So would you care to set the record straight?

I most absolutely would. First of all, if I’d known there was going to be popcorn I would not have taken my own under any circumstances. Anybody who knows me knows that. Second of all, the Taurus was blue, not green. Sort of a bluish-green. I wish the newspapers could get that much right at least. Third of all, the librarian’s name was Brook, not Brooke-with-an-e, just Brook, B-R-O-O-K, like the nice word for a creek. You know that word, right? Everybody knows that word. And I kind of loved her for that, for having a name that stopped right there at the k, but I never told her, and now of course it’s too late.

 

 

Actually, all I meant was—

Fourth of all. Damnit. Do you have maybe an aspirin or something? No? Fourth of all. Okay. Fourth of all, it was almost Halloween, so people were expecting things to go a little weird, or if they weren’t they should have been. Fifth of all, right, this new tattoo. It says “while you can still walk” in Finnish. That’s what the guy told me, anyway. I find it very helpful.

 

 

Sorry, if I can just break in here, I was actually just asking about how much of your new novel is autobiographical.

Oh.

 

 

Are there parts, like maybe that scene with the turkey out in front of the Language Center, or that bit about the deer pen, how John and Pilar used to—

Sixth of all, there is no sixth of all, what are you trying to pull? Seventh of all, it wasn’t so much what the mechanic said as how he said it. Eighth of all, remember that thing with Foch, that whole “Hard pressed on my right, my center is yielding, impossible to maneuver, situation excellent, I attack” thing? What I’ve learned is, there are actually certain circumstances like for example that day at the library we were just talking about where maybe that’s not the most appropriate strategy.

 

 

You did mention a librarian, but I don’t remember you—

Ninth of all, I never saw that crowbar before ever in my entire life. I know it looks like that crowbar they got me with on the security camera there at the Stop ‘N’ Shop back in ’06, but mine had this scratch on the side? That other one had no scratch on the side, but the judge, anyway, so also, tenth of all, there’s no way that girl was sixteen, at least that’s not what she told me, plus also she said it was just flour in the thing there with the mirror and we were going to make bread. That’s all it was, flour for bread. Or so I thought. Because that’s what she told me. The old-looking girl. And twelfth of all, those Martians, aliens, whatever, they were perfectly nice people.

 

 

You mean eleventh of all.

No, eleventh of all was the bread. Are you even paying attention?

 

 

Sorry, I—

But I am never going back to that hill. You can’t make me go back to that hill. I didn’t lose anything up on that hill and I am never, ever, ever going back.

 

 

Okay. Right, okay. Um. Getting back to the topic at hand, what would you say are the main themes of your oeuvre? For example, in all three of your books, from Nothing in the World through many of the stories in All Over and now especially in your new novel Pacazo, you seem to be concerned—almost obsessed, one might say—with attempts at both retribution and reconciliation, as well as with the deep tissue damage that our histories, our national and regional and personal histories, combine to—

That guy Bouvain? He had it coming.

 

 

Bouvain? Is he one of the characters? I don’t seem to remember—

(Puts on his Jaw Bone Visor Sallet Helm, suitable for both foot and mounted combat).

 

 

What are you doing?

(Muffled.)

 

 

What?

(Lowers visor.) What’s a pompetus?

 

 

A what now?

No one’s ever called me the space cowboy.

 

 

Well—

Not even when I asked them to.

 

 

Okay, we seem to—

I bet you a million dollars I could put a big fucking sign on my back that says THE SPACE COWBOY in huge fucking letters and still no one would ever call me that. Fuckers. (Leaves.)

 

 

Hold on, hold on, before you go, any advice for young writers?

(Trailing off into the distance, singing muffledly, though he has not raised the visor.) Jungle love, it’s drivin’ me mad, it’s makin’ me crazy, crazy. Jungle love, it’s drivin’ me mad, it’s makin’ me…

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ROY KESEY'S most recent book is the novel Pacazo (USA: Dzanc Books, 2011; UK & Commonwealth: Random House 2012), which The Times has praised as “big, intelligent and wonderfully original.” His previous books include the award-winning novella Nothing in the World, a historical guide to the Chinese city of Nanjing, and a short story collection called All Over, which made The L Magazine's “Best Books of the Decade” list. His short stories, essays, translations and poems have appeared in more than a hundred magazines and anthologies, including Best American Short Stories, The Robert Olen Butler Prize Anthology and New Sudden Fiction. He is the recipient of a 2010 prose fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and currently lives in Peru with his wife and children. www.roykesey.com

9 responses to “Roy Kesey: The TNB 
Self-Interview”

  1. Jessica Blau says:

    Very funny! I love that you used POMPETUS and OEUVRE in the same interview.

  2. John Domini says:

    I have learned much today, Kesey-san. I must go off and think.

  3. D.R. Haney says:

    What’s a pompetus?

    That’s the question, isn’t it? Did you know there’s a movie called “The Pompetus of Love,” which begins with the characters all wondering what Steve Miller had in mind? I always kind of assumed that Steve Miller had no mind, but then, I’m not one of the characters in “The Pompetus of Love,” thank God.

    • Roy Kesey says:

      I did not know about that movie. I’m going to assume that the director had access to some kind of time travel machine, and that he went into his future (my past) and read my self-interview and stole my idea from me. I shall go sue him now. Thank you, D.R.!

  4. Roy Kesey says:

    I most certainly will, Duke, and thanks for the link. Case closed, obviously. We’ll be rolling in it.

  5. […] think I’ll stick with the answer I gave there , if that’s all […]

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