Tag archive: The Incredible Shrinking Man
About 6 months ago, on a night (dear readers) very much like this,
Look, I don’t usually conduct telephone interviews in my parents’ “Good Room”, OK? It was very late, and I think I was worried about shouting at an 85-year-old in California (who might, after all, have been a bit deaf) and the effect that might have had on my sleeping toddler daughter and…I’m sure there was probably some other stuff too, but, anyway, there I was. Phone. Mahogany table. Sweaty head.
The reason for the call was to (hopefully) hoover up a few choice quotes for an SFX piece I was writing on The (Incredible) Shrinking Man. The reason for the sweaty head was a combination of fan-boy jitters, and an unsureness as to how Matheson would react to questions about the (absolutely unavoidable) sexual/gender subtexts of the novel.
The phone rang. A frail and barely audible voice answered. I blurted out my spiel. Who I was, what I was doing, how it had all been arranged.
The kind of silence that feels hideously like one of those “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about” silences. Then:
“Can you hold on for a few minutes?”
I held on. For several minutes. Richard Matheson was speaking to another (unknown) man. Speaking to this other (unknown) man about the security of his property. About how there were gaps in this security. Gaps that were allowing things in.
Unknown Man: “…this here is an open area. It used to…uh…have barbed wire but it broke on the other side. So…I was wondering if you wanted that filled in?”
Matheson: “Will coyotes still get in?”
Unknown Man: “Well…if coyotes want to get in, they’ll get in.”
And on and on it went. I was both thrown and thrilled. Matheson was sounding just like Robert Neville. Or Scott Carey. The doomed “heroes” of his deeply paranoid (and deeply wonderful) pair of genre classics – I Am Legend (1954) and The Shrinking Man (1956). Novels absolutely dripping in angst about invasion, loss of integrity, loss of self. “I bet he’ll love my question about The Shrinking Man, male diminishment, nascent feminism and the undermining of patriarchal structures!”, I all-but-chuckled to myself.
Several minutes later still, after much unsuccessful (and desperate) fishing for answers I knew must be there, Richard Matheson signed off with the following:
“Don’t emphasise any kind of subconscious desire on my part to make social commentary.”
I assured him I wouldn’t. And I didn’t – in the piece at least. But I may have now.
Will coyotes still get in?