Richard Butner – Trampoline Interview

Wed 1 Jul 2009 - Filed under: Authors | Leave a Comment

Richard ButnerTrampoline: an interview

Richard Butner (Ash City Stomp)

Were there any particular writers or stories that influenced the writing of the story that will be appearing in Trampoline? If so, how exactly did they influence the writing of your story?

Yes. The other writers of the Sycamore Hill Writers’ Conference. The final version of the story is much improved from the original draft, thanks to those folks pointing out the flaws (and the non-flaws). That’s actually a disingenuous description of the workshop process, and of why I run and attend that thing, but it’ll have to do.

Is your Trampoline story generally representative of the sort of story you usually write? To elaborate: is this story a departure in style or subject matter (or any other sort of departure, for that matter) for you? If so, what was different or new for you in the writing of this story? Do you think it is a new direction for your writing, or simply an experiment?

It’s representative in that it’s serious at the core but overlaid with goofist trappings.

So, come out with it, already — you really believe in alien abductions. Don’t you? All sci-fi writers do…right?


What is the writer’s role in inhabiting the commercial spaces of publishing?

Infiltrate then immolate.

Who’s been eating my porridge?

Danny Goldberg, of course.

What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Thank nobody for small blessings. Pink Moon gonna get us all, therefore no immortal hands, no immortal eyes. This is a good thing.

Can I get there by candlelight?

If you walk very very slowly.

Who cleft the Devil’s foot?

Me and the Devil were walking side by side. So I say to the Devil, I say, “Satan, I see England, I see France, I totally see your lacy pink underpants.” The Devil says, “We don’t call it France anymore. We call it … Freedom. Everyone knows that Freedom is where they make the best lingerie.” He hitches up his pants as he says this. His French, his Freedom-ish, is perfect. “Do you remember when we were in Paris?” he asks. “I was never in Paris with the Devil,” I say. “Certainly not with a Devil who wears ladies undergarments.” The Devil stops and laughs, then he cups his hand to his ear. “What’s that?” he says, squinting. “Can you hear it? Sounds like … mermaids … singing.”

I stamp on the Devil’s feet, cleaving his hooves. He falls to the ground and clutches them with his idle plaything hands. I leave him there on the sidewalk to ponder Leviticus 11 while I trudge off in the general direction of Freedom.

Where do you hope to haunt when you’re gone (or, I guess, when you come back)?

A nice modern house. Maybe Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, the one with all-glass walls for the exterior.

If I had really good haunt-y powers as a result of being non-alive, then I’d haunt the homes of my enemies.

If I could just hang out and chat, then I’d haunt the homes of my friends.

What office supply best captures your personality, and why?

Man, all of these questions are me, me, me, me. What office supply best captures Alain Robbe-Grillet‘s personality? Huh?

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”).

I’m proud of the fact that my personal values haven’t shifted radically due to the tremendously positive or tremendously negative events in my immediate external world. Like the fat man said, to thine own self be true. If I had to offer an example of a shift, though … one is that certain tedious phonies — say, Andy Warhol or William Burroughs or Timothy Leary — don’t bug me as much as they used to. Possibly because they’re all dead.

What book or books do you press upon friends?

Emma Who Saved My Life, Wilton Barnhardt

Glimpses, Lewis Shiner

A Few Last Words, James Sallis

Where did you grow up?

Camel City, of course.

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?


What can we, as a group, do to increase the popularity of multi-stage bicycle racing as a spectator sport in America?

Absolutely nothing, Christopher.

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?

“I sit with a philosopher in a garden; he says again and again ‘I know that that is a tree,’ pointing to a tree that is near us. A second man comes by and hears this, and I tell him: ‘This fellow isn’t insane: we’re only doing philosophy.'”
–Wittgenstein, On Certainty

My story has a semi-wild chimpanzee in it; does yours?

Depends on how you define “semi-wild chimpanzee.”

Have you found that during the Reagan-Bush-Bush-Quayle-Bush-Cheney era the quality of your writing has gotten a little dodgier?

Yeah, not like the stack of genius tomes I produced during the Clinton-Gore era.

If you couldn’t write what would you do?


Trampoline: an anthology, edited by Kelly Link.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?

My view is, Gertrude Stein sure could be a pompous boobie sometimes.


Next — Alan DeNiro


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