“Memetic and Disoriented TV Dinners”: An Interview with Garth Miró by Claire Hopple

The Vacation is a beach read’s evil twin. But sort of a saintly one. Throw Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Aquinas, and Mike Judge in a boat headed for the jungle and you’ll be on the right track. Garth Miró torches the corporate wet blanket and sails for oblivion. Two tickets to paradise await you; you need only place your captain’s hat slightly askew across your brow. But you’d better just get the real scoop from the author.

Miró is a writer based in New York City. He is the author of The Vacation out with Expat in 2022. His stories have appeared in Litro, Sundog Lit, X-R-A-Y, and Maudlin House, among others. He currently works as a handyman.

Claire Hopple: One of my very favorite sentences appears in the beginning of your book. “Just mechanically-separated sandwich ham and low-rent apartments and pressed oxy crumbs and nothing, that was my soul.” This combined with “human yolk” and “aura tapenade” later on really got me. You seem to de-personify people and personify objects and it really works for you. Tell me about that.

Garth Miró: I don’t really know why I do that. If I were to guess, I think it’s because I suspect the material world has already won. That whatever’s left is being ripped away by a violent process. I grew up in Kansas, in a somewhat isolated place, and when people without much access to things are desperate—I don’t know how I can say this exactly without incriminating myself—when they are desperate, they must sometimes become a bit violent and value the object more. People who are around that all the time, it’s pretty common, they use this sort of de-personifying humor to help get through the day. Beyond that, I truly believe that people are actually becoming things more and more, voluntarily offering themselves to this de-personification process. That’s the internet. We’re selling the most intrinsic parts of ourselves, or at least attaching value to them, and then those ephemeral angels in us become solid and possessable and killable. I see the motivation. I think there was maybe a build up of angels in a lot of us, centuries of gods and myths piled up, and many people, I think, don’t want to have to lug those things around. It feels good to unload. And the other sort of people, why do they volunteer to kill the parts inside that might be useful or needed? Well, money isn’t bad. It’s a demon, sure, but when you’re poor you learn to make friends with all types.   

CH: If your soul were made of delicatessen accoutrements, what kind of lunch are we having here?

GM: My soul? Shit. Right now I feel like a TV dinner (good thing). Delicatessens are called bodegas around me, and if you hang around one long enough you can score just about anything. So let’s put some really nice #4 in there, as a digestive. That shit has been dry in the city lately, it’s all synthetic garbage now, but we got lucky. We’re having a very nostalgic, very tranquil lunch.

CH: I always thought writers had either a strong sense of style or a strong sense of plot. But you have both. Doesn’t seem fair. How did you get here?

GM: I wrote a whole book, two books actually, before this that just didn’t work out at all. They were pure style, where I was solely focused on figuring out what my style was. I never really wrote plots back then, mostly because I didn’t outline, still don’t, so I had to learn how to do it this time where all I had was an end goal in mind. How are they getting there? Sometimes the end changed based on what cropped up along the way. I believe it came out feeling more organic that way, closer to what you feel in life. But why plot at all? I decided to introduce plot because I wanted a way to avoid basically eating myself again. I think that was what happened with the first two: they devolved into nothing. I do that in real life fairly quickly when there’s not something I need to get done. For example, if I sit on the couch and start to think, why, I’ll end up in a bad state pretty fast. I can have why ringing around in my head, in the background, fine, but I need to get up and move forward, advance my plot so the Why has something to bounce off of, rather than itself, if that makes sense. Otherwise my writing gets pretty mean and stupid and dead.

CH: You philosophize often in your prose, but it’s not preachy or showy, yet it still makes a statement. For example, “I didn’t trust people who claimed to be free of hate.” Are these personal thoughts or purely fictional?

GM: I really hate philosophers. My friend recently said, “theory is pathology.” Yea, I think a lot of philosophers are up their own asses, taking this thing we all experience and sticking flags in it. They can maybe help orient you, because they have the time to sit around all day dreaming up eloquent ideas about life that sound solid, but those ideas can disorient just as much. It’s interesting to see how others think. Read them. Sometimes I like reading Byung-Chul. Sometimes I like reading Deleuze. I really like reading people who have read a lot of Deleuze. But I keep in mind that there’s really not going to be any answers there. I think we all know where to find the answers, down deep—we all do. And yea, I definitely don’t trust people who claim to have washed themselves of hate, or have a way to become washed. Hate is real and it’s in all of us, rightfully so much of the time. We need to learn when to listen to it. I don’t think I’m saying anything new.

CH: You say that happiness and fear can sometimes look indistinguishable. I totally agree. But I want you to explain what you mean, if you’re up for it.

GM: I’m not up for it.

CH: What was it like working with Expat? And having Sam Pink as an editor?

GM: Expat is great. Sam is great. Sam is a guy who destroys your dreams, which is nice.

CH: I’m dying to know what you mean by that last sentence.

GH: I had a very unrealistic view of publishing. He made me refocus on why I really even wanted to do this, and for who, and that freed me up as far as what I wrote. I wasn’t worried about getting published. That was no longer the end goal, and I think that’s a good frame of mind for anyone creating something. He’s also kind of relentless; I think we went back and forth fifty times. Basically you want to surround yourself with people who have good taste.

CH: You take these topics that could easily be trite—marriage, work, vacation, drug culture—and completely make them your own. Is this your prose style working its magic?

GM: Yea, I’m just a slick-talking fucker. No, I think all I’m doing is taking these trite things, which are that, sure, but also the core of most people’s lives, and trying to look at them from different angles. Saying the things I really feel about them, that maybe you’re not supposed to say. Maybe I’m killing them so people can get on with it. I mean, everything’s trite now. I think my favorite writers almost exclusively write about everyday things, but they come at them from their unique perspectives. I recently found this guy Paul Dalla Rosa who I like.

I think we’re living in a time right now where everything is secondary. Meaning, we’ve seen the same images and icons and heard the same stories so many times, that they themselves have dissolved, and there are these secondary memetic ideas rising out of that. I’m using universally known and shared experiences to probe new, or perhaps more ancient meanings. Is that what I’m doing? I kind of just made that up just now. I don’t know.

CH: Are you the Saint of Payday Loans? Have to ask.

GM: I’m not the saint of anything. I wouldn’t have time for all the incoming prayers.

CH: Can anything be a cult if you let it?

GM: Yes. This is something people all say they understand but don’t really get. All industries, and actually pretty much everything, are adopting a cult-like model in order to stay alive. Things only live through attention. To win the battle for your attention, everything wants to become the most important thing in your life. Publishing—what we’re doing, the whole world of it and the worship of readerships and prestige—is a cult; indie publishing maybe even more so, but like a new-age pyramid scheme cult, one with less dogma and reverence and authority. Kind of like, come over here and get in on the bottom floor; you too can be God, if just give us your manuscript.

Claire Hopple is the author of four books. Her fiction has appeared in Wigleaf, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Peach Mag, Hobart, The Rupture, Forever Mag, HAD, and others. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina. More at clairehopple.com.

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