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ElizaFactorAfter reading Love Maps, Joe Weisberg says he finally understands women.

Yes. You, too, can understand women for only $15.

 

Does Joe’s wife agree about him understanding women? 

No, but that’s just Joe’s wife.

 

Why do people get married in the first place?

I don’t know. Why do we fall in love? Why do we bomb each other, or stab people we love/don’t love/could love in the heart? My son, who is considered nonverbal by the experts and tabulators of our world, still taught himself how to say: Why do we do?   

Jeremy Hawkins 3Reluctantly conducting this interview with Jeremy Hawkins is Waring Wax, one of the main characters in Hawkins’ new novel, The Last Days of Video. Wax is the rude, misanthropic, binge-drinking owner of Star Video, the embattled video store at the center of the novel. He is 45 years old with shaggy salt-and-pepper hair, grungy in dress and grooming, and today, as always, not in a very good mood.

Waring meets Jeremy at a bar. Jeremy is a foot taller than Waring, with a full red beard and an out-too-late-last-night pallor. They sit at the bar, side by side, and order beers. A long silence ensues. Finally Waring begins…

 

ShyaScanlon2014List ten things that scare you about being an author.

Being bad. Being stupid. Being unworthy. Being unread. Being misunderstood. Being irrelevant. Being out of my depth. Being overlooked. Being complacent. Being bad.

 

That’s nine.

One counts twice. One is two things.

 

Speaking of being bad, the early reviews of The Guild of Saint Cooper seem pretty mixed. Do you think they’re fair?

Of course.

 

You tend to be kind of long-winded in interviews but I’m not getting that here.

I usually become loquacious when I’m nervous because I try to cover up the fact that I don’t really know what I’m doing.

faceThis is kind of weird, isn’t it?

What? The whole interview with yourself thing? Nah, it’s butter.

 

I think it’s kind of weird. But I’ll give it a shot. Tell me, why the misspelling in the title of your book?

Misspelling? There’s a misspelling?

 

Yeah, Witchita Stories. Shouldn’t it be Wichita Stories?

Oh, yeah, I see what you’re saying. But no, it should just be plain old Witchita Stories.

Thirlwell, Adam (c) Peter Marlow (for L&C)So what you’re saying is: it’s never you?

Exactly.

 

As soon as you say I in a novel, it’s always someone else?

What I mean is: perhaps to the outside world this might seem strange, where I am interviewed by my double –

 

Well exactly –

But what I want to say is: how different is this to what happens every day when someone writes a novel? Or even: when someone reads a novel? Always you have this blurring of identities. Or not so much blurring as separation.

Cate Dicharry_Print Ready_Michael KreiserSo how does your mother feel about the language in the title of your book?

She thinks it’s fucking great.

 

I know her a little, I have a hard time believing that.

My mother may be mannerly but she’s an innovator. She has no trouble finding ways to boast without actually having to say the title of the book. When she tells family, friends, strangers at the grocery store that her daughter has this terrific novel out and they ask the title, she says, “I’ll send you the link.”

Alexis-Andre

At 11:11 on a Tuesday night in January, I called my own number and was slightly annoyed to find myself at home. I know it’s important to have these little discussions with yourself but, these days, I often find myself in a bad mood. (And vice-versa, of course.) The time before a book is published is a mild but constant irritation, like thinking you’ve left the stove on when you’re miles away from home. So, I struggled to be civil.[1]

- How are you? I asked.

- I’ve been better, I answered.

- Something on your mind?

- I can’t stop thinking about Harry Mathews and Italo Calvino.

Nguyen, Viet Thanh photo credit BeBe JacobsTesting, testing.

I think it’s on.

 

I love Vietnamese food. Just wanted to let you know.

I do too.

 

Arnold-Daniel1-400x300-2Wait, your new book, Snowblind, is a short story collection. Why’d you write one of those? Don’t you know people don’t read short stories?

Don’t panic. I can promise you Action! Adventure! Derring-do! The stories in Snowblind are mountaineering adventure tales in the vein of Jack London or Robert Louis Stevenson, but with modern characters and climbs. For reasons beyond me, stories with satisfying narrative arcs have become taboo in certain literary circles. I think stories should be gripping, and I’ve yet to meet the reader who genuinely feels otherwise.

RuizCamacho_color-2Antonio, congratulations on your recently published novel Barefoot Dogs!

Thank you! It’s not a novel, though. It’s a collection of short stories.

 

Oh. I was told your book tells the story of a single family in exile, so.

Yes, Barefoot Dogs revolves around the Arteagas, an affluent family from Mexico City who must flee the country after their patriarch is kidnapped. But their saga is told through short stories–each one from the perspective of a different member of the family, or some of the housekeepers who worked for them back in Mexico, as they face exile.

 

It’s not a novel then.

Technically, no.

 

That’s a bummer, man. We’ll keep this short, then. Haha.

Fine by me.

J_Rubin_Color_6x7Has it started yet?

Shhh, shut the fuck up.

I’m gonna do the asking around here if you—

 

Your novel is about an impressionist, Giovanni Bernini. Who does he impersonate?

Great question. As a child, he has no control, really, over whom he impersonates. Then as he gets older, he starts to rein it in. At first, I think, he’s drawn to people who seem especially alive, charismatic. As he gets older, he prizes self-sufficiency. His word is “unrequiring.” He’s so malleable that he envies people who aren’t. He eventually becomes this very cold character, this nightclub owner named Bernard, in order to save himself from feeling too much, probably.

saad 2You’ve never been to Iraq. You ain’t Iraqi. What the hell is your problem?

Escape from Baghdad is not a travelogue. It’s not a factual account of the war from the eyes of the victor. It is, as the name suggests, escapism, a fantasy, a depiction of the ‘other’.

 

Sticking up for the losers, eh?

Well it’s very easy to tell heroic stories about winners. Those are things people want to hear, but it’s boring. It doesn’t cover anything new, it becomes formulaic. At the same time, I think a straight up tragedy has little value to a reader, especially if you already know the story. I mean I know that Napoleon lost at Waterloo. I don’t really want to rehash that. If I’m rooting for Napoleon, I want a victory at the end. 

Elizabeth Evans by Steve ReitzYou struck the supposedly galvanizing “Wonder Woman Pose” for at least the requisite two minutes. You’re writing with your favorite fountain pen. Also, you’re making up the questions, here. What’s with the racing heart?

I’m so much more comfortable with writing fiction than writing about my fiction.

 

Maybe you’ll calm down a bit if you focus on how you came to write this story of addiction and female friendships and lovers and betrayal and the human negotiations that endlessly fascinate you.

I’d written before about intense female relationships. I knew I’d be driven to dive into the topic’s sublime pools and scary quicksand again, and, eventually, that particular obsession attached itself to the germ of a story that had haunted me for years.

claire fullerOur Endless Numbered Days – isn’t that the name of an Iron & Wine album?

Yes! Are you a fan too? Shall we skip the books and the writing and just talk about music? No? OK. It’s also the title of my debut novel. I wrote the book while listening to all of Sam Beam’s (also known as Iron & Wine) music on a loop and now when I put it on I’m ready to write. But it’s not just that I love his music, the title is also very appropriate to the story.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the biggest criticisms about your work is that it is gruelingly, at times overwhelmingly, dark. Why so sad?

When I first told people that Call Me Home was slated to be published, friends and acquaintances kept asking me, “Is it funny?”

“No,” I would say. “Not even a little bit. Not even for a second.”

This makes me laugh, but it’s true. I think I can be decently funny in person, on a good day, and I respect (and am fairly jealous of) anyone who can be funny on the page, but I’m not a humorous or light writer, often to a fault.