Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Paris Review Interview: The Art of Me

The first time I met Mik Awake, he was sitting on a couch in the common area of his apartment with a bag of sour cream and onion chips. A friend of mine had just scored a fat sack of weed and had invited me over. He had the television tuned into “Sex in the City,” because—he claimed—there was something wrong with his Time Warner cable box, though from what I could tell, it was simply unplugged.

Several years passed before our next meeting, which was equally fortuitous and which took place, as it happened, on the New York-to-Philadelphia Chinatown bus. Mik, in his affable, drowsy manner, complained of sore gums from a recent wisdom tooth extraction and complained about the stench of the bus, sitting as he was in the back near the bathroom. He complained about many things, large and small, on that 2-hour bus ride. Between doses of painkillers, he complained about player hatred, a dreaded epidemic that Mik thought was endangering the country. He called player haters the true homegrown terrorists.

It was then and there that I thought, “Now here is a man worthy of his very own Paris Review interview.” And so, we met at his apartment recently. A few GRE books were gathering dust in a corner, and hazy light from a balmy New York afternoon draped gently across the delicate paunch of his belly, which he itched under his wife-beater from time to time.

--Phillip Gourevitch, 2007


Interviewer
Now when people talk about your work, they often invoke Joyce. Do you feel like that’s an apt comparison?

Awake
I like Joyce. You’re talking about the lady that lives across the hall, right? She’s got cats, I think. You could compare us, but it wouldn’t be an “apt” comparison, per se. Since I don’t have cats. I think her place is bigger, too.

Interviewer
Do you mean to say that, in a manner of speaking, all artists live across the hall from each other? In the sense that, when you create, they are easily accessible and constantly in dialogue?

Awake
Oh, was that a question?

Interviewer
Yes, it was.

Awake
Can I say “pass” on any of these questions?

Interviewer
I guess so. I’ve never really—

Awake
Pass.

Interviewer
Fair enough. It wasn’t an interesting question perhaps…What are you doing?…Are you…Is that a joint?

Awake
Yeah. Youmoe?

Interviewer
What?

Awake
[Exhaling] I said, Do you smoke?

Interviewer
I thought we were doing a Paris Review interview.

Awake
Eh. I think they’re pretty pretentious if you ask me.

Interviewer
Go on.

Awake
I mean, it’s like…I don’t know…Whatever…Are we done?

Interviewer
No. I have another question.

Awake
Fiiiine.

Interviewer
Borges once said—

Awake
Pass.

Interviewer
Postcolonial theory has it that—

Awake
Pass!…Pass, pass, pass! Pass pass pass! Pass pass pass! Pass the [farts] gas!

Interviewer
Was that a fart?

Awake
Why, yes.

Interviewer
That smelled lovely. No, seriously. It smelled like…like cinnamon and…and lavender. With a hint of cardamom.

Awake
Why, thank you. I pride myself on my farts. Farting is a complicated business. The further you go in farting, the more alone you are. Most of your best and oldest friends desert you. Others die. You do not see them except rarely, but you fart alone and have much the same contact with them as though you were together at the café in the old days. You exchange comic, sometimes cheerfully obscene and irresponsible farts. The occasional turtlehead pops out, and you laugh to yourself. And it is almost as good as being with them. But you are more alone because that is how you must fart and the time to fart is shorter all the time and if you waste it you feel you have committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness.

Interviewer
Hey, wait a minute…That sounded familiar. Isn’t that something Hemingway said in a Paris Review interview with George Plimpton?

Awake
Pass.

Interviewer
No, it definitely is. You took every reference Hemingway made to writing and just changed it to farting.

Awake
This interview is over. Leave.

Interviewer
But I just got here. Usually, Paris Review interviews are lengthy, in-depth discussions of an artist and his craft...Hello?...Are you pretending to sleep? Am I supposed to believe that you're actually sleeping?

Awake
[eyes closed] Believe what you want. I'm definitely asleep though.

Interviewer
I've had quite enough. I'm leaving.

Awake
No, wait!

Interviewer
Huh.

Awake
Don't go. Please...I need you...You...complete...me...Phillip! [sobbing] Philliiiiip Goureviiiitch! Don't go...I regret to inform you that I need you....[sobbing]

Interviewer
[slams apartment door behind him]

Awake
Noooooooo....Noooooooo....Why me? Why now? Whyyyyyyy?

Magic Elf
[grabbing Awake by lapels] Get a hold of yourself, man. You're tripping balls!

Awake
Oh, jeez. It's you. Thank god it's you, magic weed elf. I nearly lost it.

Magic Elf
Damn right. The Paris Review would never interview your sorry ass...Now you gonna pass that J over here, or you gonna keep hogging it?

Awake
Fuck off.

Magic Elf
Cunt.

Awake
Fag.

Magic Elf
Gasp! How did you know I was gay?

Awake
You're a magic weed elf. All magic weed elves are gay. Duh!

James Lipton
Mik Awake. You are a delight.

2 comments:

Bryan said...

I'm crying funny tears at 9:18 a.m. good lord.

Bryan said...

my bad, 9:19 a.m.