A vacation is something you take to get away from it all. Whatever “it all” is. Job? Sure. People? Great. Problems? Why not! Or, I think it is. Who knows. Who am I to say? Who are you? Who cares to say anything anyway? Hugo, the narrator in Garth Miró’s The Vacation, doesn’t go to get away. No, Hugo treats one particular vacation as an excuse to run towards everything: a bad marriage, a bad job, and a hand where the cards are only getting worse… and blow it all to shit. Reading The Vacation feels like anything but – but in the best way possible. It’s Eat Pray Love on methamphetamine. It’s a book you don’t want to spoil, because every time you think things couldn’t get worse or more obscene, Miró kicks it up. Miró ensures that the next time you find yourself on a beach, feet kicked up with a straw sticking out of your rustic lil’ coconut, somewhere deep down inside, you’re going to wish for it to all go wrong.
I “sat down” aka “chatted over the internet” aka went back and forth in a doc with Garth Miró about The Vacation, the power of hate, why it’s important to laugh at the worst shit you can imagine, posers, and whether outlining is for cowards (or not) (it is). In the end, we both had a few laughs, learned a lot about each other and the meaning of life itself, and namedropped a French literary theorist for kicks. Here it is. Enjoy.
Tyler Engström: Who is Garth Miró? Why is Garth Miró?
Garth Miró: Oh fuck off.
TE: Speaking of (notice this seamless transition): The Vacation is fully fucked off. It’s chaotic. The stakes within are always shooting up. But, it’s also peppered with lines that convey a coherent, underlying philosophy that ties everything together. Is that a reflection of you coming through the book, or is The Vacation sending a deliberate message?
GM: There was no specific crusade in my head. I had a lot of hate. That’s what God gave me to work with, which was a blessing; my capacity to hate things, situations, and people, people most of all, is nothing short of miraculous. I guess I’m sensitive. Writing keeps me from sitting and imploding; I’m able to remove the thorn and look at it from another angle and usually then it’s a lot funnier or stupider than what was built up in my head. I was really disgusted with my life at the time. My jobs had all been absolute shit. I think that bled through to create a meaning, or at least a force. Maybe I was possessed by Robespierre, he came and poked his finger in when he felt like it. But to be clear, I don’t think I had some great righteous justification; there was no profound tragedy in my life spurning me: I’m not saying that. I wasn’t starving. But I actually think it’s as good as anything to give in to petty gripes you have with your situation. You can collect those easy. That’s basically what I had. We’re all doled out crap, we should pray for more crap, because then we’ll have the motivation to do whatever it is that we do with some sort of flair.
“I do everything I think possible or acceptable to escape from this trap.” Derrida was right, minus one thing—well, two. For me, unacceptable isn’t off the table. And I won’t do everything; I won’t outline my writing. Outlining is for cowards.
TE: Outlining IS for cowards. I’m glad you think so, otherwise you might have really hated the way we approached this interview. Aversion to outlining aside, do you have a specific approach or any conditions that you find more conducive to writing?
GM: To do it every day. I think finding a rhythm helps. When you’re doing anything over and over it starts to become an act of meditation; the act melts away and you’re able to explore or realize something bigger.
TE: Meditation seems worthwhile. As does the act of writing, but it has me wondering about the idea that there might be such a thing as writing that is or isn’t worthwhile. Do you think there’s any such thing as worthwhile writing?
GM: I’m very averse to the notion of worthwhile writing. In fact, maybe it’s better there isn’t a goal in mind when going in.
TE: What’s the value for you of writing without a specific goal in mind?
GM: Freedom. You let whatever being that’s in creative control take you where it wants to go. Those are higher powers. I trust those powers’ judgment and will far more than any of my own puny designs. They’ve got us all the way here, this terrifying wonderful place.
TE: For a story that goes so far into a surreal, high-energy chaos, The Vacation is filled with moments and ideas that I think a lot of people can relate to. It’s also a story I think you could describe as very “wet” despite the dry humour. What made you write this book specifically?
GM: Well it’s a short book, so maybe laziness? I think this specific story came out because this was all I could write. I don’t have the will to stick to one thing, or tone; I’m not that pious. I mean, I’d like to be seen as funny; I think this book has funny parts; but I find a lot of things funny other people don’t. So, we’ll see.
TE: I thought it was funny. There were a lot of moments where I laughed at things that shouldn’t be funny, or things that were so fucked that the only thing you could do is laugh. Do you think there’s any importance in being able to laugh along with the shittier cards we’re dealt along the way?
GM: I think that’s the best thing we can do. Really, that’s all we can do; we don’t have power over anything truly, and when we think we do that’s just a delusion, usually given to us to set us up for a big lesson. It’s always when you think you’ve got it figured out that you get cock cancer or come home to your wife fucking a dog. Talking and laughing about those messed up situations…it’s a way to disrespect fate.
TE: You mentioned having a lot of hate when you wrote The Vacation, which comes through and works to the story’s advantage. There’s plenty out there written about the power of love and kindness, but The Vacation seems like the antithesis. Like a dedication to the power of hate in fueling a revolution against whatever shit is holding you down. Do you think the difference between love and hate is less or more morally relevant than what someone does with that motivation?
GM: I don’t trust people who do things out of kindness. That’s probably a defect with me, but that’s how it is. I especially don’t trust someone who believes they have the moral high ground. Hate is just as valid a motivation as any. It has done great things for us. In fact, it has created the better of our inventions, and you can always tell which were created by it. Condoms, the elevator, cars, fireworks: these are clearly hate inventions. TV, anthropology, writing? They were invented by love, and look where they’ve got us? I think what someone does is all that matters. I think we could hate ourselves into peace much quicker.
TE: Your acknowledgements include Mickey King, Sam Pink, and Manuel Marrero. What do these people mean to this book?
GM: Mickey is my wife. I don’t know if muse is the right word, but I’m certainly obsessed with her. Beyond that, she means a great deal to the book as she was the first to believe in my writing and encouraged me to stop doing it as a hobby, which was ruining my life, and switch to a more active and accelerated ruining. The speed was the problem. To write totally means to ruin everything sacred. We, all of us, have a lot more ruining to do before we’re ready to truly do anything. Because…let me put it this way, when there’s nothing left, there’s nothing left to be scared of—you can’t be humiliated. Humiliation or fear of it causes a lot of writers to pose in their writing, set it up like a tiny precious statue they want people to clap for. You should become one with your writing and put it all out there without posing or fear. You might be destroyed in business, or go insane, or become ugly, or unfashionable, but at least there’s some dignity in that. Have you ever caught someone mid pose? It’s embarrassing for everyone.
TE: There goes using “tiny precious statues” as the title for this interview. Thanks for that. Part of posing seems to be an attempt at being as marketable and clickable as possible for a rapidly dying market. Fun! In the spirit of that, are there any posers you want to call out specifically so that we can get some rage-clicks out of this interview? X-R-A-Y promised me a Ferrari if we get clicks.
GM: We all know who the posers are, and they do too. They know most of all because they have to taste the build-up of bile such a life causes. They’ll die horribly.
TE: Alright, if we can’t name drop the posers for clicks, let’s go back to talking about people who definitely aren’t posers. Two others you mentioned in your acknowledgements, Sam Pink and Manuel Marerro.
GM: Sam? I think everyone knows Sam. He’s a great writer and edited this thing with me extensively. We were going back and forth for months. What we started with got cut down to about half. I trusted Sam’s suggestions; he saw what I was trying to do; I went back and cut it. Manny is my publisher and he also believed in me—you know, I wanted to say no one believed in me, that’s certainly what it felt like, but now it’s seeming that’s not so true. Now that I’m looking back at it.
TE: I’ve always believed in you, Garth Miró. Do you think the feeling of no one believing in you had an impact? Is writing more fun when you feel like you’ve got shit to prove?
GM: I mean, I didn’t want to admit it for a long time, but I have a huge chip on my shoulder. I don’t come from the MFA intelligentsia world, and I’m definitely not in line with what most people think is right (aesthetically/morally) these days. I can’t believe what people read and like. It’s embarrassing. Our country has one of the worst, most horrifying mainstream monocultures, but I think that also creates an environment where the outsiders have to be that much more insane, brilliant, beautiful.
I will say this. Having been in the scene for a bit, I’ve realized there’s a certain confidence you gain from having to stand all on your own, without degrees or connections or whatever. Having a chip, this will probably be dismissed as jealousy—that’s their usual reflex, and I don’t blame them—but I know for a fact that prestige is especially obsessed over/held in reverence by the mediocre. Deep down they don’t think their work can stand on its own. They use the shiny pedestal to blind you. Sometimes, it’s even good work they have on their hands, but too many other names crowding always reads as low self esteem to me. Like a guy wearing a bunch of designer logos and sticking his chest out and strutting down the street.
TE: Aside from Mickey, Sam, and Manuel, who or what else helped you write this book?
GM: Who else? The junky gods. St Thomas Aquinas. Bataille (I think I had a problem, I was reading Story of the Eye over and over while editing). Carrère. And then there’s this one guy, who floats up and down my block, a homeless guy, and he’s always there no matter what time or season I’m out, on whatever side or part of the (quite long) street: I believe he watches over me in some small way. He at least allows me some grace whenever I have the money to buy him a forty. Or maybe that’s why he’s always around…
TE: Barthes wrote an essay on Story of the Eye. One of his conclusions was that “Sade’s erotic language has no connotation other than that of his century: it is writing. Bataille’s has the connotation of the man’s very being and is a style.” The language in The Vacation feels much closer to a style. What do you think of Barthes’ separation of the two?
GM: Seems alright. I think true style is, yes, a representation of a being, and I’d also say that it only comes out in a believable way when built from a very real place. A very real love or hate or disgust. You can tell when someone’s trying to be something. You can tell when they are something.
TE: Which ties nicely back to what you said about posing. In the same essay, Barthes also writes on the transference of obscenity between objects and actions. I think there’s some of this happening in The Vacation. Hugo handles everything with a similar level of disgust, hatred, and determination, so much so that as the obscenity rises, it flattens everything out. The rich become as repulsive as the cult later in the story, just by sharing Hugo’s focused hatred. Or maybe one is a metaphor for the other. Or am I totally fucked?
GM: No, that’s pretty much right. When you make everything equal in the Church of Disgust, you start to have to really think hard about what that idea means. Why do these things disgust you? Or make you hate? Maybe you might be the one grafting these meanings onto everything because of an internal abundance. There are demons out there, sure, but we should find and kill the ones in us first. Or at very least make friends with them and learn to live in harmony.