Linh Dinh Interview/ Outtakes

Linh posted on his blog the portions of self’s interview with him that were not included in the Pacific Rim Review of Books. Looking over these outtakes, self finds most compelling his answers to her questions about being a visual artist and critic as well as a writer :

MV: You were also a critic. You seem awfully young to be a critic. Where/ how did you get your start as a critic?

LD: My first publications were art reviews, which I wrote for the New Art Examiner, a Chicago journal. I also wrote a few exhibitions essays and in 1994, I was a guest-curator of a show called “Toys and Incense,” at Moore College of Arts. This show was built around the notion of creativity as a form of play or improvisation. The title I got from Rimbaud, “Why not toys and incense already?” That same year, I was a critic-in-residence for Art In General in NYC, for which I wrote an essay, “Hell’s Bells.” I was also asked to be a judge in the art grants program in Houston. In short, I was deeply involved in the visual arts, but it was a tremendous struggle, since I had no money, and was working as a house and office cleaner, then as a window washer, art installer and house painter. I ran out of money frequently and had to pay for packets of instant noodles and cans of Spam with pennies. Art making is very expensive because you need a studio and endless art supplies. In 1993, I won a $50,000 Pew grant for both my visual and literary work. This money was paid in installments over two years. For the first time in my life, I could inch up on the hog, from its hind hoof to its back side. I used some of this money to take a trip to Vietnam in 1995, after being away for 20 years. It was also my first trip outside the USA since I arrived in 1975. Before I left, I went up to Brooklyn to see my friend Phong Bui, painter, critic and publisher of the Brooklyn Rail. Boozing in the The Brooklyn Ale House, he introduced me to my future publisher, Dan Simon of Seven Stories Press. Hearing that I was about to leave for Vietnam, Dan suggested that I gather material for an anthology on new Vietnamese fiction. The result was Night, Again. Dan has also published my two collections of short stories, Fake House and Blood and Soap. In 2002, Dan arranged for my wife and I to spend two years in Tuscany, through the intervention of the Paris-based International Parliament of Writers. I had just returned to the US after living in Vietnam for 2 ½ years. My wife was a fresh immigrant. We were destitute.

MV: Who are your favorite painters?

LD: Max Beckman, Pierre Bonnard, late Philip Guston and Martin Kippenberger. Also Albert Pinkham Ryder, especially his transcendental cows, Vincent van Gogh, early Francesco Clemente and James Ensor.

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