QSC: If you had to be trapped for eternity in any now-forgotten or half-forgotten children’s television programme, which would it be, and why?
JT: There was a show on cable here in America called Pinwheel, which was a sort of a Canadian knockoff of Sesame Street, but more fantastic and strange. My memory of it is very warped, but I think that it wouldn’t be such a boring place to be trapped inside of for eternity. At least it has variety in its favor.
QSC: For some reason, your writing reminds me a little of the poet Yang Lian. Lian’s poetry has been described as part of the ‘Misty’ school, which is a slightly misleading label, as it suggests something vague, nostalgic and romantic, whereas Lian’s poetry is actually quite jagged, modern and, in many ways, concrete. If your writing were to be given a misleading label (perhaps related to weather) what would it be, and in what way would it be misleading?
JT: Thank you for introducing me to Yang Lian. The poems I read on his website entranced me, and quickly I had the sense that he would be someone I would like to meet in person. I like poetry that calls out from a deep level of awareness – a soul awarness – as I feel his does. I will definitely seek out more of his work. Could you recommend a good starting point?
As for the weather question, I could say ・overcast・ might be an appealing label. I suppose the work is overshadowed by my gloomy preoccupations. But, in another way, I prefer to think of my little blocks of writing, at least the ones in ・Furnace,・ as active, not passive. I feel that they cast their own shadows.
QSC: 3. What are your favourite non-dramatic and non-verbal aspects or details of existence (EG. this morning I was thinking that having a window in a bathroom is both a great and a necessary thing)?
JT: I don’t know if this applies, but I savor all the cracking noises my body makes as I rouse myself each day.
QSC: What is the most intense and fascinating atmosphere you have encountered in real life?
JT: There are many contenders, but I’ll deal with the one that sprung to mind first. Back before I really understood what ・noise・ music was, I started going to this place in Minneapolis called The Church. It was a deconsecrated church that had become a living space for artists, and it held concerts in a sanctuary festooned with canvasses and naked mannequins. This was in the early oughts. I showed up for the first concert and was greeted by a man walking on stilts. The hostess offered me a beer and her Chinese food. A crust punk younger than me with no teeth shared his bottle of whiskey with me. I sat in a circle with strangers and felt at once awkward and accepted. I kept going there to hear the most amazing, ear-shredding music. The experience was always one that shook me out of myself in the best possible way, the atmosphere always potent and unavoidable. I tried to look The Church up on the web just now and found out the building was demolished in 2007.
QSC: What is the most intense and fascinating atmosphere you have encountered in literature?
JT: I was so intoxicated and spaced out from reading The Brothers Karamazov that I ran over a mailbox with my mom’s car. That could just as easily have happened from reading The Ghormenghast Trilogy, Robert Aickman’s The Wine Dark Sea, or Remember, You’re a One-Ball.
QSC: Where in the world have you encountered the most fascinating or enchanting air (I mean this in a literal sense, as distinct from the more abstract sense of questions 4 and 5), in terms of colour and texture?
JT: The desert outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was there in winter. It was the cleanest, purest air I have ever experienced. I had a silken texture, a peach color, and the fragrance of pinion wood. I felt like I was on another planet.
QSC: Has a piece of writing ever changed your life that you’ve noticed?
JT: It happens all the time. Often what I’m reading and ・life・ seem inseparable as it is often the solace that comes through my reading that makes my life possible. I feel like I am constantly being sensitized and deepened by what I read in ways that I can’t quantify, but that I know are very real. I can feel tides changing when I encounter certain works. Reading your story ・Suicide Watch・ on Ligotti Online was a tide-changer for me, as was absorbing the first few pages of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles.
QSC: Mortality or immortality?
JT: Immortality. I like the Buddhist idea that there is no birth and therefore no death, although I’m not entirely sure if I accept this yet at the most fundamental level. Intuitively, I feel that ・death・ only means being more fully absorbed into the world of dream.
QSC: What is your emotional response to low atmospheric temperatures?
JT: Low atmospheric temperatures, especially when accompanied by darkness, make me feel shrunken and afraid. I was off from work last weekend, but I didn’t leave my tiny apartment the whole time. It snowed in Philadelphia for the first time on Saturday, and I probably should have been out walking around, enjoying the changed landscape, but I huddled under the blankets, agonizing over the future (and the present), trying to keep my feet warm.
QSC: What things in daily life bring you nearest to the end of the world?
JT: In the positive sense: music. In the negative sense: cars, rudeness, car rudeness.
QSC: What is your favourite monster?
JT: The King in Yellow.
QSC: When you wake up, where will you be?
JT: Either in a decadent dream, or the lofted bed in my studio, four feet from the ceiling with its burst paint blister and its rough conglomeration of plaster marks, one of which looks like a woman in a sleeveless dress with arms outstretched.
QSC: Can you come up with a new word for the feeling of remembering the oddness of the sensation of touch (particularly in relation to touching ceramics)?