Michael Heaton sits down with Alissa Nutting, author of “Tampa.” An excerpt from the Fall 2013 issue.
Michael Heaton: This book is pure filth. Yes or no?
Alissa Nutting: Gauging the purity of filth strikes me as a difficult task. I will say that there are many types of filth in the book an assortment of elements from the Periodic Filth Table are represented and cause dangerous chemical reactions. Various layers of filth compete against one another in a grotesque carnival of pageantry.
MH: Summarize reading this book.
AN: It’s like stopping in front of a house because you see something very disturbing going on through the window, then when you peek in more closely, you spot a television screen in the back of the room, and what’s playing on the television is even more disturbing that what initially made you stop. It is a Russian nesting doll of impropriety.
MH: Are you going to let your mother read this book?
AN: My mother is incredibly protective of her soul, of her general mental landscape of decency. She will not read the book.
MH: Your protagonist Celeste Price is a peeping tom, an adulterer, a narcissist, a pedophile, a chronic masturbator, and a liar. What are her good points?
AN: Easy on the eyes. Somewhat wizardly with sarcasm. Her patronizing thoughts about absolutely everyone else demonstrate a type of commitment to equality.
MH: How difficult was it to live with this woman in your head while writing this book?
AN: She was a pretty demanding mental roommate, to be honest. Parts of my spirit that were once a lush and radiant garden now look like dehydrated bacon from prolonged exposure to Celeste. One corner of my heart was removed, and in its place she put a Ziploc sandwich baggie filled with tobacco chew spit, etc. I may never fully recover from the act of scarification that was the writing of this novel. That sort of damage never heals.