Thursday, August 29, 2013

Corey Mesler's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's newest series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios. And just to spice it up a bit, each author gets to ask their own Would You Rather question to the author who appears after them....

Corey Mesler's
Would You Rather

Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?

Since I have agoraphobia I might as well not have feet. So my tongue. Though St. Zimmerman says, “All our tongues are confused.  That lie about everybody having their own truth inside them has done a lot of damage and made people crazy.”

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

Long string of moderate sellers. Or at least bump my audience into the triple digits. And then, of course, some Hollywood money.

Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?

I want it now. NOW!  Because either (1) I won’t die or (2) heaven, like Borges promised, is an endless library.

Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?

No conjunctions except the one described in the alchemical text Rosarium philosophorum, the symbolic representation of the spiritual union of the male and female principle called coniunctio spirituum.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?

I don’t believe in audio books in the same way I don’t believe in creationism. It’s a late 20th century aberration. But, since I don’t want tattoos, can I say I would rather publicly ingest my favorite novel page by page, preferably as a publicity stunt for my next book? Since my favorite novel is Ulysses, this would take a lot of ingesting.

Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?

Honestly, I think I can only write one way and that is to believe in it wholeheartedly. I have no ironic distance from this which would allow me to be breezy here. And, you know, I will always be a small press author and I wear that badge proudly.

Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?

The notion of characters having to be lovable is irksome to me. I am free to dislike my own characters in the same way like I dislike Humbert Humbert or Raskolnikov, to choose two obvious examples. Of course, I also think that all my characters are innocent even the ones who are loathsome, in the same way The First Cause must view Man.

Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?

My skin is paper. Onion-skin paper. I am sensitive. You can see my heart beating.

Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?

I often want to crawl into the story I am writing, especially when I write a good steamy scene. Books are so much better than real life. Who doesn’t want to live in them?

Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?

I believe you are making reference to Georges Perec’s novel A Void. Let’s keep in mind that Perec died at 45 so this may be a carcinogenic method. And, being an old poop, I have trouble with the youngsters who have taken over (or perhaps created) internet and texting forms of communication and fashioned this new argot that eschews punctuation and capitals. No, I rescind that comment. Let them take over. I am too tired to war against the way anyone writes. Did I answer this question? Who am I here?

Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?

Ban is the obvious answer because it means instant sales. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “When society found out it was honoring works of art by censoring them, it stopped doing it.”

Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?

Hell, I’d rather sleep with Dylan Thomas than listen to Rand for one second, or even read one page of hers. I might want to sleep with Dylan Thomas anyway.

Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?

I wish I could say I was smart enough to write or speak in haiku. I am lucky to stick seven words together that sound reasonably like a sentence.

Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn't read?

I guess without Ginger and Mary Ann I would be reduced to wrist aerobics, so bring on the 50 Shades and its smutty frisson.

Would you rather critics rip your book apart publically or never talk about it at all?

I want attention. Even bad attention. I am like the obnoxious kid in class who speaks crudely aloud so all the girls remember him, even if with disdain. I am also the kid who brings his new toys to your house and begs you to play with him.

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?

I already have the latter. It’s what started my so-called literary career. I finally started writing down all the things the voices (yes, plural) in my head were belaboring. And, eventually, with cunning and alchemy, I formed them into a semi-coherent story that became my first novel, Talk: A Novel in Dialogue.

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?

At this point pen and paper. I can’t believe I’ve come so far down this road that, in looking, back I can’t even see beyond the curve where I started. I began writing on yellow legal pads with a ballpoint pen. Imagine. This was right after the Carpetbaggers came and took all the family jewelry and silverware.

Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?

I like the metaphor of standing on my tippy-toes but, like Oblomov, I love to lie (and not lay, though I love laying, too) down. If could rig a keyboard to hang above my couch I would be a happy man, a solitary, happy man.

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?

I will be naked for lesser reason than this. I love naked. I am naked right now typing this.

Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well? 

Style is substance. Style is everything. I’d rather read a book of grandiloquent flourish than a potboiler any day. Wouldn’t you?  Nabokov said, “Style and Structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.”

And here is Corey's answer to Les Plesko's question from last week:

Would you rather forget that you were ever a writer or realize that you failed but kept trying?

Of course failed but kept trying. It is the street on which I live. I only want to fail better.

 Check back next week to see what Courtney Mauk would rather
and see her answer to Corey's question:

Would you rather lick clean a stranger’s car ashtray, or write a synopsis (or an essay about who the prospective audience is) of your novel for the publisher?


COREY MESLER has published in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Esquire/Narrative4 Project and Good Poems, American Places (Viking Press, 2011). He has published six novels, Talk: A Novel in Dialogue (2002), We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon (2006), The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores (2010), Following Richard Brautigan (2010), Gardner Remembers (2011), and Frank Comma and the Time-Slip (2012), 3 full length poetry collections, Some Identity Problems (2008), Before the Great Troubling (2011), and Our Locust Years (2013), and 3 books of short stories, Listen: 29 Short Conversations (2009), Notes toward the Story and Other Stories (2011) and I’ll Give You Something to Cry About (2011). He has also published over a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and two of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His fiction has received praise from John Grisham, Robert Olen Butler, Lee Smith, Frederick Barthelme, Greil Marcus, among others. With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store in Memphis TN, one of the country’s oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores. He can be found at

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