Mike Palecek interviewed by Jason Miller
“I just look around and see people mowing their lawns on the same day we start to bomb Iraq and it drives me wild.”
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed three of Mike Palecek’s novels, I felt particularly fortunate that he agreed to engage in a cyber-interview with me. His irreverent satirization of the myriad of ills plaguing the United States is unparalleled amongst current authors of sociopolitical fiction. Palecek may hyperbolize, but his fertile imagination has afforded US Americans a priceless opportunity to stop and examine what we are becoming as a nation. And he has done so in a fashion that is both absorbing and entertaining.
In some ways Palecek’s offerings are analogous with Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here. Though in Lewis’s case, he was prognosticating. Palecek is documenting what has already transpired.
Without further adieu, I give you the interview with Mike Palecek:
1. Readers will note with interest that you went from being a seminarian to being incarcerated in federal prison. How would you explain this ostensibly glaring contradiction?
"Well, first off, I would say being a seminarian isn’t actually so great and being a federal prisoner isn’t actually so bad.
And going from one to the other is perhaps a natural progression, that is, if you are paying attention. If not, then, the progression is to parish priest and bishop, I suppose.
That’s all very cocky and vague, sorry.
Well, I went first on a long drive in my dad’s ’59 Chevrolet and my dog, and a cowboy hat I bought in Fort Collins, after graduating from college, suppose it was everybody’s big journey to find themselves on a truth-seeking adventure. I ended up sitting in a monastery in Oregon. I suppose I just drove past and went up and started asking question. They said I couldn’t keep my dog, so I went home, back to Nebraska. I later parked the car on the curb and walked up to the rectory at our church and turned myself in, to the church, said I wanted to go to seminary. I mean, I remember being feverishly trying to find out what to do with my life, maybe it was for years, months, I don’t remember. And maybe I came to the point that this is where it all lead. I do remember the thought crossing my mind that I thought the priesthood was going “all the way”. My mother was very Catholic, going to Mass every day. I think my dad just went along. I’m sure part of it was that I knew I would be making my parents happy.
Okay, then I went to seminary up in Saint Paul, again with dad’s car, dog stayed at home, cowboy hat, too.
And, well, Fr. Dan Berrigan(a) came to speak at Macalaster, a college in the same neighborhood as St. Thomas. I went over there, met him, he came over to speak at St. Thomas, and the things he said about the church, the United States, the gospel, all lit a fire inside of me. I’m sure I also fell for what I perceived as the glory of being a religious outlaw.
I went to Washington, D.C. over Holy Week break, the Berrigans were there, lots of relatively famous people that I didn’t know were famous at the time. I saw Fr. Carl Kabat(b) pour blood on the White House of Jimmy Carter, started reading, asking questions, finally left seminary, went to prison, went crazy, went home.
Anyway, I surely would not have had to leave the seminary to do these things. I don’t think I would have anyway, so it was not really a progression, but for me personally I see it as coming from learning, studying, maybe grace, who knows, to go from the seminary to prison."
2. Given your obvious disgust with many aspects of the fascist nation in which we live, how did you reconcile representing the Democratic Party in your bid for US Congress in 2000?