Interviews With Dead Writers, Part 2
By Michael Koh
Carlos Fuentes: Spanish hidalgos would have your hide for such an outrageous statement. Our fearsome pride and loathsome jealousy extends into our crucial notion of individualism and for an outsider to come and “observe” this fantasied notion that we “don’t enjoy siestas,” is ludicrous. The hidalgo expects a siesta, like how one would expect rain in a romance film. Pablo Neruda used to say that a life without napping was like dragging a dead body around — which the dead body is yourself. We have to fulfill this function because it is an obligation to the body. I think it is for the good of every man on Earth that a siesta is observed. I have tried to in the United States — I am from Mexico, although I was able to nurture and become fluent in English. When I am outside Mexico, I get urges every day at the exact same time to take my nap, and when I do take the naps, it is at hotels. It is me recreating my Mexico. Whereas, when I go back, it is debased into sleeping at tables in a library or dozing off at a cafe or under a tree or on someone’s porch.
Jean Rhys: I moved my pillow because I wanted the cooler side resting on my face. A pillow is, after all, another plague of comfort. That’s all any pillow is. It was difficult without a pillow — taking naps. My arm used to get numb. Pins and needles were constant. When I first experienced a nap without a pillow, I was laughed at. I hated the floor. It is terribly hard and uncomforting. I found when I was in the process of getting a bed, that if I write after I nap, it would go. It leaves something close to clarity and disappears. Napping can be very exciting. If you try and think about what you’d like to nap about, you nap without dreaming about anything you thought about before napping. It doesn’t always happen that way. It’s tiring.
John Fante: I had a friend — Louie — he’s this big portly guy, and he says to me, “I’ve gotta take a nap.” And with that he just lies down on this park bench and turns his back to me and starts snoring. And there I am, just looking at this guy and I say, “What’s the big idea?” And Louie waves me away with his big fat hand, and so I walk into a diner to wait. And this guy comes up to me and says, “Are you John Fante?” and I just look at him, this tall sleepy blue-eyed cop. And he asks me if I know Louie and I point my thumb at him sleeping on the bench across the street and he nods as if he knows what I’m talking about. And he stands there for perhaps a minute or two and offers to buy me coffee. And I just turn around and ask the bartender for a piece of paper because I want to leave a note. And the bartender gives me a piece of paper and I write, “Dear Louie, I was waiting for you to wake up and I was under the impression that you had quit drinking, but I wanted to tell you to go fuck yourself and that your tail can go fuck himself too.” And with that I left the diner and left Louie on the bench and I haven’t had an urge to nap since.
Italo Calvino: Oh yes, I am always sleepy. Let’s assume I fall asleep here. Would the interview conclude or would you wait for me to wake up? If on the other hand, if we fell asleep simultaneously, would the interview be suspended as soon as we become unconscious and start as soon as we wake up? Once, I read Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat and I went to bed immediately after. I dreamt. The following afternoon, I could remember perfectly in my dream of my cat in a baseball cap balancing a teacup, a fish and an umbrella. That was the only time I’ve dreamt about my cat. I forget my dreams now, or if I do remember, I don’t remember how it came to arrive at such a conclusion. I nap after tea. I usually have two to three cups of black tea before my nap. My naps are always messy. There was a time where I drooled and drenched my pillow. Now, I sleep on my hammock with a bucket under me. I envy those who can sleep in their bed.
Junichiro Tanizaki: Some days ago, I happened to fall asleep while writing. I woke up as a breeze entered my room in the Shitadera district of Osaka. I studied the enormous ink stain that had dried on the paper I was writing on and as I gazed it, I realized that this was the pinnacle of my adulthood. To nap meant that I had reached a point where my body starts to work in reverse. As you may know, tatami isn’t always the most comfortable material to rest your body, especially during the winter, but somehow, it made do that afternoon. According to my wife, the heat had not been turned on. The heat was rarely on, but the times I stayed home to write, she at least kept my room warm. As I look back on that day, I have started to have no doubt that yesterday will be better than tomorrow.
Arthur Machen: While I am fond of mid-afternoon naps, I am particularly fond of rising just before midnight to work on my manuscripts. Naps function as gateways of time travel. You always end up a few hours ahead of where you had left off. The world is but a shadow when I look outside for inspiration — and that’s all I need. Some might think of me as the master of horror, but I don’t follow that at all. No, I like to believe that I prevent readers from going to bed when dark so that they, along with me, can cherish and understand the tranquility of the night. This fright should be no longer and readers will soon rejoice in the light of the darkness!
Pedro Juan Soto: Sure. I wrote to José Luis González when I had experienced a couple of life changing experiences in the South Bronx. Going out for field research — I wanted to experience what I was writing about, and I do, every day, because New York is prejudiced — it shocked me so much that I had panic attacks and felt miserable almost all the time. I could barely sleep, let alone nap. I thought that as a Puerto Rican, staying in your own neighborhood would keep you relatively safe, but that got me only so far. I eventually moved out of New York. I kept away as long as I could, but it would always come back to me in dreams. Some people stay away, when they leave, but not me, I couldn’t. New York kept calling me and asking me to expose the life that goes, well, unexposed. Every damn nap, every damn dream ended up the same. You can try to shrug it off. But you’re dealing with something you just have to do.
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