Please Kill Me author Legs McNeil on His New Book, Music and Chuck Berry
|Legs McNeil at a Chuck Berry concert at Blueberry Hill.|
Did you follow the A Million Little Pieces scandal? Do you remember that one, from like, six or seven years back?
Yeah, and what was the one with... the [J.T.] LeRoy book? Yeah, that just seemed like more bullshit, you know.
Yeah, I'd rather read true things any day. But I think I'm weird like that. I think you're weird like that, too.
You know, you can tell when something is authentic or not. And I think that's part of what's great about Mary Rose, is that there's no doubt about the authenticity. Also, we're posting original pages from the journals so people know that it's not another fraudulent literally scandal.
Tell me about the legal issues you had in getting the book published.
Oh, that was a nightmare. In about 2009 when we were going to go out to sell it -- after we'd spent a year and a half editing it -- our New York lawyer said that because she was a minor when she died that her parents inherited her estate. When a minor dies, the parents automatically inherit the person's estate. So that meant her deadbeat dad was entitled to half of the money from the mother's share. And he was really...I mean...this guy was an asshole. I just felt like he wasn't entitled to anything. So we went to court to open the estate and have him removed as the beneficiary. And that took four and a half years, because no male judge wanted to make a ruling on it, so they passed it to the next judge because they didn't want it to be overturned in a higher court. I don't think they knew what the fuck was going on, you know?
It was really frustrating. And it wasn't until we got a female judge who understood and who ruled on it when we went to court. And I knew the father was a deadbeat asshole, but I didn't realize how much of a deadbeat asshole he was until the mom testified in court. He wanted to pull [Mary Rose] off life support the week before she died so he could collect on the insurance policy he took out on her. He's just a scumbag, you know?
So, what do you think is the most interesting part of the Mary Rose story?
Hmm. That's a good question. I think...she can be so profound one moment and so bratty and just an asshole the next. The main contradiction with her seems to be adolescence, you know? That roller-coaster ride of emotion and mood swings. You know [she wrote things like], "I love him. I love him. I love him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him."
I can relate.
[Laughs] Yeah! She just seemed to capture all of those dumb mistakes. She gets high, and she wakes up in the hospital, and they throw her in detention or wherever. I could relate to those fuckups, you know?
When you came across the story, you already knew the ending and you knew that she had died. What if you came across this journal and she hadn't died? Like, what if you knew her as an adult and she gave you this diary? Is it as interesting to you then?
See, I don't know. I think I was attracted to it because I knew she had died. It wasn't until I really read it and realized how shitty this girl's life was that it really affected me. I think I was just thinking about it superficially when I heard about it, but when I read it and could see all of the pain and torment that this girl went through...it was just shocking.
Yeah, and it wasn't just that she died, it's that she knew she was going to die. So she sort of has that hanging over her head the whole time.
Yeah. Impending doom. So, you kind of don't blame all of her stupid choices. You think about "Well, what the fuck would I have done?" Probably something very similar.
Or worse, even! So, Mary Rose wrote that she liked Nirvana, but what other music did she like? Do you know?
Well, in the actual journals she had all the bands names that she loved, like Hole, Nirvana, Pavement. Who else was in there? She liked those Bikini Kill kind of things. You know, those grrr grrr...
The Riot Grrrls?
Yeah, in the '90s. I think the book takes place between 1996 and 1999.
Yeah, that's about the right time period.
Oh and L7, I think, she was into. She had really good taste in music.
She also kept describing that her hair color would change.
[Laughs] Yeah, I know.
Continue to page three.