That depends. Anchorage is no kind of final frontier at all.
The island of Unalaska, Alaska - on the other hand - felt like a wild frontier town from the very beginning. When I originally got to Unalaska the roads weren't paved, guns were sold alongside of groceries, and there were - and still are - fights in the bars nearly every night. The scenery is something else. It's a bunch of volcanic mountains sticking up out of the ocean. Unalaska, Alaska not only feels like the final frontier, it feels like the edge of the world.
Why is it called Unalaska?
It all goes back to the first contact between the Europeans and the Alaskan natives. The Russians arrived on the island and they asked the Natives, "What do you call this place?" The Natives responded "Ounalashka". However, there was a language barrier and the Russians misunderstood and they called the island Unalaska and they called the entire new territory they discovered Alaska.
Less than a million people live in the whole state - and Alaska is big! If you split Alaska in half Texas would be the third biggest state. So there's less than a million of people in a territory that's huge!
That must have been a big culture shock for you - spending four months of the year in Alaska and eight months of the year in New York City.
I loved it. When I got on the plane leaving Unalaska with all that money and all that vacation ahead of me and I just went wherever I wanted to - anywhere in the world. Sometimes I went to New York, other times I went to London, Tokyo, Rio, Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay, Paris - I went wherever I wanted to. It was a culture shock alright, but it was fun. It was a blast!
Sounds like a blast! So let's talk about your book. Why did you decide to write a novel about Alaska?
When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them and then they always have a million questions about Alaska. I also tell them about my experiences up there and that's when people say, "Wow! Why don't you write a book about Alaska?"
I was reading your book - and I could see the scenes and people right in front of my eyes. Did you give any thought about turning your Alaskan experience into a screenplay?
Some people insisted that I should write a screenplay about Alaska. They said the scenes and personalities I was talking about felt like it would fit best in a movie. Others said I should write a novel instead because you can always turn a novel into a screenplay.
Was it easier for you to write a novel because you've written them before?
Yes. That helps. But I've also written a screenplay - although it is not about Alaska.
I've listened to you at poetry readings. This novel Unalaska, Alaska is so much different than your other work. How are you able to write in so many different styles?
I've written four books of poetry, three novels, a play, and other things too. I consider these books to be literary adventures. Unalaska, Alaska - on the other hand - is an adventure of the North. It's a conventionally written fast-paced novel about the Alaskan bush - America's final frontier.
Unalaska, Alaska describes how you almost died a number of times up there. Do you consider yourself lucky to have lived this long to write a book about it?
Yes, I do.
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Interview with Wolf Larsen
Question: So why do you write?
Wolf Larsen: I write for the same reason that I f*ck - it's an important part of life!
Q. I noticed there's a lot of sex in your books - why is that?
Wolf: F*cking is an important part of life! If it wasn't for f*cking we wouldn't be here! It's all about fluids.
Q. So you write for the same reason that you have sex?
Wolf: Sex is an urge that drives every human being on this planet whether they admit it or not! Writing and sex are some of the strongest urges I have ever felt. I must write! I must f*ck! It's that simple.
Q. So what are some of the other urges you feel?
Wolf: To change the world and get drunk and fly off to Amsterdam right now!
Q. Why do you want to change the world?
Wolf: Look at it! There's nuclear bombs hanging over our heads, AIDS is sweeping over the earth, half the human race lives on less than two dollars a day, and there's all this endless wars, wars, wars. The conservatives tell us all to eat sh*t and vote Republican. The liberals tell us to respect animals and trees and vote Dixiecrat. The parties in power go back and forth but the wars, prison building, and attacks on unions, women, minorities, gays, and the poor just go on and on. So basically I want to change everything.
Q. But if you want to change the world than how come you rarely mention politics in your writing?
Wolf: That's true. It's more indirect I think. I write about the world the way it is. Lynching, war, racial tension, rape, pedophile priests, etc - it's all in my writing because that's the way the world is. The world is a great place but it also sucks! However, I'm not writing to change the world. I'm not naïve enough to think that writing poetry and some novels and a screenplay is going to change the world. However, I don't mind crashing the literary world with new and revolutionary ways of writing because just as the old political system has nothing to offer but war and prisons the old literary hierarchy has nothing to offer but lame poems that still rhyme. These people that run the most tired, pretentious "literary" magazines in the country are still living in the 19th century. My writing smashes through all of that.
Q. Do you think a lot of people will find your writing to be offensive?
Wolf: That's probably true. I've noticed that many feminists and born-again Christians react strongly against almost everything that has sex in it. The feminists forgot all about fighting for women's rights now that they're in bed with the moral majority. One of the things I think we artists should rebel against is this ridiculous puritanism that dominates our country.
Q. Do you think the black nationalists will be offended too by the interracial sex scenes?
Wolf: Of course! They go around talking about how much they hate the Jews, the Koreans, and integrated couples. If these black nationalists were to put on white sheets nobody would be able to tell the difference!
Q.: Why is there so much interracial sex in your work?
Wolf: I grew up in an interracial neighborhood with lots of beautiful little brown babies running around - to me it seems natural. I've also spent lots of time in Latin America. Multiculturalism isn't something that they just talk about in coffee shops down there - it's something they've been practicing in the bed for hundreds of years.
Q. Do you embrace hedonism?
Wolf: Sure, why not? As long as it's between consenting adults - whether it's two or three or thirty! I grew up in the seventies! I watched my older brothers - who were a decade older than me - party and enjoy that free love thing. I couldn't wait to become an adult! Then just when I was entering puberty in 1980 Ronald Reagan, AIDS, and political correctness came along. It sucked! The free-love progressives started sounding like a bunch of puritanical nuns and the religious right just got out of control. They started bombing abortion clinics. My writing is a rebellion against the whole puritanical hysteria. I guess you could say my writing embraces hedonism.
Q. What would you say are some of the biggest influences on your writing?
Wolf: Afro-Brazilian music, twentieth century classical music, free jazz, painting and sculpture from the 1880s to today. Being exposed from everything from the ghetto on the South Side of Chicago to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.
Q. What do you mean "exposed" to the ghetto on the South Side of Chicago?
Wolf: I mean that I grew up in a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago that was completely surrounded by the black ghetto. I could see the ghetto from my bedroom window.
Q. What was that like?
Wolf: The neighborhood kids in my housing complex were almost all black - so almost all my first playmates as a kid were black. Almost everybody was nice to me except this fat guy who was just like a black Archie Bunker. The local public school - the elementary school - was a hostile place. I think most of us learned how to fight before we could read and write. By the time first grade was over I had so much practice fighting I could kick anybody's ass my age. Making people leave me alone was easy - I just waited for them after school and beat them up. I was called into the principal's office on disciplinary issues all the time - I guess I've been rebelling against authority since the first grade. I did try out pacifism for two weeks - those were some of the two worst weeks of my life outside of Alaska. Ironically, most of the white liberals in the neighborhood with their pretty words about multiculturalism and integration sent their kids to lily white private schools.
Q. Do you still fight now?
Wolf: God no! Nobody fights with their fists anymore! Everything is guns - it's crazy! When I was teenager I almost got shot. I've tried to avoid fights ever since. Now, I fight with my pen instead of my fists.
Q. Tell me about Alaska - what was that like?
Wolf: Alaska made the South Side of Chicago seem like Shangri-La in comparison. In my first job in Alaska I worked 115 hours a week of manual labor on a fishing boat in the Bering Sea. After nearly two years of the boats I started working on the Aleutian island of Unalaska, Alaska in the port of Dutch Harbor. Most of the time I threw forty-four pound boxes of fish in the freezer hold of a cargo ship. We were expected to throw a minimum of three tons of boxes an hour per man. We worked twelve hour shifts - sometimes more. I also lashed barges and container ships. I worked up to a hundred hours a week and I took about eight months of vacation a year. That's how I supported my writing and traveling.
Q. Did you travel a lot?
Wolf: I've only been to forty-five countries - so I still have about a 150 countries to go. I've been through Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. I want to see Africa and Antarctica and all those little islands in the Pacific Ocean. I've spent two years of my life on the road - in total - and I'm itching to travel more right now as I speak. I guess you could say I'm kind of restless.
Q. You have an unusual past for a poet and a writer - does your past affect the way you live today?
Wolf: Sometimes it's kind of hard to relate to all the artsy-fartsy types in the East Village of Manhattan. It seems like when you walk into the East Village you walk into this testosterone-free la-la land… Many of them I get along with quite well, but some of them are just obnoxious privileged brats who talk a lot of p.c. nonsense about what they think "oppression" is and that the Dixiecrats are so great for the country and all that but when they're talking you practically have to wear Alaskan boots that go up to your knees because it gets so deep.
Q. (Laughs) So how would you describe yourself then? (Laughs again) Are you an intellectual brute?
Wolf: Yes. In some ways I'm intellectual and some ways I'm a brute.
Q. Some people might charge that your work is often disturbing and sometimes sick - how do you answer that?
Wolf: Of course my work is disturbing and sometimes sick! The world is disturbing and sick! Anybody who thinks it's normal to live with nuclear bombs, AIDS, and extreme poverty all over the planet ought to have their head examined! Anything that's sanitized and doesn't reflect the chaotic world we live in is probably boring. My writing style is not enslaved to realism but the horrible realities we live with every day is bound to affect the way I write! Sanitized writing is boring anyway - whether it's written by uptight born-again Christian males or uptight feminists. I want the reader to be excited about reading! Reading should be a great adventure and books should wake people up - not put them to sleep! I want to charge literature into exciting new extremes that the reader has never experienced before! I want the reader to devour every word! And if anybody thinks that's sick well let them kiss my ass.
Copyright 2004 by Wolf Larsen
The Giant Lizard: So why do you jump from the earth to the moon and then into outer space?
Wolf Larsen: It's like writing tidal waves of imagery all over the walls of the world.
The Giant Lizard: Each page is crashing and the sky is crashing and the world is crashing?
Wolf: The words fly off the page like flocks of birds. Each phrase is hordes of screaming cannibals devouring the reader's mind - every reader should be delicious!
The Giant Lizard:: So you enjoy devouring the reader?
Wolf: Grab sledgehammers and attack the moon! Ride all the tornadoes laughing and laughing in your brains! All the emotions and wars and lusts and violence of the human race splashing out of your pen! Each page is oceans of humanity all having an orgy together!
The Giant Lizard: Is it like words smashing through the sky and crashing into the earth all around you?
Wolf: Tornadoes are fun! Riding a tornado around and around the room and the earth and the universe! It's like rolling the words up into a canvas and smoking the canvas while you're eating all the magical sculptures that are growing out of the walls!
Wolf and the Giant Lizard together: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
The Giant Lizard: I see, and what about all the p*ssies floating in the air?
Wolf: That's more like bashing and bashing all your thoughts and the planets and all the cities together into a huge violent peace that breathes on the page - because all pages should breath!
The Giant Lizard: Wow! Whoopee! Hurricanes!
Wolf: Well, it's like you're trying to fight your way out of a painting, and then you're stabbing and slashing at all the hallucinations eating through the walls of your house! And then some woman's gigantic p*ssy swallows you and you're trying to find your way out of her body but the inside of her body is a labyrinth of staircases through different levels of hell, and well, you're trapped!
The Giant Lizard: But why do you swallow the sky?
Wolf: Well, it's because yesterday I'm Chinese, today I'm white, and tomorrow I'm black.
The Giant Lizard: Oh. That makes sense. And bashing the words together into delirious-hollering sculptures?
Wolf: It's sort of like breakfast. The human race runs out of your breakfast cereal and all the politicians are screaming "She's hiding weapons of mass destruction in her p*ssy! Let's invade! Invade! Invade!" and everything is the slow quiet peacefulness of a violent now while we wait for the madmen in the White House to push the atomic button. But World War III probably won't happen for another decade or two - maybe even three - so there's still plenty of time to have fun!
The Giant Lizard: Yippee! Let's have fun!
Wolf: So in the summer when all the breasts are frolicking and laughing up and down the street and all the phalluses and anuses and vaginas are an entangled sculpture walking out of a canvas - do you kiss all the planets and stars?"
Wolf and the Giant Lizard together: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
The Giant Lizard: Well, that's when I climb inside my own anus and play the harmonica.
Wolf: Oh wow! WHERE'S THE P.C LIBERAL CENSORSHIP?! LET'S SLAUGHTER EACH OTHER AND DEVOUR EACH OTHER ON THE EVENING OF WORLD WAR III!
The Giant Lizard: Yes of course. After I eat all the paintings in my head. I was wondering, do you jump off the sky and land on an asteroid shooting into the poem?
Wolf: Well, poems are to be eaten. The dialogues of plays are meant to be spoken with a saxophone. Of course, the saxophone is a big phallus which spurts poetry all over the audience.
The Giant Lizard: Oh, that's so sexist, because there's sex in it! You should censor that! And the children - oh my god - they might figure out they didn't come from no motherf*ckin' stork! Oh no! Let's make some immaculate conception together - whoopppeeeeeeee! We should sing! Sing to the grizzly bears! Sing to the sun and the planets! Sing with your genitals!
Wolf: Yes! Sing! Sing! Sing! In the last century, when I spent thousands of years living in a painting, and I was screaming sculptures at all the passerby on the street. The passerby's faces where notes in a jazz song played by millions of madmen that are all standing on different planets that are floating through your mind.
The Giant Lizard: Oh yes, that happens to me all the time when I grind my poetry into coffee and it tastes like World Wars I, II, & III on my lips.
Wolf: Yes definitely. It's like riding your own spermatozoa through the poem into the play and out of the novel.
The Giant Lizard: You know… I can't ask the next question because I can't find my head! I think my head has become a planet revolving around a different sun in a galaxy of raspberries!
Wolf: Look, while you run around the universe searching for your head I'll just chisel naked sculptures into the sky and write my poetry all over the future generations and my plays will drip out of everybody's penis as they walk from poem to poem.
The Giant Lizard: Oh look! There's my head! I found it! Let me look inside my head - oh look - there's the Andes mountains and the Sahara Desert inside my head - oh there's the North American continent inside my head too - everybody in North America inside my head is waving at me!
Wolf: Yeah, sometimes I jump on one of the question marks floating through the air and I float to worlds of exclamation points where all the people are naked and all the naked people write the rivers of poetry gently flowing across the landscape and they bath naked in poetry they throw their arms up and create skies of poetry and the naked people make poetry together as the sun shines poetry all over them.
The Giant Lizard: Yeeeeaaaah… that's like grabbing all the buildings and streets and people and throwing them into a bowl and as you smoke all the buildings and streets and people Genghis Kahn and his invading whores - I mean hordes - are having a Brazilian carnival on the streets of the South Side of Chicago.
Wolf: Yeah, I had an experience like that last month! But all the huge gargoyles growing out the mirror where all screaming "WORLD WAR III IS COMING! THE WORLD'S RULERS ARE VIOLENT WAR-MONGERS!" so I ran off to a phrase of poetry and me and the phrase of poetry made beautiful love together.
The Giant Lizard: Hmmmmnn… You have to watch out! All those P.C. liberals and religious conservatives keep erecting watchtowers and barbed wire and searchlights in our minds and in the streets and all over the sky!
Wolf: Yeah, pretty soon even defecating will be illegal.
The Giant Lizard: Defecation! Oh my god! Everybody who defecates is considered a terrorist now that they passed the Patriot Act! And the Dixiecrats voted for it!
Wolf: It's more like falling off of Alaska and melting all over New York City while thousands of your eyeballs are bouncing and bouncing all over a phrase of poetry that runs and runs around the sun for millions of years.
The Giant Lizard: I disagree. It's more like we take our laughter and we build our laughter into thousand story plays - and each brick in that play is a poem - and every window in that thousand story play is a open view into your mind that's stretching and streeeeetchiiing across the cosmos.
Copyright 2006 by Wolf Larsen
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Capitalism Sucks: the BOOK by Wolf Larsen. How a privileged few cause endless human misery throughout the world.
Unalaska, Alaska: the novel by Wolf Larsen
Wolf Larsen (Larson)