Tom Bradley: Why do you write, and under what circumstances, if any, would you stop?
Garrett Cook: I write because I am open and buzzing, a bundle of raw nerves. My senses are sharp and I am very sensitive. I have always been very sensitive. Sometimes to the point of numbness. I must spread these sensations, share them and experience them with others. But since I am very sensitive, I am often sitting five feet away on the same couch as everybody else because I don’t want their hair to tickle my neck or the heat coming off them to make me too warm. Writing is my way to wake up from the nightmare of separation. And if others wake up too by becoming connected to me or to someone else or to ideas I have, then all the better. If I didn’t write, the urge to share might dissipate some. I’d be more a ghost than a person. But since I write and it fuels my urge to share and connect, I believe I’ve learned to share acutely. So I’d rather not stop because I like many of you people, love some of you.
TB: Can you imagine living without writing? If not, how do you explain the continued existence of your non-writing friends? Are they pathological, or are you?
GC: I thought of quitting for an excruciating day. I couldn’t really see the next one all that clearly. I had told someone I loved that I would stop because I loved them and they were hurt by my making art when they were having trouble because of their dayjob. I was looking for a dayjob but my mind was held with writing so I felt to really get into the mindset where I would devote myself solely to the dayjob I would have to murder my art. I gathered together everything I had in print and put it in a big bag and then I filled another big bag with notebooks of material I’d never typed up yet. I stared at those bags and cried and fell into a catatonic state where I couldn’t see my life anymore. I had wanted to work but could not get a job so I did my best to try and make money writing but had only been in print about a year so wasn’t getting that much. She came home and saw how upset I was and told me not to quit. So I don’t think I can do it. I couldn’t abandon writing forever even for the woman I loved. My nonwriting friends are people who can touch things and connect without any help from the word and from spreading out empathically. They are all kind and tangible people who live, like Madonna, in the material world. Maybe they’re real and I am fictional so need to make worlds and people to keep existing.
TB: There was a time in America, before the internet, when fewer than a half-dozen fiction-publishing magazines had anything like national distribution. Publishing a book meant taking on boxes full of copies that had to be foisted personally onto brick and mortar bookstores. You are young enough not to have written at that time. Would your work be different if it had developed in that environment?
GC: I have foisted boxes, sir, though I am not from the age of foisting. Man’s gotta foist. I think maybe my work would not have occurred in this time. It needs a network of minds and hearts to flourish. And maybe I would have given up and become a dirtbag academic or a vice president of marketing at some place and I’d have a wife who’s okay in bed I guess and children who can smell the whiskey and broken dreams on their dad’s breath. Then again, marriage might not play into it. Girls can smell when you’re beat and when you’re hollow. I can’t pull that shit off like some guys. Or maybe I’m better than that, but I think I’m for my time. And am grateful that there were folks there and ready and they had the means to print books. And I love ‘em for it, for aborting my imaginary disappointments Chad and Mason (Mason is a girl and I never liked the name but her mom insisted and I didn’t’ care enough). Thanks to all the folks that published me for coathangerin’ those little shits. Chad thinks he can take his dad in a fight.
TB: When you publish something, is posterity part of the plan? If so, how does the question of digital vs. physical editions figure into it?
GC: I find the right place and the right energy. I haven’t developed the right energy for fancy anthologies what pay lots of dosh but I will, just wait, I will. Posterity figures into it in that I want people to see what I’ve done because then they can start interacting with it. If you do work and nobody gets to interact with it, it’s like being married to a blowup doll or to Chad and Mason’s mother, Maureen. I lied, she’s not okay in bed. She just lies there. Thinking of Kyle from work. I think Kyle might be Mason’s dad. Mason looks kind of Asian. I can’t let my work just lie there like my imaginary whore wife. It must be danced with. It must smile at you over dinner. And maybe just maybe you’ll get serious and you’ll take my work home. And maybe just maybe it will be more than a one night stand.
TB: Does the question continually nag at you that you should move to New York City and try to get invited to the right parties, so that you can schmooze a literary agent into taking you on, and you can actually start “being a writer” in the only way that bourgeois America considers “real,” i.e., with appreciable amounts of money changing hands?
GC: I don’t know how to make their products. And I don’t want to go to New York. Woody Allen and Jason are there waiting for me. To quote Supertramp “I have to have things my own way, to keep me in my youth.”
TB: Has there been one moment or period in your writing life that you can identify as the most delightful, bar none? Details?
GC: I think it’s when I first went to Portland for Bizarrocon. I had not really gone on a big trip solo. I led a sheltered existence- not always a safe one, but a sheltered one. The city was green and powerful and humming with hope. “Music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air” is what I felt, like Dylan said. Rose O’ Keefe picked me up at the train station. Nice lady. Her hair was almost too much. Rose is almost too much and I love her for it. You have to be to be the line bullshit can’t cross. She’s been very patient about me being a defiant, contentious insecure shithead who brings vagrants home to dinner. She brought me to the Eraserhead office and it was sparse as all get out and there were dogs fighting in the hallway and Jeff Burk was in the office. Jeff and I quickly realized we were brothers. IYR makes me happy because my brothers grew up to be generals and it gives me a taste of that, god willing, this mag will give me more than a taste and I can do even a fraction of what they’ve done for publishing. We came of age in Bizarro, Jeff and my other brother Cameron Pierce and I, and for a long time I’ve felt like I was slacking. But in the office, at the Trader Joe’s where we picked up snacks, at the Edgefield where Bizarrocon’s held, at Rose and Carlton’s house where we played Dungeons and Dragons Clue, I knew what I was. And that’s something for a guy who has trouble reaching out and touching people.