Dan Crowe (ed)
I once wrote about Billy Corgan taking up an artist’s residency in Havelock North. Actually that’s not true (well of course it’s not true) – I wrote about it twice. Bit of harmless fun, right? I enjoyed myself. Probably shouldn’t have shared those thoughts to the world, and yet there I am – typical, hopeful writer – I’m sharing them again.
I was the typical hopeful reader when I approached Dead Interviews – wanting only the best. But it seems this is a series of in-jokes and shaggy-dogs that should have remained in the off-cuts pile. The idea, then, was for famous writers to interview their literary heroes – one condition: the heroes needed to be dead.
There are some good match-ups: Ian Rankin on Conan Doyle, David Mitchell on Samuel Johnson – ah but it’s like pulling teeth for the most part. It’s so fucking dull and/or the pieces just seem so pleased with themselves, you can feel the writers gurning away, grinning between flowering up these dead heroes with darlings they should have themselves murdered.
There are a few great moments. A.M. Homes invents “Tom” to interview Richard Nixon. Tom is the boy next door, he grew up next to Nixon when he was the president. He’s now a college journalism student. This is a nice touch – there’s humour in the set-up and situation and it gives Homes the freedom to do what she does best: write fiction.
The others are all – obviously – writing fiction but it just becomes prosaic all too quickly. Silly scenarios need be invented and explained away, and conversations – made up conversations, mind – get bogged down at an alarming rate.
Douglas Coupland’s interview with Andy Warhol strikes the right tone. He has Andy’s voice and he plays to the vanity of the situation – explaining plastic surgery advances and fashion icons to Warhol.
Rick Moody ignores the idea completely and writes about Hendrix. Again, he has his voice – and it’s a strong opening story.
But after that, with only one or two exceptions, this death ride ain’t no joyride.
But these sorts of writing follies – collected up, packaged, always seem like a good idea. Er, on paper, at least…
Now, back to the further adventures of Billy Corgan. Now where was I? Must be time to have him in a Havelock North rest home…