Paul Curran is a mysterious man. He lives in a foreign country (rumor has it he’s Japanese), keeps somewhat quiet on Facebook, and doesn’t have an author bio on Amazon. His blog is a monstrous thing that got me fired from work and has tall white men in dark blue suits knocking on my door at all hours of the day. I always hide in the bathroom and try to control my breathing. Anyway, for indie lit connoisseurs, Curran is also one of those gems that make reading one of the best things in the world. But you don’t have to listen to me, here’s what Dennis Cooper had to say about Curran’s latest: “Left Hand is every reason why Paul Curran is one of the smartest, most daring, meticulous, violent, delicate, awe-inspiring new fiction chiselers in the known world, if you ask me. His work has been a huge favorite of lucky insiders like me for years, and now the secret is finally and definitely out.” Well, I knew Curran still had some secrets, so I subjected him to some weird questions. Things got really bizarre and yes, I’ve had sex with a photocopier and sometimes impersonate Brad Listi.
Gabino Iglesias: I could try to tell people what I think you were trying to accomplish with the unique format you used in Left Hand. However, I think it’d be best if I asked you about it eloquently: dude, what up with that format?
Paul Curran: You’ll have to speak louder. This phone line’s terrible. Something about the elegant format? Oh, yes. They gave me a painting-by-numbers kit as some kind of therapy for my autoimmune skin condition, to stop me picking the scabs and joining the dots with the stuff oozing out. Did you know that in 1951 Palmer Paint introduced the Craft Master brand which sold over 12 million kits? This public response induced other companies to produce their own versions. But it was only the Craft Master boxes that proclaimed, ‘A BEAUTIFUL OIL PAINTING THE FIRST TIME YOU TRY.’ And you know how in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein’s logical construction of a philosophical system has an obvious purpose—to find the limits of the world, thought and language; in other words, to distinguish between sense and nonsense? Well, the characteristic of being senseless applies not only to the propositions of logic and science but also to mathematics and fiction and pornography or any pictorial form. These are, like tautologies and contradictions, literally senseless, they have no sense. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Are there a lot of numbers or something in Left Hand? Have you read the book? Can you even hear me?
GI: I’m reading the book now and I’m appalled at the lack of teenage vampire romance. Are you against selling books?
PC: You’re reading the book while we’re doing this podcast? That’s brilliant. Have you got a speakerphone or have you undergone some kind of split-brain experiment? I wish they’d given me a speakerphone instead of whatever they did to my brain. I’m finding it hard enough just holding this thing and talking at the same time. I’m also appalled at the lack of teenage vampire romance. I’m sure I included a lot of scenes of teenage vampire romance. They were the best, hottest bits. I can check my notes and get back to you, but as far as I remember, the final draft I turned in was subtitled: A Modern Teenage Vampire Romance. So I’m not sure what happened. Maybe best to ask the publisher or the printer. Or maybe not the printer. And, yes, I’m against selling books. I think they should be free, like in libraries, but you can take them home longer.
GI: Michael J Seidlinger said something about sending the book to the printers and how they would probably stop their work so they could go jerk off. Is the book’s onanistic potential something you wanted to achieve or were you just lucky?
PC: There was apparently some delay at the printers just before the book launch. The story I heard was that some hands were aroused and jerking off and other hands were disgusted and knifing the hands that were jerking off and other hands were entertained and clapping and other hands were bored and just wanted to finish work and so on, and anyway, in the same kind of autoimmune revolt depicted in the book, a refusal to be pinned down and labeled, hands and genitals got jammed in machines and that’s why on the cover there’s those bloody-looking splatters across the title and the border. That is to say, yes and no. The book doesn’t necessarily follow the kind of consistently integrated narrative trajectory conducive to satisfactory onanistic fulfillment, and persecution hallucinations are as prevalent as sexual fantasies, so while there’s plenty of explicit sex and perversion, the perversion is also perverted in a double bind of acceptance and denial that disintegrates hierarchies and unitary forms of human desire until there’s nothing left. This continual shifting makes masturbation potentially dangerous, especially if there are machine around. In Circumfession, Derrida answers the question of what he loves in a different way. No, forget all that. Please cut that answer when you edit this podcast. No one will want to read the book now. Yes, it was intentional, and yes, I’m lucky. It’s a total torture-porn wank fest. What are you wearing? Have you ever had sex with a photocopier? A photocopier (also known as a copier or copy machine) was a machine that made paper copies of documents and other visual images quickly and cheaply. What did you say?
GI: Do you like Brussels sprouts?
PC: Yes, please. The lunches around here are unacceptable. Notice how the ‘s’ is cut when I say ‘Brussel sprouts.’ That’s what I mean about the amputation of onanistic potential. Things coming up and then getting cut down. Time is weird. I’ve been to Brussels, but stayed longer in Bruges. Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Don’t you think Roman sprouts sounds better than Brussels sprouts? But they do apparently prevent colon cancer. I’ve had a few colonoscopies and endoscopies. I used to keep the pictures under my pillow until my nurse took them off me. They were like the most amazing kind of internal autoerotic porn. That’s where I found this novel. In its most embryonic state.
GI: Left Hand was accepted for publication 24 hours after you submitted it to CCM. What do you think took them so long?
PC: A manuscript crossing the International Date Line (IDL) eastbound subtracts one day, or 24 hours, so that the calendar date to the west of the line is repeated after the following midnight. Crossing the IDL westbound results in 24 hours being added, advancing the calendar date by one day. The IDL is necessary to have a fixed, albeit arbitrary, boundary on the globe where the calendar date advances in the westbound direction.
GI: I love language that delivers a message without beating around the bush. However, others want sugar-coated fiction. How do you think those readers will react to lines like “Feel the Coke bottle rip the inside of your asshole”?
PC: I guess readers may be put-off by the obscene product placement. I wasn’t even paid for that message. Perhaps I should’ve approached Pepsi. Or at least gone with Diet Coke. Sugar’s bad for your teeth. I’ve got English teeth. So I don’t eat sugar anymore. I’ve lost a lot of weight in here. Did I mention the lunches? I’m actually not allowed to eat anything. It’s all through a drip.
GI: Matthew Stokoe and Dennis Cooper, among others, blurbed LF. Did that make you a little smug for a while?
PC: I’m losing the connection. Are you still there? Something about the blurbs being smudged in that printing fiasco? Well, that made me feel bad, but I was also very happy that writers I admired and was influenced by (ripped off) read and liked the book enough to write something about it and let me put that on the wrapping.
GI: I have a bit of an obsession with Aokigahara. Do you think anything good can come from that? Also, is the weather in London as awful as everyone who’s never been there says it is?
PC: Can you ask one question at a time, please? Yes, I think good can come from anything, especially your obsession with Aokigahara. You should write about it. Just follow the numbers in Left Hand. Or paint a picture. I wonder if there’s a painting-by-numbers Aokigahara version. I’ll ask my nurse after this call. I’ve never been there, but I once climbed Mt Fuji and got altitude sickness and felt like I wanted to die. I’ve got a story in an upcoming Cityscapes with a line, ‘Others speak about the big mistake, millions of drunken needle explosions, automobile industrial accidents, the irresistible stench from a masturbating corpse, and the cute jingle of a sports bag, pecked at by eagles, dragged back from Aokigahara Forest, burned beneath tables in alleyway bars, stuffed into a coin-locker at Shinjuku Station.’ Oh, no, the weather in London is much worse than awful, but everyone goes to the pub all day, so no one notices, and then one day it’s sunny and everyone goes outside and it’s really beautiful for a couple of days and everyone takes their clothes off and lies in the park and gets burnt and forgets the bad weather and then it rains again so they go back to the pub. 9. Blood or whiskey? Is that two questions? I’m not meant to drink in here. It makes my skin worse, and fucks up my meds and my liver. But okay. Why not. What’s the time? Whiskey in the morning, blood at night. Or red wine anytime. I like to compromise. From the New World. Australia or Chile. 10. Who’s your favorite left-handed author? Joan of Arch. Was she a writer? Was she even left handed? Are you still listening to me? Who are you, anyway? I thought Brad Listi was meant to call me. Is this Bret Easton Ellis? Who is this?