The Pain Never Ends
"I subscribe to the Kubrick policy about discussing your own work, to wit: Do not."
Published: February 23, 2011
Tim Kreider used to do a cartoon for this very paper and he called it The Pain—When Will It End? It’s not in this very paper anymore, and if you are unfamiliar with it, you should go to the Internet right now and click on thepaincomics.com to see what I’m talking about.
Mr. Kreider has published a shiny new book and it is called Twilight of the Assholes, and it is subtitled The Chronicle of the Era of Darkness (2004-2009), and it is jammed full of Pain comics out of City Paper, plus some other stuff, I guess. I haven’t had a chance to see the book yet—but look, the point here is that (and I heard it right from the guy who made the book) the super-bonus thing about this new collection of previously enjoyed The Pain comics is Mr. Kreider used to draw these things for Chicken Feed, but that wasn’t the point (OK, maybe it was some of the point), because he was an Artist making Art, right?
I was supposed to conduct an Interview with Mr. Kreider about his new book being new, so I met with him at the Club Charles, in Baltimore’s vibrant “Station North” Arts District area, where I met him in the “Make-Out Room” with his “biggest groupie” Ms. Sadie Lune (who wants you to learn more about her at the Internet of sadielune.com), and we sat around and enjoyed various legal beverages and discussed a variety of topics, but it turns out I didn’t set up my FLIP SD recorder correctly and I only recorded the last 10 minutes of the interview where I’m slurring pretty badly telling Mr. Pain and Ms. Lune (if that is her real name) how I like my Manhattan cocktail made in a rocks glass because a martini glass is too hard to hold (hand shakes), and how I was gonna go see the 35mm screening of Alien over at the Charles Theater and generally uninteresting shit like that, so I e-mailed him with “follow-up questions,” and he typed out all the stuff I woulda had to transcribe from the recording anyway. The one I didn’t make.
The Pain ’s Tim Kreider: Hey not to second-guess the whole professional interviewing process or anything but aren’t a lot of these the very same questions you asked me in the Make-Out Room at Club C? Did the sound not come out okay?
Me: Why isn’t your comic in City Paper anymore?
TP TK: There are a couple of different versions of this answer I could give. One is that, like anyone who just pays attention to or cares about politics, I just got burned out after eight years of the Bush administration and needed a very long vacation. But I’d also been talking about quitting cartooning for years. My close friends and colleagues probably got a little tired of hearing me go back and forth about it. To be frank about it, when you’re in your 20s, just getting published is incentive enough to work, but when you’re 40, $20 dollars a week is no longer quite enough to motivate you through the creative blocks and doldrums.
In retrospect, I can’t even remember what the hell else I thought I was going to do when I quit cartooning. It was like letting go of the old trapeze before grabbing hold of the next trapeze. I was just lucky there was a next trapeze.
Me: We talked about the “Artist’s Statement” frequently found under the comics on your site, and I said how much I enjoyed them. Still never got a book from your publisher, so again, these are in the book, yes?
TP TK: Oh those fuckers. I shall take them sternly to task for it. Yes, the artist’s statements are in the book, somewhat jiffied up for print.
Me: You seemed to be unsure about including them in the book. Why?
TP TK: In principle I subscribe to the Kubrick policy about discussing your own work, to wit: Do not. It can only ever limit and diminish it. I tried not to explicate my own cartoons, just use them as starting points for tangential rants, occasions to say things that the cartoon form didn’t allow for. Still, it makes me squirmy whenever artists hold forth about their own work, and I still second-guess myself about having included the essays. But lots of readers wrote in to tell me they liked them at least as much as the cartoons, and my publisher, whose taste I trust, wanted to include them, so I crossed my fingers and deferred to his judgment.
Me: How did you end up in The New York Times?
TP TK: The Times was running a blog series called Proof, featuring essays on alcohol, most of which fell into one of two broad categories: either 1) Aw Man I Got So Fucked Up Last Night and It Was So Much Fun, or 2) I Am Now In A 12-Step Program and It Has Saved My Life. I was neither of those guys. I was somewhere in between, someone who used to drink a lot and now drinks way less but isn’t pretending I don’t miss it a lot. So I wrote a piece from that point of view, which, luckily, happened to resonate personally with the editor. (He and I still go out for a martini once every couple of months or so.) He not only published that piece but invited me to be a regular contributor to his next blog series, Happy Days, about happiness, a subject about which I am considerably less expert than drinking.
Me: How did that lead to a “book deal”?
TP TK: It turns out that when you are in the Times, all sorts of interesting propositions come your way. Some producers asked me to write a movie script after I wrote an op-ed in defense of Pluto a few years ago. After the happiness essays appeared, a TV producer approached me about a possible reality series for Animal Planet featuring me and my cat (don’t even ask). A couple of agents wrote me after the alcohol essay ran, one of whom, Meg Thompson, was not only horrifyingly beautiful but wrote me a shockingly nonprofessional e-mail about a very vivid and strange and personally revealing dream she’d had after reading one of my books of cartoons. Needless to say, I picked her. It proved to be one of the better decisions I have ever made in my life. She got me a very good deal indeed for a first collection of essays without some high-concept theme by an unknown author.
Me: How’s the book going? (THAT WAS KIDDING)
Me: Where is your Twitter? (NOT KIDDING)
TP TK: Oh for fuck’s sake. I just finally broke down and got a Facebook page. Now I gotta Twitter too? The only way I’m ever able to impersonate someone smart or thoughtful is by laboring over my writing for weeks and then presenting it as though I just tossed it off the top of my head. Nobody has something interesting to say every day. Ask anybody who’s married.
Tim Kreider does not discuss his work at Atomic Books (3620 Falls Road) on Friday Feb. 25 at 7:00 p.m.
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