The Laurie Weeks Microinterview
Laurie Weeks finds a muse in the forgotten and unusual, from alchemy to notes written between teenage girls. Her debut novel Zipper Mouth reflects this multifarious landscape of influence, coming together in a compilation of fragments—ranting letters to Judy Davis and Sylvia Plath, an unrequited fixation on a straight best friend, exalted nightclub epiphanies, devastating morning-after hangovers.
We recently caught up with Laurie, whose poetic responses offer a glimpse into the bizarre and fascinating world that fuels her creativity.
Can you name a few of your favorite debut books published in 2011 or 2012?
Kristen Stone’s Domestication Handbook and Anna Joy Springer’s The Vicious Red Relic, Love.
Will you share some of your influences, either in general or specifically in writing Zipper Mouth?
Art, film, and science are my main inspirations—the weirder the better—and I sort of live for beauty, the shock of it that exists outside of language and its laws. I want to be dislocated back into my own body and senses. My entire life has been driven by this quest for ways to create with words an actual sensation akin to the shock of suddenly waking to discover yourself as something enmeshed in the world, a landscape not yet separated into discreet words like sky but instead a field of resonance: vibration, light, shape, tone, whisperings, presence—these are the chemicals growing this “me” thing the way crystals materialize into 3D objects from the accrual of invisible particles, elements transforming their discrete frequencies and electron spin through merging into something else that emerges. Film and art were such a relief from loneliness, their images hit synaesthetically, shot straight into the sensorium. I wanted to make things that went straight to the solar plexus, too, that set your chakras spinning. When I saw Eraserhead at 18 my whole world cracked open. The alien strange frightening but hilarious atmosphere I felt all around me but which no one else seemed to notice. And it was explicitly not reducible to a single interpretation; its meaning was multiple, mutable, like me. I’m the creature (thanks Donna Haraway) in my own lab, investigating ways to LIVE outside of available narratives, to dislodge that throbbing piece of gristle called “money” that has installed itself in the psyche where your imagination is meant to live and flower. I love all kinds of theory but what gets my chakras spinning is writing that’s devalued, wrong, bad, like the hilariously punctuated notes of teenage girls, like some skater kid’s “book report” on “Grendal” that I found once online. My shelves are crammed with tons of books on anything ancient: “forbidden” archaeology, indecipherable scripts, maps, homeopathy, botany, alchemy, and then Poe, Kafka, science fiction, alien abduction, whatever—anything to do with unauthorized ways of “knowing,” just get me into that scary beautiful mystery place.
What are a few things you learned or discovered after your collection was published that you wish you had known or anticipated beforehand?
I didn’t now how to write Zipper Mouth or what it wanted to be, but I had this deep conviction that the story will tell you. You write your way into it, privileging surprise, and it works. I could in fact trust images and their sentience. I wanted spaciousness, a book that was pleasurable, easy, but also beautiful, some site where suffering, serious concerns and confusions could co-exist with humor and lightness, where there was room for the reader’s own stories and identification. It was a puzzle, literally, composed of hundreds of fragments generated sometimes in a rush, sometimes through play and experiments, games to distract my punitive rational mind. I moved the pieces around, countless juxtapositions, trying to make a piece of music, guided by rhythm, form, and some kind of deep feeling, knowing that, despite being composed of fragments, it had its own compelling sensual logic, and in a way that seems to have happened.
Click here for the Zipper Mouth episode of Late Night Debut.