My wife [Elizabeth Ellen] and I drove three hours to Ohio for a birthday dinner for her 93-year-old grandmother and drove back the same day. I drove there, got a little drunk at dinner on two Manhattans while Elizabeth had club soda, and then Elizabeth drove us home. I’d been putting off this self-interview because I’m a procrastinator, and also because I wasn’t sure what to ask myself, so I talked Elizabeth into helping me ask myself questions even though that didn’t really constitute a self-interview.
[The beginning is a recreation of the inception of the ‘self-interview.’ The remainder is a transcript.]
AB: What should my first question for myself be?
[Puts phone in front of Elizabeth’s face while Elizabeth is driving.]
EE: What are you doing?
[Elizabeth pushes phone out of face]
AB: I thought we were doing the interview?
EE: What’s the interview supposed to be about?
AB: My book. What should my first question for myself be.
EE: I don’t know. I feel like crying.
AB: Why do you feel like crying?
EE: I don’t know why. That’s how mental health works. I just all of a sudden feel like I might burst into tears.
[A period of silence ensues.]
AB: OK. Let’s try again. What book or movie or album could or should I have written a book about if not “The Body”/Stand By Me?
EE: When you say all those things, I’d say whatever Botch album you’re always talking about.
AB: Okay, so, this book about Stand By Me was supposed to be about growing up and male friendship, but kind of became about teaching and marriage,. What could or should the book about Botch have been about?
EE: It should be about me, because everything should be about me, everything comes back to me…I would like to add that you also said that you would only write a book about me if we got divorced and if we did you would call it The Elizabeth Book because Scott McClanahan wrote The Sarah Book about his first wife, then we didn’t get divorced and you still wrote a book about me so I win.
AB: So… would The Elizabeth Book have been better or not as good as this book?
EE: I think I wrote The Elizabeth Book and it’s called Person/a.
EE: How do you think you’re different from Beyoncé and that your book’s different than Lemonade?
AB: I think it’s probably not as good of a book as Lemonade is an album, but also Lemonade is almost all the marriage stuff, but I think my book, while maybe less interesting, is as much about teaching and growing up and nostalgia and, obvs, Stand By Me.
EE: For the 13 years I’ve known you, you’ve said you had no interest in writing personal fiction, which kind of seemed like a dig at me, but also seemed genuine. What changed?
AB: 1. See your previous answer re “I think everything should come back to me.”
2. You said I said I had no interest in writing personal fiction, and this isn’t personal fiction, it’s nonfiction.
3. I still didn’t mean for it to be personal, I just tried to write a book about Stand By Me and all this other shit kept creeping in.
EE: Didn’t we cover some/all of this in our Hobart interview two years ago?
AB: Isn’t all writing just repeating shit you already covered two or more years ago?
EE: Last question for me: Why am I so much better at reading your writing about me than you are reading my writing about you?
AB: 1. Because I’m super more sensitive.
2. Because my writing about you is about you, and you’re writing about me is about… men other than me.
EE: This’ll be really interesting for people.
AB: I don’t know, will it?
EE: Probably not.
AB: Does the fact that this interview is being recorded via iPhone notes via speak-to-text make it more or less pretentious or more or less “fake”?
EE: I can’t follow all those long-winded questions because I’m driving a car through Ohio while you’re sitting passenger, drunk.
AB: Is this interview going to be better or worse than if I were sober, better or worse than an actual “self interview”?
EE: Part one answer: It’s better that you were drunk because everything is better if you’re drunk. Part two: It’s better because I’m involved and everything is better when I’m involved.
EE: Bonus question: How many people a) don’t know we’re married or b) think we’re divorced by now (meaning your/my old friends)?
AB: (Unintelligible response)
EE: One more question, it’s relevant to your book, kind of. How would Stand By Me have been better if one of the characters had been been female? And how is your life better now that one of the main characters/me is a female?
AB: Is it the chauvinist the answer if I say it would’ve been worse if one of the boys had been female? I just think the entire dynamic between them would’ve been different if they weren’t all boys, but I don’t know if that’s true because that’s true, or if it seems true because I grew up not really having any girl friends, nor, honestly, wanting any, growing up mostly just felt like it was all about hanging out with the guys. My life now is obviously much better having a woman in my life, be that woman you or someone else—
EE: What the fuck?!?
AB: —but life when you are an adult—
EE: No! Add in the “what the fuck” there!
AB: I will! I know where it goes! It obviously goes after the “you or someone else”!
EE: Simmer down!
AB: You simmer down!
[“Self-interview” pretty much ends, devolves into real life…]
AARON BURCH is the author of Stephen King’s The Body: Bookmarked, a memoir about the King novella and Stand By Me. He is also the author of the short story collection, Backswing, and is the Founding Editor of the literary journal Hobart.