<= 2004.07.01

2004.07.03 =>

q & a: 2

Why do you get so unhappy so often when you are obviously very talented and well respected and liked by so many?

Oh dear. Is this one from Mom? I guess I'll split the difference on the mind/body problem and say it's half chemical and half the human condition.

What do you think about in your spare time?

Banal things. Mostly about women and money, and my lack of either. Sometimes I will sit down and try to have serious thoughts about the book I'm working on or some other art project, but generally those aren't too productive; the best thoughts come out of the blue, when my mind is empty. So no, I certainly don't have any highfalutin Stephen Dedalus-type interior monologue. Sometimes I will murmur phrases in foreign languages to myself, but only so I can feel smart. Kein Mädchen, kein Geld.

You awake one morning from uneasy dreams to find Franz Kafka sitting on the end of your bed. What do you do?

Feed him! If he can't eat, as seemed to happen a lot in his diaries, I would offer him some milk and have some milk myself, to make it less awkward. If he seemed up to it I would take one of his stories off the shelf and ask him to read it out loud. We might run into language problems, but if Max Brod is to be believed, Kafka could read his stories in such a side-splitting manner as to leave everyone in the café in stitches.

You mention your cat from time to time, and yet your cat remains a furry loaf of mystery. Can we please have a brief (authorized) biography?

Anyone who missed this endearing bright-eyed photo is advised to go check it out. Now then. When I was fourteen we got Cammie, short for Cambridge, since we had lived in England a few years before and her gray coat reminded us of British weather. Nominally my sister and I shared ownership; in practice she turned out to be a one-person cat and attached herself to me. She always did (and still does) sit on top of me when I'm falling asleep, etc. The formative trauma in her life would have to be the 1996 move by airplane from Tucson to Reno, which required her to sit for six hours in a kitty carrier surrounded by awful lights and noises. She's been a little more skittish ever since. For seven years she stayed in Reno with my parents, starved for affection, while I was off at various schools; since September she's shared my vagabond existence from Oregon to Nevada and back, now to California. All things considered she has learned to do very well in the car, especially for her venerable age of twelve. But she will never learn to tolerate other cats—until two years ago she thought she was the only one on the planet.

You just won the chance to erase a memory: which memory will you erase?

Can it be a group of associated memories? In that case I would definitely get rid of the girl from Phoenix whom I fell in love with in the seventh grade because we were both part of the Arizona MathCounts team that went to Washington, D.C. (I know, I know.) We kept in touch after the competition, mostly by letters, and at that point no one had told me that girls will sign their letters "Love, X" in order to communicate a much milder sentiment. I started calling her too often, which culminated in a perfectly excruciating afternoon in which I awkwardly declared my passion, to be answered by silence and an eventual "Um, maybe you shouldn't call any more." It set back my emotional development by at least two years, and I'd really like it gone.

Would you count Approaching Zero as metafiction? If so, wouldn't it be great to maybe have your own score, say in the way of The Ugly Organ or In the Aeroplane Over the Sea? You could glue a CD to the back cover- it would be great. I mean, aren't those albums really soundtracks to Collodi's masterpiece and the Diary of Anne Frank, respectively? You could do the reverse and log your first classical or instrumental recording- scoring your own book. No lyrics unless you have songs; Gravity’s Rainbow had songs but can you hear them? Of course not! I just thought of this while writing, but doesn’t The Soft Bulletin make the same sort of noise as Gravity’s Rainbow? It’s not a bad thought.

Approaching Zero has a few pomo elements in the narration and a couple of elements that depart from strict realism, but it's still too earnest to count as metafiction—Gravity's Rainbow looms large over it, but so do Graham Greene and Robert Stone. I can't hear all the songs in GR, but a few of them actually have very clear tunes in my head, like "The Penis He Thought Was His Own." The part where the tenor sings "Where the girlies all played Telephone" and the bass answers "Te-le-phone"; Lord, that cracks me up every time. Sticking a CD in the back cover brushes up against the realm of marketing, which I don't know a damn thing about and am happy to leave to the publicity department of Publisher X, assuming they don't completely screw me—nonetheless, it's something to keep in mind. It would be fun.

You’d make the best candidate I know for metamedia, given your compositional talent and deft writing ability (I like Palo Verde, the song and the short story). The arrangements on your latest album are fantastic and there are a handful of songs where the vox fits just right. On others though it seems that you are either tone-deaf or in need of a voice coach for breath support. What do you think? I love a lot of your music and I think it’d be prudent and life-saving if you worked on those chords in your throat. I mean all of this by the way, so please reply in earnest.

Yeah, my singing ability or lack thereof is certainly the perennial bugbear I've had to fight. For I while I was hoping I could get away with it à la Liz Phair, but she's cuter than me. It is getting better—playing live in Portland has helped, and that's largely what I was referring to when I said the live recordings sounded better than the album. See for example the live So Blue (mp3, 2.24 mb). At this rate I should be Roy Orbison by the time I'm 80.

What have you been secretly hoping that someone would ask you?

I'm still holding out for a marriage proposal.


<= 2004.07.01

2004.07.03 =>

up (2004.07)