Back to The Beach: A Lost Interview with Alex Garland

New from World Hum:

In 1999, I was working in the literature section at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, when I came across an intriguing title. The novel was called The Beach, and it was about backpackers in Thailand. It immediately sucked me in with its ripping narrative about young, aimless travelers looking for secret places that no one else knew about, and finding more than they’d been looking for.

When I finished the book, I did some browsing and found that the author, Alex Garland, had a new book out called The Tesseract, and that he would soon be coming to Powell’s for a reading. Meanwhile, The Beach was being made into a movie in Thailand starring Titanic heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio. [I also came across a story about a young backpacker named Rolf Potts trying to infiltrate the movie set. Potts later told me about an exciting new literary travel website called World Hum.]

After Garland’s reading, I sat with him in the bar of Heathman Hotel and set my microcassette recorder on the table between us. We talked for an hour or two. As a beginning writer, I had little idea how to interview anyone, but Garland was funny, thoughtful, sincere and humble about his work. We were about the same age. He seemed much older.

I didn’t know what to do with the interview, so it went in a box. I held on to the tape through five moves (including a year in Thailand) and two decades. In those same years, Garland shifted from books to movies, writing screenplays for films like 28 Days Later, Dredd and Never Let Me Go. Recently he transitioned again, this time to directing (and writing) films like Ex Machina and Annihilation.

The interview has always felt like a kind of turning point to me. Recently, I dusted it off and listened to it for the first time since that night in Portland.

Read the interview here.