“Gillette, as in the razor blades”: An interview with Frank Diamond

Frank Diamond's piece, "The Recent Future," appeared in our Spring 2016 issue.

Questions from both myself and Assistant Editor Brenton Woodward.

 

1. Why Gillette, Wyoming?

I have not traveled much but one of the few places I've been to is Wyoming. My late wife and I travelled out there to visit her sister and her husband in the early 1990s. Beautiful state. They moved there from Philadelphia because they wanted to be in the state which has the fewest people per capita. So, I thought it would be a good setting for dystopia. Why Gillette? "The Recent Future" alludes to a prophetess or goddess figure that the remnant comes to worship. I wanted a town that sounded very manly as juxtaposition. Gillette, as in the razor blades. I remember the commercial from when I was kid. "Gillette: The Best a Man Can Get."

 

2. You've got some interesting repetition happening throughout this piece, starting with the opening line: "space-time, space-time, space-time," "Hosts of angels. Hosts of angels. Hosts of heavenly eaters of toast," "Pace everything. Pace me, pace you."

Passages of repetition seem to "re-set" the rhythm of the piece throughout. Could you talk a bit about your intentions for how readers would move through this piece?

I recall attending a writers conference in which one of the instructors told us, "Throw nothing out. You never know when even your rejected stuff might come in handy someday." Excellent advice. "The Recent Future" is a fragment of a failed novel that I wrote in the early 1990s. It is a deep bow to Samuel Beckett, who I consider one of the first and best of the dystopian writers. Just where the hell is "Waiting for Godot" based anyway? What's the setting? Basically, I am doing poor-man's Beckett and just fooling around with the words and trying to be funny, as well, though humor is one of the toughest things to pull off. An interrogation technique that law enforcement uses is to have the suspects retell the events over and over again and then latch on to something - anything - that doesn't jibe with the other versions. The story is really the beginnings of a gospel to this goddess and I think the gospels of any church begin with the witnesses asking: "What the hell just happened?"

 

3. This seems like a pretty bleak outlook on the fate of human society - do you believe this is where we're headed, or is this sort of a worst-case scenario?

This is a worst-case scenario; I'm actually a pretty upbeat person. Although if you look at the 20th century, you can never underestimate humanity's ability (Perverse need? Evil inclination?) to do a number on itself. I sometimes play with the idea of writing a story in which the military invents a ray gun (or something; humor me) that changes the philosophical outlook of the people who want to cause calamity. Of course, such a weapon would do away with free will and I don't know if living in a world without free will would be much fun. Certainly the adventure would be taken out of it. This is an old, old idea, I know. But, two young lovers falling madly in love with each other. Didn't some cat named Shakespeare cover that?

 

4. Do you have any new projects in the works now? Any upcoming publications you want to tell us about?

You can be an unknown writer and bemoan your fate and curse the gods. Or you can be an unknown writer and say: "Shit, I can do whatever I want." Turn a disadvantage into an advantage.That's not to say that I don't believe in the rules of short story writing or even the rules for poetry (whatever the hell they are). But many times I've come to a point where I said, "No, you can't do that." To which I reply (and I hope this dialogue is a silent one), "Why not? It's not like I have a readership or a publisher demanding a certain product." I just finished a short story called "Vapor" that I've been shopping around. It's about the frustration some older adults feel toward younger adults who are adrift and who insist on doing shit that gets them in trouble or guarantees that they won't ever be able to move out of their parents' basements. I watched a movie a few years ago called "Whiplash" about a kid who wants to be a great drummer. The movie ends on a drum solo. I thought that was incredibly daring, so I end "Vapor" on my own version of a drum solo. Will any editor in his or her right mind publish it? Who knows? But it was sure fun to write it.

 

5. Have you discovered any great new (or new-to-you) authors recently?

Jill Hand is a wonderful writer. Full disclosure. Jill and I are both refugees from the dying newspaper industry. We last worked together in 1995 when the newspaper we were at closed and we went our separate ways. Didn't know what became of her until this year when I opened one of the magazines that published a poem of mine and there was a short story by Jill Hand. "Could it be?" Yes, it was her. She's written novels and short stories and it is a testament to how nice a person she is that I am not jealous (much). You can google her and find some of her stuff. I know her short story "Phone Call From the Mausoleum" is coming out in August in the Graveyard Anthology. Jill reminds me of Flannery O'Conner: dark and humorous and poignant. Like O'Connor, she's a pleasant person in person and you wonder where the hell all this darkness comes from even though you're glad to be reading it.

 

6. What are you reading right now?

I am reading The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. I much prefer biography to fiction, which might be a clue as to why I'm not a better fiction writer. My wife, Kate, died about two years ago. I have read a lot about how others deal with loss, just so I can get a clue. If you're familiar with TR's life, you know that his first wife and his mother died on the same day in the same year. Valentine's Day. How the hell do you recover from something like that? Roosevelt's response was to throw himself into impossible feats of physical exertion. He beat the grief out of himself. That's one way. There are others. You earlier asked about what I'm working on. I am shopping a poem called "Fetal Tuesday." The idea is that everyone has something that's happened to them that might want to tempt them to curl into a fetal position and give up. But giving up is never an option, whether you're talking about writing or just trying to do some good in this world, or wanting to have a kick-ass day. Writers never give up.