosho himself. A writer that is switched on, knows what he wants to do, understands the bullshit world of publishing, his own professionalism and dedication has surfaced. He is so connected to his readers and supporters and his debut is going to be one of many great stories that will come out of Hosho McCreesh’s mind. His poetry I want to share with you later, he is also a great artist, I even think he secretly would like to make a film one day just like his character Akira and seeing that dialogue, how easy that could become a screenplay would be phenomenal.
R. Yes, impressed by his paintings and his poetry, just beautiful.
A. Hosho McCreesch is one writer to watch and I’ve really enjoyed talking about some of the feels and messages with you Russ that Chinese Gucci imparted.
R. I think he did a great job at exposing just how mixed up and confused young people can be. Adults need to pay very close attention to their young people and seek to understand them.
A. So true, I’m giving it 5 skulls outta 5
R. That works for me, too!
Russ Daum is on twitter, his illustrations, thoughts and photography can be found on his blog Scrawls, Scratches & Scribbles.
You can connect with Hosho via his website and on twitter, purchase your copy of Chinese Gucci and other books, broadsides and original art here
Skull image by Hosho McCreesch
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