Ask Mal: An Exclusive Interview with J Alfred Prufrock



M: Mr. Prufrock … Al … this notion of the sky being anesthetized, prepared for surgery, one presumes… what sort of procedure did you have in mind?

Al:  Oh …. something removed … a gall bladder I suppose, something dispensable.  Like me, I’m the dispensable man, the disillusion of mid-life, the harshness of squandered dreams, the hesitation of low-risk, avoidance of failure, hair in the drain, teeth on the table …

M: So you’re the sky’s gall bladder?   Is that the metaphor you’re after?

Al: No, no, no, I’m not a metaphor, just an Average Joe who’s been kicked around for nearly a hundred years.

M: Tired of the old mermaid brush-off, eh?

Al: Well, yes. I think they find the rolled trousers off-putting.

M: Being a man inordinately fearful of peaches as you are, I wonder, over all these years, ever work up the nerve?

Al: Yes, once, during the 70’s, everyone was gadding about like sexual lunatics and dressing like harlequins, so I thought ‘Well, why not let my hair down a little?’, so I dug into a can of Georgia’s finest.

M: And?

Al: I had the squits for a week.

M: A disturbed universe! What’s all this business about how you should have been a crab?

Al: Well, with all those mermaids ignoring me, I think I’d like to be a crab, to sneak up on them and give them a bit of a nip with my claws, then they’d pay attention.

M: On the fish half or the human half?

Al: I’d nip on their arms, braceleted and a tad hairier than you’d imagine.

M: Maybe if you worked on your social skills … but then, that was something of a point, wasn’t it?  Are you still peeved that Carl Sandburg stole your ‘fog as cat’ metaphor?

Al: I shall never forgive that socialist from upriver, making my feline mist into some kind of haiku for the masses.

M: Who were you talking to all that time, carrying on about streets and fog and tea, trying to summon the courage to face the crisis of meaning?

Al: I was texting Oprah.

M: Is it just spoons you find dreadful, or silverware in general?

Al: Spoons are coffin nails.  I’m sure that’s where they come from. Knives I can abide; butter knives, at any rate.  But forks, do not show me a fork.  It’s the devil’s instrument, the tined scythe, the mermaids’ comb … the pin on which I’m sprawled.

M: I see.  I’m going to ask you something very personal, and I hope you don’t take offense, but this thing where you part your hair in the back and swoop in up over your bald spot … you can’t get away with that anymore.  You and Donald Trump are the last of the hold-outs, in all the world, it seems.  Oh, and I guess that evangelist on TV. But even Paul Simon gave it up.  Why do you do it?

Al: That’s the overwhelming question.


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