The Buddist term “shoshaku jushaku” describes life as “one continuous mistake.”
Taking this phrase extremely literally is the author who writes under the pen name of Shoshaku Jushaku, whose first book, The Cheese Stealer’s Handbook, catalogues his mistakes in excruciating detail. From his troubles with women and roommates to his own inner demons — all of which he mercilessly attempts to drown out with copious amounts of drugs and alcohol — Jushaku’s book is a witty, poignant and honest memoir of an individual struggling to find his way in the world.
What was your upbringing like, and how has it shaped who you are today?
I don’t think my upbringing really mattered one way or another. I’ve mostly been shaped by extremely poor decisions on my part. At least bad decisions make for good stories.
When and how did you first realize that you enjoyed writing?
I hate writing.
What authors have had the biggest influence on your life and/or writing?
I think The Great Gatsby is the best novel ever written. Knut Hamsun and Dostoyevsky the best writers… not sure about their influence though.
Why did you choose to write The Cheese Stealer’s Handbook?
I don’t have a TV, so I have to fill my evenings somehow.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?
Spelling… and finding places that sell typewriter ribbons.
Thank you, Generally Assembly of Text.
What brand of typewriter do you write with? Is there any particular reason you don’t use a computer?
I have an Eaton’s Viking outside, a Royal that is out of ribbon, an Underwood that unfortunately weighs a zillion pounds and stays in my room-mates room… so when he’s not at work, I’ve been using an electric Smith Corona mainly. I don’t own a computer, and I can’t imagine being constructive at a typewriter that let me look at pictures of scantily-clad girls or watch videos of kids falling off of trampolines. I do most of my writing (aka printing) long hand… and typing forces me to make six versions into one and get over some of the second guessing, whereas on a computer I’d end up with fifteen different versions — none of which are backed up. I don’t think my brain works fast enough for computers.
In your opinion, can art come from happiness? Or does it always require a bit of sadness, loneliness or despair?
I’m not a particularly cheerful person myself, so I wouldn’t really know. I saw Bobby McFerrin in concert the other night, so certainly music can be affirming and cheerful, but writing is a solitary endeavour, so it is probably going to have loneliness at the very least.
For you, is writing a cathartic experience?
What does cathartic mean? No… I suppose you always hope it will be… but you always end up crazier and more wound-up than when you started.
What’s the best song ever written?
Fudge. Hard question… “Tangled up in Blue?” “Amazing Grace?” With or without a banjo? Orchestra?
Do you read reviews of your writing? If so, do they have any effect on you or your writing?
I don’t read reviews.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
I listen to music mostly… The Castle was amusing.
If you could only eat one kind of cheese for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Just to eat? Then probably cheddar, just because it is versatile. But if I am allowed to barter with it, I would get something expensive.
What’s the last memorable dream you had?
I’d rather be rolled down a hill in a barrel full of broken glass than listen to somebody tell me about their dream.
If you had to offer one piece of advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?
I wouldn’t listen to the advice anyways… but treat girls nicer? Take up yoga.
What are you working on next?
Trying to become a better person… but I’ll probably end up writing something instead.