New Pop Lit: Tell us something about yourself beyond standard bio stuff.
Thomas Mundt: I have to be one of the least physically flexible human beings on the planet. I’m sure that, if subpoenaed, my President’s Challenge Fitness Test V-Sit Reach scores would bear that out. It’s a minor miracle that I haven’t torn several ligaments in my lower body simply by walking. It’s an embarrassment.
NPL: Your story “The Act” is about a ventriloquist. Have you ever done ventriloquism?
TM: No, and any accusations of poserdom that I may receive as a result of the publication of “The Act” (New Pop Lit Issue One, on newsstands and online now) are completely justified. All I can say is that, from my lay perspective, the heart of the ventriloquist/dummy relationship appears to be the struggle between The Controller and The Controlled; determining who is playing which role is the central challenge submitted to us as the audience.
I’d be game to give it a shot someday. My vocal range is pretty limited, though, so I imagine I would make a better dummy than ventriloquist. I’m 6’2”, so I may be out of luck.
NPL: Are you the best short story writer in Chicago? If not, who is?
TM: I’m pretty sure Joseph Epstein still lives here, so that’d be a “no.” His Fabulous Small Jews collection is really terrific and should be a much bigger deal. I’m not the worst short story writer in Chicago, though. That honor goes to this guy Doug I know. His characters always (and inexplicably) have nearly-unfettered access to chainsaws and it’s off-putting. He needs to chill out on the chainsaws.
NPL: Name a few influences on your work, inside or outside of literature.
TM: In no particular order of importance: Law & Order, marriage/parenthood, morning commute traffic, Twitter, NBA On TNT, Tortilla Flat, climate change, and my mood swings.
NPL: Name a favorite singer or song.
TM: Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” never disappoints. Any song that can survive your shoebox of junior high cassette singles and make it into your iTunes in 2016 is one you can trust. Still an impeccable mix of remorse, paranoia, violence, drug abuse, and candy theft. Evocative as all get-out.
NPL: How would you describe your writing style?
TM: eHarmony but for post-Great Recession Americans trying to meet their destinies.
Thomas Mundt’s online story for us was “Placeholders.”
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