Poor Mojo’s Giant Squid writes his weekly advice columns and ongoing memoir from Detroit, MI, publishing these at http://www.squid.poormojo.org. He is aided in this endeavor by the Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k) editorial team: Morgan Johnson, David Erik Nelson, and Fritz Swanson. His story, “Four Household Tales,” can be found in Shimmer Issue #13.
Tell us how “Four Household Tales” came into being.
I had been under contract with Knopf to compose a narrative text for children to be illustrated by a red-enheaded Englishman named Ralph Steadman. Unfortunately, the original text drove four consecutive copy editors both insane and blind. I also was made privy to several early draft illustrations from Sir Steadman, and I concluded that they were “iffy” at best. There was some unpleasantness during a meeting, and the publisher and I mutually agreed that perhaps it was best if I “and this goddamned abomination of a manuscript got the Hell out of New York before the pitchfork and torch vendors got wind of” me. I have not since returned to New York. (Incidentally, this minor imbroglio also scuttled the memoir I had been developing with an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, but for reasons too complex and eldritch to communicate here.)
Which authors, if any, have had an influence on your own writing?
Mark Twain. Ambrose Bierce. Abdul Alhazred, the “mad” “Arab.” Science writer Richard Ellis. These authors I have met with personally and supped with, drank with, and in one memorable case even shared a bed of sexual congress. Ahh, those heady days of yore.
As a young squid, did you want to be a writer, or did you have different aspirations?
I first aspired to be an electrician, afore coming to realize that the conductive salinity of my then-home was an inauspicious setting in which to learn such a trade (also, union troubles, naturally). For that matter, I both enjoyed and excelled at devouring sea vessels and sailors, although I never considered that more than a hobby–if I had known then that it would ultimately become such a venerable and profitable trade, well, we might be having a very different conversation right now.
When did you know you were a writer? Did it have anything to do with the ink inside of you?
I find ink jokes terribly dull.
If you could choose any five literary people — real or imagined, living or not, friends or otherwise — for a gathering (lunch, tea party, etc)… who would they be?
H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, David Foster Wallace, and Murasaki Shikibu, as reliable records indicate that these have been humanity’s most full-flavored literary figures (I prefer not to include imagined characters, as any statements as to their savor or mouthfeel would be mere speculation. Also, it should go without saying that David Foster Wallace’s bandana would be reserved to make a soup stock.)
Favorite book that you’ve read recently?
“Eros in Mourning: from Homer to Lacan” by Henry Staten. I assisted Dr. Staten with his translations of Lacan. Also, I enjoyed Mr. Wallace’s “This Is Water”; seldom has a human gotten the matter of water so entirely right.
Favorite book from your childhood?
“Gilgamesh,” as it was carved in stone and I had the pleasure of reading it in a now lost trireme. I especially appreciate the part where the world is destroyed by a flood.
If you could trade places with someone, who would it be?
You. Wait, would I still be in my physical form, or would I take on your physical form? Because, the former being the case, I am concerned that I would not fit within your autokinetical conveyance. What do you drive?
Do you have a favorite ocean?
The Indian Ocean, in my most humble but highly erudite and quite admirable opinion, is without a doubt the most underrated saltwater body currently in operation. I also enjoy the work of Billy Ocean, but more his early work as a Savile Row tailor than his later work as a Caribbean pop rhythm-and-blues sensation.
When you aren’t writing, how do you spend your days?
Well, as you are doubtlessly aware, I write a weekly advice column for the literary magazine which I manage and chief-edit, Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k). Apart from the activities associated with those writerly and editorial labors, I enjoy gardening, and tinkering with my weather-control and transporter devices, both of which remain vexingly experimental. Oh, and also playing Mr. Nintendo’s Wii tennis, at which I excel greatly, despite the refractive perturbation my tank’s water and glass exert upon the IR-beam transmission used by the system’s sensors.