"It’s the relationship between a very intelligent tube and an idiotic man."
Well, after a couple of month’s of Spartan (SPAAARTA!!!) posts, I’ve got a couple of bits of exciting news. The first, and decidedly more exciting of which is that Socrates Adams‘ debut novel ‘Everything’s Fine’ had it’s launch party and is now available in good (nay, outstanding) bookshops.
A few days before the release party I met up with Socrates to set the world straight on tubes, Godzilla and the frustrations of being an inanimate object.
We meet in a bar in Chorlton, which turns out to be far too noisy for casual conversation, and completely beyond the abilities of my budget dictaphone so we instead retreat to his kitchen where we drink wine from plastic mugs and Socrates spends much of the evening being licked by a very affectionate black kitten called Velcro. After some chatting about everything from giant robots to racial stereotypes I pull out my list of…
G Actual Questions: 1) is Socrates your real name?
S Yes, I’m half Greek, it’s not really a common name in Greece, but it’s more common than it is here. Also my parents are sadists.
My middle name’s James though and my surname’s Adams Florou, but for the sake of simplicity… I think it would look too long on a book. Though I want my name as big as possible.
G Ah, but isn’t there a rule that if you ever have a book with the author’s name bigger than the title it’s a bad sign?
S Oh dear, is that true? [checks the book cover]
G No, I think it’s ok.
S Oh, phew, otherwise those millions of sales would have been…
G Question 2, this one’s from Twitter. If a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Godzilla had a fight, who would make tea afterwards?
S Well, Godzilla; the Tyrannosaurus would be dead, so Godzilla.
G I was wondering if they meant it more as a lover’s tiff.
S I guess it depends on the context of the relationship. It’s almost impossible to say; you need the personalities, their roles in the relationship.
G I don’t know, but the make-up sex would be terrifying!
S I don’t know, which one’s female? Wait, she lays eggs right? And Godzilla’s bigger.
G I think in the most recent adaptation a T-Rex would about come up to Godzilla’s ankle.
S What on earth would they be doing in a relationship? Godzilla sounds like a paedophile, that’s all I can think, a large female lizard paedophile…
"I wish that was my life, just wandering round and round in a plant-pot and then doing a poo in it. That'd be nice."
S My cat’s possibly going to do a poo, so, that’s alright, don’t worry about that. It’s in his nature. He’s too small to go outside… One day I won’t have to live with his disgusting habits.
G I think he’s now hunting my coat…
S I wish that was my life, just wandering round and round in a plant-pot and then doing a poo in it. That’d be nice.
G I think we have a quote there. OK, another question, when were you happiest?
S Erm, I just have no idea… ok, my reason for saying that is, I need to completely understand what happiness is, I guess when I was a child maybe?… OK, my answer is right now! I suppose you’re happy if you don’t need to think about it, so you don’t really notice it.
Emotions are things that happen so quickly it’s difficult to remember what made you feel it. It’s a very difficult question.
G OK, let’s try looking at it the other way around, when were you least happy?
S Umm, well… I don’t have a degree. When I went to university I was there in London for three years, I was doing a four-year course. First year I failed, I didn’t go to any lectures. Second year I passed my first year, third year I failed my second year of university. There was a time when I knew that I was going to fail, without question, but I hadn’t told anyone else that I was going to fail and I was pretending that I didn’t know, but I knew that I was definitely going to fail and that would be it. So the period of definitely knowing that I had failed but feeling too ashamed to tell anyone was the period in my life I was least happy, because I couldn’t enjoy anything in any way because everything, I knew that it was all just a horrible lie. So that was when I was least happy, that period in my life. It was about three months and it was absolute hell, I didn’t tell my girlfriend, I didn’t tell my parents, it’s that period where I was basically lying to people by not telling them and I had to make plans as-if I was gonna pass, I had to make plans for the next year. You can’t not plan as that’s an admission of guilt. So, I had to do that, at least it felt like I had to do that at the time. So making those plans and feeling that guilt was the most unpleasant time of my life.
"Emotions are things that happen so quickly it’s difficult to remember what made you feel it."
G You were one of the writers who contributed to the “Quickies” anthology [For those new to this, this was a collection of flash fiction pieces on the theme of sex and human relationships] and were asked to read your piece out at the launch party and, during your piece, somebody walked out at the mention of the word “anus”. How do you feel about that?
S Yeah, that’s ok, I think it’s ok for people to not like certain words. I’m upset that I made her leave more than anything else… but not that upset, or upset at all, but it would have been nice if she’d stayed.
Maybe if I’d been able to sit down and talk with her about it I’d have felt better, but my initial reaction was “Fuck you!” but now I feel like “that’s a shame” and people are perfectly entitled to walk out of whatever they want, that’s fine. She’s just a human being and I’m sure there’s plenty of elements of her life that I’d find distasteful.
No, I don’t mean that to be snide or cruel, I just mean that everybody has things they don’t like and maybe she doesn’t like the word anus, that’s ok. I wonder if she thinks about her anus, or if she thinks about her bodily functions… Maybe I’m just missing the point entirely, I don’t know.
Maybe she thought it would be more of a Carry-on type thing, you know innuendo and things like that.
G I don’t think there was any chance of that once Clare went on stage. I’m trying to remember was this after Ben had done his dolphin and lemur piece?
S Maybe it was a build-up. Maybe she heard that and then anus was the final straw… The thing is it’s just a story about the fact that people only do what they can be made to do, that’s it that’s all there is. Maybe it’s better to write that one sentence than a whole story?
"I tried to make it as fresh and accessible as I could and the place to look for that is the contemporary scene"
G So, next question down… You can see we’re slowly working towards talking about the actual book. Which writers have most inspired you
S I don’t know…Kafka, especially for this book. It’s very difficult to say. I guess Chris Killen, my friend. I know it seems a straightforward question…the internet [laughs] just a collection of everyone I’ve read on the internet. Also, just the way I like to read things. People like Tao Lin, People like Sam Pink, who’s not really well-known, but I share his love of the grotesque. I tried to make it as fresh and accessible as I could and the place to look for that is the contemporary scene and that means, unfortunately, for the most part American writers who are not very well-known. Noah Cicero aswell, I’d just read ‘The Human War’ when I was writing it and I was impressed with how good it was.
G Moving onto the book itself. The book, it feels like there’s a lot of suppressed anger in it. What would you say you were thinking of as you were writing it?
S I was thinking of how much I hated sales, the idea of selling things to people. How much I hated the life that people lead when they think that there’s no way out and they don’t question whether they can do something different with their life. And also the frustration of not knowing what we as human beings are meant to do. That’s it.
G And, it may be an obvious question, which character do you feel you most identify with?
S Err, I kind of hate all of them [laughs] I don’t know, I’d say there’s definitely elements of Ian in me, but I’m not like him, and Mildred is way too cold, sort of cruel, but I don’t think Ian’s particularly realistic, he’s not designed to be realistic, he’s meant to make people go “what an idiot!” I guess if I had to say who I identified most with it would have to be Ian rather than Mildred or Ian’s boss or Sandra. So, yeah, that’s it basically.
G How would you describe the relationship between Ian and Mildred?
S I guess it’s like the relationship between a very intelligent tube and an idiotic man; that’s how I’d describe it.
It’s not like a normal father-daughter relationship. Ian does have the doting irritating qualities, which we sometimes see in parents, but at the same time they’re also endearing and nice, but Mildred doesn’t reciprocate in any way other than disdain, because she’s not a baby, that’s the main thing. It’s someone being forced to be someone they can’t. But it’s the kind of thing that happens if you haven’t been in a relationship for twenty years and you worry about yourself and you worry about the way that you treat people. And then someone says “Here’s someone that’s going to love you, there won’t really be any signs that they love you, but they do love you, do what you want.” It’s the kind of smothering knee-jerk reaction that people sometimes have to being lonely to being starved of affection; they project their feelings onto someone else.
I don’t think I’m doing very well at this interview I’m sorry.
I think I’m trying too hard maybe… or maybe I’m not trying hard enough… I’m getting it wrong, the level of trying isn’t right.
G Another thing that comes across in the book is purpose. You have two main characters, one of which doesn’t know what his purpose is, the other knows absolutely what her purpose is, but both of them are frustrated, in many ways because of this knowing and not knowing what they’re supposed to be, and it seems that neither of them is necessarily happy with what the other one doesn’t have.
S Yes, that’s right. That’s definitely right.
There’s this thing about inanimate objects. In the book, there’s one passage that sticks out to me where he’s saying (paraphrasing) “God-damn! I hate being a human I wish I was a rock.” Because rocks are permanent, they don’t have to worry about things, they’re going to be here after all my insane thoughts, and all the amazing things that human beings do, it doesn’t matter, because a rock’s going to outlast you.
But also, if a rock was sentient… and you dressed it up as a woman and it couldn’t do anything but be a rock, I imagine it would be frustrated. If it couldn’t express itself in any other way than standing there as a rock dressed as a woman. Maybe not, maybe rocks are really clever and–
G –into that sort of thing?
S yeah, [laughs] but also sort of really easy-going and sort of like “Ah I guess I’m dressed as a woman now.” But if its purpose was to sit on a floor and kind of be on some soil, then I imagine it would be annoyed if it couldn’t do that. So, yeah, that’s it. You’re right, purpose is very important to the book, definitely.
"She's based on my penis."
G We have another Twitter based question now. Have you based Mildred on a tube you know in real life, or is she entirely made up?
S She’s based on my penis. Not really [laughs]. No, she’s very much made up. I’ve never met any other tube in any way like Mildred…Who asked that question?
G That would be telling.
S OK, never mind. She’s very much a creation of my brain, she’s not real. Although I was working as a recruitment consultant when I was beginning writing it and I was, at one point, given the responsibility of being someone’s ‘mentor’. Not that this person was a tube, because she was really nice and really lovely but in that sense she was based entirely on a human.
G Was there any kind of deliberate symbolism in the choice of a tube?
S No, definitely no. I initially, when I first had the idea, he was gonna put his penis inside the tube, and that’s the only reason that the tube was a tube. But I really disliked that idea so strongly after a while. But I did like the idea of a tube because it’s so unassuming. But yeah, the whole tube thing was just an idea for a stupid gag where eventually he becomes sexually attracted to the tube, but it just felt so bad that it never happened.
I cut a lot of grotesque things out of the book, like there was a more absurd element to it. I wanted to get rid of that. And while it may still seem that way now I’ve reduced that a lot, I’ve made it much more grounded in reality than it was. For example, in the first scene–this is a spoiler for anyone’s who’s reading it but–initially when I first wrote the first scene in the book the boss got a cake out and did a shit on the cake, and forced Ian to try and eat it.
"I cut a lot of grotesque things out of the book."
I’m thinking of the book now and there’s so much crazy stuff. I don’t know, does it feel like… I really didn’t want him to react to anything that was crazy. I guess there’re no rules, I never really thought about it that hard, it’s just what seemed right… maybe. Maybe I should have had a plan… maybe that’s why it’s all gone wrong [laughs]
G How would you describe the relationship between Ian and his Boss?
S Er, it’s, unfortunately it is a slightly unrealistic relationship. It could only work if there was a character like Ian in real life. A character that is so needlessly reverential and is so blind to what’s happening that he would genuinely believe, to a degree, that someone who is abusing him is treating him well and had his best interests at heart. It’s an abusive relationship between someone who is also being abused, because the boss is himself being controlled in a really horrible way by the people above him. But he abuses Ian, it’s physical and emotional torture.
G I’ve just checked Twitter and David Gaffney asks: How many tubes are there in the world and can you tell the dimensions of a tube by hearing the wind blow through it?
S You can definitely tell the dimensions of a tube by hearing the wind blow through it. Not me personally, you’d have to train. As for the number of tubes in the world I guess 50 hundred billion?
G It’s a matter of physics; you definitely can establish the internal dimensions of a tube from sound. Actually, I know a party trick where you can make a large tube play itself like a didgeridoo.
S We need to do this sometime. I need to get a tube… Why did I write a novel about a tube? [laughs]
G People love the tube, that’s the impression I’m getting from the Twitter questions
S All about the tubes.
G Well two about tubes and one about Godzilla. That’s what people are most interested in, in the world. If you write a novel about Godzilla and a tube you know, that’s it, you’re minted.
S I’m into that, “Tubezilla” is what I’m going to write next.
[WARNING: Spoilers beyond the break...]