TPQ: What are you currently reading?
BB: I'm sorry to have to admit that I'm not reading anything at the moment aside from perusing The Meditations here and there, though in my defense, I did read a couple hundred history books during my stint in federal prison, whereas I'm not sure any of it prepared me for getting out immediately after the 2016 U.S. election except for those dealing with the 1930s.
TPQ: Best book you have ever read?
BB: I've always admired Foucalt's Pendelum by the late Umberto Eco, and have re-read it several times, but Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamazov, and especially the former, will not be surpassed in our lifetimes.
TPQ: A must-read before you die?
BB: I would recommended reading Gore Vidal's Julian before death, and saving Jonathan Franzen's Purity for thereafter.
TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?
BB: I much prefer non-fiction these days, but I tend to get better ideas from fiction, which may explain why much of my life sounds like it was made up.
TPQ: Favourite female author?
BB: Although I've only read one book by each, and thus they're the female authors I've read least of, I'm fond of Dame Frances Yates, author of the scholarly The Rosicrucian Enlightenment; Doris Lessing, The Good Terrorist; and Emma Goldman, who has been a formative political influence for me since adolescence but whose autobiography Living My Life I didn't read until prison.
TPQ: Favourite male author?
BB: In a way, it would have to be William Gibson, given that, as mentioned above, I've taken various useful ideas from prison, and my Project PM crowd-sourced research group over which I was originally pursued by FBI was originally intended to serve a similar function as the artificial intelligence described in Neuromancer that was built by the character Marie-France Tessier to serve as an extension of her family's capabilities. Project PM, which was originally to be called Project Marie-France, was likewise intended to be an extension of mine when I first conceived it while living as a junkie in Brooklyn (the perfect time to plot cartoonishly ambitious megalomaniacal schemes). Since I didn't have access to any advanced AIs and would have sold it for heroin if I did, my plan was to build it using large numbers of volunteers who shared my vision of mass, self-organized civic collaboration, which is what we started to do in 2009 before I was distracted by the Tunisian revolution and all that followed. Upon getting out of prison, I founded a non-profit, Pursuance, to finally build a much-improved version, though we've since been distracted yet again, this time by our involvement in overseeing things like #29leaks as well as my easily-distracted nature in general.
A Berlin Book Tower in memory of the Nazi book burning.
TPQ: First book you ever read?
BB: I can barely remember anything from that early. Presumably it was by Judy Blume.
TPQ: Favourite Childhood Author?
BB: Roald Dahl.
TPQ: Any book you point blank refuse to read?
BB: No. If I find an author contemptible, I'm more likely to read his work so I can mock it in an article and win more awards, as I did off the back of Jonathan Franzen during my time as a prison-based literary critic.
TPQ: Any author you point blank refuse to read?
TPQ: Pick a book to give to somebody so that they would more fully understand you.
BB: Either my own upcoming memoirs or Frank Herbert's Dune, which serves me as a religion via the following excerpt: "The old woman said, 'You've heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There's an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.' This is the ethos that would best explain both my compulsion to pursue the wicked and what others often see as an unhinged tendency to do this over long periods of time.
TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?
BB: I'm too self-centered to think to give out presents for the most part, but I remember gifting my fellow inmate Sam Hurd, the Dallas Cowboy who was convicted for cocaine trafficking, with a copy of a biography on Elias Ashmole; oddly enough, Hurd was a student of the esoteric and "Hermetic" topics, as I finally got around to becoming myself when it looked like I was facing decades in prison and would thus finally have the time to justify it.
TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?
BB: I was very excited over the coming Gore Vidal biopic, which was to be based, one supposes, on his two autobiographies in addition to whatever other sources. But then Kevin Spacey ended up being a sexual predator, and that turned out to surprise people somehow, so now the fucking thing, already filmed, isn't getting made, I hear. In the meantime, my memoirs, coming in April from Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, may very well end up getting made as a feature film, as the actor and filmmaker Alex Winter has partnered with me on writing a script and then getting it produced under our continued control over the project, and anyway I was getting film offers before I'd even been sentenced, and before another film's worth of bizarre things went on to occur, so it would seem to be viable. Anyway, I plan to write three autobiographies so as to top Vidal, who at any rate was much older than 35 when he was contracted to do his first one, which is to say, take that, Gore Vidal. (I'm joking, having always admired the man and especially his obnoxiously aristocratic bearing, which I've tried my best to emulate, after my own fashion).
⏭ Barrett Brown is a former imprisoned journalist and a current activist, essayist and satirist, He is the founder of Project PM and the Pursuance Project. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Guardian, The Intercept, Huffington Post, New York Press, Skeptic, The Daily Beast, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. In 2009, he founded Project PM, a "distributed think tank" later repurposed to oversee a crowdsourced investigation into private intelligence contractors and little-known surveillance/disinformation methodologies. In 2011 and 2012, he worked with Anonymous on campaigns involving the Tunisian revolution, government misconduct, and other issues. In 2012, Brown was arrested and later sentenced to four years in federal prison on charges stemming from his investigations into HBGary, Stratfor, and other such firms. While imprisoned, he won the National Magazine Award for his column, “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Prison.” Upon his release in late 2016, he established the non-profit Pursuance to develop a platform for mass civic engagement and to promote his doctrine of non-institutional "process democracy". His third book, My Glorious Defeats, is available for pre-order from Farrar, Straus, and Grioux.