What can you tell us about how your story “Get A Grip” came about?
Years ago I was visiting a friend of mine, an actor on the set of a movie called Batteries Not Included, which was being shot on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, before gentrification, so there were a lot of vacant lots. In one of them, the movie crew had assembled the fake facade of a townhouse, three stories high, build of plywood and painted gesso, and only a couple of feet thick. It was for exterior shots, and it had a very realistic stone stoop. Dennis and I were sitting out there one day, and this old lady came wandering down the sidewalk, and stopped in front of us and said, “I was born in this house. That was my father’s room, there on the second floor.”
While reading this story, I get the very real sense of “the world is not what it appears,” and I was reminded very much of Philip K. Dick and his stories. Was he an influence on your work?
Yes—I love his stories where the whole nature of perceived reality turns out to be untrue. I’m also interested in meta-fiction, where there’s usually a rupture in the text, a place where the story is no longer what you thought you were reading. It’s a version of the same device, only one is inside the story, and the other is outside.
Our protagonist essentially finds that the world that he knows and loves is constructed around him: Do you think that the modern world is constructed, at least in part, with our willingness to talk/post/tweet about our lives?
When I was a kid, I had a hard time believing that other places, places I didn’t happen to be, were actually real—I guess I imagined that everyone in Paris, say, was standing around in suspended animation, waiting for me to show up. I mean, what would be the point of something I personally was unable to witness or be part of? Why would anybody bother? That’s an exaggeration of a fairly normal solipsism, especially among the young, and of course there’s a whole school of philosophy that justifies it. In our proudest moments, certainly we imagine the world is at least partially constructed by our perception of it, but at the same time, we imagine that gives us a kind of control. Of course the protagonist in the story doesn’t have any control; the world is constructed for the purpose of humiliating him.
Do you think that “Pogo” ever gets a grip on his life?
Never. He’s a total loser.
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