With subject matter ranging from the confession of a man who accidentally sodomized Dick Cheney, to a mile-high tryst between a widow and a young boy, Jerry Stahl’s newest Love Without is a kind of grimoire anthology of Stahl’s short fiction over the years.
You didn’t want to write for television? You’re often pegged as a screenwriter gone to seed.
I fell into TV. I’ve only written four sitcom episodes in my entire life in like, 1988. Whenever a review comes out, it starts out TV writer Jerry Stahl… It’s harder to shake than a sex offender rap
When were you first published?
I started out doing a lot of journalism, but the first thing was in The Santa Cruz Times when I was, I think, twenty. Living in the Honeymoon Suite of the Aladdin’s Inn in Santa Cruz. I sold it for eight dollars. That was my first paycheck. Not to brag.
But you envisioned yourself as a fiction writer?
I wrote a ton. I’ve got six unpublished novels. I was trying to do that my whole life, but being a dope fiend for ten or fifteen years kind of slows you down. Again, I’m not trying to make light of it, but it certainly takes a chunk out of life. I didn’t publish a book until I was 40, so I’m always kind of writing like a man being chased. It’s like I’ve got to make up for lost time.
You’ve done Oprah?
I have, yes. I loved it actually. I got there and I found out that it was a theme show called “When Smart People Do Dumb Things.” It was slightly mortifiying. This was after "Permanent Midnight" came out, but before she had her book club. Oprah was great, man. She leaned over to me during a commercial and said “I smoked crack and I loved it!” And then, you know, after my head exploded, we went back on the air.