This is part 2 of FilmDrunk’s interview with Allan Weisbecker. Check out part 1 here.
“There are a half dozen at least that would like to either sue me, or see me dead. As far as my effect on them goes, it’s too early to say. Depends on how well the book does. “
FD: Speaking of jeopardy, in CYGAWA you “out” a person against whom you make a very persuasive case as being a murderer, and (in the book) were at many times on the run in fear for your life. Where is this person now, and how worried are you about him and others whose criminal enterprises you discuss in the book?
AW: You refer to the double murder I investigated in Costa Rica back in 1998, for Men’s Journal magazine, which in the book I expand into a backstory section. I don’t want to give too much away on this through-line because the book’s ending hinges on it – how the investigation came back in 2005 to bite me on the ass in a way I could not have made up — but I will say that I feel reasonably safe outside of Costa Rica. The murderer is extremely well connected there, but not so in the States. In terms of my life being in danger, there are other people from the book that – if I were inclined to worry about being assassinated – I would worry about more.
FD: Did you consider changing names to avoid retribution, legal or otherwise, from the people you write about?
AW: Never once crossed my mind. Over the last few years, the memoir genre has (deservedly) been discredited: the James Frey/Million Little Pieces shit storm, characters from Running With Scissors surfacing to cry “crapola!”; even the formerly sacrosanct Pulitzer Prize winner, Frank McCourt, has come under fire for bullshitting in his memoirs. Joyce Carol Oates was on Book TV saying that Angela’s Ashes is in the fiction section of bookstores in Limerick, Ireland. Ms. Oates must’ve been really sure that McCourt lied, and pissed off about it, to say that publicly.
My observation regarding prize winning nonfiction is that the bigger the lies, the bigger the prize. Case in point is Lawrence Wright’s Looming Tower, the supposed history of Al Qaeda and the “road to 9/11,” and which won the Pulitzer for general nonfiction (in 2006). Almost as big a crock of nonfiction shit as the 9/11 Commission Report.
And the movie United 93 — supposedly an accurate dramatization of that flight’s involvement in the attacks — gets nominated for Best Picture (plus Best Director).
FD: What was the problem with United 93?
AW: Don’t get me started, but one example: have you ever tried to make a cell phone call from a commercial airliner at above a thousand feet, let alone at cruising altitude? Can’t be done. Impossible. Yet they have multiple calls going through, no problem.
FD: The cell phone calls were in the 9/11 Commission Report…
AW: You might want to ponder the implications of that, and of The 9/11 Report getting short listed for the National Book Award for “nonfiction.”
It’s relentless, the bullshit.
FD: In CYGAWA you have some problems with dishonesty in your personal life.
AW: Goddamn, I love understatements like that. Yes, I had some problems with dishonesty in my personal life. Fell in love with a sociopathic female. The “love of my life” through-line is the real story of my memoir.
Plus denial. If I had to pick a sentence from the book that sums it up, plus why the world is so fucked up – which is what the book is really about — it would be this one: “Notwithstanding evidence to the contrary, people believe whatever makes them feel most comfortable about themselves.”
Denial is behind the sorry ass condition of the world we live in.
FD: You created a website as an adjunct to CYGAWA.
AW: Documents and emails and depositions and newspaper articles and you-name-it backing up basically everything I write about, in my personal life and in the conflation of that with world affairs; even minor details. A massive undertaking. Wordage-wise, the website is as long as the book. I don’t expect anyone to plow through the whole thing, but thoughtful readers should perceive the book in a unique way, knowing the stuff is there if they care to dig. Plus, the material will give pause to anyone thinking of suing me for libel, since truth is the ultimate defense.
FD: How do you feel about that – do you think there are a lot of people from the book who’d like to sue you? How much effect do you think you had on them?
AW: There are a half dozen at least that would like to either sue me, or see me dead. As far as my effect on them goes, it’s too early to say. Depends on how well the book does.
During the writing of the book I had sort of an epiphany about “nonfiction,” what it is, or isn’t, and ponder (in the book) the responsibilities of a writer writing about real and especially living people, and so forth. As part of this, I own up to the nonfiction deceits I use in my first memoir, In Search of Captain Zero, and how something I wrote — a misunderstanding (as opposed to a lie) — screwed up a guy’s life. I do some purging…
FD: In the book you say that “Sometimes lying about facts is okay, sometimes not.” Explain.
AW: First, I have no patience with euphemisms like “taking liberties” or “artistic license.” You knowingly write an untruth, you’re lying.
FD: “Lying like a slug” is how you put it.
AW: There are a lot of fine lines here, but lying in nonfiction is sometimes okay when the writer’s sole motive is to keep the story moving (momentum) foster unity (symmetry), or to ease the narrative onto another subject (a segue), with no deceitful implications about how the world works. Deceit about how the world works is usually done in subtext, and is a sin, for the commission of which writers will rot in Writer Hell.
FD: You single out Bob Woodward as a writer who is going to rot in Writer Hell.
AW: Woodward is a good example because of the effects and implications of his books. For example, Woodward ends Veil; The Secret Wars of the CIA with a scene that is a lie in every way you can lie in nonfiction. He makes up a complete crock of shit wherein he visits CIA Director William Casey on his death bed and gets Casey to admit that he, Casey, knew about the diversion of funds to the Contras during the Iran-Contra scandal. The subtext here is that Casey didn’t have anything to do with the diversion of funds: he knew about it. Well, as Woodward well knew, Casey knew about the diversion because he was instrumental in the planning of it, and the cover up. Woodward himself was hence a key player in the cover up, since he publicly lied (in subtext) about how Casey knew. I devote a chapter to Woodward’s lies by omission and outright lies and the rewriting and erasure of history in his nonfiction books.
FD: Why would Woodward lie in his books?
AW: Woodward has sold his nonfiction writer’s soul for access to the shitball motherfuckers who run this sorry ass world. He gets access because he backs up their lies. He’ll rot in Writer Hell, though.
FD: You claim that “Orwell was an optimist.”
AW: It’s an observation, not a claim. Sticking with Woodward, in Plan of Attack – the supposed definitive history of our conflict with Saddam Hussein – Woodward does a history of U.S. relations with “The Beast of Baghdad.” Problem is he skips from the 1970s to the 1990s, leaving out the 1980s. Not a word about the decade of the 1980s: The decade during which the U.S. and The Beast of Baghdad were close allies and the U.S., under Reagan then Bush I, was actively and knowingly aiding and abetting The Beast in his crimes against humanity, even sending him poison gas components and helicopters to commit genocide on his own people and those of Iran. This is a matter of public record – you can google and verify it; corporate and government documents and so forth.
If the rewriting (or erasing) of history sounds vaguely familiar, this was the protagonist Winston Smith’s job at the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984. Smith, along with the rest of the world of that story, was intimidated, threatened, bullied, into denial/lying via “jackboots on human faces.” That the jackboots are unnecessary in the real world of today to get Woodward and the rest of the mainstream media to rewrite history is the basis of my observation that Orwell was an optimist.
FD: How’s the book doing?
AW: Great. It’s only been in print for six weeks and already has more than 100 Reader Reviews, all but four being 5 stars. And even the four 4-star reviews sound like 5. [Ed Note: Here's Allan's favorite] Folks saying the book changed their lives or their ways of looking at life. This is the word of mouth on the book. More important for me, this (plus the hundreds of emails and letters I’ve gotten) means I’ve successfully communicated with a lot of people. Which is important to me since the book almost killed me to write. Three times.
FD: If you told us what those were, would it ruin the book?
AW: The “love of my life” was involved, directly or indirectly, each time.
FD: By the way, where did the title come from?
AW: “Can’t you get along with anyone?” was the body of the email my ICM agent sent me in response to my firing her.
FD: You also fired your book agent.
AW: Plus my hollywood attorney. I fired everybody. In fact, you’re fired.
FD: I don’t work for you.
AW: Oh. Okay.
CONTINUE TO PART 3, WHY THINGS IN HOLLYWOOD ARE… FISHY
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