I love the title of your new book!
Thank you! I didn’t think of it. It was originally called–
I just love mermaids.
It’s actually a rusalka, which is the mermaid of Slavic folklore. They are these kind of spooky, spectral siren figures that are the souls of wronged women – illegitimate mothers, brides left at the altar, pregnant suicides. So the mermaid in the book is a kind of a spirit. In my first draft I didn’t even mention the word “mermaid.” I had this idea it would be like Zone One, that great Colson Whitehead zombie novel that never once says zombie in it. But then I remembered I’m not Colson Whitehead.
April 28, 2013
Before I died the first time, my husband left me broke and alone with our two tiny children and it made me feel very depressed, etc. It’s the same old story: He went to buy cigarettes and never came home. Really. Wouldn’t you think you’d want to pack a bag or two, leave a forwarding address? Couldn’t he have at least taken the dog? These were the things I wondered in the beginning. Not: was he having an affair, or: was he mixed up in something nefarious, but: I can’t believe he wouldn’t bring his datebook, his favorite loafers; I can’t believe he didn’t change the lightbulb in the hallway before deserting us. He knew I couldn’t reach that lightbulb. The whole thing was unlike him. Then again, I was the one who died, which was unlike me, too.
The immensely talented Rob Roberge writes like the love child of Denis Johnson and Thomas McGuane. Cheryl Strayed calls his new novel, The Cost of Living, “Drop dead gorgeous and mind-bendingly smart.” It’s something I imagine you, your neighbor, your sponsor, and your lover will want to read. You might not want your kids to read it until they’re well over 18. In fact, Roberge is so wonderfully frank and open that this interview is being posted anonymously so that my kids won’t get wind of this conversation.
The day had started out with me shitting blood. A little later, I was shivering in Doc’s passenger seat under the warm July California sun, asking Doc about the blood while we were on the way to Tustin to see this friend of his who was supposed to help us get some morphine.
According to my esteemed Dictionary.com, a tin god is someone, esp. a minor official, who is pompous and self-important. I’m referring to my fallen conquistador who perhaps was once pompous and self-important but as soon as he is relegated to the journey into the unknown, he’s in trouble. He has to gouge a dead comrade out of his armor and steal his tin hat in order to protect himself. His deterioration is a paean to “A Distant Episode,” Paul Bowles’ perfect story about the fall of an academic in Morocco, although maybe all stories about the disoriented in exotic climes derive from Bowles or maybe Dante’s Inferno, or even Rabelais whose narrator resides inside Pantagruel’s mouth for six months and discovers an entire nation living around his teeth.