You’ve got some bravura passages in this book depicting post-traumatic disorientation. The first is Theo’s experience in the Metropolitan Museum of Art after the terrorist bombing and the second, which I won’t describe because it happens much later on, is the immediate aftermath of a violent incident in Amsterdam. It’s very striking in that you depict him as being in an altered state. I assume you wrote the museum scenes after 9/11?
Some of it I did, but some of it I didn’t. Actually, the mechanics of that bombing are very different. It’s not high in the air. The model I was working from was Oklahoma City: Down on the ground.
When Theo is in this state, the sentences become merely nouns, or he doesn’t always understand where he is or who’s with him.
I wrote that first and then cut it up, and fragmented it. Literally, like a [William] Burroughs cut-up. Mix things around, out of order. That was very hard to write. And there was also a lot of research because a bomb going off in a building like the Met — that’s never happened in real life. I had to construct that. There would be huge amounts of white powder, huge amounts of dust. It’s not like anything we’ve seen, a different kind of physical event. Oklahoma was a different kind of structure. There was a lot of research just figuring out what it would look like.
Photo from Vanity Fair