This name kept coming up in links on my Facebook “Kate Durbin” “Kate Durbin” “Kate Durbin.” I began investigating Kate Durbin, I found amazing videos on Youtube like this one called iPrincess. I looked at her Hello Selfie photos, she went to LA and NYC and walked the streets with other women all wearing strange (I don’t know how to describe their outfits, I’m sorry) outfits covered in stickers taking selfies of themselves. I began a short email conversation with Kate Durbin and found her to be amazing, charming, intensely sensitive/philosophical/observant and even spiritually powerful, I got E! Entertainment in the mail and read it immediately, in it Kate Durbin wrote out scenes from reality television shows, the extent of the project amazed me, how much effort and detail she threw into it, I was blown away, so much indie literature is personal narrative or experimental, but she took it in a completely new direction.
Kate Durbin also has a Tumbrl called “Women as Objects” where she reblogs posts from teenage girls.
Here is an amazing interview with Kate Durbin and Lara Glenum.
Noah Cicero: What would be three books or films or television shows that you really like and try to experience over and over again and why. And then three books or films or television shows that inspired E! Entertainment?
Kate Durbin: I watch The Shining at least once month. Kubrick’s creation of a foreboding atmosphere is terrific, as are his little hidden details that connect all his projects together, like Danny wearing the Apollo 11 sweater in the Overlook hotel hallway, which is a nod to Kubrick faking the moon landing. I put details like that in all of my work, hoping one day someone will parcel them out.
I read Anna Kavan’s Ice every few months. I like how she created her own environment in that text, this suffocating ice world, and also how nothing is explained. I like works of art that are bold enough to be unaccommodating, like an alien world.
Robert Altman’s Three Women is an important film for me. Visually it is beautiful, with these dreamy 70s pinks and purples. I like that it was inspired by a dream Altman had and therefore follows dream logic. I like that it’s about these women and their relationships to each other, which is what E is about, too.
Inspired E: The Hills, The Girls Next Door, Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Noah Cicero: I have never watched any of the reality shows you depicted in E! Entertainment except for a few Kardashian shows so I didn’t know who was who or what was going on or if any of it was true, so I am asking, did you just write the episodes perfectly or did you enhance them or make up new episodes, did you sit in front of the computer and and just slowly type out of the episodes, what was the method?
Kate Durbin: I painstakingly transcribed the shows down to the the tiniest detail. It took three years to complete the book.
Noah Cicero: What puzzled me the most as a writer, was that you never got emotional or put in your own views or messed with it, it was base information, there was no attempt at trying to psychologically dissect Kim Kardashian, like in Key Largo by Kathy Acker, she inverts everything by dissecting everything, but you chose to keep it base, would you explain some of your reasoning for that?
Kate Durbin: I feel like people already project so much onto celebrities, and yet for the most part are unaware of their own process of projection. By subverting that kind of expectation for overt critique in the book, the reader is left somewhat anchor-less, which was my intention. They not only have to make up their own minds about the people and the shows, but because time is slowed down they also have to see these shows they normally make snap judgements about at a new resolution.
One critic, Thomas Cook, said that by my method I forced the book to perform its own critique: I think that is also true.
Noah Cicero: At the Beverly Hills chapter the medium makes a speech to the wives of Beverly Hills on page 41, is that real, because in all of the book it was the only time real emotion or sincerity was showed? Or did you add it?
Kate Durbin: I am not sure that I agree that the medium’s cruelty is “sincere,” but I do see that scene as a sort of revelation. She is revealing the truth of “the medium” of reality tv, which is that these women are pawns to be sacrificed in the pursuit of entertainment.
The question of what is real or not real in this book is difficult to parse out. But I didn’t invent that scene. You can watch it in the Dinner Party episode. Kind of sounds like Donner Party, doesn’t it?
Noah Cicero: I want to say before I write about Kim Kardashian and I are like twins, we were born 11 days apart, we are both libras, we both have psoriasis, we both love Carls Jr. but Kim has been married three times, her sex tape is way more viral than mine (mine was bad and has been deleted) and she has 45 million dollars and i have $450. I remember my mother saying once, “I know I am getting old because Al Pacino is getting is old” and I get that too from famous people around my age like Beyonce, Kobe Bryant and Kim Kardashian, they are all about my age, and it is like we are growing together, they don’t know me and I don’t know them, but time is passing the same for all of us? Do you feel like that or relate to any celebrities on that level?
Kate Durbin: Personally I relate the most to Holly Madison, who is in the Girls Next Door section of the book.
Noah Cicero: You are 32-years-old, how do you maintain your sanity, because I have three friends that are writers in their 30s and they have gone nuts, one is dead of suicide, and two barely leave their apartments anymore. But you out there doing performances and giving speeches at colleges and maintaining a sense of enthusiasism. But if you are insane and on medication, you can talk about that too.
Kate Durbin: I don’t know how I do it. This has been a very hard year in my personal life and I feel like I am constantly bartering with time to be an artist. Every year I ask myself if I want to do it another year. I do try and treat myself. Tonight I’m getting a pedicure. If I want a chocolate milkshake, I have a chocolate milkshake. I don’t give myself a hard time about it.
I’m not on medication. I was for years in high school, and college, and even after, but it mostly just made me sick. I am not a fan of the pharmaceutical industrial complex, I think they’re scamming people mostly (though no judgement to those who claim drugs help them, I know in certain cases drugs seem to help). I think a fair amount of what we call mental illness is a healthy response to a sick world. Artists are particularly susceptible, being sensitives and empaths.
Noah Cicero: While reading the Kardashian chapter I came to realize that the Kardashians are royalty, but it is different than feudal royalty in Europe or Asia, one would become royalty because they won or took part in a major battle for a king or queen and they would reward the generals or important fighters with a large piece of land to become rich. And this winning the battle would link the royalty people to the history of their country or nation, as in, “The Marquis has an ancestor who once fought a great battle in 1345 against the British,” which would justify the wealth of the person because their bloodline had participated in the history of France or something. But for the Kardashians it is very different, they aren’t fighting wars, they are bringing products to the masses, like they are fighting the great product wars or something and the Kardashians are great generals of brands? Do you think this is good? Like it makes a better world, because even though everyone likes to complain about our insipid world, they forget that the royalty or the ruling class previous to democracy and the Rule of Law could basically rape and beat and light people on fire for being witches and have actual human slaves. Are the Kardashians heroes? Because in terms of products we are all equal, is Starbucks kinder than the Christian God because Starbucks accepts everyone that can afford to pay and the Christian God won’t sell heaven to homosexuals? Or are the Kardashians evil because many of the products they show to the masses are unaffordable, which creates nothing but self-loathing and bitterness in the 95% of people who can’t afford them and makes the elites feel great because everyone stares at them like they are gods?
Kate Durbin: One of the effects of this book is to move beyond any good vs evil dichotomy with these shows and people on them. I do agree that the Kardashians are like gods, they are Hollywood royalty. Americans need monarchs as much as anyone else, and our crown is fame. One of the things the Kardashians do for us is reveal to us the existential emptiness at the heart of fame, since they are famous simply for most successfully performing fame itself.
Even in Julius Ceasar times, fame was bizarre. Why should someone be famous for empire, for war?
For this great reveal the Kardashians perform a valuable public service.