Interview With Hugh McGuire / Page 2 of 9
Trainor: "The impression is that a writer knows what he is doing, that he is conscious of his every step, and I'm not. I simply write. Yes, I have an idea, a hunch how a reader might respond, but I don't know for sure until someone tells me."
McGrath: "The first comment I heard about your book is the pacing, how quickly it reads. I read it cover to cover over two weekends. I still have the copy sitting on my bed table, and whenever I can't fall asleep, I open it up, randomly, and I read and I laugh until I'm too tired to continue. One of my friends is already reading it straight through for the second time and enjoying it just as much, he says, because there's so many layers, so many undercurrents he didn't catch the first time through."
Trainor: "I'm happy to hear that because 700 pages of 10 point type can be daunting. It represents a commitment."
McGrath: "Themes get mentioned next. There's so much to chew on, like a feast, and so many wild different characters. But the three of us were raised on sci-fi, so even though Rocker Heaven is not sci-fi, it's futuristic. We expect complex characters and strange worlds."
Trainor: "Rocker Heaven's not space aliens and intergalactic wars."
McGrath: "More earth aliens and the methodical destruction of our very own planet -- the environmental theme is strongly identifiable. When Chipper Stirbee uncovers the QuotLink plot to recycle nuclear waste, it's a doomsday scenario that has a very real ring, but what's amazing is that the entire book is so outrageously funny -- how can you take a topic so frightening and present it as humorous?"
Trainor: "It's on the edge."
McGrath: "The edge between humor and what?"
Trainor: "Madness. The edge between fantasy and reality, an edge that is very real. More people inhabit that edge than would ever want to admit it, world leaders included, those who are so willing to gamble with fate."
McGrath: "We're you aware you were writing something that unique?"
Trainor: "I knew I wanted to... that I had to develop a style that would allow me to capture a larger vision, include bolder themes, more serious themes than most contemporary writers. At the same time I could not suppress my sense of the absurdity of it all. I would start in laughing so hard to myself that I had trouble typing, but I would continue and I would strive to reach that same edgy high. Writing is a high, it's overpowering, and only when it's overpowering is it fun, and when it's fun it flows, overflows, takes life."
McGrath: "What I would like to do here today is attempt to understand what motivates you, what has influenced you, propelled you to write such a unique, such a bold perspective on life. These characters. These scenes. Songs. TV advertisements. The action, the pace, like you're so bursting with excitement, passion that you are about to explode."
Trainor: "Implode. To keep from imploding, I explode."
McGrath: "So OK, how can you take a topic like ecological disaster and turn it into such crazed humor?"
Trainor: "Well, first off how can we cope with ecological destruction, the enormity of it? I mean we live in the Star Wars generation, we have a perspective no generation in history has ever had. We have space shuttles and satellites, the Hubble, we can peer into the furthest reaches of outer space, finally get a sense of its extent -- a universe so vast that we will never comprehend it. Never. The overwhelming impression we are left with is how small are we, how infinitesimal -- what a word -- we are so infinitely tiny that we are powerless over our inevitable fate -- powerless but not helpless -- yet, we consider ourselves masters of it. That's ironic, yes? Delusional. It's this, our ultimate irrelevancy that fascinates me, that and our power to add to the destructiveness. We almost rush at it. And that's the motivation that forces me to write. It's a philosophical urge. I want to grapple with the universe."
McGrath: "Through humor."
Trainor: "Of course. Our predicament is ultimately absurd, isn't it? The earth will in time ignite, blast us into oblivion."
McGrath: "Millions of years hence."
Trainor: "Ultimately, inevitably -- and we don't have to hurry it along with some man-made environmental disaster either -- but the best tool we have available to face our fate is humor. Not that we laugh at it like fools, no, we try and put it in perspective and we attack the idiots who threaten our existence, who might pre-empt it with war or greenhouse gases, by pointing out the absurdity of what they are doing. Humor is not only a tool, it's a weapon -- plus it's the only possible, the only livable reaction we can rely on to face the ultimate absurdity. We either laugh or we start in screaming, and laughing beats screaming. It's a lot more constructive."
McGrath: "Chipper Stirbee. He is your unsuspecting hero. Who is he?"
Trainor: "The innocent, the idealistic youth, but the wild card, the joker in the deck. He's bopping along, trying to take care of business, but he has his eyes open too, he's trying to make sense of things. He's an old time 60s rock'n'roller, a star who's lost his luster, he's been buried alive in Northern Maine when we find him forty years after his last appearance, and whacked totally out of his mind."
McGrath: "On pot."
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