The Ingram Interview

National Indie Excellence Book Award Finalist

Dixon’s novels are “lean, tight, minimalist, quizzical, modern, urban. He’s an acute observer with a humorous, slightly jaundiced eye, and he takes wry pleasure in playing around with literary form.” Bob Hicks, Art Scatter

“An engaging impression of a man cut adrift…Comic and cutting, pithy and… profound.”J. David Santen Jr., The Oregonian

“A devious and dexterous book…” Peter Rock, author of My Abandonment

“Quick, quirky, fun, and clever.”  Sandy Nawrot, You Gotta Read This

 

Excerpt from The Ingram Interview:

1

WHERE ARE YOU?

I am at Fairview Court.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

          I’m sitting in a folding chair at the back of the community room—this morning a makeshift auditorium—watching rehearsals for this month’s talent show. I am dressed in my usual sweatshirt and wrinkled khakis. If you were watching, you would have seen me sneak a peek at my watch (a doubloon-sized thing purchased twenty years ago from the Swiss Army) because even though I have tried often to change my ways, I remain one of those loathsome retentive types obsessed with time and I have—in thirty-one minutes—a meeting scheduled with the perpetually gracious Catherine Cain.

WHAT IS FAIRVIEW COURT?

Fairview Court is—or has been for the past four months—my home; what, in today’s euphemizing parlance, would be called a “continued care facility.” It is a crossbred thing (like a jackalope or a tangelo)—half hospital, half hotel.

WHY ARE YOU HERE?

I am here because I am old—or oldish (62)—and have apparently suffered some sort of heart attack. I say “apparently” because the boys in white have not been able to reach consensus on a definitive diagnosis—a thing I try not to let trouble me more than it should. All we know for sure is that I went to bed one night feeling fine, and I woke up the next morning ruined. I collapsed on my way to the bathroom.

IS IT A NICE PLACE, FAIRVIEW?

Let’s just say it is not an un-nice place. A little small perhaps and banally decorated in beiges and muted mauves—it offers a full set of amenities. There is a pleasant dining room, a staff of medical professionals, weekly housekeeping and laundry services, art classes, exercise classes, craft classes—etc., etc., etc. It also offers a guarantee: a guarantee that my uniqueness will be honored and that I will be respected for the special individual I am.

AND?

And it comes with a certain saccharine ambience—an institutional commitment to the ceaseless expression of an unwavering conviviality.

WHO IS REHEARSING?

I have been watching Quinton Kohl, our resident hypnotist. His new best friend (and current stage-patsy), Theodore, does not seem to be particularly susceptible to Quinton’s mesmeristical charms. He will not bark like a dog—not yet anyway. But Quinton is nothing if not hopeful.

Right now on stage though is Edward Manning. Edward is trying to put the finishing touches on a polish-up of his juggling-on-rollerskates routine. He is seventy-one years old and comically vain. He flaunts his sense of balance every chance he gets because he is one of those needling weasels who thrives on the envy of others. It is excruciating to watch my provisional friends over there—Simon, Richard, David—try to turn their feelings of unalloyed hatred into believable facsimiles of sincere admiration, but in craven deference to the guiding feel-good principles of the place, they invariably do. I think Edward gets away with this heartless tease in part because of his jowly face. Everyone thinks he looks sad; they do not want to add to his troubles.

I can see Edward has gotten a little rusty since his last outing. His steadiness is not quite so insultingly certain. I can also see from that look of grim resolve that he is committed to recovering his form. He is determined to show us all that he is incomparable. He is determined to show us all that he is a phenomenon. I tried to talk him into skating a little closer to the edge of the stage. I told him if he truly wanted to impress us, he would introduce an element of danger into the act—but predictably enough he ignored me.

DO YOU ENJOY THE TALENT SHOW?

The honorific is, of course, an aggrandizing misnomer. There is rarely, if ever, any real “talent” on display here. The vestiges of something that was almost a talent are occasionally exhibited—the vocal stylings of the Barbra-Streisand-besotted Joan Nagel, for instance—but this is usually the most that one can hope for. Generally speaking these shows are terrible as entertainment. I know there are people who can make a whole evening of terribleness, but I am not one of them. Terribleness loses its diversional value for me pretty quickly. I become annoyed and cruelly bored.

BUT THE PEOPLE HERE AT FAIRVIEW DON’T ACTUALLY COME FOR THE TERRIBLENESS DO THEY?

No, they don’t. They are not the people I am referring to. Those people—the ones who can make a whole evening of terribleness—are another set altogether, a small urban clique who embrace a frivolous, unnatural, esoteric sensibility. Here at Fairview one’s attitude toward the talent show is considered a signifier of one’s attitude toward a general frame of mind—an endorsing, unconditionally welcoming frame of mind. It has nothing to do with the acts being good or bad, entertaining or not. It’s all about spirit—the spirit with which the performers approache the performance. If they approach it with the right spirit, then everyone (except me, it seems) approves unreservedly.

AND IF THEY DON’T APPROACH IT IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT?

Well, that is one of the things that makes Edward’s juggling-on-roller-skates routine so interesting. He pretends to approach his performance as required, but he doesn’t do a very convincing job of it. The delight he so clearly takes in generating feelings of jealously remains too obvious. The audience—which wants nothing more than to be unambiguously supportive—invariably finds itself just the wee-est bit conflicted.

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