In this, the first in an ongoing series of interviews with contemporary authors, Uni and Chloe are joined in email-facilitated conversation by the incomparable Sam Lipsyte. (They previously reviewed his latest collection of short fiction, The Fun Parts, here. Now go buy all of his books, if you haven’t already.) Yes, this is real.
SAM LIPSYTE: Nip? No Nip? Just a little nip-chipping?
UNI: The eternal question, Sam.
CHLOE: We’re firmly not of the ‘one nip, one dipshit’ philosophy proposed by certain kitten recovery groups these days. Thinking in absolutes is boring. Of course, we’ve seen the horror stories: tabbies strung out for days, only able to raise their pitiful heads off the floor to meow for more, please, more; Abyssinians—the most notorious nipheads, F your I…prowling, sad and skeletal, nosing the carpet fibers for any spare shake…
UNI: Chewing the damn nip mouse one more time even though they know, for chrissakes, that they’ve already emptied out the poor thing’s innards.
CHLOE: And those kittens who claim that they need to nip daily because “they have stomach problems” caused by “gluten intolerance”—the most pathetic forms of self-justification.
UNI: Moderation in all things, is what we say. We found Adderall in Scott’s drawer once and we were able to make that last for nearly six months, shaving it into slivers.
CHLOE: Those were some good months.
SAM LIPSYTE: Does North Korea pose a real threat? Or just a real pose?
UNI: It’s a well known fact that Koreans eat dogs, and I can only imagine that North Koreans eat more dogs than their Southern neighbors, so: Kudos for that.
CHLOE: But it’s also a well known fact that North Korea is run by a psychotic 12-year old with a glandular program and a weakness for iPods, Dewar’s, and niche German pornography of the food-and-foot-fetish variety. A wild card. I’d say we should ‘wait and see,’ but then again, we might all be post-nuclear pavement shadows by that point.
SAM LIPSYTE: What do you think of the fact that some people are now shelling out thousands of dollars for life-saving surgery on their goldfish?
CHLOE: Inane. What’s next? Chemotherapy for bees? Psychotherapy for nematodes? A slippery slope, Sam. A world without standards is nothing but unadulterated chaos.
UNI & CHLOE: Do you think animals are a suitable substitute for children? What can children do that animals can’t, anyway?
SAM LIPSYTE: A chance few of them can grow up to care for you as you grow old and infirm. Cats would just peck at your corpse until the stink brought the cops through the door.
UNI & CHLOE: What animal do you personally most resemble, both in appearance and personality, and why?
SAM LIPSYTE: I guess I look bearish, but also aardvark-y, porpoiseish, with a hint of the major ruminants, and the anxious darting expressions of a squirrel. Not to pander, but I think I may have the personality of a cat.
UNI & CHLOE: What advice would you offer a young kitten looking to break into the contemporary fiction racket? What should we be when we grow up?
SAM LIPSYTE: Write something with a title that refers to a club or a group, like, The Young Kittens Traveling, Moveable, Feastable Kitty-Cat Book-and-Nip Consortium. When you grow up you should develop light rail technologies.
UNI & CHLOE: Okay, we learned this one from a tomcat in Bed-Stuy who took a psychology correspondence course through Phoenix University last year. Ready? You’re standing in a desert, Sam. Everywhere you look there is nothing, just nothing, except, you know: Desert. Then suddenly: A ladder appears! Tell us what that ladder looks like, in as much detail as possible.
SAM LIPSYTE: The ladder is a Werner MT-22 300-pound duty rating telescoping multi-ladder. It’s twenty-two feet long, but seems endless. It features step-ladder, extension ladder or scaffold conversions. Its steps are double-riveted and slip-resistant. My god, what a ladder! What a goddamn ladder, this ladder! Wait, is the ladder my desires? It stands there gleaming in the desert sun and it rises and rises. I will never scale it, will I?
UNI & CHLOE: Close, Sam, so close. The ladder represents your friends. We are totally jealous of your friends, your riveted, unslippery, industrial-grade friends! And here we thought writers, like stand-up comedians, were misanthropic shut-ins who had already burned all their emotional bridges in pursuit of truth and beauty…
Okay, now—we’re still in the desert. You won’t believe it, but out of nowhere a box materializes in the otherwise-nearly-empty panorama of sand and loneliness! Take a look at the box. Close your eyes and visualize it. What does it look like? What is it made of?
SAM LIPSYTE: What a strange box. It’s a small enameled jewelry box, lime green, with flecks of strawberry and gold. The tiny hinges are slightly rusted. I lift the lid and find a scrap of paper folded up and taped to the rosewood interior. The scrap reads: See the Cat.
UNI & CHLOE: You must be a freaking telepathic savant or something because no joke the next part of this psychological analysis involves us materializing a cat in the desert and asking you to describe it. Sam, we’re totally vibrating on the same wavelength here. Tell us about this cat…
SAM LIPSYTE: I look up and a white and brown domestic short hair strides across the desert floor, muscles pulsing under its fur, eyes blue and bloodshot. It’s my childhood cat, Fraidy. He killed everything in our neighborhood. Rarely did I see him without a torn bird or mangled chipmunk hanging from his mouth. He’d leave these carcasses on our stoop, his tribute. A lot of good it did him. One summer while my sister and I were away our parents ditched him somewhere. They told us they’d left him with some nice people at a fish market. That happens a lot, I’m sure. Anyway, things are getting weird. The ladder, the box, Fraidy, me, what are we all doing in this cat-administered psych test? Am I about to die? Am I already dead?
Don’t miss other our other Evening Interviews with Chris Kraus, Rick Moody, Keren Cytter, Meg Wolitzer, and Simon Tofield! And if you’ve still got time on our hands, show our human partner Scott some love by visiting Brant Watch.