Author Q&A: Noah Cicero (Best Behavior)

Noah Cicero

Noah Cicero is the author of several novels, including The Human War (2003), The Condemned (2006), Burning Babies (2006), Treatise (2008), The Insurgent (2010), Best Behavior (2011), and most recently Go to Work and Do Your Job. Care for Your Children. Pay Your Bills. Obey the Law. Buy Products. (2013). His stories have appeared in many journals, including Identity Theory (read “Waiting for Coffee”). A native of Youngstown, Ohio, he now lives in Portland, Oregon, where he may or may not be snowed in on a mountain.

In what way do you think literature has the ability to change the way people live their lives?

Literature changes the way you perceive reality, it gives multiple meanings to every situation. If you just read one book, say the Bible or Koran, or if you just watch sitcom television, your reality is very limited, you have very few ways to interpret situations. But I believe if you read a lot, your mind learns the ability to play different games or see different options in every situation that non-readers might not see. The funniest moments I’ve had with literature, have been not understanding a book, but then like five years later entering into a new experience and then it hits you, “Oh, that was what the author was talking about.” The delayed epiphanies are the best.

What was the last book you gave as a present?

The Elephant Vanishes by Murakami.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

A professor told me when I was 20 that I needed to make concrete images. That I needed to focus on language that lacked abstractions, something the reader could create in their own minds. This, for me, has always been interesting, because there is a duality in creating an image every author must contend with, especially when someone reads it from a foreign country. For example, my first novel The Human War had people living in a trailer park. In Ohio there are very nice trailer parks and very shitty ones, but it doesn’t mean you are terribly poor, which I think a lot of Americans know. But some people in England imagined Pikeys living in caravans, and had a completely different image of my characters.

Which author do you re­read most frequently?

To be honest, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. But I don’t think I read it for its writing, because I don’t think my style resembles his, I view it as my personal bible or work of philosophy. I’ve traveled to 40 states and crisscrossed America over 10 times in a car, and been to five other countries. Traveling to me and living an isolated kind of dreamy life, is very relevant to me. And it is almost like I read it, to remind myself of who I am and what made me start writing in the first place.

What is the best sentence you’ve ever read?

“Something is taking its course” from Beckett’s Endgame.

Describe your writing routine.

I wake up, shower, dress, go to the local coffee shop and buy a large coffee. Then I go home and write till the coffee is done, which takes an hour an half to two hours. I usually can write five pages in that time. Which adds up over the course of several months. I usually only write in the morning.

Do you ever listen to music when you write? If so, what’s on your playlist?

I like to listen to long songs with little focus on the lyrics, so I don’t have to flip to YouTube a lot and the words don’t interrupt my thoughts. My playlist probably sounds really uncool: Achilles Last Stand by Led Zeppelin. Master of Puppets, Orion, One by Metallica. Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd.

Best bookstore you’ve ever been to?

A used bookstore in Moab, Utah. All along the coast of Maine there are like twenty awesome used bookstores.

If you were standing in line at a bookstore and noticed the person in front of you was holding your latest book, what would you say to them?

That has never happened to me, but when I was working at The Grand Canyon at the ice cream parlor someone asked me if I was Noah Cicero, I said yes, and then I had a small panic attack. The line at the ice cream parlor was really long, so we only talked for a minute.

What literary landmark would you most like to visit?

I think running with the bulls thing in Spain, so I could pretend I was in The Sun Also Rises.

Noah Cicero Go to Work cover

Is Facebook good for you?

Facebook is good to sell books and keep fans updated. But on a personal IRL level, no, it fucks up my life. Here are some reasons, I think most people who have some micro internet fame can agree with:

1. You post something about your book or an article you like: people from the lit world get into a small debate about it, which is cool, then somebody you went to high school with who you never interact with comments something about ‘jews’ destroying America. So you have to patrol that.

2. Somebody sees your name in an article, they friend you, then you write something and they troll you. THEY wanted to be your friend, not the other way around. So they ask to be your friend and then they troll you. What?

3. Your break up with someone, and even if you defriend them, all their friends are now your friend, and they tag your ex, and omg. Currently, I’m in the middle of the Oregon forest, and I still can’t get out of Ohio.

4. People on a weekly basis ask me to read their novels or blurb their books. I don’t sell more than a thousand copies a year, I can’t help anyone.

What about Amazon?

Amazon is the only thing that saves me.

What job have you held that was most helpful for your writing?

Restaurant work.

What is one of your vices?

Cigarettes.

What is one of your prejudices?

That all Republican males are secretly homosexual.

Favorite books you’ve read in the past year?

Lives of the Saints, 1Q84, Zen Koans

Favorite word?

“Binoculars” pronounced with a British accent.

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  • andrew goldspink

    nice.