Interview with author J.Frede on his cleverly titled book American Idle

9 Dec

On Dec 1, 2010, at 11:11 AM, 48HrBooks wrote:

Hey James- here goes.

{inspired by you- I am going to post this email conversation up verbatim on our blog- be sure to put anything off record in these magical sensor end-caps, it will be our metaphorical mute}

We all have seen the stereotypical writer- portrayed in films and such : unshaven, Scotch on the rocks, perpetually red rimmed eyes,  wrestling with his muse and crumpling up paper. But every writer knows that art is about life- and a writer needs lived experience, otherwise how can you know if what you write is authentic? How did you decide to write American Idle  in the log format?  Did you start it with the intention of publishing or did that idea come later?

On Dec 1, 2010, at 11:43 PM, j.frede wrote:

{magical sensor endcaps,,hahahahahaha}

When I decided to start driving a cab I was in the middle of reading a biography on the Beat Hotel and this inspired me to keep keep journals which i posted as a blog from the beginning. I hadn’t planned on publishing the blog but people really responded to the stories and in turn I received a lot of great feedback. After I left the cab business I felt I needed to keep writing and documenting and my new job was 17 miles from my house, which in LA can take about an hour and a half to drive. I started keeping a daily journal about random stuff I saw and my commentary on things that interested or amused me and started posting it as a weekly blog to fill the void of the taxi journals having ended. these “eyespy” my friends and fans of the blog started posting things they would see in their own cities, which over joyed me and I loved that thought that I had encouraged people to take a closer look at the mundane life that often surrounds us.  After publishing WALK by Dave Paco, it seemed like a logical next step to publish both blogs as a single book.

On Dec 2, 2010, at 2:04 PM, 48HrBooks wrote:

You mention Beat Hotel as an influence, it’s funny because I actually was thinking of Brahm Stroker’s Dracula,  which oscillates in format from telegrams, journals, logs and narration in a really convoluted way. But in American Idle you can literally pick up and start reading just about anywhere.  I love it! You tap into the microcosm of life, no real direction for an overarching plot- you can begin each day just about anywhere.

I loved your quick intuitive assessments of each passenger.  I realized it is something we are all doing, just not as consciously.  Is this a practice you are interested in/promoting (via blog,books etc)- forcing yourself to be more aware of what you are aware of?

What was it like when you were making these character assessments about each passenger? Do you feel they were accurate?

Was it enhanced by  cab as a backdrop and you as candid narrator?

My experience-It was extremely voyeuristic with you, as narrator./ faceless chauffeur providing an ambushed observation.

On Dec 3, 2010, at 2:30 AM, j.frede wrote:

I have heard from several people that they love that aspect of American Idle and they keep it on their bedside table or coffee table and will read bits at random, which I really like. Being that its a bits of my life transcribed it makes sense that you can hop in and out, in this way i guess it would be relative to “Lost Highway”, which was meant to be shown on a loop and you can start or stop where ever you like and still experience the movie how Lynch intended. Life is really just a collection of micro-narratives that may or may not have a common thread outside of the fact that its all happening to you. ie: your lunch has not connection to the dramatic text you received during lunch other than the fact that they occurred in parallel.

In regards to my assessments of each passenger, I unfortunately am very good at figuring people out (at least this is my own personal belief, which could be right on or i could just be wildly delusional, but I am hoping its the first) so analyzing people in a snap is not something I really control but humans are generally transparent, for better or worse. I think the cab backdrop didn’t enhanced my assessment, but it did give me greater access to people that I wouldn’t have been around otherwise.

It was indeed extremely voyeuristic as many people tend to ignore their cab drivers, giving me something like a peepshow to view the human condition.

On Dec 3, 2010, at 1:24 PM, 48Hr Books wrote:

Peepshow to the human condition. Your giving me goose bumps.  I just want to mention a few of my favorite entries:

“I rolled up and two heavily cologne’d gay boys get in my cab and asked to go to the Akbar. As we drove I was amazed at listening to them talk to each other as they both sounded like really sassy black women, even more perplexing was that one was Asian and the other was Spanish, It was surreal for sure.”

“older Irish guy, I think he said his name was Doyle. We start chatting and I asked him what he did for a living, he said he did sound for realty television shows.”

“My next call was to a motel in downtown at 5th and Main St. I pull up to a group of hookers and pushers and a beautiful black girl got into my cab, she asked to be taken to Compton. She told me that one of her runners got arrested tonight and she lost $300 on it but that was okay because she had made $250. She was a sweetheart and the cutest drug dealer I have seen yet. When she got out of my cab she looked me in the eyes and said “be careful around here, don’t get lost, just get back on the freeway and back to the city, these freaks will get you.” That statement made me very nervous coming from a drug dealer”

There are so many more but I might as well just say READ IT.

The books published through Fredericks publishing are so indicative of how authors are responding to the new media revolution and its endless permutations. Bloggers are budding in an unceasing digital spring.   Do you have any advice for the would-be-blogging novelist out there?

Would you talk a little bit about David Paco’s book “Walk” and your cellphone photo blog project on the citrus report?

With Frederick Publishing I am interested in taking things that were created in a digital format, then printing them as books. I am attracted to taking something that is inline with all things modern (blogs, emails, digital text) and producing them in a format that is thousands of years old and is against most peoples better judgement in this day and age. Recently I read an article on CNN about an author who had a new book out (ironically) that declared that within 5 years books would no longer be printed. When I read this I smiled and said “This is means I need to publish books for at least the next 10 years”.  I find books wildly romantic and intimate and as long as humans have hands and eyes I feel people will cherish books, how ever large or small the runs are.

I totally understand the ebook movement and I think it has its place and I plan on releasing our books in both formats. But I don’t see only releasing ebooks, they are not nearly as sexy as perfect bound books.

Dave Paco’s “Walk” was the first book we published and came about after about a year of Paco traveling south through Latin America. He had been sending this amazing emails home to friends and family about his travels and adventures and after the first couple of emails I wrote him and told him we had to publish the emails as a book when he finished his trek. He ended up spending two years traveling from Los Angeles down to the furthest point south in the Americas, Tierra Del Fuego. We decided to keep the email headers in as an identifier that this were just emails and were not written after the fact. Dave Paco is a great writer and a wonderful story teller, the first of which I am not sure he was aware of before the book came out.

With both WALK and American Idle, the texts are very raw and fall under the “On The Road” school of thought than say Classic Literature. But both books are extremely accessible and just about anyone can enjoy at least parts of the books, especially anyone that loves to travel or eavesdrop.

My “eyespies” blog that I started recently is an extension of the “eyespy” blog that makes up the last half of American Idle.  The major difference with the new blog is its only photographs, more specifically its only photographs taken with my iphone. I decided to not include captions or explanations so I can leave the images completely open ended for the viewers to enjoy (or hate) which allows people to create their own dialog about what is happening. Sometimes I will present somewhat obvious narratives in the photos and I only present photos of things that are beautiful or interesting (to me at least), I feel there are plenty of people documenting the hard times and ugliness of the world so why not just show things that make people smile or scratch their heads.  My day job is working for the largest Art handling company in California. This puts me all over the city daily packing art and installing art in mansions and museums. And while I would LOVE to be keeping a blog detailing all of the insane stuff I see daily, the confidentiality agreements I signed keep me from doing this (at this time ;). So I document things I come across weekly in this new blog, and I will be happy to tell anyone the secrets of the photos over coffee.

The Citrus Report is nice enough to host such an abstract blog, I have been a contributing writer for them for most of 2010. I write essay style features on up and coming artists leading up to exhibitions they have coming up. My next book will be a collection of the essays from this year titled “The Citrus Reports” and is scheduled to be released early next year.

Thanks J!
Check out the book trailer for American Idle and order any of the books through Frederick Publishing at

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