Interview with Robert Jacoby, author of There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes
Tell us about There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes
There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes is the story of 19-year-old Richard Issych, who wakes to a harsh new reality inside an inpatient unit. Richard has tried to end his life, yet again, unsuccessfully, yet again. Now he’s trying to figure out what it means to really live. It’s complicated because of the – let’s call them “unusual” – characters he’s meeting inside the inpatient unit. Oh. And then there’s a new patient who’s taken a real dislike to Richard. Trying to kill him. So just a few weeks ago he wanted to end his life, now Richard is finding new ways to fight for his life. It’s a wild ride, and along the way he’s finding new meanings for words like redemption, sacrifice, hope, love – and the will to live.
Oh, and what are the reasons Noah packed no clothes? Richard can only imagine. But it has something to do with a size 3XL bowling shirt with the name “Noah” stitched over the pocket.
It brings One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to mind. Are there similarities?
“Cuckoo’s Nest” is about rebellion against authority – the hospital staff – and about one man’s warped view of it (the Chief’s) inside the hospital. It’s Man against Man (and the World).
“Noah”, if it’s about rebellion, is about rebellion against life. It’s a journey of one person waking up in a place he does not want to be in to find a way to live a life he’s never wanted. You could almost say there’s a “new birth” in the first sentence, and then a life trying to be figured out from then on. (Like each of us.) The staff and patients are (mostly) a backdrop for Richard’s new (and forced) search for meaning to his new life, which just so happens to be inside an inpatient unit. It’s Man against Himself. I wrote it to be a visceral experience, too, so that the reader could have a taste of that life.
So it’s not like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; is there anything out there that is similar?
What genre is your book?
It’s a fantastic book title. How soon into the writing of the book did you come up with it?
I had it before I wrote a word of the novel. (But I already had the idea for the story.) The title came to me as I was listening to the song “Mr. Flood” by Joe Christmas. I remember thinking: “What an interesting line! Wish I’d written it.” Turns out I did, because I later learned (after I had an email exchange with one of the band members) that I had completely (and I mean completely) misunderstood the song lyric; but I liked what I had taken away from that song, so I kept those words in my mind, mulling them over along with the kernel of my story. When I sat down to write the novel I knew I had to “work in” the title into the story. I didn’t know right away how it was going to happen, but once it happened, more pieces fell into place, and layers of meaning kept building during revisions. So much so that if someone reading the novel were to ask me “Did you mean this here?” or “Doesn’t that mean that there?” I could probably say, “You might be right.”
What are you most proud of with this book?
Well said. Which of these marketing tools have you found most effective: Twitter, Facebook or Amazon reader reviews?
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m also the author of a memoir (by interview), Escaping from Reality Without Really Trying: 40 Years of High Seas Travels and Lowbrow Tales
I blog on Goodreads (and by feed, my Amazon.com author page).
You’re a poet? Does that have an impact on your fiction?
Poetry, to me, is an interpretation of the world and a way of seeing the world. I can even say it is how I make sense of the world. Certain passages in “Noah” have a poetic quality to them, and some of that is on purpose. There were portions of the story that I felt could not be set down in words on the page in any other way than through poetry, to make sense of the world as it’s happening. These are the brief, stream-of-consciousness moments where the reader is dipped into Richard’s psyche to see how he sees, to feel how he feels. Think of it as being a kid bobbing on your tiptoes in the pool, and you feel yourself edging toward the deeper end of the pool, then suddenly the bottom’s gone. It can be frightening, and overwhelming, with a sense of coming suffocation. But you know you’re safe because your parents are nearby, and the side of the pool is right there, too. That’s the sense I wanted to give the reader: what it would actually feel like to be this person, in this place, in this time. But, the reader is safe; the book can be put down.
Finding the proper words in the proper structure to interpret Richard’s journey in “Noah” was very difficult for me sometimes. At other times it felt like I was re-inventing and re-purposing words to convey meanings, actions, and thoughts. I hope it’s worked out, in the end.
Have you got a website where readers can keep up with your work?
One final cruel question: if you had to give up either poetry or fiction, which would you sacrifice?
But if I had to choose to give up fiction or poetry, I’d say fiction. I found the process of writing this novel to be really difficult, sometimes, almost painful. It was a lot of hard work. Poetry is in my head, anyway. There’s no giving it up.