Fem: What are some of your favorite books?
Gilmore Tamny: About 3-4 years ago I seemed to have, without any intention of doing so, become an almost exclusive book listener rather than reader. I’ve listened to favorite, much reread books of the past (Marilynne Robinson, Raymond Chandler, Robertson Davies, etc.) something I would suggest to anyone, even those less enthused about audiobook listening, with any beloved book. Absolute heaven!
Some recent favorites—hmmm: well, of all things, cripes amighty, Moby Dick. I’d avoided it for years and then finally/finally/finally took it on this summer. At risk of loosing litterachewar credibility let me point out I capitulated because of, yes, Twitter. It’s tweeted in tiny sentence increments and I loved SO MANY of the scraps and fragments I decided to give it a twirl. It’s been one of the few things that lived up to the hype—and man, there’s a shedload of it—it’s what kept me from it in the first place. Yet: no one told me how funny ‘tis. And infinitely quotable. Plus, I tend to love stories that are essentially about a job. There are parts I only half-ingested by listening rather than reading, though, as there is some high-grade elevated syntax and language, and I’d love to listen to it again, possibly in 19th century Nantucket boarding house, staring out to an iron-grey sea. I mean, if possible.
I wish I could say Moby Dick was my white whale, but, you know, it really wasn’t.
F: Was there any particular book that you read when you were younger that inspired you start writing?
GT: Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark is pretty wonderful for any writer of any age, but, perhaps, particularly women and girls with aspirations, Fleur being one of the most redoubtable heroines about and that’s an important quality for any writer. Ditto I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I loved Ask the Dust by John Fante. So: novels about aspiring novelists.
F: Describe your creative process. Why do you think you find writing routines so fascinating?
GT: I suppose because, at heart (I could put some fancy bows and buttons on it to obscure the pedestrian manner I’m framing this, but, I won’t today), I find much of writing routines some form of anxiety-management. Staying with the writing can be tough to impossible. Sometimes my concentration feels like a tea set on a wobbly tray I’m carrying across a room crowded with furniture.
Other writers seem to find this process less fraught, some more, and in whatever case it is illustrative to hear about their processes. I should say, I love to hear a list of things that happened in the routine of anyone’s day though, not just artistic. I love that stuff.
F: Language is an area of particular interest to you. In your opinion, in what ways does language choice affect an author’s overall tone and message?
GT: Language is a mystery and a tangle and an obstacle course and a mess and a joy. How you use it can communicate as much as the information you’re imparting, just as everyone has said a million times before, I believe. Still, I dunno—I think experiencing that organically as a result of spending a great deal of time writing vs. reading (often the same one over and over, non?) quotes or hearing bromides about writing in MFA class is a very different thing. I’m a little bored with the English language but hampered by foreign-language-brain-absorption-problems, so I tend to grab slang wherever I can find it.
F: Since you have published zines before, can you talk about the zine publishing process and how that might differ from the traditional publication process?
GT: Zines were my(/the?) great personal artistic liberation front back in the day. They’re still exciting and relevant. As a writer, the not having to go through agents and publishers and the terrifying vagaries of the publishing biz makes ‘zines a fine outlet indeed to anyone, I say. As anyone who has anything to say (and that is everyone) they are a great excuse to quit avoiding writing down your thoughts or ideas.
F: Any tips to those looking to start your own zine?
GT: Do it. Copy it. Staple it. Leave it anonymously on buses or send it to every artist you admire with your name in 72 point font. The world is filled with infinite ‘zine possibilities.
Gilmore Tamny is a writer, musician and artist living in Somerville, MA. She is a committed artist, feminist, rawker, lover of paintings and audiobook junkie. She may have also made the very first infomercial for a book of poetry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUNcvKI0hLc&feature=youtu.be&spfreload=10