Smoking With Nick Ripatrazone

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story September 29, 2010

Can you talk a little about where the idea for this story originated?

A local church was selling 19th century benches—beautifully made pieces, real sturdy stuff. Although I didn’t buy one (my wife and I really only joked about it), I’m fascinated by old furniture, particularly the type associated with a place. The story came from that near-permanent object and transitioned into more ephemeral things: oranges, backwards-hats, and certain relationships.

Much of the story has to do with food and the memory of eating food. Are you a big foodie? What are your favorites?

Coming from a family steeped in Italian and Spanish culture/cooking, I can’t help but have food on my mind (constantly). Meals are basically the axes of our days—none of this eat and run business. We sit and settle and experience the food. One of my brothers is an actual chef, but nearly everybody has their specialties. My favorites change daily, but my eccentric food obsessions include homemade gravy (a full-day affair, a Naples/Sicily hybrid—I don’t even need pasta to enjoy it), my wife’s tortilla Española and, for some reason, berries.

So do they ever go back to Florida, you think?

Yes. Some tastes are so damn good.

Of all your writing successes, what are you the most proud of?

It’s nice of you to call them that! I was really happy to learn that Gold Wake Press accepted Oblations, my manuscript of 70 or so prose poems, for 2011 publication. I had written most of the pieces during long NJ Transit rides and learned of the news over the July 4th weekend. To have a project go from idea to individual poems to a complete book was a great experience.

Your story is full of seemingly random descriptions and happenings that aren’t always explained (why does he get the cornbread and not the oranges, for example). In the spirit of that, here’s a totally random question: what’s your favorite decade and why?

The seventies! All of my favorite films—The Exorcist, Wicker Man, Straw Dogs, Apocalypse Now, Deliverance—were released during that decade, not to mention some of the most incredible music ever recorded (from Chico Magnetic Band to Gordon Lightfoot to Bill Withers). And the fiction was without peer: early work by Thomas McGuane, Jayne Anne Phillips and Jim Harrison. Although I am not speaking from experience (I was born in 1981), I’ve built-up a mythos of the seventies.

About the Author:

Nick Ripatrazone is the author of Oblations (Gold Wake Press 2011), a book of prose poems. His recent work has appeared in Esquire, The Kenyon Review, West Branch, The Mississippi Review, Caketrain, Abjective, Annalemma and Beloit Fiction Journal. He is completing an MFA from Rutgers-Newark.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.