Q: Wood conjures the Pink Sower in his moment of greatest need. As with all of your protagonists, the Sower is a god. And the revelation of his power feels like a real and lasting triumph of the imagination.
RS: I like the way you put that. The important thing, I believe, is that the Sower is the world’s imagination, not Wood’s.
Q: Your familiarity with the tastes, textures, aromas and characters of tropical fruit takes center stage in IFR, and the descriptions are vivid. How do you know so much about fruit?
RS: The passion was my daughter’s. It infected me, and with Ramon Alejandro’s help, I was persuaded that it was an ideal way to express Wood’s journey.
Q: Toward the end of the story, Wood engages in fetish behavior—an adult nursing relationship.
RS: I’m not sure I would use the term “fetish.” While the biological purpose of nursing is to enable women to feed their infants, there’s no reason the power of that connection can’t be used to support other types of bonding. In a world where the family and traditional marriage is breaking down, it’s easy to imagine that this vital act of nurturing might become important in ways that we don’t yet appreciate.
Q: Are you promoting that kind of pair bonding?
RS: No. My interest is in understanding where and how it gets its power.
Q: Does the book owe something to psychoanalytic theory?
RS: It does. The ideas that germinated in the UK in the forties are important, I think.
Q: The character of Key West—where the bulk of Wood’s education occurs—shines quite colorfully and often comically through the story. Why Key West?
RS: Anyone who lives there, or who has visited, knows how unique the Key is. It seemed like the perfect place for the Pink Sower to set up shop.
Q: I recognized the silent playing at Sala de Cine. It’s The Unknown.
RS: Right you are. For me, Chaney’s crowning achievement. It anticipates the great film noir films that would follow, but it’s notable for the fact that the object of Chaney’s love isn’t a femme fatale. The horror that love becomes, he inflicts on himself.
Q: I wish I had a restaurant like Hao Zhidao in my neighborhood.
RS: Me too. There was a period of uncertainty in my life when I was eating a lot of Chinese food because of the fortune cookies. Later in life, I was able to visit Delphi. I love that the prophesies were intentionally enigmatic and open to interpretation. The inscription over the temple’s entrance was “Know Yourself.” The messages from Apollo weren’t predictions as much as they were invitations to self-reflection. That seemed very much in line with the approach the Pink Sower might take with a fellow like Wood.
Q: The false Papaya, Melony, is a dangerous character. There are times when Wood sees her actions as demonic.
RS: David Gilmore, an anthropologist I admire, spent a lot of time and energy trying to understand misogyny. He believes it’s neither a modern nor a western phenomenon, but is present in many cultures, current and past. He thought misogyny was based on the male fear of maternal dependence. His ideas are perfectly aligned with those put forth by Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. I expect that all three would understand Wood.
Q: The burlesque show was memorable. In a way, the whole novel is a burlesque.
RS: I’m glad you think so. That’s how it was intended.