Elaine Castillo is one of our favorite writers and in the October issue she tells a story in a series of Figures. Today, she talks with us about dangerous drinking water, things she’d like to be dipped in, Greek mythology and so much more.
Before I get to the questions, I wanted to say: I remember a while ago reading an author interview on the blog that asked about a table made out of a human spine, I think? It made me think of these DSquared shoes. (A bunch of images here.)
Wealthy readers, feel free to purchase a pair of these for Tim Jones-Yelvington, on my behalf. I wouldn’t be mad at a pair, either. EU Size 37, pleasethankyou.
1. Which is more dangerous – drinking water from the river Styx or drinking whatever Styx was on when they were relevant?
River Styx; the magical trumps the pharmaceutical. Although I just realized, maybe the band Styx drank from the river Styx (sounds like ouroboros/auto-fellatio), thus ensuring their current irrelevance. (When gods break an oath sworn upon the river, they’re obliged to drink from it, which causes them to lose their voices for nine years.)
The real question is, what oath did they break? In any case, apparently they’re going to be touring with Journey this spring, so the nine-year period must be over. (Shout out to Arnel Pineda.)
2. What would you like to be dipped in?
In mud, then in water, then in oils, then in readiness to die. Later: in salt, then in eternal worship.
3. Who would you like to devour?
First what would I like to be dipped in, now who would I like to devour? This is getting saucy. (I could also be dipped in, and devour, some kinds of sauce.)
Answer: I’ve already devoured everyone I want to devour.
4. Would you rather be a myth or a fact? What would be the pros and cons of each?
It isn’t a one or the other thing, myths and facts; they feed each other, need each other. Frankly, my entire life, and particularly the life of my family, has circled around being a fact that becomes a myth, a myth that becomes a fact.
The pros of a myth without fact: no one gets hurt. The cons of a myth without fact: no one gets hurt.
The pros of a fact without myth: everyone gets hurt. The cons of a fact without myth: everyone gets hurt.
5. Why did you choose Greek mythology to write this story? How would it be different if you used Norse mythology instead?
I don’t know that I chose Greek mythology as much as it chose me. Greek myths were some of the first things I read as a child, so they became for me what fairy tales are for other readers, writers. I even started university doing Classics; learning ancient (Attic) Greek felt the way math must feel to people who just “get”Â math: like breathing, like discovering something my brain had always known, something I had been longing for without being aware of it. But for reasons entirely unrelated to Classics, I had to walk away from Classics. Still, I’ve never stopped being obsessed with Greek mythology and ancient Greek literature. I had always written stories about those figures; even wrote a novel with two of them (Sappho and Aphrodite). I’m really only just starting to exit that part of my work, life.
I have no intimacy with Norse mythology, and I think that lack of intimacy would make the difference. There was a significant period of time when I slept with Roberto Calasso’s The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony under my pillow, when I couldn’t read certain scenes from the Iliad without weeping (death of Patroclus, NO NO NO), when I knew and loved and wrote for the obscurest of priestesses raped by Zeus. I took it all personally. The wounds were real wounds.
6. How have you been a jackass to someone and not regret it? Bonus points if you can diagram that moment.
I don’t think I’m ever a jackass; my style of unpleasantness veers towards haughty bitch. There’s something martial and fratty about the jackass, whereas I am much more venusian, venomous.
That said, I have had misgivings about the word “jackass”Â in the story; for me it’s more or less interchangeable with jerk, with just an extra hint of macho stupidity or insensitivity. But I think the actual word implies more genuine stupidity and/or blockheadedness than I myself associate with it. So that word, to describe Odysseus, may have been badly chosen. Whatever else Odysseus is, he is not stupid.
Maybe I should have just written asshole or jerk-off, but I have no desire to vilify the asshole. Or, for that matter, jerking off.
(No diagram, so no bonus points. Extra credit for spine shoes, auto-fellatio and venusian?)