...whose gem of a short, "Attics," is just up @ Wigleaf.
SG: The other day on your blog you, uh--expressed impatience with the idea of plot and character development. You wondered whether a novel could read "like a Rene Magritte painting looks and feels." I was interested in that for a few reasons. One reason is that you're pretty good at working character tensions, as the stellar title story of your Greying Ghost chapbook makes clear. Is there a question here? If there is, is it one that's answerable?
SJ: I'm usually just rambling on my blog, which is pretty much what I was doing when I made the Rene Magritte comment. I think the answer is yes and no. When I look at a painting by Magritte I feel the following things: confusion, delight, surprise, and excitement. That overall feeling is what I like in literature. I think a novel could feel like a string of Rene Magritte paintings, maybe. I'd like to read a novel that had that blurb on the back: "Feels like walking through a gallery of Magritte paintings." It makes me excited. As far as plot and character, I just don't care much about it, or at least I pretend not to. People get wrapped up in plot and character and talking about "narrative arcs" and it's just kind of stupid. When I'm writing I don't think about character development or how my plot is developing. Does anyone? I'm just trying to keep the energy in the language going. I'm stringing together sentences that surprise me and make me happy, for as long as I can.
SG: I'm probably too fond of drawing parallels between indie rock and indie lit, but here goes: in the recording industry, though major lables have tended to be middle-of-the-road, they've always kept an eye on the indepedents, which is to say that there's a kind of relationship. The majors often grab for the innovations that the independents have fostered. Geffen signs Nirvana--to use a skinny-white-guy example--and everybody makes money: Geffen, Nirvana, and Sub Pop too. Do you see anything of this sort on the horizon for independent lit?
SJ: Well, I think it can happen and it has happened. I really hope I'm not wrong with this, but I believe Zoe Trope's book Don't Kill The Freshman was originally published by Future Tense and because it became so popular, and the amount of "buzz," Harper picked it up and gave Zoe a six-figure deal (I think Zoe agreed to expand the book). That couldn't be more indie rock-star making it big. That's the equivalent of some indie band playing two shows and getting a huge record deal because 10,000 kids showed up. The problem is I'm not sure the audiences are the same. People who think they are reading indie-lit go to a local bookstore and pick up Don Dellilo or Jonathan Safran Foer and they think they are indie because of it. Also, the actual act of reading has become indie, and the bookstores are feeding them mainstream writers hyped as indie and cool and hip and. I wish it wasn't like that. It would be funny if Haper and Penguin and Random House started giving out six-figures deals to people like Blake Butler, Peter Markus, Chelsey Minnis, and about a dozen other I'd like to list. I think they all deserve it.
SG: Do you ever look in the mirror and think…?
SJ: I just looked in the mirror and thought "Wow, that's a lot of face." When I shave my face looks really wide. I kind of look like a turtle.