A revolution of bodies, in Rachel Farrell’s “Jean-Louise Is Not Really Interested,” from our September issue.
1. Are there things you refuse to know, that you will never investigate? Tell us some.
I hate anything to do with wires. In my closet I have a giant box of wires Iâ€™m afraid to throw away but canâ€™t bring myself to organize. Iâ€™ve been collecting the wires for some time, and most of them likely belong to electronic devices I donâ€™t own anymore. Old VCRs and game systems. Old phones, lamps, and cameras. I should sift through this box and throw away those wires I canâ€™t find a use for, but the job seems so depressing. In my version of hell, the Devil ushers me into a cave and says, â€œIâ€™d like you to sort out my collection of mismatched AC adaptors.â€
2. This is a story that spans generations. What distinguishes them? What defines this cycle?
I wouldnâ€™t say anything distinguishes the generations. Every generation has its own taboos, I guess. But the response of humans to joy and trauma is relatively consistent. The cycle is only defined by the fact that its perpetuation is both absurd and necessary.
3. Invasion feels like a constant concern in this piece, as does the fear of transformation. What do you think has made us all so GD worried?
Contamination is such an obsession of modern lifeâ€”contamination of food, contamination of ecosystems, contamination of self. None of us want harmful things to enter our bodies and make trouble. Then thereâ€™s this other horror: cancer. My aunt just had a 16-pound tumor removed from her abdomen. Years ago you would have died from that, but today they open you up, pull out the offending growth, toss it in a bucket. Sometimes doctors help patients get a sense of scale by likening the tumor to fruit. Tumors always seem to come in various fruit sizes: grapes, lemons, oranges, cantaloupes. In my auntâ€™s case, someone told her that her tumor was the size of two newborns. Sheâ€™s a big woman, so this was possible. But I donâ€™t know what a person does with that information, how they file that fact in their brain. And what if your body canâ€™t make a child but it can produce a tumor the size of twins? Iâ€™m not exactly answering your question. But I suppose Iâ€™m interested in writing characters that are acutely aware of how little autonomy they have over their own bodies.
4. Can you offer one piece of advice for the reader who chooses to live carefully, as opposed to other ways?
No. I mean, I really have nothing to offer here. Over the summer, I jumped into an abandoned swimming pool that was full of rain water. A person who does that sort of thing shouldnâ€™t go around giving advice.
5. Please list (at least) two terrible, terrible things no normal person would say. The worst things.
â€œLetâ€™s take this ecstasy and hit the gym.â€
â€œNow where did I leave that bucket of cat heads?â€
â€œCorporations are people, my friend.â€
6. What is the hierarchy of this story? Who or what is entering or refusing to leave?
I might say this story is structured around the relationship between destruction and regeneration. I wrote this piece directly after reading Bretonâ€™s surrealist manifesto. I turned off the lights and wrote a bunch of passages that at the time made little sense to me. Most of it was throwaway because I deliberately kept reason out of the equation in that initial draft. So my subconscious was perhaps a bully in this pieceâ€”my subconscious was in there from the beginning, and even in later drafts it refused to leave. I donâ€™t know if thereâ€™s a hierarchy in this story; for me, there is only a question. Which is more terrifying, things that invade your body, or things that are born from it? Both are scary in their own right. Both disrupt oneâ€™s sense of control.