Interviews With Dead Writers
Edouard Levé: My voice recorded just seconds ago of me saying, “Yes, I like cake,” sounds older than a recording of my face filmed eight years ago saying, “Yes, I like cake.” Yes, I like cake. I’m not ashamed of my proclivity for sweets, but I do not let it control my life. I have loved three things in my life: women, photography and cake. I do not consider red velvet delicious just because someone thinks so. I find it hard to enter a bakery, but find it even more difficult to leave. I like bread, muffins, cupcakes and cake, but I cannot stand ice cream cake. I don’t think ice cream cake is complete. I don’t expect much from ice cream cake. I do not read nutrition guides, there aren’t any in bakeries that I go to. I do not believe in unhealthy eating, only two meals have left an aching gut, McDonalds Quarter Pounder and Pizza Hut Super Supreme Pizza, certain meals have caused me to retch, but these two have left impressions on my body. There are periods where I can’t eat any sweets, I can’t think of cake or the tiny cupcakes baked by Melissa. I feel uneasy when I eat standing up. I need to sit down and enjoy food. I feel better sitting in a beanbag chair eating funfetti cake than standing up and eating strawberry shortcake.
Ernest Hemingway: The first three times I had sweets were the last three times I have had them. There are many kinds of sweets. I have tried just three. The ones I liked best were sold at school. It was a good place to have sweets. There are some other places too. I have not included them because they are not interesting. Cake? Yes, cake is a marvelous travesty. It is supposed to be dessert, but it is eaten as a meal and it in a little while it will become breakfast. It has already become breakfast? Pastries are breakfast now. Yes, you are right. My last encounter with sweets started as I lay in my bed in the dark. I could see light come out from the advertisements below when the wind blew open the curtains. People were walking in and out of a Cinnabon. Some of the people were noisy, but most were quiet. I got to the Cinnabon and a man he placed a coupon in my hand. He said it was national cinnamon roll day. I stood next to him for a while. When he had no coupons left, the man went back inside. I turned to look at the doors. It looked polished and sleek. When I opened the door, a wave of cinnamon filled my nose. I walked inside. The path was red and the air was stuffy and warm. I hoped I would get my free cinnamon roll. At the register, a woman told me there were no more rolls, but I could have some Cinnastix. I accepted and she gave me a small box. Cinnabon is a fine establishment. It was friendly at night and welcoming in the morning. The Cinnastix were all good because they were of warm bread with sugary cinnamon and you always had coffee because there is a Starbucks next door. After a while, I went to sleep.
Alain Robbe-Grillet: Indeed! What is the continuation of a childhood left untouched other than a love for candy? All of these candies are the same to me, yet at the same time, none are really similar. What does stand out to me is the weaving of flavors; the way they dissect one another and shift and change, as if they are fragments of a book! When I think of books, I think of scribed memories and candies are similar to that because of our associations with them from our childhood. Imagine eating a Tootsie Pop when you are nine and then eating it again when you are fifty! Wouldn’t you remember your experiences from when you were nine? Me too! I feel a strong tie with history and candy and feel they are related to one another, well, at least, that’s what I think now after I’ve had an entire bowlful of sweets. Yes, yes, I’ve had a bowlful of candy. Candy corn is my ultimate weakness. Tomorrow, after my checkup with the doctor, I might say something different!
Yukio Mishima: All I desire is beauty. Beauty is something that cannot be corrupted. A beautiful object is pure. I am not afraid to consume a beautiful object. If I get sick, I will be afraid, but I will not be afraid at the initial consuming of the object. When I look back on my childhood, I remember something beautiful lying on my grandmother’s desk. It was wrapped in plastic wrap and I tore it off and held it up to the sun. It looked like a gem. I placed it carefully in my mouth and fondled the roundness of the object and stroked the smooth surface with my tongue. My God, I thought, this is beautiful. The boldness and the richness of the object could have been honey in a great bowl, the solidity of the object, a train passing by at that very moment. Where the object scraped against the walls of the mouth, a mild burning sensation lingered, and as the agitation of the tongue mounted in the no longer passive cavity, there hung a scent of faint licorice and cinnamon blazing, growing ever more pervasive, captive of a fearsome act that might have bewitched even the devil himself. I sat down in the very spot where I had stood and examined the wrapper carefully. I have never found a piece of candy like that ever again.
Roberto Bolaño: The first time that I ever had a good slice of cake was during Christmas time in 1977 in Barcelona, when I was twenty-four years old working as a bellhop in one of the up-and-coming hotels. The cake was pastel vasco. I realized at the time how delicious it was, but it was so foreign to me. I remember taking one bite and marveling at the cookie-like crust and the cream filling and the rum-soaked berries. This ignorance that I possessed, however, did nothing to diminish the wonder and admiration of sweets that began that night. I urgently searched for more cake and pastries that had been unknown to me, as I had moved from Chile just a year before. It wasn’t until I was twenty-six or twenty-seven that I realized that this was no easy task. I realized that eating sweets every day left my body in poor health and I took up smoking to quit sweets. Eating is pleasant — no, I mean, a necessity — it’s an activity that is required for survival, but I know other people, and myself, that have indulged in this mode of necessary mode of nourishment. Well, I’m probably wrong — it’s possible that excessive eating is a fear of destitution or the opposite, a recognition of success — but I never felt that way. I ate pastries upon pastries and sweet, sugary goods for my own intellectual gain. It had to come to a stop, though. I wrote Antwerp in the throngs of the worst sugar withdrawal of my life. Misery only allows for great works of literature.
Jack Kerouac: All the cake I’ve had since On the Road has been pound cake. In the days when I wrote On the Road, all I could afford was ingredients for pound cake that Joan would make, but it was worth every bite. Allen Ginsberg made endless batches of cookies one night and I asked him to make me some pound cake and he looked at me with his intense eyes of his and told me to get the fuck out. I spent thirty dollars looking for pound cake and let it go when I couldn’t find any. Well, look, if you had something you wanted bad in your mind, would you stop and blow your nose and think about it? Hell, I went out and looked for it. Be sure of this, make sure you’re sure, I spent my entire life after that looking for the perfect pound cake and I’ve yet to taste it because all the bakers and bakeries I’ve been to ain’t got no EMOTION. I ain’t going to take shit from a baker that thinks baking is just SKILL and bakes without FEELING.
Andre Breton: I will be the first to admit that although I am weak, I am not prone to attacks for sugar. The mind is interesting in that it is able to ward off substances like fructose and syrup in favor for natural ingredients. One may argue for the placement of sugar substitutes in contemporary society and that there is a reason why this substitution was created. Nevertheless, the promoter of engineered sucrose is wasting his time. I refuse to test it on my palate. I will ignore the description of the similarities that have been carried over. Here, I attack the promoter and settle upon a story where a hero steps forth from the shadows. The natural hero comes to fight the villain, the genetically engineered being. Who wins? Something simple like this, however, doesn’t interest me. Why? I cannot bear the banal discussions relative to winning or losing. There is something about the closeness one can develop with sugar and I wonder if it is a source of inspiration, as if the mere presence of sugar can trigger something out of the ordinary, but this mode of thought, the actualization of such, may not be reality and can only be ascertained, but I cannot enter, so I do not enter.
JG Ballard: It’s true that I have very little idea of what I’ll be savoring next, but at the same time, I have a great idea of what I will be ingesting tomorrow, or next week, even six months from now. I’m aware that my teeth are in a disparaging state of repair, but what can one do at the moment in time? Yes, I do exploit this, but in a more calculated way. I can eat whatever sweet I wish, but only at certain hours, after perhaps a glass of Scottish whisky. The exercise of this strength in will is just a way of coping with my situation. Sometimes when I go on my research, I hole up in hotels and find that they serve sweets around the clock. I lounge on a chair by the pool and imagine it to be drained. Think about that, a drained swimming pool in a full-capacity hotel — or a filled swimming pool in an abandoned hotel. The best? An abandoned hotel with a drained swimming pool. What a dilemma! I feel like my love for sweets is a compensatory nod to a former flame of mine: a pâtissière.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.