Interview With Hugh McGrath / Page 3 of 9
Trainor: "Which is how he has survived all the intervening years, when suddenly Lou Starcrave, the Loose Nukes old manager, drives up that deserted logger's road and offers him a second climb back to stardom."
McGrath: "Lou Starcrave's drive from New York up to Maine is one of the most hilarious scenes in the book, the truck stop, Sally Tally's."
Trainor: "Sally Tally. Every guy's nightmare."
McGrath: "Why did you set the piece in Maine?"
Trainor: "It's about as far north as you can go, it's way out there, a ten hour drive north from Bangor, and the area is as isolated as anywhere Appalachian. It's desolate. Plus I like Mainers, instinctively, they're born direct, honest."
McGrath: The scenes in the Maine woods were my favorite, I couldn't put those chapters down -- the neighbors, the Duchamps, Lloyd and Belinda, and the all night grocery -- 'shift digits'!"
Trainor: "'Shift digits.' You're sick."
McGrath: "I'm sick! You wrote it!"
Trainor: "Anyway, you drive that far up north and your imagination will take over too -- and that's why I'm going back there in my next book, Corker. Corker turns out to be the seventeen year old son Chipper never knew he had, kid gets dumped on his doorstep one cold winter's morning."
McGrath: "Corker is a sequel?"
Trainor: "No, not a prequel either, because Rocker Heaven starts off in the 60s, and the scenes in Corker cover one winter during Chipper's forty year exile in northernmost Maine. So it's sort of an interquel, or interlude."
McGrath: "Is it just as wild as Rocker Heaven?"
Trainor: "Just as wild, but not as broad in scope. The time is more clearly set, and it explores the life of the seventeen-year-old, that oh so pivotal year in a young guy's life -- but just like a seventeen-year-old's life, the book swings out-of-control."
McGrath: "How soon will it be published?"
Trainor: "Hey, I'm working on it, I'm pedaling as hard as I can -- late summer this year, maybe, hopefully."
McGrath: "Chipper Stirbee. Is there any known rockstar he's modeled after?"
Trainor: "In a sense Chipper Stirbee is every rockstar. Because what is a rockstar? What role does a rockstar play in our lives? First off, he's worshipped. A concert is a modern day religious experience. It's ritualized, this beating bass, these half-naked dancing natives, strung out on some ecstatic substance, and this young guy in the spotlight -- and he is usually blitzed out too -- at least that's the popular image. Though first and foremost he's a performer, an actor. But a rockstar is surreal, above reality, he creates a reality that we peons cannot attain, though he cannot maintain the high all that long either. Rockstars soar, they disappear without a trace, a few keep trudging along -- look at Mick Jagger -- and one or two overdose, which is often seen as the ultimate sacrificial act. What a wild, bizarre phenomenon this is, and we're all fascinated by it, mesmerized by these guys' attempts at what, everlasting fame, immortality?"
McGrath: "Immortality. That's definitely a theme you raise in the book."
Trainor: "We cannot face our fate, as a race, we cannot imagine ultimate destruction. Instead we attempt to imagine immortality -- a heaven."
McGrath: "Even a rocker heaven."
Trainor: "Right. Some place even we can go. Since the 60s a new image of immortality has arisen. Whatever you want to call us -- hips, freaks, rockers -- it's almost like we believe as a group that faced with certain destruction, we have to live for the moment. Chipper Stirbee, the rockstar, embodies that feeling. He dives into the inevitability of it, the absurdity of it with gusto."
McGrath: "So you see rock'n'roll as what, a modern day paganism?"
Trainor: "Whatever conclusion you personally reach, one fact is certain, rock'n'roll is an historical phenomenon. It has influenced successive generations since its invention in the 60s. Rock'n'roll has roots in rhythm and blues prior to that, for sure, but something unique happened in the 60s to crystallize the phenomenon. In addition, there are certain other elements that accompany the music -- sex and drugs, along with environmental concerns, peace, love, a belief in the futility of war."
McGrath: "Rock'n'roll is almost a creed then, Rocker Heaven almost a theology."
Trainor: "It never gets quite that pretentious. It's humor, satire, fun."
McGrath: "Incredibly funny, and never predictable. Each page brings a surprise."
Trainor: "It's the 60s. The 60s were wild. Simultaneously, of course, there was Vietnam and war protests which served as a counterpoint to the drug fests and the love-ins. Rocker Heaven is an attempt to capture the 60s in all its complexity, yet predict what the future of that culture will be five decades out -- the too near future."
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