An interview with Steven Kennedy
By M. Joseph Moulton
October 15, 2015
I understand you aspire to becoming a baseball historian. Do you find any correlations between this and your writing?
Ha! Wouldn’t that be a sweet gig! I mean, I think any writer should have a solid understanding of history. I’m not writing in a vacuum, and if I was, what would there be to write about? As for baseball specifically, it is a game that lends itself particularly well to literature. It’s a game of grace and subtleties and symbols and patience and sharp charges of energy, much like writing and much like reading. Then there’s a great tradition of baseball literature. Great 20th century writers like Kerouac, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Philip Roth, Annie Dillard (to name a few random writers that come to mind) embark on these great poetic asides about the game throughout their canon. I don’t think you can be a successful American writer without knowing who Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson are.
But all in all, I want to write sentences like Willie Mays would catch a fly ball: hat loose on the head, casual, cool, with his glove at his hip. I guess that’s the big connection.
In thought of your intention to writing ‘stories in which unattractive characters tacitly exercise their privilege on the oppressed’, I have two questions. Could you detail any writing we might expect from you in the near future, and- Could you describe a character from a piece of literature or a piece of literature itself that might have had an influence on this intention?
Well, I’ve got a lot of pieces going on right now that I’m trying to finish up, but I think a lot of the characters and stories I’m creating are grounded in the idea that I’m part of the problem. With the various social justice issues the U.S. is dealing with right now, I think the worst thing I can do is write some John Cheever, suburban-affair short story. What I need to do in my stories is magnify how common and accepted behavior and practices for white, straight, Christian males are founded on some form of oppression dating back to Columbus coming over in 1492. The WASP perspective is the perspective I’ve been given, and I want to use that in my writing to highlight daily evils that permeate in my “culture.” The best way to do that is: be humble, not preachy honest, and put my own indulgences on the stand. If I’m not trying to help people, I don’t want to write.
I’ve been reading a lot of James Baldwin, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. “Beloved” by Morrison--whoo baby! what a read! James Baldwin’s debate at Cambridge with William F. Buckley over whether the American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro is also an incredible thing to watch (check it on youtube) and I found has informed and inspired my writing lately. Also, the Bible man.
What form of writing have you mostly found yourself within, and where and what do you see becoming of it?
I operate mostly in a post-colonial, neolithic, fuzz junk mythic realism non-non fiction tradition. I really want to write children’s books though. What a cool thing to be able to do well. But I’m really only good at drawing men with mustaches which I could maybe get 1 or 2 good stories out of.
Your father, author of Aristotelian & Cartesian Logic at Harvard, Jesus, History, and Mt. Darwin: An Academic Excursion, and recently of The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather, and your brother Matt Kennedy, author of The Soul of The White Ant, both have taken to a life of writing. Could you detail a piece of history that you share with your father and/or brother?
I will always live in their shadows. But this one time I gave Matt a bloody nose when he was waking me up in the morning. Just hit him right in the nose. Next thing ya know, I’m pulled from the covers by my dad and given the worst spanking I had ever gotten. All this before 8 AM. I think that was when all 3 of us decided we’d be writers.
What the hell do you want people to hear from you?
I think I kind of touched on this earlier. But it’d be great if people read or heard one of my stories and thought: “damn that was pretty good--had some interesting things to say and he said them in an interesting way--now I got to find some more stories that do it better.” If I can get people thinking and reading and creating, that be great, because that’s how I get when I read something good.
In closing, would you provide a literary recommendation to the readers of Death Rattle Review?
John Fante’s ‘Ask the Dust.’ Joseph Mitchell’s ‘Up in the Old Hotel.’ Roger Kahn’s ‘The Boys of Summer.’ And all the other authors I mentioned above. Killer reads.