Smoking With E.S. Bumas

by Rebecca Meacham Read the Story September 22, 2014

Height. In your story, one character says, “I could really love you. If you were taller.” Are you a tall person? How has your height affected your writing?

Well, look! You’re using titles for the questions like the chapters in “The Bundles.”

OK, so you asked about height: mine.

I’ve lived in countries where I was very tall and in others where I was more diminutive. I get shorter as I go from my neighborhood, by bus then train then foot, to the New York Public Library, on the last leg threading through gaggles of well-off tourists. During the day, I also get a little shorter, out of respect to gravity. And as I get older, I plan to get shorter overall (cumulative gravity). I’m glad that my friends and family don’t love me or not love me for my taller-than-average-here-but-shorter-than-average-in-northern-Europe height, although being the tallest one in my family makes me very useful when something happens to be stored on the top shelf.

I don’t know how, but I’m sure my height affects my writing as everything else does. Still, I don’t think it affects it as much as, say, the last things I heard before I sat down.

Vampires. Back when I was a kid, they either floated freakily outside your window like Salem’s Lot, or floated hotly at the beach like Kiefer Sutherland. No matter what, the vampires of the 1980s all wore clothes. Today, vampires are always naked. Is this a bad thing? What should vampire characters—if not actual vampires—be wearing and doing with their time?

I’ve given some thought to vampires lately, as my friend Alex Branger and I recently Englished the novel Vlad by the late great Carlos Fuentes. In it, Vlad the Impaler, whose cruelty gave rise to the legend of vampires, is actually Dracula, currently a five-hundred-year-old vampire who has moved to Mexico City because the police there, as you may have heard, don’t do enough to protect its 25 million inhabitants. In that book, the vampires wear clothes except when they shower, and if they are at the time showing their ages, you may want to avert your eyes. Those vampires are very erotic, but not in a wholesome, naked way.

If it were up to me, around the castle, vampires would be clothed in garments from when they were turned. They would only dress in contemporary clothes when camouflaged on the hunt and on Vampire Halloween, November 11. But except when I write something, nothing is up to me.

Death. If you can draw, please attach a .jpeg of the afterlife as you envision it. If you cannot draw, please offer a rendering of the afterlife using emoticons, letters, and symbols from your keyboard.

ethanbumasinterview

Beyoncé. Your story references pop music. What are your feelings about Beyoncé’s 2014 MTV Video Music Awards performance? In your response, please utilize at least ten words that begin with the letter “B.”

Thanks for the link. My favorite part happens at 10:45 in the video: the famous part. Beyoncé—there’s one B for you—is singing “Flawless” as a duet with the disembodied, lecturing voice of Chinamanda Adichie when the word FEMINIST—Adichie’s word that Beyoncé samples, accepts—flashes on the screen behind her. This bejeweled woman stands up for all women and so stands with Susan B(rownell) Anthony, Catherine Beecher, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith and Octavia Butler, Mary Beard, and billions of other men and women who believe in equal rights and opportunities for all their brothers and sisters whose names do not necessarily start with B or with any letter at all.

Wisdom. My kids are about to start first and second grade. Based on your experience as a seven-year-old, what should they do to become popular?

Six and seven are such deliriously excellent ages that I don’t think they need any advice beyond perhaps the importance of tooth brushing and kindness, and they don’t need to be popular beyond a handful of friends. But here goes. Kids, be as happy as possible. The other kids will want the same as you. Have a great day at school.

About the Author:

E.S. Bumas wrote The Price of Tea in China and has most recently published in The Daily Beast, Southwest Review, Hotel Amerika, and Fugue. He teaches at New Jersey City University. "The Bundles" is his first novel.