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The Paris Review Interviews 6

James M. Cain

I had to skip some of this interview. Hollywood and writing tricks. "The old switcheroo."

Cathreen's mom is home from the hospital. In her whole-leg cast. The two babies have become attention-starved. Cathreen's grandmother is angry with her dead husband. How could he not watch out for his daughter? On the day of his death, let her slip and require knee surgery.

Maybe he was aiming at me with his grandaughter, I think after Cathreen says this. Too selfish? It was my birthday interrupted by the phone call.

Too selfish.

We move tomorrow. Nothing is packed. We've been moving for weeks. Cathreen is in bed. The cat is sleeping.

Cain says he always talked in proper English, but wrote the way a person talked.

Some other person, I guess. Obviously not himself.


The Paris Review Interviews 5

Borges says Americans have to save the English language.

Kurt Vonnegut

Cathreen lies in bed looking at online shopping sites. I try to watch tv, though there's nothing good. From time to time, she calls me in to look at something. Once, she calls me on the phone.

Vonnegut is not taking his interview seriously.

Though sometimes, he is.


The Paris Review Interviews 4

Now we are about to eat dinner with friends.

Borges was having a conversation. Borges might never have tried fiction, he says, if he hadn't almost died.

The smell coming out of the kitchen--I am in awe of my wife. I can feel her in my insides, wanting to be reconciled to hunger.


The Paris Review Interviews 3

Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow took 5 weeks to complete his interview. Dedication to truth.

Boise rolls on the floor over and over. Drugged up on Japanese catnip again. He plays with a laser but can't concentrate. Cathreen talks about hairballs.

She's sore from moving all weekend. Basketball, apartment moving, shopping, exhaustion, made me take a break from this essay to lie on the couch. Exhaustion comes in many forms, from many causes.

Jorge Luis Borges

Cathreen's mother has had her surgery, Cathreen tells me in past tense. She tells me she told my mother about it. My mother is a focal point of trying to figure out my problems.

More on Borges later.


The Paris Review Interviews 2

Ernest Hemingway

By the the time of this interview, Hemingway was already bitter and angry. I kept thinking about his suicide.

T.S. Eliot

It's St. Patrick's Day in Boston, but here I am. Though, I could have chosen to go outside.

Cathreen's sisters are sending money for her to buy things here in America. This is what America is for. It's the babies birthdays soon, and we debate gifts. They're my nephews, too, I tell her. My only ones. My relationship with the cat is one of giving to the taker. "That little creature," Cathreen says. That little creature is the lucky one. This paragraph is a paragraph of desire.

Eliot thinks that common speech might disappear. Has it?


The Paris Review Interviews 1

Dorothy Parker

Cathreen is cooking in the kitchen and the smell of it is making me sick with hunger. She won't let me go in there--it messes up her rhythm or something. Two days ago, after a fight, she told me one of our nephews went to the hospital next to the hospital in which her mother lies waiting for knee surgery. The baby passed out holding its breath or having a seizure, I'm not sure which. And I tried to find out--it's a big difference, one a matter of passion.

The way they talked in the old days, I think about Dorothy Parker, won't ever be surpassed. Did they fake it that way for the movies or was everyone like that, was a common question for me in black and white.

Truman Capote

liked to talk, too. He says he was a genius and he freaked people out. He says he always knew he would be a writer.

I'm worried about when Cathreen goes back to Korea. Less than a month from now. But I'll be here with Boise. She can't be away from the cat for long. Sometimes when I come home from work, she says she wants another; when I'm alone with him, I want another, too. Why is that?

She found the Japanese cat nip today--our Asian cat shows nothing for the Western kind--and it made him so happy he bit her.


Another Spate of Bad Luck 4


Cathreen says she remembers, now, a fortune teller who said her mother would be healthy except for her leg. Her sister remembers it too, first. Cathreen and I are supposed to be rich by the time she's mid-thirties. So what am I supposed to think now?

Death or Something Like It

I think I mentioned this before, but I was pronounced dead by a fortune teller? As in, "Isn't this person dead!" As in, "He shouldn't be alive at all!"

I was left out in this same world I'm living in by my birth mother. When I was just a baby. At two I was adopted, sickly, Hep-A--I think this is the one, mute? But here I am.

Okay, not exactly the same world.

That fortune teller said I was given a second life.


I also had my palm read once by a friend in Prague--she said I would either die young or come close to death.

So you can see what I'm up against.

But what was I talking about? I got distracted from my own words by others'. Tomorrow I should not eat meat. Saturday Cathreen will finish painting our new apartment. Sunday we will, we should, we might.

The End?

I stole this form from a book by Mary Robison--Why Did I Ever? Later I will change it. For now let it sit.


That's right--that's what I started out to say. Cathreen says she told her mother that her grandfather who died on my birthday, the day her mother blew out her knee, her grandfather's ghost, was just giving her an excuse/chance to relax. As they say, Get off her feet.


Another Spate of Bad Luck 3


Cathreen wants to see me take care of the cat before she can trust me with it when she's gone. I was the one who named him. Boise. Boy.

I stole the name from a Hemingway novel.

So What Do You Figure

Last night I watched a tv show that makes no sense while Cathreen watched Korean tv online in the other room. Later I tried to make sense of it for her.

I had friends over from up the street. We had to clean the house.

I should say, I had to clean the house. Which is fine, since I'm the one who invited them over. Sometimes we all watch this show together. Then it seems to make less sense, and also more.


We replaced the shampoo, how about that?


Cathreen's sisters are in a fit over who will take care of their mother. There's a lot to do.

Then there are the babies. Yesterday, one of them learned to suck his thumb. I don't mean to sound bitter.


Another Spate of Bad Luck 2

To Sleep

Today when I come home from work Cathreen is asleep. Later I will learn this is the seventeenth hour. The cat is crying for her to wake up, or for me to leave them both alone. I was told dinner would be ready, but to be upset at this would be to be the bad husband. I curl up next to her, then I take a nap of my own on the couch.

I can't keep my eyes open, as they say.


My birthday I called One Night in Korea. We went to a galbi restaurant, then later karaoke. Soon Cathreen will go back to Busan for over a month. I will be left in America.

In the karaoke room I sang My Girl, by The Temptations. Near the end she got up and when she came back it was a new song but I was still singing to her.


We missed her sister's birthday. She called two days late. She'd finally woken up and was snacking on Korean popcorn. I tried to sleep--it was getting late--but after the nap I couldn't. Maybe it was allergies. I kept thinking why was I not asleep, and then it was morning.


At work I stare at a robot and think: This is good.

There is free breakfast. I did not bring lunch. Last night I remember Cathreen coming back to bed and saying she was supposed to be lucky. Special. So said a fortune teller.

Once she was there beside me I got a few hours of rest.


Another Spate of Bad Luck

And We're Back

I went to church today.

I have been neglecting Lent. About the only thing that has anything to do with Easter, that I have done, has been to order plastic eggs for the literary journal I edit.

We're running an Easter Egg Hunt. Inside will be hidden treasures.


This year on my birthday my mother-in-law fell and blew out her knee. She will have to have surgery once the swelling goes down.

"They putting metal in her," Cathreen says.

A couple days earlier Cathreen's uncle died, when everyone thought her grandmother would be the one to go.

Two years ago on my birthday her grandfather lost his will to live. Last year we attended the ancestral dinner. "They putting metal in her" makes me think of robots.

The world has fewer and straighter paths than one might think.