An Interview with Brian Listo, author of Another Long December: Stories and narrator of A Moment When the World is Silent, my first novel. Leave comments and questions for Brian below.
Kasie Whitener (KW): Tell me about Barcelona.
Brian Listo (BL): What do you want to know?
KW: After Tony died, after Kacie gave up on you and Melissa left you, you went to Barcelona. Tell me what you found there.
BL: That was the summer of 1999. It was a lonely time. I was wondering about a lot of things. I was wondering about my future, about my habits, about the various coping mechanisms I’d employed.
KW: The drugs.
BL: Yeah, and the drinking and the sex and the denial. Basic junky stuff.
KW: And Barcelona was better or worse?
BL: At first it was worse. Plenty of booze. Plenty of women. I was working the docks with a couple of guys I’d met in San Francisco, South Africans who’d been all over the world doing that same work and exploring the culture of whatever city they’d landed in.
KW: Was the dock work hard?
BL: Hell yeah. Harder than anything I’d ever done. Back breaking work. I ached from it. But it consumed me. While I was in it, there was nothing else except the work and the pain. It was a respite.
KW: A coping mechanism.
BL: Yeah. A coping mechanism. But then it was over. Suddenly lessened. Like an athlete finally gets used to the workouts and stops developing muscle, finally I got used to the work and it wasn’t so hard and I began to seek other things that would challenge me.
BL: Christ, yes, the women. Shit. Kacie was right about me regarding that. But like I said, it was a lonely time. There aren’t enough pretty girls to fill the hole left by losing Tony.
KW: And Kacie?
BL: Unrelated. I really saw the two – the other women and Kacie – as unrelated.
KW: So what finally worked?
BL: Literature. Oddly enough, I started reading. I started with classics like Don Quixote and Lolita, at first in English and then in Spanish. I read poetry like Don Juan and The Faerie Queene. Wasteland.
BL: And pastoral and romanticism and enlightenment. I read the stuff I’d breezed through in undergrad and tried for a more natural understanding of it.
KW: You’d suffered; perhaps they’d finally resonate?
BL: Perhaps. But they didn’t. They barely broke the surface.
KW: But something did. What was it? Hemingway?
BL: You’d think. The lost generation. All the boozing and death contemplating. But no, not really.
KW: But Jason and Joel…
BL: Yeah, they still call me Hemingway. Mostly to make fun of Tabby once saying he’d drank himself to death as if the same fate would be mine. I’d followed him to Barcelona, certainly. But it wasn’t Hemingway that really spoke to me.
KW: Who was it?
BL: Chuck Palahniuk. Invisible Monsters. Fight Club. Survivor. Lullaby. His work is so raw, so real. The emotion isn’t forced, it’s just apparent. The realism is so fantastic it has to be true. The characters are me, could be me. Are you, could be you. Their observations, their perspectives, I felt like my own were transcribed. I’m not a disfigured beauty queen with a pill problem or a schizophrenic bent on anarchy but I read Palahniuk and I felt exposed.
BL: Naked. And real. Breathing in this world on my own but not alone. Whole but not complete.
BL: Healed. Finally.
KW: Another Long December reflects that. Its stories ache on the page.
BL: And there’s renewal in them, too. Some of them.
KW: You’ve shared them with The Crew? Kacie and Chris and the twins and Tabby?
BL: Kacie, yeah. The others came to the book launch in Herndon, my old hometown bookseller across the street from Greene’s Funeral Home, around the corner from High’s where we used to buy cigarettes before we were old enough.
KW: Where Tony got that key chain flashlight that he shined in your eyes whenever you were really stoned.
BL: Shit, yeah, you remember that?
KW: I remember all of it.
BL: Me, too. I’m lucky that way. It took a while for me to realize that I really am lucky to have all that. Being surrounded by strangers, being in a strange place, doing strange things. I finally knew myself and knew what home really was.
KW: And did you want to go back?
BL: Fuck no. That hasn’t changed. I still hate Virginia. But I understand it better now. I understand it made me who I am and I can respect that. But I don’t want to go back.
KW: Another coping mechanism? Emotional maturity?
BL: Sure, that and never flying through Dulles.
For more with Brian Listo, including excerpts from Another Long December, check back with GenX Stories during the second week of each month.