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Original Essays | August 18, 2014 0 comments
Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed... Continue »
Dave KingDescribe your latest project.
My novel The Ha-Ha is the story of Howard Kapostash, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Vietnam and has not spoken, read, or written coherently since. In other respects, Howard is physically and cognitively unimpaired, and at the outset of the book he leads a life typical of many disabled people, chugging away at a menial job and keeping to himself.
Howard's placid, somewhat dull existence is interrupted when Sylvia, his high school girlfriend, saddles him with her nine-year-old son while she enters rehab for cocaine abuse. In the course of sharing his existence with the child, Howard experiences the reawakening of a range of impulses and passions, including a desire for love, family life, and someone to care for. Less affirmative are the rediscovery of his unfulfilled sexuality and the resurgence of his rage over what the war cost him.
One of The Ha-Ha's most striking characteristics is its first-person voice. The story is told from the protagonist's point of view, so readers meet an articulate, thoughtful Howard unknown to the book's other characters. It is this contrast between what Howard feels and what he is able to communicate, as well as his deep, inexpressible sense of loss, that gives the novel its power.
What fictional character would you like to
date, and why?
Writers are better liars than other people: true
or false? Why, or not?
At the same time, I assume there are liars who lie better than I do, but how would I know? Clearly, they've managed to hoodwink me.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from
What is your astrological sign? If you don't
like what you were born with, what sign would you change to and why?
In fact, I am fairly exacting, and if rigidly organized doesn't quite explain the drifts of paper in my office, there's no doubt I'm tightly wound. But the problem with being a Virgo is not so much the specific qualities of the sign, but its crude billboard quality: if someone's familiar with any astrological sign at all, it's likely to be Virgo, and it's likely to lead to the same preconception: that we Virgos are uptight librarian types with more determination than imagination. Well, if that's the truth about me, I'd prefer it be discovered only after the more freewheeling persona I affect has been proven false. I certainly don't want a judgment of that type deduced from my birthdate.
Plus, the old librarian stereotype is only part of the story. Sure, we August-Septembroids are codification weirdos, but as with anyone who digs tight shoes, we also love to kick 'em off. So I'm fond of order, but I love chaos. I love hallucination and abandon and ambiguity and doubt; I love strong surf and sirens and Virgo stereotype aside sex, and though I'm a fairly careful driver, I prefer to ski as fast as I can. As to what sign I'd prefer, I honestly haven't paid much attention to the others. So maybe... Bullwinkle?
Introduce one other author you think people
should read, and suggest a good book/place to start with.
Among many reasons to love Anthony Powell, here's one: his management of the big scene. The typical Powell novel is structured around two or three long, densely populated set pieces: cocktail parties, gallery openings, battles, love-ins. Since the subject of A Dance... is cultural life in London between the 1920s and the 1960s, the tactic is well suited to accommodating the book's dozens of characters, who scheme, gossip and bicker over the course of five decades. But what puts Powell in a class by himself is the virtuosic way he expands those big scenes, presenting each exchange as a small tunnel or window through which we can see further into the story. The big scenes open onto smaller scenes, which in turn may open onto still smaller scenes and onto memories, justifications, infatuations, or feuds. Then the windows and tunnels fold neatly back up, and you're back at the party/opening/war. Each book in the series functions as a great bellows, expanding and contracting to accommodate both its own narrative and the narrative of Powell's longer, more epic tale of the making and marketing of culture. The result is a giddy but heartfelt satire quite unlike any other literary organism I know.
So go ahead. Read the first volume, which is called A Question of Upbringing. An informal survey suggests it won't be your cup of tea, but you can always try.
Name the best Simpsons episode of
all time, and explain why it's the best.
When I was a kid, my parents owned a lot of original cast albums. I learned "Trouble" and "I
Remember It Well" and "Luck Be a Lady" by heart at an early age, and it's likely that clever musical theatre lyrics
were my first exposure to actual wit. (It's possible, too, that I once used an umbrella as a prop while singing "If
Ever I Could Leave You" as I swept across the sunlit living room, but I would have had to be alone in the house for
such a thing to occur, so there were no witnesses.) These days, though I live in New York, I rarely go to the
theatre, and the only song I've memorized in recent years is the show-stopping cast-of-thousands grand finale from
Oh, Streetcar! which goes like this:
You can always rely on the comfort of strangers / To keep you from harm and protect you from danger/ [Marge, alone but waving from a departing trolley] So take a tip from Blanche you won't forget!/ [Chorus BIG finish!] A stranger's just a friend you haven't me-t-t-t-t-t!Very good for singing to cats, no umbrella required.
What do you dislike