Q: What do you think most people like about your writing?
A: I think people connect with the struggle for honesty.
The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction” No. 167:
Lorrie Moore: One has to imagine, one has to create (exaggerate, lie, fabricate from whole cloth and patch together from remnants), or the thing will not come alive as art. Of course, what one is interested in writing about often comes from what one has remarked in one’s immediate world or what one has experienced oneself or perhaps what one’s friends have experienced. But one takes these observations, feelings, memories, anecdotes—whatever—and goes on an imaginative journey with them. What one hopes to do in that journey is to imagine deeply and well and thereby somehow both gather and mine the best stuff of the world.
Beecher’s No. 1: “Your Mother and Henry Rollins,” Fiction by James Yeh:
Henry Rollins once painted himself demon red, glaring directly into the camera’s eye as he snarled ‘Cause I’m a LIAR!
No one paints themselves red in Yeh’s contribution. Not at all about Hank R., only somewhat about a mother, the narrative leans hard on a direct second person, with protagonist “James” reflecting upon his relationship with the addressee and her once-cool Mom: “you” mostly dated other people, her once-cool Mom once dated Hank R., once slipped the teenage James a beer, once even flirted in an unbecoming fashion, though this latter event may be a matter of misinterpretation, as teenage selves have a habit of viewing life experience as an orbiting object.
Conflict, such as there is, exists not between James and “you”, not between James and her mother, but between James and the page, with the struggle to honestly locate and give label to his feelings:
— …I remember getting the impression she was hitting on me…
— I remember feeling nervous that you and your mother might not like the food…
–…I felt satisfaction and disgust at hearing her compliments for what good taste I had…
–I wasn’t sure what your actual intentions were and I have to admit I was a little annoyed, then disappointed, with what those intentions turned out to be.
Boyz N The Hood – Ice Cube:
At age 14, Laurence Fishburne lied about his age to land an iconic role as “Mr. Clean” in Apocalypse Now. As part of The Main Ingredient, Cuba Gooding, Jr’s father charted a hit single with “Everybody Plays the Fool.” For Eazy-E’s first solo record, O’Shea Jackson wrote half of the tracks, including “Boyz-n-the-Hood,” which John Singleton later appropriated as the title for his debut film.
Either they don’t know, don’t show, or they just don’t care what’s going on in the hood.
When musician turns actor, the skepticism: he’s just playing a version of himself.
Beecher’s No. 1: “The Montana (a series),” Fiction by Rozalia Jovanovic:
An artists’ residency? The room of a deceased composer, old wood furniture, old lamps, etudes for piano, communal meals, gossip involving Thornton Wilder.
A refurbished group home? Residents isolated in cabins, beach walks, nature hikes, riding in cars with boys, some nervous talk of drugs.
This is the real me, I think. But if I have spent more of my life thinking about what I will say before I say it, I will have to spend even more of my life not thinking of what I will say before I say it before I can say, “This the real me.”
Terra Incognita – Juliette Lewis
Kathleen Hanna studied photography at Evergreen College. Karen O. studied film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. At age 14, Juliette Lewis had herself declared an emancipated minor, going on to star in Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers.
The video for “Terra Incognita”: before flashing the Joan Jett strut and Carla Bozulich claws, before the guy from At The Drive-In flips off the camera, Juliette drawls through a highly-stylized interrogation:
You ever get that feeling where you just want to go… so far outside yourself, into the unknown, you know, just explore…the terra incognita, try to find home?
When actor turns musician, the skepticism: she’s just playing the role of rock star.
Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore:
Throughout the dozen collected stories, conflict arises from the demands of settling, with stymied, word-savvy women enduring their relationships with dense, simple men.
“People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk” stands out from the other eleven, is also perhaps Moore’s most widely-read story. There is quibbling – between wife and husband, between wracked parents in the Pediatric Oncology ward, between practical nurses and dense, simple doctors – but everyone ultimately exists together on one side, disease on the other.
The baby’s tumor is malignant, but indifferently so.
Conflict, such as there is, exists within the first person narration, the mother, an established author, engaged in a struggle for honesty, torn by the ethics of mining her infant’s pain as the best stuff of the world.
What is the story? Who put this here?
Self-dismissive, joking in the way that means to have it both ways, the same trick D. Eggers would later foreground in a debut frequently shelved in Fiction. Moore warns the reader they ought to be skeptical, would perhaps be wise not to confuse this particular story with proper art. Canonical Babbling: baby talk.
Are you taking notes? asks the husband.
No. I can’t. Not this! I write fiction. This isn’t fiction, says the wife.
Self-deprecating, having it both ways, a solution presents: in regards to the internal conflict, the exploitation is justifiable if self-referential, if framed as shameless commerce.
There are the notes.
Now where is the money?
Beecher’s No. 1: “Understanding The Fish,” Poetry by Alexis Orgera
Everything I say will reappear as song. This is the pentimenti of experience…
Nathan Huffstutter’s work has recently appeared in The Collagist and Emprise Review.