Interview with Garth Miró
May 5, 2022
MM) Much has been written about heroin and various other numbing agents. Seems pretty harmless, compared to other drugs like speed. For a responsible regular user like Burroughs could live to be past 80. What do you see as the danger in the allure?
GM) I see what you’re saying. Yes, it’s pretty harmless if you know what you’re doing. I mean, it’s the devil, and takes a monumental force of will not to plunge your entire life into, to not end up cruising the Port Authority men’s bathrooms so you can get paid to have some old guy watch you jerk your rod, but yes, if you have the will you can maybe use responsibly. There’s this one professor, Carl Hart, who uses, who’s always going on about responsible drug addicts and using responsibly. Is he dead? Anyway, almost everyone I know who’s overdosed wanted to, or had recently switched to a new dealer, or was a rich kid chipping, copping in whatever convoluted assembly-chain-way rich kids cop (so by the time it reached them it’d gone through twenty people and no one really knew just what the fuck they were holding). I remember when molly was big and I was at this art party in a huge brownstone and some guy wearing a very tight “Jesus didn’t Tapout” shirt handed me “pure mdma,” they were sure, the champagne-colored crystals, man, and it was one hundred percent meth. So that’s the risk. Fetty is in the mix now, so people are dying, like two of my dealers, bam, flat, they’re gone, but if you know and trust your guy you’re probably good. Some people test, but I’ve never had the time. And speed? No one in history has died of speed. Speed freaks live forever.
The “danger of the allure” is it sucks up all your time. I’m constantly too high, or coming down, or scrambling to score, or going and waiting forever at my doctor’s office out in Sheepshead, just so I can lie to him and get cleared for a script of Suboxone. I don’t know why I love heroin the most; I wish I didn’t; I don’t write about it because it’s dangerous, or cool, because I know it’s played out; we all know that; it’s just part of my daily life. I can’t not write about this thing that takes up such a large chunk of time. I guess I originally started because it felt the best. I like to relax; I’m very very lazy and enjoy comfort to a pathological degree. I did coke for three years straight, and still do it, but it’s just not fun to me to get all wound up and talk about how we’re going to solve all the world’s problems. That sounds like work. Ketamine is OK, I guess—seems too fashionable.
MM) Tell me about your experience trying to get The Vacation read by as many people as possible, culminating in your decision to publish with Expat Press.
GM) Well, I’m not connected. I don’t come from a family who reads or even really went to college. My dad did, much later, when he was older, but when I grew up intellectualism of any kind was very much discouraged. So, I didn’t really know what to do to get my book out there. My only idea was: get an agent, get big. I literally shot it out to like fucking Bill Clegg, naïvely thinking, yea, he’ll totally just see the merit. I shot it around everywhere. I’ve had no fear of rejection ever since I worked in this phone sales scam place—I got told to fuck myself over a billion times. But obviously, that wasn’t working. Then I found Expat through Jon Lindsey—and I found Jon because I liked his book’s cover, which is a copy of the Vintage covers I was collecting at the time. I started going to the readings. I met a bunch of people I could see were about something other than just pure aesthetics; you had similar interests; you didn’t want writing to be a secondary social game; it felt like the best out of all the indie places I was looking at. I’ve lived in New York City for most of my life after Kansas, and when I came here I didn’t really notice much of a scene. The downtown thing is fairly new, over ten years ago there was none of that, or at least that I knew of, and anything that was going on was so far away and above. I was really happy to find this whole world right here. It feels fun.
MM) You work as a handyman and you once worked in the ad world. It’s an interesting dichotomy. One presupposes you’re good with your hands, and a ‘zine you once kindly made for me attests to this, engineered as a pop-up object, a relic. You also paint. The other supposes you have a marketing brain, and I wonder, to what degree does advertising logic factor into your work? Your book is called The Vacation, it was edited for maximum connection and readability by Sam Pink, and it’s very brisk and funny.
GM) I hope I don’t have a marketing brain. My whole “strategy” in marketing is to badger people. I’m sure I’m annoying. I would say the brief advertising jobs I had (copywriting) play no role in my writing at all, other than to act as a deterrent to ever go back there. That place is a very special hell. I was blackout drunk almost every single day. I would go out at lunch to a bar and come back and have to pitch some TV script for a Land Rover spot and it never went well. I love working as a handyman, but I don’t know how much it goes into my writing. I guess the typical dream smut story is for the door to open one day to a lonely bothered older housewife, but that never happens. Honestly, up until recently, I haven’t pulled much directly from my life. I don’t really think at all when I write—it just comes. Like out of black nothing. It’s only ever there for a moment, though, so I’ve learned to write down what’s good right away. Because of that, there’s a lot of it, much of it not connecting in any useable narrative sense. Plot is bookish, yea, yea, but I like to know at least what the hell is going on. What me and Sam were doing was cutting down to only the essential. People don’t have time. Too much cleverness is exhausting. Me and him talked a lot about not wanting to be one of these “writer’s writers.” The kind that pad themselves in certain intelligentsia slang, and references, and quotes from en vogue philosophers, or artists, and use certain styles—I’m sure you’ve got someone’s face in your mind now—and then the actual thing they’re saying is so buried underneath it’s a chore. That stuff always feels very of the time. It gets old and silly fast. I didn’t want to be that—not that I could, that type of writing takes a lot of schooling to learn how to pull off convincingly. But yea, there’s a lot of writers out there that that’s their goal. To go to Iowa or wherever, get the MFA, have some cooler Penguin imprint put out their book, and finally get it reviewed in an upper echelon place like NYRB. It’s weird moneyed shit. They think that stuff is important and makes them important in a sort of almost religious way. They use prestige to build a ring of divinity around themselves, so they can further separate themselves from the dirty fan populace, and not have to answer to criticism, since well, what would you know better than this 100-year-old institution? I can see the appeal. But you know who reads that shit? Like NYRB? 70-year-olds. Fine, but those people won’t be around much longer. I want my writing to be in places living people are excited about.
As far as my style and readability…well, I’m pretty dumb, so my sentences aren’t baroque because my mind doesn’t think to make connections that are drawn out, or even very elaborate. I’m definitely doing it more now in my newer writing, stretching out. No matter what I do, I just want my writing to be like it’s right there with you, in the room. You aren’t searching your mind for what I mean, or feel like I’m dead. I’m right next to you on the train or couch or wherever you’re sitting now, yes, you reading. I want more people getting it and thinking about it, feeling like they really know me, and the work, like it’s something they’ve always thought about; those sorts of thoughts we all have but never say. When people feel that way, I feel connected to their energy somehow; like yours, like right now, I can feel you reading this, I’m putting thoughts in your head, and so you’re physically changing, I’m doing that, I control you, for thoughts are chemicals in the mind.
And now you’re getting wet. Or hard. No, no—just kidding.
MM) Is boarding a cruise ship an anemic activity akin to watching television? It doesn’t seem like travel to exotic destinations is the point, unlike say, a plane. What inspired you to choose this setting with its lavish champagne decadence?
GM) The cruise ship has become a Cronenbergian Disneyland. It’s very branded and flashy and has the veneer of quality over this living pulsing hateful thing. Whatever that is wants to attract a very specific kind of person. To feed. The decadence is of a specific kind. Like Margaritaville decadence. Which has a sort of attractive perversion to it that I actually enjoy. When I grew up, we went on two cruises. My father, like a lot of Midwesterners, thought they were the pinnacle of vacationing. I had a lot of fun on those cruises in the past, but they were quite different to whatever we’re dealing with now.
MM) There’s an intimate cadence to this book – the narrator speaks in fragments of thoughts, sentences can be one word. Is this mannered like a kind of druggy drawl or were there externalities that inspired this? Repetition for emphasis abounds as well, a conversational style tone.
GM) I wanted it to have a rhythm to it. To be fun to read. The short sentences I did on purpose to try and relate that feeling of time always slipping away from you. We know time flies when you’re on vacation. Even though people don’t get many vacations anymore, that’s really the only sort of time we have now—the one always already gone. At least, that’s what it feels like. Increasingly, time that feels present and now is seeming shorter and shorter. You’re always here, but not here, time’s falling out from under your feet, you’re just behind the present. The internet is growing a reality just ahead of us like some sort of angelic treadmill carpet. Read Barrett Avner’s stuff if you want to know more about that. I wanted people to read this book and recognize the situation we’re in, and for a moment feel like they were lifting their heads up from the roaring water we’re all hunched over in now.
MM) You are easily one of the most aggressively prolific writers I know. You’ve got stories and ideas coming out your ears. Since when? When did you start taking it seriously?
GM) Well thank you. Unfortunately, a lot of what comes from that prolific output is shit. So my job is that of a shit sculptor. I’ve always written, but never seriously. I don’t know if I’m doing it seriously now. I like writing. Well, I like when I make something work, but I HAVE to write or I become insanely depressed. Maybe that’s what makes it serious. But I don’t have any plans for what I want my writing to do for me, success wise. That really frees me up creatively; it doesn’t have to be created with the intention for it be something later, to be seen a certain way; it can just leave me and go off and have its own life. Maybe it gets killed and eaten and that makes people feel good. Fine.
MM) Were you ever in the military? Tell me about the south where you grew up.
GM) I was never in the military, but a lot of my family is/was. My brother did two tours, two deployments. Somalia, and Mosul, Iraq—Mosul right at the time they were finally capturing the city. I think it was called Operation Eagle Strike. So, I’ve been around that type of person quite a bit. Who has seen combat.
I grew up in Kansas. We lived right outside the suburbs in Stilwell. We had a farm, my dad planted a few things, green beans, I forget what else, but it was mostly natural land we kept up for the State so that ducks could migrate through. There was a big pond—something important about preserving their migration patterns. We did a lot of four-wheeling, bon fires, clearing trees, brush, hunting. I grew up shooting shotguns and rifles. Funny, I never actually shot a handgun until much later. I went to range after not going to one for along time, and the guy I was with was military, and he was like what do you want to shoot, and had all this stuff to choose from, and I realized I’d never shot one. But yea, my groupings were still tight, they stay tight.
MM) You’ve read voraciously, but you play it down. Let’s hear it for some of your favorites, living and/or dead. Give the people what they want.
GM) Shit, compared to other people I talk to I read nothing. I’m always in a room with people bringing up Byung-Chul Han or Deleuze or, I don’t know, Lethem. I can never work up the energy to get into that stuff. There’s more important things to do in life. I ran across this Dōgen quote recently: “Nothing can be gained by extensive study and wide reading. Give them up immediately.” I think that’s pretty true; a lot of people read and read preciously, take it way too serious. They would be helped by going outside and doing something. But I like Houellebecq, Hamsun, Moshfegh, Ohle, Miller, Fante, Williams, Sontag, Nabokov, Exley, Lispector, Carrère, Melchor, Indiana.
MM) Why are Americans so addicted to work and stress?
GM) No idea, these things are beyond the scope of normal intelligence. No, I think mostly it’s because they are poor, and they need to pay the bills, and they buy into this lie that work equals morality: if they just work hard enough the wife and house and happiness will come. I’m speaking from experience. I think that way in the back of my mind still, from being lower-middle class most my life. But I just block it out. I don’t care anymore about debt or not having money or even being homeless; and again, not being too smart or extensively reading have both helped me not worry about such matters too deeply. I lived in my car in high school; I’ve lived in an apartment with no furniture, just slept on a pile of clothes on the floor—and it’s not so bad. If you have a family that sort of thing is impossible, but if it’s just yourself, you can live just about any way if you don’t mind being uncomfortable and stealing.
MM) Chasing a high or looking for a next fix, is this analogous to compulsive reading of literature? This is a recovery novel, in a sense, would you say?
GM) Hmm, that’s hard to say. I think what I know for sure is it’s not a good way to live: always trying to get the next fix. It’s fun, sure. But it’s better to find fulfillment in other things. Anything that’s really good takes a long time to get. Well, besides sex. I understand this, but I can’t seem to stop the cycle. I’ve been on heroin, and off, on Subs, off, on heroin again. I’m on again. I don’t think I’ll ever be one hundred percent clean. I like my months of “sobriety” when I’m on low doses of Subs. I feel my mind gets really sharp—then too sharp, then I start getting really antsy and bored. I wish I could find peace being sober. I know that’s right, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for me. I’ve been drinking and using something since I was thirteen. Maybe earlier.
MM) What do you say of capital-L love and commitment or romance? The relationship in this book is somewhat cynical and dejected or resigned.
GM) I think commitment is great. I have a wife. I don’t think I would ever cheat. I see women, I want women, but then I think about what I’d lose and it’s not worth it. I know, just like a high, it’s really fun and new the first few times with a new person, maybe even for months it’s like that, but then it slowly starts to be less so; you notice things, hairs, smells, pettiness; you realize you’re trapped. The side woman is always a step down, because when you cheat you’re playing against the house, and the house always wins. That said, most “successful” men have more than two women they’re fucking at any given point. This is known. They have a wife who they bring around to important business shit, and then others. Successful women probably do this, too. Maybe that means I’m now just resigned to being an “unsuccessful” type. Shit. Oh well. Basically, you need to find someone who really understands you, and wants the best for you always. That’s really all you can hope for. I think I’ve had a lot of trouble in the past with women and cheating, and maybe that’s where the cynical take comes from—I don’t know. Women have so much of that certain power over men, me. They can drive you crazy by withholding three inches of skin, choosing a certain length of skirt. You walk around all day with a stiff dong in your pants. That’s no way to live. Soon you’re addicted to masturbation. I guess I don’t like that, and then just imagine the worst scenarios. I lived with this actress once, and she would have nothing to do with me, until she found out I’d started seeing someone: then she was perpetually walking around in this skimpy silk robe, the flap hanging ridiculously wide open; she’d come in my room late at night to ask how she could lock her bedroom door.
MM) What are you currently working on?
GM) I don’t want to say what I’m working on next yet, but it’s practically done, and it’s got a real nice feeling to it.