A Ten Question Interview With The Artist… Paul Tanner

Why do you write?

Obviously, my work is concerned with the raw sexuality of Michael Keaton (post-Vietnam) and its’ resultant sociological impact on western celery.
And of course, revenge. Always revenge.

What books do you read?

I am an avid devourer of all kinds: Orwellian jobcentre forms, dystopian employee handbooks, bone-chilling utility bills … Also, there’s a satirical bus stop timetable by me, the ironic optimism of which will have you in stitches. Literally, should you be caught standing around it after eight pm.

What inspires you?

Working class (so-called) life. I’m not proud of it. As a subject, it’s been as done to death as it’s own matter, but for want of a triter term, it’s my “muse” and it chooses me. All the time. Every frigging day. Seriously, it’s like, fuck off Muse, I’m tryner knock one out here …
Being actually working class, in a very physical sense, is a good start. This ensures that, should I write, it will ultimately be from a somewhat working class perspective. That alone makes me so pissed off that I have to write about it. And the writing itself, and all the subsequent financial stability that it has to offer, strongly suggests I shouldn’t give up the day job. So they compliment each other, writing and working class life, them bastards.
And down here, why, inspiration is everywhere:
in the foaming face of the customer, screaming at me about what a class traitor I am for enforcing the 5p bag charge.
in the foaming face of the boss, screaming at me for not enforcing the 5p bag charge.
in the foaming face of the jobcentre advisor, screaming at me for losing my job, by not enforcing the 5p bag charge.
in the foaming face of the pudgy lad in the Adidas cap on the jobcentre steps, who accuses me of being a class traitor for not lending him 5p I no longer have…
so to help my brethren out, I  get another job, and repeat.
and repeat.
As a “Working Class Writer” and I would do anything for some of that sweet sweet writer’s block …

How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?

This one time, I came to on some bedsit stairs, in the wet round shadow of a portly middle aged git in very off-white underpants, basically masturbating over me. I scared him off and s/tumbled to my room … I’m trying to piece together what happened, what caused this latest binge … then I see the eighth or ninth rejection letter (of that week) floating in the toilet bowl. And I thought “When the fuck did you decide to be a writer anyway?” and I couldn’t say, it just always made sense. I’m sure it’s been self-fulfilling: like, you appraise everyone and everything with a writer’s eye, so people treat you as an outsider, which is an easier place to write from. Basically, I’m sure I’m a twat. There are many forms of twatiness, but this is mine.

How do you deal with rejection?


Who are some writers you admire?

Every customer who’s ever complained about me. It’s evil genius, really.
Take this bitch from last Wednesday:
She’s at the back of my queue. I’m the only one on the shop floor, so it’s a big queue. She yells across all the other customer heads: ARE YOU THE ONLY ONE WORKING TODAY?
Now, there’s a number of logical responses I could give:
No one made you join the queue, least of all me.
Yes, and I wouldn’t choose to work in these conditions, would I?
Say what you see, love.
And so on. But I don’t. I take a deep breath, and I confirm that she is correct, and I apologise about the situation, even thank her for her patience. Quite what I’m apologising and thanking her for, I don’t know, but years of retail has taught me to live in a constant state of sorrow and gratitude when I’m around other human beings.
Again, I could tell her I am not the company. I could tell her the five pence bag charge is enforced by the government. I could tell her that she is the one, in fact, yelling at someone who can’t answer back for things beyond their control, and maybe that is bullying? I could even point out that I’m not exactly rolling in dough myself.
But again, I don’t. I say, sorry, and thankyou, and sorry …
Couple of days later, the boss comes up to me: you’ve had a complaint.
Please, anyone reading, take a moment to think about this:
She’s gone into a shop, selected a product and joined a queue of her own free will. But the queue was too long. Now as a customer, she’s dynamite, she’s a torch paper. She could leave. She could complain to management. She could ask where the other workers were, why they only pay me minimum wage to run a shop by myself. She could organise a boycott of the place. She could let it be known on Facebook. She could get a petition going, suggesting more staff, helping both me and her. But what does she do?
She chickens out. She targets the worker.
I read the email. Her martyrdom genuinely believes that by being the only worker there, I was the cause of all her problems, and what’s more, her ego protected her by adding more wrongs: apparently I was calling her names, refusing to serve her …
This is not an isolated incident.
And this is how companies and governments want it: us divided, taking the way we’re treated out on each other, and she, as a blessed customer, is dutifully conforming. You don’t really want change, you just want someone to push around. Companies know this. That’s what I’m there for, you see? A shield, between you and them. It’s a perfect cowardly cannibalism that runs through us all, from the elite, through you and right down to me.
As the one caught in the middle, with the Happy To Help badge, I find it fascinating, a real phenomenon that’s worth writing about. Given you’d all rather hang out in shopping centres than public parks, and that even those of you forking out for higher education end up in retail sooner or later, retail is fast becoming our only means of interaction, yet we all hate it.
So really, all of you: eco-friendly politicians, stingy shareholders, lazy bosses, absent co-workers, ungrateful customers, really … thanks for the material.

Is writing the only artistic medium you do?


Apparently not. Like Goya worked for Viz, innit? Notes of a Pleb, Volumes 1 – 4 are all on Amazon. Often the snarling customer or godless boss face is so snarly and/or godless, I have to give you some visual evidence, social warts et all. I try to cram as many sexy doodles in my books as I can, to give you a visual bang for your fooked literary buck.

What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?

You should have washed it afterwards. Or at least beforehand …

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Go rattle your labia on channel 5: you’ll be positively bludgeoned with ghost-written publishing deals, regaling your endless achievements during the 12 epic years you’ve been labia-rattling on this ever-tasteful planet thus far, and the even tastier general pubis will surely lap it up.

(But alas, what’s the difference between what I do, and the well-documented stripping of some vacuous reality show mannequin? I am but a Picaro throwback, churning out self-confessional, post-Beat, biased journalism, and in doing so, am I not exposing my metaphorical naval? Do I not romanticize the hum-drum?  I just do it through words, instead of getting someone to film me at it. So what if I put more creative work into it? It’s all narcissism, innit? Why is it tacky on TV, but witty on the page? I suppose some old books do have that romantic smoky old scent to their pages … but fuck it, when virtual reality finds a way to install smell-o-vision within its’ sentient self, maybe we can finally burn all those pesky books. I’m not being reactionary: have you seen the heating bill?)

What is your writing process? 

Don’t have one. I write standing up, like Papa Hem, because it’s good for you (I get enough trapped wind from sitting playing Batman games when I should be writing) but that’s all I can offer. So allow me to hand you over to the rather socially networked I. Rony:

Thank you, Mr Tanner.
   Now folks, as a modern writer, I am awfully progressive, but not enough to actually progress out of the house. In fact, like any other writer and or current living person, I automatically qualify for A.D.D. and depression and anxiety – which presumably means I can’t stay focused on just how sad I apparently am, and that evidently stresses me out? I don’t know.
   But I do know that part of the therapeutic process is to take countless selfies where I scrunch up my face, squinting into some imaginary distance, so everyone knows just how tortured and poetic I am (extra writer points if you can get some green or flowers in the background. Folliage is well poetic, innit?) So I upload them onto a few hundred image sharing sites under “hashtag tortured genius”, and then it’s onto the dwarf porn.
   By midday it’s time to go onto Facebook and spread awareness. Mostly about me tolerance. For example, if someone I’ve never met half way across the globe doesn’t like the new Ghostbusters remake, I accuse them of being misogynist. If they change their profile picture to their nation’s flag, I reckon they’re racist. (Extra points if it’s the St George’s flag.) This is an easy way to show how “tolerant” I am. Really easy. Seriously, I can get, like, 400 likes from other people who are scared of not being “tolerant” (for how will we be free if we don’t know when to constantly censor ourselves?) And if one of these inartistic plebs has the nerve, after ten or twelve of my posts accusing them all of things ending in “ism”, to call me a Facebook fascist, why, I can just report them for cyber bullying. Well, they were being “reactionary” towards my reactions, were they not? (It strikes me that everyone who disagrees with me just so happens to be some kind of bigot. Such is the lonely responsibility of advocating free speech, I suppose.)
   After some tentacle porn I stumble upon the work of a certain writer that really gets my goat. In the interest of his own personal safety, let’s call him P. Tanner. No, wait, that’s too obvious. How about Paul T? Well anyway, I’m here at my desk, doing REALLY NECESSARY social work, and he logs on after his evening shift to post some rant he dares to write about the long day he’s just had at work, and how basically, he feels customers and bosses can be as bad as each other. Observe:

The Vulva Of Us Pukes Forlorn Into Itself, Like

My boss tells me
to sign customers up
to a loyalty card.

So I’m there at me till,
and I ask one of them:
Would you like a loyalty card?
and she says, Yeah.

But I lean in, and I whisper:
Don’t, they keep your details on file
and you only get discounts
when you’ve already spent
well above your means.

She goes red.
She wants to know
why she’s not good enough
for the loyalty card
even though she always comes here.

I tell her I was only trying to help her
but she won’t have it:
she starts calling me Weird
and somehow, A snob.

So she makes a complaint about me.

Someone else fills in her details
while I’m getting disciplined
in the back office:

The company have her details
the boss has scored another card sign up
and I’m on my final warning.

I’d say
No good deed,
but it’s a bad deed
we all done didded
unto each other,
or whatever.

Can you believe he calls this poetry? I mean, it doesn’t rhyme, he doesn’t talk about flowers, and worst of all, he doesn’t even mention anyone’s skin colour, or sexuality, or the Tory party once! Yet this gets an average of 3 likes! That came from 3 idiots who never like MY statuses! Even though I’ve TOLD them AGAIN and AGAIN how TOLERANT I am! How can they know if the author is “tolerant” or not, if he never says so? And how will the ignorant masses know what Real Poetry©™ is, if we Real Poets©™ don’t educate them? Obviously, he and his 3 meathead readers must all vote for Trump.
   So I do my bit for me the sake of humanity: I point out that by discussing any negatives about the society he goes out in, and contributes to, he is clearly a “misanthrope”. Then I do my ASDA shop online. Then I decide that his penchant for writing from his own point of view, instead of that of say, an African American woman, or a lesbian, or Jeremy Corbyn, must make him guilty of “solipsism” (it strikes me that anyone who disagrees with me just so happens to be solipsistic. Such is the lonely responsibility of advocating an inclusive society, I suppose.) Then I really give it to him, the argument to end all arguments – because this IS an argument, OBVIOUSLY – and I write off his blue-collar, tax-paying woes as being nothing more than “derivative of Bukowski” and I hit send, before I pour another drink, light another cigarette, and sit here in self-imposed isolation, despairing of the idiocy of Man. 
   Finally, after whacking off to dwarfs dressed as octopuses Morris dancing, it’s time for bed.
   Maybe I’ll actually write something tomorrow.
   Yours Successfully,
   I. Rony,
   Socially Networked Tortured Genius


Paul Tanner’s new book ‘Notes of A Pleb Vol. 4’ will be available soon












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