February 12, 2010
You work in a bookstore and have had the opportunity to attend a lot of author readings, right?
Yes. Lots and lots. Thousands, I imagine.
And you are having some trouble interviewing yourself?
Well, some trouble starting. Yes.
What’s the most frequently asked question during the question and answer period after a reading?
Often it’s a simple, “What are you reading now?”
Well, let’s start with that one. What are you reading now?
About a Mountain by John D’Agata. I just finished Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by my fellow former Yooper, Tom Bissell.
How was it?
As amazing as I expected it to be, and then quite suddenly personal and moving and a touch harrowing. I forgot, I think, that Tom does that. When he writes, he will examine something that fascinates him—in this case, he’s produced a really smart critical assessment of where video games fail and where they succeed at being works of art—and then quite suddenly, he’ll reveal something about himself, and that thing might be self-deprecating and funny or it might be raw and painful.
Don’t you do that—or try to do that—with your writing?
Well, sure. Constantly. But at the same time, I’m hiding it behind the veneer of fiction. I’m a coward. I’ve given myself an out.
But doesn’t that mean you can be all the more honest?
Maybe. Certainly all the more cowardly.
What’s the next most frequently asked question?
“When and how often do you write?”
So, when and how often do you write?
On no set schedule and as heartbreakingly (my heart) infrequently as possible.
I don’t like this interview.
Neither do I. Let’s publish it.
Yeah, what the heck. Let’s get it all out there.
Is this some half-assed attempt to make up for the “cowardice” you perceive writing fiction that is ribboned with bits of memoir? Because, if so, nice try. But no.
We find comfort where we can.
Like, say, in believing weird things? For example, believing we never went to the moon?
Sure, something like that. I like irrational people very much. That’s why I write about them so often. I think almost every character in HAPPY ROCK is convinced of something irrational. And, really, so am I. I’m convinced, at least on some level, that if I write something, maybe somebody will want to read it, and maybe that will connect me to people in some way. I’m convinced, at least on some level, that in the huge glut of consumable media in the world, my voice is missing, and I should do something to remedy that situation. And sometimes it seems to me that the greatest trick I am able to pull off is the one where I convince someone else that I’m right—that what I have to say is worthy of someone else’s resources or headspace.
Wow. That’s a shockingly ungracious thing to say about editors who have published you.
Looking back on it, I couldn’t agree more. I certainly don’t mean it like that. I look, whenever possible, for places to insult myself. I have a self-deprecating veneer that, as one would expect, hides a massive, embarrassing ego.
Interestingly, that ego is also a veneer that hides yet another self-doubting, self-hating psyche.
You know, you could remove that answer. You are in control here. You have the delete key.
True. And yet, there it is. My stupid, self-centered comment is still a part of the interview. You know, this may be indicative of my writing as a whole. I’m often quite taken with early drafts of stories, and sometimes they don’t get the rewriting they deserve.
Luckily, I lose things often, and have to rewrite them because of carelessness. And also, I never really think a story is done, even after it’s been published. I reserve the right to tinker with everything until I die.
You may never get published again.
You’re being dramatic. And, anyway, people stopped reading this interview long ago, I’ll bet. Except Shya, who’s editing it.
Hi, Shya. How’s everything? Thanks for publishing this.
Oh, yeah. Hi, Shya. Looking forward to reading In This Alone Impulse again.
(Don’t suck up. It’ll make me look bad.)