Gian died six weeks ago while visiting New York City. He was busy, working on his new press. Below are remembrances by some of his friends, in this order:
Alec Niedenthal, Austin Islam, Brad Phillips, Brian Evenson, Brian Kelly, Catherine Foulkrod, Chiara Barzini, Christos Katsiaouni, Darcie Wilder, David Fishkind, Derek White, Elizabeth Ellen, EMA, Gabriel Smith, Jahan Khajavi, James Yeh, Juliet Escoria, Jon Lindsey, Ken Baumann, Luke Goebel, Melissa Broder, Michelle Lhooq, Mike Vilensky, Mira Gonzalez, Nathan Brown, Peter Wolfgang, Rachel B. Glaser, Rachel Rabbit White, Sean Thor Conroe, Stefano Pirone, Steve Anwyll, Thomas Morton, Tony Mastroianni, Tao Lin.
Links to Gian's writing and interviews and to other remembrances are at the bottom of this post.
I've been trying to think through what—I don't know how to put this exactly—what Gian's aesthetic standards were: what drove him to publish something; what underground vein in writing he meant to mine. When I worked for Gian—amassing galleys; entering data in the distributor's system when Gian didn't want to be on the computer; writing slightly pretentious press releases that I don't even remember what we did with—he was at the end of his first flurry of novels. Counted among these are Michael Kimball's Us, Ken Baumann's Solip, Blake Butler's Sky Saw, Sam Michel's Strange Cowboy, Marie Calloway's what purpose did i serve in your life. What did these books share? There was the Lishian inheritance, of course, that special calculation of language as something reduced, as a kind of hieroglyph, as the barest element of communication. This was present in some of the work Gian published. But there was also the Calloway, and later Megan Boyle's great Liveblog, and Darcie Wilder's novel, which in my mind were forerunners of today's more commercial autofiction and, whether consciously or unconsciously, callbacks to Djuna Barnes, to Marguerite Duras and other chroniclers of the death drive as it appears in the female "I."
You might say Gian prized immediacy in writing but I'm not sure that's right. Of course, it was more than Gian. It was Tyrant, a brand, a stamp that—when seen on the spine of something—promised a certain way of illuminating the harshest recesses of the self. I remember reading Preparation for the Next Life and feeling it in my lungs, in the tempo of my breath. The unrelenting tumble of descriptive language, the steady rhythm that comes straight from DeLillo's The Names but that does something different—the almost meditative coolness of the prose so tragic against the rancor of what's happening on the page. These were books that, at their best, hit you where you lived: in your body. These books reminded us that it was in the flesh, the flux of pain and pleasure, that consciousness starts and ends. So it is fitting to talk about these books, I think, as we talk about the death of the person who was their steward.
For a while, I know, Gian was deeply invested in trying to carry forward Gordon Lish's legacy. For instance: while I worked for him, he wanted to publish a Lish writer named Hob Broun, a paraplegic who was out of print; it never came to anything. But it was to Gian's credit that he could see far beyond the limits of Lish's vision, as an editor and a publisher. He saw beyond the reaches of the minimal and into other uses for literary language, because (and I think this is key) he saw himself as a counterforce, as the constructor of an underground, not in the sense of "underground music" or something, but really as an underground—the noun. A place, yes, a vibration beneath the world, but also a cell of writers who would reject and to whatever extent terrorize the publishing mainstream that had, as if in advance, rejected them. For the amoral compass of their work, or for their disinterest in the niceties of character and narrative development, or for their overriding interest in making language strange. Gian had no interest in changing the system from within. He simply wanted to set up a different system, in parallel to the one with a ton of money but occasionally crossing over into it and showing it up as ridiculous (e.g., the incredible 'literary agent twitter war' in which Gian said he would never accept agented work and a bunch of midlist hacks sprung on him). Or maybe not creating a different system so much as building some lineage of writers who would not be captured by any system at all, whose very presence in our national literature would become like a virus, something spreading, ineradicable and terrible and great.
Like some of us, the last time I saw Gian was on the night of Garielle Lutz's book launch, I believe in December 2019. I remember his face red with pride and pleasure and wine, and I have one picture of that night on my phone, of people arranged on the stage, Gian just out of view. I also remember feeling like Gian didn't remember who I was. It was strange—a strange feeling. We were so close for a stretch of months in 2012, and into 2013 I did random tasks for him, mostly having to do with the distributor's system. A system which he hated using at the time and was evidently confused by. The summer of 2012 I was in his Hell's Kitchen studio several times per week. I went to lunch with him and the lovely departed Chris March. I housesat for him (I say that but I really mean he just gave his apartment to me for a week). He and Chris even got me a very nice designer argyle sweater for my birthday that year, which later on developed holes. But then seven years later I came up to him before the Lutz reading, not having seen him in years, and he said, "Hey, buddy," and turned away. I don't mean to make this about me or my feelings. It's most definitely not, though it inevitably also is. I loved him and that was sad. In memory, in the wake of him, it's even sadder. I wish I could've said goodbye to my friend, or have a memory that, in this time after Gian, would work as a goodbye. Though I guess that's what death does. Systematically it sweeps us away.
The way Gian was my friend felt rare and unique. I realize now that I'm far from the only person he made feel this way. Reading what others have said about him, I'm amazed that one man maintained so many different kinds of friendships. Some where people were actually changing the world (the books he published altered my life again and again)...and some where we weren't. I don't have the pedigree of others who are mourning him. Not even the potential. But somehow I knew that Gian saw potential in me. He expressed this sometimes without any words at all. What I was up to usually didn't merit much comment from him.
Still, he checked for me. At my wildest and most unhinged, Gian was checking for me. There were days, weeks, months I spent dunking my entire life into the shitter in an aggressively outward display of self-sabotage. A few short emails from him were sudden rays of hope that carried my spirit. He often listened to drugged-out rants and riffs I shared online. It felt like the low-grade horror of my life resonated with him somehow. When I sent him some stickers I made, he slapped them right on his laptop. One was of me wearing designer glasses, lighting a cigarette in a blurry motel room. The other was a pastel-washed paparazzi shot of Lindsay Lohan hustling down the street, clutching the Quran like a bespoke handbag.
I found out about the stickers on his laptop later, from my friend Steven Arcieri, who attended Mors Tua Vita Mea. Steven had asked me to put in a good word for him with Gian. Steven would then joke that I'd introduced the two of them. I didn't do anything, I insisted. Gian must've seen something in you. It's beyond me to know what it was, even though I love you and see your potential. I see it in myself too. I'll just never know what exactly Gian saw.
It's not that important, I guess. It was a blessing to know him at all, to feel his eyes on me, to do little chores for him sometimes. He was obviously busy, working on what appeared to me to be giant projects, but still found time to chat kindly with a comparatively un-busy person. The acid trip he took this year, when he had revelations about his role in the world, his vision for a renaissance in publishing, he sent me a few brief voice memos about. I love voice memos. In a voice memo, the magic of someone's soul, their cosmic wisdom, their intention and love are translated through the sound of them speaking. He was laughing about what a great time he'd had, how he'd written a story about it. I could feel his excitement, his awe, his gratitude. I'm grateful for you, too, Gian. Thank you for everything I know how to thank you for, and thank you for everything I never will.
In the hospital last week the woman opposite me kept screaming that she wanted to murder Jesus Christ.
I told her hey, don't do it, he'll be back in three days, he's done that very thing before.
She didn't stop screaming.
I wanted to tell Gian. He would laugh. There is no Gian to tell. I went back to my room and sat on the shower floor.
I wrote all my feelings down about Gian for other places.
To say, "Words fail me" is a strong indictment of language.
If an emperor dispatched a samurai on a mission to kill a rival and the samurai didn't succeed, the emperor would say, "You've failed me," and decapitate the samurai.
The book I've been writing for Gian is about precognition, and about the hope that death isn't real, that we can all find each other in alternate universes. Maybe I was writing precognitive autobiography.
Hug who you love hug who you love hug who you love hug who you love hug who you love hug
I first met Gian in 2007, when he and his friend Jody came to a reading I did at the New School. That first meeting, I'd say Gian was three sheets to the wind, but it was more like six sheets. He was sincere and a little wasted, and didn't give a fuck about the usual New York things. By that time, the three of us had already been in touch for a year or two. Jody and Gian had solicited me for something for the first issue of New York Tyrant and I'd missed the deadline and written to apologize. That led to them asking me to send something for the second issue and this time I managed. He wrote back to ask if I could show them a novella called Baby Leg I'd mentioned in passing that had already been published serially. I sent them a Word file of the novella and again they wrote back right away. What, they wanted to know, were my thoughts about publishing my novella with them as the first book in a New York Tyrant book series?
At this point, Gian had not even put out an issue of the magazine—issue one was finished but still coming. I had a publisher already, Coffee House Press. Gian was at the time operating on a shoestring: not only was New York Tyrant Press not able to offer an advance, they couldn't really afford royalties of any kind. Instead he offered me a week-long stay in his family's villa in Italy. It sounded more like a pipe dream than a real possibility. But anybody who knew him knows Gian's enthusiasm could be infectious, and so I found myself saying yes, and then wondering later why I had.
Seeing him at that New School reading I thought, "Wait, these are the guys I agreed to work with?" and then we got talking and I remembered what it was about their emails that had made me say yes in the first place.
I have a lot of fond memories of Gian. There was the evening spent in his studio in Hell's Kitchen with him and his bulldog Rufus going through copies of Baby Leg, which he and his boyfriend Chris had handled with hands covered in red ink to leave bloody prints, and which I signed and stamped with my bloody thumbprint. There were more than a few nights in bars, with Gian telling more and more outrageous stories about people we both knew. There was the time he called a writer whose work I love and coaxed him to take a 40 minute subway ride over so we could meet for the first time. The time he took me out for a drink and explained to me how he was going to miss my and Jesse Ball's reading because he had tickets to Antony and the Johnsons and how he was sorry, but there was no way he was going to miss the show, and then was surprised I wasn't upset. Or how when I wrote to him telling him how pleased I was that he was going to publish The Complete Gary Lutz he wrote back and convinced me almost before I knew it to write an introduction for it.
When I forwarded to him a piece I loved by another writer, he wrote back: "I will publish the living fuck out of this thing!" And he did. When he believed in something, Gian would figure out a way to bring it into the world, and would do his best to publish the living fuck out of it.
Gian wrote two things to me that I've always remembered and that, as much as anything, define him for me. The first was when he wrote "I managed to out asshole an asshole and will have my winnings in the mail to you soon." A few days later, a framed piece of the art from Baby Leg showed up in the mail. He could be an asshole, he really could, but he was never a selfish asshole. When he was being one he was doing it to try to benefit someone else. The second was what he wrote me about our mutual friend Blake Butler: "he's in it because he's in it." In other words, no ulterior motives: you do this for the sake of doing it.
When it came to publishing, Gian was in it because he was in it. He cared deeply about good writing, and did his best to make American literature not only better but stranger.
It was snowing the first night I met Gian.
We drank whisky at a bar around the block from his apartment in Hell's Kitchen. He said he didn't want to do shots, but we kept taking them anyway. We had plans to see my friend's film premiere about skateboarders in the suburbs. The screening was at a post-production facility not more than ten blocks from where we were getting drunk.
I remember he kept telling me: "You shouldn't drink so much, farm boy."
But then he'd be the one to order us another shot.
When we paid the tab, Gian said he wanted to walk to the film so he could smoke a cigarette. He was wearing this thin jacket, and I remember thinking, "Isn't this guy going to freeze?"
It wasn't more than two blocks into our walk that he started to hug his own body, shivering, while intermittingly taking drags on his cigarette. I asked if he wanted to borrow my jacket, which was this nondescript, well-insulated hooded jacket.
He laughed, "Man, I don't want to look like you."
I laughed, and he kept walking, shivering, smoking.
When we finally got to the film, we stood at the back of this crowded room for a few minutes. The movie wasn't good, so Gian snuck out the back. A few minutes later, I followed him out and found him in the reception room by himself snacking on olives.
"You want to play pool?" he asked.
I wasn't good but I went along. He grabbed a handful of olives and we left.
Outside, he lit another cigarette, and it wasn't long before the shivering, the hugging, the smoking picked up again. He even started to walk twice as fast as me, as I tried to keep up.
Eventually, he stopped on the sidewalk and turned around to me.
"Give me your jacket," he said.
I looked at him. I didn't know if he was joking.
"Come on man," he said. "That movie sucked. You owe me."
I gave him my jacket and tried to flag a cab. It was freezing.
"Nah, man, no cabs," he laughed. "It's your turn to suffer."
I think we played pool that night. I remember a couple of his friends showed up and they all knew how to play. He bought me a shot and said, "That one is for the jacket, but you can get the next round."
I'm scrolling through his texts right now. Listening to his 3am voice notes on WhatsApp...the sound of him clearing his throat or telling me, "Man, I got the next Pulitzer in my hands. This shit is like the next Hob Broun..."
CATHERINE FOULKROD - BECOMING MERMAN
My friend in Napoli wears anaconda shoes. They shine like wishes. He walks through the streets like it is all happening. Like he is granting it.
We recline in his sala and talk and talk, dissecting The Oration on the Dignity of Man. After, he keeps returning to the question of what is this? "Why do we talk so much? What is this talking?"
I don't understand what exactly he is asking because he dismisses my suggestion that we are exploring thoughts. But he figures it out.
"I know what it is, the talking," he says days later out of nowhere. "It's love."
Then he winks and points at me because he knows he is right.
Giancarlo drives down from Napoli to meet me where I've tucked myself into the quietest piazza in the world. He arrives right on time with a bag full of buffalo milk yogurt. He tells me I needed the sunset to write. He lies next to me on the bed and asks, "Is this heaven?" He repeats that often. "I feel like we are already in heaven." Then he sits up, startled, and asks, "Are we telepathically communicating?"
We watch a film about a man who was looking for aliens but found love, then write a letter to the director because the film is perfect and we want him to be our friend. The director writes back.
The next morning we trace Giancarlo's foot on the back of a manuscript so he can send his measurements to Buenos Aires for those anaconda shoes. We trace my foot inside of his for comparison.
Now, all I have are traces.
I am so heavy with traces of him, of us. My body is trying to contain too much. I feel Aristotle's definition of friendship as one soul in two bodies has been terribly reversed, and now I carry two in one.
"Sorry," I say in Giancarlo's kitchen. "I'm being a spaz."
"Never apologize for who you are," he says, and means it.
Here is a man who worries about watering the jasmine in his yard. Who practices his scales because he wants to impress his piano teacher. Here is a man who spends a ridiculous sum on cashmere socks, feels guilty for the money he spent, then declares they were totally worth it because he feels noble with every step.
Giancarlo's dancing feet are my favorite thing in the world. Seeing them makes me feel like everything is going to be O.K. Like everything already is. Like us dancing is the secret that unlocks reality's benevolent magic. Like we are already in heaven.
I tell this to others to express how I love him. But how can I explain how I love him? I ooze it.
Here is a man who at random quotes a line verbatim from a story I wrote/he published years ago, then proceeds to give it an edit as if he had been puzzling over it all this time. Here is a man who when the whole world is scared of touching, sends his beautiful husband to kidnap me from solitude, hugs me, takes me into his home for months, giggles and plays exquisite corpse with me late into the night.
That spring, we invented entirely new ways of swimming in the pool.
On that bed in the quietest piazza in the world, Giancarlo and I joke about the sirens who lived here back when Ulysses passed by. I tell him the sirens were traditionally half bird half woman, then they changed to half human half fish, and there used to be both mermaids and mermen. But then the mythology/history got twisted, mermen disappeared, and only women were called sirens.
"You should write a story about me swimming down to visit you as a merman," he says. "I'd strip off my clothes on the beach in Napoli and transform when I entered the water. I'd frolic with the dolphins, it'd be a party all the way down. Then I'd arrive at your door all human again, shivering and wet and naked with seaweed stuck on me, being like 'hey, you got a blanket?'"
We laugh and watch an episode of Viceland in which a dolphin in a vision says, "Synesthese, and you won't amnese." Giancarlo says he is going to start using that as his mantra.
Here is a man who wanted to experience everything, feel everything, live it.
"Spirit becomes flesh. Flesh is what we are here for." That line is from a TV pilot we wrote together. It is a riff on Giancarlo's favorite passage in a series of books we geeked out over, half joking but totally serious: books in which a woman named Jane Roberts channels a higher 'entity' called Seth as Jane's husband transcribes everything said.
Giancarlo and I tease each other about being 'Sethies', and how I need to practice my channeling so he can transcribe. Turns out he was the one who did the channeling, but that story is for another time.
Here, all that remains are the words and the spirit. In a bar in Rome, Giancarlo and I drunk-write together the dedication for my upcoming book: "For Gian, whom death does not front upon, but who voluntarily eternally succumbs to love."
It is all that absurd and simple and true.
For a man so huge, so overflowing, perhaps the only way to make sense of this is to follow Seth's logic: "...after a while the exuberant, ever-renewed energies of the spirit can no longer be translated into flesh...The self outgrows the flesh."
I like to feel it that way: Giancarlo still out there, bigger than ever, walking as he does, making it all happen.
When Brad Philips was asked to write about Giancarlo for Bookforum, he kept thinking about
how he needed to send the doc to Gian when he was done with it. "Someone will edit this, and I'm
uncomfortable about it not being Gian. I only trust Gian. Now I have to learn to trust others, to accept
their edits, as much as this feels unacceptable." I find myself having a lot of similar thoughts today. In
the last year I've been working on a collection and Gian had seen a few of the stories and helped edit
them. Now that I return to them, I feel disorientated. Jonathan Ames, who admired Giancarlo,
suggested that instead of despairing, we should try and listen for Gian's voice between the lines of the
stories we are writing. "I bet you know which parts he would have crossed out and which parts he
would have liked. If you pay close attention you can find him. He's everywhere." So I have been trying
to listen and though it's no consolation, it is a way to reconnect with him. I recommend this exercise to
all of Giancarlo's writer orphans, to the many talented and visionary people he discovered, helped, and
encouraged, to the ones he was in the midst of working with and to the ones who were hoping to work
with him in the future. Listen for his laughter, look out for those "Lazy!" comments or "You can do
better here" and "Language is dull." Imagine the lines he'd strike across the sentences that didn't work,
hope for that moment when you would get a truly good image, that scrabble on the side of the page:
"Really fucking good."
He was a fierce and honest editor and he didn't have a prerogative, which is something I really
loved about the way he touched the page. He was brutal and delicate at the same time. It was never
about him or his editorial agenda. He just really wanted the writing to shine in its own right. I think this
is obviously what many of us are going to miss about him most—this innate generosity of looking for
truth on the page, but also making sure that whatever truth emerged was the writer's and never the
editor's. I'm going to miss his curiosity. He would read anything I gave him in whichever form (often
on his phone because he couldn't wait to get home) and get excited about it. I knew I could share all
my offbeat literary obsessions with him. I presented him with a forgotten novel from the late 1970s by
the Italian writer Barbara Alberti called Delirium, which had been translated into English by FSG. It's a
first-person narrative of a really pervy guy's creepy life. It's seedy and dirty and obscene and completely
wrong in all the ways in which a story about a pervy male narrator could be wrong today. But he loved
it and wanted to reissue it. He was willing to take risks nobody else in the publishing world was willing
to take. He was so busy getting inspired that he didn't have time for anything censorious. Even though
the themes that interested and moved him the most—sex, drugs, fucked-up family narratives, a sense
of stoic exclusion from the mainstream world—could go to some pretty dark places, he had a wide-
eyed and dreamy teenage approach to literature. He was a romantic. He wanted to be moved, to fall in
love, to laugh about our dark voids—and he did this both as an editor and as a friend.
One morning a few years ago, after a particularly debaucherous night that left me feeling
anxious and blue, I got on the phone with him and told him how difficult it was for me to stay on a
sane track. Giancarlo laughed at that very thought. "Maaaan, it's hard, just do what you have to do to
stay afloat. None of us is perfect. People like you and me need to be okay with our contradictions." That
was another great gift for me. I could afford not to package things with him. I could be messy and
weird and not only did he never judge me for it, he encouraged a peaceful coexistence with that part of
myself. We might shoot the shit about murder and incest with the same tone as we would discuss his
husband Giuseppe's dinner menus as the castelletto. Life could be domestic and wild at the same time.
Like Flaubert (and Samantha Hunt say): "Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that
you may be violent and original in your work." Giancarlo was far from regular and orderly, but he did
create a structured space for family, and Giuseppe who was the love of his life was also his pillar of
Giancarlo and I shared the experience of spending our youth as vagrant, uprooted kids. After
many misadventures, we had the similar destiny of landing back in Italy and choosing stable men to
build families with. There is a lot about my American side that doesn't trickle into my Italian life and
vice versa, but Gian knew both sides of my story and I knew both sides of his. He managed to turn
what had been a lifelong conflict about identity and belonging into "just another adventure." His
attitude was: "Let me go back to Italy and remodel this family castle form the 1700s and turn it into a
writers residency." "Let me get obsessed with olives and trim all the trees in the garden to make oil."
"Let me befriend an incarcerated genius and talk him into writing a bestseller." "Let me move to
Naples and take acid and see the city as a huge goddess womb where I can feel safe." I was always in
awe of the ease with which he changed plans, homes, and cities. "Are you really going to just pack and
start your life elsewhere without making a huge emotional deal of it?" The answer was always: "Yes,
And then there were the women—his besties and muses. Hearing Gian speak about them, the
way he described their badassness or their outfits or the difficult choices they were making in their lives
or in their writing, inspired me and made me feel that out there in the world, somewhere between
Sezze, Portland, New Orleans, and New York, there was a group I could call a tribe: Catherine
Foulkrod, Chelsea Hudson, Lauren Cerand, Martina Testa, EMA, Kaitlin Phillips, Megan Boyle, Marie
Calloway to name a few. If he loved them, I knew I could love them too. Some I've never even met in
person, but feel like I've known them all my life. EMA, the singer whom he introduced me to at the tail
end of her tour with Depeche Mode in 2018, ended up doing a phenomenal soundtrack for a film I had
written with my partner Luca, an adaptation of Amanda Davis' film "Wonder When You'll Miss Me." I
knew a lot of those women shared some of my wounds and found their inspiration in places that were
similar to mine. He created an invisible sisterhood for us.
One of the last things Gian spoke about before he took off for NY in March was a series he'd
been working on with Catherine Foulkrod called Still Life. He had sent me their pilot episode with the
idea of bringing it to Netflix and I when I read it I was overwhelmed by the quantity of overlaps there
were with Gian's final days. "Still life" in Italian is "natura morta": "dead nature." The name of his
castelletto writing workshop is "Mors Tua Vita Mea", "your death, my life." Gian was always evoking
the idea of mortality. But he did it with disarming lightheartedness—the same that emerged in the
tweets Blake Butler was kind enough to collect:
"100% against the changing of Rest in Peace to Rest in Power. Resting in power sounds like fucking
work, man. I don't want power when I die, I just want to be let alone. Please don't pile on extra
responsibility for me once I'm dead."
There is a certain grace in the way Gian has slipped out of our lives, and of course, as always
with Giancarlo, there is a soundtrack too. As a true rockstar he went out at his peak and the "Still Life"
playlist has been keeping me company because it feels like a musical declaration of all his parts. There is
darkness and light, beauty and grit, desperation and hilarity, it's music that talks about the desire to live
life with all its contradictions.
Like Gian told me on that morning after my anxiety-inducing debaucherous night, the very
conflict between these opposing forces is what makes life beautiful and interesting. One of the songs I
love the most from the playlist is called "Looking for Knives" by DYAN (ironically one of their other
hits is called "What Fiction is For"). It's an ode to what you are given in life versus what you are
actually looking for:
I went looking for waking
But they're giving me dream
And I wanted the night
But they're making me sleep
I went looking for knives
And they're giving me blooms
I went looking for knives
And I was looking for you
In the dance between what he was looking for and what he was given, Giancarlo managed to
slip into a portal, an interstice where he could have both things at the same time, which is so perfectly
We (Gian and I) met in the spring of 2009. He called me out of the mist and asked the following of me in his gently raspy/oddly confident, voice. The initial conversation transmitted through an early 2k flip phone line:
"Hey man, Peter told me to call you, he said you take sick photos; I have like NO dough, BUT, wanna come and shoot a cover for my journal? I can pay in whiskey or whatever other inebriants you might want, unlimited."
Me: "Let's do it! When?"
And we did.
I photographed him as best I could shortly after that initial conversation; we flailed around his midtown studio apartment and caught moments. Rufus the bulldog kept watch. Gian gave me so many good stories to ruminate on, even that first day. Those photos are actually kinda next level. Remind me to show you.
We got very drunk right after I made those images; we were friends from then on. True friends. "Hugging friends" as much as that might make you (or him) cringe. I have lots of stories but the requested word count here sits on my shoulder.
I was always one of the first people he called whenever he returned to New York after he left the city for a life in Italy. I always felt honored; I'm a photographer, not much of an intellectual but he still showed me so much love. Thank you for liking me Gian.
He left me late night voice messages frequently. And I remain so grateful for those.
Now to this: Gian was a literary world sage, one with an uncompromising vision of what he liked when it came to writing. I knew this despite my separate, art world life, myself a literary world moron.
He published and edited a lot of very singular work and the world is a better place for it. I know this. He pushed his chosen artistic genre forward. Truly. Not many can say that they have.
Gian was also a sweetheart, generous and kind and very funny, very wild at heart. He will be missed forever by everyone who knew him. He was a super mensch, albeit one with an edge. He might call me a "loser" for writing this tribute but it would be said with love.
One of my very favorite memories as an adult is that of hanging out with him and his husband Giuseppe in Rome. Great food, great conversation, beautiful environs, lots of laughs. We were having so much fun one night in Trastevere that an old Italian lady threw water out of a window to try and extinguish our mirth. True story. She missed and then we had EVEN MORE FUN. Take that old Italian lady.
I'll miss you so much my friend. You were an edition of one, there is no chance of another like you.
Gian was my only neighbor. He was the only one I spoke to, the only one I let into my life during this time a couple years ago where I was putting anything into my body, trying to escape it. I couldn't look people in the eye or be alone, I couldn't think for myself or read quietly on anything that didn't scroll with the tap of my finger. I was in extreme pain and worse, I didn't know it.
But he was the only one. He chose this neighborhood on purpose. Me, a fluke, living with my grandmother and then, post-bucket-kick, alone. He liked it here. The seedy remnants, resiliently standing their ground from the time the Westies tossed a days-old dead body from the twenty-something floor of an apartment building onto the roof of a parked cab. This weirdo grimy gayborhood, persisting somehow better than Chelsea or either of the villages. Orange tops still scatter the streets, cracked plastic shattering under soles of tourists' sneakers. Crack smoke wafts all hours, just pass the Chipotle or find that stoop made famous by one of the several violent attacks that made national news this past year. "We got a Panda Express now," I texted him once, months after he had left for Italy. Blood still spills on the sidewalk daily, regardless of whatever franchise just moved in. These colors don't run.
If you know anything about it up here, it's probably from visiting Gian's musty little 46th street first floor studio. There really wasn't much reason to come around otherwise, but if anyone could get people to party above 14th street, it was him.
Gian sprouted up from the earth out of nowhere. Suddenly he just existed, seemingly always having had, always already in the back of Ninth Avenue Saloon or KGB, pulling out tattered contracts before they became coasters underneath draft pints, inviting all his friends out, mixing different worlds and timelines. That seating plan chart thing wedding planners do, I can't imagine him giving that any credence. I imagine him telling people to stop being so obsessed with themselves and just talk to whoever.
I felt so alone up here. No one lived anywhere close yet here was this guy who hung out with all the coolest people in the city, found and read and published all the coolest shit, taking one of the oldest mediums and imbuing it with something that felt like nothing had before. It seemed beyond that someone like him existed, let alone so close to me.
The first time I met him, I ate too many mushrooms and tried to puke them all out while he played Stevie Nicks piano demos and videos of people in extreme pain. "Suicide headaches," he said as the man tearing hair out of his head reached for an oxygen mask. "But that treatment, the oxygen, it doesn't work for me." He sat back on the white couch my grandma had spent decades on, watching Jeopardy and SAG screeners, and asked if I was ok.
We met through Sam Cooke and Megan Boyle, who had plans to meet him at Ninth Avenue Saloon. Early, I walked in and passed the guy in the back at a table for five. It couldn't have been him. I tried to hide in the bathrooms, look less pathetic. It felt ridiculous, so I circled the block. When I came back, Sam and Megan were chatting with him. Gian remembered me dipping in, looking for them. He called me out on having been there and leaving, feigning fashionable lateness. This was during a time where I spent all my time alone—sitting at a receptionist desk, in bed, on my couch—killing time waiting to get drunk with my friends. I scrolled until I passed out, shouting into social media accounts with an audience in the low, low hundreds. It was beyond me that someone would recognize an average looking brunette loser. I was partially embarrassed to be called out, but also gratified to at least have been noticed.
Despite any reason or good sense, I ate an entire bag of mushrooms. I had no idea what a trip really is, and it was a bad one. This was when we all went back to my apartment. My elevator was breaking down and there was a long line of real, actual adults trying to get home and get into bed. For three tripping idiots and their babysitter with a sense of humor, it was excruciating—trying not to look in the mirror, trying not to laugh. At one point I said we should just walk up hundreds of stairs. Finally we made it home, like The Warriors. When he left hours later as I writhed in bed, I remember hearing him ask, "Is she ok?"
I don't remember how we began hanging out more often, but we did. He became more of a person in my life. Incredibly, effortlessly cool, sometimes irritatingly so: he woke up and fell asleep at whenever hour, knew everyone, floated through the world reading and making cool books and doing cool shit. More curiously, he didn't give a shit. In a sea of social climbing losers and heartless careerists, he didn't give a shit—at least about that. About the right things, he cared immensely, maybe too much. About actual friendship.
I signed up for his writing class at Catapult. We tried to play down our friendship in class, but I lingered afterward as he talked to students, waiting for our cab ride back home together. Once, we stopped at the Halal truck all the tourists care about. Still drunk off the bottle of whiskey that refilled every class, I sprayed enormous globs of hot sauce all over my rice, completely unaware what I was in for. Gian did the same. My eyes and nose began leaking rivers into my food, each of us only have two thin napkins, completely soaking wet. Sitting on the corporate office building plaza, mucus poured down our faces, the extreme pain of the spice burrowing deeper into our tongues, blaming the other person for the most blisteringly painful meal of my life.
"I made a mistake, but you made your own decision."
"I FOLLOWED YOUR LEAD DUDE."
Then he told me about a tryst with a legendary elderly writer.
We took a cab back. Opening the door on tenth avenue, he puked.
At one of our last lessons, nursing a slight heartbreak that would prove to be temporary, he wrote on the board: Don't date Italians. Don't listen to me. Getting published is gay. Don't write anything marketable. The other lesson points, which he asked to keep secret, were conveyed with enigmatic, vague descriptions that he needed to explain for two minutes to properly communicate.
I remember killing time at Rizzoli books, waiting for his fiance. Gian kept shouting about Dave Eggers, pulling down his books, trying to embarrass me. "Oh good! They have Heartbreaking Work! Here—c'mon, take it!" He tried to loop in other customers, escalating the joke as blood kept rushing to my face: "She just really likes this Dave Eggers guy."
I remember hearing that he began Tyrant because of McSweeneys—because he hated McSweeneys and all smarmy, snide pseudo-earnestness. From what I remember, something about the whole scene trying to make literature cool by punching down, putting on airs and upwardly mobile, ironic novels about making sense of the world and knowing better, or knowing better by knowing nothing. Gian made literature cool by doing the opposite. Tyrant embraced the dredges and the masses, pulling in anyone he could. His taste was so precise that he knew he'd lose most people, but you never knew who you'd keep. The losers, weirdos, misfits—they need the light left on so they can find you and be found.
A photographer was going to come to my apartment for an indie digital magazine shoot. One of his delusions of flattering grandeur was when he would say I reminded him of Adriana La Cerva, Christopher's girlfriend on The Sopranos. He even tagged me in screenshots of her. The week of the photoshoot, he told me not to clean my filthy apartment. I was cleaning out my grandma's decades of belongings, depression-born sensibilities hoarding old aspirin bottles and dried up Bic pens, so it was disgusting. He told me to make it worse—trash it more. He told me to wear heels, get a blowout, get long acrylics and lay among the heaps of wreckage looking impeccable.
Gian came back from Italy in love with some guy he met at the wrong train station. It was absurd—giving up his apartment, the daily life he spent decades building. I was worried about the whole thing. Gian, so open-hearted that it sometimes appeared leaky, would risk too much. That he would care more, uproot everything and go off following his heart and end up burned. Who whisks themselves away, ending a relationship to begin anew thousands of miles away with some guy on a train?
But absurdity made sense for him. He went, it worked out. Gian was always himself no matter where he went. Alone in his room, smoking on the street, waking up at midnight and heading to the bodega for a Philly Cheesesteak, in the back of the bar, on the subway to or from a reading, at Lali for the cash only lunch special, picking up a sandwich from Lenny's, explaining how he stopped ordering from Galaxy Diner because they put quarters in his egg sandwich and it hurt his teeth. Empathy leaked from his heart, embracing the losers and uglies, or the gorgeous people too shy and fucked up to move effortlessly through the world, people who had known only pain and shouted into the void by reading and writing killer sentences. Or earnest, innocent fresh faces who somehow know deep pain but keep going. There were people who he didn't like, but I could never guess who it would be.
Gian and Giuseppe married at City Hall. I made their Polaroid wedding photo my phone background, Gian's face a mix of anticipation and gratification; having arrived and looking forward.
At his wedding reception, a few of us crouched over a table at The Bowery Hotel, it looked like I was going home with one of his friends. "Hold on," he said. From across the table, I saw him remain sitting while this guy uncomfortably hunched over him. Later, he told me what he said: You know Darcie is like family to me, right. And if you do anything to fucking hurt her...
Before he left, Gian gave me anything I wanted. His wooden liquor cabinet, a stained glass poker lamp, a chalice for Catholic sacramental wine, the entire Tyrant catalogue (magazines included), a ceramic mold of his teeth. Regrettably, I passed on the holy water and some other Catholic imagery. He left when it was still hot and sticky, but the details are fuzzy. It felt like he was coming and going a lot then, plus that year all runs together for me. But I remember lounging around the barely air conditioned apartment, sinking in the armchair ("Dude, Salvation Army a block away, it was like $20") underneath his Over the Edge poster as he explained the plot of the movie. I remember wearing a crop top and layering one of his patterned button down shirts over it. I remember checking to see how it looked in his bathroom with a Marie Calloway sticker on the wall that said the ARC printer had refused to publish some of the content. I remember seeing the copy of Blake Butler's Sky Saw on the ground of his backyard, stuck between cracks of the cement that he couldn't figure out how to get there. I remember him lamenting that Spencer had convinced him to figure out what sparked joy, and how he missed all his books.
I remember when he asked for my book. Initially, literally show me a healthy person was for Spencer Madsen at Sorry House, but Gian charmed me over steak tartare at Joe Allen on 46th street. He somehow got me (vegan) to eat that raw meat.
Later we had that fight. A very public, ugly fight. It was a tinderbox of (my) first book tensions, (my) nerves and insecurities, (mutual) poor communication, time zone differences and two Hell's Kitchen Italian tempers. I think we both said: Whatever, you want to do this? Let's burn the house down. I like to think I now have more tools and pain endurance to begin and withstand difficult conversations, to approach my friends and loved ones directly instead of the sea of subtweeting away my worst fears. But back then, I did not.
I regret it. I brought nothing beyond some uncomfortable surges of adrenaline on Thanksgiving, my three-month mark of quitting mind-altering chemicals (and it showed). I hope that now I have enough awareness to avoid the little devils on my shoulder, whether it be insecurities, ego, or bad actors as bad influences, to never get in that situation again.
After his death, someone told me he had intended to apologize. I had, too.
After the first waves of tension leading up to that fight, someone sent me a picture of the back of his helmet. Two stickers of my avatar, right in front of whoever was on his back, clutching onto him riding through the streets. Even after the worst of the blowout, a new picture of his helmet landed in my inbox. I was still on it.
He made me feel ok about waking up hungover, about being a fuck up. Once I tweeted, "i'm scared of opening my drunk texts to gian but i can't delete the thread cuz he called me pretty in a text once." He replied with his effortlessly affectionate candor: "go ahead. i can call you that again. more than once even. there's a never ending supply of those." Who else casually throws around such unapologetically loving comments?
The last thing Gian gave me before moving was an enormous painting. A recreation of a classic, it is nearly as tall as I am, and I struggled carrying it down the street. He needed it safe, and it was. He told me he couldn't get rid of it, but couldn't figure out how to get it to Italy yet. It had already made the trip overseas once, after he strapped it to his back while hitchhiking when he was still a teenager. He said he carried it on his back for three whole weeks.
When he finally arrived in Italy for good, I was shocked when I saw him tweet: "I miss Darcie more than anyone" -Me, last night" 5/2/16 4:43 PM
I missed him too. It was irritating, annoying to have my one beloved neighbor leave, let alone that it was Gian. Let alone that it came right on the heels of our escalating friendship. Underneath all of that joy I had for him—the love of his life, a new start in a beautiful setting, his writers' retreat—was the pain of everything ending that wasn't a part of that. That something was over.
But he was still there. Even after we stopped talking, he was still around. It is unbelievable to me that he existed up until a few weeks ago, that I could have spoken to him so recently, that it was so soon that we were existing in the same world.
Outside his memorial, I met someone for the first time that Gian had told me about awhile ago. I was telling some anecdote, a tangent as a way to exorcise my insecurities about our relationship, our fight, the whole mess of it. I continued with the story, saying: "and then she said, 'Gian loved you.'" He cut me off before I could finish, casually and directly, nearly mumbling: "He did." I believe him. But I want to believe him.
I asked one of our mutual friends about the painting I still have. He and I met while they were playing pool and years later, continue to cross paths. Once we were at brunch together when I stepped away from the table and upon returning, Gian wasn't wearing a shirt anymore. I asked him what to do with the painting, if maybe his family would want it. That I am undeserving. He listened, and delicately asked: "Have you considered keeping it?" I hadn't. I assumed I was unworthy to hold onto such a sentimental object, to keep such a big part of him. Our mutual friend suggested I keep it. "That he gave it to you, and that you know the story behind it, and that him giving it to you is another story in itself."
People have been very kind to me. Explaining their own arguments with him, breaks from the friendship. I am not new to the pain of friendship breakups and communication breakdowns. But I believe people when they say we would have reconciled. As unrelentingly loving as he could be, I know he could also dig in, using his empathy to know someone's pain points. I know he accidentally kept my set of keys in his pocket when he flew back to Italy, and I know I always think it's sweet when people keep useless keys. I know that I cried for days, weeks when I heard; am still crying. I know that I loved him and never really stopped. Fiery rage of a falling out, getting too close without any idea how to be a person myself let alone with someone else in any type of friendship. I know I grew up to embrace angry chaos and reconcile later, to assume we will always have the opportunity, the time. I know I did the best I could, and it sucked.
I believe people when they say he loved me. "He loved you," that first message read. "He died too soon, y'all would've made up if there was as much time as there should have been."
I believe, but will never know.
I met Gian at a party at a bar in the East Village. People swarmed in Doppler-like formations, pushing their way from low, choked wooden tables to the still more congested stretch of open bar and back again, vying to order as many drinks as possible before it returned to cash service.
Gian was the party's host, beneficiary of the tab. I was nineteen or twenty years old. I knew approximately one-and-a-half other attendees, and in the middle of introducing myself to Gian, he beckoned I follow him, ushering us into a bathroom stall, where I continued to try to come up with things to say to justify my being there.
Gian told me to hold out my hand and deposited a small pile of cocaine in the dimple between my thumb and index knuckles. I don't remember anything else from that night.
Over the decade that followed, many more such nights would pass. Gian's ceaseless, nonchalant generosity would continue to move me. He loomed over and slithered beneath a literary world that enamored and confused me. Gian enamored and confused me, too. Penetratingly sharp, warm, and receptive, he was equally, simultaneously ambivalent, slovenly, blunt, even unwitting. And Tyrant—then mostly defunct as a print journal, and only a couple books in—seemed to epitomize this odd balance: at the precipice of a critical avant-garde, and yet wallowing in the aloof, punkish muck of whatever reverie.
There was something at once alluring, embracing, exclusive, and repulsive about Gian and the literature he championed. Even when I suspected he was missing the mark, I knew it clicked. I could never really knock his judgment, because anything he undertook, he did so with such vision, integrity, and editorial acumen: always true to the writer, the work, and to the publisher, who was inseparable from Gian the person.
In this way, Gian was the essence of no-brow. He knew what he liked, and he didn't care what that meant to other people. He didn't care if the readers showed up. Instead, he gave the writing everything, and readers couldn't help but immerse themselves in the wake of that devotion.
I cannot say where I'd be without Michael Kimball's Us, Atticus Lish's Preparation for the Next Life, or Megan Boyle's Liveblog, for instance. Poignant, devastating feats, undermining and redefining the meaning of fiction, and given life by a publisher who understood the threads of hurt and catharsis these works derived from and accomplished.
When I learned of Gian's death, I pulled all my Tyrant books off the shelves. I took in the tactile quality of their design. I spent the evening talking and texting with people, sharing memories about Gian, and realizing how much of my young adulthood happened because of the writing he published and the people that orbited around him.
I scrolled through old emails we'd exchanged. And therein a bevy of text recalled his realness, his frankness, his constant munificence. Responding to an unrelated message from two years prior to congratulate me on something I'd published. Encouraging me to send him stories and manuscripts. Putting me in touch with writers he knew. Sending me free books and galleys. Setting up transactions to buy, trade, and barter cocaine, pills, and LSD. Promoting and aiding in the publication of my own editorial pursuits. He offered a simple, no-frills professionalism-cum-friendship, which he took completely seriously and casually, and always with a thrum of laughter, detectable even through those pert, abrupt correspondences.
I think Gian lived about as ideally as a person can be expected to. He had money and resources, and instead of leveraging them to elevate himself, he gave and gave, generating new platforms for publishing, uplifting young and overlooked outsiders, speaking and tweeting with candor, widening the perspective on what art and literature can and should achieve, and never failing to remain humble as a stump.
People don't have enough respect or admiration for editors and publishers, let alone radical ones. And I know that aforementioned literary world is going to witness a palpable void without him. It already has.
It's a loss, for everyone. Just a terrible hole, a missing thing, which nothing will come and take the place of. But it is also a reminder: we can and must become the publishers, writers, distributors, and advocates we want to exist in the world. Gian contributed in a manner few even know how to aspire to, and if I can honor him by being an open and giving person, a curious and discerning reader, an incisive editor, an indefatigable writer and rewriter, a lover of language, and foremost a lover of the myriad voices and sources by which that expression arises, then I'll have made good on the hospitality he sent in my direction.
Thank you, Gian, for your largesse, your kindness, your potency, your genuineness, and your friendship. Thank you, Tao, for publishing these words, and for continuing to advance Gian's legacy of independent, instinctive, sincere, and shrewd publishing. Thank you to everyone for whom literature is a conduit to joy, critical thinking, and expansion.
I'm humbled to have been around for it. I'm grateful to be around for more.
After I emailed my thoughts on Gian to Tao, I reread them so many times the words stopped having impact. The prose was tight and accurate. But they lacked something—emotion, depth, closeness. I wasn't sure. I didn't know if it mattered. I figured it wasn't about me. It was about how I wanted to pay homage to a late, daring publisher, dear to myself and clearly so many others.
Gian and I were not intimate friends. In fact, I'm not sure we ever hung out one-on-one. Maybe only for a few minutes, to complete a drug deal or something. But I've held our interactions in an esteemed, earnest place, and I maintain only respect and empathy for him. The few personal exchanges we shared between us, I wanted to keep to myself, to hold and cherish. I'll admit, I can be selfish with my memories.
The night before, I'd arrived in New York for the first time in seven months. The longest I'd ever spent away from the city since I moved there in 2009 and moved away in 2020. Leaving New York took a long time. It happened in fits and starts. Everyone who moves there to pursue writing or art or whatever has their own narrative like this. It's not important.
I walked down the steps of my partner's parents' apartment and scrolled through my phone, searching for something to listen to on the walk to Greenpoint to visit a friend. I landed on XXXTENTACION's album '?' I hadn't listened to it in three years, since I first attempted to move away from New York, when XXX was murdered, and I'd played the album ad nauseam.
Suddenly I was transported to 2018. When I felt betrayed by everyone, warmth toward and from no one, and posting on Instagram was my most consistent outlet for communicating this loneliness and frustration and pain. I remembered a particular upload of a video of thirty or so cannabis edibles I was in the process of baking, backdropped by the audio of XXXTENTACION's "changes."
Shortly after this clip went live, Gian had DMed me, asking what the song was. I told him, and he responded with almost gushing gratitude, messaging again a few hours later to reiterate how much he loved the song. Over the following weeks, I noticed its appearance on his own social media, and I was touched. I was glad to have been able to share something with Gian. I was glad he could find solace and exaltation in the agonizing, delicate music of this flawed, disruptive, polarizing, and tragically dead artist, as I had.
I listened to the song on repeat, walking the grim, sunny streets of Brooklyn, hearing the words again and again: "I don't understand this / You're changing, I can't stand it / My heart can't take this damage / And the way I feel, can't stand it / Mmm, baby, I don't understand this..." And I thought if I could share it, maybe someone else would hear the song, and maybe someone else could hear what Gian heard, and feel something like what he felt. And maybe I could be a little less stingy with my memories and emotions. And maybe I'm a little closer to Gian still.
We always feared this day would come, but when he fell in love + moved back to Rome we thought he was in a good place. When we were back in Rome together (2018-19) he seemed happier than ever everytime we saw him. He still partied, but it was the lighter stuff + he seemed more in control. His partner Giu doesn't even drink + often when we were out to dinner we'd get stuck between them as a psuedo marriage counselor cuz we could relate to both sides. Like Giu we didn't like when Gian smoked cigarettes in front of us (we usually avoided his place for this reason) or was always looking at his phone or got out of control w/ his partying, but we also knew Giancarlo Ditrapano has always been Giancarlo Ditrapano + surely Giu knew what he was getting into (apparently he didn't). The same was true w/ Chris March (he didn't drink either), Gian sought out such partners to balance out his wild side (he told us once "why would i date sum 1 like me?"), which we thought was a bit unfair to Giu + we let him know this (an evening that probly ended w/ Gian storming off saying we were ganging up against him). Whenever he went to NYC we worried cuz he seemed to go back to his old ways... he had access to harder drugs + there were all these social media friends that wanted to party w/ him (+ his partner not around to nag him). And then covid happened + undoubtedly Gian felt pent up after a year in lockdown in Naples. We're not on social media (tho we browse his twitter feed on occassion) + haven't communicated w/ him much in this past year so we don't know the full story of what happened, but can only imagine this all had a bearing on his mindset when he went to NYC (for whatever reason)... he was probly in a mood to let loose + have a good time + see all his social media friends that he hadn't presumbly seen in the flesh since 2019. [more] [tribute song]
Giancarlo DiTrapano <email@example.com> Mon, Jul 29, 2019, 9:24 PM
thanks for the email dude. and the praise of which i am unworthy
Im in italy now always. come visit!
I wasn't going to write one of these. I didn't think it was my right. I didn't know him well like the others, like you. We kept missing each other. The last time we missed each other was December 12, 2019. I was supposed to fly to New York City for Garielle Lutz's reading. Gian/Tyrant had just put out The Complete Gary Lutz. Garielle and I had decided to meet for a drink at the Algonquin Hotel beforehand and had invited Scott (McClanahan) and Gian. Gian probably wouldn't have shown at the Algonquin (too square, lol), but I would have gotten to see him later at the reading and, most likely, have hung out with him and Gari, etc, after. Instead I spent the night before in the E.R. in Michigan and never made it to NYC. I feel this regret like I feel the regret of never having seen Nirvana live. (I did meet Gian, briefly, though electrically, at an AWP years before (in New York?), and corresponded with him off and on after.)
In the end, I decided to write one of these (remembrances?) precisely because I didn't know Gian as well but have been strangely, unduly affected by him—his presence in literature, his presence as someone I respect in this mostly bullshit lit scene due to his utter lack of bullshit/pretense/giving af abt things most ppl in this lit scene seem to give af abt—as I'm sure so many other ppl who didn't know him or know him as well have been. I remember a year after writing the essay that got me mostly banished from the lit world, trying to set up a reading in NYC. It was hard going. I asked Scott what to do and he told me to ask Gian. "Gian doesn't care about that kind of stuff," was something like what Scott said (not a direct quote). And Gian did help me get in touch with a person at KGB Bar.
Giancarlo DiTrapano <firstname.lastname@example.org> Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 1:11 AM
Yeah, I can definitely hook you up with KGB. There will be no problems there. I believe you that you aren't getting responses (just due to lazy people not wring you back) but I honestly don't think it's because of the "scandal." Or I don't know, I might just be living in a state of naivete in regard to that whole thing just because how ridiculous it seems when you know the people involved and what bullshit it all is. But I'm kind of an outsider in the lit scene here so maybe I just don't hang out with people who care about that (thank God). But who knows what these idiots think. Just a month or so ago I was accosted outside of a bar by a New Inquiry person because I published Calloway's book like what… two years ago! Haha, it's like, get a life. Or get an understanding of the world or something.
Just curious, what other places have you reached out to?
I will contact KGB for you tomorrow. Is there a particular date? They will need to know what dates you can do it on.
Don't worry, we'll work something out. If worse comes to worse I know a lot of non-bookstore venues that will gladly host this reading.
talk soon, good night,
I have been surprised how many time I have cried since Gian's death. I don't think I have ever cried so much over someone I didn't really know. I, like many of us—those of us who barely knew him, those of you who did—feel the loss, to the literary world. Feel the importance, of his role in our "literary" world. And I feel a personal loss, that now Gian and I won't have any more missed connections, that now I won't even have an occasional email from Gian to lift my spirits in the middle of the night, or the middle of the morning. A proposed get together to look forward to, even if one never happens, even if neither of us shows up.
Here's a cover of a Stevie Nicks demo that Gian turned me on to. He loved music so much it feels like an important part of any tribute to him. I hope he approves. "Lightning strikes / maybe once, maybe twice"
I told Gian that my artistic goal was trepanation—to get it straight out of my brain and onto the paper or the screen or the track and he said
Dude that is my last name! DiTrapano!
'Gian the Trepanator'
I thought that was so fucking cool, and so true. He had the vision to see what you were really trying to say—all the way through the goopy grey matter to the light inside.
I had been trying to write a book for a minute but I really didn't want it to suck. Most of the memoirs I read were so boring. I told Gian I didn't want to write "trauma lit" and he got a kick out of that.
(I figured out that good writing is quite difficult, which if you are reading this you probably already know that.)
My only plan for writing a book became to write as freely as I could and someday give it to Gian. I told him about being in the pre-Columbine basement, smoking pot and talking about bringing guns to school. We talked about drugs. Some of that shit still haunts me, texting about different people who had accidentally OD-ed. He wanted to be "out" as a drug user. We talked about the best music to listen to on ketamine. I sent him the Fleetwoods' version of Unchained Melody, and he sent me Stevie Nicks demos.
At the beginning of quarantine I wrote an informal will in which I requested that in the case of my death, all my writing, including digital files and handwritten journals, be "made available to Giancarlo DiTrapano of Tyrant Books."
That's how much I fucking trusted this guy. Enough to say, here is every embarrassing thing I ever wrote, can you decide my legacy? Can you wade through it all and see if there is anything there?
Gian was beyond a muse to me, although he was that too. The day of his funeral I cried and realized that all I could do was try to keep his voice in my head. His taste, his humor, his intuition. There is a Gian-sized hole in this world now- in American publishing, and in my list of friends to text when I witness something funny or miraculous. Trepanator 4ever! In the pines and in my pantheon of cool—
xx Sleep well, Sweet Prince
I hated books as a kid. Both my parents write them. My grandmother. My great-great-whatever aunt was Jane Austen. The house I grew up in was full of the bloody things.
How could I not hate them? You need something to kick against.
Gian taught me how to kick.
I hated books because they were safe. All the writers I knew were apologetic, cardiganed. Their books didn't sound like the music I like. Their books didn't sound like how my friends and I talk. They belonged to my parents' world. Fuck off!
I remember what changed my mind: I read Marie Calloway's story on this website.
It sounded like how my friends and I talk.
Gian put her book out. I ordered a copy. It came spiral-bound.
My mother's books had come out on Bloomsbury. They weren't spiral-bound. They were proper.
I remember thinking: I didn't know books were allowed to be written by people like this. This writer seems the same age as my friends' older brothers and sisters. This writer seems dangerous.
I remember thinking: I didn't know books were allowed to be written this way. Blank, and explicit, and ugly, and beautiful, and completely confusing, and completely clear. And—most importantly—not apologising for anything at all.
I remember thinking: what the fuck is 'New York Tyrant'?
I tried not to write one. But I did. I made it about a writer whose writer-father dies while the protagonist is working on his second book.
Both my real-parents are alive.
I made it a haunted house book, a time-spiral book.
The protagonist thinks he is living in a haunted house, a time-spiral. Everyone else thinks he is cracking from the grief.
As far as he is concerned, ghosts from an inaccessible past are haunting him. So are ghosts from an impossible, dead future.
I became obsessed with deer. I don't know why. Not smitten: obsessed. I didn't think deer were at all appealing. Deer were boring animals to me.
At the very end of writing the book I added another ghost to the house: a ghost that appeared as a deer, or a man in a deer mask.
I finished the book in Ireland, at Rebecca O'Connor and Will Govan's guesthouse.
I told Rebecca and Will one night that I'd become obsessed with deer, but I didn't know why.
Will said he'd seen a beautiful roadkill deer recently on some desolate Irish road.
He offered to show me the dead deer.
I said: I need to see this dead deer.
So we drove out.
The deer was gone.
Once the book was done I signed with an agent, which is what you're meant to do. And he started selling the book to the British majors, which is what you're meant to do.
But it felt wrong.
The book had come from a story Jordan Castro put out in Tyrant Magazine.
And—more than that—it had come from reading books Gian put out.
It all felt wrong. Doing the things I was meant to do. So I emailed the book to Gian. I emailed the address on the Tyrant website. I didn't have his actual email address.
I said something like: this is the book I wrote. It's from a story your magazine published. My agent is sending it to these people. I don't think you'll like this book. It's too English, too structured. But I do want your blessing.
Because if I was going to do things the way you're meant to, I did want Gian's blessing.
What more could I want? He was my hero.
Gian emailed back within hours.
Then he started emailing me lines from the book. Then when I didn't reply he DM'd my Twitter.
Then he emailed apologising for DM'ing my Twitter.
Then I emailed back. Then we spoke on the phone.
Then I flew from London to Rome. We hugged at Ciampino.
His hand on the back of my headrest, reversing.
Here was my father.
In the car Gian asked about the deer-ghost in the book.
I told him: I have no idea why I put it in there. I don't even like deer. Deer are boring animals to me.
I told him the story about the Irish roadkill deer, how it was gone when we went to look for it.
He said: no shit, I saw a roadkill deer the other day.
I said: let's take a look. I bet it's not there.
Of course—the deer wasn't there.
I stayed a month out there. Some with Gian in Sezze or Napoli, but mostly alone in Mondragone, working.
When we were together we tried to edit the book.
When we tried this we worked for an hour or two and then got fucked up and got distracted and talked about music, and books, and girls (me), and boys (him), until one of us had to tell the other to shut up and go to bed (4—6AM).
I loved him. Six months I knew him and I loved him.
It makes me feel confused, and frustrated, and angry.
I keep saying to myself: man up, you unbearable prick. You stupid soft cunt.
Pull yourself together.
I loved him. I wanted to show him how to drink in London.
I wanted to go with him to Naxos, where—20 years apart—we had both bought weed from the same German ex-pat.
I wanted him to meet my hypothetical children.
I wanted to say: kids, this is your grandpa.
Say hi to Grandpa.
Those futures are dead now.
At some point early he said he wanted to publish the thing.
What more could I want? He was my hero.
We got the work done, eventually. I'm grateful for that.
The last draft I sent Gian before he died had seven changes. I think he would have liked them.
Maybe he even read them.
I don't know!
The future where he read the changes and told me what he thought is dead now, too.
I told you all that shit about the various deer because of this:
When we got out of the car at his Sezze place, after Ciampino, I saw a big mosaic on the front of the house.
A mosaic of his family name.
Underneath—bigger than the name—a huge, beautiful deer.
The first beautiful deer I'd ever seen.
The deer was the DiTrapano family sigil, Gian said.
The most beautiful deer in the world.
And in the house—more deer.
And at the Napoli place - a great black fake taxidermy deer head above the bed in which I slept.
Black like the ghost of one.
(I am sorry if this isn't true—the deer being the family sigil. I was drunk the whole time. I think Gian said it was the family sigil, symbol, whatever. I am not going to bother his family or friends right now by fact-checking my schizo-grieving process. This is how I remember it.)
Gian was cruel, and that made him funny. He was also more empathetic than anyone I know. That made him funny, too.
He wanted to teach me to drive. He mainly wanted to do this late at night, when we'd take his car out and scream around the rural roads surrounding Sezze, shit stereo to a hundred, Shoplifters of the World, Totally Wired, Thunderstruck. Stopping only to speed ourselves up.
I said: no fucking way am I driving. I'd kill us both. Or, worse, you'd die, and I'd live, and everyone would be so pissed off at me.
He said: you pussy. That would be a great thing to happen.
But he didn't make me drive.
We almost hit a man. We didn't see him. He was dressed all in black, with a great black rucksack, walking in the middle of the night, miles from anywhere.
Gian said: fucking idiot. If we see another, I'm running him down and then driving away. And we'll be bound together forever by our dark secret.
I said: I know what you did last summer. Then I made my hand into a hook and waved it at him.
Gian didn't laugh. He just went quiet.
Then he said: that poor guy. He can't be walking away from anything good.
Then he started laughing again, and put his foot down.
I'll leave you with this, and what I imagine Gian would say to me about it, if I could tell him:
Underneath his obit in The News Virginian was a story titled: Watch Now: Deer smashes through windshield of Virginia school bus.
I am telling myself it is fine to find this funny. The spiral of it all.
Only the deer was hurt. I checked. I watched the video.
I don't know if it died or not. It deer-runs off into the before-school morning light.
But if the deer did die, it went out kicking. That's all it knew!
I am sad about the deer.
I imagine the kids were pretty shook-up, too. But at least they got through it.
Me, Honor, Sean.
All the kids riding with him.
Now, here is what I imagine Gian would say to me about all this shit, and his lesson I most intend to honour:
Shut the fuck up, and get back to work.
JAHAN KHAJAVI - ACAPPELLA
Before I leave town, Gian texts with let's have a real night
before you go. I get on my bike & race over right
away. I hop up—feeling like Hercules' kid brother—on
the back of their motorino—now Pegasus in flight
down Flavia to the fork where—like in the Carracci
at Capodimonte—left is Virtue, righteous, & right,
sinister Vice leading to the bear bar near Termini.
Acute angle—they quickly turn their head to say hold tight—
onto Via Piave, then quick right onto XX
Settembre where diggers found the Sleeping Hermaphrodite—
in zoology, the exception; botany, the rule—
when founding the church where Bernini's Saint Theresa, white
marble, freezes in an immaculate fix—disturbing
centuries of dysphoria-free sleep. But we don't quite
make it that far. A right on Aureliana—in sight,
the gay sauna. Suddenly they hook another right, right
back onto Via Flavia & park. As we teeter
up their stairs, I think if this is all there is to tonight,
then it is enough. Pleasure sometimes mounts in measure in spite
of brevity. Content to stumble—like some acolyte—
behind them, I never need leave this block, this town—the site
where we once watched—with all the saints in Rome—Rufus Wainwright
sing—the churches have run out of candles—I'm left to write:
next time it's your turn—it touches you—to mourn me—alright?
Well, I was too late—again.
Since I heard the news, I keep thinking of Gian's way of living. Of not frittering away your time doing shit for shit's sake, of standing up for what you believe in, of not cowering in fear and complicity because of what other people might think. And yes, you could do worse than lionizing the dearly departed, just like you could do worse than following Gian's bold and gracious example.
In the month and half since Gian's death, I have: left a well-paying job, fretted over some tweets, had so many stressful, uncomfortable conversations, personal and professional, that I can feel my heart increasing its dumb relentless thump as I type out these words. I have learned my mother is slowly dying—"deteriorating," in my father's words. I have dropped everything to visit a dear friend who's in from out of town so that we could walk with his three-year-old to Rite Aid, my friend clutching his son's one hand, me holding the other, as he catapults through the air.
I have reconnected with exes. Emailed or spoken with two lawyers; streamed a Zoom funeral—Gian's. Been on other, differently agonizing Zooms where at least half the people are crying.
I have finished reading a couple books, one of them Scott McClanahan's searing Tyrant-published The Sarah Book, which I'd published an excerpt of, back in 2017, without having finished because I felt too overwhelmed by my job and everything else that was going on. And I put together a remembrance of Gian that included 33 other friends' memories and tributes.
I have carried lessons from Gian in some way through all of this.
I'm reminded of the Mitch Hedberg joke: "I used to do drugs; I still do, but I used to do them, too." That's like me with wasting my time—I used to waste it; I still do, but I used to, too. But now, hopefully, thanks to Gian, less?
Time passes, like water through a sieve. But hey, at least put out the sieve, right?
At a gathering of some fellow mourners of Gian's in New York in April, one of the stories we kept passing around was Sam Lipsyte's remembrance of some friend of Gian's, "some guy," shitting on Sam and Sam's work and Gian kindly leading that friend away by the shoulder and then returning, sans friend but with equal kindness, telling Sam, "It's OK. That guy just really doesn't like you." In his remembrance, Sam notes how a lesser person might have shat on his friend, or make excuses, or tried to play it off, but Gian just told it to him straight, with grace and understanding and space for all. Everyone loved that story, and seemed to get so much out of telling and retelling it, but my correspondence with Sam, who was my professor in grad school, seemed to pain him. His words, so beautiful and crystalline, seemed wrenched from some deep place within. Sam is a warm, generous guy—one of the warmest, and most generous. But his emails to me were clipped, emotional boilerplate. The few words they did contain hinted at futility, danger. A toeing the edge of an abyss.
I didn't know Gian as well as others. We only hung out just the two of us once, when he came over to my apartment for some reason I can no longer remember and took a photo that he posted on Facebook, back when he was on Facebook, me standing a bit triumphantly next to some rusty heating pipes that are now gone, and he tagged it with such effusiveness and optimism that I, mortified, pretended it all never happened. The full force of his intimacy and sincerity, I think, scared me—which of course is laughable, even contemptible, but ultimately, now, just sad. Gian was extra; I was sparing. But for what?
There's another moment too I will relate. At the memorial last month, a friend and I found ourselves at the bar next to two people in their twenties who appeared a bit nervous and out of place—the guy said he used to work for Fat Possum (which I think distributed Tyrant books for a spell); what the woman did I'm not sure she said—when she focused in on us and blurted out, with relief and candor, that it was good to finally see some other people of color at the gathering. (The Fat Possum guy was white, as far as I could tell, which magnified the awkwardness of her statement.) I replied sympathetically but my friend, whom I look up to, to my surprise kind of recoiled. He didn't like her leading with that, he later confessed, it's exhausting, especially with strangers, especially at a bar. I mean, who does that? he griped. But I, perhaps conjuring Gian, took her side—she was young and just looking for some kind of solidarity, we should've given it to her, and my friend, who really is better than me, thought about it and admitted he fucked up, we could've at least thrown her a bone.
My point here isn't being right or not—only that we have these moments and it all happens too quick and then it's over and, if you're lucky, and give yourself to life, I mean really give yourself to living, you'll maybe have some friends who can say something wise and not too boring about you, before they too are gone.
There is, maybe, in the end, just this one lesson: You have to find your people. And Gian, bless him, was someone who helped.
I slept in Gian's bed before I met him, the apartment he had in Hell's Kitchen. Everybody "slept" in that bed. This was back when Scott and I were still dating. That apartment was tiny but it had its own personality, walls that lived and breathed.
The next day was the book release party for Hill William. Scott vomited into Gian's toilet as he was getting ready, then lay there on the floor on his back, heaving. A panic attack. He was doing a little better by the time we had to go. I met Gian for the first time in the back of a taxi cab, on the way to KGB. In my memory, he was wearing deep blue, and he looked handsome and polished. We made jokes about Scott puking and Gian told us stories that were equal parts offensive and hilarious. He looked me in the eye when he spoke to me, paid close attention to what I said. I was nervous myself—I always get nervous when I go somewhere crowded—but his focus calmed me down. KGB was packed that night, and Gian was the maestro who had brought all these weird writers together. I remember Tao eating a burrito the size of my arm on the steps of KGB. I remember hugging Megan tightly in the bathroom. I remember Scott making the whole crowded room turn silent as he read.
The next day, we met Gian again, this time at the Fat Possum apartment. I went to smoke on the roof shortly after we got there. Gian followed me out the window, and in his warm, gravelly voice, he asked me questions about myself, again looking me directly in the eye. I could tell he was making an effort to get to know me. Not everyone puts an effort into getting to know their friend's new girlfriend, but Gian did. One of Gian's many gifts: he always made you feel special.
But that was the annoying thing about my relationship with Gian. Sometimes he treated me like Scott's wife. I understood it—his friend starts dating a girl and suddenly he's gotten sober and is taking psych meds, eating healthy and lost thirty pounds. It's a lot.
Shortly after we got married, Gian invited us down to Charleston for dinner, and so he and Scott could talk about the draft of The Sarah Book. We met him at The Red Carpet Lounge, a dive bar. The day before, a little boy had found a dead body floating in the river behind Gian's parents' house. Some kind of sign, but one we couldn't yet interpret as good or bad. Gian had the manuscript on the table, shoved in a plastic bag from TJ Maxx. He commented on Scott's weight loss. He didn't like it. He put Bob Segar on the jukebox and talked about how great Bob Segar is. And then he sent me to the mall.
"You should probably go to the mall," he said.
"What," I said.
"Yeah, why don't you go to the mall." He pulled out his wallet, made a motion to give me money. Except he didn't give me any money. His wallet was empty.
I was shocked.
I walked to my car, found directions to the mall on my phone. "Fuck you, Gian," I was thinking. I didn't have a job yet and Scott was in a lot of credit card debt, a part of his previous plan for suicide, and we were broke. "Fuck you, Gian. I'm going to go to the mall and buy a bra I can't afford." I went into the Victoria's Secret and bought an overpriced bra that didn't fit right. I was paying for it when Scott texted me, saying to come get him. He was sitting on the curb when I pulled up, alone. He was angry. We went to Cracker Barrel and he told me they'd gotten into a fight. I am not at liberty to discuss the details, so all I will say is that it was epic. That, and apparently one thing that Gian kept saying was, "And Julia hates me. She hates me."
I didn't hate him. I recognized that he was merely playing a role, like something borrowed from a mob movie. Gian did that. He played roles. But I didn't hate him for sending me to the mall.
We didn't talk to Gian for months. Eventually, he and Scott made up. Twice a year or so, Gian appeared at our house. We'd sit at our kitchen table and he'd tell us stories that were equal parts offensive and hilarious, and we'd stand on our deck and smoke his Marlboros, even though I'd quit, and then we'd eat. Less often, we'd drive down to Charleston and see him there. Once a year or so, we'd see him in New York. I grew to love him, and love him deeply. I saw him as family, a person who could do something wrong and I would defend him to my grave. Another of Gian's gifts: he inspired a fierce kind of loyalty.
One of my favorite memories of Gian was the time we went down to Charleston to go out on his family's boat. Gian was in town because his dad was sick. In a few months, Rudy would be dead, and we'd meet Gian at the funeral home, the same funeral home where Gian would have his own service in a few years. When we got there, Gian greeted us, but then he left to "get us something to drink." We sat in the family living room, talking to Martha, Gian's mother. She's a wonderful woman, lively and full of great stories, just like her youngest son.
Gian was gone for the better part of an hour. When he finally got back, his mom complained, asking where he'd been, and Gian bitched at her, and I could see what he must have been like as a teenager. His sister called, scolding him like a big sister, reminding him to do something with the boat. He had a six pack of beer for himself and some Diet Mountain Dew for Scott and me. I'm allergic to fake sugar, so I just drank water from the bottle I kept in my purse. I took one sip of Mountain Dew to be polite.
It was a beautiful early summer day, clear blue sky, warm but not hot. Charleston is a beautiful city, in a valley among the mountains, crossed by rivers. The rivers are polluted. A DuPont plant is just upstream. A few years earlier, there'd been a massive chemical spill at a different plant, turning the river and drinking water toxic. Gian told us about swimming in the river as a boy, how he could run his fingers through his wet hair and use the slimy river water like hair gel. He drove the boat roughly, a little too fast, making sharp turns, and at one point I fell forward and cracked the screen of my phone. Before it cracked, I took this video. I don't know why it's only two seconds. I don't know why I stopped recording just as Gian got in the frame.
We stayed on the boat for a while, stopping at Gian's favorite place in the river. When we got back to his house, Gian showed us around: where the family kept the wine they made themselves, the room in the basement where he'd sneak in and out as a teen. We said hello to his father Rudy, who was watching TV. We got dinner, and Gian drove the car similarly to how he'd driven the boat, taking the turns that ran through Charleston's hills a little too quickly. Before we drove back to Beckley, we took awkward photos in his parents' front yard, each of us standing together in pairs, the kind you might take with your family. Later, Gian told us he'd accidentally left the boat running. The battery died, and was expensive to fix. His mom and sister scolded him, Gian, the baby brother.
The last time I saw Gian was in January 2020, obscenely cold. I knew by then that Gian was always inappropriately early, so when he got there thirty minutes before he said he would, I wasn't surprised. Gian had brought a bottle of wine. Our friends Matt and Mesha were coming over later, and I think Gian wanted to impress them. Mesha had written a book about a woman who was fresh out of prison, and this made Gian think that Mesha was an ex-con. Mesha is not an ex-con. She's a nice college professor. Her experience in the prison system comes from teaching incarcerated people creative writing. We sat at the kitchen table, and he told us stories that were equal parts offensive and hilarious, including perhaps the greatest story of all Gian's stories, which is so hilarious and offensive that I am not at liberty to repeat it here. Gian drank the whole bottle of wine before they got there.
When Matt and Mesha arrived, we went out to dinner, and everything went wrong. In the car, Gian lit a joint. He offered it to Matt and Mesha, who thought he was offering them a cigarette. They declined. We were all so square. I didn't really care that he was smoking in my car, but the windows were frozen shut. When he finally got one cracked, the air was so cold it kicked me in the teeth and I told him to just roll it back up. He hotboxed my car.
We went to the restaurant that we referred to, misleadingly, as "the Greek restaurant." Shortly after it opened, the owners realized their business wouldn't survive in Beckley if it was a Greek restaurant. They rebranded as an Italian restaurant, added pizza and Fettuccine Alfredo to the menu. Gian didn't like this. He didn't like that they didn't serve alcohol, which we hadn't considered. The service was slow because it's Beckley, and Gian didn't like that either. He drove back to Charleston right after we got home.
We were supposed to see Gian that summer, but he didn't come over from Italy because Covid was too bad. We were supposed to see him in December, but Covid was still too bad. He finally came in the middle of March, and we were supposed to see him, but we were too busy and told him we'd get together when he came back from New York.
I still can't get it through my head that we will never see Gian at our kitchen table. I keep wondering what offensive and hilarious things he's going to tell us when we see him. All the stuff people said about him online, his commentary on his funeral. What he thinks about me telling people that he once sent me to the mall. I keep using the present tense when I talk about him: Gian is, Gian says, Gian does. Was, said, did.
The first story I ever published, I sent to Gian. Check it out, I said. The story was about a stomach parasite that I passed while on the toilet. I'll check it out, Gian said. I waited. And waited.
Months later, we attended the same event. I followed him into a bathroom stall and tried to give him cocaine. I held out the bag like a toddler showing their parent a worm. He said, Who are you? I told him my name. Ohhh, okay, he said, and walked out of the bathroom.
The next night, I read at an event and Gian was in the audience. I didn't want him there. The essay I was reading wasn't cool like Gian. It was about my mother's suicide. I worried that I would get emotional and that my emotions would be a new source of embarrassment in front of Gian. That I would feel ashamed, the way I did with my father who, three months after my mother died said, Oh, you're still sad?
But that night at the reading, I finished my essay and walked off stage with my head down. Gian was waiting in the wings. He hugged me. He had tears in his eyes.
In months to come, as we corresponded more, I came to realize that acceptance and generosity of spirit is what made Gian cool.
Some time after the reading, I sent Gian my novel. He rejected it. I cried. Then I found another publisher. I didn't need Gian's love, but still I needed Gian's love. I sent him an advance copy of the book.
I wrote: This book is dosed. Lick the toad. Love, Jon.
He wrote back: I just finished the copy you sent and it's so fucking good. God dammit I'm so pissed at myself. But also so damn impressed...Sincerely, Gian.
Then, in a separate message, he told me he had searched the pages thinking the book was truly dipped, looking for a toad to lick.
My book came out last week. My father bought 10 copies. He could buy 10,000 and it wouldn't mean as much to me as the one book I gave Gian.
I don't know how to write about Gian.
I reread the hundreds of emails we sent each other since 2009.
We swapped writing, evidence of debauchery, shit talking, contracts, printers' quotes, editorial advice, epithets, business plans, admissions of being bad at business, questions, pics of our pasts, stupid valedictions, contacts and hookups, PDFs and ARCs, recordings of us playing piano for each other, YouTube videos, fun threats, book recommendations, cover designs, vacillations, travel plans, music, schemes, restaurant recommendations, nicknames, horrible websites, ETAs. Whenever I was in Manhattan, Gian was the person I most wanted to see.
I'm trying to remember all the phonecalls, the conversations over drinks and dinners, the post-reading huddles in the dark backs of bars.
I remember the deep and vertiginous gratitude I felt when he told me over the phone, in a pained and disbelieving voice, that he maybe-probably-let me-think-on-it wanted to publish my first novel Solip. I knew at that moment I'd made something good.
Later he called our book Tyrant's noise rock album. I'm proud of that.
It got harder to see Gian over the years. He suffered a lot, despite exuding that rough and constant cool. His headaches nearly killed him. Money was always tight; we both knew intimately how much money running a publishing company eats up. He loved drugs so much, which, having grown up with an addict dad, I never found charming. But I didn't begrudge his use of anything at all to stay alive, because I knew how sensitive he was to reality. I loved his devotion to beauty; he suffered for it. I wanted to impress him (I think I did, here and there). I loved him. I love him still.
Gian was crass in the way a Caravaggio masterpiece is crass. He was a very beautiful person, always compelling in and through his dishevelment. We spent some good late nights together during which I stuck to the booze, before I had to stop drinking. He loved to share; like that Christ with which he had a complicated past, he'd give you whatever you asked for.
One time Gian wrote me: "Hey. What in the fuck made me think you guys were in town last night? I'm losing my noodle."
I replied: "I dunno. You play hard. Just know that when you're frothing and wheelchaired, I will coddle you in fits."
I'm sad I've lost a beautiful friend and co-conspirator. I wish he wasn't gone; I wish he would've gotten graced with good health and a sacrilegious old age in which he could've kept mentoring the artists who so sincerely want to get better, to speak new about the old pains, because what a miracle that would've been. I hope so dearly he's got his old dog Rufus in his lap again. I'm praying for that reunion. And I believe it's real—because how could Gian's love be anything else.
All the books are still on the shelves. He was one of the bravest people I know.
I hear him laughing.
LUKE GOEBEL - MY NEW YORK TIMES WITH GIANCARLO
The first time I ever saw Giancarlo DiTrapano—the rakish apposite indie editor enfant terrible—was on some warm, gay evening in the early summer (or late spring) of 2009 in midtown.
The shadows of the skyscrapers had just gone flat, covering the streets in darkness as Gian was surely taking a cab over to where we would first meet in a class, G surely smoking a Marlboro Light, mumbling against any protest from the driver. I remember there was a feeling of something important in the air as I parked a car and finished a cigarette, before buying a pad of paper and a pen and going to class—like youth before everything comes inside for nightfall into the second half of a more private life. I remember seeing two or three people that night in the open classroom who caught my eye and with whom I immediately fell in love. One was Giancarlo.
I would later learn how Gian took taxis. He'd get in, light a cigarette, take out his phone, and if the driver asked him not to smoke he'd hand the driver a 20 if they'd agree to let him finish, or he'd get out as if on fire, pay the driver and tip in cash, and get another cab while smoking. It was ridiculous theatre but he never seemed to think of it that way. Maybe he thought of it that way, but he didn't seem like he did.
We were at some school—run by this lady named Nisan Tommasi or Noreen Tompson, or Naseen Torrasi; who knows? Her name was some shit like that—and she seemed like a fake taking our money and overseeing a night class in insanity. Gian and I and a bunch of others were attending the first night of class in a "cult" series this guy was teaching about plumbing in New York City...for like 8,000 dollars.
That's what Giancarlo later said it was about, in something he wrote—"I took a class on plumbing this summer and met someone I think I can trust. Luke Goebel"—and I can't remember too much about it, but plumbing sounds as right as anything. The class was completely irresponsible. I think the lady's name that ran the school was Nadeen, maybe. Gian seemed to know her. She's probably dead by now.
I can't believe Gian is dead. I know I'm a rube about the phenomenon of living: these are all just dry facts of life—but I'm moved by the idea that Giancarlo doesn't sweat anymore. He was the messiest, most at-home-in-the-city, gay-West-Virginian-hippie-new-wave-Italian-tyrant-priest—although a lot of us classmates didn't know he was gay for a long time until he read us all a story about him fucking a priest with too much poop up his butt. (Gian liked to push the limits of what he thought people wanted to read about, like Marquis De Sade or Marie Calloway, or lots of other writers he published.) Although, first conversations I had with my wife included a lot of coprophilous content, also. I think it's become en vogue.
Giancarlo announced proudly that it was wholly true and had happened! He was proud of himself and eager to be congratulated. That could be a good name for a production company: Coprophelious Content. Gian was always rubbing his hands on his hair and phone and jamming them in his pockets and jazzing them all over himself like he was on cocaine—because he was often on cocaine.
He was one of the most loving and absolutely least organized entrepreneurs—and the most shit-talkingest-drug-fiend bibliophile I've ever known. He was my best friend in my late 20s and early 30s, and a sort of twin to my older brother who died in that time period of my life. Same shit. Oxy. And they both had these giant heads they'd put right in your face until they just blurred out into shapes and menacing grins and stained teeth and blathering fun noise and laughter. Addicts are the only people with a real palpable pulse. The way life works is the addicts who are still using get to be the most important people and then their entourages are inspired enough by the addict to also be somewhat interesting, and everyone else is garbage. But then you get fed up and turn your back on the addict for one second and they're dead, and everyone else feels so boring.
The class we met in was held on the 2nd floor of an 8-story old mercantile building over past Rockefeller Center and Grand Central Station. While wearing grease cloth and a dry-cleaners-pressed white shirt, the plumbing expert droned on in a fake radio voice. I guessed the teacher had been exiled from Eastern Europe or some shit; he'd set up a despotic cult community in which he got to torture and berate his disciples. It was pure BDSM and Wilhelm Reich would have loved it, and Pawel Pawlikowski could shoot it beautifully.
The teacher had an accent. He was teaching about traps or flappers, ballcocks and gas cocks and nipples. You know...that sort of thing. Pretending to be straight but who is? He was always teaching us to hate everyone with our hearts, do anything wrong to people that the people would let us do to them, and one-up everyone in our trade. It all seems stupid now, but at the time this teacher was perceived as somewhat powerful and we were nervous, fretful, trying to come up in the world, and eager to meet new people and fit in, prove ourselves, and read our writing fortunes.
I don't know why either one of us cared about the class. I think we liked the perverted nature of it and we were still fairly young. Giancarlo was an editor and writer and I was a writing aspirant as well. He was maybe 36 and I was about seven years younger. Everyone in the room was a writer in the wrong class I think. We just all happened to get put in the wrong course together by luck.
I don't remember any of the plumbing information we were there to learn. I remember Giancarlo in a Men's Traditional Fit Chambray Work Shirt. I want to say it was from Lands End, but that may be altogether wrong. It might've been a 2XL Oxford Shirt with Grey Pinstripes. He only had a couple of shirts he liked, like me, and wore them on repeat. He wasn't a clotheshorse. He did put gel in his hair and spray himself with cologne. The Italian shower. I don't remember the cologne. I want to say Creed.
I can remember a brown and orange flannel shirt. I'm not going to sweat what he wore because Giancarlo was never actually concerned with factual accuracy, or holding any fealty to regulations, registrations, laws, conventions, taxes, licensing, copyrights, protocol, social codes, or deadlines. He was a total mess and punk-rock about business—a hot sweaty Italian mess—who liked to laugh about how and when he "popped his button"—which I think means getting an umbilical hernia—something he claimed all Italians wanted or needed.
I didn't know he'd become my best friend through some very otherwise open-ended times. It was a period of summer salad days, before cancelations and pandemics and white nationalists scaling the walls. The work of previous decades in art still held influence and sway over us. Twitter was just growing. Gian was an addict with a lot of drive but that didn't bother me too much, the drugs, as addicts were all I'd ever known, and I'd lived in some of the worst places, been a crazy addict, and etc., but I always kind of figured Gian would die young. It was one of those things you accept about someone who lives freely and addictedly, and later you think back once they're dead: why wasn't I more concerned for them? Why didn't I do anything to try and help? But I did, sort of, and there wasn't going to be any changing Giancarlo. My brother's name was Carl, who died. You couldn't change either one of them. I just tried to show them what being (mostly) sober and still crazy could look like.
The influence of the maniacal plumber murderer of writers on Gian storming the internet and indie literature were just beanstalking. Giancarlo was dedicated to marking his influence into the stalk's bark. He was really inspired by this plumber teacher psychopath, although he wouldn't admit it, and he was putting shit up his nose and smoking and chasing obese men on Craigslist before there was Grindr or he'd met Chris March, and I was just interested in New York City and Gian, who had an apartment in Hell's Kitchen, a press, and knew everyone. I was sleeping in my car sometimes in the East Village early on. I was still in graduate school in Western Massachusetts. I met my now ex-girlfriend in the class. And got to be friends with Gian together. We were like three young ballet students eager to dance beautifully and have music and movement save us—only with words instead.
I was interested in him and I was in love with someone else but I secretly was in love with Gian too but not sexually—just...somehow in love. Sometimes I imagined sex with Gian, just because it was somewhere in the air. I don't remember becoming closer friends; I just remember it like we were always doing what we later did.
He agreed to let me run Tyrant with him and paid me nothing, but he got me a job serving drinks at a shitty bar on 9th Avenue and 50-somethingth from some alcoholic friend of his who never showed up once to the club. Gian had invested in the bar maybe. Gian had money, but he said he never had any; everyone knew he had a family with a castle in Sezze, Italy where he would later lead workshops and live poolside under the Italian sun. The family had a shit ton of cash. I had been born into half affluence but not included in the profit sharing model of the family. I was always outside of the outside. At one point Gian bought a stolen food cart or something like that, before he started Tyrant.
I had keys to the bar though. I couldn't make many drinks to save my life. Every time anyone ordered anything I didn't know how to make I just offered her or him or them a free shot. The owner told me to give out a drink for every 5 or 10 I sold, so it worked out. I had quit drinking eight years earlier due to heavy alcohol dependency and very poor drinking etiquette. I was mostly drug-sober as well. Drugs almost always gave me panic attacks and recurrent HPPD hallucinations. We were an odd couple.
I've heard it said lately that Gian made everyone feel like they were his best friend, but he really was mine, and I think I was one of his, but then I also felt no one could get closer to Gian than his brother who'd died long ago, or the prurient endeavors he was always chasing off Craigslist on his phone, or his dealers, or from whatever writing he was scouting to edit and print, or write himself, or whatever song was in his mind to compose and play on his piano, or listen to on his phone, or whatever tweet was spilling from his lips as he typed it, erupting in a forced and raspy cigarette-tarred laugh, exclaiming "man, that's so good! So good!" and then he'd start riffing about how good he was, and how bad everyone else was, or I was, for being "such a fucking lame faggot" for not having Twitter, which I refused to ever get. He could be an asshole like that. Sometimes I wonder if we were really close, or if he was always as antagonistic with everyone he was close to as he was with me at times. Whatever the case, he had something powering him—drugs, money, and determination that he could promote and distribute the writing he sought to champion...a writing that we shared a common bond around. Gian was more self-assured. I was more neurotic. He was more full-bodied, and I was still skinny and jittery. He was always asking me if I was transitioning.
Giancarlo and I spent our days walking around Hell's Kitchen, putting the magazine together for each issue, starting Tyrant Books, driving or flying to AWP or wherever, presenting to distributors, trying to get distribution, and arguing over how shitty my vinyl record collection was with all the albums stacked under his loft bed in his horribly filthy apartment. I used to stand on his toilet seat and squat low to avoid sitting on it. It was filthy. So was I. So was he.
Meanwhile, he'd get diet cokes out of the fridge, play in the snow on his desk, get hunkered down into his command center computer module under the loft bed, and talk to his beloved bulldog Rufus who luxuriated in a little dog bed under a photo of himself swinging by his teeth from a rope swing. He's dead too.
Gian's little monster grin and cackle erupting from his stubbly face every now and then. "I got something. I got something. This is so good. Man." His cute little teeth and his ashtray in the smoky dusty air of the room—a giant poster about a dead tyrant on his back door out to the courtyard we used to sit in during the spring, or stand below under the night sky. I slept out there in a hammock a few times. There were religious icons, a piano, pictures of demons, pictures of James Spader and whatever else all around his apartment of maybe 500 square feet.
As the increasingly hot summer evening courses went on at that trade school called the Center for Plumbing on East 47th Street, Giancarlo was either leaning forward in his little chair sweating with his shirt half open nodding and rocking back and forth like an inmate with a Walkman or a congregant in some kind of weird church, or else was out in front of the building alternately sucking on just the tip or the entire filter of a cigarette, like only an addict of several things does, messing up on the depth perception of the filter.
Yes, that first encounter was on a May or a June night in the diamond dealing area of midtown back in 2009. Let's see: in that plumbing class was Rachel B. Glaser. Catherine Foulkrod. Giancarlo DiTrapano. Mitchel Jackson. Joseph Rippi. Kimberly King Parsons. Carrie Cooperrider. Anna DeForest. And a bunch of other people. Robin something. Lots of people. I don't fucking remember. Two people in the student seating caught my eye and one was Gian. We were both kind of fey long-haired scraggly nutcases not quite straight but I didn't know that about him yet. Looking back, Gian was my first gay friend who was really wildly on the hunt for action. He was the messiest person besides me in the class and we were probably tied for drenched in sweatiest. Oh Daniel Long was in class too, sweating. Other people.
The plumber wheezed you're either all crazy or you're going to be or you shouldn't be here. Gian was already outside smoking by then. I joined him. We snuck out a lot for cigarettes. Gian was glittery-eyed but must have been sober or on something long-lasting because I was the only one ducking into the toilet way too often to look at myself and urinate and then look at myself again, half the time lost staring at myself and my blown open pupils hanging over my irises having panic attacks because the plumber was another abusive megalomaniac in my life like my father. I was looking for like-minded souls...it was my first class in NYC ever.
After my time helping Gian get from place to place—hospital to apartment, through a blizzard in Colorado, to more playing in the snow in Aspen where he got altitude poisoning, and off to the corner coffee shop many times daily off restaurant row for large iced Americanos with six Sweet'N Lows, memories of highways and the feeling of driving together through places and states I can't recall—he came to stay with me in Texas for a bit. Catherine—my former girlfriend who with Gian and me formed a trio of friends that met in the class—moved to Spain. Gian and I ran around a gay ranch I lived on with no shirts carrying cow skulls in front of our faces and put together Tyrant Vol 4. Issue 1. It was an issue I funded and dedicate to my dead brother. It cost about 6,000 or maybe 8,000 dollars to print the issue. Every lesson in NY was 8,000. Gian said I would be reimbursed by sales of the issue.
But drugs or self-interest got in the way. He never paid me back. I faded out and Catherine came sharper into focus for his life. He moved to Italy to live in his castle. She stayed with him this past year during Covid. This Christmas he sent me Calabrian figs from Cosenza and a device that you use to spray nicotine into your mouth. The plumber taught us to take whatever you could get. Gian took me for the cash and I got hurt and my only strike back was to cut him off. So I did for a while, and then when we really came back into contact, it was Covid, and my wife didn't want much to do with Gian and Catherine, the latter who I wrote a book about. Now he's dead. And I'm writing this about him. So I guess I win. That's all pure creativity is: a person confusing one thing for another. I'm still confusing him for myself. That's what dead addicts make you do. I love you, Gian. Stay gold ponyboy.
Gian's spirit is an alive spirit. The wisdom I get from his life is clear: Love who and what you love deeply and demonstrably. Fuck what the rest think of you.
I guess you call this the gift of discernment. As an editor and publisher, it made Gian great. In life, it's even harder to do. But it was Gian's special power.
Rest in peace, my friend. Thank you for bestowing on us a living example of what it means to have good priorities. Thank you for being so cool and so warm.
When I find myself fearful of the wrong things—if I am aware enough to see they are the wrong things—I will think of you, and your spirit will inspire bravery. And when I find myself fearful of the wrong things—and I do not know they are the wrong things—may I be granted the clarity of your visionary heart.
Gian you were my depraved drug daddy and I am writing this while crying like a scared little bitch into the crater of awesomeness you used to fill. Today all I can remember is the warm pillow of your body, my head on your chest, the two of us waltzing on the side of a volcano. "Come to Italy maaan," you beckoned not too long ago, "My guy says there's a rave on the crater of Mount Vesuvius this weekend..." I never made it, too caught up in my own bullshit to leap into your splendor, but god damn, this fantasy is such a soothing retreat.
I have never lost someone I loved this hard before so I keep asking my homies, what is this thing called grief, this bitter extended release pill that keeps blooming inside me. One of my friends said that death is the end of the multiverse of potentialities, and when you lose the infinitudes of intertwined futures with somebody, you can simply consider their story from beginning to end. This, I think, is a form of grace. Another friend who just lost her soulmate in an accident described death as a data download—a surreal process of transfiguration where the dead's DNA is encoded into those who loved them, so that their legacy lingers forever in the ether. "When someone slashes you so deep, you remember their wisdom," a friend said, "Everytime you act or think like them, you are showing a side of their face."
Slowly I am starting to understand how death is so beautiful.
When J called to tell me you were gone I felt your presence suddenly flood my room, so intensely it was like a possession, your chuckle ringing circles around my head. "How can he be gone," I cried, "when I can feel him here with me right now?" Gian, you were a giant of a man, the sweetest of all friends, and you should have seen the way Twitter lit up that week, all of your scraggly children co-writing a collage of your largesse—you would have fucking relished it. Of course everyone tuned into your funeral, all of us gazing down at your casket with a god's eye view through the church's panopticon webcam. I was still sobbing through my mask as I boarded a plane a few hours later, wondering what you would have said if I told you I was heading to Jay Z's weed factory in Silicon Valley. Nobody talked about drugs like you did.
tbh dude, I am struggling to reconcile how the thing that bonded us—our deep obsession with drugs—is also the thing that ripped you away forever. J told me that when he last saw you, you guys were laughing about that time—it must have been, what, 2015?—I tried heroin for the first time in your Hell's Kitchen apartment and puked all over your bathroom. I was starting to explore the contours of substances most people were too afraid to try or never even heard of, and your presence in these netherworlds always felt like a guardian. All I remember is sniffing a tiny line and crawling into your bed with your pitbull, while you finished the bag with a shrug and went out to some fancy dinner meeting. That night (and always) you seemed god-level invincible, an all-powerful sabyrite that no earthly chemical could conquer. It was almost a joke how nothing could fell you. Most people treat drugs like a guilty indulgence or frivolous escape, but you taught me how to regard them without stigma or shame—and for this gift I am so grateful.
When you slid into my phone in the middle of the pandemic saying "yo kinda vibing on this drug spectrum addiction thing you plugging...seems like some real shit"—I did not realize this was the start of a conversation that would spin out for six months and shift the course of my life forever. You were now in Italy with the love of your life, and I was in LA writing about drugs and addiction, advocating against the common assumption that abstinence is the only path to redemption. You liked this idea that sobriety is more of a non-binary spectrum, rather than a dictation by the gatekeepers of traditional recovery programs.
I loved waking up to your voice in my DMs as we ping-ponged our takes across the Atlantic ocean. "I have a bag of k the size of a golf ball in my pocket preparing for lockdown," you said, telling me how using ketamine for depression was a new revelation for you, born in quarantine conditions. Often I would listen to your messages as I took my morning shits, your late-night drawl beat-matched to the clinking of ice cubes as you chuckled about scientists doing ketamine with dolphins, or asked for advice on investing in shrooms on the stock exchange. When we talked about new books shaping America's evolving drug conversation, you told me that Carl Hart's Drug Use for Grown-Ups had made an impression: "sup babe? so finished the book. a lot not addressed about addiction but i just feel kinda vindicated in a weird way about being open about everything. i've always gotten so much shit for it and i like this coming out of the closet thing." at first this surprised me, but now I realize that not giving a shit about stigma doesn't shield you from the stones others throw at you. (My other reading rec was less well-reviewed: "reading the Pollan book. what a fucking nerd he is.")
Gian, forgive me for being such a dumbass when you proposed we work on a book together, saying "let's define the drug situation and get rich as nazis"—and I dared to leave you on read. I was lost in the illusion of permanence, assuming we had an eternity to figure this out together. Besides, the pandemic felt so close to being over, the light at the end of this never-ending tunnel so bright it was burning my retinas. I thought I'd wait till to tell you IRL that I was scared. You saw in me something that I couldn't see in myself—like you did for so many others—and what kills me is your possible misinterpretations of my silence. You peaced before I had a chance to explain myself.
Now I hate how your texts are getting buried deeper and deeper in my phone as the days slip by so I changed my screensaver to a photo I took from our last night together in New York before you moved to Italy. Do you remember? We're standing on some street corner in Hell's Kitchen and you're midway through telling a story, your hands blurry smears as you gesticulate wildly (such an Italian). Your eyes have this soft and sort of sad gaze slightly off camera and you're cracking a half-grin. Every so often, I catch you peeking out at me between my Lyft and TikTok apps. I'm sorry if that's weird. I just really miss you.
Gian I wish I had used this book that I stupidly aborted as a chance to probe into the one glaring thing we never discussed together: our own addictions. Where does it come from, this void we keep trying to fill with k-holes, and is this grand theory of spectrum sobriety just an enabling excuse? I know you would have answered with total honesty, if only I'd had the courage not to laugh and look away when we were spiraling. I know you'd just laugh at all this regret I'm carrying in my body and say "dude shut up, it's all good." In the end your greatest lesson to me was to live on the fringes without fear. Under the next full moon, I will dance for you.
9th Avenue Saloon, 2013: The first time we hung out. The bar was narrow, divey, unassuming and immediately endearing, not quite like any other gay bar I had been to. In an email, Gian had described it as a place where "the tragedy is untainted and pure. (cheap too!)" I immediately felt that he was someone to whom I could say anything. A few weeks later, I chose it as a place to meet on a first date, acting as though I had discovered it.
The Carlyle Hotel, later in 2013: Gian and his then partner Chris. Paintings on the wall. Martinis. I was ostensibly writing something about them as a "power couple." We were interrupted by people who wanted to introduce themselves to Chris, even in this location where everyone was, in that kind of dim lighting, famous in their own minds. As Chris humored his fans, Gian and I guessed who in the bar was there selling sex to guests, an idea that hadn't occurred to me but fascinated me once Gian mentioned it. He looked at Chris and the potential prostitutes, admiringly, contentedly.
Hell's Kitchen, 2015: An initially lonely Christmas day that I spent in front of the computer at the corporate Midtown office building where I worked at the time. I walked the few blocks to Gian's apartment as it got dark, despite not knowing anyone at the Christmas dinner besides Gian and Chris. Risky. In my memory, the apartment was homey, ensconcing me, lit by string lights, like a scene from Eyes Wide Shut without the sinisterness. I felt at ease. Gian teased me about shamelessly drinking his alcohol. I left to meet up with a stranger from an app, and Gian was happy. A few days later, I G-chatted my friend Dan about the party and added: "I also, like, fell in love that night?"
Describing the massiveness of the loss of Gian feels urgent, but impossible. I don't think it's realistic to expect any one person to be able to convey the enormity of his presence using words alone, so that someone who was never lucky enough to know him could understand what it feels like to lose him.
The size of the void he left behind, the pain from the perfectly Gian-shaped wound that can't be healed by anyone but him; these are feelings I won't try to fully articulate here. Not because I don't want to, but because I can't. Maybe I'm not a good enough writer. Maybe the grief is too fresh. Or, maybe, everything I wrote was always secretly for Gian, and without him, I don't know who I'm writing for or why.
What I can do—all I can do—is try my best to tell you about Gian the way I knew him. My hope in doing this is that my memories of Gian might blend with yours, and with the memories of everyone else who loved him, so that together we can maintain an even bigger, more vibrant portrait of Gian in our heads than we would be able to alone.
Gian deserves at least as much space in our collective memory in death as he demanded in life.
In 2013 I had just moved to New York and was about to release my first book. My publisher at the time was still figuring out the basics of how to run a publishing house. We spent so many nights awake on stimulants, staring at our macbooks, trying to understand things like how to get a barcode on a book, or frantically texting more knowledgeable friends to ask what something called an "ISBN number" was. We made an email address using a fake name to pretend I had a publicist. I took a photo of my own ass and made my publisher include a copy of it with every book, hoping this would boost sales.
To say we were scrappy would be an understatement. But we were also lucky to know people who had done this before, whose paths we could try to follow. People like Gian.
My first interaction with Gian came after my publisher emailed him on the off-chance that we could convince him to interview me about my upcoming book for Vice. Gian followed me on Twitter at the time, and we had some mutual friends, but I hadn't met or spoken to him yet.
My publisher and I had little-to-no clout of our own that would make an interview with me interesting enough for Vice to want to publish it, so when we pitched the idea to Gian, we shamelessly piggybacked off the low-level fame of my stepdad; a founding member of the punk band Black Flag.
Miraculously, it worked. Gian was a fan of my stepdad's band, and he liked the poems of mine that we attached to the email, so he ended up interviewing me. My first interview ever. I workshopped my responses to Gian's questions endlessly with anyone who would listen. When the article came out, it made me feel so cool and successful that I'm almost embarrassed when I think back on it.
Gian's introductory paragraph included what remains to this day the best compliment I've ever received:
"The title of Mira's book is I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together. But I'm not so sure about that. Have you ever seen yourself, Mira? I have a feeling a lot of boners with your name on them are out there. Hell, I've even got a small internet crush on you, and I'm a goddamn faggot who sucks fat guy dick and eats fat guy ass ON THE REG."
The interview was published a day before my book launch, with the headline "A Black Flag Kid Wrote a Book of Poems." Gian later apologized to me for the headline being so focused on my dad. I assured him not to worry, that I loved the interview, and I was fully aware the headline "Unknown Girl Writes Some Poems" was not something Vice would ever be interested in publishing. He still seemed apologetic.
As someone who owned a small press of his own, Gian could have reasonably seen my publisher's little operation as a burgeoning threat. But of course, he never did. That's not how Gian worked. Another small press meant more unknown young writers being published, and to him, that was inherently good. He was endlessly supportive. Gian wanted to see every single one of us succeed—nothing was a zero-sum game. He always lived from a place of abundance in that way.
After interviewing me, Gian also agreed to read at my book launch event. I still don't fully understand why. He'd never met us, and we had never done anything for him, but we asked for a lot. We were probably being a pain in his ass, in retrospect. Still, he seemed happy to do it.
At the launch, Gian greeted me the way I would soon learn he always did; with a tight hug, a kiss on the cheek, and something to offer me. Sometimes it was a new book he loved, or lines of cocaine on a silver platter. Other times it was a story about fucking a priest he met on Grindr, or a Stevie Nicks song he played on the piano. This time, it was red wine in a plastic cup.
Eventually I would discover that whenever I met up with Gian, no matter how early I arrived, he was somehow always there before me, having already bought us both drinks. This was one of his many talents.
It was still early when the reading finished, and everyone was meandering outside Housing Works bookstore for a while, idly looking for some place to go continue the party. I saw Gian talking on his phone across the street. I could tell he was trying to do something, but it felt impossible to discern the tenor of the conversation—not exactly warm, but no hint of aggression either. He was smiling when he hung up.
Then, he was leading the whole group of us around the corner without having said anything out loud. He just gestured for us to follow him and we did, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Like a bunch of drunk ducklings.
Gian had somehow, at a moment's notice, secured us a private back room at a bar nearby where we could stay as long as we wanted. The drinks were even free most of the night. This was something Gian did regularly after readings. It was like every bar in New York City always had a back room reserved just in case he called.
Gian was physically and metaphysically big. His presence was dynamic—it expanded to fill any space, turning a boring party into a fun one almost instantly. And he was tall, probably a full head taller than me. Though I realize the size of his memory is probably coloring my memory of his size, it still feels like I would have had to sit on someone else's shoulders to be eye-level with Gian.
When he hugged me, I felt like he could almost suffocate me if he held my face against his chest for long enough. But of course he never did. He was endlessly an gentle man and everyone knew. It was like this little thing we all had on him—that he secretly wasn't as tough as he looked or sometimes acted. He was deeply sensitive to everything and everyone around him. I never felt safer than when I was walking through Midtown at night with Gian's big arm around me.
I can't explain to you how Gian could be somewhere with 70 other people and easily make each of them feel like the most important person in the room without ever being disingenuous, but he could, and he did. He had a way of making you feel special that didn't detract from anyone else's specialness. His capacity for loving people was so enormous that it sometimes seemed infinite.
I don't know if Gian always saw himself becoming a publisher, but I doubt he ever saw a path for his life that didn't involve championing the people he loved. He would immediately hone in on his favorite parts of you, and they were rarely things you ever thought to appreciate about yourself. He had an unmatched ability to affectionately cajole you into becoming the most you version of yourself. He wanted everybody to publicly and shamelessly embody the ugly, unruly weirdos that we are in our most private moments. For him, that was real freedom, and he wanted everyone to have it.
One night when it was foggy and the moisture in the air caused my bangs to curl up—something I've never liked the look of and have been endlessly insecure about since I was young—Gian noticed, and told me he liked my hair better this way. All frizzy and fucked up. I tried to laugh it off, but he was adamant and distinctly not kidding. He acted like I was a fool for ever trying to keep my bangs straight to begin with, and seemed almost genuinely angry at me for keeping this version of my hair from him for so long.
On a rainy day a few weeks later, I arrived at a friend's place and asked to borrow a hair dryer so I could fix my bangs—which had become curly from the moisture outside—before I joined the rest of the group. "DON'T GIVE IT TO HER," Gian shouted from the other end of the apartment, having somehow heard my request. "SHE LOOKS HOTTER THIS WAY."
I left my bangs curly that night.
Gian was so generous it could sometimes feel overwhelming. Maybe every Italian from West Virginia is like that, but I doubt it. He would happily give you the shirt off his back, even if you didn't need a shirt, but you were just having a bad day, and he knew giving you his shirt would make you laugh.
When I lived in New York, I was working 2 minimum wage jobs and still doing other things to make ends meet; dating men who fed me dinner, selling drawings, a little freelance writing, a lot of stealing. One guy would pay me just to get pedicures as long as he could pick the color. Another would pay me to look bored on a webcam while he masturbated just off screen. I worked 10-12 hours per day usually, and I was constantly tired. Poetry isn't a very lucrative career path.
Both of my jobs were in Manhattan, and I sometimes had long breaks between them when my shifts didn't line up. Once, during one of these breaks, I called Gian to see if he was home (he lived nearby). He told me to come over. When I got there, Gian opened the door, rolling a suitcase behind him. He put on a pair of sunglasses, and handed me the keys to his apartment. I was a little confused. He said, "Don't steal those, they're my only keys," then he kissed me goodbye, and before I could say anything, he was getting in a cab headed to JFK.
I napped in Gian's bed for a few hours, then went off to work. A week later, Gian texted me:
"you still at my place? i'll be back tomorrow but stay as long as you want"
That's when I realized: Gian told me to come over even though he was leaving for a flight, then gave me the only key to his only apartment, because he thought I had nowhere else to go. He assumed I was too proud to ask for a place to stay, and he refused to do me the indignity of making me ask for it outright. So instead, he just handed me his keys. No questions asked. This is the kind of person Gian was; unflinching in his generosity.
This piece wouldn't feel complete if I didnt mention the fact that Gian loved my parents, my mom especially. Sometimes he would stay up late, probably on drugs, sending my mom rare Stevie Nicks recordings on Facebook and telling her how she reminded him of Stevie Nicks circa 1977. My mom—who was never a huge Fleetwood Mac fan and looks nothing like Stevie Nicks—was flattered, but didn't fully understand the gravity of what that meant coming from Gian. I explained his deep and abiding love for Stevie Nicks, trying to impress upon my mother that this was probably the highest compliment he could give a person. She always had a special place in her heart for Gian after that.
When my mom visited New York, Gian insisted on being the first person to meet her. He took us out to dinner the night she arrived and paid for it secretly, the way he usually did when you went out with him; by giving his card to the restaurant before you arrived. He never allowed for the possibility of my mother even trying to pay. He probably spent 95% of that night talking to my mom while I sat there quietly looking at my phone. I always secretly suspected Gian thought my mom was cooler than me, which is fine because it's true.
Anyone who knew Gian (and a lot of people who didn't) will tell you he could sometimes be so funny that you'd laugh until it physically hurt. Even and especially when humor was totally uncalled for.
Once during a Q&A after a reading I did, Gian repeatedly raised his hand, often responding when he wasn't even called on, or loudly jumping in after other people's questions to "clarify" what they were "trying to say". Each time, he would ask me about the influence Jonathan Franzen had on my writing. We both openly hated Franzen. Gian was clearly heckling me, but his tone was so deadly serious that it felt impossible to respond to him in a way that made this clear to the rest of the audience. If I denied it, he would imply I was lying to seem cool, and assured me I shouldn't be ashamed to love Franzen. If I said he was joking, he would give an impassioned defense of Franzen, shaming me for even implying that our mutual love of Franzen was anything but earnest. I could hear friends of mine stifling laughter in the audience, egging him on. I was struggling not to laugh too. Eventually someone just told me the Q&A was over.
Gian introduced me to his drug dealer: a stylish and charming man who couldn't have been taller than 5'4". In my memory he looked exactly like Bruno Mars. We would sometimes unknowingly call this guy for drugs on the same night and, more often than not, he would get to me before he got to Gian. Probably just because I was physically closer to wherever the drug dealer operated his business, but Gian half-jokingly resented me for it. He would text me when the dealer was late and accuse me of "skipping the line" because the dealer "loved [me] more." It was like we were in some sort of adult sibling rivalry over our semi-absent coke-dealing father. I found this extremely funny and couldn't help but indulge it, frequently texting Gian things like "MY drugs already arrived. maybe he just... forgot about you?"
Gian once called the drug dealer to his apartment when I was there and, while buying drugs from him, tried to force the guy to say which of us he loved more; me or Gian. The drug dealer avoided the question in an impressively politician-like manner. I think he even used the phrase "I love you both equally" when Gian pressed him at one point. Neither of us were fully satisfied with this response, and our battle for his affection continued.
One hot night in the summer, after two friends and I had spent hours going from house party to house party in an increasingly drug-induced mania, we decided to call Gian. Because who else would want to hang out with three of the highest, sweatiest people in the city at 1AM on a Sunday?
We spent a couple hours doing drugs and drinking wine, both of which Gian had offered us as soon as we arrived at his apartment. We told him about our debauched night and he listened intently, smiling the way he always did when I told him stories about exercising bad judgement and poor impulse control.
Eventually Gian left to spend the night at his then-boyfriend's place down the street, and the three of us were alone in his apartment. Being high as hell and not tired at all, we started having a threesome.
I don't know how long my friends and I had been having sex when I looked over to the corner of the studio apartment and saw Gian, wearing huge headphones, barely illuminated by the light of his desktop computer, which he was intensely focused on. At first I thought maybe I was hallucinating; it had been a while since he left, and none of us saw him come in.
Then, suddenly realizing it wasn't a hallucination, I became startled and involuntarily screamed, falling off the bed in the process. This terrified everyone, causing even the dog to bark loudly. The threesome came to a grinding halt.
Gian removed his headphones, waving his hands apologetically "Oh shit I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I just got inspired and needed to type something out. You guys seemed like you were having so much fun, I didn't wanna interrupt. Don't mind me, I'll be out of here soon."
I think I laughed harder than I've ever laughed.
Then, Gian put his headphones back on and continued typing. And we continued our threesome.
We didn't notice Gian leaving, but when he did, he forgot to log out of his computer. Months later, Gian would find a video we recorded and saved to his desktop that night. In the video, my friend and I competed to see who could shake our bare titties harder while our other friend played a B-side Fleetwood Mac song on his phone in the background. We named the file something like "GIFT_4_GIANCARLO.MOV". I don't remember who won the titty contest, but I remember the sound of Gian laughing when he finally found the video. There was never anything as satisfying as making Gian laugh hard.
The day we found out Gian died, a friend from the threesome texted me. We hadn't spoken in a few years. The text just said "it was an honor to fuck you in Gian's bed." I cried for two hours straight after I got that text.
I don't mean to paint Gian as a saint, either (though I admittedly think of him that way in private sometimes). I imagine he would hate for any of us to pretend he had no flaws, when his flaws were as much a part of him as anything else.
For example, he loved fucking fat men so much that he would sometimes lose interest in people when they started exercising or eating healthier. And the little outdoor area behind his studio apartment in Hell's Kitchen was absolutely covered with dog shit. Nowhere safe to step, and no lights out there when it got dark. Inside the apartment, blackout curtains prevented you from ever knowing what time of day it was. Perpetual dusk. He had a pot of mysterious syrupy red liquid simmering on his stove constantly, which was under a loft bed he used to store piles of Tyrant books; a fire hazard, I'm sure. I never figured out what the red liquid was. I don't think anyone ever did.
And his dog Rufus was always just...there. Stinky, grunting, and showing you his massive balls in an impossible-to-ignore way. Rufus was a dog that even a true dog lover might struggle to feel affection for. But not Gian. He only loved things insomuch as others rejected them for what he felt were stupid reasons. Rufus was unruly and he smelled bad, but he was a good dog. Ultimately, we all learned to love Rufus because Gian loved him. When Rufus died, Gian mourned, and we all felt it too.
Gian also loathed absolutely every man I dated, even when it was somebody he knew and didn't previously seem to dislike. I admittedly found this endearing, but it also posed a near-constant problem for me. He would act openly hostile to men I brought to readings or parties or his apartment. A lot of people I dated were afraid of him. There was only ever one guy I dated who Gian openly liked. I don't know why Gian had a soft spot for this particular man, but he still privately told me to be careful, because he felt the guy "wasn't fat enough to be totally trustworthy".
Gian constantly smoked inside and never opened the doors or windows. And he didn't stop when someone mentioned to him that I've spent time in the hospital for asthma. "You have your inhaler, right?" he said to me, barely getting the whole sentence out before erupting into one of his hearty, raspy, unforgettably contagious laughs. And I laughed too, I couldn't help it. I always brought my inhaler when I went to Gian's. In fact, his apartment was the only place I ever actually smoked cigarettes myself. I figured, if I'm going to to be in an enclosed space with a chain smoker anyways, I might as well indulge. It was terrible for my lungs and I hated the taste, but something about being with Gian made me want it. I no longer understand the appeal of cigarettes, and I could easily see myself never smoking one again now that Gian is gone.
Probably the hardest thing to deal with as a close friend of Gian though, was that he wasn't afraid to fight. Which was great if he was defending you, but devastating if you were the target. And most people who were close with him had been the target at some point.
But Gian never truly fought with anyone he didn't love. Deep down you always knew that if he didn't care about you, he wouldn't bother lashing out. That's why no matter how bad the fight got—and it could get really bad sometimes—you knew it wasn't permanent. All you had to do was say "I miss you" or "I'm sorry" or "you're a dumbass" and he would forget about whatever was keeping the two of you apart. Gian was soft in that way.
I think a lot of Gian's biggest fights stemmed from the fact that he could be so passionate about people that he'd sometimes believe in them more than they believed in themselves, and this frustrated him to no end. He desperately wanted you to see in yourself the potential that he saw in you, and if you didn't, he'd get upset. He'd say things he didn't mean. He would do anything to make you become the best version of yourself, and he wouldn't accept the possibility that no person is capable of doing that for someone else.
All of these things were an unbelievably small price to pay for the privilege of knowing a man like Giancarlo DiTrapano.
Gian, my wonderful friend. I love you and I miss you more than I previously thought possible. My capacity for experiencing grief has been endlessly expanding since the day you died.
I'll end this piece in a way Gian would have hated—with a poem that reminds me of the way he lived:
by Mary Oliver
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don't hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that's often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don't be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
I met Gian in a freshman dorm hallway at Loyola in New Orleans in 1993. There were maybe 30 of us on one side of the 2nd floor, and we'd been rounded up to listen to a resident assistant tell us the rules of the place. Nobody seemed to know anything about the school or the city, and nobody knew anybody else. The guy goes through it all and asks if we have any questions. No questions, then this super-dude kid goes, "How do you get to Bourbon Street?" Gian. Everybody laughs and the resident assistant laughs and everybody starts to go their own way and the kid is like, "What? I'm serious, how do you get there? What man?" The guy says, "Oh okay, well, there's a streetcar right here, costs a dollar, blah blah." Gian invited me to his room, and we blew weed smoke into paper towel tubes full of dryer sheets and argued about music. We had similar tastes and agreed on most older stuff, but he was all big rock n' roll and west coast rap. It was Nevermind vs. Daydream Nation, or The Chronic vs. The Low End Theory. It was great to argue with him, and we argued all the way, but you had to know what you were talking about because he could back up his preferences better than you could back up yours. Whatever it was, he knew he was right, and he would keep chipping at you until you were somewhat converted, or until he had shut you down just for fun, even if he dug what he was fighting against. We became good friends that 1st week.
All freshmen were required to live in that building, but Gian and I hated our roommates, the curfews, all of it, and we schemed a way out within a month. I don't remember what we claimed, an exception we found in a handbook, but we sat in front of the dean of admissions and just straight lied to the man. It worked. One of the clauses was that you needed to have another place to live lined up, and we did. We'd put a deposit down on a house a couple miles from the school and we moved in together. Only we didn't. We had each put down a deposit on 2 separate houses a block away from each other, and we were each moving in with our girlfriends. So Gian and Amy moved into the 2nd floor of an old house on Washington Ave., and Cha and I moved into the 2nd floor of an old house on Jackson. The rents were super cheap for these big, beautiful slightly crumbling places just off St Charles. We had kind of a sitcom thing going on, cuz we were hiding the arrangements from our parents. Gian and I lived together on paper, so his mail would come to our place, and Cha's mail would go to theirs. The houses were somewhat interchangeable, and I remember we would be psyched when one of our parents called and we were at the right house. New Orleans was a wonderland. It still is I think. I went back to Austin a few years later, switching schools. Gian went to Italy for some time then I think but was still at Loyola. We'd visit each other and do crazy shit. I remember he came to stay with me for a week driving this fully hooked up super tinted black Lincoln Continental. "Who's fucking car is this?"—"Mine, sweet right? Nobody'll fuck with us in this thing, boy." One night, back in New Orleans, I sleepwalked into the living room where Gian was still awake. I was out of clean cloths and wearing one of his big white t-shirts, which somehow killed him. He told me so many times, laughing, how he had taken me wearing my "lil nighty" back to bed and tucked me back in like a toddler. I think it stuck with him because it was such a sweet sentiment. A little scene, helping a fella back to bed. He had a sweetness about him that I didn't see all the way until later.
I moved to NYC in '99, working on lighting for films and playing keys in bands. He headed there a couple years later, on his own trip as usual. We were in the same Brooklyn neighborhood for a few months and then he moved to Manhattan. We hung out all the time. When he was first starting the Tyrant, I remember thinking that it probably wasn't gonna work, and I hate it that I thought that. He was mostly doing it alone though, and there were all these weird problems he would tell me about. It seemed implausible, but he was so passionate and psyched and it kept growing because he worked like hell at it. He was on the 2nd or 3rd floor then, front door always cracked when you got there, the only outdoor space a fire escape. I once went to see him and brought him something I'd written because he asked me to, even though I don't really write. It was almost pure non sequitur writing. He read it and told me he was gonna put it in the 2nd Tyrant issue but it was eventually shot down. We were drinking rum and he held up like a tin type black and white photo of this big dude in what looked like a civil war uniform. I thought it was his Italian ancestor, but he said, "This is my boyfriend," looking at me smiling. He had fully realized what he was into and openly explained his entire sexuality to me. He was open in a way that you rarely encounter, and it generated an openness in you too. It was cool that he had so wholly discovered and welcomed it. "Shit, I call you a faggot all the time," and he waved it away and explained more. He loved the word fag, faggot, all that was whatever. He used that word all the time and called everything gay. Straightest gay man I ever met. We sat there drinking and smoking and talking for some hours. He was going into all these unreal NYC style sexual escapades, and I left somewhat mesmerized. Whenever I would cut out early or even late and he was still hanging out", he would say, "I know, you gotta go put on your nighty, it's okat squirrel. You need one of my shirts?"
I was there for 10 years. When I moved out of NY I only saw him a handful of times before he moved to Italy. And after that we didn't see each other for years. I read some Tyrant books he sent me and we stayed in touch, but less than we ever had. I went to Italy for work in late 2019, and we made all kinds of plans. I unknowingly would have about zero full days off. I was in Rome, he was in Naples, but coming to Rome in 2 days. Wait I gotta drive 5 hours north to Lucca. He says he and Gui love Lucca, and they'd come up next weekend. Fuck, I'll be further up in Parma then, but I'll be back down to Rome most of the week after. Okay cool, come to Sezze. Can't, I'll have some time at night though. Okay we'll come to Rome, no, shit, we have to be in Naples that week, and on and on for nearly a month. I remember texting him on the way to the airport.—dude.. really? I can't believe it—me neither, what the hell?—whatever, just come back later with Naima and June, stay in Sezze.
It's tough to accept that he's gone. I was driving with my daughter when I got the news, and we pulled over. She's 12. I didn't accept it - Bullshit. I got out of the car, searched his name.. hang on, hang on. I kept reading it again, trying to rework it, like I was seeing it out of order. Another article. Oh, wait it's April 1st, this is a joke. I saw somewhere that other people thought it was a joke. But that it wasn't. I did that for a few more minutes and put the phone down. I was sitting on a curb and looked up at my daughter looking at me through the window. I got back in the car and my hands were shaking. I said it was alright and we talked. She'd met him a few times but was too young to remember. Wait, is it a joke? Maybe for a release of some kind? I could not face it. We drove home, and I was scared to tell my wife, Naima. It was tough to say. She loved him too. He'd grab her and kiss her and tell her she was gorgeous, walking with his arm around her and talking shit about me. A day passed and I thought of a mutual friend who probably didn't know, but I didn't wanna call him. I didn't wanna say the words to him, didn't want to hear him say "what the fuck," and I didn't want to be a part of any conversation afterwards. It's been 1 month today as I write this, and the grief is I guess better, and I feel a little guilty. A wave will come in, like a taunt, and Death will say, "You thought you wouldn't think about it for 2 hours huh? Well, good job dummy, I'm back." Fuck you, and your empty goddamned voids. What are we supposed to do? Just carry on and go buy a shirt? Post a photo of some clouds? Watch Moonrise Kingdom? What a drag.
I once asked him when we were both living in New York to come camping. Neither one of us had left the city in a few months. A bunch of people we both knew were going and I was telling him he should come and he just kind of scoffed, not looking at me. Typing on a computer in his lap, distracted and shaking his head, no thanks. He didn't
have to even considerate it. I asked him if he felt the need to get out of town and into the woods, and he said, "Man, I don't know, it's enough to know it's there."
It's weird with Gian. He frequently shows up in my head when he's not around, with his lyrical style. I guess he always will. We were the same age, but at some point I started looking up to him. It would have been nice to tell him that. We were walking once and talking about that. The idea of telling people what they mean to you while you can. I don't remember the context exactly, but his sentiment was: There's really no time for it, because we're constantly in the process of being what we are to one another. It's an unnecessary interruption. If you love them they know it. It's actually not cool to say all that, cuz then they have to be flattered, or they're forced to say something nice back. It's rude actually, laughing at his own conclusion.
It's been helpful to talk to other people who were close to him. Feel free to email (email@example.com). It warms my heart to read what other people have written about him. I love Thomas Morton's description of him as a monster. Totally. I've never met anyone like him. He was like Zorba the Greek with a Snoop vibe. I'm gonna miss him. I'm gonna miss you fuckhead. Naima's gonna miss you. You gave me so much. For those things I'm grateful.
Gian had more personality in his pinky finger than anyone else you'll ever meet carries in their entire body. That's the fucking truth. To say that's an exaggeration means you didn't know Gian.
I'm listening to "Hatful of Hollow" by The Smiths right now while writing this. Want to know why? Because Gian once gave me the best birthday present of my life, and it involved music in a big way. He gifted me an iPod Mini—if you remember those—and it was pre-stocked with music he loved. I spent months diving into The Smiths, Rufus Wainwright, 'Till Tuesday, Guns 'R' Roses. Opera. Whatever Gian had put on there. Because I trusted his taste. I didn't listen to anything else for half a year.
He and I met when he was my "intern" at FSG, a publishing company in NYC. I put that term in quotes because it's fucking absurd. But before the end of that, he took me to the park across the street from our offices, and said to me—very deliberately—"this place publishes Nobel Prize winners every few years, but who's out there to find the writers who'll be that caliber years from now? Or the writers who are even better than that?"
As we all know, the legacy he left behind because of his dedication to that frame of mind is substantial. He cared deeply and sincerely about the writers he championed—and ask any of those writers; he most certainly did champion them—and as has been said so many times already, he was willing to do whatever it took to ensure they got the recognition he knew they deserved. And what's better, he was much more often than not correct.
But the best thing about Gian was that he was never all business. While being fiercely serious about his pursuits with all things Tyrant-related, he was the rare friend who could honestly derive equal pleasure from a night at the opera as from a night at a dive bar. He was just as comfortable in a pair of baggy jeans and loafers as in a tuxedo. He could talk to you just as eloquently about James Joyce as he could about AC/DC—and hold you in the same state of rapt attention in spite of either topic, I promise you.
Gian once said the most funny thing I've ever heard. When we were launching New York Tyrant, I connected him with a prominent NYC editor who was a friend of mine—someone who ended up running The Paris Review. The first time I put them together, they didn't get along. But we were launching the Tyrant, so I got them together again. We stayed up until dawn. When the editor was leaving, he said "I'm glad we met again, because I liked you so much better the second time." To which Gian replied—within half a second—"that's funny, because I liked you so much better the first time." Fucking hilarious.
Gian was a magnet for everything good I met in my more than two decades living in New York City... He was a magnet for what matters: the best people, the deepest experiences, the longest nights, the fiercest loyalty, and the most beautiful words. The hole his absence has left in my life, my impression of New York City, and honestly my soul is tremendous. I fucking loved Gian. When I moved to Stockholm, when I got divorced, when I moved to Los Angeles: Gian was the first call I would make. His was the first face I would see.
I miss Gian the way I imagine someone who's lost a limb misses having it. I hate to dwell on the sadness of his death, so I'll ask you to see this statement for the attempted positivity it contains: I'll never, ever in my life meet anyone who comes even close to the person Gian was. He matters to me more than perhaps anyone else ever will.
RACHEL B. GLASER
I first heard about Gian in 2007 from my fiction teacher Sam Michel, who encouraged me to submit a story for the Lady Tyrant issue. I was thrilled when Gian accepted it, as I'd sent the story to 50 places before, and felt it was my best story. At this point I'd had a couple other stories published, all of which had been accepted with brief, polite emails, but Gian's was different. He wrote:
Some of your lines are so damn wonderful that I just may steal them. No, I mean, I will steal them (one way or another) and use them as my own because they are great great lines with great words and when I see someone who can line up those words like you do, the first words that come to mind are ROB THIS. I am sorry I have to do this, but I will and then I will cover my tracks. You can keep a vain lookout for my crimes, but good luck. Even if they get published, they will be adapted in different words but never as good as you first layed them out.
He quoted a paragraph from my story then said: "Forget all this crap about me stealing. I don't even steal. I don't even write. So the story is now ours. We are now one of your publishers and you are now one of the tyrant's writers. Welcome to the fold."
What a thing to receive! It was awesome to get published by Tyrant because they published writers I admired, their covers all ruled, and each issue was curated intimately like a mix-tape. Most of the lit mags I'd been submitting to were university-funded projects where students were forced to work together and every decision was settled on. Those places would have never sent me an email like Gian's.
Most interactions in this world are succinct and impersonal. People want to play it safe, keep their distance. But Gian never hid himself. He was never compromised by an institution or wanting to maintain an image. In our society, it is a noble rebellion to be yourself and Gian did so with such style, inspiring me and countless others to try to do the same. All the writing he ushered into existence celebrated this vulnerability/power.
Even if we want to be bold and free, the current of boredom and convention is so strong that it's hard to not just go along with what's already in the world, but Gian didn't see boundaries of what can and can't be done. He loved passionately, made his love his life, and invited everyone to the party. Gian was beyond all bullshit. You could tell him anything.
Though I only hung out with him a handful of times, I read his 17,000 tweets over the last decade and his spirit enriched my life. He was smart, worldly, funny, but what I most admired was his honesty. He wasn't too self-conscious to make stupid jokes, to reveal himself. He was living his life and letting us in on it, and just knowing that he was alive somewhere, that he was one of the many people on this planet, made life feel cooler and more bearable to me.
The last time I saw him was in 2018 on my honeymoon. My husband John and I visited him and Giuseppe in their apartment in Rome. I hadn't seen Gian in years and didn't know what to expect, but John and I immediately felt so welcomed by Gian and Giuseppe. They had an infectious, energetic chemistry, teasing each other as they told us how they first met (on a train platform in Italy). Giuseppe was just as sharp-witted and eccentric as Gian. It was clear Gian had finally met his match, and that their connection was deep and true. It was great to see Gian so happy and in love.
When I'd first met him ten years earlier, he'd seemed a bit shifty-eyed and unsure, but in Rome it was clear he'd evolved. He'd turned his indie lit mag into an underground publishing house. He'd become a visionary who inspired generations of writers. He'd found his people. He'd found his soul mate.
Gian was the coolest and truest. He was so much fun he was irresistible. He was beautiful in mind and body and voice. Big-hearted, bold, authentic, and effortlessly cool. He had conviction, curiosity, an open mind, and a great sense of humor. His determination and naked honesty were a super power. He influenced us in ways we'll be feeling for the rest of our lives.
RACHEL RABBIT WHITE
I'll try for a meditation / on what it was
like I'd been running late for life
leaving the bar with flutes of champagne
tossing life's detritus here and there—
one always lives with regret
living life / as if I'd been running late for it
you had the secret to things
to have the presence of a piano, xanax, a starry window
I'll never learn a secret like "not for you"
water collecting dust in bedside glass
it seems I got drunk again
I'll try for a meditation, I'll try to make it fun
it's going back to sleep, sleeping late, sleeping in the sun
it's sneaking into a movie theater
it's so dumb
I don't really remember those summers
leaving the bar / not knowing if it had rained
I've been told to stop holding onto the past
I've been told the past is a desert
of the past in which we were running late, running toward
something that was sure to happen / which we couldn't yet see
the less I do / the more living becomes too much
we need another drink, another bar
to interpret the moment / cigarette after cigarette
in conversational rhythm/ doing and undoing
the moment transferred from one into another
literature going the way of ballet, they say
sometimes nothing is subtle
and the night is graceful
don't we know, baby, the world is ending
but I stood there, at its window, at the doorway
beneath the porch-light of your death
can you even fathom / in a lifetime, how many you've partied with
the multiple ways a person is perceived / multiplied by everyone they ever meet
I come up with memories not yet made
that I will now keep forever
in Italy men piss in the streets
and the nights smell of nothing
it was about the way the weather could make you feel like a person again
everyone needs something to believe in
I think now I'll become a pastoral poet
I'm sorry as that's not what you'd have wanted
it's just the bird outside the window
is saying a prayer
sometimes there are losses without meaning
sometimes there isn't anything to gain
to the sky, to the leaves, and the glass of the window
the disillusionments and the loathing and
the paranoia and the sincere congratulations
did god build this house?
did he do a good job?
I guess I've seen some fucked up birds
birds addicted to cigarettes, birds eating fast food
I ask "do birds..." and autofill suggests "get cold"
& tells me birds adapt to their conditions thankfully
so resourceful even if they hate hunger and cold
wakefulness happens to them as it does us
so honest in their desire to create
it is my fault for hauling up
the chaotic joys I once felt
an open window bristles with plant life
I ask, where do they go when it rains
SEAN THOR CONROE
I wasn't a writer before Gian.
I mean, I'd been a writer. I been writing.
But I always thought, since I first started going in, that there was Writing-Writing, and then there was my me-writing.
The Writing-Writing I'd written was my me-writing, but filtered through some idea I had of acceptability, propriety, intellectual validity.
The Writing-Writing I'd written was, I mean, it was fine.
But it wasn't me.
I always thought my actual writing, writing myself as I actually sounded, all sides of how I spoke, wasn't "okay" to write. Wouldn't be considered "okay" by readers of Writing-Writing.
Gian showed me it was okay to write like I actually sounded.
Gave me permission to unabashedly speak myself.
I remember being so surprised by how Gian sounded in those initial emails, texts, and calls.
His first email response, on October 25, 2019, seven hours after the email I'd sent him, in which I introduced myself, described my project, and pasted the first chapter of my novel, at that point a novella, directly into the text-body.
This is good shit man. You got a book?
And then, three minutes later, another message.
Sorry man I didn't really read the whole email and just started on the text. Can i see the whole novella?
It seemed so simple. So direct and spoken. Almost careless, how casual and impulsive-seeming, but also confident, intuitively decisive.
And the fact that he skipped over the intro email.
No interest in anything besides that direct sauce.
A month later, once he'd finished it, after a couple annoying follow-up emails from me being like Yo man, I changed some stuff, or *new ending attached*, to which G'd just go Word man, still on page X, thanks, he reached out again. Like Gonna be in town in December. You around for a drink and a chat?
Writing, to Gian, was less about the overly thoughtful premeditation of the email-scheme than it was about the heightened, unselfconscious immediacy of the in-person meet-up.
The more I think about G's role as an editor to me, it wasn't about how he tweaked the bars.
I mean, he for sure did that. He'd hit me like Been reading the latest version, been thinking about this hitter, feel like this hitter is a little weak. Can you go back in and make it a banger?
And that's verbatim. He dead-ass said that once.
This one's not good enough...make it a banger.
But it was almost like, how down he was to riff with me—that was the lesson.
Like our personal correspondence was simultaneously an investigation of how to most directly, immediately, and viscerally get something across.
G was the only person I've ever known who, rather than text, would rip these little minute-long voice memo rants.
This impulse, to jump right into that most immediate, intimate mode...
Get directly to some shit, or make me laugh, or shake me with something wild, or else.
Or else I'm not tryna hear that shit.
I remember I sent G the first bit of Fuccboi about a month into the writing program I was starting out at, the same week I sent my first submission to my first workshop, and the big thing, the big fear, was that the me-writing I'd been writing wouldn't be accepted by readers of Writing-Writing. Would be seen as sorta funny, sorta kooky, sure. But obviously not actual Literature.
And that fear was warranted. It did throw people.
People said everything one would expect people to say.
Why does this character say dumb stuff and then suddenly say smart stuff. Seems unrealistic. Or, I don't know what this slang means. Say it in a way that I know what it means. Or, Why all this text-speak.
G'd just go, Fuck that. Double down.
Feel like that was so much of G's energy, G's central message.
When you start to get heat is exactly when it's most essential to not.
To gas that bitch even harder.
At one point, I even made an "abbreviations and special slang" page, for fear that readers of Writing-Writing would hit the first "sus" or "bih" and write the whole book off as dumb.
G scrapped that shit quick.
Did Shakespeare provide readers with a cheat sheet? Did Faulkner?
How many times did you have to look up words reading DFW? Make em wade through that shit. Make em figure it out.
It was almost like we were forging our way, together, towards a new, hitherto unspoken language.
Our riffs were us deciding which ones worked.
This past New Year's Eve, he did a toast about that. About the new year ushering in a new language, looking at me when he said that.
That was really important to him. And was so sweet when he did that.
But even in our first meeting, mid-December of 2019, in a room in the Jane Hotel overlooking the Hudson, one of his first questions, holding my bound and marked-up manuscript, cheefing a cig out the window, was, "So 'railing.' To 'rail' a thing. Can mean...to snort. But also...to eat?" dead-ass serious, in a beater, rocking those cute lil reading glasses he'd rock for our editing sessions.
"I mean," I said. "Say you in a rush. You eat a sammie real fast. You slam a sammie. That's like...I railed a sammie one time."
G considering this. Dragging. Then looking up at me, grinning, and going, "Nice."
But it wasn't just language games G was playing.
How he moved through the world, creating and reinventing new modes rather than just passively partaking.
Had real-ass stakes.
In ways I never thought possible.
The idea was first floated early December 2020, a year after we first met, after a year of working on and corresponding back and forth about the book. Of him flying me out there. To where he was, in Italy, to bang out final edits.
Shit was locked down hard.
The Italian embassy or whatever's website clearly indicated this. No travel from the U.S. Period.
But G started texting me about these covid-free flights, some rando BBC article he saw about this one airline doing em.
I kept being like But...doesn't it say...on the website...
He'd be like Nah man. It'll be all good. Trust me.
He pulled on the ticket mid-December. For me to fly out two days after Christmas.
This shit felt too crazy; I stayed up all night the night before the flight, just tryna gather shit, be ready for whatever was to come.
Waited out in the cold on 125th and Lenox for four hours the morning before, to get my rapid test.
Then, the day of the 5 p.m. flight, at 7 a.m., I got a call from G.
He went, Yo man, so you checked with the airline that it's cool for you to come out here, right?
I went, What? Nah. Thought you did.
He went, What? Nah. Thought you were gonna.
I went, Fkn shit man.
I called the airline.
The airline said, What? No you can't come out here.
I said, Well who's going out there? Someone's on that flight. Who's on that flight.
They said, Those with family out here. And essential workers.
I said, Well fuck, G is my family. And this, bringing this book to fruition, is the most essential work.
They said, Do you have a contract? You need a work contract indicating this. That this work must happen now.
I called G back. G said, Easy.
Found an old book contract, stuck my name in there, plus a clause saying If the WORK has not been submitted by 1 January 2021, the AUTHOR must work with the PUBLISHER, in person, until the WORK is satisfactorily completed.
Now print that shit and sign both lines, G said.
Joking that, What if this was all a long play to get me to sign a shitty contract lol.
Which, I mean, fuck. It coulda been. Had he wanted it to be.
But I did it. I did as he told me to.
I trusted him.
Bc that, trust, was really what, above everything, G gave me.
What I will forever love tf out of him for.
There was the formally kooky, slanged out element of my writing, sure, that G gave me the courage to keep doing.
But there were also things in later chapters of Fuccboi (now coming out from Little Brown next year) that I immediately, unthinkingly sent him first he asked, that I'd never before that point shown anyone. And never thought I ever would.
Things I was writing bc I felt I needed to for my survival, but would obviously be too wild for the world.
The fact that it's about to go out as galleys to people I've never met...
And be widely available next year...
Wouldn'ta even come close to happening without Gian.
He was who I was writing it for. Who I was telling my story to.
I trusted that those things I was scared to explore were important to explore, no matter how wild and reckless-seeming, bc Gian said they were. And I trusted Gian.
But that moment, at JFK. Freshly printed and signed and stapled contract in hand. When my me-writing became validated in the eyes of readers of Writing-Writing—of enforcers of mid-pandemic international travel restrictions.
When the Italian customs lady in that ghost-town-deserted departures terminal said What? Speak up. You're going for...writing? Absolutely not.
And I, not cowering, doubling down, went No you listen. I am a WRITER. Visiting my PUBLISHER. For ESSENTIAL WORK on this novel that the culture needs, now. As this contract clearly indicates.
When I said that. Calmly, deliberately, decisively.
How quickly she 180'd.
That was Gian's lesson.
Demand that your voice is valid.
Her eyes softened.
Like Well damn.
"I'm so sorry, sir. Please, right this way."
When I first started my indie press in Italy, I still didn't know much about who was behind Tyrant
Books. After I sent an email to the address I found on the website, to inquire about some titles
from that super cool catalogue, I was surprised to learn that the guy responding me, Gian, lived in
Italy—in Rome at that time.
We met in my city, Naples, not long after that. In a cafe, the kind of places where we'd meet after
that for the next three years—always drinking something, always outdoor. I didn't know what to
expect from that stranger I was about to meet. I remember being late, which is a rarity for me, and
that I was panting hard because I came almost running, I remember the specific cafe, I remember
how I was dressed, I remember that he was already sitting there with his husband, Giuseppe, and
I'm pretty sure that he already had a glass of grappa and that he ordered another one after that. I
remember that Giuseppe left us talking alone and that I was feeling very nervous—but that the
anxiety didn't last very long, because Gian knew how to make a person feel comfortable, even an
awkward 30-something-years-old baby-boy like me. I remember many details from that day and
the reason is that meeting him changed my life.
Giancarlo has had a big influence on me—both as a person and as a publisher. His view of
literature and art in general helped me shape my vision and the character of Pidgin Edizioni. He
was truly an inspiring person, his enthusiasm was infective. He would talk for so long about details
in books he liked. The love he felt for a well written sentence is what makes me hate everything
and everyone else in this industry: the egomaniac asshole writers and publishers and
professionals, all the talking about the market and the distribution and the everlasting publishing
crisis and the paper-vs-digital-bullshit-battle... Who fucking cares, when you could just love words
the way he did? Why do we need to talk about anything that isn't art?
He helped me discover an entire American literary scene, which I still follow with great passion,
and I hope I don't lose contact with, now that he's not my bridge anymore. I have read, translated
and published, and still read, translate and publish, works published or recommended by him, or
that I l know that he'd love: that is to say that I like to think that his influence is somehow present,
even if in a much smaller scale, in the Italian publishing as well, after the big influence he had on
the American one. I know this is an egocentric thought, but fuck it, I need it. Since I met him, one
of my goals as a publisher has been to create here in Italy something that came as close as
possible to what he has done in the US—not that I think I share any of his genius in doing what he
What surprised me again was that I found a friend in him. I remember when he first told me that
he and Giuseppe were planning to move to Naples. We were sitting on the front steps of the
cathedral. I felt so happy. And lucky. I loved that whole Odyssey-like trip that brought his family
from Italy to the US, and then him from West Virginia to New York to Sezze to Rome and—eventually—to Naples. And somehow, tangently, I would have taken a part in it, however small. If
there is something I love in life, that is coincidences: and me meeting him, he wanting to know me,
felt like the most awesome coincidence there could be. We started to meet more frequently,
talking to him was almost a daily recurrence. I felt special. He made me feel special.
We had many projects and ideas together, and he had many plans for his future. I love that in
these last years he embraced Naples: a city known for its beauty, its violent emotions and its
syncretic and grotesque spirituality. He was feeling inspired by it for a new beginning. He
envisioned an artistic rebirth here, the "Renaissance After the Plague" he called it—he also wrote
a short essay about it. It kills me that I, and we all, will never see completed what he had in mind.
And I am so pissed off with the universe because, after this whole beautiful coincidence that was
meeting him, with this fucking pandemic it took away from me the last months of his life that I could have spent talking to him face to face, absorbing his presence, that I instead spent shut in
I can confidently say that he has done a lot of good for other people, with his inspiration and
tutoring and friendship and love, and that his death has left many of us with no guidance. I only
hope that we can all make the most from what he left us. I'll try.
Praise from Caesar. Those were a few of the last words I wrote to him after he showed up in my dms as a fire emoji. Impromptu feedback on some writing I posted in February 2021. Although sarcastic I meant it. His excitement in my work always made me believe in myself when self-loathing like derision comes too easily.
The two of us never shared a legendary all night drinking session that cemented our friendship like those you often hear about. Or even went through the heavy editing process he's famous for. We only met once over the course of two nights in December 2019 almost a year after my novel came out. A trip he donated $500 to from his pocket. A sum that kept me from falling behind in my rent.
I still owe on my advance to this day.
At the time I was defeated. Mourning the all too fresh and avoidable death of my best friend I was wildly depressed. Drunk and desperate. The world was feeling empty while I stood beside a mutual friend in a crowd as he came out of nowhere. He put his arms around me. He kissed me on the cheek. And like that it felt like as though I'd known him forever. In the arms of the man who made my dream come true I forgot how much I hurt.
If pressed...I'd say that's what it was like to know him.
The day I wrote Giancarlo it was on a whim. A fugue of self confidence. A jag of hubris people who know me would say I'm not known for. I was sparked by him recently following me on twitter. Him liking my stuff. I told myself it was time to do something with my life. A steadfast wastrel. So I did.
It's a gamble I like to think he would've taken himself.
Having never spoken I dm'd Giancarlo early in the morning. I was certain I wouldn't hear back from him. Who am I you know? So when I checked my messages a couple hours later I was shocked to see a reply. More so that he said sure thing and gave me his email address.
That was back in 2016 and even though I blacked out drunk before the day was done I'll never forget how much joy I was filled with. Walking along Rue Saint-Laurent with my wife I tried to explain to her how big a deal this was for me and I couldn't feel the pavement beneath my feet. I was so happy that he even agreed to look at it I was floating along like a school girl in love.
I could've died right then and there but I'm glad that I didn't. Because when I got up the next day with the sun I saw an email from Giancarlo. I didn't want to open it. I waited. Scared of the unknown I was sure that the small hope I held out of him liking what I'd written was about to be dashed.
Instead it changed my life for the better.
He told me he started reading at midnight and it kept him going until 5h00. The only reason he stopped was to sleep. A measly 3 hours. All he needed to give him the energy to get through to the end. He told me I nailed it. That in the narrator were all his best friends. And that I should tell anyone else who was looking at it to kindly fuck off. So I did.
In that email after all the years of looking I knew I found a home. Not only for my book but my soul. A place that the teenager inside me with a bright orange mohawk and an attitude as pleasant as chewing razors could feel good about. Like realizing I wasn't alone. Because if Giancarlo believed in me then maybe I wasn't worth giving up on.
Something that hadn't crossed my mind before.
It'll always be remembered by me as the dream email. And has a place in my heart. It's the one that set things in motion. The one that took me to places like Los Angeles and New York. Cities where I made friends and saw artworks I'd never have seen without him taking a gamble on a no talent hack from Canada. For a small town kid like me there was never going to be a way for me to thank him.
Last spring I finished a second manuscript. I did what you're supposed to do. I sent it to a couple of friends that I trust. Friends of his. They told me it was good. It had the Tyrant feel. I should send it to Giancarlo. I wanted to believe them so I did.
Fedex it to me man...It's impossible to read on a computer...everything's closed here and I can't get it printed he told me. So I bought a hot pink binder then clamped a couple years of my life into its rings. And in the midst of a city wide lockdown I rode my bike to the centre of what was now a ghost town. I filled out all the documents necessary to mail a manuscript to Italy.
I was sure I had a winner on my hands.
But no repeat whirlwind acceptance was coming my way. This time it took over a month before I heard from him. He said we needed to talk. In my heart I knew what was coming. But still I hoped that when he called a couple hours later. The last time we'd ever speak on the phone. He was going to tell me what I wanted to hear.
Was I ever wrong.
We spoke for over an hour. He let me know the novel I wrote about my recently deceased best friend was 80% garbage. That I should toss it out. Walk away and start all over. I was crushed. He said I failed where I was so sure I hadn't. This isn't easy man...but there ain't no heart...there's no love...this isn't your second book.
My heart broke and when I hung up the phone I was sure I was done with writing. Failing both the memory of my best friend and the opinion of my publisher in a single swipe I deleted my social media. I'll take up painting I angrily told myself as I vowed to die before I ever contacted Giancarlo DiTrapano again.
I see my anger as childish folly when I think of it now. How stupid I was and how stupid I've always been. My vanity getting in the way of the finite time I'm responsible for losing with someone who only cared. Who wanted the best for me and my art. What I took for a failure was a step towards me making it beautiful.
He told me he loved me before he hung up.
I believe he meant it when so often I don't.
Sitting here now. Having taken his advice I can see it. And above all else the motherfucker was right. My manuscript was full of pride. Pompous. It was everything I hate about literature and people in general and there I was. Full to the brim and stinking of shit.
I never thanked him for putting me in my place. Often the ones you think are the best of your friends will lie to your face instead of slapping it. This is why Giancarlo was one of the greats. He understood what needed to be done. He had the balls to make you bleed. Or hate him.
It didn't take long before I reneged on my oath.
When I told him I cured my alcoholism with LSD he was overjoyed. He said he recently went on a trip that set things in place. I took 2 hits...I've never done that before...I'm gonna publish something soon was his prelude to saying he saw the light. And that now he was going to devote his life to literature. I laughed to myself and thought...haven't you already?
Outside of old books I don't think there's been a bigger influence on my writing. If I wasn't looking forward to his next column for Vice I was on pins and needles about a new issue of the magazine. And eventually what book he might put out. I always knew it was going to be a banger.
Tyrant Books gave me hope before I even knew the man.
I'm currently reading a collection of shorts I bought because of him on a whim. Based on a first paragraph posted in his stories months ago. No author. Only the name of the first story printed bold at the top of the page. Wagner In The Desert. And Giancarlo's take that it was something akin to being pure fire.
I tracked it down. He wasn't lying. Who am I to trust now?
Sitting here weeks later I imagine I'm hoping every notification I get is going to be from him. But it's not. And never will be. I have to come to terms with that. That literature lost something bigger than a friend or a loved one. We lost someone who honestly believed in what we were doing. That's hard to replace.
The death of a true champion.
And it has all the power to knock me out. Steal the wind from my sails. To make me go back to my threats of picking up a paint brush. But I won't be doing that. None of us should. Instead his passing should be a call to work harder. To do things our own way. And not take any shit along the way.
We're all of us children of Caesar. It's how we continue that matters now.
The night he signed Marie Calloway to Tyrant, Gian called me to go see Roger Waters perform The Wall at Yankee Stadium. We listened to the album in my car on the way up, then took mushrooms in the parking lot and waited for them to kick in. After the concert we sat in the car and listened to the album again, waiting for the mushrooms to wear off enough that I could drive. We were both on our phones, apparently both on Twitter, and I saw a tweet he'd just posted from the passenger seat that read:
I really just need one friend to trust enough to make sure "Run Like Hell" by Pink Floyd will be played at my funeral. Loudly
I said, "That's like the single worst possible choice of everything off this album for a funeral song." He grinned and said back, "Yeah, I know, right??"
This all obviously happened as "Run Like Hell" was playing.
We got caught in a crazy thunderstorm on the drive back. It felt like the car was hydroplaning the entire length of the BQE through Queens, and I was just sorta guiding it through the curves and underpasses like a team of wild horses or something. I think Gian complimented my driving at one point? But I might have added that into the memory just to toot my own horn. What I know occurred is that Gian said "Whoa, check it out" and I looked over at the city in time for us both to see lightning strike the Chrysler building. It only puzzled me later that he'd either foreseen that lightning, or possibly summoned it with his "Whoa." Or he was looking at something else entirely, being impressed by the storm clouds over the skyline, and it was fortuitous timing.
I'm realizing there's a tidy little pat sorta metaphor in there about Gian seeing or sensing things right before they happen, and how that's what he did in the literary world and in his life and with people and so on, whatever. Etc. But that wasn't what brought the memory to mind, wasn't the point I was after bringing it up, so I'm gonna play honest pool for once and admit I didn't call the pocket. If you can think of something to do with it, by all means, go nuts. Your shot.
I remembered it because he remembered it, maybe about a month before he died, and texted me a photo from that night as a prelude to reminisce. Then I remembered it again because everyone went digging through his old tweets and found the "Run Like Hell" one and conspired (successfully) to fulfill this last request. And now I'm here remembering it again, looking at a horrible out-of-focus picture of him I tried to take with the big inflatable Pink Floyd pig behind him in the stadium, the shit job I did of cropping out all the retired cops and firefighters around us and their drunk wives who were taxing our vibe, remembering how the night felt charged with a visceral and immediate sense of danger that we were somehow just floating atop, surfing maybe, aware of but unbothered by.
There was often a weird element of danger to spending time with Gian, weird in that it wasn't like your basic reckless danger, that type of danger that's just the product of being stupid, doing stupid things. Pushing your luck. It was more like he was affixed at the soul to some surreal impulse in the cosmic gestalt. Strange things happened around Gian. Strange, wonderful, sometimes scary but usually more mystifying and then ultimately funny things abounded in his presence and his wake, like there were imps or leprechauns or something just loitering off to the side of him at any given moment, waiting to mess with shit.
Examples, sure. Gian invited me over one night to sit in the backyard of his Hell's Kitchen apartment and try out the little fire pit he'd found on the sidewalk that day, and minutes after kindling a pleasant little weekday-evening blaze we were under a helicopter spotlight and three fully-geared firefighters were surmounting each side of the fence from a convoy of, they claimed, seven ladder trucks who'd been sent to respond and whose sirens were wailing in oblique stereo from the surrounding blocks. Another: I fucked off work one day to meet Gian for lunch in his neighborhood and we stumbled out of the restaurant straight into being put in a video shoot with Grover from Sesame Street in uncontrolled traffic. I could go on, there were so many.
And these are polite ones, sanitary options. Fit for mixed company. I've been struggling to write this down for close to a month, torn between the conventional urge to clean it up a little—to steer clear of the kind of stories we all know better than to tell when someone's died, or is getting married for that matter—and a stronger wayward urge to remember for others the way Gian fully was, who he was, that raucous, earthy, sensuous, physical being in love with being alive, in love with the body he inhabited and piloting it through this world of experiences, in as much love with the mud and the gunk of our culture as its rarer cerebral offerings. I want others to know, and be able to keep on knowing, the Gian whose every conversation was a filigreed helix of prose quotations and dark jokes and filthy sexual gossip, who wrote a thesis at Trinity about James Joyce's Ulysses the gist of which was that, in the chapter where Stephen Daedelus is jerking off on the beach, the time on the clock face looks like a stick figure with an erection. That this was a man whose favorite personal anecdote involved him accidentally getting a famous author's shit under his thumbnail and then even more accidentally ruining a comedy show later with its smell.
Gian found the life in books and literature, the actual, in-the-world livingness in them, and he made his books out of the world he lived, and for it too. There's a thing he wrote for somewhere that I can't find for the life of me where he's in a bathroom "cutting up lines for everybody" and then he goes "here, have this line" and it's a quote from some poem or essay that sure-on fucking hits your brain like a rush of coke. The word was interchangeable with the world to him. Or that's how it was supposed to be.
While I was hunting I did find this thing he wrote in a 2012 column (or what seemed to be the first edition of a column from its title and style) in the Paris Review:
When I think of happiness, I see myself chasing ass, or being newly fascinated with a friend. I see myself either by their side, or constantly texting. A lot of those times I'm drinking too much and eating too much or I'm in the back of a cab at five A.M. with a friend jawing on about something too much. There is often music. That's some of the time. Other times I'm somewhere alone, with nothing. It's quiet, and I can see myself happy and thinking. I just can't see what it is that I'm thinking about. But, when I think of happiness, I mostly see myself with others.
There's been a lot of squidgy texting and tender thoughts going on between people who knew Gian since his death. Gian woulda got it, he was tender as veal at heart, but he also woulda busted our balls. He loved to share a feeling you were having—to join up and commune in some deep, open-hearted, emotionally fleeting moment—while still managing to make fun of you for having it. He had some squidgy innards, but he was a brute. A cultured, erudite, Anatole-France-quoting brute—maybe that makes him more like a satyr? Whatever he was, something mythic and more-than-just-person.
I've also been struggling for close to a month not to call Gian "cool." There's an acute sensation of feeling at peace and at union with the world surrounding, just churning along in all its horribleness and chaos and sudden mesmerizing blips of joy and beauty, buoyed in the constant turbulence, that's most easily or maybe more generally described as being "cool." And it's the dumbest thing in the world that we call it "cool." Debase the sense of vital, exhilarating aliveness with that corny 50s bebop slang.
Gian would disagree, though, did disagree I'm pretty sure. He was cool with "cool," with all slang, new slang especially, the fresh encoding of ineffable feelings into derelict glops of sloppy young sound. The funny vacant-seeming secrecy of it. He spoke a very teenage vernacular, and relished in the phonetic poetry of it.
One time I texted him thinking about how bummed out my teenage self would be to learn how regularly I use terms like "dude," "bummed out," and "vibes" in my day-to-day speech.
He wrote back, "hahahahaha, me too. Also 'the wave' is one of my common utterances."
I keep kicking myself that I didn't ask what the hell "the wave" refers to.
Gian brought out and encouraged my worst poetic tendencies. A couple nights after he died I apparently stirred from medicated sleep and wrote this in the email drafts on my phone: "Happy Easter, the lord is dead, and now we can't even find his body."
He used to read everything I wrote and published, unbidden, like the mom in Royal Tenenbaums. And I used to send him my trash attempts at verse and he somehow never stopped me, actually read the damn things and then would call me about them. It's hard to really describe how jarringly maternal he was, to me and everybody, for such a goat-legged roughneck. And not could be, neither. Was. Constantly.
I don't remember if I asked Gian what his family name meant or he just wanted to tell me, but according to him, "We were Trepanists, like we did trepanning."
You know what trepanning is, right? Sorry, trepanation. It's where they used to open up a hole in your skull to let the pressure out, expose your third eye, etc. The connection to psychedelic medicine, to the cluster headaches he suffered from, the sensation of having too much pressure in the head, too much in the mind, too much mind, so much in there that it needs to be let out, that it needs someone to relieve it, to valve it out into the world—it's all there. That was him. A proper trepanist. A midwife to brains too full. A bore-hole driller of our culture's third eye.
And you know what happened on the day of his funeral? While his friends abroad were conspiring to get someone to put on "Run Like Hell" at the chapel in West Virginia, his sister was pulling up in the car and take a guess what song came on the radio. Nice one, right? Although unsurprising for someone whose whoa could call down lightning.
If anyone, anyone else in a back alley told me they were feeling out Rakim and Stevie Nicks' management companies in regards to a launch party for the next Neapolitan Renaissance, I would've walked home and re-evaluated who my friends were. Instead, I walked home thinking I could definitely convince my wife and Mila Kunis to have a threesome. That's the Giancarlo Effect. A guy who lives in a literal castle, who published some of your favorite books ever, and every couple weeks sends you a text message that just says, Yo. Yo was grab a drink, but it also was let's talk Grease, the hamburger scene in Naples, family, friends, family, family and John Travolta parts again. And also, permit me (imperative) to say Giancarlo has walked across the entire city, on a second's notice, to help me out in a bind. With a smile on his head full of Kramer hair, no less. Cooler than DMX and Fred Astaire. Sweeter than Oprah could ever be. Way cooler than all the weird 80's movies he loved. Love you, buddy. Wish this was a wedding speech.
You were born in West Virginia in 1974. I was born nine years later, in Virginia. I grew up in Florida. You went to college in New Orleans, getting a degree in philosophy. We both moved to New York City in 2001.
In 2005, after I finished getting a journalism degree, I saw advertisements in NOON and The Paris Review for a new magazine called The New York Tyrant. The ad showed the backside of a standing, naked, obese man holding a sword.
I submitted a story and said, "Where can I get more information on The New York Tyrant? There's no information anywhere. Also, can you give me a job? I really want to work for The New York Tyrant."
Someone—maybe you—replied, "The New York Tyrant is a brand spanking new strictly short fiction publication that will publish issues quarterly which will be beautiful books on the inside and out. We haven't any openings for workers or interns at the moment, but if you want to send us a resume, feel free to do so." I didn't send a resume.
Seven months later, I got an email signed "The Editors" that said, "The Tyrant thanks you for the opportunity to consider [my story]. After due consideration, however, we have come to the unfortunate conclusion that your story is not a good fit for our publication. Rejection is never a happy occasion, but rest assured that the anger and disappointment now stirring deep within your heart will only lead to greater things."
"I hate you," I replied. "No, just kidding. Thanks for the note." I submitted another story. When I withdrew it after it was accepted elsewhere, someone replied, "Damn. This is a good fucking story. Have anything else?" I submitted another story. A month later, when I withdrew it, someone replied, "Damn it, man. Give us a fucking chance."
"Dear Tao," you emailed me two weeks later. "Was at KGB the other night but had to leave before you read. Sorry I missed it. Look, we are already collecting for the second issue. If you have anything, send it our way. I promise I will read it as soon as it arrives. Your first two submissions got yanked so fast, we couldn't do anything for you. But we love your shit, so please resubmit." The email was signed "GianCarlo."
I submitted a story and withdrew it a week later. Three months later, I submitted a fifth story, which seems to have never elicited a response; six months after that, I submitted a sixth story, which you rejected eight months later, in June 2007: "Hello. We're gonna pass on this one, though. Thanks though." Your signature was "Giancarlo." You didn't ask me to submit again.
Two years later, in 2009, the year you started publishing books under Tyrant Books, you emailed me saying you'd started writing for Vice. You asked for a review copy of Shoplifting from American Apparel. Your signature was now "Gian."
The next year, in June, I emailed you asking if I could send you a copy of Richard Yates. You said yes. On July 2, you emailed me, "Happy Birthday, Tao. I won't say to have a great day, because that's so hard sometimes. So have a good day."
I thanked you, and you asked me if I knew a doctor who would prescribe Adderall, which you'd noticed me mentioning online. I gave you my phone number, and we began texting.
We met in person four weeks later, outside Bobst Library. I traded you Adderall for Percocet.
The next night, I went to an in-progress reading that you were at. I sat on a sofa in front of a low table. You were on the other side of the table. You passed me your phone. I picked it up and saw "sip," a typo for "sup."
I don't remember what we did that night, but the next day you texted me, "It was great hanging out with you last night. Still can't believe I lost those fucking pills."
"I had fun," I said. "We should do it again some time. Thanks again for the oxy."
"sip," you said.
"Heh," I said.
A week later, you emailed me detailed instructions on how to get painkillers from a Dr. Zhao in Chinatown: "Go in and be like, 'I got in a car crash when I was 13 and I have back pains. I need a prescription of: if you ask for oxys, It's what I take and I've just moved to town.'" The email ended nine sentences later with: "Anyway, good luck. This is like Lord of the Rings. I'm like a troll leading you to the gold. (oh yeah, this troll charges a finders fee of five pills from your first prescription.)"
In mid-August, we met at Think Coffee on 4th Avenue. I bought oxys from you. Afterward, I felt a pang of antagonism and disappointment when some of the drugs looked different than expected. I texted you, "Hey. 4 of these are blue with cursive Vs on them." You responded, "I know. They look different but they are all oxy 30s. Trust." And I trusted you again.
Late in August, I asked how you were doing, and you said, "Good, I guess. I'm always bored. Even with drugs." I said I was also bored. To solve this problem, you worked on getting LSD and mushrooms.
In September, you published a review of Richard Yates. The review was titled "I like Tao Lin now." It began, "I never fucking liked Tao Lin. I'd probably have liked his books more, given them their fighting chance, if he and his books hadn't been constantly shoved down my throat every day of the week for the past few years."
By then, we were texting regularly, mostly about drugs. I had just started using pharmaceutical drugs and psychedelics—out of boredom and curiosity—and was excited. You'd been using pills, powders, and psychedelics for an unknown amount of time and still seemed excited.
I don't know why or when you began to use drugs. Your cluster headaches, which you'd had since you were 15 or 16, were probably a factor. "In efforts to deal with this pain," you wrote in a 2016 article, "I've orally ingested, injected, snorted and/or smoked oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, demerol, dilaudid, cocaine, heroin, codeine, morphine, and more, all to no avail."
You introduced me to mushrooms and MDMA. You connected me with your dealer. We helped each other relieve boredom. I asked you questions like, "Any parties or want to sell Oxys to me?" and "Any chance of me getting more MDMA tonight?" You asked me questions like "Where can I charge my iPhone in soho?" and "I have some oxies. Wanna buy?" and "Know of any parties tonight?"
We discussed masturbation:
Me: In a hotel in rural Georgia. About to chug an energy drink and 'jack off.'
You: Does the energy drink increase the pleasure of the jack sesh? I never tried. Adderall makes me beat off like a madman.<
Me: It does, I feel. More blood flow. Addy actually makes me hornier but harder to get/remain hard.
You: Yeah, same with coke. But that doesn't stop me. I'll pull on it either way. Like a madman.
Me: Me too. Me too...
You: I asked Blake in that interview how many times he'd jacked in a row. He said four hours. I had a bunch of coke one time and jacked it looking at porn for over 24 hours. The whole time thinking to myself, "This is when you begin to lose your mind."
Me: Jesus...my record is probably ~2.5 hours but happens kinda often. I always feel good about it, seems like good exercise.
You: It's like, intense focus.
Me: It's probably as good or better than meditation for one's well-being. Someone should do a study. Meditation seems like...utterly no exercise.
You: I've always wondered if I could sit still, not touch my dick, and be able to come just by thinking. If the mind and body does it during "wet dreams" then it's possible.
We saw each other irregularly, at literary events and parties and afterparties. You always looked very stoned, with heavy eyelids and a placid, slightly dead gaze. Sometimes you smiled and grinned a lot; other times, you appeared bored or kind of worried or depressed. Like me, you seemed shyer in person than online.
In February 2011, you texted me, "I love you. Happy Valentine's Day to you and Megan!" Then you texted me, "Don't know why I said I love you. I do, but like I'm kind of fucked up." Two weeks later, I texted you, "Felt an urge to txt you 'I love you' & on only little Xanax and vyvanse," and you replied, "I love you same."
We had many ideas. We encouraged each other into productive activities—some panned out, some didn't, some were jokes. You said Vice should send us to South America to use ayahausca. I published your tweets in my online magazine. In June, you emailed me, "I was scrolling through the last year of our drug-addled text messages. Some funny stuff in there. Could be an 'epic' Vice post someday."
In October, Vice posted our texts from July 2010 to June 2011. We subtitled the post "a Dialogue of Texts in the Year of Drugs and Kindness." (After you died in 2021, I learned that many of your friendships featured playfully insulting and teasing each other; we never had that—we only praised each other.)
We weren't sure if posting the texts, in which we politely yet giddily discussed buying, selling, trading, and using a large variety of illegal drugs, was a good idea. The texts would appear unseemly and/or irresponsible and/or worrying to many people, we knew. But we also liked the idea—it seemed unexpected and funny and interesting. I said someone could "build a sitcom" out of our texts. You said, "The dialogue is perfect because it's actually real."
I was able to publish the texts because my only family in the States was my brother, and we weren't close; because I also wasn't close to my parents then; and because I didn't need to protect my reputation. As an editor, writer, and bartender, you also didn't need to protect your reputation, and, for whatever reason or reasons, you seemed to be okay with your friends and family potentially learning intimate details about your druggy lifestyle.
Your enthusiasm about publishing our private texts as public art informed this piece, in which I quote you extensively.
In January 2012, when you said your new dealer had asked you about books, I joked that he wanted to be in our next year's "year of texts."
"Lol totally," you said. "He wants the fame. He's tired of living a life of drug world anonymity."
"We should start our own drug dealing thing next year," I said.
"Publish books from profits, like lit gangsters, would be fucking chill," you said.
"Get writing residencies at Yaddo and use the time to figure out how to make our own MDMA."
"Show up to Yaddo with a truckload of chemicals and haz-mat suits 'We'll need our food delivered once a day, and no interruptions please.'"
In March, you said, "We need to hang more. I feel like you're like my best friend but I never see you URL / irl / I never see you URL lol." (Later, after Vice posted another year of our texts, you introduced me one day to a friend of yours whom I'd never heard of before. I remember him and/or you seeming kind of sheepish as one of you said that he was your best friend.)
In July, you said, "lol would be sweet if one of us died and then the one remaining (hopefully you) would just do one of lonely unreplied-to texts to no one," regarding a potential third post of our texts.
One reason we became friends was that we could joke about addiction and death. Other reasons: we had dark senses of humor, were hard to offend, liked being online, valued weirdness, and felt like outsiders.
Besides texts, we also emailed. We emailed each other around 1000 times each. We emailed the most in 2012 and 2013. We discussed literature and drugs. We both wrote for Vice and Thought Catalog. We both had independent presses. We published some of the same people. We promoted each other's projects.
You sent me drug-related articles ("Sartre + mescaline = lobsters") and videos (people smoking Salvia divinorum). I sent you a mattress recommendation. You sent me a link to an ostrich pillow—a pillow that encloses one's whole head. I sent you a drug-related excerpt of a John Cheever biography. You sent me a concert that you did in your apartment on piano on ketamine.
You talked about your cluster headaches. During what you called "cluster headache season," you flew to Italy to see your dad, who was sick. "I 'loaded up' on $1,500.00 of Imitrex shots and Stadol (nasal spray morphine, will save some to 'party' with you) yesterday to try and deal with them myself over there," you said. "I feel like my affection for painkillers is like my subconscious making up for all the pain of 20 years of these damned headaches. Like getting my time back or something. But that is most likely my addiction rationalizing things for me. heh."
Your headaches seemed terrible. "Went and got more nerve blockers injected into my head yesterday so I have been headache free for like 20 hours now," you said in one email. "Seems like a long time. Also, I am also using shrooms to cure the headaches and was on a mild trip when the doctor was injecting my skull. The injections swell and felt like bee stings afterward."
In June 2012, you solicited me for your magazine again. I submitted an excerpt from Taipei—my seventh submission—and you accepted it. You were considering stopping the magazine—it was a "moneysuck" and not "much fun" anymore—to focus on publishing books. You'd published four books by then.
I told you time was "moving way faster" for me and asked if you'd had a period of time when that happened to you, and you said,
Yes, in my late twenties is when it really started flying. A year is like nothing now. It used to seem like a lifetime. Also, there was like a four year period where I did nothing but party and I don't remember anything from that time. Maybe a couple of monumental moments, but mostly a blur of watching the sunrise every morning. I don't mind time flying though. I feel like I've done everything I want to do in life. Now I'm just like waiting for disease or tragedy. I don't know. Life is nice sometimes, but it mostly seems annoying/ridiculous.
In the same email, after mentioning that you hadn't been drinking alcohol because it triggered headaches, you said, "I smoke weed all day, every day, but I have done that my entire life it seems," which I hadn't known; we'd previously never discussed cannabis, which at that point I rarely smoked and didn't like.
On my 29th birthday, you sent me a song you'd improvised on piano. "I taught myself like three years ago," you said. "I have hundreds of songs. Can't read music, don't even know the names of keys. I only use white keys or black keys. Never been able to join them. I have to record them to remember them. Otherwise they disappear." You sent me another song, and I said it sounded like the soundtrack to Gattaca, one of my favorite movies, and you said, "I fucking love that movie."
You told me about your acne. "I suffered from horrible, grotesque, not-ever-wanting-to-leave-the-house-and-see-anyone acne all through high school and some of college and afterward. It was literally hell." I said your skin looked "great" now. "Thanks about my skin," you said. "I could have turned out a lot worse, like deep ass scars and shit. I took Accutane twice. It's like this hardcore acne medicine that apparently causes suicides. But I think all of the suicides were caused from the acne. Whenever I see someone young with terrible acne, I kind of pray for them."
In October 2012, I told you I was worried because I kept having reasons to extend a drug-binge that I was on, and you said,
I get in that postponing the end of binges too. Man, I think I'm really fucked up maybe. Whenever I like don't do painkillers for more than a week I have these vomiting attacks. And only eating painkillers helps me feel better. It's like not even my mind but my body that keeps "forcing" me to do drugs. I think I've ruined my stomach with drugs. Oh well. I'm sure it'll be fine.
You interviewed me for Vice. In a part that our editor deleted, you asked me about obese people. The characters in Richard Yates had seemed to make fun of obese people. I tried to explain that I viewed obese people with sympathy. You said,
I don't know, I feel like a lot of my attraction towards like fat guys or whatever comes from some kind of sympathy. Like I feel bad how they've been treated all their lives and like it's, to be honest, sometimes I feel like that's something...and then I think that there are other people that have been treated bad for other reasons and I'm not attracted to them at all so...I feel like there's some kind of endearing quality in the fact that they've put up with a lot of shit for their entire lives and for some reason that makes me love them or something. I don't know. It's really weird that it manifests itself through sex.
In a 2010 essay, you wrote about being gifted A Confederacy of Dunces from your dad when you were 21. "Until then, I'd always thought of myself as straight," you wrote. "I walked straight and I talked straight. I dated girls, I slept with girls, when I jacked off, I jacked off to girls." You "went fag," you wrote, while reading the novel. You "fell hard" for its "chubby mess" of a protagonist.
You gifted me a plastic figurine of a fat guy wearing a mask, and I kept it in view in my room. I sent you my favorite song by the band Swearin'—"Fat Chance," a song I said was "about feeling empathy for obese or overweight people"—and you said, "what a great song. there should be like a fat music genre."
I liked that you liked to revisit projects we'd done. You emailed me a link to our Vice interview a year after it was published and said, "so good. it angers me how the sweetest lit shit is on Vice but it's completely overlooked." The email ended, "Just did some coke and am drinking beers to sleep and looking at old shit that makes me smile." Another time, you sent me a link to our texts and said, "rereading this, dying laughing. feel like it didn't get the accolades it deserved."
After you profiled Junot Diaz for Playboy, you emailed me: "after my dad read the playboy piece he emailed me this: 'I am so proud of you I am about to burst. I'm telling all of my friends about my brilliant son.' He's never really complimented me before, or said he was proud. The email made me instantly cry. But like a joy cry."
Your mom hadn't believed you when you told her you were gay, I knew from an interview you did in March 2013, but your dad, who was "more worldly," a fan of Oscar Wilde, had been supportive.
In mid-2013, I reached a kind of bottom with pills and powders. I started using more psychedelics. I became obsessed with Terence McKenna, who promoted cannabis and other natural drugs, especially psilocybin. You got my new interests. You smoked weed as much as McKenna, and you loved psychedelics, which relieved your headaches—"nothing has provided me with even a 100th of the relief that psychedelics have," you wrote in your 2016 article.
You encouraged me to pitch a column on McKenna to our editor at Vice, and I did. When I thanked you for your encouragement, you said, "It was an encouragement of a selfish nature because I want to read that shit."
In August, on psilocybin at around four a.m., sobbing on my bed, I texted you that an alien was "in me," using my body to learn about "this thing we've got set up: family," and you said, "You don't think they have families?" and I called you. Years later, writing about this in my book Trip, I asked you about the call, and you said:
I can remember saying, "Don't forget that you're on drugs so whatever is happening will wear off once the drugs do. Just don't forget that you're fucked up at the moment." I think we were laughing? You also said you thought I was controlling you but I convinced you that I was, in fact, not controlling you. You might have said something about my voice being soothing. I was a little worried at first but after talking to you for a bit, I knew you'd be fine. I was doing shrooms like every day for my clusters during that period so felt like I could kind of understand the trip you were having.
That winter, I stopped going to parties and being in social situations. I isolated myself in my apartment. I used cannabis daily. I distanced myself from my friends, who were still deep into pharmaceutical drugs, but you and I continued talking, in part because we now shared an interest in cannabis and psychedelics.
In March 2014, I emailed you, "i can hear so much shit going on in apartments around mine when i'm very stoned. i hear someone talking to his dog and i've never heard anyone talking to their dog and i like never hear a dog. i hear like 5 dogs right now," and you replied, "lol. it's weird that in my building i sometimes feel like i can hear nothing from my neighbors and then other times, I can hear all kinds of shit. Like the guy upstairs with the piano who i started hearing play the songs i write and play on my piano. Like he heard me and then learned them and played them and i could hear it. Sometimes we would play at the same time and kind of play to each other i felt. Like I would play some, then he would as a kind of response."
We discussed Asians and gays. "I wish Asians did more for me, they don't do shit for me," I said. "Totally," you said. "I wish gays did more for me. I feel like I don't reap enough minority benefits from being gay. Maybe if I added it to my twitter bio. But I guess if anyone ever attacks me (in writing or irl) I can always say that they are a homophobe or scream 'I'm being hatecrimed!!' Really need to exploit this minority position in society. Gays just don't like me, I think. I only have one gay friend (Mark Doten) and the gay community has always treated me weirdly. Like just because I have none of the stereotypes, they don't feel like I am truly 'one of them' but I guess they are right. I don't feel like one of them." I said, "Felt strong connection with you on this, replacing gay with Asian."
We discussed feminism. After you published Marie Calloway's book, someone asked you if you considered it "a feminist text." You told me, "and I was just like, 'I have no idea. I don't even really know what feminism is exactly, but I think the world would be better off in the hands of women.' And then I think I was arguing that every country should do the opposite of China and they should kill the male babies and let the female ones live." I said McKenna had had that idea—to mitigate male dominance by having fewer male babies—and you said, "He said that? Sweet."
In May, I emailed you, "i'm extremely stoned. i just started daydreaming and thinking of how productive we're being during these past few years and how it'll be interesting to look back on things in like 10 years, in terms of literature. made it feel fun to keep going and see what happens." You said, "Totally totally totally, all counts."
In June, you emailed me, "dude. I did some h last night and I fell asleep standing up in my bathroom for 4 hours. I slept, standing straight up, for four fucking hours. I woke up mid fall face first into shower curtain and bathtub. Wish I could have that on video somehow." You seem to have used heroin—snorting or ingesting it—only occasionally, not regularly or addictively.
In May 2015, you said you'd been microdosing psilocybin. "Just eating like a large nibble every 4 days. I felt my headaches coming on twice this year and so ate like half a dose you would take to trip and it clear my head up and the headaches don't start. It's so amazing. It's like the only thing in life that I feel like being political or an activist for. Gonna freakin' march on Washington or some shit lol."
That December, I told you about my evolving drug use—"Been alternating days of weed capsules and days of LSD while in Taiwan"—and you said, "Nice weed and LSD cocktail. Should be good. Seems I am inundated with powders here in the city. There is always some kind of powder around to sniff."
You said you were going to Italy for two weeks. "When I was just there, I think I fell in love," you said. "I mean, I did fall in love, but I can't tell if it was just for four days or if it is still happening to me. I'm totally sabotaging every aspect of my entire life lol."
"Who is this person?"
"This guy I met in a train station in Campoleone, IT. Soon as we met he took me to have dinner at his mom's lol. Going back on the 30th. We'll see. I could just be being retarded. I feel like I'm halfway creating all this in my head. Oh well."
A month later, in January 2016, you said, "Went back to Italy and I am in love. Breaking up with Chris and moving to Italy in April to live with this guy. Crazy."
I wanted to leave New York City too, but I stayed that year and the next to focus on writing Trip and because, in fall 2017, I met someone and fell in love too.
In February 2018, you said you'd been dosing "like an 1/8th of a tab of acid every 5 or 6 days" for your headaches.
In March, you emailed me, "remember the doctor i went to and tried to get him to see you?" about Dr. Zhao with a link to a New York Post article titled "Doctor made $1M selling Xanax before bust: cops."
You invited me to Italy, where you seemed to be doing well. You'd gotten married to the man you'd met. You'd started a writing workshop with Chelsea Hodson. Your husband was the workshop's chef and tour guide. You seemed to enjoy teaching.
I moved out of the city in September, to rural New Jersey. In 2019, I stayed out of the city, moving to rural areas in upstate New York and then, in January 2020, to Hawaii.
In March 2020, I messaged you on Twitter (I no longer had a smart phone, no longer texted) a link to a book titled SIP, saying "It's our book."
"lmao NICE," you said. "Chapter One. The event was crowded, but at least he had drugs. 'I'll never find a place to sit to listen to this boring shit,' Tao thought just as he saw someone stand from their seat and walk towards the bar. He scurried over to the bench and sat down, filled with the small joy of not having to stand for an hour. Tao was blankly staring at the glass table at his knees when a cell phone appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, on the table before him. The screen was illuminated and open to the Notes app. One word, three letters: sip. What could it mean?"
"Gian made his way to the back of the reading, choosing a seat at a table where he couldn't see the readers and wasn't facing the stage," I said. "He noticed a small Asian person sit down across from him. It was that annoying Chinese-looking kid who was always promoting his books online."
"Tao looked up from the phone and across the table. Smiling, and obviously on opiates by the look of his eyelids, sat this guy named Gian who had just written a Vice piece about me. It was called 'I like Tao lin Now.' This confuses Tao. Why didn't Gian like him before? What has he done to him? But Gian had confessed his new feelings in the article and the love in the article dominated anything between them in the past."
In April, I asked if Italy was still on lockdown. You said it was. "i've gotten used to it," you said. "it's kinda how i lived before anyway. i've always worked from home. sucks though because we can't even go for walks or leave the house for anything except grocer and pharmacy. and been running for past few months but can't now."
In July, I asked how the lockdown was going. You said it was back to normal. "feel so much of america is fucked," you said. "i feel like i'm never gonna see people from america again. kind of scary. what a whack-ass year."
"We got out of NYC at a good time," I said. "We were there for the fun apocalypse, in 2010-2013."
In January 2021, after listening to an interview you'd done for a podcast, I messaged you, "Liking your talk with Sean a lot. Making me miss you and also want to write."
A week later, we discussed an idea you had for an anthology of one story edited by various editors. We worked on a list of editors to include. We brainstormed which story to use. You said I should publish it. I said you should.
We discussed other things, then you said, "dude / i tripped my balls off last night / such a long story / but i thought i was god's angel here to do his work / and had all the power in the world / so wild / i called my brother and sister and freaked them out / i was just medicating for my clusters and went too far lol / but so beautiful / the most beautiful experience i've had in my life / i was convinced i would be king of Italy lmao / feel so happy today."
Two days later, out of nowhere, you said, "wild to think where we were 8 years ago."
"yes. 2013. damn," I said.
"lmao. i was a freakin mess," you said. "'gian r u there' 'the aliens' 'they're interested in this thing we have' 'family.'" i owe you for getting me to this place where i finally feel happy and enjoy life."
"lol, forgot the aliens texts, and calling you. your voice was coming out of my head, or from in my head, it seemed. was so sweet. nice, glad you feel that way. i owe you for getting me into and out of whatever happened i think."
"lmaooooo," you said. "we owe each other. nice."
You asked if I was on WhatsApp or Signal. "wanna tell you about something like just in texts or whatever but i don't think i have your number or even if you use a phone anymore," you said.
I didn't have WhatsApp or Signal. I gave you my Google Voice number, where I could get text messages. I don't know what you wanted to tell me—you never texted—but maybe it was about your new press.
A week later, on February 1, you tweeted "I'm launching another press soon. Please stand by..." with two images of the logo for the press, which was called DiTrapano.
"sweet logo and name," I messaged you.
"thanks man. it's gonna be huge launch. honor sean molly brodak gabriel."
"excited," I said.
"me too like tons. dreamt you said it wasn't good."
"damn," I said.
That was the last time we talked.
Eight weeks later, I learned from a mutual friend that you'd been found dead in a hotel in New York City, where you were visiting to have meetings about your new press.
I'm not sure how you died. The mutual friend said he'd heard that a bad batch of heroin was going around New York City, and that multiple people had died.
One of the last people you talked to was Hamilton Morris, another mutual friend. On his podcast, he said you'd visited his apartment. While there, you'd briefly left to buy heroin—not for "some kind of dark destructive use," said Hamilton on his podcast, but as "a pure celebration of life." Hamilton had told you to be careful—the heroin might be cut with fentanyl. You'd told Hamilton your dealer had said the heroin had been triple-tested for fentanyl. Hamilton had told you not to believe your dealer.
But then later, in an email, Hamilton told me he'd analyzed the heroin and found no synthetic opioids other than heroin.
However you died, it seems to have been an accident. You didn't seem to have anything like a deathwish by that point in your life.
After your death was announced online, there was an outpouring of praise for you and your work. You'd published ten issues of New York Tyrant, 24 books, and fifty-something pieces of your own writing, including fiction and journalism.
The Believer, The Paris Review, and other magazines posted remembrances of you. It felt like you'd exploded onto the internet, infusing your friends and acquaintances with your life and ideas, resulting in inspired pieces of writing, bringing people together.
I tweeted "Feel heartened by all the praise of Gian and the sharing of memories of him. I feel like he's out there, seeing all this." I tweeted a screenshot of our messages in which you'd said you finally felt happy.
I tweeted "Thank you for your friendship, Gian. Thank you for your warmth, support, playfulness, open-mindedness, ideas, energy, and excitement. Thank you for enjoying literature and drugs with me and for spending time with me. Thank you for publishing the books that you did. I'll miss you."
I reread our correspondences and collaborations. I printed and read your published writing. I wrote this story, thinking about what you would've liked for me to say, what you would've wanted people to know.
And I organized this post in memory of you, publishing it on May 11, 2021, six weeks after you died.
at The Believer
at The Paris Review
at The New York Times
INTERVIEWS WITH GIAN
Thought Catalog (2013)
Los Angeles Review of Books (2013)
Charleston Gazette-Mail (2013)
Dazed Digital (2014)
Cultured Vultures (2016)
WRITING BY GIAN
The Rumor That Reached West Virginia (2002)
How to Become a Prayer (2008)
Murder Me Before I Become Something, Appalachia (2008)
Prayer in Reverse (2009)
48 pieces at Vice (2009-2016)
7 pieces at Thought Catalog (2010-11)
The Difficulties of Being Giancarlo DiTrapano (2010)
Department of Sex Ed (2010)
A Dialogue of Texts in the Year of Drugs and Kindness (2011)
Breece's Bones (2011)
A Dialogue of Texts in the Second Year of Drugs and Kindness (2012)
Do You Feel Bigger Than What You Are? (2013)