Trampoline: an interview
Christopher Barzak (Dead Boy Found)
What’s your favorite cocktail?
The sort that people buy for me.
Which of the seven deadly sins is your favorite these days?
I’ve been favoring sloth myself, but sloth doesn’t favor me.
What’s your favorite rule of thumb?
Forget about the possibility of it ever being green.
So, come out with it, already — you really believe in alien abductions. Don’t you? All sci-fi writers do…right?
Are you implying something here?
What is the writer’s role in inhabiting the commercial spaces of publishing?
Curl into a fetal position and begin sucking your thumb.
Who’s been eating my porridge?
Not me. I’m a toast man.
Where have all the flowers gone?
To all the little capitalist flower shops.
Who cleft the Devil’s foot?
That’s a personal matter, I’d imagine.
Does she or doesn’t she?
She does. Quite often, actually. And she’s good at it, too.
Did he ever return?
Eventually he returned, though changed of course, as these events would change anyone. I myself wonder if, by returning, his life has come full circle and will begin again, but one can only hope.
What has it got in its pocketses?
Broken fortune cookies.
How far is it to Babylon?
I’m not good at measuring, but I can give directions. Take 680 out to Mahoning Avenue. Turn right off the exit ramp, then turn left at the first light. You’ll be driving down a long driveway, and then suddenly a large building — you can’t miss it, it’s decked out in neon palm tree signs — will appear in the darkness. Have ten dollars, or you won’t be admitted.
Can I get there by candlelight?
I suppose you could, although that’s awfully dramatic, don’t you think?
“Where is last year’s snow?”
The snow monkeys ate it all.
Why is a raven like a writing desk?
I give up. Why?
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Only if you buy me a cocktail first.
Can this cockpit hold The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram Within this wooden O the very casques That did affright the air at Agincourt?
Can you call spirits from the vasty deep? Will they come when you do call for them?
I can’t call spirits from the vasty deep. I have better luck with spirits from the surfacey shallows. They come when anyone calls, though they’re hard to get rid of.
What have you done with Dr. Millmoss?
Nothing. I swear!
Where is fancy bred?
In Europe, I think. Oh wait. That’s fancy bread. Fancy is bred in small quiet moments, in the interstices of interactions.
Best trampoline story you know (or, in lieu of story, rules for best trampoline game you’ve played).
When I was in elementary school, the gym teacher would sometimes have this really huge trampoline that an entire class of kids could fit on. We could line up on around its perimeter and she would have us all jump up and down while singing a round of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. The first of us would start the song and jump, and when that person landed, the next one would jump up and start singing. And we’d all be going like pistons at a certain point, singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and there’s no real story to this, no beginning or end, only a moment where it felt like I was part of something really magical.
What’s the most favorable sort of weather for your creative process?
When’s the last time you changed your mind about something? I think I mean a radical shift of personal values — regarding art (“Suddenly, I’m not crazy about Billie Holiday, in fact, I’m not even sure I’m spelling her name right”), regarding anything (“Actually, you can go home again”).
Regarding art, I had a radical shift in values probably last year, when I realized I could do anything I wanted in art, as long as I made it work. Regarding anything, or life in general, I had a radical shift in values about a year ago also, when I realized I could do anything I wanted, as long as I made it work.
Did you ever go to a really low rent amusement park that had trampolines stretched over shallow pits and bounce and bounce and bounce and get really confident and start bouncing from one trampoline to the next but then kind of lose it and bounce in to your cousin Jeff and cause him to fall into a split timber fence and knock out one of his teeth? Did you ever do that?
Those places are outlawed in Ohio, and my cousin Jeff still has all his teeth, as far as I know.
What can we, as a group, do to increase the popularity of multi-stage bicycle racing as a spectator sport in America?
We could throw parties and give out pencils with the website for the Society for multi-stage bicycle racing as a spectator sport in America printed on them.
I once had a creative writing teacher tell me that he didn’t understand why authors used science fiction or magical realism to tell a story or impart a theme. Why do you think we do, when good old realism might do the trick?
Even if realism might do the trick, sometimes how you impart a theme or tell a story is as important as what the theme is.
Have you found that during the Reagan-Bush-Bush-Quayle-Bush-Cheney era the quality of your writing has gotten a little dodgier?
Not so much dodgier as filled with a sense of dread.
What is the meaning of life?
A reviewer once criticized a story of mine for raising this question and not answering it. I’m still not answering. Unless you buy me a cocktail.
Can you say something, particularly in light of these grave times, about the writer’s role or responsibility in the creation of work that is purely literary, that is the work of the imagination, as opposed to work that serves more overtly and diras a voice of conscience?
I think that writing can be purely literary and still serve overtly and directly as a voice of conscience. And I think that writers, like anyone else, have a choice in how they make their work. I myself think we need writing that is purely literary, writing that is purely a voice of conscience, and writing that is both literary and a voice of conscience. We need the purely literary as a form of healing for our imaginations. We need the voices of conscience as a form of healing and direction for our cultures. We need writing that is both purely literary and a voice of conscience that bridges reconnects our conscience beings with our imaginations, so that we can begin making the world over again, for the better, I hope.
Gertrude Stein said: “I have destroyed sentences and rhythms and literary overtones and all the rest of that nonsense, to get to the very core of this problem of communication of intuition.” The relationship of form to content. Form as it facilitates communication, particularly communication of the remote, of the mysterious. Form as it permits the dramatization of states of mind. As it serves to make comprehensible the incomprehensible. What are your views on this subject?
It’s important to allow new forms to arise out of states of mind, to allow for new, possibly remote, possibly mysterious, or perhaps necessarily remote and mysterious ideas or feelings to come into being. With each new name, the world becomes a bit more complicated, and in that complication, a bit easier to understand each other.
Next — Richard Butner