For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Mike Meginnis says, “Her stories transform and redefine themselves frequently without ever becoming a mess or a lark. They retain structures even as they mutate those structures. They puncture themselves and then joyfully inhabit their new, deflated shapes.” This feels accurate to me, because many stories of mine have non-traditional structures. One has a Russian doll-type structure, in which each vignette in encapsulated in the next. Another story has no characters or plot, and just tracks human behavior and materials as they change through time.
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
James and The Giant Peach audiobook read by Jeremy Irons (while driving): I had forgotten how hilarious and imaginative this book is, all the insects and bugs are amazing characters, and there are also those fantastic cloud men who are astounding and I had completely forgotten about them.
A thing I’ve watched is NBA Basketball Highlights: there are many creative YouTube montages, some very mainstream hiphop, some very artschool with japanese experimental music.
A book I suggest is James Purdy’s I Am Elijah Thrush. This is out of print, so hard to find, but a very rewarding ludacris read. In this book, Purdy writes like a more controlled, and wise, Jane Bowles.
Lastly, I recently saw Guys and Dolls (the 1955 motion picture), and it was very joyful and romantic and a good moodlifter for the winter months to come.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
I would eagerly read Stephen Malkmus’s biography, but only if he wrote it himself, and same goes for Ron Artest’s (his wikipedia page has a lot of novel parts to it) or a biography of Jane Bowles. Joy Williams’s intro to The Collected Works of Jane Bowles is a mini-biography and very curious and cool.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I have never been starving before. But I think I write best late at night during a span where I can’t decide if I should eat or sleep.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
I aim to surprise the reader. If the reader makes a weird face at the story but keeps reading eagerly, this is ideal. I’m interested in how many ways there are to surprise the reader. One way is to make a surprising thing happen in a story, but another is to make an impossible thing happen in a story and then try to write the story to support the impossible. Another way to surprise is to lull the reader into one sort of story, then mutate the story into a different story. This is the one I see so much potential for. Characters don’t have to change, the plot does not have to change, instead, the narrator, or the tone, or the speed, might change.
In undergrad, I was friends with two boys and we liked to lie in the grass or on the floor with our eyes closed and go on a “vision quest,” which was really just us telling stories to each other, but stories that we were in. One time I blindfolded them in my car, fed them white chocolate, then led them to this little peninsula on a tiny pond and they took off their blindfolds. This is an element of what I’d love to do with the reader. Have them stunned and pleased about where they ended up.
Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
I wrote a story “Butt Teen,” which I like, but I wouldn’t want my little cousins to read it, or people considering me for a job.