The Complete Rain Taxi Interview with Jonathan Carroll
by Alan DeNiro and Kelly Everding
Jonathan Carroll is a fabulist of the first order. In twelve novels, as well as in his short fiction, he has created a body of work filled with psychological complexity, lyrical sentences, and outright surrealism, yet one which still provides the reader with the most basic pleasures of page-turning narrative.
Carroll has lived in Vienna, Austria for nearly 30 years, and is something of a literary star in Europe, though audiences in America have been slow to catch on to his fiction. This is perhaps because of a tendency to gloss over what we can't pigeonhole, and Carroll's unique hybrid of the naturalistic and the fantastic is indeed hard to categorize. From his 1980 debut, The Land of Laughs, to his most recent book, White Apples (Tor, $24.95), Carroll's work never preaches (although morality is a major concern) and never feels unrealistic (even in the most bizarre of settings). His characters can be seriously funny or wickedly morbid, but they always are contoured by careful draftsmanship. Most importantly, his books are suffused with wonder-a trope he rescues from cliché by crafting it with a lucid, cogent prose-and animated by an awareness that the narrative impulse itself can still be a powerful way to construct, and illuminate, the unsettled lives of his characters. We caught up with Carroll at the World Fantasy Convention, held this year in Minneapolis, and were fortunate that his editor, Ellen Datlow, could join the discussion.
Rain Taxi: You have lived in Austria for twenty eight years. How does being an expatriate affect your work? Does the different landscape or European sensibility inform your writing?
Jonathan Carroll: I don't like the word expatriate because it sounds like ex-something. Whether you're an ex-American, or ex-Whatever, I think home is where you're most comfortable and I've been comfortable in Vienna so I've stayed there. The one thing that is different is whenever I come to America, I listen to people talk-that's something I never do in Austria. I speak German but I turn it off, so I live a lot in my head, which I think is the most affecting thing of all. Not that I'm thinking great thoughts, but that I spend more time alone, whether it's on a bus or whatever. That has a profound effect on my work.
Ellen Datlow: I've read Jonathan's novels from the start, and they feel very European to me. I'm not sure why, exactly. But it's a different feel. It's the way he writes about places that make them feel different.
JC: I think that's true. I think America's more up front whereas Europe's more held back. Could I be more specific about that? No. But when I read European novels there's a sensibility of holding your cards back. Whereas in America it's like POW! Not that one is better or worse than the other. It's like a left hand hitter or right hand hitter. The European is-I don't like to use the word-but it's more reserved.
RT: In terms of your European audience, do they view you as an "American" novelist, and are their cultural connotations or baggage that go along with that?
JC: I'm sort of like a Push Me Pull You to them. The painter Cy Twombly, who lives in Rome, once said, "In America you're allowed to live overseas for a year, but after that you're a snob." And so Americans look at me with a not so different kind of skepticism, which is "Why are you over there for so long? What's wrong with us?" Nothing's wrong with you. Home is where you're most comfortable. I think everybody wants a strange and mysterious answer, but it's as simple as this: I like where I am.
RT: It's hard to generalize about a lot of different markets, but in Austria, how is American literature viewed and how do you fit into that?
JC: I don't. I was telling an editor just two days ago that-have you ever heard of Donna Leone? No? Well, Donna Leone is the most popular American writer in most of Europe. She lives in Venice and writes all these typical mysteries set in Venice. And she sells in the millions. Is she published in America?
ED: I've never heard of her. But that doesn't mean she isn't.
JC: And you read mysteries. So it's very strange. William Wharton, who wrote Birdy, is the most popular American writer in Poland. He sells in the millions.
ED: And you're very popular there too.
ED: Do you have any idea why?
JC: No, and neither do they. But what is interesting to me more so than how they view authors is the different audience. For example in Poland-where I sell a lot of books-all of my readers are 20- to 30- year-old women. In France, my readers are all these snobby academics. In Germany, they're punks. Neil Gaiman is the same way. You can't fit your audience to the place where you are. It makes no sense, and actually it's quite delightful. You would know about that. You're watching the European scene. Why?
ED: I have no idea. I have an anthology called Alien Sex that has been selling like hot cakes in Italy for years. It sold here very well, but it's finally out of print, and in Italy they keep licensing it over and over again. What's going on here?
JC: And if you ask your publisher they say, we don't know-
ED: They have no idea! Well, it does have great illustrations.
JC: It's like this novel The Lovely Bones. Why is it so huge? I don't know and neither does Little, Brown.
ED: It's something in the air.
RT: Ellen, are there any special challenges to editing someone overseas?
ED: With email, no. This is first time in nine years that I've seen Jonathan. But as far as communication, no. I love email. I have a lot of foreign authors in short fiction, and my other novelist author is Paul McAuley, in England. Email has made it extremely easy.
RT: How about culturally?
ED: Not with Jonathan. Paul McAuley sometimes, but Jonathan's work is not esoterically Viennese. Maybe because he is an American, I don't know. But it's not a problem at all. Sometimes I'll want him to describe a little more of the setting-but that's about it.
RT: In a panel yesterday, you said your work has been described in Europe as "hyper fiction." What is meant by this term? And what does hyper fiction offer a reader that more conventional or realist fiction can not?
JC: The guy who said that is a very famous journalist and essayist in Germany named Maxim Biller, and luckily Maxim likes my stuff. So he said, "You write hyper fiction," and I said, "What do you mean?" and he said "Go look up the word hyper." And I said, "Come on, Maxim..." and he said, "No, you have to go look up the word hyper." So I looked up the word hyper, and one of the definitions is: a reality beyond three dimensions. And he said, "The interesting thing about your work is you allow things to happen that normally wouldn't, but in the universes you create, it's okay." Very often my work has been compared to Magritte, where eyeballs float and so on, but it's full of familiar things-just in unfamiliar positions, locations.
ED: And I think it's partly because his characters are so believable-anytime I read his novels I believe his characters are real, and I wish they existed. They are so grounded that whatever he does with them, and the magic that comes about, is part of that belief. It's not a problem.
JC: Have you read White Apples? There's a scene where Vincent Ettrich turns around and sees a rat, a 60-pound rat, and it's talking to him. He doesn't go, "Oh wow, there's a talking rat." He just gets scared. Which is what I think we would do. Whereas a horror writer would have it dripping in blood, and a fantasy writer would have him float through the door, my character just gets scared-because that's what a normal person would do. If I saw a big rat I'd get scared and if the rat talked to me, I'd get scared.
ED: I get scared with little rats.
JC: But when it talks to you, it's challenging all the reality that you know. But you know what? You've got to deal with it right now.
RT: Also, in most of your novels, in the opening chapters there aren't any overt fantastic elements. And so it kind of eases the reader...
JC: ...slowly into the water, exactly. Except for The Wooden Sea. In White Apples too, where three pages in he sees the tattoo on her neck.
ED: But that wasn't as shocking as the dog dying and coming back several times.
JC: Damn dog!
RT: Is that something conscious, this departure in the last two books?
JC: No. I always compare it to walking a frisky dog: you open the door and it goes! In White Apples, for example, I always wanted to open a book in bed, real sexy, but I thought first I have to take a stance. And here's where Ellen comes in. I opened the book with the paragraph that begins "Patience never wants Wonder to enter the house: because Wonder is a wretched guest." But I had it linked to the body of the story as a kind of statement. And Ellen said, No you can't do that. You have to separate the two. Make your statement and then get into the story. And I thought about that, and I said okay, let's do that.
RT: The creation and death myths you work with in White Apples build on human desires, strengths, and fallibilities rather than on religious conventions of angels and devils, heaven and hell. What is the impetus for this more secular mythology--for instance the idea of the afterlife as a mosaic?
JC: When I came to the mosaic, I knew I was on to something, and everything else sprang out of that. I found myself going back and changing certain things so that essentially the mosaic became like a hub with everything else radiating out. I wasn't sitting there trying to be philosophical. I just said that's the centerpiece of the story and everything comes out from there. Although some critics have said, "What is this new age bullshit?" [To Ellen] You said that would happen. She said watch out, someone is going to come down on it and say you're the next I'm OK, You're OK. Which is okay. I'll take that. Whatever they say, it's valid.
RT: I found it very moving, and it worked-it sprang organically from the story. Everyone's lives are such an intricate pattern in and of themselves, and their patterns go into the bigger pattern.
JC: Also...did you ever see Blade Runner? One of my favorite lines in the movie is when Rutger Hauer is about to die, and he says to Harrison Ford, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." It's such a wonderful, tragic line, it's true. All of the stuff that you have accumulated, all this experience, all these loves, all this coffee, all these dogs...as soon as you die, it's just tossed? I can't imagine that it works like that. I think there's probably some repository of this stuff. And that made a kind of sense for me. You just take this thing that you arrange, and once you're finished arranging it and you die, someone puts it into the mosaic, and the mosaic is made up of 10 zillion pieces. That made sense to me.
RT: In The Wooden Sea you use marbles in the same respect.
JC: Not unlike it. But I think one is a step from the other. Because in The Wooden Sea, he says you can throw the marbles up lots of times and come up with different combinations, but in White Apples, Coco says people can't stop moving their pieces around. The two ideas are rubbing up against each other.
RT: You also stand the idea of the vampire on its head in The Marriage of Sticks; the female protagonist discovers she is a sort of vampire whose selfish desires takes the place of blood-sucking. Do you see a desire for the fantastic, fable, myth or fairytale as a way to explain our human shortcomings or strengths?
JC: I think that the images are so old that the gods are telling us something. We trivialize the vampire by putting him in a cape and biting pretty women on the neck, but essentially if you look up the word, a vampire is someone who kills you by taking your life force. Not your blood, not your virginity. Now, in the context of The Marriage of Sticks, this woman-and I see it all time-people are sucking the life force out of others. A bad relationship, a bad job, whatever. And whether they're being sucked or doing the sucking, they go what's wrong here? What's wrong is this process is going on, but if I call it vampiric people think I'm talking about Bram Stoker. No, not at all. I'm talking about the way we interact with one another. If more than one in two marriages break up, I'm sure that a lot of that has to do with vampires. On one side or the other. That's what Marriage of Sticks is about, or what I was trying to do.
But you see there's a perfect example. People who either don't know my work or dismiss it will say, oh, that's a vampire novel. Because it's easy to say that. But it's not a vampire novel. It uses that element. It plugs that into the equation.
ED: I've never heard anyone call you a vampire writer.
JC: I've heard it a lot; I've been dismissed as that. And that's okay, but to me, that's a simplistic way out of things. I think The Marriage of Sticks is the most disliked book I've written.
ED: I thought you were too mean to her.
JC: But she's a decent person. As we're all decent people. But she's a fucking vampire. As we all are. And that's what's so shocking. If she was a bitch, it would be easy to dismiss her. But if she's Ellen, and I say to Ellen, go into that baseball stadium and see all the people you've wronged in your life, it would be horrendous.
RT: What's shocking is that she seems like a very normal, likeable woman, and then she discovers this about herself and realizes, I've been doing this to these people. Many of your characters are imperfect, but they are also eccentric and distinct in their tastes, the secret language they share with each other, and their perspective on the world. How do you go about discovering your characters-where do they come from?
JC: From myself, people I know, dream people... People always say that I'm a snob because I write about glorious, glamorous people. But basically I live in Europe, and the people who I know are editors and artists and filmmakers. I simply write about what I know. Of course, I take a little liberty... in Sleeping in Flames, the film director who gets killed has never forgiven me-the guy that I based the character on. He said, "Why did you kill me?" I said, "It's a book. It's a story." He said, "I know but that was me." So there you go. I always think of it as a mixed salad. You take your own imagination, that's some tomatoes, and you take the people that you know, people that you loved, the people that you hated, and you mix it together. And then the salad dressing that goes on it is your final say. I'm going to put a vinaigrette on top of it and that's what it is. All writers who say they don't use their life experience are liars. Even if they're writing books about penguins, they're using their life experience. I read an interview with John Irving, and he said no, no I just use my imagination. Nonsense. He's cheating.
What it always boils down to, you write about what bites you. And in this context, I like these people. And yes they're flawed, and yes they're selfish, and yes they're neurotic messes, but who isn't? What's redeeming about them is that they try to get it together, because they realize this stuff is important. That you and me...that something has got to be saved here. And that's one of the things in my books that people both like and dislike. I take real, normal people and put them in these extraordinary situations, working out normal problems. Crazy stuff, but in the crazy stuff they're trying to work out grounded stuff. And that makes people very uncomfortable. It's like you and I are together, and we can't work out our relationship, and then suddenly God says, "Hey you two," and we both go, "Hey, we'd better work this out, because God just interfered."
RT: In your first novel, The Land of Laughs, the hero hunts down his favorite children's story writer with surprising results. In this book you mention many children's books-has children's literature influenced your own work?
JC: I never read children's books. I didn't start reading till I was fifteen. I was a kind of an anti-reader. I purposely did not read because I grew up in this family of achievers, and my way of creating an identity was being a non-achiever. The story I've told a thousand times: The first book I read was because my brother gave me a dollar-it was Of Mice of Men-and when I finished it he said, "Did you like it?" I said, "Yeah, it was really good." He said, "Do you want to read another?" I said, "NO," and I didn't read another book until I was fifteen. People asked me if I ever read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I say, NO.
Actually, the time I started reading children's books was when my kid was small, and I would read Goodnight Moon and Curious George. But that's entirely different. You're an adult reading to a kid. I was always very impatient with the kids books that I read. I thought most of it was condescending, including Roald Dahl. People always say Roald Dahl has biting, nasty stuff. The only children's literature that I didn't find condescending was Grimm's Fairytales, because they tell it like it is. The story starts with mom getting her head cut off, and it gets worse. I always liked that. In fact, in Sleeping in Flames, I used one of the Grimm tales-Rumpelstilskin. But no, it had a small effect on me because I didn't read.
RT: Your fictitious children's author, Marshall France, wrote surreal books, one of which was also titled, like your own, The Land of Laughs. Would you ever consider writing any of the works of Marshall France?
JC: People have asked me that, but no I wouldn't. Because the excerpts that I put in the books were hors d'oerves. It's for you to make the meal. I know that if I wrote any of the Marshall France books, I would fail you. And I'm a coward.
ED: You couldn't possibly live up to the expectations.
RT: At times you integrate poetry into your novels-you've quoted John Ashbery and Charles Simic, for example-and in a session yesterday you mentioned John Berryman and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Is poetry important to you and does it trigger some kind of response in your fiction?
JC: Yes. Almost always before I start writing for the day I read some poetry. Because I think that it's like working out. Really good poetry, and I'm not talking about classic poetry, but poetry that appeals to you-I read a lot of Polish poets because they're brilliant, like Szymborksa-is real tight. Like I said yesterday, writers are either putter-inners or taker-outers, and I'm a taker-outer. I want my sentences to be short and sweet and hopefully loaded. And that's what poetry does. So I always read poetry before I write, because I like it and because it teaches me how to write the kind of writing that I want. Every once in a while I put in a poem of my own, like in White Apples. Whether it's good or not, it's certainly inspired by the people that I've read.
RT: Do you like poetry because of the encapsulation, the compression, where the language gets more-
JC: Hashish. You boil it down to its absolute essence. That's why it's stronger and more affecting. The ultimate is haiku. You read a poem and bang! it blows you out of the room. With novels, you write three hundred pages and maybe you'll get blown out of the room, but it takes a lot more time. That Basho poem, you know, my house burned down, now I can better see the moon-holy cow! Guys have written seven hundred pages trying to say the same thing.
RT: Emily Dickinson wrote that she liked poetry that takes off the top of your head.
JC: That's right. That's it.
RT: What other American poets do you like?
JC: I love Thomas Lux. I love Simic. Sometimes Rexroth and sometimes Diane Levertov, Diane Wakoski. Diane Wakoski was my teacher when I was in graduate school, and she taught me-she's probably one of the best teachers that I ever had-she taught me that you could put poetry in prose and do it right. I took her in graduate school and it really helped me. The greatest compliment to me is when people say your stuff is poetic. I try to make it poetic!
RT: Your novels are poetic in the sense that there are these little fireworks and dissonances that create something sonorous.
JC: Too often, writers either write well or they story-tell well. Very rarely are they working toward the middle, and a lot of the time the guys who write well are considered hands-off, literary writers. I think that they are forgiven a lot. They may have beautiful language or metaphors, but when I read, I want both. I want to read a good book, and that's one of the reasons why I don't read genre fiction, because most of these guys can't write well. They can story-tell well, but they can't write well, and I just get bored. To sit on a page with furiously beautiful language: that entertains you for a while, but after a while, it's like, come on! And if the guy tells a good story only and the characters are like film sets that have a stick behind them, and if you take it away they'll collapse-no, I want both. I want both in what I read. And I'm trying to do it in what I write.
ED: I think in short science fiction, short genre fiction, there is both. I can't judge as many science fiction novels or horror novels.
JC: But a lot of the time in genre, whether it be fantasy, science fiction, mystery, or whatever, these people are opting for the story-and fine! Obviously they have an audience. God bless. But Agatha Christie, for example, is a terrible writer, she's as wooden as they come. Raymond Chandler is a wonderful writer who tells a wonderful story. You can take a page of Chandler and teach it to a creative writing class. You know, irony, pacing, and stuff. That's what makes him more apt to be remembered than Agatha Christie, even though she sold 8 zillion copies.
RT: I take it you're not so interested in some of the Austrian writers who are not great storytellers but are brilliant technicians-Thomas Bernhard, Handke...
JC: I know Handke, and he and I have fought forever because I said the best thing he ever did was Wings of Desire, the film with Wim Wenders. There's a story there! I think he's going to win the Nobel Prize, but look at the guys who are remembered, but Cervantes wrote brilliantly and he told a story. Take Salieri. Salieri was the most famous composer of his time and Mozart was a little pipsqueak, but Salieri was in fashion and these guys are in fashion. So the ones who are remembered are the ones who can do both. They can paint wonderfully and they can move you. And moving is usually a thing of story, I think. YouÕre not moved by language. ItÕs cold. I hate to stoop to Dickens, but Dickens could write well and he was a hell of a storyteller. You go back to Dickens. Are you going to go back to Martin Walser? I donÕt think so. HeÕs a fabulous writer, but you come away from the thing, you have to put gloves on itÕs so cold.
RT: Is your process different when you write shorter fiction, the stories in The Panic Hand for example?
ED: At least one of those stories became part of a novel.
JC: Yes. Marquez says there are long loves and short loves. I always think of the short story as short love.
ED: The Moose, the Moose... what?
JC: The Moose Church. "The Moose Church" turned into the beginning of Outside the Dog Museum. It's like a sprint versus a marathon. I like to write short stories, but I'm not very good at it.
ED: That's not true.
JC: I do it more to have fun, because I'm usually writing a novel. I studied with Peter Taylor at the University of Virginia. Peter was horrified by what I was doing. If you know his stuff, it's very conservative and Southern: Miss Daisy on the porch sort of thing. I was doing the same thing in my short stories that I was doing in my novels, but it was tighter. To this day when I'm writing a novel I'll say fuck that, put it down, and write a short story. And then I go back refreshed to the novel, because I had an affair.
RT: Here in America, you've worked with many different publishers and imprints, which means that your books are often shelved in different places. For example, Sleeping in Flames (Vintage) will be in the literature section, while The Wooden Sea and White Apples (Tor), will be placed in the science fiction section. While your writing gains strength from its very inability to be classified, does this compartmentalization of modern American publishing and bookselling bother you?
JC: What's interesting in this context is that the last two books, published by a genre publisher (Tor), are getting all this literary play. Whereas when I was published with Viking and Doubleday, they were putting them on the fantasy shelf. So it's actually reversed. It's both Tor's marketing and people saying Okay, we'll drop our conceptions of what Carroll's doing and just read the book for what it is. Which is what I've been asking for all my life. When I was in college, I edited the literary magazine, and on the editorial page, everyone had their student number. Editor, 507671. Art Editor, 302240. That's what I've been asking for all along. Just read the fucking book. Don't put a spaceship on the cover; don't put fangs. In a sense, I just wish it was a white cover that said "White Apples" on it, because you know what-you'll probably be surprised that it's not what you think it is. But Tor has done the best job, overall, of doing that.
ED: And getting both audiences. Tor has worked really hard to market it in both directions, and get more readership.
JC: For example, White Apples has been covered in The Nation. The Nation, me? But I mean, big, a page, we love this book. Also Time Out, which is hip, and they don't usually cover science fiction and fantasy. Tor is being successful in dragging the literary crowd kicking and screaming to something which is going to surprise them if they just give it a chance.
ED: I'm always hoping that the bookstores will put them in both places. Jonathan should be in mainstream, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery...all over the place. The best bookstores will do that.
JC: But the best bookstores don't buy seven copies.
RT: When you read publicly in Europe, what kind of relationship do you have with audiences whose first language might not be English?
JC: Most of the time you don't read in Europe. It takes up too much time in the sense that you read, and then they read the translation-I mean it's like a four hour reading. I do it sometimes in Germany, and I've done it in France. But for example, when I go to Poland they just do question and answer for an hour and a half. They pelt you with questions. I think they would rather do that than a reading because it's more intimate. They can answer the question that's been bothering them rather than hear a section of a book they've already read.
RT: Your work has been translated into many different languages...
JC: The translations can go either way. I was talking to a woman today, a Japanese woman, who said my translations into Japanese are perfect, because she reads me in both. Whereas in German, I've heard that some are good and some are sloppy. Here's a funny translation story. In The Land of Laughs, there's a dog named Petals, a bull terrier. And I thought that was funny, because bull terriers look like pigs, so I named it something the opposite, which was Petals. In German, the translator said it doesn't work because the word for petals in German is "blätter?" and it's not funny. So I said, why don't you call him Mushroom, because in German mushroom is "pilz." In the translation, however, they made a mistake, and his name is "pelz," which means "fur." So they say, "Come here, Fur..." What are you going to do? When I saw it, I just started to laugh. What's the point? And that's in a language that I understand, so you can imagine what it's like in Serbo-Croatian! I had another funny experience recently. When I was in Poland, we were having dinner with a whole bunch of people, and they made a mistake of giving me a Polish copy of White Apples. The first chapter is called "Chocolate-Covered God," but in Polish they translated it into something like "Red and Green Painting." Something completely off--"Purple Porpoise." I said, what do you mean "Purple Porpoise"? And the translator is sitting over there, and he starts to blanche. And he says, well, in Polish the word for chocolate is this and the word for god is that and you can't put them together, so you have to-and I said, let's continue our dinner, let's drop the subject, I don't want to know. Leave it alone. Don't tell, don't ask.
RT: Speaking of Petals, why do dogs figure so prominently in your works, particularly as figures of pathos? They seem to be bridge characters, conduits for fabulism...
JC: ...the letters from there to here. People always ask, what's this dog thing? And I always say, dogs are like minor angels. They love you purely. They forgive you purely. They're happy to see you. You can wake a dog up at three in the morning and say, hey let's play ball, and they'll say OKAY! My wife won't do that. My son won't do that. My friends won't do that. Three o'clock in the morning-let's go get pizza! OKAY! We overlook these extraordinary qualities even though we wish they would manifest themselves in people. I always have bull terriers because they're funny and they're ugly. That's what I love about them. They look like little pigs walking around. They kind of sober you up and straighten you out when you're blue or you're angry. You look at this little pal sitting under your feet saying, Hey! Let's go out! And you say, Okay, let's go out. They remind you of reality. All I've done is ratcheted that up a little, so you have magical dogs. I like the idea that we're constantly surrounded by things that are angelic and supernatural-but we put them in this convenient, sort of degraded place because that's easier for us.
RT: Biologists have been looking at dogs, at those qualities as evolutionary traits. The wolves that happened to come closest to the campfire got hooked in-
JC: Right. It reminds me of James Michener's book The Source-there's a wonderful section about the first dog ever to be friendly with man-or that scene in Dances With Wolves where the wolf circles him for days, then takes the food out of his hands. I think there is a wonderful symbiosis between dogs and men, unless you're a monster and mistreat them. You serve each other's needs. I know my dog is a good friend of mine.
RT: One last question. If you could interview yourself, what sort of questions would you ask? In other words, what do people never ask that you think should be addressed in regards to your work?
JC: The only question that nobody ever asks is: What breaks your heart? I think that should be asked of all "artists." What breaks your heart. My answer to that would be something that happened to me recently. I was walking down the street in Vienna, and I saw this incredibly beautiful woman wearing a beige raincoat, and there was this huge dog with muddy paws that jumped up on her, and she was just laughing. And it absolutely broke my heart, because typically you would see her screaming and how dare you and get that animal off me. But she was so cool, and it was so funny and so human, and it was so perfect-that breaks my heart. When you see those moments you realize the potential of both life and your own life. It can be perfect in an imperfect way. Her coat was ruined and the dog was a pain in the ass, but for that moment, it was perfect, and it's not Pamela Anderson walking down the street-it's THIS woman who is much more human in the most fallible of situations taking it absolutely the right way. If that ever happens to me in whatever form I hope I can react with a laugh instead of a howl. So, what breaks your heart?