Sunday, September 30, 2007

An Interview with Derek White

*Calamari Press is an independent publisher of literary text & art book objects, including Sleepingfish magazine. Below is an interview I had the pleasure of conducting with the Publisher, Derek White. Derek is also a writer, artist and musician.

Is there any special method to your writing?
DW> Not Really. I guess I think of writing like art. You start with a blank canvas and just start putting words and sentences and images down until they interact and do something. I don’t like to have a preconceived notion of how things will turn out. I have nothing against methods, but each work deserves it’s own methodology.

What art medium do you prefer to use for your book jackets and why?
DW> It depends on what the book inspires. Usually there are a lot of things I like to include or juxtapose, so I often end up with some sort of collage or mixed media. Plus I don’t know how to paint or draw so I don’t have a lot of options. If you’re talking about tools, I use my scanner a lot. I don’t like to use Photoshop too much, I like things to have a human feel to them. I tend to integrate photos, especially for background textures.

I've read that you have a degree in Computational Mathematics and Physics. How did you end up becoming a writer?
DW> The question I ask myself is, how did I end up getting degrees in math and physics! I never really though of art (or writing or music) as something you could “study,” or why you’d need a degree in it. I was interested in math at the time and was good at it so when it came time to graduating, I realized I had taken enough classes for a degree. I went back to study physics because math seemed like a useless language for communicating on a general level without something to apply it to. Obviously I didn’t receive a lot of career guidance or practical advice!

Have you ever thought about getting back into music? I heard a few of your songs on your myspace and it's a shame you haven't re recorded in 20 something years.
DW> I’d like to, but it’s hard to get back into it as it requires a commitment financially and spatially in terms of having the equipment and a place to make noise, and the time to do it. In high school I had a garage to store all the instruments I used to collect, and a place to record. It was fun, and very addicting and consuming. I was only interested in recording and not playing live, and musicians seem to only amount to anything if they play live. Living in New York City now, it seems like it would be a pain to be a musician. Writing is easy, all you need is a pad of paper or a laptop.

And do you have a list of favorite books/authors?
DW> I don’t have a list for such occasions, but off the top of my head books that come to my mind (in no particular order):
Ben Okri’s — The Famished Road (perhaps because I just read it)
Amos Tutuola — My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Frank Stanford — Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You
Anything by Gary Lutz
Cormac McCarthy — Blood Meridian
Richard Dawkins — The Selfish Gene
D’arcy Thompson — On Growth and Form
Anything by Raymond Carver
David Ohle — Motorman & Age of Sinatra
anything by James Tate
The Popol Vuh
Carl Jung — Man and His Symbols
Schopenhauer — The World as Will and Representation
Joseph Campbell — The Hero With a Thousand Faces
Scott’s Last Expedition (the notebooks of Sir Robert Falcon Scott)
The Feymann Lectures in Physics
Don Quixote
J.D. Salinger — Catcher in the Rye
Faulkner — The Sound and the Fury & As I Lay Dying
Hemingway — For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ben Marcus — The Age of Wire and String
Pynchon — The Crying of Lot 49
anything by Borges
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
And of course anything by any Calamari Press authors: Peter Markus, Norman Lock, Robert Lopez, Miranda Mellis, etc.
And then there’s the books I haven’t read yet...