Awful Interview: Benjamin Carr

19 May

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This is Benjamin Carr. After reading at just about every other reading series in Atlanta he’ll finally be reading at the next Vouched Presents on Wednesday, May 28th. In Atlanta’s literary realm this accomplishment equitable to EGOT-ing (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award, respectively), launching Benjamin to a tier of literary performers prestigious and rare. We had the privilege of interviewing him, awfully, prior to the big night.

Benjamin, what’s it like having a name with a built-in nickname? Is it as awesome as it seems? Do you prefer Ben, Benji or the full Benjamin? Does it fluctuate?

It’s been hell. I grew up as Benjie (yes, with an ‘e’) around the same time those dog movies became popular, so there’s been that my whole life. I hate that damn dog. In college, I wrote a column in the newspaper about how I fantasized about running down that dog with a car. But now, after years of therapy, those things just strike me as funny.

As for the name I prefer, it does fluctuate based upon when you met me, how you met me or where you met me. Everybody from my hometown or from college knows me as “Benji” because nobody remembers to spell it with that ‘e’ my parents were so fond of. If you’ve met me through one of them or just socially know me, you call me “Benji.” My byline when I wrote for newspapers was always Benjamin, even when I was in high school, so those people call me Benjamin.

And at my current job, Jerad Alexander was one of my first supervisors and always called me “Ben.” I think the on-site military told him I was Ben. Everyone in the office calls me Ben. But it’s the first place I’ve ever been Ben anywhere. Before this job, I avoided that name out of fear that it would lead people to call me “Has-Ben” or, worse, “Ben-Gay.” Now, if someone called me that, I would just think they were ridiculously moronic.

So, no one’s ever called you Benny? Is that a name? Did I just make that up? Also – are you kind of nervous sharing the stage at this reading with your supervisor?

No one’s called me Benny. I have no jets. My nephews don’t even call me Uncle Ben, so I never bring them rice.

Benny is a name, though I can’t think of anyone of note who managed to go by it past the age of 10.

It’s sort of hilarious, but I got really, really excited when I found out Jerad was in this show and went over to his cube, like, “We’re doing a show together!!! We’re doing a show together!!!! We haven’t shared a stage before!!!” And he looked at me the way he used to when I was a wayward, goofy employee, the sort of glare that just says without a word, all Marine-like, “Calm your shit down, crazy person …”

Jerad Alexander is the sort of guy you want in charge of something, passionate enough to fight, common-sense enough to not suffer fools and smart enough to know when to stay quiet. He keeps me in check, at work and as a friend, and I think he’s the best.

He’s in a different department now. I miss him. Luckily, he is now part of the community. He’s done Write Club, Carapace, Naked City. But we’ve never been onstage in the same show before. I’m super excited. And intimidated.

His writing is fucking incredible. Did you read his book? Can I take the opportunity to plug his book? It’s a novella called The Life of Ling Ling, available for digital download. I read it in a Walmart storefront Subway restaurant one afternoon, and the narrative took me away from all the other Walmart shoppers and placed my imagination in a war zone. It was great.

“Excited and intimidated” is a good way for me to behave around Jerad, though. So this is going to be a great night.

Laura, this conversation is going more smoothly than any other conversation we’ve ever had before at the Vouched Retail-Display Table of Wonder. Is that the name of the table? Does the table have a name? Perhaps we can call it Benny.

Wowee! That was a plug. I think you just life-blurbed Jerad Alexander. Congratulations, Jerad! And you’re right, this conversation is much more smooth than any we’ve ever conducted over my unnamed Vouched table. If we name it Benny, is it technically your namesake? What are some alternative names? I’ve already got a dear lamp named Doey Zeschanel. Not to mention the ghost of a beloved, lovely assistant, Lauren Traetto.

I miss Traetto. I did a HydeATL show with her right before she left town, but she was just lovely. Perhaps we should name the Vouched booth “The Traeble” to honor her.

God, I’m nervous about this reading.

Don’t be nervous! Just imagine everyone in the audience naked, right? Yeah? Is that still a thing? And yes, let’s call it the Traeble!

I think Lauren would be honored. And, if not, we just don’t have to tell her and could call it the Traeble behind her back. By moving from Atlanta, she lost her say in the matter.

I’m not going to imagine the audience naked. We know some really cute people. That just seems problematic. I’ve never understood that advice. I mean, yeah, everyone naked is without their defenses, vulnerable and less threatening. But, I mean, boobs, six-pack abs and stuff. I’d be afraid to step away from the podium. Fear of my own tumnescence.

Aren’t you reading at this event too, or is it another Laura?

It’s another Laura. You’ll like her a lot, I think.  Do you like most Laura’s for the most part? I can never tell how to feel about women named Simone at first.

OK, again we’re on what names mean to me. The first Laura I ever knew was Half-Pint on “Little House on the Prairie,” and I had a crush on her. So, as a result, every Laura has benefitted from that, considered to be good, fun, decent and a pioneer capable of running down a hill covered in flowers while in a gingham dress. I assume you could rock some pigtails.

My first Simone was the waitress who took a bus to France in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, so, consequently,  I always assume they have mean boyfriends and like to watch the sunrise from inside a giant, hollow brontosaurus.

Culture’s been so unfair to certain names. (I still hate that dog.)

 So, nervousness aside – what are you  most excited about for the reading? Also, how should I introduce you? Ben? Benjie? Benny-Boy?

The thing that most excites me is that I’ll finally have gotten to officially do an event with you, which has been long planned. I’m trying to get some sort of Atlanta Lit Scene triple crown by doing all the major events or, at least, contributing work to all the major players. (Is it weird that I think we have major players?)

Introduce me as Benjamin Carr. If people think that I’m all serious and professional, what I bring to the stage might surprise them more. This should be fun.

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