An “Everything that is the case” Sort of Interview with Lindsay Hunter

So recently I importuned Lindsay Hunter to answer a few questions regarding her short story collection, Daddy’s, which came out last September. (And yes, I realize that was a while ago, but I never said nothing about being really on the ball, topical-stuff-wise). Thankfully, she caved to my nettlesome ways, and I got answers I sure think are illuminating. (You are, as always, free to disagree.)

Besides I’d like you to think of this interview as a more “holistic” and “all-encompassing” sort of interview, that touches on things no interviewer has ever touched on before. That’s what I’d like you to think of this interview as, so do that. Besides, how’s this for topical, Lindsay Hunter and Mary Hamilton’s joint hosted reading series, QUICKIES!, kicks off again tomorrow night (March 8, 2011) at the Innertown Pub (1935 w. Thomas) in Chicago, IL. So go to it if you happen to be in the neighborhood. (See, how’s that for your topical? Editor’s Note: not particularly topical if you’re reading this anytime following March 8, 2011.)

Matt Rowan: Firstly, I’m convinced calling your collection Daddy’s is no coincidence. I imagine this is something no one else who’s read your collection has picked up on. Making full use of my shrewd and incisive acumen of greatness, I notice the term is featured in near every story, and sometimes many multiple times, too. So what’s the attraction to writing of fathers by the colloquialism “Daddy”? (I further noticed not one “Pops” throughout my reading, though I may have glossed over its use.) There’s certainly something darkly ironical to the term in your fiction.

Lindsay Hunter: You are the astutest of the astute! There are bad dads all over the book, and when Zach [Dodson of featherproof books] and I were first talking about names I said I wanted to name it “Daddies,” and then we kind of looked at each other and said, No, “Daddy’s.” It just does so much, that little apostrophe—it boldly claims.

I think the colloquialism “Daddy” is used because the stories all take place in the south, and a lot of the protagonists are female, and Daddy just flowed right out of the ol’ fingertips. In fact, “Pa” never crossed my mind. There’s also a grossness to the word that I really like—it sort of reveals the dumb violence of a character’s brain in a really efficient way.

You don’t shy away from grit. In fact grit seems to be essential to your work. But it’s purposeful, not provocative, grit. How do you channel the unseemly, to the stuff between a guy’s toes and cluttered in doorways and orifices for your literary purposes? Whence come lines like, “See that moon? It’s a disc of aspirin? See that moon? It’s a dollop of jizz”?

Man I’ve asked myself that question too many times. It’s definitely never something I force, or set out to do. It’s just what I see, I guess. And I think there is so much you can learn by the objects in a person’s environment, in the way that person understands and uses sex, in the way that person feels power or lack of power by whatever situation they’re in—whether that is beneath a pumping redneck or sitting in a lawn chair in an empty living room.

That particular line you quote—that character is naming and claiming in a way he feels is powerful and flirty. He will have what he wants because he has claimed all that is around him, just by calling it as he sees it.

I’ve noticed other interviewers reference your extreme comfort with talking and describing sex and sexuality. Sex seems by turns something violent, a necessary compulsion and a rote act. Is sex a stand-in for a greater affliction dogging your characters, or is sex in itself the affliction?

Good question! I think sex is a form of communication in some instances, and in others is just simply a desperate act. In that sense I think it is a stand-in for a greater affliction dogging my characters, that affliction being boredom or rage or bored rage or rageful boredom. Sometimes in life there just are no words.

Then, sort of a tie-in question, babies have a strange role in the various stories in which they appear prominently, too, with “That Baby” being a good representation of this. How do your ideas of sex inform your ideas of procreation (at least in a literary context)?

I’ve actually never bridged that in my writing—that of sex = baby. But I suppose it’s just another bodily function, bodily functions being perhaps my favorite thing to write, read, and talk about. It’s just so human—farting, spitting, sighing, flopping around on top of each other, birthing. It’s so primitive that it almost makes me itch. I think sex in my stories, though, is less procreation than anti-climactic, ill-advised catalyst.

There’s a kind of beauty to the dysfunction that colors your characters’ actions. I mean for all the various hard-hearted or dark qualities the characters display there seems also to be genuine and not necessarily unhealthy feeling there, beneath the surface. The father and daughter of “Love Song” in particular come to mind. What would you say is the ethos of the characters who inhabit your stories, on the whole? Are they mostly good people who occasionally do bad and / or harmful things? Or are they bad people doing those things?

Another good question! I think some of the characters are bad, definitely. I think all—or almost all—of the protagonists aren’t “bad,” however, in the sense that they’ve never pondered what makes a good person good. They are just living lives, following or ignoring instincts. Though having said that, I think in some stories, like in “Finding There,” the character is wrestling with something similar to good vs. bad—though maybe it’s more like the character is tired of ignoring what is true about himself. So maybe it’s more that—a sometimes misguided search for truth, whether it’s good OR bad.

What sorts of philosophy do you read / have acquaintance with?

Dang, that’s a big one. I don’t generally read philosophy, but in some of the classes I have taken over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of being assigned some really great stuff. Martin Buber’s I and Thou had a huge impact on me personally, and I can’t help but make the assumption that it thus affected my writing. I also will always remember Wittengstein’s “The world is everything that is the case.” Fucked up, right? I’d say my main philosophy would be something my dad always said, and that is, “Kids, you gotta grab the world by the short curlies.”

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There you have it! Lindsay Hunter urges you to read more Wittgenstein. Can’t say I disagree, as I do not. So I urge you to read Daddy’s and go to QUICKIES, Chicago!