Lawrence and Gibson: Good afternoon, A D.
A D: Good afternoon, Meros. But it's morning here, on the other side of the world.
How did it come about that you were to work with Lawrence and Gibson to release Giant Slugs?
You know the answer to that as well as I do.
I'm testing your memory.
You'll find it lacking! But I believe you were given the manuscript by our mutual friend Michael Kelly, who at the time called it "the most brilliant thing I have ever read, bar none." Or words akin to that. Which reminds me: I must buy him a case of something nice.
Michael had it because he'd asked to see the MS after reading some excerpts online. I'd emailed him after reading his Ulrich Haarbürste's Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm, which I thought the most brilliant thing I'd ever read, bar none. Read this answer backwards and you have it.
Giant Slugs is a re-telling of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
How far do you stray from the original?
Very far, at times (most of them). I took primarily Gilgamesh's broad outline—its central plot points—which I then changed to fit my own ludicrous ends. But the story's shape should remain recognizable to anyone who knows it. That said, a knowledge of the Epic is in no way a requirement for reading.
And why the Epic of Gilgamesh?
Because I like it! It's one of my favorites!
Another answer, and one potentially no more illuminating: Giant Slugs is at least partially a response to the US-led Iraq War, and the Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest work of Iraqi literature. If not human literature.
But first and foremost, it's a damn good story, which has been retold for millennia. The authors of the Hebrew Torah and Christian Bible reworked a good chunk, for example.
So the Epic predates God?
Well, one current view of him, at least. She. It.
That would explain the preponderance of fairies, dwarves, and other fearsome critters?
Where? In your bathtub? Dude, nothing explains that!
I understand that you used constrained writing techniques for Giant Slugs, such as Georges Perec’s avoidance of the letter ‘e’ in La Disparation. Can you tell us about the constraints surround Giant Slugs?
Mine were neither as restrictive or as concise. And different chapters employed different constraints. But there were a few overarching rules. The book takes place, conceptually and thematically, across a single day, from predawn to night (even though the actual action spans years). And each chapter has its own identifying color, a Joycean conceit.
To illustrate both: Chapter 6, "Red Lunch," the central chapter, takes place mostly at different lunchtimes, and contains mostly red things. I also sneaked in the word "red" as often as I could. (Daredevilry, very assuredly—but also [is it credible?] cultured, clever edits.)
There's a great deal of of this sort of language play throughout the book; the chapter titles are clues to some of the proceedings. I also included as many puns as I could—indeed, every pun that I thought of.
What scares you most about the release of Giant Slugs?
The fact that it's going to be weeks before I see a single copy! Which is why I kept hounding you for photos.
And see how assured my keystrokes are, surrounded by a warehouse of them! Can you imagine such a thing? Are you enthralled by the reproduction, the low hum of a distant printer?
Tell me a little about the cover image and how you came to use it.
My friend Philip Durkin originally suggested that I use an image by the land artist and sculptor Charles Simonds. When that lead didn't pan out, I made a list of every visual artist whom I knew, then scoured their websites, looking for something comparable (or at least reminiscent). Waiting for me at the very end of that search was a beautiful image by Stephanie Nadeau that can now be seen on the cover.
Both Simonds and Nadeau use brickish imagery. Was the process of writing Giant Slugs akin to bricklaying?
I'm afraid I wouldn't know, having never laid bricks. But you've touched on something foundational in the novel (pardon the pun). Gilgamesh makes a big deal about bricks: key passages in the epic celebrate how Gilgamesh built Uruk's walls. And one-third of that city was devoted to clay pits, where more bricks were always being made. The walls were decorated with pictograms, which in time became cuneiform, the first written language. This brick/wall/tablet/writing connection fascinated me, and provided the central thematic structure of the novel.
So it was important for me to have bricks somewhere on the cover.
When I imagine Chicago, I see (like in Wellington) pages aflutter, and Nelson Algren.
Newspaper pages aflutter, I'll assume you mean; they drift amidst the plastic bags, to rather charming effect. Algren's ghost can still be spied in certain bars, if you're seated at the right stool.
I recall how someone once told me that the quintessential Chicago accent was that of the Berenstain Bears.
The Charmin Bears, I think they meant.
Can literature thrive in Chicago? Does it thrive for you?
There is a very welcoming literary community here—indeed, there are several literary communities; I count myself fortunate to be part of more than one of them. And living in Chicago has been very productive for me; I've completed five book-length manuscripts in the past six years.
Though I might have finished even more were I not so given over to watching movies. (Chicago is one of the best cities in the US for cinema—there's a reason why Roger Ebert and Jonathan Rosenbaum live here.) Plus the lake is very pretty; I like lying next to it. That takes up a lot of my time.
Then you, sir, are a giant slug. And that's The Word.