Michael Kimball is the author of four books, including Dear Everybody (which The Believer calls "a curatorial masterpiece") and Us (which Time Out Chicago calls “a simply gorgeous and astonishing book”). His work has been on NPR’s All Things Considered and in Vice, as well as The Guardian, Bomb, and New York Tyrant. His books have been translated into a dozen languages—including Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Korean, and Greek. He is also responsible for Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard), a couple of documentaries, the 510 Readings, and the conceptual pseudonym Andy Devine. His new novel, Big Ray, is published by Bloomsbury USA and Bloomsbury Circus (UK).
An excerpt from Big Ray appears in Issue Thirty-Nine of The Collagist.
Here, Michael Kimball graciously answers interview questions "in the form of excerpts" -- with further excerpts from Big Ray. Enjoy!
1. What is writing like?
Once, I was playing soldier with my father’s rifle in the living room. I had already sighted the lamp through the scope and then the television when I noticed my father had fallen asleep. I pointed the rifle at him and his face got huge. I centered the crosshairs between his eyes, but I didn’t slip my finger off the guard and on to the trigger. Instead, I just mouthed, Bang.
2. What isn’t writing like?
Yo daddy’s so fat he sweats mayonnaise.
Yo daddy’s so fat his blood type is spaghetti sauce.
Yo daddy’s so fat when he goes to the movies, he sits next to everybody.
3. When you do it, why?
My father’s obituary lists February 2, 2005, as the official date of death even though that’s just the day my father was found dead. The obituary also notes that my father was a member of the Waverly School Board and that he enjoyed playing cards, hunting, and fishing. It is sad. Those are the most notable things about my father that could be written in an obituary.
The obituary then lists the family that preceded my father in death and the family that survived my father. I’m one of the people who survived.
4. When you don’t, why?
The first time my father beat me, I didn’t understand what was happening to me. He palmed the side of my head like it was a ball and threw my head toward the living room floor. My body followed my head down to the rough carpet. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t. I kept trying to get up, to stand up, to find some kind of balance, but my father kept pushing me down by my head and neck. It didn’t hurt that much, but it was disorienting, the lack of control I had over my little boy body.