When did you start writing?

I was five, maybe six when I wrote and illustrated “My Autobiography.” I’ll read it to you: “I was born. I was a very very fat babby [sic].” I’d love to have that kind of brevity these days.


Who were you in a past life?

I’d like to say I was a vampire and that I’ve been around for eternity, but it’s simply not true. If I had to guess, I’d say I was either a French troubadour in the twelfth century or one of the painters of the Lascaux caves. I believe that we recycle proclivities from life to life. Which might explain why so much of my writing is infused with ideas from songs and/or images. Then again, maybe I was a snail, which might explain why I love being at home and traveling. Or perhaps I was an elephant, which might explain my preoccupation with memory and family.


What were you doing when the music died?

If you think it died when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, then I was a young child, likely asleep at home (in Manhattan). But if you think it died when John Lennon was killed, then I was hanging out with an English musician named Roy Pries in a bar called the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, California. Suddenly a TV crew came in and started asking everyone how they felt about John Lennon dying. None of us had heard the news (oh boy).


If you hadn’t become a writer, what vocation might you have pursued?

I would have become a mathematician. Not only is mathematics the true universal language, it is a discipline infused with thinking derived from many different cultures. And if I had become a mathematician, I’m pretty sure I would have devoted myself to the study of imaginary numbers.


Has there ever been a period of time when you were not your usual self and you did things that were unusual for you or that other people might have thought were excessive, foolish, or risky?

I’ve done a lot of excessive, foolish, and risky things that may seem unusual for other people. But I’m pretty sure it was always my usual self doing them and that they were usual for me at the time.


What is your favorite curse word?

Bordel, a French swear word. It means, literally, “brothel,” but if you say “c’est un bordel,” it means “what a mess.” I really love traditional curses, such as “May your left ear wither and fall into your right pocket” and “May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself can’t find you with a telescope.”


Spiderman or Batman?

That’s really hard. Spiderman has that catch-you-in-my-web allure. Plus he’s more of a loner than Batman, who is part of a Dynamic Duo and is assisted by Alfred. Batman offers a kind of sexual ambiguity that I find alluring, and of course, he drives the Batmobile and stashes all his toys and gadgets and bat suits in the supremely cool Batcave. Both, I guess (though if you were asking me to choose between Toby Maguire and Michael Keaton, I’d go for Keaton).


What is your favorite animal and why?

Everything but humans. For the obvious reasons.


For the sake of this interview, can’t you just pick one.

On Sundays, my favorite animal is the otter because an otter knows how to frolic. On Mondays, I like elephants most, because they remember that life is not all about going back to work. On Tuesdays, especially those Tuesdays when I am apt to hit the snooze button ten times, I favor bears because they can be grizzly, black, polar, brown, or teddy. On Wednesdays, I love dolphins and whales because they are clever. Thursdays my favorite animals are all the birds—raptors, finches, corvids, etc.—because by Thursday, I wish I had wings. Fridays find me favoring the felines, especially my own cat. On Saturday, my favorite animal is canine, and in particular, my dog.


At times I have very much wanted to leave home. (check one):

True    X

False

I actually did run away from home, twice. When I was thirteen, I hid in my boyfriend, Richard’s, closet and read Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The second time, I was sixteen and I went to my best friend’s house because I wanted to hang out with her and also because I had a crush on her brother Richie; her mother drove the school bus.  These days I’m a pretty staunch homebody and would more likely feel compelled to leave my office. Though there are always moments when I’d like to be twenty again and have the kind of freedom where I could just take off and go wherever I pleased.


What is your favorite word?

Ludic.


What is the word you hate most?

Like, especially when it’s used as an interjection.


You allude to birds often in your writing. But you never write about your phobias about bugs. Why is that?

Growing up in New York City before the invention of the Roach Motel and before we knew about boric acid, I was exposed to cockroaches on a daily basis. They freaked me out—something about the way they twitched their antennae seemed sneaky and underhanded. I’d call for my father to kill them. My mother tried to alleviate my fears by naming them and talking to them as if they were guests, but that only freaked me out more. That’s all I can really say about it.


What plant or animal would you like to be reincarnated as?

A patch of moss, if a plant. A raven if an animal.


You take pleasure in putting things in order (check one):

Yes     X

No

Some years ago I assisted a good friend in throwing a party by doing all the cooking for over seventy people. One of the guests asked me how I managed this and I explained that it simply required a great deal of organization and planning ahead. Out of the blue, she asked me, “Did you play with files as a kid?” Her question stunned me because I had played with files; my dad, if he had to work on a Saturday, often took me to his office. I would play an imaginary game of spy in the file room.


What historical figure is your hero?

Miriam, sister of Moses. She knew what was happening around her—had her ear to the ground, so to speak—and took action. Plus, when the Jews were leaving Egypt, she played a tambourine and danced her way across the parted Red Sea and out of slavery. She was able to locate water in the desert. And she was a prophet. These are all good qualities to have when you’re in a hot place, no oasis in sight, accompanied by both your extended family and your tribe, for forty years, with no plumbing, no maps, and a brother who keeps receiving all the divine messages.


Do you have a tattoo?

No.


If you did have a tattoo, what and where would it be?

A small raven feather, on my shoulder.


Who were your favorite writers when you were growing up?

As a child, I was a devout fan of E. B. White—Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, Walter Farley’s books about the black stallion, Bob Dylan’s musical poems. I was nine when I first read a novel, and it was For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway remains one of my favorite writers today. As a teenager, I devoured dramatic literature—in particular, Eugene O’Neill, Henrik Ibsen, Elmer Rice, August Strindberg, Samuel Beckett. In my twenties, Virginia Woolf claimed favorite status, a place she still occupies, alongside James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Joan Didion, John Berger, Susan Sontag, and a cast of many more.


If prostitution is wrong, then why are there so many examples of it in Genesis?

This could be a very long answer, but I’ll encapsulate two thousand years of history by saying that it wasn’t until the Church institutionalized religion that prostitution became wrong. Back in the days of Genesis, prostitutes were priestesses of the sacred temples, initiating the uninitiated in the ways of love.


What is your opposite gender name?

Alexander. (To my friend Alexander, I say: I am not making this up; the computer generated this answer.)


Where did your god come from?

From someone’s imagination. And, because I was raised as a Jew, a mezuzah on the doorframe, I tend to think a little like Lenny Bruce, who said that God lives in that little box on a slant in the doorway.


Evil spirits possess me at times (check one):

True    X

False

Only when I watch Fox News, listen to Sarah Palin, contemplate the eight years of Republican undoing, see pictures of oil-drenched wildlife, and/or on the eve of a blue moon.


Whose face would you choose to illustrate a new bank note?

Mick Jagger, with the inscription “You can’t always get you want” on one side and “Can’t get no satisfaction” on the other. That way, whenever people would spend it, they’d have a message about the evils of consumerism that would be roughly equivalent to the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes.


What century would you have preferred to have lived in?

Pre-contact, on the island of Manahatta.


After you die, what would you like God (if you think God exists) to say to you?

Let’s dance.


Do you feel guilty if you cry in public?

No, I just feel self-conscious.


Who is your favorite fictional character?

Charlotte the spider.


What is your favorite drug?

Feeling awakened.


My soul sometimes leaves my body (check one):

True   X

False

Only when it’s invited to ride the Soul Train. It always comes back. And no one ever offers me riches beyond compare for it.


What is the quality you most admire in dogs?

The way they wag their tails as if to say “What’s the next good thing?”


Has there ever been a time when you were not your usual self and thoughts raced through your head or you couldn’t slow your mind down?

Only when I have too much caffeine.


Who is your favorite character in a work of nonfiction?

Fred the dog in E. B. White’s essays.


Night or day?

Neither. I’ll take twilight, dusk, dawn, those liminal times of day when the mind is sharp and the light diffuse and creatures are awakening or preparing to settle down.


***

Thanks to David Foster Wallace for the title. Answers to more writerly questions can be found on interviews links or posted at my Web site: www.kimdanakupperman.com. Questions for this self-interview were compiled from a variety of sources, including e-mails from friends, The Mood Disorder Questionnaire, the Proust Questionnaire, the Bernard Pivot Questionnaire, a MySpace Either/Or Survey, an Online Name Generator, the Heirophant’s Proselytizer Questionnaire, the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and an online emotions test.

A small rabbit, a small bullet of pepper brown fur, fires across my line of vision. 

The ground underfoot, a soft springy marshmallow of mud, moist with a recent smattering of light rain, clings in clumps to my boot heel. I unzip my pale green corduroy jacket; it’s warm, early evening. The sun is setting, casting strange and interesting patterns of light in the dimming sky.

The sky is smothered by thin, wispy pink candy floss clouds; closer to the horizon the clouds are thicker, darker, smoggier— like smoke. The sky is red; a deep, menacing red, molten sunlight oozing across the skyline.

The billowing eye of a volcano— spread 180 degrees across the periphery of my vision.

About two hours earlier I was sitting in a darkened room; curtains drawn, lights off. The volume is right down low on the stereo— emitting the dreamy, nasal tones of Mr Robert Zimmerman.

Mr Tambourine man himself… soothing… fears? I don’t know; fifteen minutes previously I’d had my papers stamped and was officially out of formal education. The last time I was not in formal education: the summer of 1995. I was five years old.

There was no fear; only excitement.

The times they are a-changing.

I was fidgeting— boredom and frustration I’d never experienced before… I wanted to escape, to explore somewhere… A pure, natural urge came over me. I pulled on my boots almost without thinking; pulled on my corduroy jacket, locked the door and starting walking.

 The campus on which I live is small— but it is built on acres of parkland; this is where I was walking to. I intended to explore it, as well as find solace and calm and try and breathe new life into a jammed, cobwebbed mind.

The fresh air will do you good.

About 200 yards into my woodland adventure I found a path, a path curiosity and social convention led me to follow. After an additional 300 yards I turned around.

Never look back.

I looked back. From 500 yards away the entire campus was visible— from the North Car Park to the South. It clicked.

No wonder I feel trapped.

The smallness of the university hit me; the compactness. Frightening to think I’d lived most of the last 5 months in such a confined space— a zoo animal jumping through hoops for those in charge.


Leaves are falling all around

It’s time I was on my way

Thanks to you, I’m much obliged

For such a pleasant stay


And I ramble on.

Through the banality of English countryside— my head (and lungs) polluted by the motorway that cuts through the landscape; a dappled grey tarmac scar across the face of this green and pleasant land.

The day is warm; surprising given the recent snowfall— and excited rumours of more to come. The sky, though bright and baby blue, is heavy with crisp white cloud.

I jump a moss embossed fence, the grounds takes a steady and slow slant down towards a small stream. We usually call them rivers, although they are small and shallow; slow running water too. So slow any salmon would have great difficulty in deciding which way was upstream; but they are freshwater fish, this is almost certainly not freshwater.

I see a house, a house that seems to be built on the river. This truly gave my mind something to focus on; a taste of adventure.

My mind grew increasingly inquisitive and curious over the walk; like a kitten.

Curiosity killed the cat.

I don’t shit in trays, I’ll be ok.

There was a very clearly defined boundary— a fence stating that this was PRIVATE property; nonetheless I got close enough to have a good gawk.

The house was built on a bridge over the stream. Up on stilts like an unimpressive clown, long, white and rectangular— a cuboid, with a small patch of garden on either side. The side I was on had several rabbit hutches.

This I found weird. The University of Essex is famed for it’s rabbit riddled grounds— they do, after all, breed like lapin. And here, in this magical house/bridge were several of the species incarcerated and domesticated; imprisoned for the thrill of cleaning water bottles, cutting lettuce and scrapping nuggets of shit off cheap plywood cages.

I wondered if the free rabbits ever see their caged brethrin; or vice versa. A Rabbit in the Striped Pyjamas kind of thing.

I thought probably not.

I headed back towards my path, the clouds spitting rain— playfully, not spitefully.

The path led me to the top of a bridge/dam; the water ran right through, but through a pipe in the brick structure— an elaborate and beautifully quaint construction.

I sat on the edge for some time; staring downstream, facing the house on stilts and the Sun which shone just behind the strange dwelling, dappling the still stream with specks of light and flecks of sunshine. The surface glimmered; metallic and shiny. It looked like liquid mercury.

The water was bombing out of the brick pipe onto a concrete platform and then slowing and slinking into the body of the stream.

It occurred to me it would be fairly easy to climb down the embankment on the far side and get onto the concrete platform; take a closer look— see what’s at the end of the intriguing pipe.

Hardly Huckleberry Finn.

It beats waiting for a notification.

I got down without falling over— or in, and made the small leap onto the concrete platform, less than quarter of an inch deep; the water was projected forwards, the short platform, if it had any use, was to slow the speed of flow.

I got right up close to the pipe— darting round I could see the fading light filtered through and around the house-bridge. I was almost at water level; standing like one of the structures clownish stilts.

The intoxicating beauty of the scene could only distract for a moment; the curiosity of the pipe was too much. I bent down to take a peek; the pipe was too long, fading into pitch black nothing.

No light at the end of the tunnel.

I walked through the flow to see if a different angle would proffer a different view; but alas no, the same pitch black nothingness.

However, a cluster of dead leaves and twigs caught my eye; the vicious flow of the (ice cold) water barrelled down and bounced off to the side— deflecting, and slowing, the stream.

I pulled at the natural debris; a strong tug was enough to yank it loose and the flow quickened and thickened and glistened; riding straight on through at such ferocity my jeans soon became smattered and spattered with heavy flecks.

I leapt back over the now fierce flow and clambered back onto dry land.

Terra Firma.

The next thing I see: a cluster of buildings through the trees, some new, some clearly Victorian and some just grand. However, I decided as I was heading back this way I would explore that further then.

About 100 yards later, in a dark, brooding corner— far off the path, I find a strange white building. Exactly the same as one I’d seen when I first set off— I’d assumed it was the private counselling building. They have it slightly off campus so you don’t have to go through the humiliation of other people seeing you facing up to the mental or personal problems that we all need guidance with to some degree.

But this one was way off. I’d walked maybe an hour from campus— in roughly a straight trajectory.

It was an octagon. That was intriguing— as was the white paint, peeling like zombie flesh, from the wood panelling. Each wall had a church-like window— although dusty and murky.

The door was locked and there was no bell. No sign of life. I assumed it was abandoned— but through the sepia filter of the single pane magazines and chairs and other rooms became visible. It was spooky. Texas Chainsaw creepy.

Had a retard wearing a human face as a balaclava pounced with a rusty chainsaw I would not have been entirely surprised.

If anything my next discovery was ever more terrifying; more so due to pounding footsteps.

This is it.

This is the end.

This is ho-

A harmless jogger— a beautiful jogger; a fellow student, her hooded top indicated she was on the NETBALL team.

Her dusty blonde pigtails bobbed with each confident stride; her legs tanned and toned; almost succulent. She turned and smiled— the sun too bright to clearly make out anything but a million dollar smile and the sheer radiance only the combination of health, happiness and beauty can emit.

I may or may not have stared too long— she kept looking back; she upped her pace.

Paranoid?

Who told you?


I fought through a hedge and stumbled across a synapse popping scene.

Looming over me, a huge rusty satellite dish; clearly ancient. It was like something from Return of the Jedi; for a moment I am on the forest moon of Endor.

Panels of wood lay scattered— what was clearly once a hut. Some panels stand limp, but erect. The floor is over grown with weeds and burnt bronze leaves, fallen from surrounding oaks.

A plug pokes out from the rusted foliage; clearing the leaves I follow the thick plastic lead to a dead end— a mess of pulled and broken copper wire.

A steel filing cabinet, gutted and empty, stands in a corner. In another stands a table and the remains of an almost prehistoric computer— a simplistic circuit board poking from a hard, brown, plastic shell.

There is technological debris all over the scene. The freaky nature of this place isn’t that it is a satellite station; nor that it is long abandoned, but the manner in which it seems to have been abandoned.

Shells of equipment remain, panels are cracked and battered; the height of innovation left to rot and die.

It feels very much like the place was raided or destroyed rather than decommissioned. It didn’t feel like a happy place.

I decided to make my way back; stopping first at the Victorian buildings.

Signs indicated this was all part of my university— except of course I was no longer part of the university and hadn’t been for some two hours. Technically I was trespassing.

I explored artificial alleys and Victorian courtyards.

One had a tall mesh gate, open. I walked through and found three options; walk back out, walk up that staircase into an empty conference room or walk up those steps that simply go up and out of sight.

Forty three seconds later I find myself at the pinnacle of the black iron staircase— a fire escape serving three large windows in the roof. I am level with the adjoining roof.

The staircase has railing all around to stop mischievous wanderers climbing onto the roof.

You are not Spiderman

I’m Peter Parkour.


I jumped the railing.

I was now on the roof of the Constable building.

Beneath me science students went about their courses; just like any other day of the week, except today I was standing on their roof.

Not just standing, walking.

I felt the impulse to climb— I assessed me chances. There was no route, no safe route, back to ground level.

I walked the length of the building looking. I could get so far down, but then I’d have to risk a jump; my withdrawal meant I was not insured for accidents on Essex University property. And I am not a natural risk taker. I still wasn’t quite sure why the fuck I was on the roof of the fucking Constable building— a building that I didn’t even know the existence of until approximately five minutes ago.

I got as close to the edge as I dared and surveyed the car park.

Shit.

People.

Panic.

Did they see?

He defnitely saw.

Or did he?

I headed back over to the fire escape, barrelled down like a stream through brick pipe and decided I should be leaving now.

Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.

I got to the car park I had been surveying.

The Sun was setting now— shades of crimson leaking across the horizon.

The car park I had been surveyed from.

There he was; the balding, moustachioed man in a bright blue boiler suit, taking long drags of his cigarette and longer, menacing glares at me.

He started to move.

Where?

My direction.

His gait?

Purposeful.

I darted behind one of the few cars; wedged between fence and fender.

The boiler suit was just far enough away for me to be out of sight.

In my sight?

A gap in the fence— and beyond the mercury flow of the stream, the bridge and the path back

The sky’s on fire now.

Swiftly, with all the gazelle like grace I can muster, I glide through the gap.

On the other side I dust myself down; I head down to the stream and run a thin coating of mud off my palms.

And then:


I walk into the sunset.