(INI recently interviewed author Wembly Totter, Professor of English at San Francisco State University, recipient of Ford and MacArthur Foundation grants, and whose latest novel, The Thistle In My Father's Pants, has received the prestigious Gretchen Hyde Award for Most Incomprehensible Literature.)
INI: What is 'Thistle' about?
TOTTER: Everything important: family, global warming, being invited to parties where people say words like 'verisimilitude' and 'parameters.'
INI: Why didn't the protagonist, Thom Cakery, stop his grandfather from drinking Sterno then jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge onto a whale watching cruise?
TOTTER: Because he lacked self-esteem . . . and they were out of Crown Royal.
INI: Thom is clearly in love with Ginger Limekiln. And yet he accuses her of eating seal meat and gets her expelled from Greenpeace.
TOTTER: Ginger was politically aware and knew defending herself against a false charge would only give ammunition to the hate-filled. Tragic. I knew a county supervisor like that.
INI: He was falsely accused?
TOTTER: No, he ate seal meat; at work; keeping it in his desk where it leaked blubber over important departmental memos.
INI: The first eighteen pages of your book are mostly blank, containing only a single phrase: 'Be my chum.' Critics are divided on the meaning: some believe it indicts a racist-sexist power structure that forces meaning into literature, while others feel it's stupid, silly page filler. Any comment?
TOTTER: It was either a clever choice or a mistake. I forget.
INI: You dedicate the book to activist Crispin Fezleiter. Who is he?
TOTTER: Crispin taught me everything I know about literature. He said, 'Whatever slop you write, dedicate it to the planet. You'll get away with murder.' He was right.