Like a human harpoon, Don Peteroy drives into the capacious, frenzied, sophistical, groping, transient, contentious, flameproof, satiate, igneous, whale-loving heart of Michael Czyzniejewski with this latest edition of Peteroy’s Irrelevant Questions.
Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of the story collections Elephants in Our Bedroom (Dzanc Books, 2009) and Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions (Curbside Splendor, 2012), as well as a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. He teaches at Missouri State University, where he serves as Editor of Moon City Review.
Question: You, Michael, are not an adverb and adjective addict. I’ve read your two collections, and not once did I write in the margins, “For the love of God, Michael, ditch the modifiers!” You use them sparingly because, I assume, 1) you understand that simple nous and verbs should do the job, 2) you trust your reader’s imagination, and 3) you don’t want to be considered an inept writer.
I have bad news for you. For now on, whenever you decline to use a modifier, another whale dies. How will you conduct your career as a writer, knowing this? Be careful of your response. It could massacre many whales.
MC: What I’d do is this: I’d rampage for a while, staying away from writing, you know, back-alley cockfights, some underground Russian roulette matches, a few androgynous prostitute weekends, a gun/military memorabilia show or two. That sort of thing. Refreshed, I’d then make up a character who has a magically real speaking disorder that invokes a string of adjectives before each noun. For instance, he’d greet his mother for morning porridge by saying, “Top of the fantastic, invidious, bright, officinal, clear, iatric, monosyllabic, hairy, hypnagogic, disingenuous, clavate, pregnant, invasive, Zeitgeist, phony, bibulous, polyamorous, gooey, volant, shameful, malodorous, sullen, acephalous, yellow, meretricious, common day, divaricate, Kafkaesque, redundant, trabeated, cheery, saliferous, divergent morning to you, Mumsy!” At that she would smile and give him his porridge.
At that point, I would feel as if I’d saved enough whales for me to sleep at night, enough adjectives in the bank. If I had to use adverbs, however, I’d just let the whales die: Krill would love me, Ahabs would want to be me.