Interview - Sam Pink
Updated: Jul 1
Photo of Sam Pink by Devyn Waitt
I've been a Sam Pink fan for many years, ever since I first picked up a copy of his cult classic Person. Many books later, he has yet to disappoint me with his conversational style and sudden bursts of humor amid darkness. His latest book, The Ice Cream Man and Other Stories, was released earlier this year, and I reviewed it. It was about an ice cream man. And other stories.
The Mood 51: You write with such realism that I’d be hard-pressed to believe most or all of this stuff didn’t happen to you. So is your work mostly fiction or non-fiction, or perhaps a middle ground, like embellished reality? Which of the jobs you’ve written about did you actually have, and which, if any, did you write about from pure imagination? Also, if you do predominantly write based on reality, how do you remember the unfolding of events in such detail (or is that where you might kind of fill in the blanks with imagination)? Sam Pink: I’ll say embellished reality. But even then, when there is something that clearly cannot happen that happens, it’s because I thought that thing in the moment. I’m pretty bad at making stuff up, if that answers your question. I can usually remember things well enough, both from just having a decent memory and doing exercises where you try to remember linking things. M51: Dovetailing on that, were you actually an ice cream man and if so, is ‘pac-manning’ the actual term for cruising around in the ice cream truck? I have to know if that’s a thing or if you made it up. SP: Yes and no. yes to the first and second question, and no to the second question BECAUSE I DEFINITELY DID NOT WORK AT A PLACE THAT MIGHT SUE ME. M51: So I guess you moved from Florida to Michigan, if I’m getting the timeline right. But Sam, speaking as a Michigan native myself…who does that? No, but seriously, what brought you to the mitten, and how are you liking it? SP: I’m encountering a lot of people from Michigan who are asking me this. I love Michigan and the midwest and will probably live here for the rest of my life. I like woods and winter and the people here. M51: White Ibis/The Garbage Times was the only book I’ve read that was two books encapsulated in one, with—and this is hard to explain in writing—but when Book One is right-side-up, Book Two is upside-down, like the back cover of Book One is the front cover of Book Two. I’ve never seen that before. Is that your invention? I also thought it was an interesting format because the whole vibe of The Garbage Times is kind of like the inverse of White Ibis, with The Garbage Times being kind of…gloomy, and White Ibis seeming to be more hopeful and positive. So was the format for the book decided with that in mind, or is that symbolism coincidental? SP: Originally it wasn’t planned as two books but in the time they accepted garbage times, I finished white ibis and they were interested in it too and, almost at the same time, we both suggested what if they were together. There are a lot of parallels and complementary things with them both in one book. And yeah I hadn’t heard about that form of binding either but my editor told me it’s called ‘tete beche’ which was popular with sci fiction books back in the day.
M51: Hanging out with houseless friends is a recurring theme in your writing. Do you have a lot of houseless friends in real life, and if so, do you feel like there are social and/or societal obstacles to maintaining these friendships? SP: Yeah when I lived in chicago I did. I don’t think there are limitations outside of yourself (myself) to hanging out with them. Like nobody walked up and said I couldn’t. Most people don’t want to talk now and they do. So it’s easy to strike up a friendship because I was walking around doing nothing anyway.
M51: Obviously you’re a cat person, but how do you feel about dogs? SP: I’m not sure I’m a cat person, I’ve only had two and both were by accident. The first one was an angel and the second one is like an annoying roommate. I love dogs. I play football with my brother’s dog at least once a week. Shoutout Big Vinny Diesel, aka Vinny 1-fiddy. M51: Do you intentionally try to have a lot of different jobs (for story ideas, to keep life interesting, or other reasons), or is that just how things have played out? Also, you are pretty well-known for your writing; it will surprise me in a way if I learn that you don’t write and paint full time; surely at this point you at least don’t have to work as many hours at those 9 to 5s? SP: I havent had jobs for the purposes of writing but I do try and view all of life as potential. Just for the sake of exercising my mind and discovering things. Yeah I definitely still have a job. I think the internet and that kind of hype have given people a different idea. I’m not complaining and I do ok considering its art/books but the reality is you have to be like, already famous to make money off books. I wouldn’t change anything but my point is, the perception is very skewed. The reality is that it’s probably at best a 60/40 mix for money from art and money from regular jobs. I’m not opposed to that changing but the way people understand this reality is very very skewed.
"I do try and view all of life as potential."
M51: Out of all the places you’ve lived, what’s your favorite and least favorite? What about out of all the jobs you’ve had—favorite and least fav? SP: I think I like Michigan the best. Florida is cool but I couldn’t live there for too long. I like seasons and I like the midwest. My favorite job is the one I have now working the grill at a small bar/restaurant. And my least favorite was being a teacher. M51: Your painting style, with the sort of muddled, warped faces, chaotic designs and a lot of muted and dark colors—that’s a signature for you. Who are your inspirations or influences when it comes to visual art, if any? SP: I think mostly just experimenting is my inspiration. I don’t know much formally but am learning as I go. I do really like the work of Ben Styer, Daniel Ian, Paint Witch, etc. if you check who I follow on Instagram there are a ton of great artists.
"I think mostly just experimenting is my inspiration. I don’t know much formally but am learning as I go."
M51: Who are your favorite writers? SP: Two writers to check out right now are Big Bruiser Dope Boy, and Kimmy Walters. M51: What’s your weirdest experience on the Internet? SP: My weirdest experience on the internet is the whole experience of it, for better and worse. I am amazed by it constantly. M51: Which TV shows have you been watching lately? SP: I don’t watch a lot of tv. I recently watched the movie ‘hobbes and shaw’ with my brother which has The Rock in it, who, I can’t shake, looks like a minion without the glasses on. Scared as hell of that. M51: What are your top 5 favorite albums? SP: I can’t pick five albums but here’s some I really like
a self help tragedy by Doomsday Student
Quebec by Ween
Far Beyond Drive by Pantera
Dry by PJ Harvey
Filth Pig by Ministry