Interview Roundup Part One: Atwood, Abani, Bernheimer, Yoon, Lavender-Smith.

Posted by @ 7:50 am on March 8th, 2011

“So a lot of the things in my books are going to be your problems. They’re not my problems because I will be dead. So maybe I’m writing my books for you. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?” – Margaret Atwood, in The National

“It’s also important to say that I don’t write to find answers to anything—that’s just not the way I am, in my fictions and in my life. Questions don’t necessarily mean answers. It is more about seeing. Some kind of glimpse that helps me think about, say, why in peacetime American fighter planes dropped bombs on a Pacific island that was used by fishermen. Who those fishermen were, where they were from, who loved them, who they loved. Or why a man seems to grow more sad with his marriage and his own achievements in life as this island, his home, flourishes around him. These kinds of questions are endless, of course, and I think a part of me could have written about Solla forever. But I can now see the larger canvas of that place and the dark places aren’t so dark anymore.” – Paul Yoon, in The Rumpus

“I truly believe that writing is a continuum—so the different genres and forms are simply stops along the same continuum. Different ideas that need to be expressed sometimes require different forms for the ideas to float better. I don’t write essays as often as I should.” – Chris Abani, at Utne Reader

“I think, as Nabokov did, that ‘all great novels are great fairy tales,’ and then some. If you show me a book – a novel, a story collection, a collection of poems, a series of one-act plays, a screenplay – in any style from mainstream to experimental – I will show you the fairy tales in it.  I can find not only the influence of fairy tales, but how fairy tales have given the narrative shape.” – Kate Bernheimer, in Room 220

“First, it’s hard for me to say that I ‘expect’ a reader to do anything. (Although the book does posit an imaginary reader, a construction which seems to issue from my neuroses.) But I believe there are a number of things a reader might do with entries such as those: she might be compelled to project a narrative from the fragment; she might be compelled to gather these fragments so to project an intellectual persona for their author; or she might be compelled to mine these fragments for clues, for something like the shadows of a narrative that isn’t explicitly presented by the book, a narrative whose protagonist is named Evan Lavender-Smith. Or she might perform some combination of these three operations. Or she might slam the book closed. In any case, part of my intention in constructing a book out of a seemingly haphazard collection of notes was that these notes, by virtue of their accumulation and juxtaposition and patternation, would end up working overtime (not unlike what we might expect of the bits and pieces of a conceptual art). The tenor of that extra work would, ideally, be unnameable, too complex to pin down; just as the tenor of great allegorical writing constantly eludes the grasp of full understanding and interpretation.” – Evan Lavender-Smith, in The Faster Times