( interviewee extraordinaire)
Timber Masterson is a man on a mission. What’s that mission, you ask? Why, to poke and probe at the quivering mass of strangeness that lurks just below the surface of our personalities, the Blob of our unconsciousness if you will, and to try to get under its skin to see what makes it tick. Or quiver. Or, well, whatever it is that a Blob does.
He deals strictly in the weird and unexpected, specifically, the fantastical space between reality and unreality, imagination and delusion, fact and fiction. His work runs the full gamut of the electromagnetic spectrum, infecting you as you affect it. Reading his stories is like looking at old, grainy, black and white photographs, faded by too much time spent stuffed in shoe boxes in locked attics. The images flicker in and out of transmission. They could be of Minotaurs or mustachioed street sausage vendors in Toronto. They could sound like a papier-mâché Mel Tormé, singing somewhere, off in the distance, in all his velvety, foggy glory. The melody carries over the miles but the image is not indelible. Rub the photographs with an errant thumb and you get a clean slate, like so many of his characters can only dream of, and do dream of. Like so many of us dream of.
Secrets best kept secret often come tumbling out of his stories like clowns out of a clown car. The resulting effect is that of the narrative, running far behind the secrets, terribly out of breath and desperate to catch up, cursing that free gym membership offer it threw away last month, then finally stopping, giving up, and drowning happily in a flood of seltzer water amidst a hailstorm of lemon meringue pies. This is not to say there’s a preponderance of clowns in his stories, or any at all, for you coulrophobics out there. That was just to prepare your eyes for the burn. Timber Masterson stories live on the borders, in the in-betweens, and they are summarily thrust upon the reader, in media res, like a hot potato, as if to say, “here, take this, I don’t know what to do with it.”
And away we go:
Hi, Timber Masterson!
1. A lot of your stories have a dream-like quality to them. Consequently, a lot of your characters remain trapped in vague and ethereal spaces, where they discover some truth about themselves or their world that, paradoxically, may or may not even be true. That leaves a lot of room for audience participation; the reader has to fill in the blanks, and decide just how much they want to believe - is that something that you consciously try to construct when working on a story, or does it simply happen that way?
There does leave a lot of room for the reader to kind of involve his own character, his own beliefs, his interpretations, why should I dictate it to him. Since I’m the writer, I also say NO RULES, and you can choose to believe it or choose to believe that the protagonist is so out there, like just on the edge of his own world that it is a kind of truth from him. It’s also based on the strangest things I think while I walk around the city, like, hey, imagine if that guy asking for money isn’t a veteran, like from war asking for donations, but he’s a ‘Veterinarian” and go from there, how odd, has business gone down, and then not only have you got a humorous bizarre place to go from, but it’s up to you, the reader to ponder, “Hm, what would that look like?”
2. Can you describe your writing process?
I use only the Hindu language, a sharply shaven purple crayon on a cocktail napkin, it’s a good system as long as I remember to number the napkins. Then a team of tiny villagers work day and night, transcribing, at a dumpy fleabag of a motel near the airport, then they staple it all together back to my assistant and voila, my first draft.
3. A lot of your work seems to revolve around questions of identity and self, and unusual perspectives if not outright insanity or fantasy – do you get the feeling that there’s something horrible and insidious going on outside right now, right around the corner? If so, what do you think it is?
It’s a hairy old Jewish lady that mutters under her breath at me….I’m convinced she waits for me with her whips and Polish meats. Yet, I am strangely drawn to her thick leg wear.
4. What’s the most disturbing thing in your fridge right now?
There appears to be something moth-ridden near to the back, which moves on occasion. Let me explain. I swear one day, it was in the crisper, then one day it was in the back right of the fridge, now it’s on the left; I recall a grade 9 science project I worked on, that involved moss and growth hormones and something, I’m scared and hope it goes away. I will have my assistant check Tuesday.
5. “Siamese Twins” (NOӦ 4!!) is a grainy gray matter that deals with identity, duplicity, possibly repressed memories or outright lies, strange leaps of logic, and, halfway through, out of nowhere, it suddenly shifts gears into a full blown plea for help to the audience. The sudden shift in form feels completely natural and seamless, and one comes away from the story with a sense of having taken part in an event, or shared an intimate truth with a perfect stranger. Could you talk a little bit about that story?
I think that sort of tale enters into the realm of “what if” I mean, it’s in everyone that is if you allow it to, a question of what if something was kept from you, from parents, a lover, a best friend, some huge thing that if you came upon, say, as in this character did, “…while rifling his mother’s drawers”…what would that feel like, is that the reason for my isolation, loneliness. I’ve always thought there has had to have been some deeper reason for this sense of depression, apart from the world, feeling not a part of, so I guess in this essay I used the “separation metaphor…which also could lead down the pathway further into abandonment issues.
6. You travel a lot. What are some of the strangest things you’ve seen recently?
I travel the most from the living room (the tv) to the kitchen, to the computer/office/internet place, to that glorious soft cloud of cushiony la-la land, known as the bedroom. It’s a boudoir I suppose if one is single, though now that I think about it, it becomes French - a “boudoir” - if you’re sharing it with a lady friend for the evening; I picture a red light, a la Woody Allen’s Annie Hall plus four poster bed with silky material hanging about the joint.
7. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books?
I like it best when I’m surprised, like when I come across something really unexpected, like I’ll be in a bookstore and read a few paragraphs and then, whammo, something hits be in there that I connect with. I recall this best when I picked up Nick Flynn’s book , “ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY” The way he conveys his isolation and day to day loneliness but keeps getting on through…it blew me away, there’s not that much brilliance out there, brilliance I speak of that also possesses originality, then again what’s wunderbar to some toads isn’t so to another animal, if you get what I mean. It’s all so personal. I’ll give you ten as far as fave authors and books, but it would take many pages to describe why and how these particular ones came about and why it hit me and just how the whole deal; the advice I can give is go check these out and pick ‘em up off the shelf and spend 3 - 4 minutes flipping around the pages and then you’ll be able to tell if it’s something you’d spend your hard earned dough on.
David Foster Wallace - "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", "Infinite Jest"
James Frey - "A Million Little Pieces", "My Friend Leonard" Bright Shiny Morning”
Nick Flynn - "Another Bullshit Night In Suck City"
Richard Hell - "Go Now"
Dave Eggers - "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius"
Elizabeth Wurtzel - "More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction"
David Rakoff - "Fraud", "Don't Get Too Comfortable" (Canadian)
Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall - "Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shanty Town", “Ghosted” (Canadian)
Dan Kennedy - "Loser Goes First: My Thirty-Something Years of Dumb Luck and Minor Humiliation"
Bret Easton Ellis - "Less Than Zero", "American Psycho"
Jay McInerney - "Bright Lights, Big City"
David Sedaris - "Me Talk Pretty One Day"
Mark Leyner - "My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist", "Teatherball"
Heather O'Neill - "Lullabies for Little Criminals" (Canadian)
Mordecai Richler - "Barney's Version" (Canadian)
Robert Bingham - "Pure Slaughter Value"
Denis Johnson - "Jesus' Son: Stories"
DBC Pierre - "Vernon God Little"
Augusten Burroughs - "Running With Scissors", "Dry"
Martin Amis - "Experience: A Memoir"
Peter Hyman - "The Reluctant Metrosexual: Dispatches from an Almost Hip Life"
8. What are you working on now?
I’m working on a pop-up book, scratch-n-sniff pamphlet for adults; you could pick them up at roadside diners along the highways and byways of our great nation, it’s still in the works. I have just finished my collection of stories/essays (when I say “just”, I mean a few months ago, still looking for someone to publish it.) It’s called: True Imaginings from the Dementia Cul De Sac: A Bizarre But Entertaining Life I Seem To Have Survived. The title felt oh so appropriate, as I’ve felt I’ve really explored the life I’ve lived so far, and there have been some weird avenues and boulevards I’ve said to myself, “How the hell did I get here?!” But in retrospect, now, I wouldn’t change it, maybe a little a bit of the heart break I would have exchanged for something else, but the rest has made me who I am.
Thanks for your time!
While finishing his mammoth personal memoir, “A Long Way From Kind and Pretty,” Masterson has been cleansing his mind, keeping his website up to date and donating his imaginative talents and heartfelt jazzy epistles to online and print journals: So New Media, Word Riot, Fresh Yarn Salon, Yankee Pot Roast, Ghoti, Wandering Army, and most recently in his home town Toronto, The National Post and Now Magazine. He co-produced and hosted a monthly interactive literary series at The Drake Hotel in Toronto entitled Word Substance Spatula and is a regular contributor to CIUT's talk radio show, HOWL, with Nik Beat and has read a spooky Halloween story on National Public Radio. Mr. Masterson ventured to Philadelphia to ply his literary wares at The 215 Festival. "A Big Thrill", Tim says, as this was where he first saw and drew inspiration from authors of the McSweeneys collective years earlier. He's been awarded a Toronto Arts Council Grant for this writing project and has put the finishing touches on his latest project, a compilation of essays and stories, (some published some not), "A Bizarre But Entertaining Life I Seem To Have Survived: True Tales From The Dementia Cul De Sac". He is not the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship or any other fancy shmancy glammarama literary prize...yet.
For a full listing of his work, and anything else you’d like to know, check out his homepage at: www.timbermedia.com
**** Mr. Timber Masterson reports that, yes, while living at present in Toronto Canada, he is exquisitely moisturized, (he has dual citizenship, his Dad was American) yet this doesn't stop him from being, on occasion, terrifically lonesome, so he wouldn't mind at all if you dropped him an email, just about anything at all, your fave game show host from the 70's/80's, sandwich meat, carnies, cuddling, even the art, love and appreciation of books and magazines and stuff, don’t be shy.