Smoking With Henry Presente

Read the Story March 15, 2005

How much do you love gum? Or is the gum’s metaphoric power more important than its literal chewability?

I’m not a big fan of gum; it makes my teeth ache. But I love the idea of a temporary pleasure that lasts forever. It’s only an idea of course, but that doesn’t mean we can’t package that idea and sell it alongside candy bars and tabloid newspapers. And how many other ideas are so sweet and yet so reasonably priced?

What’s the “payoff” for writing in second-person?—any disadvantages?

The biggest plus is that you make a more immediate and intimate connection to the reader. I like the facet of writing as a conversation between two people, and second-person voice can help strip some of the artifice away. The danger is that now your readers are inside the story, and since your readers probably know more about themselves than you do, you run the risk of writing against character, but there are ways of mitigating that risk, like using a surreal setting.

Your work has appeared in the Medicinal Purposes Literary Review. What are the medicinal purposes of fiction writing?

Communication between people can be the most cathartic or the most damaging thing in the world. We can all remember conversations we’ve had on both ends of that spectrum. But when writing fiction, we can choose our words and settings, and labor over our meanings and intentions. Hopefully—and I use that word because I am full of hope—after mulling over what we are writing, we choose to heal more than injure. At least, we have the time to decide.

Haunting and hibernating at night? What’s that entail?

It’s about knowing when to throw on a sheet and boo! the bejesus out of the world, and knowing when to lay on top of that sheet and close your eyes, instead. Some people are stuck on one gear or the other, and I’m trying to learn how to drive the car in both.

This piece kicks some major butt, especially the way the piece expands to a bang “so big as two million spotlights…from two million eyes.” In everyday life, how can I experience such an expansion into the wide wide universe?

You mean aside from hanging upside down off a tree branch, sticking your thumb in your mouth, and blowing until your head pops? I think it’s important to keep yourself a bit off balance. So long as you keep pushing at the boundaries of your own life—talking to strangers, visiting colorful locales, imagining things the way they could be instead of how they are—you’re well on your way towards life in outer space. Don’t forget to hold your breath.

About the Author:

Henry Presente's creative writing has been published by Medicinal Purposes Literary Review, Post Road Magazine, and EWG Presents. By day, he develops proposals for a health and human services firm. By night, he haunts and hibernates.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.