RUSTY TALK WITH TAMARA FAITH BERGER
I feel more powerful now than I ever did.
Jacqueline: I’m a big fan of Taxi Driver and of lonely man movies, but I’m also very interested in lonely women movies. I feel so much anger, tension. When I read something like Kuntalini, I think, you totally understand what I’m going through. A big sexual awakening that is our own Taxi Driver. Is that the sort of stuff that influences you?
Tamara Faith Berger: Yeah. I personally have a lot of unexpressed anger myself. That is also what I want too. There are a few movies like that and you’ll have to tell me what movies you’re watching that are good like that. I sometimes see movies that have more Taxi Driver or even adventure. It’s like an adventure story, right? Getting something out that we don’t normally see and it wants to be in public. I don’t think this could purely happen in public. It has to be ratcheted up a couple of notches. Maybe one day... I don’t know. I want to see things played out that I don’t see. It’s like in a dream.
I just actually took a self-defense course for women and I had never done that. It was amazing.
JV: Reminds me of the danger aspect in the book.
TFB: I guess, that book, Kuntalini, ignores danger and I know danger exists. But I like that I can make this little story where a female can do whatever she wants, and get in a car with a bunch of guys and have a good time.
JV: The way you wrote it was very surreal in that respect.
TFB: Because of the danger, you mean?
JV: Yeah, the danger. Because you fantasize about stuff like that, but you don’t really play it out. I mean, maybe, you have times when you actually do, but you’ve still placed yourself in a very vulnerable position.
I feel like a lot of Toronto-based female writers like yourself write from a surrealist, magic realism perspective, like it is its own genre. Writers like Lynn Crosbie and Liz Worth. Is it something that comes to you?
TFB: I’ve never really been a realist per se, but I want things to be possible. I kind of go from reality and then something gets a bit too intense, but I still want to make it happen. I also don’t want to leave the realistic world. I can see that it’s like a genre, like you say, but I also don’t want it to be too surrealistic.
JV: What I find now, especially with your writing is that there’s an undercurrent of not just sexual revolution, but an actual revolution going to happen. I feel like women are finally going to just put everything down and start yelling, “Fuck this shit. We’re taking over,” and overthrow the powers that be. When’s the revolution happening, Tamara?
TFB: I feel like it’s a slow transitioning of power. There are some women and female artists that are way on the edge of us. I find that really inspiring.
There’s this woman, I don’t know if you’ve heard of her, Fannie Sosa. She does dance
and workshops. The stuff that comes out of her mouth about worshipping women—I don’t want to paraphrase what she is doing, just look her up.
JV: I’ve been re-reading a lot of ’80s feminist texts, which deal with a lot of more new age-y sort of stuff. Right now it’s Descent of the Goddess by Sylvia Brenton Perera. It talks about working through traumas through a Sumerian goddess myth.
TFB: Fannie Sosa is kind of like that, worshipping the cunt, but she spells it “khunt.” It’s pretty deep what she’s talking about with women and the patriarchy and getting rid of it.
There’s a lot of that now, like the eighties and nineties. There’s that large one too, When God Was Woman by Merlin Stone.
JV: A lot of this new age-y stuff makes sense though beyond logic. Maybe we have to go crazy. Maybe we have to decolonize. Maybe we have to take men out of the equation and rebuild.
TFB: I’m 44 and I like to think that I’ve come this far and men don’t have so much power over me anymore. I feel more powerful now than I ever did.
JV: There was this article called Rhythms of Fear by Laura Maw in Hazlitt. It talked about how cities, in their networks and architecture, aren’t built for women and that’s why they are so dangerous for women. Do you feel like you are not wanted in a city space or a street wasn’t meant for you?
TFB: Yeah, I think so.
Jacqueline: And in your writing?
TFB: It was easier to do it with this book because I could bullet through the chapters because it’s short. It’s like when she goes down into Niagara Falls and no one, really, is supposed to go down to Niagara Falls like the character does. That’s probably the most fantastical section in Kuntalini. I wanted Niagara Falls to be what I wanted it to be.
JV: And when she just starts walking along the highway with no regard to her safety. She’s trespassing a very unnatural space not made for her body in mind.
I think what I find great about your work and the genre you write is that it used to be that porn was written for a certain point, an ends to means. Your writing includes politics and subversion.
I was reading it and felt both stimulating and in need revolutionizing. It was inspiring.
TFB: It’s like excitement [...] like pornography, not that Kuntalini is porn, [..] but I also see it like propaganda. That’s why I find it very powerful to work in it. I can put out what I want to put out. I also write screenplays and it’s a bit difficult there because they usually place the woman in bad behaviour situations. But it’s just that, bad behaviour. I want to see it played out.
JV: Why do you think they say it’s bad behavior?
TFB: I don’t know. I mean, yeah, she’s masturbating in the taxicab and someone offered her coke and she did it. But she was still the master of her own world.
JV: Yeah, because if a guy did that in a book or in a movie, it would be considered artistic and part of the character’s ethos.
TFB: I think in other worlds like film, people don’t think that a female going about her day in a certain way and trying to get something done is a story enough.
I think that for adventure narratives, for lack of a better word, we see a Tomb Raider kind of Angelina Jolie character kicking butt, but not in a super sexual way. We don’t see that kind of adventure story for females. I think it’s good to put it in people’s minds—it’s excitement.
TAMARA FAITH BERGER'S LATEST BOOK
Eat ass, pray, love. Twenty-five year-old Yoo-hoo experiences a sexual awakening in her yoga class. She breaks up with her boyfriend and travels to Niagara Falls where she meets a cold fish teen prostitute and an ex-Army troglodyte deep in the falls. Yoo-hoo’s unforgettable yogic journey sweeps across the realms of asana, hysteria, enlightenment.
Kuntalini by Tamara Faith Berger is one of the New Lovers, a series of short erotic fiction published by Badlands Unlimited. Inspired by Maurice Girodias’ legendary Olympia Press, New Lovers features the raw and uncut writings of authors new to the erotic romance genre. Each story has its own unique take on relationships, intimacy, and sex, as well as the complexities that bedevil contemporary life and culture today.
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