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Tim Kinsella Novel Explores Life of Mysterious Actress Laurie Bird

 The novel, which came out in April, marks his second work of fiction.
Tim Kinsella Writes 'Let Go and Go On and On'
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WICKER PARK — When most B- or C-list actors fade from the big screen, audiences tend to forget about them, and cinema moves on.

But when it came to actress Laurie Bird, who appeared in just three films in the 1970s before committing suicide at the age of 25, Joan of Arc and Owls musician Tim Kinsella developed a fascination.

"She represented just like this dark drifter," said Kinsella, a longtime resident of Wicker Park. "The promise of the '60s had failed, and people were just wrapping their minds around this disappointment."

In 2005, Kinsella began what would be an eight-year process of blending what little is known about Bird with accounts drawn from her characters in "Two-Lane Blacktop," "Cockfighter" and "Annie Hall."

The result, Curbside Splendor's "Let Go and Go On and On," is Kinsella's second novel, which he wrote in between creating the latest Owls album and writing his 2011 debut fiction, "The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self-Defense," among his many other projects.

Kinsella, himself a would-be celebrity often credited with influencing a number of emo bands while managing to tread along the edges of greater fame, first came across Bird's 1971 film "Two-Lane Blacktop" while working at the now-shuttered Big Brother video store in the '90s.

"We only came in during the day, so we would just smoke pot all day and watch movies," said Kinsella, who called it "the best job."

When he saw the film, "It was like, 'Oh my God what a megababe,'" he said. He went to find more of her films before realizing there wasn't much to find.

After revisiting the movie some years later and again wondering what happened to Bird, he decided he'd fill in the blanks.

Kinsella said part of the reason why the novel took so much time was because he was fictionalizing an actual person whose death affected the ones she left behind, like Art Garfunkel, who was dating Bird at the time of her death, and Monte Hellman, who directed her in "Two-Lane Blacktop."

Kinsella said he'd reached out to Hellman a number of times to interview him ahead of the novel without any luck. After the novel came out last month, Kinsella sent over a copy to the director.

"It was a real tragedy to real people," Kinsella said. "So I couldn't just like willy-nilly imagine her. It had to be, like, very respectful. So it took a long time to figure out the narrative perspective to do that from."

He wrote the novel in the second person, though he characterizes the narration as more like "a first person who just doesn't enter until the last quarter."

Kinsella said he also took a few lessons from his first novel, which he actually started after he began writing "Let Go."

Kinsella, who tends to work on his endeavors on-and-off, put this novel down for a few years and picked it up again after "Self-Defense" was published.

"I was really aware that the first book was real dense, you know, because I just get caught up," Kinsella said.

He experimented with various sentence structures on this novel before deciding on a less conventional mode.

"What I’m drawn to is the language, you know," Kinsella said. "I don’t know what it it is, but something deep inside me responds to the rhythms in language. I sort of realized if I made each sentence a paragraph it would convey this weird sense of how time passes."

Now, Kinsella is writing a third novel, and since the release of Owls' second album, he said his music schedule has been lighter. As for Joan of Arc, Kinsella said the group members are on hiatus but may revisit things at the end of the year and see where they're at.

He also continues to tend bar at Rainbo Club, 1150 N. Damen Ave., for a few hours a month.

"I’m afraid if I were to quit my friends would start charging me for drinks there," Kinsella said.

He's also working on producing projects for friends and up-and-coming artists as a sort of giving back, he said.

"It feels very good to be doing the business end of helping other people get their stuff out in the world."

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