Joseph Riippi writes about various somethings in the June issue and talks with us about this sequence of work, writing soundtracks, forthcoming projects and a DVD bonus extra.
1. What would the first sentences of “Something About Thundercats” look like?
“I spent high school summers working on a strawberry farm; days beginning at 4, last flats picked by noon. That final August, college loomed. I passed afternoons in the attic remembering things: Construction paper glitter pumpkins. Handwritten wide-rule book reports. Thundercat sticker on a three-ring binder. Dead mice. Finnish money show-and-tell. I left them all until today.”Â
2. Have you always been obsessed with “Something About…” or did it start after your first novel came out? Will that be on your tombstone as your epitaph (Joseph Riippi – Something About Being A Writer”)?
The “Something About–”Â titles started while organizing what became the novel Do Something! Do Something! Do Something!. I knew the bulk of the book would be three parts, each with three sections, but I didn’t want to do titles and have people call it a story collection. I referred to untitled sections as “Something About Asheville,”Â “Something About Ellensburg,”Â “Something About The Hotel Balcony,”Â etc, and that became how one of the characters titles his journals “Something About This Room,”Â “Something About My Sister,”Â “Something About the Bird”Â–
As titles, I like the mechanism. It becomes very easy to title pieces this way—just a vague description about what the story is about. And it’s a very passive way to title, which for short pieces like “Something About Birthdays”Â and “Something About A Finger”Â seems appropriate. It can also work inversely—I have one story like this called “Something About My Blood and Yours.”Â Titles can be almost violent sometimes in their insistence that a reader read a certain way, look for certain things. I agree with Genette that titles are the most affecting paratextual element. A story called “The Finger”Â pushes the reader somewhere else.
I hope my epitaph is something more familial, to be honest. Like, “A good husband, father, son.”Â (That’s “Something About Honesty”Â right there).
3. What would a “Something About…” t-shirt look like? How could we buy one?
I just turned in the manuscript to Cook at Ampersand that’s 90 percent “Something About–”Â pieces. It’s called The Orange Suitcase and should be out early 2011. A “Something About–”Â t-shirt would/will probably look a lot like the cover of that book.
4. What is your soundtrack when writing?
Noise-canceling headphones and nothing with lyrics in English. Then it depends on what I’m writing. Records that get played the most: Stars of the Lid’s And Their Refinement of the Decline, Miles Davis Kind of Blue, Lindstrom’s Where You Go I Go Too, Philip Glass’ Solo Piano, anything by Hauschka or Johann Johannsson. Chopin nocturnes. Brian Eno’s Music for Airports.
5. Have you ever written a poem? If not, why? If so, show us.
Yes. A version of this was in CommonLine Project a couple years ago. The revision made it into The Orange Suitcase:
“Something About Rings”Â
A couple sits at a table across
the room. I peer over my book to watch
their quiet fight. They rest silent and
full of hard gestures—steel hands and eyes.
“You’re a bastard,”Â says the tattooed arm.
“Fuck yourself,”Â say jeweled fingers, clinking teacups.
Quiet fights are quite ordinary. Split
a relationship to see its odd rings.
I settle the novel and turn to watch.
They are fine, they are in the midst of love,
when sucking tells less than a touch,
when indifference tells more than a fuck.