WHAT TREES DO YOU PREFER IN THE CENTRE OF BOULEVARDS?
In my neighborhood there are large old trees that regularly drop massive limbs on cars, and when this happens, my first thought is always, Oh god I hope whoever owns this car doesn’t cut down this tree, because that happens.
WHAT TYPE OF READING DO YOU DO ON TRAINS (OR AEROPLANES)?
On trains and planes I read screens and loose pages. Bound objects I read less, because the spaces of planes and trains lend themselves to very concentrated reading, and I try to spend that quality reading time on pages that might one day be bound and published between covers, but aren’t yet. For me, unbound pages require more concentration than bound pages, because a bound book feels finished, complete, whereas you are trying to imagine, when reading an unbound book, what it might feel like when it’s bound. At some point, this concentrated reading wears me out, and then I read screens.
WHAT BUTTERFLIES DO YOU THINK GIVE THE MOST SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCES?
When my son was little my wife taught him foreign words for butterfly, like mariposa and schmetterling.
WHAT MOVIE DO YOU WATCH IN SECRET?
Well, nobody in my house seems to ever want to watch Repo Man with me.
WHAT LITERARY WORKS DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST UNDER-RATED?
Almost everything I love in literature gets very little attention. It’s been this way all my life. I seem to like different things than other people seem to like. I was in a book club years ago with a number of famous writers and I was terrible at it. I was not purposefully contentious, but everything I said seemed to belong to a different conversation than the one everyone else was having. If you want an author recommendation, you might check out the two fiction books by Felipe Alfau, Locos and Chromos.
WHAT COLOURS DO MOST FOR YOU AFTER SIX P.M.?
I like all the colors!
WHAT ANIMALS DO YOU PREFER TO HUMAN BEINGS?
I don’t think I prefer categories of things. I just prefer some individual things to others.
WHAT IS THE PRINCIPAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR STATE OF MIND (MOOD) WHEN READING FICTION AND YOUR MIND WHEN READING HISTORY?
That’s a really good question.
CAN YOU HEAR ANYTHING IN A SEASHELL OTHER THAN THE ROAR OF THE OCEAN?
I used to be a trombone player. I did this professionally in my twenties, playing in different sorts of bands in different places. There’s a famous trombone player, Steve Turre, who also plays seashells. He blows into these large shells much the way you would blow into a trombone mouthpiece, and manipulates the sound with his hand in the “bell,” which looks more like a French horn.
WOULD WINGS BE AN IMPROVEMENT FOR THE HUMAN BODY?
Oof, I have no idea.
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO MOST FREQUENTLY?
The extensive oeuvre of Wizardmaster, particularly the Vilmonic soundtrack. Vilmonic is a video game, created by Wizardmaster, in which you are given a parcel of land and some biologically simple creatures, and you try to protect them and maintain their biological evolution.
WHAT TWO HISTORICAL CHARACTERS WOULD YOU LIKE TO BRING TOGETHER?
I’ve always liked it when characters from odd places show up in novels they don’t seem to belong in, like the ranch hands wandering the Irish wilds with the fairy and the demon and the working-class poet in Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds. I like it less when exact characters from one book make guest appearances in another, like those same cowboys from At Swim-Two-Birds showing up in Gilbert Sorrentino’s Mulligan Stew.
WHAT ARTICLE OF CLOTHING DO YOU WISH TO BRING BACK FROM HISTORICAL OBSCURITY?
Sneakers are the only item of clothing I’ve ever had any special feeling for.
WHAT BUILDING DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST BEAUTIFUL IN THE WORLD?
I guess I like weird-looking libraries? Like the Denver Public Library or the UCSD library.
WHAT SIZE CITY DO YOU THINK THE MOST DESIRABLE?
My favorite cities are all medium-sized. Pittsburgh, Denver, St. Louis, which are all places I have lived. I liked living in Chicago more than living in New York.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE ESSENCE OF FEMININITY?
I don’t think I have any thoughts about femininity.
WHAT WORK FROM A PREVIOUS CENTURY WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE WRITTEN?
Gargantua and Pantagruel would be really fun to write.
WHAT FORM OF AFTER LIFE — IF ANY — DO YOU ANTICIPATE?
I have no expectations!
WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE USED AS A MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION IN OUR DOWNTOWN STREETS?
The only animal I’ve ever ridden was a horse, and I didn’t want to try it again.
WHAT ARE THE MOST OVER-RATED LUXURIES?
Well, in my twenties I spent about a year working as a musician on cruise ships, which are these terrible bastions of cheap luxury and boredom. I really hated that.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED (OR COULD YOU LEARN) FROM WILLIAM BLAKE?
The great Scottish novelist Alasdair Gray, who died just a few years ago, made his living early on as a muralist. You can still see some of his murals around Glasgow, but you can also see them in A Life in Pictures, a beautiful volume published by Canongate in the UK. There you will recognize the strong influence of Blake’s artwork on Gray’s murals, and, in light of that, you might subsequently notice some influence of Blake’s poetry on Gray’s prose.
WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE ADDED TO THIS INTERVIEW?
Ha! I could barely answer the ones you asked.
Marty Riker is a teacher and a publisher of other people’s books who sometimes writes his own, most recently The Guest Lecture. Marty Riker has written characters, for example in his novel, The Guest Lecture, who feel awkward talking about themselves in either oral or written forms, and he sometimes feels that way himself, though not always.