Monday, September 1, 1997

Q&A Mary Gaitskill: Violations

The photograph loomed over the toiling shoppers like a totem of sexualized pathology, a vision of feeling and unfeeling chaffing together. It was a picture made for people who can't bear to feel and yet still need to feel. It was a picture by people sophisticated enough to fetishize their disability publicly. It was a very good advertisement for a product called Obsession. 
     "The Dentist"

HB: I was a little anxious about meeting you. I imagined myself dissolved into the kind of perceptions your characters have of each other; as when one character says, "she didn't think his languor was drug induced. It seemed more the product of an unusual distribution of self, as if, by some crafty manipulation of internal circuitry, he'd concentrated himself in certain key psychic posts and abandoned the vast regions he didn't want to be in."

It seems risky to be perceived by you.

MG: Let me tell you most of the time it's not like that. Every now and then something jumps out at me but usually I have to sit there for hours, literally hours, and think: what was that like, metaphorically or literally?

Q&A Michael Ondaatje: Swimming

Originally appeared in the Boston Book Review. Date Approximate.

HB: I have heard you describe swimming as something that could change a writing style. How?

MO: No pencil and pen, no pencil and pen out there. You think, you’re more active. During one period of my life I got into the rhythm of writing in the morning, swimming at lunch time, imagining scenarios.

But I think anything can affect your prose style. It can be something as simple as how you move within your landscape. I’m sure that’s one of the things I’ve always loved about swimming, reacting back and forth in the water.