An Interview With @HerzogBooks

@HerzogBooks is a reclusive member of the IWC who emerges occasionally to tweet as though notorious brooding German filmmaker Werner Herzog himself is commenting on WWE. He has his own fictitious Herzog-themed wrestling promotion, and does Herzog/wrestling mashups on YouTube that explore the more cinematic gestures of wrestling. I invited this curious character to The Spectacle of Excess for an interview to see if I could make sense of the whole cool thing.

Andrea G: Your juxtaposition of wrestling footage with Werner Herzog audio and sometimes vice versa is somehow so perfect. This video called “Salvaged footage from ’The Great Excstasy of Booty Daddy Steiner’ is a perfect example:

It’s an ironic and hilarious juxtaposition, sure, but you also manage to capture an overlap on the cultural ven diagram where Werner Herzog and professional wrestling share a space. And experiencing them both at the same time allows us to view wrestling as cinema, which I think is a lesser acknowledged artistic parallel. Can you identify what exactly is this je ne sais quoi that both wrestling and Herzog share?

Herzog B: Ecstatic truth. Herzog’s approach to documentary has always been to make shit up if it reaches clarity beyond the grasp of what he calls ‘the truth of the accountant’. People can get very uppity about this, as if it somehow invalidates the documentary form, but it’s really no different to the great war poets who felt they could only reach the truth by looking at it through a prism. To look at it direct and whole would make it a named object so readily. Strata are required. It’s cultural geology.

I watched the Presidential debates this year, and worse still the subsequent discussion of them, and there was nothing among any of it that held more succinct truth than Kevin Steen’s package piledriver. Herzog understands this, as does wrestling. Every word and turn of plot is ultimately a canvas on which to knock somebody out.

I maintain, from my experience in directing improvised theatre as well as film, that there is no purer form of live entertainment than professional wrestling. When done with due respect for art and craft both, it has everything. This only happens rarely, but that shouldn’t be used as a stick with which to beat the form.

AG: You’re an enigma in the Internet Wrestling Community. You emerge only occasionally, and you follow nobody on Twitter. You’ve told me a little about yourself in private, but your Twitter account and YouTube channel betray none of this. At one point I entertained the wild thought that you might actually be Werner Herzog, you’re such an exacting parody. Would you please tell us about yourself (with whatever degree of kayfabe you’d like to share)?

HB: I’m not sure I’m an enigma! That’s a bit high-minded. I’m just a guy who, in daily life as well as online, prefers doing the work to being seen. Unfortunately we live in a cultural economy where the reverse now holds the value, but fuck that and fuck them. I do the work. The work is all that matters.

I follow nobody on Twitter because it’s a depressing swathe of after-the-horse-has-bolted poltroons who are trapped in a heroic narrative, which means they have to view existence as punching from beneath in a grand battle to defeat evil. Meanwhile, evil gets on with being evil 24/7 and grinds out the win by hard work. See: President elect, Brexit….

I struggle with people who don’t just get up and grind out the hard yards, you know? I would follow a ton of people on Twitter if they treated civic responsibilities as daily duties, rather than a big event that only exists as a response to tragedies their own apathy has wrought in the first place.

So fuck Twitterers (Tweeters?), really, but it is the PERFECT platform for @HerzogBooks.

In my daily life I am a director and screenwriter, and when not arguing with the markets over the merits of art (or sometimes when I’m just bored) I oversee the ambient, asynchronous timelines of Herzog Championship Wrestling.

AG: What is Herzog Championship Wrestling, who is Kinski, and where is Upper Juruena?

HB: Well first thing’s first, Kinski is Klaus Kinski. I can’t believe I’m answering that!

Herzog Championship Wrestling is an extension of the wish of a friend of mine (Shelly Deathlock, wrestling and riff girl you may know) to read Herzog on wrestling. In the beginning that’s all it was, but then I took to an alternative reading of Fitzcarraldo. In this reading Herzog is determined to see the savage and the steamboat come together to bring the voice of Vince Russo to the people of Iquitos. Enchanted, he sets up Herzog Championship Wrestling in the Amazon, in Upper Juruena. He makes this journey with his then muse, Jacqueline. I forget the reason for this.

The whole thing is a little, occasional, and certainly unexpected joy. I don’t think people care enough to check it out (which is completely fine, I really just do this for my own amusement), but @HerzogBooks carries several stories of ongoing tragedy and adventure. From Herzog’s fascination with black female wrestlers (and once, in a fevered state, Big E’s chest), to Akeem’s annual one man gangbang as the similarly-coloured Ararauna enters mating seasondown to Herzog’s contractual struggles with Kinski over the Kinskiplex (Herzog booked it as his finisher, Kinski insisted he was given his own cinema in Upper Juruena). There are several threads of nonsense weaving among the vines of Upper Juruena. Imagine trying to start a wrestling federation among a tribe whose number system is “One, Two, Many”. He has it hard, poor guy.

AG: What do you know about Werner Herzog’s shoot appreciation for professional wrestling? I only know about the VICE interview a couple years ago, in which Herzog said he had little use for pop culture, but that he looked “with great interest at phenomena like Wrestlemania.” I’ll include a link to the VICE article.

HB: I know very little beyond what you have said. Please don’t link the VICE article – I would hate to support such a cocksucking conglomerate.

AG: Why do Enzo and Cass inspire so many of your tweets? What about them is so Herzogian?

HB: Do they? I really wasn’t aware of that, and racking my brains I’m not sure there was much Enzo and Cass content. Herzog made an attempt at an Enzo promo once, which went down well, and ‘The Enigma of Casspar Hauser’ played at the Kinskiplex a couple of times. I think that’s one of my favourite @HerzogBooks lines actually, from that poster. “He was seven feet tall…but he could not teach this.” I’d watch the hell out of that film. What heartbreak.

AG: Yeah, come to think of it, maybe those ones you mentioned were just so perfect they took on grandiose proportions in my mind. The Enzo-style promo was the first tweet I saw of yours:

Enzo is such a mystery. Or a miracle. I’m just not even sure what he is. Is he a poet? A demagogue? An overblown toady? What do you think?

HB: I just think of him as Scrappy Doo on cheap speed, and the team’s whole schtick as perfect curtain-jerking. Neither of those are criticisms.

AG: What do you think Herzog would consider the greatest tragedy in wrestling? What about the greatest story of wrestling redemption?

HB: The answer to both would be the rebranding and appalling misuse of Steamboat as The Dragon.

AG: What Herzog films would you recommend to those of us who need help finding our way through his filmography beyond Grizzly Man?

HB: Ah, Grizzly Man, or as we call it Ziggler vs Owens. One of the great Upper Juruena moments, but a tremendous heartache for Mama Ziggler hearing those tapes….

My favourite Herzog is The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner. It would be in with a decent shout as being the best documentary ever made. It’s hard to pick favourites beyond that. I lean towards the documentaries as I find the narrative feature work more dreamlike – just these amazing moments with bridges inbetween them – and it’s hard to speak about them for that reason.

Oh, How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck? – fantastic documentary, and mentioning it here because it never seems to appear in the conversation.

AG: What are your thoughts about Happy People? I know a guy in it, is why I ask.

HB: I don’t know that I had any. Maybe that’s a compliment given the subject matter. There’s an argument for that.

AG: Your Twitter bio reads: “the WWE universe is monstrously indifferent to the presence of man.” It’s so true, isn’t it? Why is the WWE Universe so unconscious of humanity?

HB: Because, no matter how much we might moan and stamp our spoilt little feet, the truth is that we get what we collectively deserve. Every time. Why should any structure of authority care about anything beneath it, when that mass beneath is unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to be taken seriously?

 

Check out the enigmatic Herzog Books on Twitter and YouTube!

 

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