An Interview with Peter Kispert, by Meredith Talusan
I remember talking to a couple of new high school friends over lunch, my first month in America, about how a couple of other kids in my typing class were really impressed I was in honors chemistry as a sophomore; my precociousness was the only cachet I possessed back when I didn’t know it wasn’t something to flaunt. That was when this guy I’d only exchanged a few sentences with, thin with stringy blond hair covering part of one eye, who had never before struck me as mean or a bully, came over from the next table and said, “I sit next to you in that class. No one ever talks to you.” I couldn’t object, and starting the next day, those new friends found other people to sit with.
Getting caught in a lie is terrifying and shameful, yet so many of us do it anyway because lying is also exhilarating. It lets you dream up a self that doesn’t exist, one that you hope might in the future. That incident and others where I’ve been caught lying have stuck with me to this day, yet its implications are so cringeworthy that I’ve avoid thinking, let alone writing about them. Leave it to Peter Kispert to spend an entire story collection, I Know You Know Who I Am, getting to the heart of the human desire to lie, especially for queer people who out of necessity almost always need to withhold truth. Reading the book, I spent too many moments on the verge of running from the room out of sympathetic embarrassment, yet consistently returning to find myself gaining a keener understanding and even rooting for Kispert’s characters. Maybe it’s because at heart, we are all underdogs in some ways, and who can blame us for wanting to present ourselves as just a little bit better than we are?
Peter and I spent a few weeks corresponding about his book, which was a pleasant break from the harsh and painfully objective truth of our current pandemic.