In 1976 Sheldon Lee Compton was born. It was April. Some say it rained all day. His head was misshapen because the infant Sheldon stayed in the birth canal too long. To be perfectly clear, he had a cone head.
His grandmother, upon first seeing him, fainted, sure, she later said, that he was horribly deformed.
Q: So you’re getting together material for a new book, right? Absolute Invention: New and Selected Stories, I think you said? Tell folks a little about that.
A: It’s this book that’s not about the 1985 Chicago Bears. You know, the Fridge, Sweetness, Singletary, McMahon, the whole championship situation. They had this wonderful and horrible and beautiful and tragic Super Bowl Shuffle rap song and music video. I always assume everyone has seen this video but maybe not. Just in case, here is a link:
Super Bowl Shuffle by the Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew
That was 1985, the year of Clearly Canadian, BarNone, Cool Ranch Doritos, and Walter Payton, the heyday of Stephen King, Cheers, and Nintendo’s Double Dribble. There really was just so much going on. Oh yeah, Bubble Tape. Almost forgot Bubble Tape.
Q: So fans of what type of writing would enjoy this new and selected stories of yours?
A: I read this article today about the super bloom in Death Valley. That was good reading. Here’s the first few paragraphs:
“In a land of extremes, where a barren valley floor sinks below sea level, rain rarely falls and summer temperatures reach a toasty 120 degrees, a riot of color has exploded.
For the first time in over a decade, Death Valley National Park is experiencing a “super bloom,” when millions of wildflowers blanket the barren desert.
As the driest place in North America, Death Valley receives about two inches of annual rainfall on average, but last October a series of storms walloped the basin. In one area, three inches of rain fell in just five hours. It’s this fall soaking, experts say, that have triggered the spring blooms.”
So readers who like a lot of flowers pushing up out of the desert floor.
Q: Flowers. Got it. What else are you working on now?
A: There’s a huge pile of various garbage and refuse I’ve raked into this enormous pile in the middle of my bottom field I’ve been burning down in steps. It started with a discarded hot water heater, a couch, a love seat, a recliner, and an old 1972 model organ/keyboard. When I burned that first heap the flames reached so far into the sky it nearly hit a power line some thirty feet overhead. I’ve got it down to the point that one more mid-sized fire should take care of it. Then I’m going to sow some grass seeds in the big black burn spot, hope for plenty of spring rain.
Q: Your first two books were short story collections and the third was a novel. Now it’s back to short stories. Are you a big shot novelist now, a real writer? Or do you still consider yourself a short story writer?
A: You’re not real man!
Q: Whoa okay okay.
A: Nah, I’m kidding. You’re real. You’re as real as the radiance of the great star Chi. As to the question, it’s interesting, to say the least. Some would say many positives and still others might decide that negatives are the way to go with this sort of thing, or really any sort of thing, to be sort of clear. But, at the end of it all, its depends on luck. Not much we can do about luck, not that we’d want to, you know, I’m just saying.
Q: Who are some writers doing amazing things with literature these days?
A: All of them. Anyone scribbling a sentence, a line, a bit of dialogue, sitting at a computer screen or hunched over a scrap of paper. All the dreamers dreaming things up for people to read, taking that time, their precious labor, to create art, story, entertainment. Every single man, woman, and child. Some are doing it better than others, some people might say, but that’s all about perspective and preference, ain’t it? I mean, I can say I like David Mitchell novels better than Zane Grey novels, but does that truly make Mitchell’s books better than Grey’s westerns? Here’s the thing, it just does not matter. What matters is that both writers woke every morning and went through the struggle of writing those books. That’s all that matters. Of course, I rate Kanye West as far superior when writing song lyrics than pretty much anyone else working today or at any point in human history. If you don’t agree with that, you’re simply wrong. Are you fluent in West? If not, I think he speaks to his skills best in his song “I Am a God” when he says, “I am a god/ Hurry up with my damn massage/ Hurry up with my damn ménage/ Get the Porsche out the damn garage/ I am a god.”
Q: Are you serious?
A: Goodness no. Never again.