Two more interviews: -1-,
(A Crowd of Bone)
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?
Folk songs and ballads, mostly, ravelled out and rebraided. Lots
of Anon. Some formal poetry: Hopkins and the Gawain poet, for the
hedge-entangled language; Andrew Marvell, for the mowers. And for
the soliloquies, a slew of playwrights. It's a winter's tale, a late
romance. I wrote it for the ear, as much as for the imagination. There
are two sorts of voices here, in counterpoint: Cloudish vernacular
and a high Jacobean iambic, endlessly enjambed.
I owe the vision of the Scarecrow/Hanged Man/Child Sacrifice to the
late miraculous Lal Waterson. Her song, "The Scarecrow," haunts me,
and it has for years.
Oh, and Thea's magic is inspired by the art of Andy Goldsworthy.
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?
I keep moving inward. It gets bigger.
What's your favorite cocktail?
Which of the seven deadly sins is your favorite these days?
Don't know whose friends they are, but Sloth and Gluttony keep hanging
around my kitchen playing cards.
What's your favorite rule of thumb?
When you come back for it, it won't be there.
Do you have any pets? How many? And if so, how do they affect
your writing (if at all)?
No. None. Not at all.
What is the writer's role in inhabiting the commercial spaces
Waiting anxiously in hallways.
Best trampoline story you know (or, in lieu of story, rules for
best trampoline game you've played).
The one with the castellated blancmange and the roller skates has
seldom been attempted.
Where do you hope to haunt when you're gone (or, I guess, when
you come back)?
A kitchen table with old friends. A library. Woods in autumn. An
English wood in spring. A winter hillside on a starry night. My desk
when I'm writing well. The seacoast of Bohemia.
What are your favorite kids' books? What was your favorite when
you were a kid (say, 10)?
Say five, six, seven.
I always loved Mary Poppins and Irene's Great-Great-Grandmother (in
The Princess and the Goblin). They were my first intimations
of godhead. Mary Poppins is Artemis. ("Is this a Nursery or a Bear
Garden?") Prickly, aloof, but a great protectress if she's yours.
And the sun, moon, and stars dance for her: she's a strange attractor
for the numinous.
But Irene's Grandmother -- ah, she indwells. I've been writing about
the moon ever since. And threads and labyrinths and rings, and children
lost in houses which are dreams.
Alice got into my warp as well. Everyone she meets is so rude.
And that row of asterisks as she's shrinking -- chin to foot -- gave
me a sense of the magic in typography, of spell.
What else? I loved The Golden Almanac, which gave me my fascination
with the turning year. October had "The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies, O!"
in a whirl and tatter of leaves -- so ballads keep for me that vivid
Oh, and fairy tales. "The Snow Queen" for the shards of mirror and
the puzzles of ice; for the winter hag who is fell and beautiful,
the crones in their reeky hovels, and the robber girl. And "The Twelve
Swans" and "The Dancing Princesses." I loved the nettleshirts that
bound winged creatures to the earth, the wood of silver underground.
The Oz books, alas, have faded for me, though I read them all with
passion. I still have my Scarecrow and my Witch, but she's indelibly
There are other children's fantasies I love -- The Wind In the
Willows, Earthsea, and Green Knowe, stories by Joan Aiken
and Diana Wynne Jones -- but I found them long afterward.
And a little later on--at eight, nine, ten -- I read and loved The
Secret Garden and A Little Princess; Hitty: Her First Hundred
Years; all the Alcott books; Elizabeth Enright...All the girl
books, and whatever I could lay my hands on. But the fantasies came
Tell me a little about when you left home to live on your own.
Oh, I just snailed away, carrying myself with me.
If you could have a writer of your choice come live with you,
who would it be and what writerly stuff would you want to talk to
Dear me. I wouldn't dream of imposing my company on strangers. They
have their own friends, or ghosts of friends; their own rooms on earth
or elsewhere. Unless by chance we meet in that publisher's hallway...?
And then drift away for tea. I'd love to talk with Sylvia Townsend
Warner. And Angela Carter. Hope Mirrlees? I'd be shy of Shakespeare,
though I'd love to watch him in rehearsal. And I've always wanted
to take Jo March to the movies.
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 do change my mind, but glacially. Hard to remember what I thought
in the Mesozoic.
What book or books do you press upon friends?
Whatever book is Three-Bearically right for that friend. I get a
huge kick out of perfect matches. I don't press.
What can we, as a group, do to increase the popularity of multi-stage
bicycle racing as a spectator sport in America?
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?
For the tang of it, the taste of Otherwise; for all the flavors of
quark: not just Truth and Beauty, but up, down, charm, and strangeness.
My story has a semi-wild chimpanzee in it; does yours?
Have you found that during the Reagan-Bush-Bush-Quayle-Bush-Cheney
era the quality of your writing has gotten a little dodgier?
No. My life, maybe. Not my writing.
What, in your opinion, is the relationship, if any, between the
so-called real world and your particular imaginary one?
Aslant. Their landscape is like the north of England; but their laws
are otherwise. It's as if the White Goddess and the Golden Bough were
true, as if metaphor and myth were physics. Metaphysics. Cloud has
the same stars as this world -- our sky is their Wood Above -- but
their constellations are strange. Somehow this world is bound to theirs:
the back side of their brighter tapestry.
Can I quote myself?
"Not that there aren't quilt knots here and there, stitching heaven
and earth. Houses, in the astrological sense; or sacred places, which
are realer than the world, and have a way of disappearing like the
egg in Alice. Woods, stone circles, sheepfolds. And the one long seam,
the Milky Way."
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
Oh, I'd like to travel in many books. Sadly, I can't envision stories
while I'm reading them, so I'd dearly love to see a score of other
worlds. And talk with their denizens. But here's where I live.
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 directly as a voice of conscience?
With all respect for the voices of conscience, it would be a sad
grey world without works of pure imagination. Wodehouse. Austen. A
Midsummer Night's Dream.
"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery."
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?
Fugue, rhyme, rainbow -- I love all sorts of patterns and forms.
Conjugations and crystals. Self-assembly. Mathematics. I think people
are made to make patterns, to see them with delight. Defy entropy!
-- John Gonzalez