Vladimir Film Festival

The Most Fun Thing: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Kyle Beachy

25 / 1 / 2022 / Interview

Kyle Beachy / photo by Michael Worful

Filip Tenšek had a chat with Kyle Beachy pri­or to the VX present­a­tion and release of his book The most fun thing.

We might think our medi­um is lan­guage, but our medi­um is time.

I’ve often wondered wheth­er book reviews, or for this sake their young­er sib­lings, accol­ades, short pieces usu­ally placed on the back of the book, maybe squeezed on the front cov­er or today online, fol­lowed by a star clas­si­fic­a­tion and mostly on Jeff Bezos’ Gates of Hell, with its uni­ver­sal val­ues held so high and which by a magic­al force at the same time some­how appro­pri­ate the sin­gu­lar of someone’s writ­ing, style or sig­na­ture, oh so smoothly, could very well be describ­ing any book what­so­ever. If it’s a major one, it’s fairly pos­sible that it’s mar­keted and cham­pioned as an instant clas­sic, an idio­syn­crat­ic work of a true geni­us or an idio­mat­ic exer­cise in style, someone’s ground­break­ing debut or a cata­pult into the fore­front of the lit­er­ary scene. Smal­ler titles, also nicely versed in rhet­or­ic, are more humble and light­er in their approach, but the struc­ture remains the same.

With books, as with oth­er goods, really, this wasn’t always the case. It was with pop­u­lar (and mass) cul­ture, with free edu­ca­tion and with it the rise in gen­er­al read­er­ship, with the revolu­tion of the bour­geois­ie and genres spe­cific­ally devised for women, chil­dren, later even teen­agers, to name just a few, that star­ted with the allot­ting of space on the object that is known as the book. Always map­ping bor­ders, even on things, cut­ting into their phys­ic­al space, a little to the left and we’ve got it. We are more or less attuned to this form of mes­saging now, or mar­ket­ing, and it comes to us in a blink of an eye, a come-and-pick-me from the sea of pos­sib­il­it­ies, we don’t mind, then a hook is thrown, and it’s the birth­place of the first impres­sion. It is the introduction.

I was intro­duced to the exist­ence of Kyle’s book in a dif­fer­ent man­ner, when Nikola called me on the phone and asked me if I’d like to do a short inter­view with Kyle or write some sort of text on The Most Fun Thing: Dis­patches from a Skate­board Life, his new book and the thing you are here for, which I gladly accep­ted, hav­ing already read some of his pieces in online mags, fully aware that there is a ser­i­ous pos­sib­il­ity of me fail­ing that task. I’m not a great presenter and, like most of us, I’m always deal­ing with some insec­ur­it­ies. But I’ve done my research, read his book of essays, read also some reviews and opin­ions, which, by the way, all seemed really nice and pos­it­ive towards his writ­ing, and were over­all amazed by his abil­ity to weave skate­board­ing into the fab­ric of every­day life. And I was there with them, I’ve thor­oughly enjoyed his dec­ade long stroll – it’s dif­fi­cult, really, and impre­cise to call it that, as it is at times hard as it’s geeky and play­ful, spe­cial and strange — maybe a quest for mean­ing then, which is both provided by and obfus­cated by skateboarding.

The sin­gu­lar, this skate­board­ing thing which can’t be nar­ra­tiv­ized prop­erly, as Kyle said to me, as some­thing that pricks one and can also slam you on the ground pretty hard, by means of the uni­ver­sal always becomes dis­placed in favour of the uni­ver­sal. This book is an explor­a­tion on how to speak to it, to try and cap­ture some of it, to squeeze some of that hid­den ener­gizer that presents to us as skate­board­ing, and which from one per­son to anoth­er, quite amaz­ingly, is a wholly dif­fer­ent one.

When you get deep enough in skate­board­ing, it grants you a per­mis­sion to sit in a park­ing lot for six hours, it grants you a per­mis­sion to, in the middle of a book of essays, also put some piece of fic­tion in there.

When I’m read­ing his essays I get a double urge: to go skate­board­ing and to con­tin­ue read­ing at the same time. So, the feel­ing of fer­vor and rest­less­ness that is being pro­duced inside this read­er, one that by chance also hap­pens to be a skate­boarder for a little over sev­en­teen years, which gives a sol­id con­text in which the per­form­at­ive seems to be work­ing, in my opin­ion, is one of the greatest suc­cesses that this book of essays has to offer. But it’s by no means the only one, for writ­ing about it to a wider audi­ence, and maybe even try­ing to read it from a dif­fer­ent angle, for an entirely dif­fer­ent pur­pose, seems to be work­ing just fine:

Any read­er who is curi­ous about skate­board­ing will find sat­is­fac­tion in this book. Not someone who neces­sar­ily does skate­board­ing. The read­er who is curi­ous will find reward in it. What unites the chal­lenge with writ­ing to skaters and writ­ing to non-skaters is that both of them must be curi­ous enough to go into this book. That’s what lit­er­at­ure should traffic in, the curi­os­it­ies and mys­ter­ies and the pur­suit of those. The great thing about skate­board­ing is that it’s a pur­suit that is also non-lin­ear, iter­at­ive and indir­ect. But if curi­os­ity is there, you can make those steps. You can take those wide arch­ing turns and slowly come back around.

Curi­os­ity. Anoth­er name for the prop­er set­ting of the intro­duc­tion, or maybe its pre­requis­ite. Maybe it’s a mat­ter of tacit solid­ar­ity, an affirm­at­ive without any reser­va­tions. While dis­cuss­ing dif­fer­ent parts of his book, by the way there are four, Kyle men­tions that the last part – with pieces on Dylan Rieder, Jeff Grosso or his pro­cess of com­bat­ing the wall­ride shove-it out on a Picas­so monu­ment in Chica­go, both lit­er­ary and phys­ic­ally – is the heav­iest read, but if we’ve made it so far, he says, we’re good, we’re com­pletely on the same page and in cahoots, as kids would say it. On the cov­er I see a broken board, it’s split in two parts and jux­ta­posed with play­ful yel­low grainy let­ters of the title. The ‘truth’, or some oth­er name for that which it sig­ni­fies, is always at least two­fold, and his ques­tion­ing of that exact ‘truth’ of skate­board­ing was done in a really care­ful, pedant­ic and ser­i­ous man­ner, dab­bling with the con­di­tion­al­ity of it, an invest­ig­a­tion, how he calls it, and adds that the sus­tained act of wan­der­ing has always been very appeal­ing to him:

I think there is a way that a sus­tained, pro­longed invest­ig­a­tion, just by being sus­tained and pro­longed, is going to yield some­thing new. You shine a light on some­thing long enough, some­thing is gonna cross through that light. Some­thing is going to emerge, some shad­ow is going to shift or some­thing is going to be jostled and you’re going to start see­ing some­thing again.

I guess that a cer­tain degree of trust is neces­sary, after curi­os­ity, in decid­ing to give it a go, a gentle nudge in a famil­i­ar dir­ec­tion, at least in this lais­sez-faire eco­nomy of desire in which book read­ing is being chal­lenged and con­tested by oth­er media – even oth­er texts, trimmed down to suit one’s ever short­en­ing atten­tion span… A tech­no­lo­gic­al revolu­tion? Maybe, but that is besides the point. Where can trust be found in just look­ing at an object with some let­ters on the top and an image on the front cov­er, let alone in the whole body of someone’s text?

The thing it seems to me is that a book, as an object, offers us a spe­cial exper­i­ence of time, and I say this from a moment his­tor­ic­ally where prob­ably the book is as under­val­ued as it maybe has ever been in the his­tory of books. What these books will do for us is cre­ate an exper­i­ence of time that no oth­er exper­i­ence can give us. It seems to me that there is an exper­i­ence of time that we’re miss­ing out on, and that exper­i­ence is cent­ral to our existence.

We speak of manip­u­lat­ing time and, more broadly, nar­rat­ive, and how insist­ing on skew­ing time in lit­er­at­ure affects our per­cep­tion of those famil­i­ar details and mater­i­al of the every­day, ren­der­ing them some­how stranger, just by chan­ging pace and focus, there­fore sur­pris­ing the read­er – the mak­ing of an unfa­mil­i­ar with­in the familiar.

When I had the oppor­tun­ity to take the stan­dalone essays, and make them into the book, what was most excit­ing for me was the pro­spect of doing some of that slower, more gradu­al and sneaky work.

Gradu­al and sneaky work, that’s the basic prin­ciple of qual­ity lit­er­at­ure, no mat­ter the top­ic and the decor­um, which in this case man­ages to bring to life skateboarding’s long his­tor­ic­al route and its every­day pecu­li­ar incarn­a­tions or, on occa­sion, per­son­al and spe­cial little events. That is the feel­ing I can­not yet name, but it exists, you’re just gonna have to trust me, and it has to do with peep­ing into someone else’s space which is also yours, but in a dif­fer­ent way. It is a sense of a hin­ted com­munity that clum­sily and proudly con­greg­ates around this thing.

Whatever hap­pens to skate­board­ing, it will be the case that it always offers the oppor­tun­ity to exist out­side of its soci­ety. There will always be a path that skate­board­ing offers that runs counter to vari­ous sys­tems of law, eco­nomy or cul­ture. There is a way that the per­spect­ive that is rooted in skate­board­ing can offer a view on broad­er cul­ture, which you can’t see from with­in that cul­ture. I think there will always be a branch that leads to Vladi­mir, that leads to the weird under­pass beneath the high­way sys­tem, that leads to the park­ing lot being more inter­est­ing than the store that the park­ing lot serves.

I’ll con­sider this book as a prom­ise that, at least for some time, skate­boarders and those who are skate­board-curi­ous, will have a voice which is both for­giv­ing and highly crit­ic­al, which is end­lessly curi­ous and actu­al, and as a place in which you can, at times, and at your own pref­er­ence, take short­er glances or longer reads, or simply let your­self be guided in the won­der­ful maze of only one of skateboarding’s pos­sible memoirs.

There is also a great inter­view at Free with Kyle you can check out!