Ron Currie - July 08

 
 

Ron Currie Jr. was one of the very first authors on my list of author’s I’d like

to interview for this segment on the website, primarily because his new book, Everything Matters! (Viking Books, June 2009) is one of my favorite titles this year; especially impressive, given that this is his debut novel.  You can read my full review of Everything Matters! here, and here comes the Ron Currie Jr. Interview:

 

Drew:

What writers would you say have most influenced you?

 

Ron:

Tracing influence is such a tricky thing.  I'm the type of writer who can be influenced by anything I happen to be reading at a given moment; often if I'm in the midst of a good, compelling read I'll find that author's style or themes sort of leeching into my own work.  Also, when I answer the question about influences I realize that the names I offer aren't necessarily of those writers whose work has influenced my own, so much as those writers whose work I simply admire.  The two may be one and the same, but I'm not certain of that.  Any event, some of my favorites writers (and perhaps not coincidentally the names of some of these people have come up in reviews and/or discussions of my own books) include David Foster Wallace, George Saunders, Max Apple, Raymond Carver, Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter Thompson, Lorrie Moore, Kelly Link, T.C. Boyle...I could go on, but I won't.  

Drew: 

What is your literary guilty pleasure?

 Ron:

Television. 

 

Drew:

Would you describe yourself as a fatalist, or do our choices change the nature of the future?

 Ron:

I certainly don't believe in fate.  The second part of the question seems to imply that our choices change the the future in a positive way (perhaps I'm misreading it, but that's what I'm picking up), and most days I don't subscribe to that notion, either.  To my view, as a species we have what seems to be a hardwired, biological compulsion to fuck things up.  We just can't help ourselves.  Which is not to say there aren't plenty of people out there doing good work, making things better on both the macro- and micro- scales.  But I think overall the record indicates that we're not nearly as good as we'd like to think we are, and one of the themes of Everything Matters! is, I think, how to find and lay claim to relevance and meaning within the context of the seemingly inescapable gloom we inflict upon ourselves.  Junior, our protagonist, finally figures this out after much heartache.  I wish I could say the same for myself, but alas, writing fiction should never be mistaken for therapy.  

 

Drew:

As I was going to St Ives I met a man with seven wives.  Every wife had seven sacks, every sack had seven cats.  Every cat had seven kittens: kittens, cats, sacks, wives - how many were going to St Ives?

 Ron:

Reading comprehension is fun.

 

Drew:

There has been increasing praise comparing your work to Kurt Vonnegut.  How do you feel about the comparison?

 Ron:

Oh, God.  It's certainly flattering, and I won't deny that in quiet moments I allow myself to take pride in those comparisons, however briefly.  The guy was and remains a literary hero of mine, almost a literary fairy godfather.  But ultimately I know that such comparisons are at best arbitrary and inaccurate, and at worst just plain hyperbole.  Plus when you're talking about reviews, which is where most of these comparisons come from, the problem is you have to take the bad with the good.  Meaning that if you're going to believe the nice things people say about your writing, you're obliged to believe and internalize the times when you get torpedoed.  So in a perfect world you just write what you want to write and ignore the critics.  But this is not a perfect world. 

 

Drew:

Do you dream in color, or black and white?  First person-perspective, or do you see everything like a film?

 Ron:

I'm not sure, to be honest--probably all of the above.  I don't remember my dreams well, generally, and have ever only once written a story that was inspired by a dream:  "Indian Summer," from God is Dead.  For some reason I had a nightmare about myself and my friends committing suicide in pairs by shooting each other in the head at point-blank range.  It just happened to fit well with the theme of the book, so I used it.

 

Drew:

Both God Is Dead and Everything Matters flirt with the surreal, the mystical, and/or science fiction, yet still remain firmly rooted in reality.  Is that a conscious choice to impose some rules upon your fiction, or does an idea simply seem more interesting in touch with our world?

 Ron:

Very little of what I write seems, in retrospect, to be deliberate.  I hate when people start talking in mystical terms about the process of writing fiction, but at the same time as I get older I find that process becoming more and more intuitive.  What some people refer to as "channeling the muse" or some such is in actuality, I think, simply getting out of the way of your subconscious, clearing the clutter from the hallways of your mind and replacing the burnt-out lightbulbs so that the good, meaty material trapped in your id can find its way out.  The trick is figuring how to do this on demand, and it's an art, not a science.

 

But to answer your question, stories rooted in reality but with surrealistic aspects have always fascinated me, and so it's only natural that those are the sorts of stories I'm compelled to write.  There's something about the process of torquing perception a few degrees to the left or right that can, when done properly and judiciously (as opposed to gratuitously), make a story tremble with emotional and conceptual resonance.  Part of the reason for this, it occurs to me, is that we all sense a certain ineffable weirdness to our existence, and when that weirdness is articulated, we experience a powerful recognition.   

 

Drew:

Did the man ever make it to St Ives?

 Ron:

You tell me--you were the one headed there.  If you mean the other man, assuming that he too was on his way to St. Ives, I doubt he made it.  Guys like that are always getting sidetracked.  He's probably got eleven wives by now.

 

Drew: 

So... is the world going to end anytime soon?

 Ron:

Gosh, I certainly hope not.  Things are good for me and mine right now, after the long cold winter of my twenties, and I'd like to be around to enjoy it for a while--assuming the good times last.  If I'm about to be audited by the IRS, on the other hand, the world can end tomorrow for all I care.

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