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Pynchon, Martin, McCarthy: Totally real conversations with literary genius

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One of the many, many things for which The Maine Edge is renowned is its uncanny ability to get exclusive interviews with literary figures who are notoriously reclusive and/or glacially productive. This publication – specifically its lead literary critic (and the writer of this story) – has managed to get some of the 20th century’s most difficult to pin down authors.

Considering the paucity of in-depth communication with these figures, it seems appropriate that we (I) compile and share some of the highlights of our interviews. As such, we’re I’m) sharing interviews from previous years with brilliant and famous writers such as Thomas Pynchon, George R.R. Martin and Cormac McCarthy – interviews in which we (I) engaged as an intellectual equal with some true giants of the written word.

Each of these interviews is an achievement in its own right, but together they are a phenomenal feat, combining first-rate investigative skills, literary theoretical brilliance and a poetic pen.

So please, enjoy some of our (my) finest work.

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2015

Pynchon me, I must be dreaming: An interview with the reclusive Thomas Pynchon

“Every weirdo in the world is on my wavelength.” - Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon is one of the most celebrated writers of his (or any other) generation. The brilliance of such diverse works as “Gravity’s Rainbow,” “The Crying of Lot 49,” “Mason and Dixon” and “Bleeding Edge” – among so many others – has led to critical acclaim and literary immortality.

Mr. Pynchon is also one of the most notoriously reclusive authors we’ve got. Ever since the 1960s, Pynchon has eschewed the public eye; he has rarely even been photographed and rumors abound regarding his current appearance and whereabouts.

Obviously, it was time for The Maine Edge to enter the game.

Through a series of shakedowns, bribes and other ethically questionable activities, I tracked Pynchon to an isolated compound just outside of a small town in upstate New York. Unfortunately, we’re unable to be any more specific regarding the location due to certain blood oaths that were sworn.

The following is a transcript of our encounter in its entirety.

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Thomas Pynchon – Who the hell are you?

The Maine Edge – My name is Allen Adams. I’m a writer with…

TP – Did you walk on the grass?

TME – Did I…

TP – DID YOU WALK ON THE GRASS?

TME – Uh, uh…yes. I did. Is that bad?

TP – Why would you walk on the grass? Didn’t you see the sign?

(He points to a sign that says “Please Don’t Keep Walking Off The Grass”)

TME – I…I don’t know what that means…I just…I was hoping to talk to you about your work.

TP – My work? What work? The books? You broke in here to talk about the books?

(Pause.)

TP – Sure. What the hell. Let’s talk about the books. You can’t come into my house, though. I’ll answer three of your questions and then I shall have you removed.

TME – Oh…okay…that’s a deal. Ahem. Okay…so…first question: for many years, your production was sporadic, with lengthy stretches between publications. But in the past 10 years, you’ve had three books – “Against the Day,” “Inherent Vice” and “Bleeding Edge” come to print. What prompted you to become so prolific?

TP – I’m a writer. I write books. When the books need writing, I write them. Sometimes, they don’t need to be written for a long stretch. When they need it, that’s when I write them. Not before.

TME – Sure. I guess. Okay…question two: last year, we saw the first film adaptation of one of your works. How involved were you in the process of making “Inherent Vice”?

TP – You know, it was kind of a hoot. Paul [Paul Thomas Anderson, the film’s director] is a nice kid, maybe a little touched, if you know what I’m saying, but a nice kid. Not quite the writer he thinks himself to be, but not bad. And I actually go way back with Joaquim – he and I used to party quite a bit back in the day. That dude, man…(laughs)…that dude is something else.

I’ve never been one to consider the cinematic possibilities of what I do. The images of the mind are so much more effective than anything that can be rendered visible to the eye. And considering the metatextual nature of most of my narratives, the idea of reducing any of them down into a coherent two-hour film always seemed like more trouble than it would be worth. Still, Paul and Joaquim and the rest – they did a good job.

You know, I’m in it. Only time I’ve allowed myself to be filmed in decades. Not going to tell you where though. I AM a recluse, after all.

(Editor’s note: it was as this point that the aforementioned blood oath was administered. However, due to technical difficulties, the recording was cut off.)

TME – Okay, sorry about that…looks like we’re up and running again…

TP – Well, go ahead and ask your question. There’s a “Simpsons” mini-marathon coming on in 20 minutes and I still have to make the popcorn.

TME – All right – last question. Do you feel like your intentional separation from societal interaction has affected the perception of your work? And if so, positively or negatively?

TP – Pretty sure you stuck an extra question in there, chief, but I’ll concede that it’s a follow-up and let it slide.

I removed myself because it just seemed like an easier way to get s—t done. That’s all. I didn’t want to deal with any of the day-to-day crap that comes with being an “important” author. So I stepped away and never really looked back.

I don’t NEED that interaction. I don’t care about adulation. It’s nice that people buy my books because it means that I don’t have to do anything else, but ultimately, I’d write them anyway. There are too many ideas whizzing around my head already – do I really need to be out there in the world getting more interpersonal interactions jammed into my skull and converted to narrative fodder?

And don’t get me started on this social media business. If I hadn’t already disappeared, I would have ghosted once this whole Facebook thing gained traction. The whole thing reeks of the dilution of individual identity – people are spread so thin that they’ve become transparent. And while some would argue that transparency is a positive development, those people are mad. We should be keeping at least part of ourselves for ourselves.

Do people get off on my absence? I’m sure. But I don’t think it has made a bit of difference in terms of the spread of my work. People have embraced me for whatever reason; I’m just glad that there are still some thinkers out there in the world.

(Pause.)

TP – Now get the hell off my lawn.

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Many thanks to Mr. Pynchon for taking the time to talk with us here at The Maine Edge. We very much appreciate his very real answers to our completely real questions in this not-at-all made-up encounter that totally happened and is not a complete and utter fabrication.

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2016

Swan song of ice and fire: A totally real, not-made-up interview with George R.R. Martin

I don’t need to tell you just how popular the books of George R.R. Martin are. The fantasy author has sold millions of copies of his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Perhaps the only thing about the guy’s work that is a turnoff for fans is the length of time it takes to get new installments.

According to reports, the newest book in the series – “The Winds of Winter” – is scheduled to drop sometime late this year or early next year. The book planned to follow it – currently titled “A Dream of Spring” – is supposedly going to be the very last in the series.

The elongated timeline of Martin’s books has led HBO’s wildly successful “Game of Thrones” adaptation to proceed with mostly original material; the newest season is set to debut next month.

One of the most fiercely kept secrets in all of literature is the end of the series. “A Song of Ice and Fire” has become a cultural touchstone for many readers; as such, its conclusion is eagerly anticipated.

We here at The Maine Edge managed to secure a brief interview with Mr. Martin after locating his top-secret writing lair. Our window was small, but in truth, we had just one question – a simple question that we considered it our duty to ask.

In short – how does it all end?

The following is a transcript of the exchange with Mr. Martin in its entirety.

The Maine Edge – Mr. Martin? Mr. Martin! A moment of your time?

George R.R. Martin – Who the hell are you? And how did you get past security?

TME – That’s not important right now. I’m from The Maine Edge, an arts and…

GRRM – The who?

TME – The Maine Edge. We’re an arts and entertainment weekly based in Bangor, Maine.

GRRM – You’re from Maine? Then why are you all the way out in (location redacted)? How did you find me?

TME – I’ll ask the questions, sir. I’ve traveled many miles and committed some fairly heinous acts to track you down, so I think I’m entitled to speak to you.

GRRM – You do know that isn’t how interviews work, right?

TME – I WILL BE ASKING THE QUESTIONS, SIR! (pause) So, Mr. Martin, our readers are dying to know – how will “A Song of Ice and Fire” end?

GRRM – (laughing) I’m certainly not going to tell you that. Why would I? If I wouldn’t tell my publisher or HBO, I’m not going to tell some home invader/alleged journalist. I’m the only one that knows and that’s the way it’s going to stay until the book comes out.

TME – I see. Well, what if I were to tell you that…

(Several minutes of inaudible whispering and muttering)

TME (cont) – I mean, really. Doesn’t that sound fair?

GRRM – Well…I might not agree with your methods or your creepy appearance inside my studio, but I simply cannot find fault in your logic. It’s ironclad. It makes literally no sense to keep the ending from you.

TME – I knew you’d come around.

GRRM – All right. So…the ending to “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

TME – Yes please.

GRRM – The story’s ending is…well…it’s kind of…

TME – You’re clearly stalling, Mr. Martin. Please go on.

GRRM – OK, so, the ending, it’s like, individuals are selected from each of the seven kingdoms of Westeros and brought together in King’s Landing in order to battle to the death for the glory of their homeland. We’ll see someone from, like, one of the poorer kingdoms come out on top and lead a sort of revolution to…

TME – I’m sorry, Mr. Martin. I need to stop you there. You’re clearly describing “The Hunger Games.”

GRRM – No I’m not.

TME – I’m afraid you are, sir.

(Lengthy pause)

GRRM – Heh. Caught me! Anyway, the real ending is going to have the Knight’s Watch travel farther than they ever have before – so far that they come upon ANOTHER wall. They climb over it and on the other side, they encounter a park ranger whose job is apparently to keep the denizens of Westeros from finding out that their land is actually a wildlife preserve in Pennsylvania and…

TME – Again, I need you to stop. That’s the ending of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village.”

(Lengthier pause)

GRRM – Oh, fine. So the REAL ending is, like, Ned Stark is going to wake up in bed next to his wife and tell her that he had the strangest dream and that…

TME – Really? Dude, that’s the ending of “Newhart.”

(Lengthiest pause)

GRRM – You know what, smart guy? Here’s the real scoop – I don’t know HOW the f---ing thing ends. Not a clue. Do you have any idea what kind of pressure I’m under here? There’s zero chance that I’m able to come up with a conclusion that offers anything like the sort of payoff that all of these people expect. Seriously. I’ve been freaking out about it for like five years.

(Pause)

GRRM – Do…do YOU have any ideas?

TME – As a matter of fact, I do.

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It was at this point the interview ended and the brainstorming session began. Suffice it to say, the George R.R. Martin I left behind was far more secure and happy than the one I found. We solved his problem and came up with what we both agree is the best possible ending, one that will satisfy every single reader without exception.

As to what that ending is, well…you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you?

(Editor’s note: Kind of sad that this interview is three years old and could have been written yesterday. I did my best, but George … come on, man.)

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2017

Evening Read-ness in the West: An interview with the reclusive Cormac McCarthy

TESQUE, New Mexico - Cormac McCarthy is one of the most notable living writers in American literature. He has won Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships. He has a National Book Award, a National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

Novels like “Blood Meridian,” “All the Pretty Horses,” “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men” have become key components of the literary canon. His impact on the realm of American letters cannot be overstated.

He is also a noted recluse, minimizing interviews and generally avoiding the media spotlight.

So of course, The Maine Edge was on the case.

As part of our occasional efforts to track down and speak to authors who – for whatever reason – aren’t interested in being spoken to, I decided to make my way to the Southwest in an effort to land an interview with the press-shy McCarthy.

And I found him. Or rather … he found me. As I lurked outside a house that I was reasonably sure belonged to McCarthy, the writer appeared behind me as if from nowhere astride what I’m stunned to report was a buffalo.

The following is a transcript of our encounter in its entirety.

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The Maine Edge – HOLY S—T!

Cormac McCarthy – I’m sorry, can I help you?

TME – You scared the crap out of me. Where did you even come from?

CM – Well, when you learn the ways of this territory you can fade in and out of the desert and make your way however and wherever you see fit.

TME – I don’t know what that means. Also – is that a buffalo? Are you riding a buffalo?

CM – “Riding” seems like an unnecessary descriptor, but yes this is a buffalo.

(Pause)

CM (cont.) – So are you gonna tell me why you were trying to peek in my bedroom windows?

TME – Oh! Oh no! No, I wasn’t … I’m not trying to spy … I was just looking for you and wanted to talk about your work. I don’t want to watch you sleep or anything.

CM – Good thing. I don’t sleep anymore. Mostly spend my nights wandering the shifting sands on a quest for meaning.

TME – That seems … weird. Anyway, since I’ve got you here, mind if I ask you a few questions about your writing?

CM – Sure – if you can give me a reason not to shoot you for trespassing and trying to look at my nude body in repose.

TME – Uh…

CM – Ah, I’m just yankin’ your crank. Sure, we can talk about the writing. You want a beer?

TME – Um … yeah. Sure. Why not?

(Pause for beers)

CM – All right, pal. Ask away.

TME – Right. OK. So – it has been over a decade since your last novel [“The Road”; 2006]. You’ve never had a gap quite this long between books; do you have anything in the works currently?

CM – Well, it’s not like I haven’t been busy. I wrote a screenplay. It was a movie called “The Counselor.” Did you see it?

TME – Um. Yes.

CM – What’d you think?

TME – Honestly? Well … it was actually not that great. Weird, but not in a fun way. In an off-putting way.

(McCarthy laughs)

CM – Oh yeah. Yeah it was. That thing with Cameron Diaz sexing up the car? Jesus – what was that about, you know?

Anyway, your question. Books. Yeah, I’m working on a couple of different things right now. I find that I’ve passed the point in my life where I can devote myself solely to one project. I need to have a few irons in the fire so that when I get bogged down I can jump to something else and stay productive. Different stuff. I reckon I’ll publish something soon.

TME – Any new genre exploration here? You’ve done Southern gothic, western, post-apocalyptic…what’s next?

CM – Could be anything. Maybe a legal thriller, one of those airplane books. Or horror – Steve King seems like he has a lot of fun. Or something with elves or whatever. Maybe I’ll write one of those “literary” books about a guy living in Brooklyn who wants to be a writer and spends 500 pages smelling his own farts.

(Loud rustling noise from outside)

CM – Oops – gotta go. I’m meeting with the rest of the herd at the water hole and then we’re going grazing.

TME – Oh. OK. Well – thank you for your time.

-

Many thanks to Mr. McCarthy for taking the time to talk despite the fact that I’m fairly sure that he now believes himself to be a buffalo. Still, some marvelous insight from one of our most brilliant writers. We very much appreciate his very real answers to our completely real questions in this not-at-all made-up encounter that totally happened and is not a complete and utter fabrication.

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And there you have it – a stroll down memory lane with some of our (my) most important interviews. These writers have each played significant roles in the development and evolution of the literary world over the past few decades. Yes, they’re strange and off-putting and utter weirdoes, but they’re also geniuses. As are we (I? me?).

(In case you haven’t already figured it out, this is our April Fools’ Day edition. As such, there will be stories that are completely and totally made up. This is one such story.)

Last modified on Friday, 29 March 2019 09:48

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