Oxbow Frontman Eugene Robinson's Books Are Not All About Laughs
Robinson describes 'A Long Slow Screw' as a "crime saga that starts out with a jewel heist," but there is much more than just a story of life above the law going on in the pages. "People tell you stories, so I began writing 'A Long Slow Screw' as way for me to tell some of the stories without putting anyone on Front Street," Robinson confesses. "So even though it's a work of fiction, it was just a clever way for me to put elements of my story and other people's stories into a story."
And Robinson confesses to an enjoyment over the blending of truth of fiction. "There is an art to it, a craft to it that I find to be entertaining. If you wanted to tell the truth, you write fiction," warns Robinson.
Of course, with new work on deck, a book tour is in the works. But don't expect to see Robinson come to your town on a bill with a gang of other writers. "I don't like that," Robinson declares. "If you're the headliner by the time they get to you the audience is read out. Usually what I like to do it with is quiet music, or weird electronic music; or like the guys who opened up for me in Berlin."
Robinson recalls the one show, "One guy was playing a ukulele, the other guy was playing the stand up bass, and they were doing covers of Misfits tunes ... acoustic covers of Misfits tunes." Robinson laughs. "It was completely crazy. Their first language is German, so it took half a song to figure out what songs they were singing.
"I'm a real snob when it comes to the writing thing, and there are a few people out there with really good chops," comments Robinson, as another reason why he wouldn't go on a tour with other writers. "It would be tough if somebody said, 'Hey do you want to do a book tour with [Henry Rollins]?' It would be tough, because you know lots of people are going to be in the house to see it; and he's put out enough books and is in command of his craft -- somewhat -- but I don't enjoy his writing. It would be tough for me.
"It's weird. I don't say that in a pejorative way," Robinson explains. "For example, I used to write poetry, and like it, but at this point I like very little poetry that I read. I can read the greats, like Wallace Stevens and so on, but I don't write it anymore myself. If I have an itch to scratch, I deal with it by writing lyrics, but I'm a longer form guy. If you've got something to say that could last a poem, make it a short story. If you've got a short story, make it a novel. And that's where you start to separate the wheat from the chaff."
The true place of grit is on the stage, Robinson says, where a battle against the ego takes place. "If your standing on stage and you have a microphone, and you have to say something to a group that is assembled there, you can't help it, we want to please them. I'd be lying if I said when the audience laughs at something I've said that I intended to be humorous, I feel to some measure I have succeeded," admits Robinson. "You can see this road leads to stand-up comedy."
To combat this, Robinson reminds himself that the book shows are "more theater pieces where sometimes you laugh, and sometimes you don't laugh. I did Roadburn Festival and told a story that roached the buzz of the entire room," Robinson recalls with pride. "And I didn't care. The danger in possibly doing a bad spoken word show is really high, which is why I start to like it. When I do shows, I have to deal with the possibility of some guy punching me in the face, that's easy. Dealing with resisting in myself the urge to be appealing to the audience, that's f---ing difficult.
"Being appealing to the audience is not my objective. I guess my objective is to sell books, but the books are not all nonstop comedy fests either," Robinson says.