Q&A Monday: Chris Flynn 2 Comments

Q&A Monday: Chris Flynn

Chris Flynn. Male. Lives in Melbourne. Born in Belfast, Ireland. Editor of quarterly fiction journal Torpedo. Has had stories published in a range of publications, including Ampersand, The Lifted Brow and the latest edition of Meanjin. Writes book reviews, sits on and hosts panels, translates Jules Verne novels, commands attention in public lectures and is writing his own novel. Pretty much the most sought-after bloke going around.

Writing: necessity or luxury?

I used to treat it like a luxury, fitting it in around other things that seemed important like earning money to pay for pointless detritus, going to clubs to wave my arms in the air like a baboon, watching Futurama box sets and getting wasted every weekend. Then I realized that I was in a long-term relationship with writing. It wasn’t just some bimbo I could pop round to have a roll in the hay with when I felt like it. So now I treat it with respect and it has become a necessity in life, something I devote time and attention to every single day. I still dance like a baboon, just not as often.

Why do you think it is that you like stories so much?

I could get all philosophical here and say it’s because they’re an aesthetic representation of an existential experience that is maddeningly difficult to summarise. Whilst that may ring true I think stories, fiction and writing in general gets over-analysed a lot of the time. As readers we often look for meaning where the writer had no intention of including any. Writers, being the egotists that we all are, are loathe to contradict anyone who intellectualises our work and so this Catch-22 is created whereby anyone connected with ‘literature’, be they creator or consumer, has an exaggerated sense of its worthiness. Whilst my English Lit teacher harped on about the double and triple meanings in single lines of dialogue in Macbeth, I just wanted to skip to the swordfighting. I remain unconvinced that Shakespeare took himself as seriously as generations of academics have done since. I mean, when Macduff finds out his entire family have been slaughtered he says, “What, all my pretty chickens?” Come on. I think Will was taking the piss just a little there and that’s what I like about stories – I think most of us would generally agree that life is farcical and I enjoy seeing that reflected in writing. Hearing writers banging on earnestly about seeking ‘emotional truths’ in their fiction, or coming to terms with their inner demons or whatever, that just makes me roll my eyes. Get a blog already. As the Joker wisely said, ‘Why so serious?’ Humility and the ability to laugh at yourself are just as important in storytelling as they are in general life.

You are involved in so many different and somewhat disparate projects. Do you sometimes just want to pack it all in and focus on one area?

Funny you should say that. I’ve been trying to rationalise my endeavours a little this year. Whilst it may seem like I’m involved in a lot of projects, it doesn’t feel like very many to me. I spend my days working on a novel that I’m enjoying immensely (I know you’re not meant to, it’s supposed to be pain and torture and anguish but hey, keep thinking of the Joker) and writing reviews and articles for moolah. The fact that I am paid to read books and listen to albums is a constant source of amazement to me. No one should ever complain about having to do that. I don’t think I’ll ever focus on one single thing. When you have a brain the size of a planet, you need plenty of things to keep yourself busy, otherwise you get depressed, like Marvin in Hitchhiker’s Guide. I’m basically that robot, except a little cheerier.

You recently started up a storytelling night, where you invite special guests to read a piece to an audience. Is this oral element important to you?

You’re asking me is oral important? More tea, vicar? Well, apart from being an essential part of foreplay, the oral aspect of storytelling is a pretty ancient and fascinating one. We told stories long before we wrote them down and there is a real art to it that we have lost to a certain degree. I always enjoyed reading novels aloud and it does lend stories a different element that often can’t be picked up when simply reading. I read to my girlfriend Eirian all the time (we don’t have a TV) and from a writer’s perspective it can be priceless reading your stories out, as you tend to notice awkward constructions and dialogue that rings false. Oral storytelling, and listening to fiction in mp3 format or on podcasts is currently undergoing a huge revival. We’ll see a lot more of it in the coming year as sites like Paper Radio, Kill Your Darlings and others expand their aural fiction element. We’ve been recording the Dog’s Bar storytelling nights and will have a site up soon with all the audio files to listen to. It’s pretty bewitching hearing someone tell a story in the intimate setting of earphones.

You’re an Irishman living in Australia. Does this mean anything?

It means you will be on the receiving end of a steely Belfast glare if you expect me to live up to some Irish stereotype, but other than that, it doesn’t mean much. I became an Australian citizen in 2007, in an amusing ceremony at which we were served cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off and Coles-brand Anzac biscuits. The most fun was to be had in waving the plastic flag (made in China), singing the abridged version of the national anthem (boring bits removed, let’s get a move on here) and hearing the very white council guy trying to pronounce the names of all the new Australians. Oh, and an Aboriginal lady slapped down the white fellas who had just welcomed us to their country, reminding them that it was not technically theirs, but hers. Gold.

The internet: friend or foe? Discuss.

It’s odd to think that at the beginning of the 21st Century we are blessed with the complete sum of human knowledge at our fingertips, yet choose to look at videos of cats falling off things whilst sleeping. The net is the greatest friend humanity has ever had but it’s also the biggest, tastiest, most mouth-watering cookie we’ve ever laid eyes on, hovering before our slavering jowls, begging to be bitten into. Man, that is such an awesome cookie, but whoah, what happened to the last two hours? You eat enough of those cookies and you become a huge, bloated, useless fat bastard who never does anything with their life except become an expert on cookies. Still, I do remember the pre-internet days in the UK when I used to drink myself into a bourbon haze every evening whilst watching Eastenders so I guess it’s like any vice – to be enjoyed in small doses and with a modicum of self control. Yeah, right.

I should point out that I use the internet every day and I love it and I think life would be a lot less interesting without it. Complaining about the net is akin to complaining about cars, or the weather – utterly pointless and really quite boring.

You can punch one person in the schnoz and get away scot free. Who do you clobber?

Look, there’s no one famous I’d like to lay one on but I do believe a law should be passed (I’ll take care of this once I’m PM) permitting citizens to call for a ballot when they’re in a public place (tram, train, movie theatre) and confronted with an annoying person. The idea is that you stand up, announce to the train carriage that someone is annoying you and call for a show of hands from those that are in agreement that the person is indeed, fairly annoying. If a majority of people support your case, you would be legally allowed to administer an open-handed slap across the face to the offending annoying person and they would have to legally accept the slap and there would be no recriminations for you as the slapper. Mild applause upon completion of the slap would also be a condition of the law. I am convinced this self-policing of society would be much more effective than increasing the amount of police on our streets, though I can see how it might get out of hand. I’m still working out the details. I also had an idea for some sort of hitting stick given to locals who need to walk down Swanston Street and who need to clear dawdling tourists out of the way, but alas my proposal to the Premier fell on deaf ears.

You’re an exile, banished to a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. You are allowed one book and one album of music (in a solar powered iPod) to last the rest of your days. Any preferences?

I have a two-volume hardback edition of the Oxford English Dictionary that I could happily spend months poring over to discover new words (current faves: pellucid, inchoate and fenestral) and I could always look up dirty words if I was really lonely. In terms of music, that’s a tough one as my favourite album changes every time I find a new favourite album, which is roughly every fortnight. I don’t hang onto music for years and years, I’ve never been one for romanticising the past and most classic albums I’m now sick to death of and never want to hear again. My current darling is Caribou’s new album, Swim, which is probably appropriate for the desert island anyway. Though I cannot actually swim.

Have you ever hit a cane toad with a golf club? Could you?

I’ve never been far enough North to actually see a cane toad, though I would do my bit for the country and eliminate as many of the pests as I could, given the opportunity. Being a toad bounty hunter could fit in with my other ambitions in life, which are to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair wearing a ripped suit and eyepatch with an eagle on my arm, and to appear in a courtroom drama movie as the judge, my only line being when the spunky young lawyer leaps to his or her feet to shout, ‘Objection your Honour!’ With a scowl I would reply, ‘Overruled.’

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  • http://www.momentz.com.au Justin

    Is that your pet Falcon? Where can I get one of those?

  • http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/blog Estelle

    While we are greedy little mites eager for any attention, even that brought to light by a falconer wearing The Matrix sunglasses (hi Chris), I must state for the record that Kill Your Darlings doesn’t have an aural fiction component. We do have a nifty little podcast, though, which will feature readings by fiction writers in conjunction with interview content. Coming up — Emmett Stinson.

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