The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
Love the Bohemian Way
By Ghia Vitale
In case you’ve missed it, it’s time to get hip to a new literary gem dazzling the public eye. Slash Coleman is the author of The Bohemian Love Diaries. There’s a good chance that already know him; Slash Coleman is a writer for Psychology Today and an advice columnist on HowDoIDate.com. You might have seen him grace your television screen when you were watching his PBS special, The Neon Man and Me. Be on the lookout for his other PBS show, The New American Storyteller. Currently residing in New York City, Coleman is native to Richmond, Virginia.
I already know what you're thinking: "This is column is called Retro Sex. Why are you giving us an interview instead of exposing the world's awkward sexual history?" Well, The Bohemian Love Diaries is a memoir and frankly, Coleman’s history is peppered with so many interesting details that his biography alone were enough to compel me to know more about him. Plus, the book is all about love and sex. By the end of this interview, there will be no doubt in your mind that this book is every bit as interesting as its title and its author. Ladies, gentleman, and people of all genders: it's time to get retro sexual. Strap up your eye balls and get ready for one hell of a ride.
1.) I see that you've been writing for quite some time. What was the first piece of creative writing that you ever wrote?
I didn’t read a book in its entirety until I was a junior in college. I thought books were for people who were smarter than I was and between Chaucer, Shakespeare and diagramming sentences my relationship to reading failed to launch. To me, the line between literature and math was a blurry one at best. I managed to graduate high school thanks to a decent tutor and Cliffnotes.
I went away to college to try and get away from my father’s drinking. If I was successful, I’d manage to stay away at least four years. During my first two years I took as many PE classes as possible and then in my junior year I took my first English class. We were required to write a reflective essay. I wrote about a fishing trip my father and I took on the James River during my thirteenth birthday. During the trip, a Winnie-the-Pooh sized hornet’s nest fell into the boat and both my father and I were nearly stung to death. (That story appears in The Bohemian Love Diaries as The Hornet Conspiracy).
My teacher read my work to the class and after that I was hooked. From then on, the idea of exchanging praise for my writing was something I couldn’t quite get enough of. Shortly after writing that story, I read my very first book - The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway - and started writing and reading as much as possible. By the time I left college, I’d written two novels and hundreds of short stories. For the next 10 years, I wrote fiction exclusively, using my words and worlds to escape from a life I felt like I had very little control over.
2.) Do you remember a moment when you realized that love and relationships were topics that you enjoyed writing about?
With the help of regular doses of liquid sacrament (aka Beer), my father would often transcribe his poetry directly from his heart onto the walls of our home using a permanent Magic Marker. As a result, the walls of our house looked like an e.e. cummings writing accident. Like many of the seven artist’s in my family, my father came from a tribe of tortured souls chased by demons that were only held at bay by creating dark work. Growing up in such a creative environment, the number of romantic idiosyncrasies I experienced on a daily basis didn’t give me a choice in the matter of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew I wanted to be an artist, but instead of gravitating towards the dark side I moved toward the light. Given the environment I was raised in, I don’t think I had a choice in the matter really.
3.) I'm sorry, but I had to ask this: I read that your grandfather was a dancer at the Moulin Rouge. I also read that your grandparents were involved in the French Resistance. That is beyond awesome. Care to elaborate?
When the German government passed the Reich Chamber of Culture which forbid Jews from participating in any form of art, my grandparents channeled their creative energy elsewhere - taking assignments as members of the French Resistance.
They adopted a certain “creativity at all costs” philosophy that was passed along to me. As artists we are often called to follow our hearts.
In the last five years of her life, my grandmother became a Grandma Moses of sorts, painting hundreds of water colors that allowed us to get a glimpse into much of her past that she refused to talk about.
4.) How did you decide that Bohemian Love Diaries was a fitting title for your book?
Following the lead from one of my favorite writers Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), I became involved in a writing group that met once a year for eight years. During that time, I brought in my third novel which chronicled a young piano prodigy’s relationship with his father and a curse which caused all the women in his life to disappear.
Members of my writing group saw through the ruse. I was hiding my personal life behind fictional characters. With their encouragement (and a great deal of resistance on my part), I finally decided to dedicate myself to writing a memoir.
In doing so, I peeled back the exterior of each chapter in my novel in an attempt to find the truth. Underneath the thin layer was a diary that chronicled not only my history of failed relationships, but of my relationship to love in all it’s forms - love of place, love of art, love of family, love of friends, romantic love, etc. The title, like a lot of things in my life, actually found me.
5.) If you'd care to share, please tell us one of your most awkward (perhaps hilarious?) yet formative moments in your dating life that influenced your perspectives on relationships that you write about today?
Well, when I lost my virginity in college to a girl named Pop Tart in the front seat of my mom’s GMC Pacer, she did throw up in my mouth as we wiggled against one another and then she subsequently fell out of the car and rolled down her driveway naked with me rolling behind. So, there is that.
6.) What is your favorite part about Richmond, Virginia?
I ran away from Richmond after high school and didn’t look back. I thought Richmond was the most conservative redneckiest place in the entire world. Not only was it the place that represented the darkest parts of my past, but it was also the place where I felt I'd never be able to blossom creatively.
For the next twenty years, I lived all over the world. I purposely hid my southern accent and pretended I was from California. I was actually ashamed of my southern roots and would get really quiet when people asked where I was from. In reality, this is what happens when you run away from something. It follows you and haunts you because it doesn’t want you to forget.
During that time, I moved every three years. By the time I returned to Richmond, I’d lived in 144 apartments in 8 different states in 3 different countries.
But, something magical happened when I returned to my birthplace in my early thirties. I smelled familiar smells, I felt familiar things. Feeling the power of where I’d been born and also the place where all my relatives were buried gave me an incredible sense of power in the city in terms of my creative endeavors.
For the first time, I felt like I had a container to hold me. Once my roots hit the bottom of the container, it sent shoots upward and outward. For the first time in my life, something occurred that failed to happen when I’d lived in all those other places - my creative career blossomed.
My home is Richmond, Virginia and this is my favorite thing about my hometown.
Thanks, Slash. Now, you be a good Fledgling and go check out Coleman's site.
#SlashColeman #RetroSex #PopTart #French #TheBohemianLoveDiaries #UncleSlash #Interview
Visit our shop and subscribe. Sponsor us. Submit and become a contributor. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.