The Transmitter: David Leo Rice Answers the Questions That Matter

Author David Leo Rice talks art-horror, giant squids, the blurred line between fantasy and reality, and arm-wrestling with Hemingway.


DAVID LEO RICE is a writer and animator from Northampton, Massachusetts, currently living in New York City. His first novel, A Room in Dodge City, is available from Alternating Current Press, and his stories have appeared in Black Clock, The Collagist, Birkensnake, Hobart, The Rumpus, The New Haven Review, Identity Theory, Nat. Brut, and elsewhere. He has a B.A. in Esoteric Studies from Harvard University and can be found at raviddice.com and at @raviddice on Twitter.


The Coil: Describe your writing style to someone who’s never read you.

David Leo Rice: A mixture of surreal horror, dark comedy, and warped spiritual inquiry.


How would The New York Times categorize your writing?

Maybe something like ‘art-horror’?


What was the catalyst that made you start writing?

A general sense, as a child, that I wanted to feel like my thoughts had tangible substance and weren’t just simmering uselessly in my head.


Your favorite —

Whisk(e)y: Any smoky / peaty Scotch.

Wild animal: The giant squid.

Waffle topping: I’m a New Englander, so I’m obligated to say fresh maple syrup.

Poem: A bit clichéd, but it’s hard to beat Yeats’ “The Second Coming” for both brevity and impact. I love Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” as well, but they’re harder to hold in mind.

Scientist or inventor: Kurt Gödel, who’s more of a mathematician but an extremely interesting one, nonetheless.

Broadway musical: Never seen one.

Badass getaway vehicle: I don’t know much about boats, but I’d like to make a water exit if necessary.

Movie to watch alone: Blue Velvet.

Quote: “Fear is fear of yourself” — my childhood friend, Jeff, slightly mangling (and, to my mind, improving) FDR’s famous, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” line.


Tell me about your favorite books or authors.

Murakami, Kafka, Marquez, Faulkner, O’Connor, Lispector, Bernhard, Beckett, Bashevis Singer, DeLillo, Pynchon, Evenson, Easton Ellis, Houellebecq, Barker, Burroughs, Kelly Link, and, first among equals, Bruno Schulz.

What I love most are books that blur the line between reality and fantasy, and between waking and dreaming, so that the story seems to occur in between, or somehow in both states at once.


If you could witness or participate in any historical event or time period, what would it be?

I seem to have lost my emotional sense of history as I’ve gotten older — as a kid, if you said ‘Ancient Egypt’ or ‘Feudal Japan’ or ‘Colonial Mexico,’ I could immediately picture it with what felt like extreme accuracy (even if this accuracy was imagined). Now the distant past feels somewhat deadened, but I’d still love to’ve seen the Chicago World’s Fair.


Which underrepresented cause do you want to bring to our attention?

Not exactly underrepresented, but nothing’s scarier than climate change except climate change denial.


Weapon of choice:

Mind control.


If you could invent something that is missing from your life, what would it be?

A mind-melded sidekick.


The perfect soundtrack to your writing:

Tom Waits, Nick Drake.


Which literary figure, dead or alive, would you want to —

Take tea with: Alan Moore.

Arm wrestle: Hemingway (for the thrill of losing).

Ice skate with: I can’t ice skate.

Drink under the table: Cormac McCarthy.

Get a blurb from: Bolaño.

Beat in a duel of wits: Pinter.

Have on your side in the apocalypse: Le Guin.

Write your next book for you: Kōbō Abe.

Tell you it’s all going to be okay: Thomas Ligotti.


The one thing in your writing routine you couldn’t live without:

The Freedom App (which blocks the Internet)


Set the perfect scene for you to write your next masterpiece:

The Mediterranean terrace where the director in Fellini’s 8 ½ fails to write his next script.


When writing makes you rich, you will …

Make an epic, unmarketable indie film in the vein of The Holy Mountain.