This interview just came out today. I talk about my new novel Too Shattered For Mending, what a real writing process looks like, having no talent, hip-hop, and my next book – An American Afterlife:
Music inspires so much written art, and it’s fun to think of the music that my characters might listen to. With that in mind, the Huffington Post just published my soundtrack written in the characters’ own words (Natalie, Travis, and Creature from This Is The Part Where You Laugh). Read here, and click the links to listen to each song:
Reading the poetry of Walt Whitman, Song Of Myself Illuminated, by Allen Crawford (Tin House Books):
Neruda’s Love Sonnet #17 on my arm. Feeling poetic today. Inspired.
Whitman: “Electrical, I and this mystery here we stand.”
Neruda: “te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras…”
Here is my explanation of time – the way that I understand time – with images of art interspersed (great art affecting the way that I think).
First, while writing a novel, I don’t worry about time, not in draft stage. I write any scene that’s important, in any order that I think of it. There’s no order to it at all, only madness. And sometimes I trust that madness and never put those scenes back in what people think of as time order.
In my memoir, The End of Boys, time was thematic, meaning that scenes from my life linked to other scenes of any time period based on theme, an overlapping view of my own reality that isn’t based on chronological progression but instead on thematic development of the person. I tried to help the reader by showing time switches in italics, an italic switch being a trick I learned from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Kesey studied Faulkner as well, and also used the italic switch in his brilliant Sometimes A Great Notion.
Time is Circular. The image I see of time is one of overlapping circles, maybe circles pushing forward, or maybe circles dropping back, but then they might loop around and push forward once again.
I had a friend from El Salvador explain that linear time is a modern way of thinking about time. He said that in the Bible, time was thought of as circular or cyclical, that God is eternal and that the earth is a living series of cycles. THAT is how I like to think of time. This modern push to mechanize and count seconds digitally doesn’t interest me. The theory that all of the world could be on the same exact clock to the nanosecond because of satellites and cell phones is an idea that makes me think of Nazis, a “perfect” sterile image of a Northern European or US technological ideal. But ideals are not interesting to me. Imperfection is interesting to me.
In my work in progress, Too Shattered For Mending (Knopf, 2017), I’ve used present tense for the progression of the current story (in time order) and past tense for interlaced scenes that happened in the past. Again, I don’t worry about any of those old scenes being in order because I trust the intelligence of the reader and know that she’s capable of recognizing chronology or of not needing linear time at all.
So maybe I don’t like cell phones. At all. Maybe I don’t think they’ve added anything to our culture.
Maybe I think they’ve ruined a lot of things too, like, for example, talking to other people, hanging out without interruptions, driving cars, looking around at the world around us, going outside, being self-sufficient, knowing how to read a map, looking up every once in a while instead of staring at your stupid expensive phone, looking people in the eyes, using dictionaries, reading books on the Subway, reading books without stopping every two minutes to check a text, listening to music while staring off…
This list could go on and on and on.
Plus, I hate every cell phone advertisement ever. Why do we need phones? Why do we need them with us everywhere we go? Why does every family need a “family plan”? Why do we willingly carry a device that tracks where we are? And would we readily accept chips in our brains if they were offered to us? I think so.
Maybe my opinions are too strong, but I’ve never owned a cell phone, and here’s my new essay for Vice Magazine titled “Confessions Of The Last Human Being On Earth Without A Cell Phone” :
Bonus: The artist Jack Graydon drew some ridiculous pictures of me to go along with the article. I’m so ugly in these drawings that it’s awesome.