Sleep Some More — a Conversation with the Writer
The Truth Podcast’s first episode this season was a dark story about Dan, an ambitious college freshman and Tom, his roommate who won’t shut up — even when he’s asleep.
Here’s a link to that story, if you haven’t heard it: listen first, then come back and read this conversation with the writer, Chris Kipiniak.
First off — is “Sleep Some More” based on a true story? It seems like you know this situation so intimately…
No, I’m afraid not. Between college, budget traveling, and New York real estate prices, I’ve had multiple roommates but I’ve had the good/boring fortune to have gotten along with all of them and never having had to put up with anything stranger than guys who like to walk around the apartment naked. Normal stuff.
The dynamic of a sleeping person and a waking person together has interested me for a while. There’s something inherently creepy and tense about the dark, the quiet, and the extreme power imbalance of one person being wholly in control of a situation where the other person is at their most unguarded and vulnerable.
How did you decide which literary works Dan would study?
All of the works used — MACBETH, THE TRAGICAL HISTORY OF THE LIFE AND DEATH OF DOCTOR FAUSTUS, FRANKENSTEIN, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, and Kafka’s METAMORPHOSIS — include characters who become in detached from their own humanity and unable to empathize or relate to others. All the works are about much more than that, but they were chosen for having some variation on that dynamic.
I also liked that all of them have a supernatural element (not CRIME AND PUNISHMENT technically, but I think its focus on spirituality and extensive use of dreams functions the same way) because I love scary stuff. I like that we ended on METAMORPHOSIS because it inverts the way empathy is usually thought of (as does most of Kafka’s work). Gregor’s cut off from himself. Before the book starts he has become unable to understand or recognize his own feelings. His soul has become stunted — by his family, societal expectation, his own complicity in an unfeeling work environment — so he turns into a monster.
Are you a Tom or a Dan?
I have the worst elements of both. I talk too much and say too little like Tom (see above answers) and I leech off the creativity of those around me like Dan. Just ask anyone in THE TRUTH writer’s room …
Do you remember where you were when you first heard The Truth?
I heard TAPE DELAY on some other show. I can’t remember which. But it fascinated me and confused me because I didn’t expect a radio drama at the time, but I was sucked in and found the story profoundly moving. At the same time, I loved how strange it was, how it felt real and out there at the same time. The central conceit of the difference between what he says and she hears, the use of the recording which he then edits in a doomed quest to change the past and to rescue his own self-regard, is such a potent yet simple dynamic which sweeps in so many ideas and feelings about memory, about perception, about time, regret, sadness, selfishness … but by having such a clear, well-defined story, with a dramatic momentum independent of any one theme, it’s able to bring with it all of them and more. When I later heard of THE TRUTH, I recognized the story from the description and listened again. And again.
What’s your favorite moment in any Truth story, other than your own?
That’s tough. Most I love as a cumulative experience, but there are certainly moments that jump out to me because of their depth of feeling, their insight, their sincerity and their — dare I say it — truth. I can’t pick out one but here are a few:
In STARBURST where Starburst gives up her identity to the protagonist, sacrificing her empowering fantasy for the sake of connecting to the protagonist by saying, “I’m just a mom … just a normal, normal person. Like you.”
COLD READ. The final, heartbreaking, understanding of how the story was structured and what is happening, when the psychic (spoiler) breaks his own heart to avoid the future we’d just been listening to.
I really love FALSE ENDING. I don’t know which moment, but the story is built around repetition and folding in on itself but I loved the moment where it was two repeats more than I thought it would/could be just because of the surprise and boundary-pushing of the structure.
I could go on and on but, I’ll spare you.
Next week — Jonathan Mann, co creator and song writer of Songonauts (oh yeah, and he plays Jojo).