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It has been said that fiction reveals the truth obscured by reality. What general truths do you attempt to reveal with your eloquent fiction?
What is cynicism a defense mechanism for? How did it evolve and when does it just become pathetic and immature? I'm also a sufferer.
When you get right down to it, pretty much every personality trait is a defense mechanism--cynicism, trust, optimism, pessimism; intelligence, sweetness, industry, heroism--all are strategies for coping with the devastating fact that the future is utterly unknown to us except for the part where we and everyone we know DIES. Dies, dies, dies, dies, dies, dies, dies. Octomoms, Buddhists, Trappist monks, authors, army generals, supermodels, world record-holders, schoolchildren, you, dies. So that you're DEAD. It's almost impossible to think about this for more than ten seconds without slipping into a mental strategy of mitigation: but my children will live on! My work will be remembered! I'll be reborn as a lizard! I'll live until I'm super-old and then fade away! By then they'll know how to preserve my brain in a jar and I'll pilot a Segue until the end of time with my mind! The whole earth will be destroyed in the coming enviro-apocalypse, so I won't bother to imagine my individual death because if everybody gets flattened by the new weather I myself won't suddenly be gone the way, say, Jeff Conoway was eerily just here and is now totally gone alone (besides he was a drug addict and everyone knows addicts are practically asking for it. How bad can a broken spine hurt anyway?)!
The thing is this: humans have intellects, we are forward thinking, we've invented leaf-blowers and slow cookers through the cumulative dynamo of culture, but in the end we're animals that shit and fuck and then die. Our denial circuits evolved to make us want to live in the face of death (I've actually thought this for a while, but it turns out this guy Ernest Becker wrote a Woody-Allenesque book about it in the 1970's that seems to say a lot more stuff about it, but I'm not sure if I can finish it since my bookmark fell out around page 30 and I'm afraid someone is going to see me reading a book called The Denial of Death and make fun of me. Because even reading about the denial of death is frightening). In the face of all this, what's a little cynicism? It sounds almost wholesome. It's never pathetic and immature, it's only human and distracting. And sometimes Gali, it's realistic. I bet you know when to trust people and when to give them the benefit of the doubt and besides, what are you supposed to do? Be all starry-eyed with puppy trust and overflow with faith in humanity? Because first of all, that's just creepy and second, those are the people who get cut up by serial killers.
Stacey Could just be me but the links to the Jewcy and Fringe interviews failed. FYI. Love your work, just terrific!
Thanks. I'll see if I can fix it. You are terrific too.
What is the probability that the one-eyed pirates are now robbing mail boxes?
I think the post office has it under control. Every time I try to mail a box, they ask me if it contains any explosives, anything toxic, anything perishable or spoiled, liquid, blood, or medical waste, and every time I say, "Do bloody Kleenexes count?," and when they say yes I leave sadly with my box and go home.
How much wood might a woodchuck chuck should said woodchuck belong to a state employees' union in Wisconsin which has recently suffered an ideological beatdown with disappointing practical implications? Is collectivism more a problem or a solution? How do magnets work?
I don't know. I don't know a lot about state employees' unions, woodchucks, Wisconsin, or magnets. I no longer understand American politics since I've noticed that all the working guys driving around in trucks seem to be Republicans, while all the college educated people seem to be Democrats, even though it makes more logically sense for them to switch. I'm beginning to suspect that logic doesn't have much to do with it. I'm sure other people have more cogent things to say about this than I do. Collectivism seems good in theory. I thought I'd have a better answer but I don't.
Magnets have something to do with electricity, particles, and other things that are invisible. Like ex-boyfriends, sometimes they can attract and repel us at the same time.
Would you describe the writing process as 'painful'?
I prefer "difficult" but maybe I'm splitting hairs. I find a lot of the writing process to be positive. There are those great moments when bright, intriguing things pop out of your brain--images, ideas, scraps of dialogue, memories, little structures, mirrors of what you wrote before--all that. My guess is, if we only ever wrote for ourselves, it wouldn't be painful or difficult. The hard parts happen when we wrestle with all the problems of language as communication and all the complexities of our own desires to be read, seen, heard, loved, known, understood deeply, and never forgotten. Ha! Good fucking luck. But even though such wishes are impossible, it doesn't mean most writers aren't driven by them. Or most people, for that matter.
Hi Stacey, If you can put questions in your answers, then I can put replies in my questions. My favorite Douglas Coupland novels are Miss Wyoming and Girlfriend In A Coma. I liked Life After God a lot, though it wasn't a novel per se. There is a part in Miss Wyoming where he humanizes a really wretched and miserable character. A masterstroke of writing. It centers around the free red plastic spoon you get with a sundae at Dairy Queen. Currently I am reading The Gum Thief. I am really enjoying it. Did you know that Mr. Coupland also collects art? To conform to the proper format of this site, I'll end with a question: how's the pirate novel coming along?
Hi Tom. Spoons, hmmm. The pirate novel is killing me, but thanks for asking.
Happy Birthday! My question is this: do you like the work of Douglas Coupland? I have just started reading some of his later works and I enjoy them a good bit.
Thanks Tom. I like Douglas Coupland but I haven't read him for a long time. (I admire that he makes furniture as well as books. It's nice furniture, and writers need a break from words.) I liked Generation X when it came out--as I recall it had sidebars, neat typography, a lot of creative energy. Then I read a book with the word "hair" in the title. I think maybe, at least in my mind, Coupland suffers from the same problem as Jay Mcinerney--his first book was so good that it made it harder for the subsequent ones (if you haven't read Bright Lights, Big City for a while, I think you'd be surprised by how good it is). I'm not supposed to put questions in my answers, but if I did I might ask which Couplands you liked.
Additional question: What are you doing for your big day, Birthday Girl?
For my birthday, I went to Phoenix to see my friends and family and have them feed me cake. My parents gave me a wonderful present a few weeks ago (a necklace that belonged to my grandmother), but on this trip my mother also gave me a scarf she'd given me a few years ago (when I refused it); I'm planning to save it and give it back to her for her next birthday. She also gave me half a pedicure machine with the promise that the second half (now lost) would turn up soon. I didn't tell her this, but I actually found the second half last summer when she sent me into her closet to find a few things for her (she was out of town). It looks like a sex toy-dildo device and this disturbed me for weeks. But it's not my mother's sex toy! It's a pedicure wand. That, in itself, was a good present.
Hey, Stacey. Here are some urgent questions:
Are you friends with singer/songwriter Aimee Mann? Because I bet you 2 would get along famously. (If you're not friends, please explain why not.)
If you had to be in a literary feud with a writer of a past era, who would you choose? (I bet you could have socked it to Ayn Rand.) Also, if you're brave enough to answer this, what current-day writer would you choose to get into a literary feud with? (Roiphe seems like the obvious choice, but Rick Moody would be farrrrrrrr more interesting.)
If I ever have to write a paper about you, or answer some "Discussion Questions" printed alongside one of your stories in some anthology, can I just ask you very general questions about that particular story, and then use your responses in lieu of providing my own analysis? It would save me some time, so you'd totally be doing me a solid. (Think it over.)
What is the most prurient and/or low-minded thing you're into right now? For instance: Are you watching "Jersey Shore"? Eating Pizza Bagel-Bites by the box? Spending obscene amounts of money buying airbrushed sweatshirts off of HSN? Give us the dirt, Stacey!
Are there times when it's appropriate to be passive-aggressive?
Who is you favorite Muppet, and why? (If you simply cannot name only one, then a small list would be acceptable, and, in my opinion, preferable.)
Okay, Stacey! You've got your work cut out for you. Get crackin'!
Your current admirer and future literary rival,
Okay, let's take these one by one:
I don't know Aimee Mann. I do like Aimee Mann's music though. I don't know her because she's a beautiful rock star who lives in Los Angeles while I am a mousy little writer holed up in Tucson. Also, I don't know most people. However, I do know Lisa Loeb.
If I had to feud with a writer from the past, I'd choose Gertrude Stein. I don't want to attack her, I just think it would be great to deal with her in any way. I bet she'd feud like a rapper--we'd be like Lil' Kim and Nicki Minaj. For a current-day writer, I'll take Jonathan Franzen. (I can't fight with Roiphe; I'm crazy about Roiphe). Though it's true that I'm a big fan of the Frazen, I think that feuding with him would be good for my career. In the course of our skirmish, I'd try do that confusing, infuriating thing that makes everyone feel crazy, where I criticize him for things that I deserve to be criticized for myself. He writes too slowly! His characters are not nice! I sense inside jokes in his work--what's that about? Some of that stuff that happens is not realistic! Has he had botox? Gastric by-pass? He should get some sun!
I won't provide answers for your study guide. Except if you give me presents, I might.
I don't really like any of the Muppets. Their eyes don't move, and I've always found that disturbing. However, as I was watching Muppets in Space last night, I realized I do like the little minor-Muppet crab who speaks with a French accent. I wish Muppets in Space could count for the undignified thing I'm into lately, but I only watched it for ten minutes to see F. Murray Abraham. I'm a big F. Murray fan, and while I don't know him, I did once see him walking down the street in New York City. In fact, I only started watching it in the first place because I'd just finished watching a great episode of Nature that he narrates, and I wanted keep up my F. Murray Abraham roll. (It was the incredible dog episode with all the animated dog skeletons and the sled dog puppies born on the ice and the wonderful Belyaev foxes, as well as the sad-faced shepherd who says of his border collies, "I love them deeply." I love them deeply too! I don't even know them and I love them. In fact, if this writing thing doesn't work out--and it seems like it's not going to, especially given how long it's taking me to answer this question--then I'm going to get some border collies and spend the rest of my life teaching them language, or at least the names of hundreds of toys, everyday, for hours and hours. Then we'll go outside and go running, running, running).
I can't believe I'm still doing this. Ha ha, very funny. Okay: the most prurient/low-minded thing I'm doing (besides looking at porn) would probably have to be catalog shopping, for bras, a lot, I don't know why. Something's come over me. Also, the last two books I read were Why Me? The Sammy Davis Jr. Story (it's excellent) and Wunnerful, Wunnerful: The Autobiography of Lawrence Welk (which is not quite as good)--both ghost-written, out-of-print pap.
Is it ever appropriate to be passive-agressive? Wow. What a great question. If my life is any indication itís always appropriate to be passive-aggressive, but thatís not my real answer. My real answer is: yes. First of all, itís entirely appropriate, even worthwhile, to be passive-aggressive with your psychotherapist. Otherwise, howís he going to help you see what an asshole you are? Acting like a dick is also a good test to see if the therapist is on his toes, but since true passive-aggressive behavior is unconscious (otherwise, itís just aggression), you might have to wait for it to kinda just leak out. (Iíve been late four times in a row? No I havenít! Whatever, I canít control traffic, Iím not God. Nice shirt. I did so pay you! I don't run the post office. Etc.) Itís also customary to be sullen, late, forgetful, thieving, obstinate, dishonest, and catty throughout oneís adolescence, and though no one loves this, I would say itís become a tradition and is therefore socially acceptable.
In all other cases, the answer is no. Try to stop yourself, good luck, but still: no. Instead, I recommend channeling your energy into indirect aggressionóbeing sneaky. Slash her tires! Pee on the bed (for dogs)! Steal one shoe! Text a naked picture! Use the return envelope to mail a brick! Leak the porn video! Burn your leader in effigy! This takes some initiative, and therefore requires that you acknowledge the evil within, but weíre all horrible people anyway, so what the fuck? Oh sure, it's not as admirable as being direct, but it's not always smart to be direct (little woman, big man). At least being sneaky-aggressive carries its own little nugget of glee.