An Interview with Lauren Cook, Author of Sex Goblin

A boy makes a suit out of fur for the first day of high school. An adult softball player is considered “lesbian royalty.” A woman is surgically attached to her dog after a car accident, and attempts to hire a sex-worker in spite of this. At the center of it all is the sex goblin—a feral, somewhat-fictitious creation Cook works with, an amalgamation (and indictment) of shame and abuse.

To read Cook is to see the world with all its strange, surreal components, some of which come up in our conversation below. Sex Goblin is now available from Nightboat Books. 

—Dante Silva

Dante Silva: You have a strange, somewhat fetishistic practice of attention. How do you cultivate that practice? 

Lauren Cook: Do I? I don’t know if I do cultivate it. Honestly I think I just have a lot of anxiety in any given situation where I fixate on intaking all possible useful information in case I need it again one day, as well as the burden of a photographic memory. This practice of attention isn’t always necessarily about giving grace to whatever I’m witnessing, as much as it is a mechanism of self-protection or self-absorption. So writing is just a way to transmute this neurosis I quite resent into something I resent less.

Dante Silva: Sex Goblin has been described “as if hauled up squirming from the bowels of the Internet,” a “lustrous alternative to the doom scroll.” The Internet does appear here, as does an Internet-induced apathy—one that seems to both seduce and repulse the narrator(s). How do you work with, and against, the Internet? 

Lauren Cook: I work with it by being addicted to it. And I work against it by being addicted to it.

Dante Silva: To turn your own question back to you, who (or what) is your nemesis? 

Lauren Cook: America.

Dante Silva: The narrator(s) here have a preoccupation with boredom. It’s as if they would rather have any stimulation (positive or negative) than be “a bird rotting in its nest.” I’m interested in boredom as an affect—the absence of pleasure, or even precarity—and when it might become productive for a narrative. What work does boredom do in Sex Goblin

Lauren Cook: I was bored so I wrote it. Haha, just kidding. In some way I have a persistent dynamic with boredom. And the ways that has shaped my life, the dance around it, is very important to me. And there’s something very special and connecting to me about these characters or these narratives where someone will do anything not to be bored, including putting yourself in danger or accepting terms of treatment that don’t line up with your values, or investigating something benign to its fullest. Boredom for me is oftentimes a feeling of being misunderstood by your surroundings, misunderstood by limitations that don’t feel aligned with you.

Dante Silva: Would you consider yourself a superstitious person?

Lauren Cook: No.