Monday, August 7, 2017

Dirty South 1/3

Last night, a short-term blog reader interviewed me. Kinda. Ok, it wasn’t exactly an interview, but it has since become one after writing it into being. In rewriting this moment I omitted the more personal Q and A’s, and most of my own Q’s.

I’m still new to this place, this person, and this genre. There is time for more later. This is the transcript of how I remember parts of it. Memory makes liberties.

Q: What brought you to Atlanta, was it Tech?
A: Yup, I took a postdoc at GA Tech.

Q: Is it a teaching or research fellowship?
A: I think it’s a bit of both? My understanding is that it is as much of both as you put into it, and you are there because you want to put both in. But teaching is, first and foremost, a requirement.

Q: How long have you been in town then?
A: Today is my one week anniversary!

Q: Congratulations! What kinds of things have you done so far?
A: In a week? I’ve mostly been avoiding mosquitoes. [Trying to get Lil John songs to STOP playing on a constant loop in my head. Brain keeps calling it THE DIRTY SOUTH. I hate the music from College.] I went to the High on Friday—saw the Warhol exhibit. You know, soup cans.

Q: Is that related to your work on food studies?
A: Nah….
[thinks to self, it probably should be. Crap, why didn’t I see that when I was there! Must return! Was too busy focusing on the Desdemona drawing that related to the novel written during May.]
…. I’m also looking forward to the Botanical gardens again, I can’t get there enough!

Q: So why blog about soil? What does this have to do with your research?
A: Excellent question! [Looks around the coffee shop. Why are the answers rarely written on ceilings? Gaining new appreciation for the Sistine Chapel.]
….Everything starts with the soil. Stories can’t happen, literally, without it. The way we used to take gender constructions for granted, until we didn’t, that’s why soil matters to me as a lens. It’s a simple part of our world that penetrates every single thing.

[I start rambling now]

The more publishers I talk to about the first major book project, the more they emphasize the need for an online presence that includes blogging. They’ve said it’s important to give a personal window to your voice, and that the voice is coming from a professional with complex research plans.

Q: Do you want to write a book like your blog?
A: I'm not sure. I know that I do keep coming back to this for some reason. [A line from "Nip/Tuck" When something is recurrent it is begging for attention and further consideration.]

Q: Do you think your blog helped you get hired at GA Tech?
A: Absolutely not. I was too scared to add it to my application materials.
Q: The could have googled you. That’s how I found it. Not a lot of work to find materials.
A: I do not think so. I think they had too many applicants to google all of them.

Q: They should google the potential hires. I learned a lot. Like the story behind that [points at Calvino tattoo]. I liked the information I got.
A: I’m truly happy that it held your interest, and that you actually wanted to ask questions. Thank you.
              [I didn’t do a good job expressing my adequate thanks. Had to do a follow-up email later.]

Q: Are you going to be teaching things related to your blog?
A: Not really. This semester it’s a class on Nobel prize winners in literature. That’s why I’m reading this right now.
              [waves copy of Bob Dylan’s Tarantula]

Q: The prize is really political, isn’t it? I’m still trying to make sense of Malala’s win. Other people have been working their lives towards bettering the world—mother Teresa level stuff—and she’s so young.
A: [pause.]  Agreed, in that it’s a complicated decision-making process. I mostly focus the research on the literature prize. Some people, like Murakami and Rushdie—or maybe more so their fans—have similar frustrations with the awards.

Q: Recently you wrote about Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet. You seem to be quite a fan. What is it that you love about his writing?
A: [Awkward pause]
              ….. I think he’s an incredibly intelligent man. I do have some difficulty enjoying the aesthetic of contemporary magical realism. It doesn’t always work for me.
Q: So you aren’t a fan of his work?
A: I’m not a fan of contemporary magical realism? [uncomfortable laughter] It’s inaccessible to me. I know that’s part of the point, but I don’t want it. I gravitate towards writing with, this will sound silly, shorter sentences.
Q: Shorter sentences? Why?
A: I like short, simple sentences. I like clarity as an aesthetic. Simple beauty moves me.
[Reduction, not what feels like humid writing.]

Q: Can you give me an example of a writer like that?
A: [I thrust my forearm forward, grinning.] Italio Calvino.

Q: Putting it that way—short sentences that try to emphasize clarity—thinking about it now I would say that’s a characteristic I can see in your writing. It makes sense, I liked that even if I didn’t know that’s what I was reading.
A: [Blush. Blush so hot my face burns off.]
              [EMTs are called to extinguish my face.]
[The interview continues despite the fact that my face is bandaged and I can hardly see the world through the cotton.]
Thank you. That is the biggest compliment I could possibly receive.

Q: You’re welcome. Do you ever blog about encounters like this?
A: Absolutely not!
Q: Why not? You could leave it anonymous, name someone “Mister XYZ”?
A. I’m really uncomfortable doing that. Words can hurt, more quickly and deeper than other things. They can construct expectations or interfaces that cannot be undone. Those structures can linger, and they can inadvertently do damage.

Q: But it’s your life, and your experiences, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t want to write about them. Like that post about the man that wouldn’t give you a a kiss in Paris.
A: That was extraordinarily different. I had been in a pattern of seemingly having to tell that story over and over again—I wanted it somewhere so I didn’t have to keep making the words come out of my mouth. And I do provide a disclaimer about how I dislike that kind of writing.

Q: Fair enough. Do you think you’ll write about this?
A: Absolutely not.*

Q: It’s getting on in time. Are you hungry? Can you eat given your face bandages?
A: Sure, let’s.**

<end scene>

*This particular Q & A did not occur. It if had, I would have said no, and then still done exactly what I’m doing right now.

**I should have went for the food. I did not go for the food. Muss and Turners would have been really good just then. Thunderstorms and my poor souphound’s potential storm adjustment compelled me homeward. I got home and took him out. The residual rain dissolved my face bandages. They must have been made of sugar after all.
I check my face again, it’s gone back to regular temperature. I check the sentences I, allegedly, spoke. Not the beautiful ones I prefer to write. I prepare to post this, I break a pattern of what I usually write. Eggshells go everywhere. I prepare to rub egg on my face and walls. My kitchen barely has towels.


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  2. Sounds like a rabble-rouser of an interviewer that made your face burn :)