On the way back from a busy day in the city I found myself thinking a lot about the last 6 months and all the incredible things that have happened to the culture in terms of art and music and people putting their talents and voices together for a similar purpose. I think about how my close friends and I have been all seemingly on the brink of something special and excitement looms thick. I think about how having social anxiety and no headphones on a train ride home at 11pm in New York City must be in the top five worst things one can endure; so I decided to call my friend Jack, his book is set to release in two weeks and I knew he would be awake to discuss some important matters which may calm my nerves.
“Jack, what’s up man?”
“Oh, very little,” he coughs. “Drinking and writing. Hemingway Day, you know?”
“Anniversary of his suicide. Figured it would only be appropriate to pay respects.”
“RIP, Young Hemingway.”
I poured some of my water on the floor of the train in tribute as I continued talking to Jack. We went to the same high school but were with different circles and never interacted. Then fate happened or whatever and one night a year after graduation we, both coincidentally separately and simultaneously psychedelically exploring, stumbled into a random twitter conversation that led us to find out that we hated the same things and were both equally obsessive over Gucci Mane so naturally a friendship struck. I persuaded him to show me some of his writing that he claimed he was good at but kept in secrecy; he had never shown anyone before. A year later he is a good friend of mine and is two weeks away from releasing his first developed project to the public and it feels like maybe the aforementioned coincidence was not that at all.
“How much of it is done man? You’ve been getting any sleep?”
“I’m about 70% done. I have only about a week to finish it, but I’m just gonna lock myself in my room and bang it out. So I’ll be okay.”
He was manic, I knew him to obsess over detail and self-critique; I was worried about his health. I took the talk away from the book for a little while, he didn’t know that I was going to attempt to use this conversation as an interview for ILS and I wanted to keep it that way till it was over. Everything organic, two friends just catching up.
“So have you heard all this new Gucci? How can he still be dropping so much music from prison? My girlfriend can barely respond to my text messages and Gucci can drop 5 mixtapes from behind bars?” I asked him, playing to our shared obsession with the icon of Trap.
“Bars from behind bars. Gucci is like a modern day Galileo, you know? “
“Not really man, that’s so bold. Elaborate.”
“They both changed the game. They both got locked up for being ahead of their time. Martyrs that enlightened the masses.”
I barely had time to process the intensity of that statement before the conversation slipped right along without hesitation; wildly imaginative visions of the future we were about to embark on, the aggressiveness and audacity of the things we both hate to continue to exist, the stories of how many times his new puppy Obi-Wan gets him laid. Everything organic. We traded stories back and forth for about 45 minutes until I found out that people were still asking him about the events that occurred over that crazy week of Spring Break earlier this year that inspired the content of his first book, I took the chance to talk more about it.
“Yeah, a few people have asked me about it. I just tell them to wait until it comes out.”
“Trying to build the suspense?”
“No, nothing like that,” he laughs. “It’s just that I edit and re-edit everything so many times. Any sneak peak I give someone would probably not end up being in the book by the time it’s completed.”
I asked him how he felt about being weeks away from releasing the first work of his writing career, as well as what helped him get over his fear of sharing his stories.
“Of course I’m excited about it. Writing was always something very personal to me and I think, because of that, I sort of always imagined that I would be some closet-novelist with manuscripts that would just pile up around my house throughout the course of my life. The idea of sharing my writing with the world wasn’t something that ever occurred to me. I always wanted to be the writer in solitude – locked up somewhere next to a typewriter.” He says in a tone so indifferent it’s almost distracting, pauses to think, then continues.
“I slowly got more and more open to sharing. First it was a few close friends who would read some stuff, and then eventually it evolved into a blog for some of my short stories and what-not. But ultimately, it was a friend I made last summer that made me want to share everything. She was the first person to make me feel like I had some actual talent. She got me over the fear of opening up my writing to the world. I owe her for everything that ever comes out of writing.”
“What was it man? The thing that we did that week that made you decide you were going to base your debut upon it?”
“I’m not sure what it was. It was the culmination of everything in hindsight because I decided at the end of the week that I had to do this rather than during. But if I had to pick one thing I would definitely say the night of the German-Hooker incident, that was when I was like ‘Okay, this is noteworthy’.
“What are you going for? There’s so many themes and concepts happening from the excerpts you’ve showed me I can’t really finger the main one you know?”
“I think the story is about mainly about being in that limbo in life that some young people go through – that I’m going through at least.”
“This weird stage after you graduate high-school, but before you decide what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Everyone around you is pencilling in what they’re going to do until they die, and you’re just sort of in an existential purgatory. The indifference, the boredom, the whole numb outlook on life that happens to you when you’re in that spot. The crazy events and the partying and the drugs are all just a distraction from having to address that situation. It’s a state of perpetual ennui.”
“So is that the concept of The Righteous and the Wicked?”
“There’s a lot of themes at work, I think, but that’s the main one. That’s the main reason I wanted to write this story, it was a great medium for addressing that idea. But, again, there’s a lot of things at work here. I think anybody that’s stuck in the purgatory of young-adulthood could take something different from the book than what I just said. I would hate to write something that’s fully interpreted in the same way every single time. There’s no fun in that.”
“Sold at Starbucks, or nah?”
“Definitely not,” he laughs. “I think the rule is you can only have one illegal substance per book. That’s probably the way Starbucks does it.”
“Maybe you should contact Starbuck and arrange the Starbucks X collaboration. Just like Starbucks, only with raunchier menus, spicy lattes and explicit content books. I would definitely read this while I drank coffee.”
“Well, I’m glad I could write something for people to drink coffee too. I’ll die knowing that I could do that.”
“How have things changed since we met last year? You weren’t into the idea of sharing your work and now you’re on the cusp of a solid release. What was this whole process like getting to this point?”
“The year has been crazy. I’ve found myself this year – as corny as that sounds. I think I have a solid idea of who I want to be. The Writer. There’s been a lot of ups-and-downs, you know? I almost had my first big break when a publisher in Dallas wanted to put a short-story of mine into a collection. It got really close, but it fell through.”
The short-story in specific is called “Blue Ridge”. Jack wrote it last summer. It had been accepted for publication, and they even wanted to sign him to a deal. However, right before they were to schedule a meeting to finalize the details of the contract, the representative that had selected Jack’s story committed suicide – the project was dropped shortly afterward. I asked him about how he felt about that in specific.
“Eerie. Very fucking eerie. I just wish the poor bastard would have gotten my story in print before he jumped off his office building. But it’s in the past and it was out of my control, I didn’t let it get me down for too long. You just have to keep going. Keep putting down words. I know the first publisher that takes a chance on me will be happy they did. And if nobody ever does, then I’ll put everything out myself. Being published, making money, writing a bestseller – none of that is really a goal of mine. I’ll write stories until I die, and if those things come with it, they’ll come with it. I’m excited for the future, regardless.”
Happy to hear that my friend was excited about the progression of things thus far made me happy, my nerves were successfully settled. Coming from a long battle with depression to where he is now may be minor to many but huge to me, and definitely monumental to him. He was telling me his excitement of going back to school to pursue an English Degree, something to pass the time while he honed his writing skill when just a year ago he was defeated, thinking of never going back to school and feeling stuck; what was not to celebrate?
“Yo, so when this book comes out, which rappers you want to read it?”
“GZA. He’s nicknamed “The Genius” for a reason. My favorite rapper of all time, I would love to hear what he had to say about the book. Also, Earl Sweatshirt and RetcH – I relate to them. I want to write their biographies one day. Young artists that are completely out of their minds, just like me. Their feedback would be epic as well. Finesse the World has already changed my life.”
My train slowed to a halt and I realized I had reached my stop. I told my friend goodbye and that I would text him as soon as I had listened to Trapology by Gucci Mane, he told me he would be looking forward to it as he drowned himself in whiskey and sat in front of his desk for a couple days straight.
The Righteous and The Wicked by Jack Squires will be available for digital download on July 15th. The ides of July.
Check out Jack Squires the Writer.