Gary J Shipley doesn’t do interviews. I told him I’d do anything for one. He sent me a list of requirements. I met him in his penthouse hotel suite overlooking the 9/11 memorial on a balmy Sunday morning in September. Per his request, I wore what I’ll wear when I’m cremated: my late grandfather’s good tweed suit, brass knuckles, and thick layer of Tom Ford’s Oud Minerale (which already has deliciously corpsey basenotes). The front desk phoned his room for me. They informed me he’d send someone down to fetch me when he’s ready.
Three-and-a-half hours later, a bellhop in a shih-tzu suit (vice-versa?) ushered me into the service elevator. It opened directly into his room: mirrors, scarlets, & gold. At its center: a red chaise lounge, atop which rested a folded paper name tag that read, YOU, HERE. I sat on it. Between the countless silk partitions, candles, ornamental curtains, and faux(?)-fur pelts & carpets hanging from the ceiling, the decor gave me the feeling of giving up on escaping from a labyrinth. It made me queasy. The stale heat made me perspire profusely. I should admit: I THINK it was the heat; it may have been the sundry security cameras aiming at me. Be that as it may, I felt both vaguely “out-of-body” and painfully affixed to my skeletal frame, which was wavering and threatening to collapse beneath my sodden meat, now sticking to my thick stupid outfit. I felt sickly drunk without the perks of uninhibitedness. “It’s a feature not a bug,” I repeated to myself till he arrived, flicking invisible gnats off my neck, scraping their eggs & fibres off my shoulders with my fingernails.
I knew to neither look at him nor acknowledge him when he entered; it was in his Instructions, which I memorized. I knew he entered the room from the sulphuric fumes, whose microparticles entangled with my nose hairs, tickling them, perniciously settling into them as a viscid jam, clogging airflow. I remained as still as possible, trying to imagine “coldness” so as to not pass out.
I heard a CRACK from the ceiling. More heat.
GJS (whispering): Look up.
A baby mobile lowered from the ceiling. Where pastel orbs or figurine whales might usually hang: a mix of burning books.
LB: I prepared questions on each of those books. Ha?
A bad opener. He didn’t say anything. I wasn’t sure if I should start over. I tried to sneak a glance at him. He took the form of a Labrador or hideous baby–I couldn’t see for sure. Direct eye contact sparked frenetic, retinopathic lens flares. I’d ‘look’ at him peripherally, his words arriving in my skull psionically. I spoke mimetically, repeating precisely what he’d say before responding. [NOTE: my editor asked me to cut the repetitions, so read each of his sentences at least twice before reading my follow-up responses.] Despite my new sicknesses, I spoke in fully formed sentences.
LB: In YOU WITH YOUR MEMORY ARE DEAD, you write, “When horror becomes its own nostalgia, and there’s this death called irony to take its place.” Care to comment?
LB: In MUTATIONS you write, “Be a cockroach! Eat a cockroach! Fuck a cockroach! Breed the cockroach!” Care to comment?
LB: Earlier in MUTATIONS you say, “The only thing to be made clearer is your own perplexity.” Care to comment on that?
LB: Okay, let’s try something different. In BRIGHT STUPID CONFETTI you write, “I’ll spoof your spoofing until we’re all one person, and too full of ourselves to get into heaven.” Care to comment?
LB: In STRATAGEM OF THE CORPSE you write, “If there’s anything still claiming itself as a model of the real, it’s the hyena in bed with its throat cut.” Care to comment?
LB: In TERMINAL PARK you write, “Copying creates order, even if what is copied is disorder….” Care to comment?
GJS: No. (Pause.) I wonder which of those answers will be this interview’s eye of the duck.
LB: What’s a Warewolff?
GJS: It’s the figure in the carpet.
LB: Why “Schism”?
GJS: Because who wants to be part of something. We don’t even want to be part of Schism: it’s schisms all the way down. (O and Penguin was taken.)
LB: In 30 FAKE BEHEADINGS you write: “Everything is atypical about a film I wake early to walk off balconies to avoid finishing.” Care to comment.
GJS: Yes. (Pause.) Just kidding.
LB: Who is your readership?
GJS: I leave marks on the wall for anyone to follow. Anyone is a codename, by the way: it means virtually no one. I bite the inside of my cheek, press that into the kind of shape they want to see. We know how to talk like this. We are the same kind. I don’t know, perhaps it was the same month I saw a racehorse die from its broken legs. A forty mile an hour thing and then the brutal deceleration, the sheen of its combined exertions, the voiceless agony. You know, life becoming definite, the way it does. (Pause.) Sorry, what did you say?
LB: Your readership? Sales? Pardon my gas.
GJS: O yeah… that. It’s mostly interplanetary. I saw a reader once: an indistinct substance left over from having been outside. I had to sit down afterwards. My legs are weak from all the chairs, you understand.
LB: Are you okay?
GJS: Fuck no. You?
LB: I thought I was.
GJS: My problem is I keep trying for the hardening of late afternoon. No sense of when to give up. Anyway, that’s sort of where I’m at, you know, this same unpopulated scene. Shit, I’m not even sure if the things I write will ever happen.
LB: You want them to?
GJS: Now and then I want to push back against the accident. I guess sometimes I’m just the wrong kind of child.
LB: What next?
GJS: I’ll carry on planning for the impossible. It’s my modest trick. The world how it should be doesn’t interest me at all. Or else that’s all that interests me. I won’t decide.
LB: Won’t or can’t?
GJS: Won’t will do. Allow me an illusion or two in a foreign land.
LB: What now?
GJS: Time to go. It feels that way. (Awkward pause.) There are always people looking in. Their bodies just my unclean thoughts. I shouldn’t have come here. I thought I’d bump into Frederick Seidel on Broadway wearing his shirt unbuttoned to the waist and we’d drink vodka cosmopolitans and take it in turns sucking on the exhaust of a shiny new Ducati. And that we’d laugh so hard at old people our combined incontinence would be a thing of joy. There are thoughts like this: holes in the world that become the world. Collectively, they grow to the age of no age at all. Other than that, it’s all too sudden.
LB: What motivates you?
GJS: My spur is I’ve had enough before I start. I’m not in it to get somewhere else. I’m in it because I’m lost, and more lost seems as good a direction as any.
LB: On the face of it—
GJS (interrupting): I don’t care for faces. Too many of them. All different in the same boring ways. A fucking cringefest of improvised belonging. Safe to assume my face leaves out a few things. You don’t need to see it more than once to know it’s a sudden disease away from looking a lot less pleased with itself.
LB: Suddenness seems to be an issue.
GJS: Yeah, well, it’s not like I haven’t given atemporality a shot. Change likes to flaunt itself, and it’s my organs pay the price. I suppose it comes of being born before the relevant climax and having to wait. People don’t understand. They believe the order of the world can be written down. I plan to stop. I plan to be dead for as long as it takes.
LB: Again with the plans. Is planning important to you?
GJS: I like the purity of something that’s all process.
The room filled with dayglo plastic balls. Thousands of them falling from vents, pouring in from implicit apertures. I’d expected them per his Instruction that, “Please be awares [sic] that a Disney-scale melodrama of Bildungsroman’s terrible End will reign [sic] from Heaven.” But it was another terror altogether to experience the flood clattering up to our necks. Their chafing’s dirty by-products––their rancid, over-cooked stench. I wondered if the emaciated children playing in the pit belonged to him.
LB: What interests you?
GJS: A paranoid’s mutilation of meaning, the superhuman sadness of my kind of anything, the false intimacy of objects, seething obsessives, self-plagiarizers, expressing in words what cannot be expressed in words, the astronomy of brains, the neuroscience of a fingernail, the cubic volume of the antichrist, the misapplication of all sorts of things, nothing in particular, particularity, everything, specifics, none of it… I like dead ends. I like going where they lead.
LB: Okay, that’s a lot to be going on with.
GJS: I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking who’s this scumbag Dennis Price with a head full of rat shit?
LB: That wasn’t it.
GJS: Really? Okay. I could have sworn…
GJS (looking down at his bare feet): You like my shoes?
LB: Like none I’ve ever seen.
GJS: You’re not having them.
LB: What does the word “salamander” mean to you?
GJS: Gussie Fink-Nottle. He kept newts, you know, and newts are salamanders. Also, my mother’s pet name for me is “Gus,” so there you go.
After several minutes of embarrassing, dilated silence (upon relistening to the tape it occurs to me now that I may have fainted for a few moments), I realized, from the sandpapery sounds of linens being ruffled and squeezed in his hands or hooves or talons (??), that he was weeping.
GJS (leaking quicksilver from his flaccid phallus, he explained to me over the phone several months later): I like a melancholy that’s also pissing in my pocket. In the film of my life I’d cast only professional snorers. I like those troubled and lazy: they find interesting shortcuts. Creatures with sharp edges wriggling on the spot. Industrious maniacs can also be fun: they aren’t going anywhere because they’ve already arrived. Busyness does that to you. It’s the effortless sleep. I try to imagine so many private intricacies, but they’re all bleak and garish, elongated spaces, prolonged instants, afterimages that become the image, eye floaters that replace the seen. I’m kind of a mess. Like when I see medical diagrams, or architectural drawings, or movies, or maps, and I want to screw them all up in a ball and get inside. I think I think this warped and disarticulated environment is hiding the slipperiest of slippery truths, and that it’s somehow what I need. It’s enough to make you cry. It really is. But in the end, such a silly way to not be dead yet.
LB: What doesn’t scare you?
GJS: My eventually becoming the love toy of a necrophiliac.
LB: I’ll lay out all my cards: I bought GUMMA HOMO years ago. I was going through a rough time (a distended, “delusionary mid-life crisis at 18,” according to my probation officer, who is also my mother), and I tore it to pieces. I used it as lining in my kitty’s litter box. You seem like the sort that likes to think, “outside the box.” Would it be fair to say I read G-H?
GJS: Worse, you made it useful. I feel soiled.
LB: I’m scared you want to kill me.
GJS: You must be in your delusionary dotage by now; that’s death enough for the time being.
LB: What’s your favorite—
GJS (interrupting): Shakespearean slur? Funny you should ask that. Been thinking about little else all day. (Shouting.) “You have not so much brain as ear-wax, you whoreson upright rabbit!” Nice, eh? It’s a marriage, but I like them both so…
LB: I was going to say, what’s your favorite—
GJS (interrupting): Ballard short story? O I think that’s probably “The Enormous Space.”
LB (annoyed): No, no, I was going to say, what’s your favorite thing about being interviewed?
GJS: Guessing the answers.
LB: Not to mention the questions.
GJS: Let’s not get tetchy, old fruit. Remember, we’re in this for the fucking glamour. Maintain your focus!
LB: In your essay “VISCERAL INCREDULITY, OR SERIAL KILLING AS NECESSARY ANATHEMA” you write, “You have to buy into the perpetual intricacies of morality for it to work. You have to believe in those resolutions to quandaries that remain always just out of reach, because the problems and paradoxes and contradictions and dilemmas in moral thought are moral thought, without them it does not exist.” Care to comment?
GJS: Yes, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
The floor implodes.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
Logan Berry is a theatre director, co-editor of SELFFUCK, and the author of TRANSMISSIONS TO ARTAUD (SELFFUCK), NASIM BLEEDS GREEN (forthcoming from Plays Inverse Press) and
Runoff Sugar Crystal Lake (11:11 Press).
Gary J. Shipley’s recent books include On the Verge of Nothing (Nine Banded Books), Bright Stupid Confetti (11:11 Press), Mutations (Infinity Land), 30 Fake Beheadings (Spork) and Warewolff! (Hexus). He has been published in numerous literary magazines, anthologies and academic journals. More information can be found at Thek Prosthetics.