Sunday, February 10, 2019

Interview With Corey Mesler

I don’t get out much and still haven’t made it over to Burke’s Books, Memphis’ oldest and best indie bookstore, but I was able to interview the owner recently. Here’s what published author and poet Corey Mesler had to say:

I remember the first time I spoke to you. I called Burke’s Books looking for something and you were so damn nice, I never forgot you. But I don’t recall how we finally became friends. Do you?

I don’t. I’m sure it was because you’re so outgoing and nice. And we must have met online, of course, since the web is my surrogate world for now.

What did you do for work before you bought Burke’s Books?

I have been working in the bookselling business for all of my 32 working years, Burke’s being the 3rd stop on my See-How-Many-Bookstores-I-Can-Run-Into-the-Ground tour.

I’ve been to your website. Do you blog, as well?

No, because I have no opinions on anything.

Somehow, I doubt that.

Ok, I have this opinion: aluminum foil is the best thing man has ever come up with.
And this one: Hope Davis should be getting the same salary as Julia Roberts.
And this one more: Fitzgerald’s best book is really Tender is the Night and not The Great Gatsby.
Oh, and one more: To Kill a Mockingbird, Confederacy of Dunces and The Beach Boys and James Dean are over-rated. How’s that for controversial?

So many writers seem to come from the wrong side of the tracks. Do you?

I don’t even know where the tracks are, except for the tracks of my tears.

Great song. I love Motown. Which genre of music do you love?

Far and wide. But mostly 60s psych-pop. And, of course, Dylan and the Beatles, who did some fine 60s psych-pop themselves. And then, anytime, anywhere, Miles Davis.

Writers, and bloggers, in particular, tend to form their own clubs. Who’s in your club?

Joan of Arc, Tristan Tzara, Elias Canetti, Richard Brautigan, Humbert Humbert, Karl Kraus, Charlie Chaplin, the Laker Cheerleaders, Oedipus, Rod Serling, Iris Murdoch, Billy Pilgrim, Monty Python, Franz Kafka.

What do you love most about writing?

Oh, golly. That it’s solitary. That it fires my brain like nothing else. That it keeps me from watching Three’s Company reruns. That it stays with me all through the day even when I’m not writing.

Do write on schedule?

Yes, ma’am. It is the only area of my life I am disciplined about. I get up with the birds, sometimes even before the birds, and I have to go out to the trees and shout, “Hey, get outta your nests you slugabeds!” and write every morning, emphasis on the every.

When writing fiction, you don’t use dialogue tags. Explain.

I like the characters to be defined by voice. I like the whole shebang to be driven by nothing but voice. That is, of course, when I am writing my funny little dialogue thingums.

Define “Chapbook.”

Traditionally it is a small collection of prose or poetry, often staple-bound, working on one theme.

Who inspires you? What’s your muse like? What is his or her name?

My muse is an ex-alcoholic from Cincinnati named Lanny. As to who inspires me, the list is as long as the heaven’s roles but here are a few: Joyce, William Carlos Williams, Frank O’Hara, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, my brother, Walker Percy, Camus, Dick Van Dyke, Yeats, Vonnegut, Fellini, my children, Nabokov, The Marx Brothers.

I love the poetry you’ve shared with me. It’s inspired my own work. Share something with me now.

You’re very kind.

No. Just honest.

They’ve piled
fresh lumber
in the yard
of the burned-out

Thank you. You read it here first, folks.

You seem like the kind of guy who has seen The Big Chill. You know that scene where Jeff Goldblum goes downstairs to hit on Chloe, and she comes to the door in her underwear, no clue what he’s up to, and when she says good night and closes the door, he turns and smiles? You know how you feel at that moment? That’s how I feel when I read this one you penned:

Watching Syrie Bathe
Only her golden hair
visible above
the edge of the tub.
And when she
descends like Ophelia
the water too becomes
ah, golden.

It slides like butterscotch over my brain. And in this one, I hear the blue wail of a saxophone on some dark and lonely street corner:

Blues for Wendy Ward

After 20 years I find a picture
of you inside a book of art.
Your smile is patient:
you were waiting for what life
would bring you after me.

I love this one because I often get my greatest inspiration in the shower:

Nothing Matters
Nothing matters
yet still
I rise
and step from the tub,
half dry off,
find my glasses
abandoned on the
chair over which
I hung my pants,
scrabble for
pen and paper,
and steady myself
on the towel rack,
to write this down.

And this one:

Writing (to) You
The letter I sent to you
died on the way.
A dead letter.
Later, I wrote another letter.
I didn’t put your
name on the envelope.
Now I sit here in the dark
waiting for someone
to come and explain you to me.
Outside I can hear the
bright new coinage of the children.

The bright new coinage of the children. No one but you would think of it that way. It’s brilliant. The thing I’ve found about writing is that sometimes you have to bare yourself, grit your teeth and write anyway, or there would be no real truth in what we write. You do that don’t you? Sometimes write things that are private because you hope it will strike a chord in the reader?

Yes, when I’m writing I am fearless. In all other areas of life I am chickenshit – hence the agoraphobia – but when I am at the keyboard I am almost conscienceless.

Almost? What line will you not cross?

Knowingly hurting someone, especially someone I know.

What do you think is the root of your agoraphobia? Is it a selfish desire to stay home and write? How long have you had the condition?

I wish it stemmed from a selfish desire to stay home. Staying home is all well and good until a seemingly unseen force says you HAVE to stay home. Then it is a jail sentence. According to my shrink I have been building my agoraphobia my whole life, partly from the things bullies told me about myself when small which I have internalized and now use against myself. I have become my bullies.

That’s too bad. You’re a great guy, but then, if you were able to share more of your physical self with the world, your emotional and mental self might suffer the consequences, and so might your readers. Do you think your condition is at all partly responsible for your talent, or would you have been gifted in spite of it?

I have that fear, that my so-called talent is linked to my insular world, my trapped circumstances, my popcorn machine head. But, when I queried my shrink about this question early on, his wise response was, “You want to write from your best self.” I guess I am still in search of my best self.

You’re writing another novel. How many are published now? Do you outline, or go with the flow?

Two published novels, two more finished. No, no outlines. The most recent novel I did the most pre-planning for, making extensive notes, keeping a long list of the characters and their traits so I didn’t mix them up, even keeping a map of Arkansas in front of me (it’s set in a small fictional Arkansas town). I guess, mostly, I go with the flow, maybe because I have been left out of “the flow” in real life.

Do you have other talents?

I used to amuse at parties with my rendition of “Hello Goodbye” as it might be sung by Bob Dylan. I am a passing good bookseller and a pretty good parent.

Your son Toby is a talented artist. Would you like to give him a plug here? Where can people reading this interview get a peek at his artwork? And why don’t you have him design the logo for your new Burke’s Books tee shirt logo?

Happily. Early on I recognized that Toby would surpass me, talent-wise, before he was a big dog. He is a true artist in that he works from his soul and his soul is a beautiful thing to witness. Toby, who starts at MCA in the fall, is doing mostly oil paintings now and so, I don’t know where to see his work. I haven’t seen enough of it myself. We have a t-shirt logo contest going on right now….I guess he’s not eligible.

I like the picture of you at your book signing. It reminds me of Johnny Depp in Benny & Joon.

I told my daughter you said I looked like Johnny Depp, if only for a moment. She said, man, is she deluded. Well, ok, she doesn’t even know the word deluded but she looked at me askance. I happily attach it here. And, oh, thank you.

LOL. No wonder she said that. Wrong picture. In the one I meant, you were sitting behind the table, and it was a combination of the hat you were wearing and the expression on your face. Oh, well.
Write something here and now that is bound to piss someone off.

I slept with women in college who would normally only sleep with jocks, women who were apparently charmed by my acid tongue.

Who were you in your previous life?

I was myself only stronger.

I don’t think you realize your own strength. Thanks for submitting to this. Is there anything you’d like to add before I tell people where to find your website and they go off and leave me here?

Buy my books! Buy my books at my bookstore! Thank you.

Here’s where, folks:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Sex Kitten

There’s a war of the sexes going on at my house. My kitty, Sneezy, just “became of age.” You know … she’s in season . . . in heat. The poor kid is a horny teen-ager who wants to get laid, and she’s being quite vocal about it - twenty-four hours a day. She runs from window to window, door to door, trying to get outside to take care of her little “needs.” I don't let her go outside because she hasn’t been spayed. I’ll be damned if she’s going to make me drop her babies off at the shelter and stare at me with flat eyes of resentment the rest of her life. No way.

Being as quick as lightening, she has escaped a few times. I have to go out and chase her around and around the bushes, across the porch, away from the street, and crawl under the car, just to have her dart out the other side. She likes that game even better than Hide and Seek the Mousie. Just when I think I can reach and grab her, she sticks her tongue out, springs six feet into the air, and vanishes. It usually takes about half an hour of tempting her with toys and tuna to finally catch her. When I spank her little butt, she puts her legs into overdrive, scoots around the corner, slides down the hall, jumps up on Misty’s bed and pouts for … count ‘em … one, two, three seconds, until she’s off to find new ways to terrorize me.

Poor Catfish can’t even enjoy a decent meal without her sniffing at his butt. He gives her a tired look of disdain. Undeterred, she crawls halfway under him, searching for something to satisfy, then looks up at me as if to tell me he’s defective. She wails even louder and scoots away on her elbows, her butt in the air, flaunting her feminine wiles with an air of superiority. She still has all her parts.

My husband insists I lock her in Misty’s room (farthest from the TV) during the evening, and in the front part of the house at night, but I won’t do it. I remind him of how it feels to be without, how it can feel that way again, and threaten to lock him in our room alone the next time he has needs. This does not set well with him. “Then make her shut up,” he says. “Fine, the next time you come crawling, I’ll tell you to shut up, how’s that?” I shoot back. The expression on his face is one of total fear. Me 2, Husband 0.

This is Sneezy’s first uh … time. Her little hormones are raging and all she understands is that she wants a boyfriend. She doesn’t know why it’s happening, but she’s very clear on what to do about it. I used to know a guy who stuck a pencil up – well, you get the idea. It worked, too, but I just can’t bring myself to accommodate her on that front. Do they make little battery-powered sex kitten toys? Maybe I’ll write a letter to Santa for her.

Princess Sneezy

I went to the animal hospital to see Sneezy tonight. Have I mentioned how vocal she’s become? When she saw me, she yelled, “Mama! Mama!” (okay; "meow! meow!) and hobbled over to the bars of the cage as fast as she could (she has stuff attached to her leg that seems painful). I put my fingers through the bars, and she rubbed and rubbed against them. She was soooooooo happy to see me. She wouldn’t let me stop petting her. After a while, I tried to visit with the poor dogs there who also ate the poisoned food, but Sneezy had a fit and kept calling for me until I came back to her. The vet tech said it did her a world of good, that it was the first time she’d perked up since she’d been there. It was the hardest thing in the world to leave her again. It just about killed both of us. She cried and carried on like I was never coming back for her.

The vet may check her kidneys in the morning. If she’s doing any better, she can come home tomorrow night. If he waits until afternoon to check them, and she’s doing better, she has to wait until the next morning to come home. We didn’t talk about what would happen if she’s not better. If she gets to come home, she’ll have to be on a special diet the rest of her life – dry food. She’s not going to be very happy about that. After all the stuff I’ve read about pet food these past couple days, I’d never give her canned food again anyway – of any brand.