Thursday, March 29, 2007

Writer's Corner

Tobias Carroll

The art of writing can take on many forms, from technical manuals to poetry to philosophical essays to well constructed novels. All of the intricate spaces in between are consistently being filled by passionately creative men and women who simply write because they have to. One of those spaces that is often overlooked genre of music and film review. The ability to objectively and creatively evaluate an album or a band, without utilizing all of the cliché comparisons, is a skill. This skill is only one of the many held by Brooklynite, Tobias Carroll. Tobias has been publishing quality music reviews and interviews for Copper Press, Paper Thin Walls, and Death + Taxes Magazine. He recently had an interesting, well-written short story entitled "Spencer Hangs Over Newark" published by THE2NDHAND.

Tobias was kind enough to answer a few of our questions on music, writing, and of course coffee.

Orange Alert (OA): Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
Tobias Carroll (TC): Paul Auster is a significant one, both stylistically and in terms of thinking about writing; The Red Notebook, especially, has exerted its fair share of influence over me. It's not as apparent here, but I'd say that Robertson Davies got into my brain at an early age; my mother had copies of The Deptford Trilogy and What's Bred In the Bone, and even before I'd read them, the Bascove cover artwork was incredibly evocative -- seemingly, a bridge between the more fantastical novels I was reading at the time and something more mature. Of course, when I actually got around to reading the novels in question, I found that they were nothing like what I'd imagined, though that was far from a bad thing. (I think that What's Bred In the Bone, thematically, has had more of an influence on a few other stories I've written, particularly one called "Twenty Minutes' Road".) Philip Roth's American Pastoral caused a fairly strong shift in how I looked at the novel. More recently, I'd have to put Saul Bellow and Marilynne Robinson onto the list as well.

My background is in film, and I'd say that a lot of non-literary sources affect me in a literary way, whether via a sensation that I carry with me, or something else. The first half of "Spencer Hangs Over Newark" was -- at least in my mind -- heavily influenced by Brian Eno's Music For Airports, and my style for at least that half of the story was, to a certain extent, an attempt to replicate the emotions that that album summons up in me on the page. And looking back at "Spencer", I think I may have been subconsciously trying to translate a visual style not unlike that of Krzysztof Kieślowski into words. (Though that may only make sense to me.)

OA: How has the internet (blogs, lit mags, publishers, etc) affected you as a writer?
TC: It's a great way to find out about new publications, readings, and writers. It's also a useful research tool; the opening of the novel I'm working on is currently set in Halifax, a city I've never visited. With a quick search, it's easy enough to figure out which museums the protagonist should be visiting, in what restaurant he finds himself dining, and what the best route back to the airport should be.

OA: Why do you write? Is it a release, is it to leave a legacy, or does it simple just flow out of you?
TC: At times, it can be a release -- but for the most part, it's something that I just need to do.

OA: I really enjoyed "Spencer Hangs Over Newark" but I haven't been able to find other pieces of fiction that you have written, where can we find more of your work?
TC: "Spencer Hangs Over Newark" is my first published piece in a long time; I have a few other short stories for which I'm seeking homes now. In 2001, a couple of stories I wrote appeared on the TNI Books website; there's an archive of one right about here: I spent a lot of time from 2002 to 2004 working on a novel-length collection of linked stories called The "Polite Rebels" EP, which may or may not resurface in some form. Most of the writing that I've done since 2002 that's been available has been on culture in some form: reviews and features on music and film, mainly.

OA: Which of your music reviews has been the most memorable and why?
TC: I recently reviewed and profiled Loney, Dear. There's a lot of depth to the songs that Emil Svanängen writes, and any number of ways from which you can approach them. It's not every day that you're able to examine pop songs that are so rich.
As far as interviews go -- in late 2004, I interviewed Ray Raposa from Castanets for Copper Press. I was, at the time, pretty well fixated on their album Cathedral, which throws a number of different perspectives relating to religion, metaphysics, and bodies at the listener. I was getting over having been sick for the previous week, and I was definitely in the right frame of mind for the discussion that we had. It was in the early afternoon, in a bar on the Lower East Side, daylight coming through the windows behind me and onto the table before us.

OA: What is next for Tobias Carroll (i.e. readings, books, reviews, etc)?
TC: In the near term, I'll be doing a reading at Galapagos in Brooklyn on Monday, April 16th. THE2NDHAND's Jeb Gleason-Allured will be hosting; Tao Lin and Kathryn Holmquist will also be reading. Two days after that, I'll be in Seattle for the Experience Music Project's Pop Conference; on April 20th, I'll be on a panel discussing basement shows. (
I'm working on some shorter stories now, and am also making my way through the first draft of a novel. I'm continuing to write about music and culture as well.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite kind of coffee, and what is your favorite coffee place?
TC: Pretty much anything that Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope, Brooklyn makes is golden, as far as I'm concerned.

OA: What is the last great book that you have read?
TC: William Boyd's Any Human Heart still leaves me reeling months after setting it down.

OA: Top five albums of 2007 (so far).
TC: In no particular order:
Dälek: Abandoned Language
Loney, Dear: Loney, Noir
Panda Bear: Person Pitch
The Narrator: All That to the Wall
Ted Leo/Pharmacists: Living With the Living

For more information on Tobias Carroll visit his blog The Scowl or at East River Music Project.