Honor Titus on Jean Genet and more favourites…
Cerebral Ballzy

Their Library invites artists we like to discuss their reading habits. This time, we’ve Honor Titus of New York punk crew Cerebral Ballzy. The lead singer tells us all about a gay, serial killer opium dealer, as you do…

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‘Lonely As America’, from the new album ‘Jaded & Faded’

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What is your favourite book, and why?
It’s pretty impossible to give a conclusive answer, because different books fulfil different wants. I’d say a general and somewhat obvious one would be Catcher In The Rye. I have an art collector pal with impeccable taste who reads it once a year, and in this context it’s a refreshing-cum-depressingly enlightening read, like a nihilistic acid trip. Although it’s a simple read, it effortlessly captures subversive ideas like angst and abjection.

What other authors do you like?
I love (Vladimir) Nabokov – Lolita being another favourite of mine. (William S) Burroughs, (Arthur) Rimbaud, (Charles) Baudelaire, (Jean) Genet. Richard Hell’s latest is a fun read, too.

What draws you to certain books?
I love abjection, I love interesting perspectives, debauchery and vice. Nihilism and angst. Disdain and cuteness.

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it, and why?

Querelle (De Brest) is f*cking brilliant! Genet is an author that should be more prominent amongst the youth culture, rather than twerking and techno pop. It’s about as subversive as it gets. A gay, serial killing opium dealer whose base serves as a whorehouse battles with his neurosis and authority. It’s loaded with such sinister detail and captures the nuances of vintage beat types so well. Only a street-level genius like Genet could write this. Burroughs before Burroughs.

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
Yes, now more than ever. My other project, Eyeshadow, is riddled with literary references. On the new Ballzy album, there’s a tune entitled ‘Lonely As America’, a phrase ripped from (Jack) Kerouac I believe, in Maggie Cassidy.

What are you reading at the moment?
I got a really good print of Baudelaire’s The Flowers Of Evil, so I’m reading that at the moment.

What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
Besides the obvious staples like Green Eggs And Ham, I’d have to say To Kill A Mockingbird.

Did you make good use of your library card when you were younger?
Not really. I usually ended up buying the quirky weird random shit that I was into, like the Akira mangas.

Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish? 

Umm, it’s all about timing sometimes. I had to put down this Hubert Selby Jr. book for a bit, Last Exit To Brooklyn, ‘cause it was just simply bumming me out for a sec. Reading about disenfranchised youth getting gang banged to death in vacant lots can be a bit of a downer.

Do you read book reviews?

Not so much. I’ve got a pretty particular taste and outlook when it comes to literature. So maybe I'll read some excerpts and viewpoints on, say, a (Louis-Ferdinand) Céline novel.

Would you ever re-read the same book?
I’ve got a friend in NYC who reads Catcher In The Rye yearly and I may pick up that practice. I’ve read Lolita numerous times, and I’ve re-read Querelle by Genet.

Have you ever identified with a character in a book?
I read tons of subversive literature, so it can be quite easy to identify with the drug-addled, suppressed characters you’ll come across. Jim Carroll is an author that I’ve identified with in his journal entry collections.

Do you read one book at a time, or more than one?

One at a time. Can’t have different ideas and motifs swirling in my mind.

Is there an author or poet you would like to collaborate with?

Rimbaud, or Jean Genet, or Burroughs. Living, though? Maybe not. Maybe Patti… 

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‘Jaded & Faded’ is released on June 16th. Find Cerebral Ballzy online here. See them live:

15th – Gorilla, Manchester
16th – The Cluny, Newcastle
17th – The Belgrave, Leeds
18th – KOKO, London

11th – 2000 Trees Festival, Cheltenham
18th – Truck Festival, Oxfordshire

Related: more Their Library features

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