It’s after three in the morning and Matthew R Moore is finally coming out of his bedroom for the interview. The coffee he has left out has long gone cold. I inform him, again, that I don’t drink coffee, and he yawns and rubs his face, appearing to cross the line from apathetic to incredulous if only for a moment, but then he pulls out a chair across the table from me and centers on what he calls “stoicism with bad hair.”
“I’m sorry, but why are you in my apartment?” he says.
I remind him about the interview. The interview that was scheduled for seven in the evening, yesterday, until he said he’d be right back.
“Right,” he says. He pours the French press cold coffee into a mug that says “Keep It Simple, Genius” and downs the coffee like a sports drink. I ask him about the mug. Isn’t the saying, Keep It Simple, Stupid? He says:
“I don’t stand on the shoulders of giants to be called stupid. I will aspire to create genius, and if I fail and create mediocrity, then so be it, but those who set out to create mediocrity will create mediocrity.”
“Some local literary critics are calling early copies of your book Counselors and Comedians ‘a profound dose of cosmic humor,’ and ‘a wrecking ball against the status quo of doorstops’ What do you attribute to these claims?”
“Honestly? Or do you want a tidy package for the succinct paragraphs of your print?”
“Failure and being invisible. An impenetrable sense of worthlessness. Besides that, the intense feeling of dread and expired mortality that follows me around. You have to understand the hilarious juxtaposition this creates out of daily living.”
“That’s certainly…” I don’t know if he’s joking. Instead I ask him, “What’s your writing process?”
“First I consider if this is the day I’ll die. Then I consider petty details such as if this is the day I’ll finally understand semicolons. It’s usually a no and a no; or at least a total failure despite trying. Do you want to play Jenga?”
“No, thank you though. You allude to loneliness as the poison of the universe at one point. Would you care to elaborate?”
“That’s why I went bar-hopping looking for the impossible tonight. There’s a reason why dying alone is such a prevalent fear, even if the idea of ‘dying alone’ can be broken down into a trip we all take by ourselves into the…” and he drifts off slowly. He’s left staring at the black kitchen carpet.
My pen hovers over my notepad. “You went bar-hopping… tonight?”
He shrugs and gets up. “I’m really just confused. I didn’t think you existed, or if I did I ended up not thinking so because of all the other times, but here you are. You look different than I remember.”
“We’ve never met,” I tell him.
“I know, that’s how different you seem. I wouldn’t have left through the back door if I knew you were here. You’re from the government right?” He paces back and forth. “Because of the conspiracies? Are the others outside?”
“What others? What conspiracies?”
“They told me to stop creating so many conspiracies, because I’m distracting from their conspiracies. I guess they have a large budget for that kind of thing and when I start propagating idea it leads to Pentagon meetings where everyone looks around and says ‘I didn’t do that. Did you do that?’ But to note, they wouldn’t hire me – I think nepotism is involved. No wonder most of the conspiracies out there these days have the depth of an inbred donkey being ridden by children little further than one’s voting party.”
Once again, I tell Matthew I’m only here for the writing spotlight. I tell him, “My boss likens your style to a controlled chaos of idea, and that no matter where a reader may pick up your book, there’s a new point at play. Care to comment? It sounds dizzying.”
He sits back down and then holds his head in one hand with an elbow on the table and readjusts the candle holder Buddha to his right.
“These author spotlights, to me, seem ironic. We can shine the light all we want, but no one sees. The same pattern reveals itself on repeat all across the web. The spotlight shines and there stands another poor authorial soul who dreamt of connecting, and who dreamt of one day people saying ‘I see you,’ but the present is so inundated with this archetype of human longing we have disappeared. When everyone is visible, we become invisible. The good, the bad, all of it save for a few are the white noise of the world. The mass of men lead lives of white noise desperation.”
“It’s all background to you? Except for the few?”
“No one sees – and that’s the irony of this modern life. More people live and are lost within the static hum of the chaotic world than those who are commercialized as not. I write about that invisibility in many forms, but the focus tends to always gravitate toward the face of the truth at the end – when things are frighteningly real. Everything else is a primer for said truth – alluding to Hemingway, just continuing the story long enough.”
“…But Counselors and Comedians is humorous? Is that correct?”
“Correct,” he says. “Hilarious. Comedic timing like no other.”
“And when should the public expect your book Counselors and Comedians, or this other thing, The Directions of Metaphysics?”
“I don’t know.” He scratches his head and looks around, as though he were the one visiting and not me. “I live dreams upon dreams upon bedrock of rejection letters. All who aspire to get out of the place of dead dreams have to learn how to play this co-dependent game of structuring the human narrative. That’s something I strive to learn more about every day. I’m creating literary children that have to be best situated in the world to thrive – I want them to live meaningful lives. I want people to feel the experience of being alive for having known them. And all I can do is present my offering every day. Maybe someday soon a person will say yes to that, to me or to anyone reading this, but I’m trying to come to terms with the possibility that if it never happens and I stay invisible, that doesn’t mean the person who does the writing is existentially worthless, or all of the work has been in vain.”
Matthew R Moore pushes in the chair on the other side of the table, the chair you were in, and turns off the light.