Thursday, October 28, 2010

Matthew Salesses Q & A

What inspired this story, Our Island of Epidemics? I guess I'm curious about its setting and theme.

I'd wanted to write a number of linked short shorts for a while, and at the time, I was interested in the kind of magical realism of the epidemics. I was working on a novel and was growing tired of the length, and I wrote the first drafts of these stories one a day in the afternoons. I think that lurking somewhere in my subconscious was a Korean movie I'd seen about a year earlier about an epidemic of memory loss. I was also interested in writing something in collective first-person, and I think from these things, and from the idea of a community versus the other, came the island.

You maintain a first person plural point of view for the majority of the story. A single narrator reveals himself about halfway through book, in a very short story called "On Telling This Story," and returns again at the end of the story. Why not maintain the group voice entirely?

The stories' larger arc is about communality and communal denial. The islanders are caught up in the spell of the epidemics, caught up in being a part of something bigger than themselves. But they ignore the reality of these illnesses. Then one man becomes immune, and different, and by the end, they split up and are forced to make choices—which is about individualism. The arc is mirrored in the POV. The narrator keeps saying we, we, we, but once he is able to realize that the epidemics are not all great, and he starts to write about them, he becomes aware of his individual place in the world and in the world of story.

The illustrations by Luca Di Pierro made me visualize the story as cartoon. That seemed natural to me, esp with some of your descriptions (like the epidemic of unstoppably growing hearts, when everyone's chest swelled them into the shapes of peanuts and then pears). How did Luca come to draw these pictures for your story? What was the collaboration like?

I think PANK asked Luca to do the pictures--I had peskily requested more white space between stories. I'm so glad they asked him, though. I always wanted the stories to be illustrated. The original plan was to have a friend in Chile do illustrations, but then she was in Chile. Luca is amazing; the people he draws are so full of longing. His sketches were perfect for the book.

You have another book, The Last Repatriate, coming out soon from Flatmancrooked. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I took an archive class while at Emerson and ended up researching this Korean War POW who, at the end of the war, refused to go back to America. He was one of several POWs who did this. After a short while, he asked to return (or perhaps escaped) to the US, and was treated as a hero--he received three months off and backpay, and he got married and had a honeymoon. Then, at the end of the period given to convince the other non-repatriated POWs to return, the Army arrested him. The book is based loosely on the research, which was so interesting I got a short story and a screenplay out of it as well.

Can you name some of your literary cousins and explain how you're cousins?

Literary cousins? I tend to write a lot of different types of stories. But I'm working on a novel right now, and I will say that I have used as guides Lawrence Durrell, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, Christine Schutt, and others in my revisions.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dream Lineup: November 7

Cousins returns on November 7th. A power-pop mix of poetry and fiction:

Darren Angle is a poet teaching at Brown University and writing a book.

Jim Behrle lives in Brooklyn. His latest chapbook, Succubus Blues, was released in late 2009 by Editions Louis Wain.

Drew Johnson was raised in Mississippi, lives in Carlisle, Mass. with his wife, four cats, and many books. His stories have appeared in Harper's, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, Swink, and StoryQuarterly.

Matthew Salesses is the author of Our Island of Epidemics (just out from PANK) and The Last Repatriate (forthcoming from Flatmancrooked), as well as a nonfiction chapbook, We Will Take What We Can Get (Publishing Genius). He writes a column for The Good Men Project.

We start around 6:30 PM at Abe's Bar on Wickenden Street in Providence, Rhode Island.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fantastic Lineup: October 17th

October 17 Cousins Reading is almost here. It's going to be fantastic.

Matt Bell is the author of How They Were Found, forthcoming from Keyhole Press in October 2010, as well as three chapbooks, Wolf Parts (Keyhole Press), The Collectors (Caketrain Press), and How the Broken Lead the BlindConjunctions, Hayden's Ferry Review, Willow Springs, Unsaid, and American Short Fiction, and has been selected for inclusion in anthologies such as Best American Mystery Stories 2010 and Best American Fantasy 2. His book reviews and critical essays have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, American Book Review, and The Quarterly Conversation. He is also the editor of The Collagist and of Dzanc's Best of the Web anthology series.

John Cotter’s first novel Under the Small Lights appeared in 2010 from Miami University Press. Previously, his short fiction and poetry had appeared in Volt, The Lifted Brow, Lost, and (forthcoming) New Genre, among other spots.
(Willows Wept Press). His fiction has appeared in Volt, The Lifted Brow, Lost, and (forthcoming) New Genre, among other spots. A founding editor at the review site Open Letters Monthly, John’s published critical work on contemporary novelists, poets, and translators. He graduated Emerson’s Creative Writing program on a Performing Arts scholarship and Harvard’s Extension School with a master’s degree in English & American lit.

Adam Golaski is the author of Color Plates (Rose Metal Press) and Worse Than Myself (Raw Dog Screaming Press). He is a founder of Flim Forum, a press publishing books of contemporary experimental poetry, and is the editor of New Genre, a literary journal for new and experimental horror and science fiction. His poetry, fiction (horror and otherwise), and non-fiction has appeared in journals such as: word for/word, Supernatural Tales, McSweeney's, Sleepingfish, Conjunctions, and All Hallows.

Carol Novack
is the former recipient of a writer’s award from the Australian government, the author of a poetry chapbook, an erstwhile criminal defense and constitutional lawyer in NYC, and the publisher of Mad Hatters’ Review. Hugh Fox has called her new collection Giraffes in Hiding (Spuyten Duyvil): “THE most seductive, original, impacting work I have seen for years. A fascinating combination of Kerouacian street-talk plus a trip through the museum of Modern Art in Chicago, plus a nod-off to Kosty's furthest out experimentalism." Works may or will be found in numerous journals, including Action Yes, American Letters & Commentary, Caketrain, Diagram, Drunken Boat, Exquisite Corpse, Fiction International, Journal of Experimental Literature, LIT, and Notre Dame Review, and in many anthologies, including “The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets" and "The &Now Awards: The Best Innovative Writing."

Show starts at 6:30 or so. Abe's Bar can be found on Wickenden Street in Providence.