The hybrid writer discusses his latest book, the Internet is for real, and new horizons for identity in the digital age.

Photo courtesy of Chris Campanioni.

Chris Campanioni wants to know if I think his newest book, the Internet is for real, is productively excessive. The request surprises me—not for its candor, but for the ease with which he’s flipped the script, gently exploding the genre of literary interview before I’ve posed my first question. In this sense the request does not surprise me. With typical generosity of spirit, Campanioni insists on a dialogue shaped by digression, faux pas, and surprise. Linearity after the Internet is a fiction, we agree. What we want from our meeting is friction and, on occasion, a happy accident.

CC and I meet at Der Pioneer, a pastry and sandwich shop near Ditmas Park. He tells me they make the best pancakes in Brooklyn (lemon ricotta with house-made jam), and he’s right. Between bites, we surf his mammoth volume of hybrid works. Part Oxford Reference, Pinterest board, and self-surveillance aboard the F, his poems fly autobiography’s flag while breaking all the laws in its domain. With so much content, the best we can do is hyperlink between subjects. And yet in lieu of the excess so natural in Campanioni’s work—and knowing this interview will attain its own digital waste—we’ve agreed to include the detours taken throughout our talk. If the Internet never forgets, why should we?

Chris Campanioni is a first-generation American, the son of immigrants from Cuba and Poland, and the author of the Internet is for real (C&R Press) and Drift (King Shot Press). His “Billboards” poem was awarded an Academy of American Poets College Prize in 2013, his novel Going Down was selected as Best First Book at the 2014 International Latino Book Awards, and his hybrid piece This body’s long (& I’m still loading) was adapted as an official selection of the Canadian International Film Festival in 2017. He is a Provost Fellow and MAGNET Mentor at The Graduate Center/CUNY, where he is conducting his doctoral studies in English and redrafting narratives of exile. He edits PANK, At Large Magazine, and Tupelo Quarterly, and teaches Latinx literature and creative writing at Pace University and Baruch College.


Chris Campanioni: I have to ask, out of pure curiosity … Originally I had written two separate books, but my publisher pulled a Bolaño (a total 2666 move) and said we should just make them one book instead. Now “Birth” and “Control” comprise two halves of the Internet is for real. I don’t want to interrupt your first question, I just want to keep this in the back of your mind … I want to talk about whether you think one book is substantially different than the other or how they inform one another. So much of this book is about arrangement, as a DJ does, as we’ve talked about, and your thoughts would inform my own DJing practices.

Tom Kozlowski: This is interesting because the very last question I had planned on asking you today—spoiler—concerns excess: the risk and the opportunity that excess can provide. Part of this relates to writing in general, but now it relates to something you just said. Bolaño was a novelist who, in the latter half of his career, wrote with dazzling excess. Does a book like 2666 gain velocity as it goes, or does it enact its own entropy, especially where it concerns authoritarian violence?

CC: I was just thinking about entropy on the bus ride over here.

TK: The bus is always a site of entropy.

CC: Information tends toward entropy. Not always toward confusion and miscommunication, but always toward degradation. I was just reading The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Wiener—I was doing a talk at MIT over the weekend, and I busted it out for the first time. It felt right. For him, whenever information gets stored, it also degrades. This makes novelty valuable. Inevitably, in the post-Internet age, information becomes less attractive to people. And for writers, what you’re writing becomes technologically degraded before it’s even published. And so of course I feel an anxiety as a writer that, even though my book came out earlier this month, it’s already outdated.

Still, writing toward the push and pull of technological advancement is important. We’re writing toward this perceived societal advancement, and writing (as permanence) is a subversive response to a culture fixed on continuous change. One of the powers of lyric is that it arrests time, freezes motion. Writing in an age of motion or literal, wheel-like revolutions where nothing actually gets done becomes politically if not culturally subversive … Did I actually answer your question?

TK: Because the question concerned excess, and you answered in the form of excess, you’ve already answered the question.

CC: My favorite thing is when the form performs the content! But your question about excess is important. I think I was hyper-conscious of that in this book, and whenever I write with an effusion of language, which is whenever I write. Part of that may be culturally inflected. A lot of the writers I admire happen to be Latin American, and I see that excess of language in them, especially the Cubans. Whether that’s culturally specific or not, there’s something paradoxical to be said about using excess. To blow something up isn’t just to aggrandize, but to erase or disappear. The politics and aesthetics of disappearance, then, is in tune with the politics of the material body that gets disappeared or is so grandiose that it’s literally nothing anymore.

TK: Another way of putting this, perhaps, is that in a constellation containing politics, aesthetics, the body, and language, excess operates as a category that connects these forces into legible shapes. We’re not just dealing with isolated instances of Internet excess. In political economy, efficiency and productivity have reached such a staggering output that our dominant way-of-being is now defined by speed, efficiency, infinite growth. To tackle the category of excess is to encounter the excess of social and economic life itself, both on and off the Web. Like, we have so many subsidized yet unused dairy products in the United States that are literally rotting away as we speak.

CC: Apparently the cheese that’s most excessive right now in North America is actually Swiss!

TK: And that waste we produce, whether material or digital, can be related to other phenomena by using this category of excess. It’s just so hard to talk about excess without, well, excess. There’s no way for you to respond to my question without spreading yourself everywhere.

CC: That’s why to write about and with excess is, on a basic level, subversive, if only because we expect things to be precise. At some point in my poem “Portrait of An-Other Portrait,” I say something like, “This book has to be greater than the last; it has to be bigger, it has to be more bombastic, and electric, and expansive…” Inherent in that aspiration of growth is an idea that excess is a loss of control. I want to embrace that lack of precision, and as writers, that’s not typically what we’ve learned or what’s been taught to us.

TK: Please eat some of your chicken-parm sandwich.

CC: You have to include that I was taking a photo of my sandwich while you were asking me the previous question.

TK: I do want to get around to answering your question about reading each half of the book, but I don’t want to answer until the very end of our conversation. Only because we’re at a good place right now to segue into thinking through the term “post-Internet.”

We have Marisa Olson and Gene McHugh as recent theoretical precedents, like we’ve discussed before, and certain poems in your book address the concept directly. But it seems to me your contribution is a re-definition of nowness. In the book, you describe the Web as nowness, a landscape of synchronicity. Meanwhile, our mutual friend Walter Benjamin would contrast the homogenous, empty time of capital with the “now time” (jetztzeit) of messianic potential. His version of nowness rescues moments from the past and re-applies them toward revolutionary actions. When you conflate post-Internet culture with nowness, what kind of nowness do you mean, and what are the implications of that? Is the Internet and ever-quickening search results abetting a kind of stasis or empty time?

CC: It’s an unconventional nowness for me, yeah, not the kind most people think about when they think about the word… As I wrote somewhere else in this book, it’s like a dissolve between the words now and here, becoming nowhere. It is something intimately embedded in the present, and yet it’s already old the minute it happens. In that sense, like with information and entropy, nowness forces us to be productively displaced. Normally we—or, I, speaking just for myself—consider nowness to be grounded and situated. But in post-Internet culture, nowness means we’re divorced of a destination and an origin. That idea, for me, was a good starting point for writing an autobiography that calls into question what’s original and the possibility of even having an origin story.

Photo courtesy of Chris Campanioni.

TK: Thinking about the words you’ve chosen here, “grounded,” “situated,” and “destination” come from a lexicon of space, and yet you’ve used them to describe “nowness” and “origin,” which come from a lexicon of time. I think your language reflects our moment in which space and spatialization have taken our attention away from time and futurity, something that theorists like Fredric Jameson argue persuasively. If nowness for you is “productive displacement,” and if spatialization has curtailed serious discussion of new futurities, are there defects of committing to “nowness?” How is it productive to be out of time, to be constantly present? Or is this a new transition point after all?

CC: I think we’re always in a transition point, which I guess isn’t really a point at all because it’s not at all fixed. The whole construction of time is culturally based, if not also culturally biased. We already know this. But to evade time or elide time in our moment is aspirational and perhaps even utopic. In terms of this book, to evade time in the content, to embrace nowness, calls into question the idea of the timeless, as in, what do we care about and why. You asked me online about the stakes of hybrid writing, and in this sense, it’s an investigation of why we care about the things we care about. I would like to think of our moment more as a science of flows and the deformations inherent in those flows—

TK: The stream so obviously common now—

CC: Yeah. I try to avoid the word stream for that same reason. Hang on, I’m trying to get this piece of broccoli out of my teeth.

TK: Before it passes through the flow of your intestinal tract.

CC: And honestly, I don’t mean to digress, but when we talk about being out of time or being in the flow, it means encouraging and reveling in all life’s interruptions. This goes back to your question about excess, too. When I was rereading the book on a flight back from AWP, I was laughing out loud about the sheer vivacity and audacity of the prose when it gets to moments of just pure acceleration and excess. Part of that is reveling in the loss of control. Another part is disturbing the coherent accumulation of information. The sound poems of Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara rallied against this logic of clean resolution that we privilege in language. I want to put these ideas into a constellation where we question traditions and the reproduction of beliefs.

TK: I stole “constellations” from Adorno, given that’s who I’m reading right now, but I really think digression is an important point in your project. Digression can, of course, take on a negative connotation—that maybe we’ve moved away from actively seeking a new historical progression. But adapted for poetics, digression can become productive. Like Godard or Ashbery, who purposefully lose a train of thought and discover something unexpected along the way, digression and interruption can generate surprising insights. You do this, in part, by varying the font, figures, and spatial arrangements of text, disrupting our absorption in linearity. You take us out of that uncritical way of reading thanks to interruption.

CC: Totally. Along with digression, I really value the productive accident, the error, the miscommunication, the mistake. Some of that is placed on the page, as you mention. Like a signpost. Other times it’s the hiccup in a stream of code that doesn’t break the algorithm but tries to retrain or teach that algorithm …. Funny enough, a lot of people ask me if I’m skeptical about the Internet or if I’m anti-Internet. I’m certainly not either. I’m a whole lot more excited to see the kind of work that can be produced in this climate and environment, in this rare opportunity to produce accidents and digressions. Benjamin divines so much, again, because we’re all producers now, and there is so much to produce.

TK: Well, we’re the producers and consumers at the same time, which can be a loaded demand. But whatever our role is, we can always re-territorialize the Internet into a useful tool. One can be skeptical of the Internet’s unintended, atomizing effects but embrace the way it expands, say, access to information.

CC: Yes, that’s true.

TK: Can we plot a full constellation of your poetics for readers? I’ve just written down a few terms I think should be included: excess, accident and interruption, nowness, displacement, and flows. The one thing that remains to be added is the collapse of any distinction between art and life. We see this in the Situationists and before them in the Surr-

CC: In the Surrealists! I was just about to say that.

TK: Yes!

CC: Part of this, for me, has to do with performance. The performance of identity today is an exuberant and positive and sometimes subversive act, for many people. What we do on the Internet can be called performance because it’s aspirational; we live in a dream or fantasy that supersedes reality. You’ve asked me before about the blurriness between real and fake in digital culture. Now, because of the very real effects of fake things, the performance of identity on the Internet can be utopic. I know I keep saying that word, but what I mean by utopia is that we can inhabit and embrace a part of ourselves that has never existed elsewhere, whether because of a specific marginalization or lack of access and equity, a fundamental want.

To situate the Internet or the Internet in the real world, for instance, it’s just as much about New York City as it is about the Internet. They overlap. I joke that everything I write has to end in Coney Island because I’m usually writing on the subway toward home or somewhere in between. In this sense, so much of my book’s hybridity is situated in moments of transit or discontinuous, episodic scenes of life, whether on or off the Internet. That’s my number-one starting point. No matter what I’m writing about, it starts in the scene of language, wherever it may be.

Along with digression, I really value the productive accident, the error, the miscommunication, the mistake … the hiccup in a stream of code that doesn’t break the algorithm but tries to retrain or teach that algorithm.

TK: Your thoughts on identity remind me that, for the Situationists and Surrealists, the collapsing of art into life was a political project. It was in service to a radical reinvention of historical consciousness. But that project, generally speaking, tried to erase the particulars of identity; it tried to escape subjectivity rather than acknowledge its complications. In contrast, you foreground identity in art and life alike as performance, an identity always in transition given digital and diasporic cultures. It’s a welcome departure from, as you’ve said elsewhere, the “modernist injunction to elide identity.”

CC: You know, I’d hate to have my cake and eat it too, but because this book is a hybrid autobiography, I hope it’s about identity as much as it is about the moments where identity is troubled, chafed, or penetrated. Toward the beginning of the book I write, “Note to self: self is over.” Proceeding from that feint, it’s more about how identity is mediated and fluid—and about an identity that is, in a way, anonymous. After reading an earlier book of mine called Death of Art (C&R Press, 2016), a critic wrote that, after finishing the book, they knew nothing about my actual life. I took this as the greatest compliment: to have written a memoir and not given readers what they’d expected from a memoir, which is to say what they expected from a marker they’ve become so accustomed to. Now we’re onto flows of disembodiment and re-embodiment.

TK: Part one of our chat has concluded because I’m paranoid this audio file will crash and I need more coffee.


TK: …one of the most refreshing things you can find on the Internet is a 404 error. The page is so pure. You find yourself cleansed, if not a little disappointed.

CC: What I like about the 404 is the cleansing effect, yes, but also its baiting or edging. You came somewhere and you didn’t get what you wanted. Actually, I’m going to write that down. 404 as edging.

TK: For the viewers at home, he’s currently drafting a poem.

We’ve been talking so conceptually that now, if we can, I want to focus on some aspects of the text itself. This particular question comes from our friend and collaborator Kennia Lopez. For her, New York City acts as its own character, inside and outside the book. When we think about your book as ways of seeing, about the gaze, how has living in (and with) New York City shaped how you think about the gaze, as well as how you yourself look at things? Does New York City, in its capacity as character, gaze back at you in nefarious ways?

CC: This is great. Whether we put a value judgement on it or not, New York City certainly does look back at us. To that point, so much of this book addresses self-surveillance and self-performance, but also a literal surveillance conducted by others in the public. People have often classified my work as being “original,” or coming from a singular voice, but I think that’s not true: anyone could write into these subjects since all of us are so self-aware, knowing we’re watched by others and watching in turn. I can write about this by writing through it, and it becomes ingrained in the text itself.

So much of the book, and this is something that Tommy Pico nailed in the blurb, troubles the difference between being seen and being known. Playing with that juxtaposition, or the choreography of self-knowledge and recognition, appearance and dispersal, I’m indebted to New York City. The book detours several times from a seat on the F train, but it’s so much a New York City book because of the omnipresent gaze we have to process and in a way produce here.

TK: Tommy Pico is acutely aware of these forces, too, especially across the landscape of Junk. I’d love if we could arrange something where you both read from each other’s books, confronting the seen/known dialectic. You’re both inherently in dialogue with the contemporary city—

CC: And with the characters we’ve created or inherited, yeah. His work gets at this so well. It’s like a monster we have to live with but that sustains us as people, too. He has a lot of conflicted thoughts about his own literary persona in ways that maybe I’ve come to terms with way long ago? Given I’ve been performing for so long, that is, on screen or stage or elsewhere. I was talking on the phone with my publisher Andrew Sullivan yesterday, and he noted how the book is so performative to the point that I’m flaunting and flouting the idea of identity: who am I actually? Am I who I pretend to be? Am I learning from that performance, reproducing it, becoming it? These questions are ultimately moot, though. Our selves are always re-materializing from fantasy to reality and back.

In a way, our culture in general is so self-aware that we’re all performers. Kennia’s question really hit on this. We’ve moved from a culture of spectators to a culture of actors, and that’s a shift I think we can trace. Because of that, we’re no longer in this Debordian “Society of the Spectacle,” we’re a society of laborers of and for the Internet, even if we’re unemployed in the traditional sense. Like, even when we’re in a state of leisure, we’re still “working” for Facebook.

TK: Hold up, I’m sorry to interrupt, but do you know the song playing right now?

CC: No!

TK: It’s by Julia Holter, who I think you’d love. She’s a composer and avant-garde chamber pop poet person, and this song, “Another Dream,” comes from her latest record.

CC: Let me put this in my phone.

TK: I think I saw her perform at Warsaw right before we met at the Turnstyle Reading.

CC: I still need to go to Warsaw. I keep going to Elsewhere—it’s so fluid! We’re used to going to concerts where you just stand there. Here, you walk through a shipping container, and in all its different units, different concerts play at the same time. You can just drop in whenever you like. In that sense it’s like a club of the Internet. You’re always accidentally detouring.

TK: Every room is a separate tab open on your desktop.

CC: I think in that way I’m interested in the haphazard—this goes back to your question about what excess allows me to do in a world of streamlining. This is something that my mentor Wayne Koestenbaum has inspired me to think about. The haphazard book, the haphazard encounter—

TK: Was that “haphazard” or “half-hazard” you said?

CC: You know, I mispronounce things all the time. I like this new word we’re playing with. Like being halfway there?

TK: Yeah! As in, it could indicate risk and opportunity at the same time. Half-hazard does not mean it’s necessarily black or white, all or nothing.

CC: That’s brilliant. We did it. These are the unintended accidents I want. It’s funny too, I’ve always picked up weird expressions and sayings since neither of my parents were native English speakers. Their English is really great now, but growing up in my household, I just didn’t know things—I still don’t know things!—when it came to North American slang. I’d ask my mom on the way home from school about definitions for slang terms I heard, and we’d have no idea. We’d try to figure it out or make up the meaning. But I think that’s important too. It creates these revelatory moments of insight rather than chalking something up to a mistake.

Photo courtesy of Chris Campanioni.

TK: I think that’s the benefit to resisting homogeneity in culture. There’s no friction in that model—only outright political violence. Someone who conforms to the idea that American culture should have no hyphens or fluidity, that it should maintain a monolithic identity, loses all the richness of slippage.

CC: I like this idea of the hyphen, especially as it reminds me of my own vastly different background. I don’t know when I became conscious of this, but certainly I tried to reflect this in the book—to live in the hyphen, to not be either, or even both but to live in the transitional state I think we’re always in.

TK: To an earlier point you made: to the extent that we’ve moved somewhere beyond the society of the spectacle, we’ve become consumers of other people’s experiences or vicarious riders in other experiences. Someone in New York can see the devastation of a hurricane in VR or the simplicity of panda videos posted from a nature reserve in China. We’re in a shared community, not just economy, where experience is exchanged in complicated ways.

CC: Yes. One doesn’t obviate the other, the simultaneous producing and consuming. It’s not just a site of critique—and I think I’m finding that more and more. You mention VR, for example, The increasing use of VR in education and empathy building, even recreating tragedies in VR simulations, these are things that are happening more and more. “Who steps in when I step out,” as I wrote in that poem or essay or whatever it is, “How Do I Look?” I think the reversion of self makes way for a more communitarian experience of identity that can be really productive.

TK: Here’s where the half-hazard and haphazard enter vision. When someone steps into a VR experience, they can dispossess and flatten tragedy via the gaze, or they can create a site of empathy with others. Only when you see through someone else’s eyes can you understand multiple, valid, coexisting perspectives. There’s risk and opportunity here. I don’t know how to eliminate risk in this exercise, but it’s an interesting thing about technologically mediated vision: how do you experience and come to appreciate Otherness without occupying it? And concerning the Internet is for real, where we refract ourselves through your first-person pronoun, what do you hope for readers who put on your poems like VR goggles?

CC: In so many ways for so many reasons, it’s a difficult question. I try not to have any particular hopes in terms of reader-response, aside from people finding it interesting. Whether or not they like it is literally beyond me, to be honest. But in the “Acknowledgements” section of the book, I ask that readers redirect their orientation toward systems of production so that we can locate where we’re complicit with things we don’t agree with, things we’d like to change. We should always be self-aware of how we can reshape these cultural attitudes but also to recognize our own roles and participation, or the lack thereof.

TK: Funny how the “Acknowledgements” section, rather than read like a routine litany, tries to demystify the hidden abode of production in culture. You shout-out your students as co-equals in the production of knowledge and ideas. You cite people whose real experiences inform you and call your own practices into question.

CC: I love that you mention that. Because right after the “Acknowledgements,” I include a sort of “intellectual playlist” at the very end—well, depending on where you open the book. This is where I try to demystify the process of how my book even came about, and I mean that in the way that some people treat their art as if it fell down from the sky. After all, the most intimate thing you can share with someone is what you’re reading. I can get in your consciousness, and by being in your consciousness, I get to know all the things you’re thinking about, even the thoughts you haven’t committed to print. So, I want you to do whatever you want with the texts and songs and music videos I share in the playlist: you can write your own book with them, too, and maybe it’ll even resemble this one.

TK: I’d like to ask a technical question here, especially for all the formalists out there. How do you determine what should be lineated versus what’s in prose? It’s a series of decisions we all have to confront. Of course, we’re always informed by precedents already loaded into genres, constructed as they are. Theory goes in prose; spontaneous emotion goes in verse. Or so it’s dictated to us. Did sheer intuition govern when you chose to mingle these modes? Or was there a strategic sense of when to flex certain generic borders?

CC: Let me start this way… I think I was most conscious of this (transmediation) while rearranging the pieces. When this book ends, it’s on a piece about notebooks, migration, hospitality, and refugee generations. In many ways, this opens up a new segment of my work and research, or provides an inkling as to where I’m going next, where I am now: troubling certain migration studies in academia, trying to bridge migration studies with literary analysis. But from a creative standpoint, it brought me to the notebook form, which is even more haphazard than the Internet is for real. I remain very conscious about conversations between books, how each project could extend into the next.

I think, now getting to your question on arrangement, I spend so much time adapting everything I’ve written to various forms, to see how they’ll read differently, to put those modes in conversation. My love for lineation and enjambment, for better or worse, dictates so much of a piece’s eventual constitution. Other times, I spin that around so lineation might read like an essay in verse. As the book moves along, pieces work even harder to hybridize these modes, which would lead me to new projects, new ways of understanding the work.

Now I don’t even have to make these strategic decisions about what goes where and how. No decisions and no distinctions. As someone who loves writing across genres, self-translation or transmediation is an often arduous but totally fun experience full of unexpected epiphanies. You’re constantly teaching yourself about new ways of seeing your own work.

TK: It speaks to a kind of migratory poetics, in fact. Not excluding its important geopolitical dimensions, anytime someone transgresses a border, something new is smuggled in. In a prose poem section like “Art is for Necrophiliacs,” the speaker’s standing in front of a classroom getting nervous about the lecture, and you choose to include the embodied experience of rubbing the back of their neck, a gesture that would be excluded from an expository essay. Lyric that includes personal reactions to theory can traffic different affects into the bounded space of genre. This continues a kind of Modernism—not to “make it new,” but to reinvigorate old forms in new ways, forms that migrate across time and space.  

CC: Yeah! The prose poem has been having its moment for awhile now. The lack of a distinction between creative nonfiction and flash fiction and prose poems—

TK: Like Rankine’s “An American Lyric”—

CC: Absolutely. We can see a lineage here that I’m responding to. What I’m tired of, and what others may be thinking about with some reluctance too, is the boring poetry book that over-emphasizes precision, lyrical density, and other conventional elements. Even though the Internet doesn’t commit to a genre, and more than half of it could be called “poetry” because of its lineation, I was conscious, at least, of evading expectations.

Susan Sontag wrote in her notebooks—where her best writing occurs, I think—that novels can suffer from a game set up by rules ordered in advance. That takes all the fun out of it. I, like her and so many others, try to aggressively escape those forms, even though I, like her and so many others, love writing fiction. It could be that the boring poetry book, like any other genre, suffers from its own generic set of expectations. Maybe my boredom with it is not a problem with the boring poetry book itself but a problem with my expectations for the book, or my expectations of what a poem can do.

As someone who loves writing across genres, self-translation or transmediation is an often arduous but totally fun experience full of unexpected epiphanies.

TK: Well, there’s a signal we quickly detect in works that strive not just for rules, which can be generative, but for perfection based on regulated conventions. The destination is clear from the beginning. You know as a reader where the journey is going and why, particularly when viewed through the lens of its form. There’s no surprise to that reading experience.

CC: That’s right. There’s not much deviation there. People often receive advice that their work is ready to be submitted once it’s achieved a clear sense of cohesion and singularity of theme or concept. It’s almost like, maybe it’s our fault as consumers that boring books get reproduced: we’re the ones looking for uniformity. We can stake a value judgement here. What I find to be a boring poetry book is maybe not boring at all for others, but it has something to do with precision combined with uniformity and lack of deviation. Once you’ve committed to a single, coherent theme for 80 or 90 pages and you think, “Wow, I have a poetry book now,” that’s the time where deviation can push the work somewhere even more interesting.

TK: Now I think I can answer your original question about the two books hinged as one. I haven’t been reading either in a linear way, but making quantum leaps between them at random—

CC: That makes me so happy. That’s how I envisioned this. Someone I met at the Graduate Center when you and I read together told me this—that he loved my other books because he found the agency to move between sections without distinction. In the Internet is for real, too, it’s not “half-hazardly” ordered, not exactly. The one attempt at or conformity toward precision was determining where the pieces should fit to facilitate a flow. But besides that, the cool thing about this book is that you can open it anywhere. My original intent to separate the two books would’ve actually undercut the final product’s formal effects. So yeah, thanks C&R (although I still think Bolaño got a raw deal).

TK: And hence the negative, reversed pagination you use throughout “Control.” We could call that the upside-down world of reading, or we could call it strategic mirror symmetry. Either way, indeterminacy is a mode of writing and reading for our time.

CC: Yes. You can enter or exit the text anywhere. I wanted to write a book of many exits, and what you’ve told me makes me very happy.

Tom Kozlowski edits The Brooklyn Review. His work can be found in Jacket2 and forthcoming in PANK.

This interview has been edited for clarity but not condensed.