Hush Now, Feelings, We Say. We're in Charge Here: Questionnaire for Mike Young

[Mike Young, intrepid editor of Noo Jounral, generously agreed to answer a few questions about the art.]

As an editor, you must be a reader. Maybe a great reader. What it is like within the structure of your mind when reading?

I don't know if I'm a great reader. I'm somewhat of a fast reader. Being inside my reader mind is not like watching America's Funniest Home Videos or looking up peanut butter on Wikipedia. What I try to do when I read is let what I'm reading teach me how to read it.

My brain is tuned to make a lot of extravagant hip swings. It wants to make itself dance those "common household movement imitation" dances and somehow have them be a little sexy. As I read, I will often put a finger or two in my mouth. Contort my body at weird angles. Sometimes after I've been writing or reading too long I have to go look at a mirror to make sure I still exist.

It's funny what I don't think about while reading: people I miss or lies that might catch up with me.

This brain digs verbal bounce and scenery. Often I'll rev up in reading slowly, doing a sound-watch in my head, maybe moving my teeth a little in ghosts of mouth sound, following the word sounds along, and in doing this I start to pick up the tones and backbeats of a piece, and I plant these in my head. As I go I do less active work and sort of submerge.

Often dialogue is very vivid to me. But only when it's done well. Often a visual analogy of a feeling is more vivid than scenery. I don't know why. Often when someone mentions a kitchen, my brain will boorishly imagine one of the kitchens I've lived in or around instead of bothering to come up with a new kitchen. Often when I hit a line I like, I'll read ahead one or two lines, then go back and re-savor that liked line.

Hmm. I just realized none of this mentions editorial reading. This is really a very interesting assignment, and I'm afraid I simply haven't done it justice here. I think it's very interesting to read honest and straightforward accounts of what happens in people's heads as they read a specific piece. Such accounts are hard to write, I think, because of one's urge to go back and analyze everything we once thought or felt, even if we only thought or felt it a second ago. Hush now, feelings, we say. We're in charge here.

In retrospect, have moments in your life been bound to particular musics, poets, art? Who were you listening to/reading, and what happened?

When I was very young, I stayed up all night one night reading a Star Trek book.

In high school, I wrote a song for Douglas Adams when he died.

The Crying of Lot 49 made me think everyone was giving me weird looks.

Beautiful Losers made me want to have a threesome and write. So far so good on one of these.

Eminem made me want to talk back to everyone.

Kenneth Koch made me want to give myself to love.

Levinas made me want to give myself to love.

Martin Buber made me want to love the distance between myself and others.

Suttree I read in the grip of fever and realized I have to work harder than I thought I had to work.

Clark Coolidge I read a lot of once while walking around eating an apricot scone.

Thom Jones' "I Want To Live!" made me realize that it's possible for a short story to make one weep uncontrollably, even in one's dorm bed.

Neutral Milk Hotel made me realize that you're allowed to feel everything you want, and I often listened to it obsessively while doing dishes and letting the hot water expire.

Don Delillo's The Body Artist made me realize that there's a fine line between wowzer and bullshit.

Again, I feel as if I have failed the question because this appears, on retrospect, a pretty errant list, and certainly not a description of one time or even a list of the things that have been most important to me. I hope it becomes in itself something a little interesting, at least.

Do you have a favorite verse from a holy scripture?

Isaiah 6:8: "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

What are you up to with your own writing?

I am working on finishing a collection of stories called LOOK! LOOK! FEATHERS. These stories are interrelated the same way the games you play as a child are interrelated because you have to use the same toys, even if what's a horse in one game might become a prince in another. Some toys in LOOK! LOOK! FEATHERS include rivers, feathers, community radio stations, the word "gussied," olives, delusion, and violence.

Other things I'm working on include two novel length projects. One is a letter from an employee at YouTube informing a user of his account's termination but immediately unraveling into all sorts of strange and verbose side-prattling. It features, among other things, some adverbs. The other novel project is tentatively titled "The weird country music video game novel with lady wrestling."

Also I am very excited to be putting out a book of poems this summer, We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough, with Publishing Genius Press, who is also releasing Rachel B. Glaser's book of short stories, Pee On Water and Other Stories. We are going to tour the heartland with these books in the summer. By which I mean the land of your heart. We're gentle and we come with biological trivia.

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