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Smoking with Joanne Comito

(Read the Story) December 15, 2006

Joanne Comito

"The Treason of Images" by René Magritte

Tell me about Moth. How did she float into your consciousness?

I was struck by the idea of being light as a feather. What would that mean? Moth appeared, floating up into a tree, refusing to stay put, and angering all the people around her—teachers, parents, authority figures—who were trying to figure out a way to turn her into a ‘normal’ person.

That ending, that sense of something gained and something equally important lost, works very nicely. Where is Moth now?

Mmm…that I don’t know. She escaped me, too!

The contrast between the lightness of the air and the heaviness of the earth creates such poignancy in this piece. What metaphor might be at work in the “weights” they put in Moth to keep her tethered to earth?

I think the weights represent expectation, conformity, control. I don’t think it’s an accident that Moth appeared to me as a teenager. I have a teenage daughter and though this didn’t occur to me consciously when I wrote the story, I see now how Moth represents that struggle for autonomy and freedom that all adolescents (and adults, for that matter) deal with. How to be yourself? How to be allowed to be who you are despite all the pressures to conform? In Moth’s case, of course, the adults in her life literally ‘hold her down,’ and she literally slices them out of her life.

Asheville, NC has a mythic quality about it—at least to me it does. It’s where artistic people go to thrive, yes? What’s it really like?

You’re absolutely right. Asheville is a fantastic place—creative, energetic and very liberal. When I go other places, I’m struck by how much sameness there is out there—the same stores, the same restaurants, the same kinds of neighborhoods. I love
Asheville’s idependence. A lot of people come here to pursue their dreams, and after awhile it rubs off. And the fact that we’re
surrounded by gorgeous mountains doesn’t hurt.

The 2005 Edge Annual World Question (www.edge.org) asked a question that the BBC called “fantastically stimulating.” One year later, we ask you this same question: “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?”

This is the problem with beliefs—when you really sit down and think about them, they dissolve under scrutiny! But, I guess beliefs and logic don’t always go hand in hand.

I’m a strong believer that there’s an order to life that’s beyond our conscious awareness, and that we can’t necessarily understand it with our intellect. So, even though I’m not particularly religious, I do believe in an afterlife, and I’m hoping there will be some sort of explanation for all this, then!

My father (who was an atheist and would have cringed at this) passed away a year ago, and I really want to believe that we’ll see each other again one day.

About the Author

Joanne Comito’s stories have appeared in Vestal Review, Mytholog, Long Story Short and Flash Me Magazine. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband and two daughters.

About the Artist

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist (21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967).

This interview appeared in Issue Fifteen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifteen
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