Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Proust Questionnaire: Gwen Hilton

Last week it was Jon Berger and now Gwen Hilton. So happy to see these new young writers develop in real time. Writers I can proudly call my friends. There is no cynicism, no careerism, no sign of unscrupulous ambition but only a love for books, good friendships and literature.

I first met Gwen Hilton when she reached out to me via twitter over a year ago after reading my contribution to Expat 4. At that time, or at that specific moment in time, I was a little bummed out about my own writing. Every writer goes through it. You feel like you're writing into the void and the world could care less. 

There are many reasons why that type of thinking is wrong, but the biggest reason is that the physical act of writing itself, even without publishing or having anyone read it, is still a otherworldly act like shedding past versions of yourself; a reconstruction of memory if you will, and if done right, a confession to the universe; a universe that is inside you. It's also actively talking yourself into existence. Yes it is. And you are the audience, and that's all you need. (ask PESSOA) Everything else is just the cherry on top. 

The note Gwen sent me was just what the doctor ordered and it snapped me out of it: All she said was that she really enjoyed my story and thanked me for writing it. So we became friends, and I sent her my novel for free. I offered her Ciao! Miami for free too, but she said she'd rather buy it. This is exactly how so many beautiful Twitter friendships begin. 

And now, I'm happy to say that my friend Gwen has spoken herself into existence. She's the type of writer that I admire because she has fun with it. That's it. As you read her words, you realize she's on Cloud 9 tapping away on that magical "typewriter" because it's a direct transfer of joy from the author on the page to the reader at home, or in the park, or sitting in their car. That's the only real goal all writers should have: to transfer the joy. (I may be sounding like a hippie right now, but hippies are saints! Let's go back to being hippies.)

_1.__What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I’d never have to work for money again. If I ever made enough to only do what I wanted I could live judiciously. I’d commit my time to a variety of art practices, bowling, walking, giving back to my community, and spending time with my partner.

__2.__What is your greatest fear?

I don’t want to lose the love I have. I live as if this is my only attempt at life. I would like to keep the relationships I have. Love is all you want at the end.

__3.__What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

General hubris. I am vain and proud and frequently spiteful. Nothing gets me working harder than a fuck you I won’t say. I spent my youth wanting to take over the world, worked for a man who lived by the motto “global domination is just around the corner”, and despite all the sea changes in my being I don’t only want to be the best. I want to be everything.

__4.__What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Cowardice. Cowards make everyone else in their life do heavy lifting for them. I was a coward and I get why people didn’t like me at that point. I had no reason to be a coward other than my own self-loathing and manufactured distance from others.

__5.__Which living person do you most admire?

It’s a corny answer, but my mother. She has thrived through things I’d never survive.

__6.__What is your greatest extravagance?

I have an extensive physical media collection. I like to collect art. I consider my relationship to plastic often. I like to spend and I like to be spent on. I’m a material girl in a material world.

__7.__What is your current state of mind?

Peaceful. I’m on a sort-of sabbatical that has been more than productive. I have had once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and after a decade of deep existential dread I have completed goals I can die happy with. My life for the past few years, and realistically in its entirety is richer than that of most royalty. I’m fortunate to say that under 30.

__8.__What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Modesty. You can honestly assess yourself while still being confident and even proud. There’s no need for modesty if you understand the value of humility. This is mincing, but there’s a difference.

__9.__On what occasion do you lie?

I love to lie about what movies I’ve seen. Have my whole life. Some lies I’ve maintained because it’s better than seeing the movies. When I miss the boat on something everyone loved I get to have my own private relationship with the film this way. I only recently watched the Lord of the Rings series after lying about having seen it most of my life. It was fine.

__10.__What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I’d like new tits. Tits so nice no one ever looks at my face again. Patron if you’re reading this. I know I’ll have good hair in a few years. I do believe I’m incredibly beautiful. Now that I’m a “smart writer” I can be ugly hot. Still, I want new tits.

__11.__Which living person do you most despise?

I’m trying to give up on hate because it really is corrosive and slows you down. It’s like feeling the after effects of adrenaline while feeling the adrenaline. With that said I can’t name them. Thinking long term.

__12.__What is the quality you most like in a man?

I like a man who is direct. I think a man that is direct (hopefully) comes with a bouquet of admirable qualities. The direct men in my life know what they want or know how to start on that path. They communicate effectively. They are considerate of the people around them. I shoot straight and I’ve met a lot of men who can’t. Women have to shoot straight unless they’ve had supremely cozy lives.

__13.__What is the quality you most like in a woman?

I like confident women. Walking tall is hard.

__14.__Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Dude, hell yeah, swag, nice, swagula, rad, radical, like, best, oh jeez, ope, fuck, shit, well

__15.__What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My partner Emma is the greatest love of my life. I have been in and out of love before I met her. This is the most open attempt I’ve made and I don’t want to lose it. We met before the pandemic and have had more time than most couples have in the first years to grow strong and close. She is exactly the person I’ve wanted to marry since I was maybe 12. And 15, and 18, and 21, and 22 when we met. It’s been incredible to grow and learn with her. I don’t think I’m the lifelong ideal for her and that’s okay. That’s a unique joy I get to experience. She is a pillar of the art community and when we met she was working mostly in a rental store. It’s a disgusting trope of slovenly losers to want to date the rental store/used art/media store employee, but I was that person before shit like Scott Pilgrim existed.

__16.__When and where were you happiest?

Right now. I had a very short list of goals before I die that must be completed and it took me only 18 months. Even dream goals were achieved early. At this point, there are only a few people I’d like to do readings with that are alive. I’d like to see my book as a signifier of something in a meme and in the first or second image of an in-the-know date on Tinder. Otherwise, I’ve had a better life than I ever thought I would. I need much bigger goals.

__17.__Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d like to be the world’s best bowler or have the ability to play multiple instruments very well. Like improv jazz good. Both take practice I could put in now. That’s attainable. It’s just about time.

__18.__If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d get rid of my asthma.

__19.__What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I think my book is my greatest achievement at this time. Everything else is too soon to tell. I don’t want this to be my final answer in life to this question.

__20.__If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I’d like to be me again. There’s always work to do.

__21.__Where would you most like to live?

I’d like a house in Moab. If I could keep my place in Chicago and have a house in Moab I’d be the happiest person on Earth.

__22.__What is your most treasured possession?

I have a Blockbuster gift card that says movie star with a blurry mirror on it. I’ve had that gift card all my life. I used to look at myself in it and imagine a future bigger than anyone had ever seen. I have a lot of nice things and it would be sad to list something based on asset value. This object is worth nothing, but I’d probably cry if I lost it or threw it out.

__23.__What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

True loneliness. There’s nothing wrong with being alone, but if you’ve shut everyone else out absolute loneliness can kill.

__24.__What is your favorite occupation?

If I could make a living wage with good benefits as a niche store clerk I would. Having a real job while still interacting with people would be nice. If I taught meditation courses that’d be a sweet gig. Paid to be chill and present. Life couldn’t get any better. I guess that’s actually attainable for me, but not everyone is into the hair-on-fire type of presence to the moment like I am.

__25.__What is your most marked characteristic?

My loudness. It is well known that you know when Gwen Hilton is coming. I have a laugh that resonates for blocks. I have heard all my life that I do not have an indoor voice.

__26.__What do you most value in your friends?

Openness. You can tell when it clicks and sometimes it happens immediately. I think at the base that begins with openness. Trust and loyalty are commitments and those are only founded in openness.

__27.__Who are your favorite writers?

Charles Willeford
, Sam Pink, Dennis Cooper, Herman Melville, and Cormac McCarthy are the big five. Calvin Westra, Big Bruiser Dope Boy, Manuel Marrero, Fawzy Zablah, Kyle R. Siebel, Jillian Luft, Jackie Ess, DuVay Knox, and Jesse Hilson are the writers working today that I try to read everything they write. I am still a young reader. I’ve read less than 500 books. I hope I do not look back and feel like I left names off.

__28.__Who is your hero of fiction?

I started wearing almost exclusively jumpsuits because of Hoke Moseley. I cooled off because of him too. He’s about as real to me as any person. Hero isn’t the right phrase, but I started living differently after reading the Hoke Moseley series.

__29.__Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Jesus Christ. I’d put myself on the shortlist as a potential second coming of Christ. Caligula, maybe.

__30.__Who are your heroes in real life?

Michael Maniacci, my mentor is my hero. He is the smartest man I’ve ever met and also has the most open heart. A rare combination. When I spend time with him I feel like I’m getting closer to everything.

__31.__What are your favorite names?

Gwen, Emma, Hoss, Fritz, Bladee, Paris, Manny, Carlos, Kaitlyn, Paul, Slade, and Kim.

__32.__What is it that you most dislike?

People who think wealth is equivalent to culture or knowledge.

__33.__What is your greatest regret?

How I have handled my interpersonal life at times.

__34.__How would you like to die?

I’d like to die having sex.

__35.__What is your motto?

Shoot your shot.

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