When I met Eamon Loingsigh for the first time, he was wearing a very nice suit with a purple tie amongst the clatter and traffic of Coral Gables, Miami. His eyes though, they stood out the most as very gentle, but wise of the wild world that we live in. He seemed shy. In fact, it was his friends that put him up to the interview after a conversation about writing that led to him showing them a copy of a manuscript he had written some two years previous. They read it, were impressed, and passed it around. By the time I finished it, I couldn’t believe that it was only a manuscript and that maybe, just maybe, I was given an opportunity for some strange reason to shed light on an author that had no plans whatsoever to go public with, what myself and friends feel, is a work of genius. The following is a conversation I recorded while eating lunch with Eamon at Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market overlooking the Miami River as lazy barges and shanty fishing boats eased by in the afternoon sun.
Sarah: I’m Sarah Millstein and today I’m with the author of An Affair of Concoctions, his first novel.
Eamon: Thank you for having me.
Sarah: Well, I’ll have to say, after reading it myself “An Affair of Concoctions” is certainly not your prototypical novel. First of all, it’s much shorter. Is it considered a novella?
Eamon: Yes, I enjoy the format of the novella. Some of the most famous books ever written are in that style.
Sarah: Did you know before you wrote it, that it would be this short?
Eamon: Well, I knew that the story couldn’t be told in a traditional format. At least not to the effect I was looking for. It needed to be sparse, obscure and it needed to say a lot with very little words. It needed to be written in a way that would leave a lot to the imagination.
Sarah: Yes, you speak of the effect. It certainly leaves the reader with an uneasy feeling.
Eamon: That may be due to the narrator’s position, he is an unreliable narrator.
Sarah: He is unreliable?
Eamon: Yes, it’s a technique that forces the reader to question the story being told, how it’s told and opens the mind to many possibilities.
Sarah: Yes, that’s interesting. That makes me think of the narrator’s name. Piltdown, which was the name given to a skull found like a hundred years ago that the scientists who found it claimed was the missing link between man and ape and was later found to be a hoax.
Eamon: That’s true, some of the story turns out to be untrue, but because it is told by the narrator it leads to a planned confusion for the reader. Piltdown claims to be a liar, but it’s not really true. More importantly he is unsure what he hears and sees. That is the beauty of perception, it’s very subjective. Of course this is a very postmodern book in the way that it’s written in first-person but even more, its hyper-subjective. We are all very subjective whether it’s purposely or unconsciously. This book is actually written by Piltdown to Maison Vanders and it isn’t until she is exposed that he realizes how far gone he really is.
Sarah: That leads into probably the strangest scene in a book full of strange scenarios. Let me try and set it up, but please correct me if I mess it up, ok? Wow, well, Piltdown and Maison are scheduled to meet, for like the seventh time or something, but anyway. Piltdown dresses up like a priest and begins a drunken binge at the airport until Maison arrives. When she finally comes, she shows up in a Catholic school girl outfit and they start kissing at Miami International while all the Cubans and other Catholics at the airport start yelling at them and clawing at them to stop. Tell me about that scene.
Eamon: Well, it’s certainly a turning point. One of the converging interests and a strong theme between Piltdown and Maison is their Catholic upbringing and need to get back to God, but in an obviously deranged fashion. To them, the mystery and innocence of their childhood lives coupled with the mystery and innocence demanded by the Catholic Church is something they long for in an attempt to stifle the wild yawns of adult perversions. And yes, you’re right, they do try and meet many times but Maison always backs out.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly, I couldn’t help but think you were making a statement about meeting people from the internet and how so many people fake their profiles and then can’t live up to them in real life.
Sarah: Tell me about the language, Piltdown seems like the aggressive corporate raider type that has fallen emotionally, but there are also some really beautiful ideas that are put to words. I have some quotes here if you don’t mind.
Eamon: Of course not.
Sarah: Ok, like… “Paint your eyes like butterflies and close them. Shift the shape of your mouth to a flower and lean back into the treeline so we can’t see you.”
Eamon: Yeah, that’s a little painful to hear.
Sarah: Another one, “Love… is not much more than a wondrous derangement and those with the fatal gift of a wild and starry imagination stand in awe of the night-sky that spells their depictions, their stage-plays of invented constellations.”
Eamon: Yeah, again, it’s hurtful to hear those words. They weren’t written out of some trained or educated steps for making pretty words sit next to each other. They were written out of desperation and pain. I barely made it through this book with my senses intact.
Sarah: Well, as a reader I was moved. Really though, I was (laughing). In fact, I’ve told everyone that in order to understand this book; it has to be read very slowly and with calculation because this book was very well thought out. It seems like everything is connected and everything makes sense, especially at the end. And that reminds me, you don’t want to speak about the end, right?
Eamon: I’d prefer not to. I don’t believe in giving away endings.
Sarah: Now, as far as style is concerned, this is considered, because of its size, a novella. But what really stands out is the paragraphs are offset and without indenting the paragraphs. They are single spaced, but there is a double space between each paragraph. I’ve never really seen a book in this form before. It makes the paragraphs look more like stanzas, but without rhyme schemes. What was the idea behind this type of presentation?
Eamon: Well, you hit it on the head before. It really does need to be read slowly. I wanted, while writing it, to have the paragraphs live on their own merit: To make a strong statement in every paragraph. When it came time to publish, the editors I had look over it immediately criticized it, but I fought to keep them in the form they were written.
Sarah: And you won.
Eamon: I had to win.
Sarah: Who was your biggest influence, Mr. Loingsigh?
Eamon: There are many, too many to underscore any particular.
Sarah: You won’t name any?
Eamon: There are fingerprints in this book of many other authors.
Sarah: You even named some, like some of the existentialists.
Eamon: Yeah, I enjoyed them.
Sarah: There is one part in the book that Piltdown says really scares him…
Sarah: (laughing) Yes, that’s right. How did you know what I was talking about?
Eamon: That comes from Camus, whose name was mentioned in the book: The indifference of the universe toward human suffering. And it is scary, very scary.
Sarah: That’s sacrilegious though, isn’t it?
Eamon: As Piltdown and Maison state, they are trying to get back to God.
Sarah: That reminds me though, it was a little unclear, but didn’t the book end on December 25th?
Eamon: That is correct.
Eamon: Well, yes but again, I’d prefer not to talk about the ending.
Sarah: How about Angela, Piltdown’s daughter. Can we talk about her?
Eamon: I guess that depends.
Sarah: Well, I think we can establish that she dies at the beginning of Chapter 7.
Eamon: That is true.
Sarah: Well Mr. Loingsigh, I have to say that while reading the book, I tried to imagine your personality and boy, was I off. You are much more guarded than I expected. I guess I thought you’d be more like Piltdown, manipulative and aggressive.
Eamon: Well, Piltdown is a character, he’s not me. He is the corporate go-getter that wears expensive suits with pink ties and remains ultra impersonal. This is the story of that person’s personal life, which is just as turbulent and painful as any others. Suicide is referred to in this novel as a “troubled ritual.” It is an aspect of the human condition that is not allowed in newspapers, not supposed to be talked about and the offender is not allowed to enter into Heaven. It is viewed from the inside, subjectively. It reinforces the idea that the biggest troublemakers in the human social world are the ones that have suffered the most: A contradiction that defies our reasoning. Troublemakers are reviled for their actions and the suffering they’ve been subjected to are seen as excuses when the trouble that they’ve caused should be seen as evidence instead. We don’t live in a place in time that is able to justify this as a policy. We are still moving along slowly but I would not call it surely. As we look back on the troubled contracts governing bodies had with the human condition during the Roman era, or Medieval times I am as sure as anything that we will be looked upon as being undeveloped and primitive. I will say this about the ending; that it was totally unplanned. I had an ending in mind that was reversed while I was in Church; a very rare occurrence for me, on Christmas day. I was listening to mass and noticing the people praying, watching how they bowed their heads and released their own personal pride to give themselves to God. It was a powerful and moving moment and that’s when it all came to a head. It really just wrote itself, it was the most logical way to end the book. I literally came to tears and allowed the ending to take its rightful place.