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Trampoline: an interview

Alex IrvineAlex Irvine (Gus Dreams of Biting the Mail Man)

 

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?

This story has a little bit of each of the Beats in it, a touch of Phil Dick, and a bit of Kenneth Fearing. The alchemy of the interaction I don't understand -- mostly I wanted to write a story about people who like working a lousy job, and about the strangeness of strangers. And of course the whole thing started when I re-read The Time Machine and wondered what the hell really happened to the prototype.

What's your favorite cocktail?

Tom Collins, for some reason

Which of the seven deadly sins is your favorite these days?

Sloth. Sloth seems elysian to me these days.

What's your favorite rule of thumb?

Don't take any wooden nickels. Mostly because I'm always waiting for an exception to come along and prove this rule.

Do you have any pets? How many? And if so, how do they affect your writing (if at all)?

Well, this story wouldn't have been written if I hadn't actually had a dog named Gus who eternally wanted to bite the mailman. He recently went to the big hot dog farm in the sky, and we are currently petless. Not for long, though.

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

Who told you to ask me this?

What has it got in its pocketses?

It's holding, for sure.

Biographical sketch of someone you know:

Wes Graves grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, and moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan with the encouragement of his high-school girlfriend, who dumped him the day he got there. At the time he owned an orange Volvo, which as far as anyone knows is still in the garage of a house near the Eastern Michigan University campus. He has been a baker, pinball-machine technician, and all around good joe. He nurses an inordinate fondness for guitar accessories, and now lives in Denver, Colorado.

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

I want to haunt a place that doesn't exist any more, a sandwich shop in Ann Arbor called Drake's that operated from the twenties until the early nineties under the ownership of a guy named Truman Tibbels. It was painted olive green, had wooden booths, two counters with candy in jars, autographed pictures of Blackstone the Magician. You could get ice cream or a sandwich named for a Big Ten university or just drink coffee all day for a quarter. Upstairs was the Martian Room, with trombones on the wallpaper and a constant atmosphere of furtive lust. In the back, an actual phone booth with a door that closed. A place from another time. Now it's been turned into a Bruegger's Bagels, which is an incalculable loss.

What are your favorite kids' books? What was your favorite when you were a kid (say, 10)?

10, hmm. The Swiss Family Robinson, Space Angel, second time through The Lord of the Rings, the Earthsea books, baseball biographies, and a submarine book whose title I can't remember by a guy named Robb White.

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 used to believe that football was manly. Then I started watching rugby.

What book or books do you press upon friends?

Jim Dodge's Stone Junction, almost anything by Philip K. Dick, Charles Portis' The Dog of the South, good books by people I know.

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

An anthology called Peleton, perhaps.

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?

Story, man. The first stories you hear as a kid aren't about suburban adultery, they're about mystical artifacts and dangerous monsters and all kinds of stuff that doesn't exist but should. Those are the stories that you cut your teeth on, and those are the stories you (by which I mean me) want to read and write.

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

You didn't see it?

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

Trampoline: an anthology, edited by Kelly Link.I've only been writing during the last half of this unfortunate sequence, so I'm still new enough at it to hope I'm getting better.

If you couldn't write what would you do?

Get better at chess, play the guitar more often, act in plays.

What, in your opinion, is the relationship, if any, between the so-called real world and your particular imaginary one?

In this story? None whatsoever, except the bit about frosting Danish.

If you could live in a book, which one would it be?

Huckleberry Finn.

O

Next -- Beth Adele Long

 

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