The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.
Ginger Murray is the editor-in-chief of Whore! Magazine, author of The Sweet Spot column for this blog, and a performance storyteller. She has appeared just about everywhere and done seemingly everything. An avid lover of bad girls, radical idiots, and thinkers, she delights in wild expressions, stories, and the adventures of sublime chaos. We spoke to her recently about her definition of "success," (not) falling in love with strangers, and the public striptease.
What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?
Oh goodness, what a question. My biggest struggle used to be being a lonely heart. Miraculously, I was able to overcome that. These days, I suppose it would be trying to live life with integrity. As I grow older and have been fortunate enough to know the incredible kindness and courage of people, it is becoming increasingly clear that, for me, coming from a place of soulfulness is very hard indeed. To honor those in my life; the work that I do; the needs of the world; and to know that every act and every word has the potential to come from truth -- that is a constant struggle and I find myself failing at it on a daily basis. But said Samuel Beckett, "to be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail." I sure as hell hope that he is right. Or maybe, as says Ray Bradbury, "You fail only if you stop."
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
To me success is like happiness: it is not an enduring state of being but a momentary sensibility. I feel successful every time I finish an article or pull off a performance. However, I do not yet feel that I have achieved stability with my primary project: getting our magazine in every bookstore and in every airport across the country. But even then, of course, I probably won't feel successful. Suddenly there will be, again, that next horizon. Success is a Sisyphean stone.
When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
It's a video of five men singing "In the Air Tonight" on the New York City subway. It is not just that they are singing live and well -- that is a thing that always makes me happy -- but it is because they do it for such a long time and for the pure joy of it. They do it long enough that the other people on the train change from being amused/bored/annoyed to slightly stunned and then finally, absolutely involved.
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
My great, great, great, great grandmother. I have no idea what her name was. She came from the Potawatomi tribe, but due to growing gang violence and rising crime (oh yes, even then), she married a Midwestern farmer so she could provide a home for her brothers far away from temptation and crisis. Not in love, however, and not interested in assimilating, she refused to live in the house and camped out on the front yard. There, she wore her braids and cooked over an open fire.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn't have to be ideal.
Woods, wide river with grottos and waterfalls, magnolia trees, Spanish moss, freshly caught trout, no tent, coffee made on an open fire in the morning, maybe a joint and somebody who knows how to play guitar. I feel pretty damn lucky that I am describing something I have already known, many times.
(Note: I don't normally smoke pot, but in this particular setting I love it. It has the peculiar effect of making me talk to the trees, the water, the bugs. But generally, I just really enjoy being in the midst of something vast, wild, and ancient that really doesn't care that I exist.)
Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.
I have already, numerous times. I even did one with my husband at Red Hots Burlesque the night before our wedding. It was also the first night I was meeting his family who had flown in the day before from France. Quite the introduction.
To more properly answer, my strip teases use the sexually exciting aspect to provoke the audience to deal with the other aspects of the performance that are not, even remotely, arousing in the usual sense. For instance, I will start naked and tell a story about being a person who never fit into a specific gender identity while putting clothes on. Or I'll talk about the assumptions people make about what having a female brain means and strip off to reveal my own (rather limp due to needing to fit under my pants) fake cock. I am a firm believer that sexiness and the tease can be very useful in getting people to pay attention to ideas they might otherwise ignore.
As for doing a strip tease for a lover, I've done it, kind of, a few times. But unfortunately, once a diva girl gets a taste of that stage... With an audience it is intimate. With a lover it is hard to get out of the performer/artist head and do it purely for them. For the most part, I don't think they really care. But I do.
What's wrong with society today?
Lack of depth. Protest movements without the inspirational support of philosophical ideas. Pop music that could very well be created by a robot (one could argue that that has been the way of pop music. Not so. David Bowie has been considered pop. The Crystals -- a 60's girl group -- were radical. Even Madonna charged up a generation with her songs. For me, Lady Gaga doesn't cut it). Self-help books and the memoir have overwhelmed literature, and so many films these days seem to be commercials. So many pretty people, but who the hell are they? Lady Gaga was quoted in an interview as saying, "I'm just like everybody else." It's a false statement and I find it odd that she felt compelled to say it. Since when did being like everyone else become an expression of those who call themselves artists? Yes, we are, at our core, a common humanity, but it is the peculiar, complex, and powerfully unique way that each of us expresses this that makes for a kind of society that I want to live in. That and the great investigation and cultivation of ideas. I sound old and grumpy. Pass me my cigars!
How many times do you fall in love each day?
I don't. I feel a good deal of things every day about the people I know and those strangers I come to encounter, or perhaps just witness. Compassion, ache, attraction, concern, guilt, pleasure, delight, kindness, admiration... But despite having a personality, or perhaps a nature, that could be called romantic due to being overly sensitive, often consumed by ennui and being overwhelmed at times just by how the sky looks -- I am no longer one to be in love with love. Actually, I think the quality of 'falling in love" because someone's hair strikes your fancy or a man smiles sweetly while he is shaving and you can see him from your window across the street reflects an inability to deal with our actual humanness. It disregards our potential for vibrant, and sometimes just factual, monstrousness.
It is more that I find myself wondering about people, fascinated and feeling my soul tugged by them, even if for just a passing moment. It is the awareness of their existence, the little bit of truth of it that compels me out of the annoying and sometimes agonizing obsession with myself. It has been said that to know someone is to love them. So I would rather say I have little moments of loving people. I save the "in love" for that delicious fury of wanting to know a particular someone very well -- friends included.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
Socialized health care -- everywhere. A diminishment of immigration regulations. Greater active investment in ending sexual violence. A sensible solution to poverty. Effective and innovative alternatives to prison. Less economic disparity. Environmental protection to be treated as a top government priority. Drag queens in schools. Rickshaws on American city streets and indeed, cities built around walking and biking and not driving. More trees. Better contraceptive care, education and availability. More street performers. Plazas. Total and radical change. Whew. I'll let you know when I run for Congress. In the meantime, getting dental services offered as part of Healthy San Francisco would be nice.
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
The writing I love the most involves a great depth of ideas, profound storytelling, and the sexy, glorious riffing of the writer's love of language. Saul Bellow, Isabelle Allende, Simone de Beauvoir, Shakespeare, Mollie Haskell...
What's the strangest thing you've ever seen?
A man jumping off a roof between Avenue A and B [in NYC]. His body hit the awning of a cafe and the metal bar of the awning sliced off his head. The head which then rolled across the street. Myself and another person were walking down the street from different directions. We both stopped. Looked at each other and then turned around. To this day it is still hard to believe I actually saw such a thing. It was just so, so incredibly random. I couldn't even feel the death part of it, it might as well have been someone's soccer ball. As for a strange thing I'd like to see, in the spring, there is a river in the Amazon that floods to such levels it rises above the trees. Among these trees swim dolphins who use the river as a sort of side road and have their skins died pink by the tea bushes along the side. Pink dolphins swimming trough jungle trees. Yep, I'd like to see that.
For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview conducted by Sarah Griffin. Follow Litseen at @Litseen.