Along with writers like Tucker Max and Maddox, *Chad Kultgen’s work has been lumped into the emerging guy-lit genre, “fratire”, a category short on flowery prose and long on synonyms for tits. Kultgen’s first book, Average American Male, offered a blunt, unsparing look into the mind of a typical 20-something guy, working a typical job, who typically watches Internet porn. His sophomore book, The Lie, comes out today.
Kultgen arrived at West Hollywood’s Palihouse with the hotel’s address penned on his forearm. After taking a few sips of a dense Belgian stout, he declared he’d had better, and he’d had worse. Then he said, “Begin.” We will, after the jump.
Flavorwire: Both your first novel, Average American Male (AAM), and your latest book, The Lie, present pretty bleak outlooks on romantic relationships. What do you think are the key distorting factors in relations between the sexes?
Chad Kultgen: Generally, it boils down to one thing ⎯ the first part of a relationship is always good because you overlook the stuff that you don’t have in common, and you even find those things attractive about the other person. It’s not even like you’re glazing it over just to make the other person think you like this new stuff. You will actually trick yourself into believing you like it. Then, six months later, you realize, “Wait, I actually never did like country music. Why the fuck am I line dancing in a cowboy bar right now?” That’s mostly the first book, AAM. The Lie is more about actively tricking people into getting into relationships with you for your own ulterior motives.
FW: Right, the female character in The Lie isn’t looking for romantic love. It’s much more about her need for security.
CK: Yeah, but I think to her, that’s what love is. To her, love is finding the guy who has the status she wants, and being able to marry into that and get some of it for herself. So the guy is almost irrelevant.
FW: The sorority girls in The Lie are all clamoring to get “locked-in”, as in engaged, by graduation. This seems like a fairly pre-sixties mentality. How prevalent a mindset do you think this is for today’s college girls?
CK: With the exception of a few friends, virtually everyone I went to high school with was married within a year or two of graduating from college, and started producing the babies shortly thereafter. I would say this ⎯ New York and Los Angeles and a few other big cities are places people come to, to pursue careers. Whatever your little dream may be, you come to one of these big cities to pursue that. And I know at least for me, it’s kind of been an either/or. Like if I wanted to get married and have kids, it meant that I was giving up the pursuit of the dream that I actually came to Los Angeles for. I feel like for people who don’t come to one of these big cities, it’s like, you graduate from college with a generic business degree, and the girl you were dating in college is probably still around and wanting to get married, and what else are you going to fucking do?
FW: The Lie is similar in structure to Bret Easton Ellis’ The Rules of Attraction. Why did you draw from his book in particular?
CK: I’ve always liked that book. And I think to some degree, we’re all kind of fascinated with college life. Because it’s this time when you’re a kid, but you’re away, and you’re kind of doing adult shit, but not really. You’re taking classes. You’re getting drunk. You’re banging chicks or dudes, whatever the case may be. Or most people do, I should say. I feel a little like I squandered my own college experience in that I had a long-term girlfriend for all four years who was long distance, whom I never cheated on. Now in retrospect… Anyway, sadly, right after college, the way the system is set-up, especially if you’ve had to take out loans, you have to start paying that shit back immediately. So guess what you’re doing? You’re getting a fucking job, and it may not necessarily be the job you want. Then you get a fucking credit card, and then you’re going to be at that job for even longer. So, I like the college atmosphere to tell a kind of weird story that’s away from things.
FW: College kind of sets you up for a letdown.
CK: It’s like being on The Real World. It fucks you up so you only ever want to be an actor.
FW: Ellis has had an impact. Are there any other writers who have been influential?
CK: In terms of contemporary fiction, he’s probably the only one. All of the my other influences, if you even want to call them that, are sci-fi fantasy authors. I’m a fucking nerd. To me, Isaac Asimov’s The Foundation Series is one of the best fucking documents ever created on planet Earth.
FW: My mother brought up robots the other night. She said, “I think we’re going to have robots living in our house and doing our chores one day.” What do you think? In the future, will we be wrapping up robots and sticking them under the Christmas tree for our moms?
CK: Absolutely. By the time you’re sixty, you will have fucked a robot.
FW: So my mom goes to household chores, and you head straight for sex.
CK: Okay, but let’s talk about robots and chores. What your mom doesn’t understand is the robots who do your chores are also going to be serving you hamburgers at McDonald’s, and doing every other form of manual labor in the world. Meaning, the manual labor workforce is going to be unemployed. We’re going to have an 80 percent unemployment rate worldwide. Financial systems will collapse, and it will all be because these corporations bought robots to do their manual labor in an effort to save money. Welcome to how the world ends circa ah, maybe 2100. That’s my Nostradamus prediction.
FW: Do you have a set writing routine? Or is it more like, “Whenever I feel like it”?
CK: It’s very simple. If I’m not at the gym, playing video games, fucking, or drinking, I’m writing.
FW: The male characters in AAM are regulars at strip clubs. Do you yourself frequent strip joints in LA, and if so, what’s your favorite?
CK: I wouldn’t say I frequent them. I’ve definitely been to some here. My favorite in Vegas used to be Crazy Horse Too until it got shut down. Some cab driver was telling us the last time we were there that there was gunfire outside the place or maybe it was an embezzlement scheme that went down ⎯ some kind of nefarious activity was going on at the old Crazy Horse Too, so it doesn’t exist anymore. But the last place I went to out here was the Seventh Veil. It’s full nude which means you can’t drink booze, which I don’t like.
FW: Do men get unruly when they’re drinking booze in front of naked women?
CK: Of course! If a guy gets drunk, and there’s a naked chick in front of him, he’s going to rape her. Period. So they have to watch out for the ladies.
FW: Speaking of stripping, your writing has this down-to-the-bone, hardcore quality. I don’t think I’ve spotted a simile in it. Do you feel like your style developed quite naturally or was it a very conscious choice of yours to really pare back?
CK: I don’t know. The first kind of real attempts I ever took at writing were screenplays in film school. All of the non-dialogue shit in a screenplay is stage direction, which is supposed to be very sparse and to the point like, “Jimmy walks across the fucking room.” Well, you don’t put “fucking” in it. If you’re me, you do. Anyway, you just say, “He walks across the room and whips out his dick” or whatever the stage direction may be. And maybe it’s a symptom of that. I’m just used to writing that way, I guess.
FW: Would you say AAM and The Lie fall under this somewhat new genre,”fratire”? Or re-phrased, are your books the guy’s answer to chick lit?
CK: I have no idea. I don’t give a shit. Will that sell me more copies? You can call my book whatever you want ⎯ porno, “fratire”, fucking Pulitzer Prize material, I don’t care, as long as the copies keep moving off the shelves. [Editor’s note: What about dick lit?]
FW: AAM was one of the first books to launch a successful viral video campaign, boosting sales. How did the virals come about?
CK: The publisher and I agreed that the audience for AAM is dudes like myself who play video games and spend countless hours watching stupid shit on YouTube. So we thought it would be a good idea to make some under-a-minute videos. I thought they turned out pretty well. They should have been dirtier though.
FW: I thought they were disturbing. They weirded me out about going on dinner dates, because what they’re saying is, “The only reason he’s taking you out to dinner is because he hopes to get laid.”
CK: Well then don’t go on a dinner date. Just go out to drinks with a dude, get hammered, and then give him what he wants. No, but when you say, ‘He hopes to get laid’, you have to understand that when a guy’s walking down the fucking street, he’s hoping to get laid, by any chick who might fuck him. When he takes a girl out to dinner, the hope is heightened. And, you know, I’m sure some guys do expect to get laid. And I’m also sure some guys are just like, ‘I hope she’ll give me a good night kiss.’ There’s every kind of person on the fucking planet.
FW: So you do believe that there’s a spectrum in terms of the male mentality?
CK: Absolutely. But I happen to think the average falls much closer to the character in AAM than it does to the guy who’s hoping for a good night kiss.
FW: In other interviews, you mention that you’ve written several novels that will never see the light of day. It’s hard to imagine you’ve got even more vulgar writing stuffed in a drawer somewhere, but is that the case?
CK: No. The shit that I’ve written that no one will ever see is far less vulgar. I wrote a novel in college called Johnny Pupa: The Novel. Johnny Pupa was like my alter ego in college. Basically, I would go into lecture classes that I wasn’t actually a student in, and I would take their final exams with Johnny Pupa as my student name. I’d go in and get a blue book and just start writing crazy fucking shit, just weird stories that had nothing to do with the questions. And then I would go later when I knew the things were going to be handed back with grades. They’d be in a giant stack, and I’d find mine and see what the TA wrote in it. It used to make me laugh my ass off.
FW: So you like to kind of play with people.
CK: Of course.
* The photo accompanying this piece is of Chad Kultgen, age 4. We’re not sure why.