July 2010

Mark Doten

features

An Interview with Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor is from Florida, not the Twin Cities, and a little younger than I am, but I know the characters in his first short story collection, Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever. Something about these places, certain college towns and urban areas outside New York and LA, the people there, in their late teens into their mid-twenties, activists and coffee shop workers and writers and stoners: there’s an edge and a friendliness and a sense of community and just wanting things that Taylor nails. But more than that, there’s something very specific to the last ten years or so (certain types of irony, ways of speaking when hanging out in groups, for instance) that this book gets right in a way I haven’t seen before. There are young writers who have interesting, blank versions of young people today, but they’re after something else: a flattened surface, not the nuances of dialog in semi-heterogeneous groups, and certainly not the ways in which a brain like Taylor’s, which is constantly turning things over, thinks about the way people speak.

Justin is a good friend, and I love this book, so it was a pleasure to sit down and talk with him about it. We decided to drink a double bottle of wine during the course of the interview, with the idea that this would make things more honest and interesting. I’m not sure that’s how things shook out: certainly it gets more emotional and less coherent as we go along.

We’re drinking Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, Sauvignon Blanc, Justin, can I top you up? [MD tops up JT] Okay, to start, I’m sort of jealous of you people who can spit out a book every year.

Well, I don’t know...

Clockwork, every eighteen months. You have turned in your second book, is that correct?

That is correct. But you know I was working on the book of stories [Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever] and the novel more or less concurrently. The stories and the novel are the product of five, six, seven years of work. The novel wasn’t finished, but they were sold together, and the understanding was I’d have about a year to not write the novel from scratch, but write a new draft and finish it.

There’s one story in the collection that’s concerned with anarchists. One in particular. We get these anarchists who are fuckups...

Well, yeah.

They’re believers in various ways, but they’re also like fuckups. Well, it’s a short story. Where is the novel going with… I assume… let’s see… see, this is what’s going to be edited out...

Note to the intern.

Note to intern: none of this. Can you talk a little about the range of characters you’re dealing with in the novel?

There’s two stories in the collection that center on the same punk rock house in Gainesville, and feature this cast of anarchists who live in this college town. Those two stories are written in a style a little different from the others in the collection. The novel is set in a version of that world. It’s set in a house like that and it features some of the same characters, though not always in the same incarnation. The prose in those stories is stripped bare, and it’s about interrogating these people and their ideas and ideals and satirizing them The novel, in contrast, takes them much more seriously and fleshes out the world they live in and embraces it fully. It’s very much about the characters and why they are who and what they are. It’s also actually about religion, as much as politics -- more, probably.

I remember a Facebook status update or something of yours where you said you were reading sermons from… hmm…

Probably Kierkegaard?

Oh right, not sermons, Kierkegaard, in the morning -- standing up and reading them to get to some voice you needed for the novel.

Yep. But you’re actually right that they were sermons. He wrote all these sermons he never preached. They’re in this book called Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, and his idea was that his readers would read them aloud to themselves. So I did that for a while.

I want to sidebar that and talk about the quality of the prose in Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever...

Which is sterling.

Which is sterling! and there’s an interesting thing the prose does where it makes very fast moves -- it does this continuously throughout the book -- between a high-flown language and an extremely colloquial voice. For instance, here at the beginning of “Estrellas Y Rascaielos”:

The anarchists were drinking victory shots and making toasts because even though they’d never met with success before they surely knew it when they saw it or it found them. Snapcase, his beard effulgent with spilled drink, was sure that school was out forever. He’d tossed Jessica’s survey of art history, his own Norton Shakespeare, and somebody’s copy of Derrida’s The Gift of Death into the fire pit they had dug in the backyard. The shallow hole was surrounded by salvaged chairs and shaded by a blue canvas canopy they’d stolen from some resort because property was always already theft anyway and plus they had really wanted that canopy.
Can you talk a little about that voice, for instance the swing here from the elevated “always already theft” to the “plus they had really wanted that canopy.”

I think a lot of people come of age and go to college and suddenly discover there’s this whole world of ideas, many of them quite radical, that they just never knew existed before. So they wind up torn between the ideas themselves -- about class interests and conflict and this and that -- and the privilege and access of the academy that allowed them to access those ideas in the first place. Certainly punk rock culture and real anarchist culture -- where it exists -- is absolutely gritty. It’s hands digging through garbage and breaking into buildings and rebuilding things from trash. And so I wanted to show, not so much that conflict or contrast -- though that too, I guess -- but more just to prove that that simultaneity was possible.

Not all the characters come from privileged backgrounds -- not everyone in the anarchists’ house.

No, but privilege is a relative term. There’s old Against Me! song called “Baby, I’m an Anarchist!” which is about rejecting liberal compromise. It’s sung from the perspective of this anarchist activist who’s explaining to his liberal partner why he’s not in fact going to continue being involved with him or her. It has this amazing line in it toward the end of one of the verses where he says, “In the backseat of your father’s new Ford / You believe in the ballot, believe in reform.” That line always stuck with me because I think it embodies how relative the idea of privilege really is. From the perspective of the person singing this song, the most extreme idea of privilege imaginable is the ability to buy a new Ford. And that’s not even to say that he’s wrong. The fact that some people buy yachts doesn’t change the fact that somebody with a Ford has more money than someone without a Ford.

Have you read Wallace Shawn’s The Fever?

Yes.

There’s a great bit in that where he’s talking about all these thoughts of loathing he’s having for his life and the people around him as he’s attending a party on the Upper West Side. Well, Upper East or Upper West -- we’ll fix it in post.

It must be West.

Anyhow, he’s talking about how he’s eating salmon, about how he likes this thing about the party or dislikes this woman’s dress. But in the end, he says, he’s not a man who’s thinking these things. In the end he’s a man who’s at a party -- a party on the Upper West Side. So whatever you think or say is beside the point. The ideology, your position, is simply in where you are, it’s in these social linkages. And I think in your book a lot of characters feel that conflict. Everyone here is very concerned about politics, in some ways as a surrogate for other feelings of community and alienation that are more personal. And I think to greater and lesser degrees, the politics of many of these characters are after-effects of their psychological problems.

That’s a pretty on-point observation. The entire project of anarchism, at least in the incarnation that I’m working with here, is based on this idea that the personal is political and these ideas of radical praxis, of living your ideals, are what these people truly believe, or would like to truly believe. And if you do believe that, there’s almost nothing you can do to satisfy yourself other than embrace the idea of the transformation of everyday life.

And the relationship to that lifestyle is some sort of love, because they feel like there’s something authentic about living that -- slumming it. And I don’t mean that in a put-down way, or only to the extent that the characters would agree with what I’m saying, because nearly everyone in this book is meta-aware of their own class position and their own implication in things, right?

Not everyone.

Not everyone, but the narrators tend to be.

The narrators tend to be fairly conscious of what they’re up to.

I’ve got something on that. [Flipping through book. ] Keep talking.

Well, a lot of my narrators...

Oh, right! It’s in the story about me and my other self.

“Finding Myself.”

It’s in the opening lines of that.

“I keep finding myself in places I...”

No, a little further down. “Living a life to which the term hardscrabble might be astutely or ironically applied. Luckily, there are no ironists or astuticians around to subject me to application.” Except of course for the narrator himself.

Yes. It’s a much shorter story, and much more experimental, so that character doesn’t exist on the same order of realism as some of the others, but in that line in particular he’s right on. I think that for people in any version of the middle class, from the lower low middle class to the upper upper middle class, anywhere in that broad middle, even as the middle itself gets squeezed tighter and tighter in this country, anyone who wants to believe themselves to be part of that group – a lot of times you really don’t know. You know there are people who exist below you. And you know there are people who exist somewhere above you. But mostly what you are doing is obtaining to some level of comfort and also struggling A) to maintain what you’ve got and B) to get to the next thing. So it’s a real question: is your life hardscrabble or is it not? That’s something I wonder about all the time. Outside of the characters, I mean; in my own life. I’ve got this book; that’s very nice. I teach at a couple colleges -- changes where and what depending on the semester, but basically that’s nice too. And I get up in the morning and things are nice. But at the same time I live in Bushwick in an apartment with roommates...

Not a huge apartment...

And that is not expected to change. I’m a 27-, almost 28-year-old man, I live with three other people in a place I don’t own, in a neighborhood that may or may not really want me there, and every time a new semester rolls around I have to go begging for work again. So you tell me: am I the face of privilege, or am I the face of the legitimate bohemian insurgency? Answering that question will tell you infinitely more about who you are than about who I am.

I find the way people grow up talking about money or not -- the awareness of money and class position, as a child, is really interesting. Can you get into that?

I think that my upbringing and where I came from deeply shaped my sense of class. I come from North Miami Beach, Florida, which is a suburb north of Miami -- this is described fairly accurately in my story, “Tennessee,” in the first couple pages where the kid is describing moving from South Florida to the proper south, his description of where he comes from is basically where I come from.

I want to use the right words to describe that neighborhood and that community. I’d say it was a very aspirational community. I don’t know that it was class conscious, but it was very money conscious, and a community that very much saw itself as on the make. And I have a very clear vision just from the trajectory of my own childhood, kindergarten through twelfth grade, a period in which I lived in the same house, knew the same people, and the way that that neighborhood changed over the years was really marked, really profound.

We got by, and we did our thing, but my family had a different experience and tougher times than a lot of other families we knew. And so the challenge for us was not to so much to keep up with the Joneses, but just to keep up with ourselves -- or own ideas about what we wanted and needed for a decent life. South Florida is class conscious and brand conscious; sometimes subtly and sometimes quite crudely, but it’s always there. You develop a sensitivity to these things. You can contrast that with when I finally graduated high school and moved to Gainesville and got involved with radical politics and the music scene, the activist scene, all these scenes.

What was your first exposure to those scenes? Can you cast your mind back to some party or something where you said, “Wow, this.”

I can’t think of one specific instance, but I can tell you my first year at University of Florida, I lived in the dorms and had my little meal card and, you know -- went to college. Later I lived elsewhere, but especially that first year, to just meet and interact with and work side by side with people -- that it was even possible for people… I had a 100% scholarship to the University of Florida, so I wasn’t paying any tuition. But even with that exed out, I met people for whom the idea that my parents could pay to keep me in the dorm was barely thinkable to them. I was so used to being in this lower middle tier of people I knew in terms of having money, to suddenly meet these people for whom having the amount of money I had was an unthinkable and insane goal. They saw no distinction between me and… whoever. The BMW kids.

There’s a strong thing throughout the book of wanting to get things right and give people their due. It’s not like with a Bernhard narrator who has nothing but loathing… or like Dostoevsky characters who commit terrible acts, and yet they’re charismatic. There are dumpy people… it’s like these are people who are not cool who you want to give their due. There’s a nice moment at the end of [MD flips through the book for several moments] the end of… sorry. We’ll fix this in post. It’s cool to leave space, it gives you typing time while you’re transcribing… whatsit, the story that ends with where he says, “salt of the earth.” [This phrase does not actually appear in the book. ]

“What Was Once All Yours.”

“What Was Once All Yours.” Here, I’ll read this -- you should read this, but it isn’t a podcast, so: “Ma and Kyra, thick as thieves, go together to First Presbyterian, and if you do not engage them on the topic of queers or of Democrats you will see that they are good Southern women, full with love. I swear they mean the world no harm.” It’s a sentiment that appears in various way throughout the book. The narrator takes a second to focus on a character and give them some love, or at least some space so that we can respect them. I think that the best moment of that, which seems related to the overall narrative strategy, is that story where the gay guy says, “You think this is my whole life.” Were you thinking of this as any sort of credo or motto for the book?

It wasn’t a conscious strategy, but it does seem to be a recurring theme, finding the sympathetic core of people. Like you say, it’s fascinating to find the sympathetic core of some arch-villain. But someone doesn’t need to be so bad or outsize, it’s the people in the middle that get lost…

I’m going to add for the benefit of the audience at home the Mondavi bottle is about 55% empty. I’m going to get some water. [MD gets water. ]

I think I am really interested in the way people see themselves and each other, or fail to, as the case may be. In the case of “A House in Our Arms” and what Richard says to Todd, it’s really true. Todd on the one hand is coming from a place of massive sympathy, and his eagerness to do the right thing is something anyone can sympathize with. But he’s so profoundly misunderstood not only the person he’s trying to do right by, but his place in that person’s life, that he really can’t do anything…

But [Todd] wins in the end! He “gets it”! You know that at the end he’s going to show up a wasted mess at Richard’s door, and Richard’s going to take him in. It’s a story that twists, then it twists again, right at the end. It’s a bit of a dagger in both places.

That’s the idea, right? You want a dagger that cuts in both directions.

To get back to the notion of authenticity -- I feel like there’s a frustration in this book with the war. This recurs in a few places, right? Most prominently in the story, “Jewels Flashing in the Night of Time.” And there’s a frustration with these characters -- it almost doesn’t matter what they do, the war is going on. And the narrator is trying to engage with the war, but it doesn’t matter.

Well, it does and it doesn’t. He certainly has no control over it; he has no control over almost anything in his life. So in that sense I agree completely. But the war itself, the Abu Ghraib photos -- all those things do matter, especially in that story. The thing about the narrator in “Jewels” is that in one way he’s divorced from reality from the very beginning and gets even more divorced from reality, and violent -- he sort of becomes a villain. At the same time, his problem is this hyper-sensitivity. He’s like a frog in a polluted pond, and he’s absorbing everything straight through the skin. Because the pond is toxic he becomes toxic.

Throughout the story, almost every cue he takes comes from some external source, and it’s usually some form of media. The books that he reads, the radio reports he hears, the images he downloads, the television broadcasts. I wasn’t thinking this consciously when I wrote it, but later I figured it out, that it’s really running down the entire line of media platforms from top to bottom, and all these things are being absorbed and creating this toxic stew inside him. I don’t want to give away the end of the story, but in his own weird way he’s very much a pleaser. It’s his ultimate downfall. He’s trying to do whatever you want him to do, but he’s getting all these horrible messages. He’s coming to the conclusion that the horrible thing that must be what’s desired. And he wants to provide that.

This is one of the more self-consciously allusive stories in the book, in a literary way. And I wondered if skirting… I don’t really want to say pretension, because I don’t exactly believe in that, but skirting annoying readers, which I do believe in. Because you can annoy readers with literary references and stuff, I wonder if that was a deliberate strategy in a story which puts these very gritty, difficult war reports about what was happening at Abu Ghraib on the same level as a classic work of literature and a Barthelme story and it feels like they’re all in a way equally real to the narrator.

Well, the Barthelme pops up in a different story.

[Several moments of confusion as MD is made to understand that what he thought was a Barthelme reference is a Bataille reference]

But it’s still an interesting question that you raise. In “Jewels” there are three texts that the story is triangulated by. The first is Story of the Eye, by George Bataille; the second is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; the third one appears in the form of the radio broadcast. What that guy is reading on the radio is the one-page abstract of the [United States Army Major General Antonio] Taguba Report on conditions at Abu Ghraib. Though there’s a line slipped of Bataille slipped into the middle of it...

Ah-hah! And no one would ever fucking know that if not for this interview! Thanks to me!

But all this is an attempt to engage with the war, the whole global fucked up thing, the GWOT, the Global War on Terror. And I feel like the inability for the narrator to do this in a certain way is a frustration. This is something I feel in my own work. Your book is not a Thom Jones book, we’re not in Vietnam, and the characters aren’t at basic, and it’s not going to be Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. I also write a lot about stuff that’s politically engaged, stuff that’s set in the Middle East. But the war itself -- the war qua war -- doesn’t really appear in my stuff, either. And I mean: is this a problem?

It’s a huge problem. The war qua war doesn’t appear in our day-to-day lives in this country. And if it did, it would be over already -- which is why it doesn’t. If we really had to see this thing in close-up and for what it was, not as an abstract idea of patriotism but as like a video-montage of American boys being shot down in good old KBR trucks, the war would be over already. The tea party would be fighting for something worth fighting for. Their outrage would be properly directed. Things are stage-managed this way for a reason. Every war since Gulf War I has been promoted in America as A) post-political, which is completely insane, and B) some combination of video game and reality show. And when you combine those kinds of things in a sort of patriotism pageant, yeah, you end up with a war that’s a total abstraction, which is the worst disservice we could do to our troops and the worst disservice we could do to our own self-interest. To say nothing of the people whose country we destroyed.

But isn’t it incumbent on us as writers to try to do that? And I say that as someone who… Look, Conor Oberst has lots of lyrics about the war. And he’s young and this is like the biggest political thing in his life, the war. I mean, he’s like a couple years younger than you, right?

Yeah, he’s got to be a couple. [Later it turns out that JT is two years younger than C.O. ]

I always feel a little like [MD makes a growly, drunk, uncertain-sounding noise] about it, because it’s like him engaging the war in Conor Oberst songs [that noise again], it doesn’t mean anything, but then I feel like, I feel like it’s difficult, and I wish… well, I feel like I wish I was a better writer.

I think you’re a great writer.

Get into that Stephen Crane shit, you know, show, show the real thing.

At the end of the day you can only judge a work of art based on its success as a work of art. You can admire something for choosing to engage with the political or whatever, even if it’s on your side, that still doesn’t make it any good. There’s this Chris Bachelder essay on Upton Sinclair he wrote from the Believer many years ago, I think it was in 2004. Something I always come back to. He says… I’m a little drunk to remember this right, but essentially he was saying that aesthetics without any politics is a beer commercial. And politics without any aesthetics is a pamphlet. [Actual quote: “Beauty without Conviction is a beer commercial; Conviction without Beauty is a pamphlet.” Full article available online here]

I guess part of both the tragedy and advantage of living in our time is that fiction doesn’t really matter. It can in certain situations -- in countries other than the United States it can matter. In terms of minority communities here, or drawing attention to specific issues like the death penalty. But in a broad sense, fiction doesn’t matter.

Uh… probably it doesn’t matter as much as it used to. But I think the Conor Oberst example is actually interesting; it’s a good case in point. There are a number of strong songs on I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, and that album taken as a whole is a solid album, I think. I don’t listen to it all the time...

Hey, I think it’s very good...

And a lot of the ways he indicts the war and contemporary culture on that record are not only very successful as indictments or whatever, but successful as songs. They’re compelling as songs, they’re compelling as art, and they’re also very relevant. On the other hand you have something like that song he did, “When the President Talks to God”...

Well, that’s very bad.

Yeah, it’s a terrible piece of art, kind of in the grand tradition of Dylan’s “Masters of War,” which is also in a lot of ways a pretty terrible song. But let me ask you this: if the song is sort of train wreck of a song, but it’s successful in drawing your attention in a kind of car- or train-crash way, is it not in fact succeeding? Dylan himself may not have consciously known it when writing “Masters” -- he was probably just really pissed off -- but nowadays, in a world that’s had half a century of Dylan, Conor Oberst is probably canny enough to know that that song is a kind of anti-song: his art in this case is to sacrifice the possibility of a song to the necessity of protesting a war.

Wait wait wait. But it mattered. It mattered in the '60s, it mattered. And people were afraid. To say, “I’m going to piss on your grave”… Remember, in the '60s, like, the order as such was not sure what was going on. And they were actually afraid. And something like “Masters of War” could be a fucking, a shot to the gut. It was serious and it meant something. And compare that to Conor Oberst, “If you walk away, I’ll walk away.” Notice the total shift of energy. It’s saying I give… It’s not quite saying, I give up. Instead of being vitriol spewing at someone... well, music now, its function is not to mobilize things socially. And as goes music, so have gone books -- back in the day Robert Lowell would get jailed for opposing the war. Novels are a little behind that curve, but poetry, today it doesn’t matter at all...

Politically, no.

I mean, you remember poets against the war? What was it called? Which I don’t object to at all, be against the war -—

Yeah, but don’t be against the war as poets. That’s the thing. What we need is a coherent anti-war movement, not a coherent anti-war submovement of poets. If you really want to stop the war, don’t tell anyone you’re a poet, or from New York.

You’re basically donning a sea turtle costume at that point.

Tell them you’re from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and Omaha. And that you hate Jews, but you also hate war. Then you’ll get listened to.

Done and done.

Done and done.

Okay, I need to pee, but I really want to ask you, the last thing, it’s a formal question. I really admire the way that, well the narrators in your stories are very strange. You can zoom in and go out. You like to get that narrator to total omniscient authority. You love that...

Yeah, I...

But you can’t! because of the kind of book this is. But you do jump-ups that seem totally natural, and you’d almost miss them if you weren’t paying attention. You take the total Tolstoy authority...

I really like that close third person that can follow anyone almost from the over-the-shoulder or inside-the-head position, but reserves the authority for itself to move around at will. I think that’s one of the main lessons I take from Dennis Cooper.

Let’s talk about that, because I wasn’t thinking of those moves in terms of Dennis.

Yeah, I mean, especially the novels in the George Miles Cycle...

[MD laughs weirdly. The recording stops.]

Gonna be such a bitch to transcribe, I am shutting this off when we hit the one hour seven minute mark…

Yeah but… we were talking about...

What’ll be great is the bracketed then italicized description of us both going to the bathroom. And I should say to our viewers at home… readers at home… that we are now down to about… I’d say we’ve had 91% of the Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi…

We’re certainly getting there. This was a huge bottle. And it’s true that...

$12.99! That’s a good price! It’s a liquor store by Union Square that...

We were talking about narrative strategy. I think Dennis is a really interesting example in a lot of ways. He himself is a good example of an author who has very specific but wide-ranging interests, almost none of which are immediately apparent from reading his work.

And Guided By Voices...

But you’d never guess that he’s into those big sprawling novels, Gaddis and Gass, and all that French post-structuralist stuff, because he writes something that looks very different. And I guess I think of myself like that in a certain way. I’m not a huge postmodernism guy, other than loving Barthelme and certain fellow travelers. But I think a big part of loving writers, the maybe best lesson you can take from them, is to not repeat the things that they’ve already done. So you’ll probably never catch me writing anything like Barthelme, unless it’s a very purposeful homage, like a cover song. Which I’m certainly not above. But my basic position is that he’s done X as well as X is going to be done, so I’m not going to pursue it any further. But about the stories in Everything Here in particular, because you were asking me about the narrative and the close third person...

[laughter] I feel like we’re about to get the sales pitch.

Well obviously it was something I was excited to talk about from when it came up before -- you signed up to do this interview, despite knowing me pretty well. I’m going to help you move in a few weeks. So yeah, you’re going to sit through the sales pitch.

For the viewers at home, I should say that Justin’s picked up his book and is sort of waving it in the air.

If you act now, you’ll get not one, but two...

[apparently forgetting that this is not a podcast] The flappy noises you hear -- those flappy noises -- they’re him shaking his book and waving it in the air.

That’s right, folks. He’s not waving his dick in the air -- that’s his softcover story collection. Anyway, you know your Dennis Cooper as well as I do. Try and Guide, which are the big two for me from the George Miles Cycle, both feature a mix of the first and third person, and a mixture of the past and present tense. I just think that the way Dennis executes that, and the way that he sort of tips the author’s own hand, or just at the structural and formal level embodies the positions that the book has taken towards its characters, in those very small choices that he makes that you could almost pass by without noticing. To me that is something that is totally compelling and brings me back to those books again and again.

I want to come back to the question… the question of formal aggression. Which is my preferred name for… like, this is more formally aggressive, this is less… I don’t like “experimental” or “avant garde.”

I like that term. I’ve never heard it before.

Well, I don’t know that I made it up [N.B.: Google has 623 results for “formally aggressive” ] but I like it. I would say that your book figures at a… what? At a six-point, what? Six-point-two? Six-point-six?

[laughs] On the formal aggression scale? OK.

Yeah, I mean, when you talk about people you like, like David Gates or Dennis, how consciously do you think about that, and how much do you think about it for future work, just in terms of Justin Taylor?

Well, I didn’t think about it for the collection much, because each story was written for its own reasons at its own time, separately from any of the others. As I was putting the collection together, certain ideas and themes and affinities disjunctions and whatever, began to let’s say emerge. But in the novel it was a huge concern. Because I’ve written this novel four or five times now, once entirely in the first person, once entirely in the third person, then once in a series of about eight or nine sections sort of narrating in the round...

How did that work out?

Poorly.

Eight sounds like a lot. Usually they do like three, and it cycles through them again and again. You think of The Sweet Hereafter, or the Faulkner.

Or, you know, As I Lay Dying --

The Faulkner...

As I Lay Dying has a whole bunch. The Sound and the Fury has the four sections. For a while I was trying to do it like The Sound and the Fury, because the novel is about religion.

Because you’re such a Benjy...

And I was trying to do the four gospels...

Justin Taylor: Benjy: Halloween costume. What do you think?

“Caddy smells like trees.” But the novel as it stands starts in the first person past, goes through a succession of close third persons, then resumes the first person, then eventually gives it up again. So it… maybe that’s giving too much away, I should…

Well, what’s the last line of it?

Of the novel?

Come on, don’t be so fucking bourgeois, tell us the line. I don’t believe in spoiler alerts.

The last line?

The last sentence, don’t be bourgeois, tell us the last line of your unpublished novel!

[Redacted]

[Clapping sound] [Sincere; genuinely excited]

That’s me clapping, people at home. Wow. That’s pretty intense. Are we done?

I think we’re done.

Is this over? Can I go now?

THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER!

[the last wine being a half-full cup on JT’s side of the table, MD redistributes it] Cheers.

Cheers.