After Matteson Perry broke up with his “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” he realized that he’d never really not been in a serious relationship since high school, and decided it was time to get casual. Available recounts his adventures, and over the course of our conversation he explained what he learned about himself during his year of no-strings-attached dating, including how the validation he got from being able to land so many first dates was like the thrill he got as a stand-up performer—as well as how he ended up meeting his wife (and not dating her for several months), and what she thought when he told her he was going to write a book about how he was playing the field just before they started seeing each other. We also talked about how this very clearly isn’t a book about how to pick up women and how, as he tells his stories, he’s generally careful to make himself the butt of any jokes, treating the women on the other side of the anecdotes with empathy:
“Through storytelling, I know what works with a crowd for me, and angry and mean does not work for me. There’s some comics, they can work angry and mean, it’s hilarious; I’m not one of those comics. I need to be self-effacing and empathetic and thoughtful about things and then find humor there.
So I tried to take that point of view, and the other thing that helped is my agent is a woman, and so she would let me know when I was being a douchebag in the book, and we would rework it. Not that you would change a story, but think about it from the other person’s point of view—you know, okay, I can see how that would be taken the wrong way by a woman—this specific woman, or any woman—and let’s think about how this felt to her as well.”
Listen to Life Stories #86: Matteson Perry (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)
photo: Stephanie Nelson
The stories in John Mauk’s Field Notes for the Earthbound are situated into an uncanny niche between realism and fantasy—a world where magic is folded into the ebb and flow of everyday life… until it bursts through to the surface. But not everything that’s weird in John Mauk’s corner of Ohio is supernatural, and those parts of the stories have an unsettling power as well. In this essay, Mauk discusses another short story writer whose voice compels him with each reading…
If I get waylaid or traffic jammed, I want something to study, something dense and alluring. So I carry a book nearly everywhere I go. For several months, that book has been All Things, All at Once, a panoramic collection of new and selected stories by Lee K. Abbott. All Things has been shoved in my backpack and crammed in various bags. It has slithered between couch cushions and ridden along like a family dog in the backseat of my Honda. My past ride-alongs include Close Range (Annie Proulx), Seven Nights (Jorges Luis Borges), One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Cloud Street (Tim Winton), The Postmodern Explained (Jean Lyotard), and Negotiations (Gilles Deleuze), books that reshape the neurological and emotional landscape, that are worthy of a million reads. Abbott’s collection is that worthy. It’s full of stories that go hard and characters that yearn like crazy.
When it comes to fiction, I want to be tossed around, lulled, and then awakened by a bucket of something, anything. I want the most lush experience possible. I want a narrator to undo my thinking, to pull my teeth out. I want to go all gummy into the next sentence or page. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want hijinks. I’m not a fan of narrative trickery. What I’m after is a narrator that sizzles or shimmers in some weird way—a voice that walks up to the line of propriety, looks both ways, and then steps over it.
And here’s the thing about Abbott’s narrators: they feel urgent—as though they’ve been lost in the desert for months, as if they’ve just wandered into town with nothing but clarity. They sound wild-eyed and prophetic, rambling in some beautiful desert tongue. They have so much stuff to report, and it’s all crucial. Every speck, recollection, and fussy qualifier matters. Consider this passage from “Revolutionaries,” in which the narrator recalls how an old friend went politically rogue:
“Toward the end—before the campus cops and four state policemen broke it up by dragging Jimmy off—he delivered a rambling singsongy declaration that mentioned Abe Maslow, Aldous Huxley, Carol Rogers, D.T. Suzuki—names that passed over me like clouds. They were the dead or the living, or the never-were. I wanted him to talk—if that’s all this was—about being afraid, about what dead William Wordsworth’s verses skills had to do with anything, and about what I was supposed to be doing in five or ten years. But he went on—“We’re discussing human worth here!”—his hair flyaway, his T-shirt too small and covered with buttons, his cheeks painted like an Apache’s, ignoring the hecklers who said he was queer, or chickenshit, or a commie.”
29 November 2014 | uncategorized |