Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Hot for Teacher: An Interview with Claudia Dey About Her New Sex Book, How To Be A Bush Pilot

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Hot for Teacher: An Interview with Claudia Dey About Her New Sex Book, How To Be A Bush Pilot

By Nathaniel G Moore

I didn't know what to call this article, jingle, interview, script, informercial pitch. I felt as though I was being shot out of a canon into the sun during this investigation. But hey, that's just me. When it was all finally over, I wanted Industrial Light & Magic to produce it, Madonna to write the score and Vince McMahon to well, just watch it I guess. "The Yoda of Sex (only cuter)" was one of my ideas for a title, or "Into The Groove," as Claudia Dey and I were on a Madonna kick, swapping campy video links leading up to what felt like a four-week rehearsal for an epic SNL skit.

And let's face it, if any Toronto writer is going to wind up hosting SNL one day, it will be Claudia. (Though at Literary Death Match last week, someone said they could see Pasha Malla doing a good job as well.)

I first met Claudia when I was interning at a book-trade magazine a while back, and she was kind enough to talk to me while a bunch of us walked out of a restaurant where I couldn't afford to eat. She was writing a play at the time and possibly starting on Stunt. Then years passed and passed and Stunt came out, and I had a burrito with her and a poet and her editor after she read at Supermarket with Nathan Whitlock.

Then Mats Sundin retired, Lily Allen debated retiring to start a cake shop with her sister, Emily Haines scored the soundtrack to Twilight, and I heard rumblings of another Claudia Dey book.

For a year or so I thought it was another novel. Then in September of this year when I saw Claudia at Alisha Piercy's bp nichol award reading in Toronto, I asked her about the book's genre, and she laughed at the idea, imagining how strange it would be if she could just churn them out like that. Novels that is.

So then this How To Be A Bush Pilot: A Field Guide to Getting Luckier book, (which in itself seems to be an intellectual property protesting the occasional vulgarities that ensue when watching those strange and daft male fragrance ads delivered in a highbrow narrative with its own insular hilarious cast of characters and didactic asides) is suddenly unleashed onto the world via HarperCollins Canada, and there are campy trailers and sly Claudia tweets and it's almost too much.

Who knows what will happen at her book launch on November 9th. (I've suggested she dress like Madonna and ask her 3,000 HC publicists to do the same). But we'll see.

What follows is exclusive transcripts from my interview with captain charisma herself, Claudia Dey.

Nathaniel G. Moore:

When did you decide to write this book?

Claudia Dey:

After the ghost of Marilyn Chambers came to me in a dream and commanded I do it. She was wearing a negligee and had a middle part and a cigarette dangled from her lips. Do you remember True Romance? How Val Kilmer appears to Clarence as Elvis? It was not unlike that.

Also, I wrote a sex column for Toro magazine for five years under the pseudonym, Bebe O’Shea. I knew about the world of secret jobs, but thought: there is no better secret job than this one. Even then though, as I wrote about making out and G-spots and aphrodisiacs, I felt I was presenting haiku versions of my findings. I needed the space of a book. HarperCollins approached me and offered me that space. When I proposed the title, and they loved it immediately, I knew I needn’t be afraid of any Victorianism.

NGM:

Was it fun coming up with all the headings and names for chapters and other clever little things? The book has its own little universe going on.

CD:

I was in a near-permanent giggle fit while I wrote the book. It was like being a teenager in a field with your best friend and you are lighting matches.

NGM:

Both Katy Perry music videos and male fragrance ads (hard to tell the difference) seem to present sex as a sort of video game anti-emotional property. Do you think you have to be intelligent to be a good lover?

CD:

There are so many different kinds of intelligence and sex demands the most corporeal — not the smarts of a card shark or a Barthes’ scholar, but something much closer to a dolphin’s echolocation. Yes, self-awareness (that word is so guidance counselor in a cardigan) is key — as is being fully versed in the sublimity of the female form (Do you know about the clitoral legs?), but it is also about a kind of listening and responsiveness that reminds us of our proximity to animals. This is the exact opposite of Katy Perry; sex cannot be auto-tuned. Sex is a live experiment (when dismayed by popular culture, I turn to Peaches).

NGM:

How did you go about researching this book?

CD:

I read a lot and asked hundreds of people questions about their bodies, their fetishes, their lives behind the Do Not Disturb sign. I spoke to sexologists, academics, bush pilots, intimates and strangers and had a long correspondence with a man known in the book as Captain Goodscrew. Sex makes for a massive narrative; my mother helped me wrangle the information and my fact-checker, renowned sex educator Cory Silverberg, ensured it was current. And then there’s the whole being a lady with a bed and a husband part.

NGM:

Do you think How To Be A Bush Pilot would make a good play?

CD:

There is a constant banter between the very bossy — heels, tight bun, pointer — Commander Mistress and her beloved — huh, um — Bush Pilot. How she urges him through his charming bafflement and into his natural prowess. Perhaps it is Pygmalion, but with more nakedness and less table manners.

NGM:

Do you think that family members could give this book to each other as a gift?

CD:

Hell, yes. And then let them walk around the backyard with it for a little while.

NGM:

What sort of promotional things will you be doing to promote this book? I think you could get on a lot of television shows and radio shows. I hope you do.

CD:

Thank you, Sex Yoda But Cuter. I have been tweeting, which I was initially very opposed to and then came to understand; interesting people would curate the internet for me if I did the same for them. I made a book trailer with the young geniuses at C&Y Cinema and Alphalpha Male.

I remember with my novel, Stunt, my friends played music outside of Pages bookstore (which is now sadly gone) to promote the book. Only two years later, everything is being done cyberly. For a girl who wishes she could ride a horse everywhere, this is a massive re-calibration — transactions and expression are immaterial. This is where sex comes in and saves us.

NGM:

A book can go anywhere, wind up anywhere. Airports, coffee tables, backs of limos. Where would you like to imagine it winding up. Oh yeah and also I saw this young college couple making out at Discraceland last night like the Titanic was going down. I think it would have made a great commercial for your book. Maybe with you as a tiny fairy on his shoulder and a magic wand. Maybe what is great about your book is that it could be like the new bible or something. Maybe it's a spiritual revolution and well as a physical one. Where do you see this book fitting into your grand oeuvre of writing and your immaculate conception slash artist process? It's still a literary hybrid of sorts isn't it?

CD:

I would really like to find my book in the bedside table drawer of a roadside motel. I don’t know that I would really like being a fairy with a wand on people’s shoulders while they do things to each other. I would make concessions for a spiritual revolution. (Once in New York, I went to a party at a stripper’s loft. She had a pet cobra. And, across the way, it was very Rear Window, yet rather than murder there was sex. Part of that story is in the book.) In terms of an oeuvre (Is this not what men call their privates? i.e. Their men’s oeuvre?), it fits as you said in a hybrid-like way. Did you know that Alice Cooper plays golf?


NOW Magazine and HarperCollins Canada present the launch of Claudia Dey's HOW TO BE A BUSH PILOT: A Field Guide to Getting Luckier. Featuring Claudia in conversation with Michael Winter and special musical guest Peter Elkas!

Wednesday, November 10 at 7 p.m. at the Drake Underground. Tickets are $5, and can be purchased at the door, or at NOW's office (189 Church Street). For more information, please visit Open Book's Events Page.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Nathaniel G. Moore is a Toronto author (Wrong Bar, Bowlbrawl) and frequent contributor to Open Book: Toronto. He is the books editor and assistant editor of Broken Pencil. www.nathanielgmoore.net

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