Jesús Ángel García
is not as negative as the yes to no ratio in this Q&A might suggest. A writer, musician and filmmaker based in San Francisco, he is the author of the transmedia novel badbadbad
(New Pulp Press).
*The YES/No Interview allows authors to respond using only yes/no answers, with the opportunity to elaborate on one question.
FIB:Do you think violence solves some problems?
JAG: No. I think practicing non-violence is the only thing that distinguishes humans from savage animals. Not that there’s anything wrong with savage animals. But there is a lot wrong with savage humans.
FIB: Do you practice religious faith?
FIB: Would you ever vote for Herman Cain?
FIB: Do you have a favorite chick-flick that you would never want to admit?
FIB: Would you ever sell your soul?
FIB: Would you want to be the highest paid athlete in the world if it meant you would lose all ability to write fiction?
FIB: Do you think cats are smarter than dogs?
FIB: Is there hope for the human race?
FIB: Are leather jackets more important than breakfast?
FIB: Do you have a writing process that you follow each time you write?
FIB: Have you been writing for as long as you can remember?
FIB: Have you ever dyed your hair?
FIB: Do you often lose sleep in order to write?
FIB: Are you up to date with all your classic literature titles?
FIB: Would you cut off your left hand if it guaranteed any novel you wrote would be a New York Times Bestseller?
Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory
Review by Greg Dybec
Publisher: Penguin Books
210 pages, Paperback
Reading Ben Loory’s Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day
is like being thrust into the protagonist role of somebody else’s dream. You will move, feel, and breathe in a world that is certainly not your own, but one you will be more than happy to explore.
Loory’s debut collection of laconic tales follows its own obscure logic in creating imaginative scenes that play out like dreams but end with the testimony of factual documents. The stories themselves have been labeled everything from fables to flash fiction to post -modern fairy tales, and though each tale differs in structure and content, each one promises to leave readers with a sense of puzzlement that will wrap them like a blanket that is a bit too itchy to be called comfortable.
What may be most fascinating about Loory’s writing is his tenacity to present such imaginative stories with mastered simplicity. It would be easy for Loory to map out winding circuits of obscurity for readers to navigate through before arriving at the stories heart; but instead he presents us with the heart and remains there throughout. Each story's opening line is a testament to the certainty with which Loory writes. Here are a few:
- “A man comes home from work one day to discover his daughter had found God.”
- “The octopus is spooning sugar into his tea when there is a knock on the door.”
- “A Man finds a fish in his teapot.”
- “A man and a woman fall in love and are married, and are happy in every single way.”
Beneath the book’s masterfully designed cover, which sports a long tentacle caressing the title and a vintage looking UFO hovering in the background, readers will be met with octopi that roam cities, pestering hats that follow men, trees that wander the earth, and televisions that talk, as found in “The T.V.,” which appeared in The New Yorker
. Though the scenes are often fantastic and it is required that any disbelief be suspended, each story is written with clean, unpolluted prose, which thrives with a sense of practiced restraint and obligates readers to occupy any empty spaces with our own dark delusions. Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day
is a worthwhile journey into worlds filled with the type of curiosity that most would call magical; and if you read carefully enough, you may just spot Loory, lounging between the lines, quietly reminding us that behind all imagination there is rationality, and behind all rationality there is imagination.
More Ben Loory HERE
Purchase the book HERE
The deadline for Issue #3 has arrived. We thank you for all the wonderful submissions. Our Fashionable Fiction winner will be announced later this week. Issue #3 is slated for publication by the end of July.
Yes/No - Blake Butler
For the first installment of the Yes/No Interview Series we spoke with Blake Butler, author of There Is No Year
, Scorch Atlas
, and Ever
Just a reminder:
If you're not the familiar with the concept of the Yes/No series, it is pretty self-explanatory. An author, editor, or any individual that we find worth interviewing will be asked 15-20 Yes-No questions. The catch is that they can only respond with Yes or No, though they are allowed to elaborate on one and only one question. We encourage all you people out there to submit questions! See our original blog post for more details.
Enjoy the interview that is different from all other interviews.
1.) Would you rather be a famous rapper and not have the ability to write? NO
2.) Are you religious? In my own way.
3.) Do you text and drive? YES
4.) If you had a choice to get your right hand chopped off but then gain the ability to turn water into any drink of your choice, would you do it? NO
5.) Have you ever stolen anything worth more than $20? YES
6.) Do you eat breakfast every morning? NO
7.) Have you ever been caught masturbating? YES
8.) Would you consider yourself fashion forward? NO
9.) Did you ever see/hear your parents having sex? NO
10.) Would you say your childhood made you who you are today? YES
11.) Does it bother you that Samuel L. Jackson’s roles are beginning to all blend together into one giant role that he can’t seem to escape? NO
12.) Does porn ever distract you from writing? YES
13.) Have you ever been fired from a job? YES
14.) Do you sleep naked? YES
15.) Have you ever nicknamed your private parts? NO
16.) Do you have a specific writing method that you stick with day in and day out? YES
17.) Do you avoid running over already-dead road kill? YES
Everything you want to know about Blake Butler HERE
Writing with Laughter: An Interview with Heather Fowler
In my first interview
with Heather Fowler, we discussed her debut story collection, Suspended Heart
. We also spoke a lot about love, relationships, and how Heather meshes her real life experiences with magical realism and strong love-related metaphors. Today, you'll get to see Heather in a different light. As much as Heather provides strong and inventive commentary on the occult issue that is love, she is also a hilarious woman, with a strong sense of humor and a knack for utilizing it well.
Enjoy our conversation.
Greg Dybec: I find humor to be as much as an important part of your story collection as love is. In your opinion, is humor as powerful as love?
Heather Fowler: I think that humor is integral to a will to survive, actually. Humor tops love, at least the semi-perishable love of the romantic kind. I'm glad you see the humor in the stories. I love when I write that way, because if I'm going to make myself cry, I should at least get the pleasure of laughing too. Which stories did you find funny in the collection?
GD: I found real pithy and well-engineered humor in mostly all of the stories. There is a moment in "Psychic Pigeon" where you write "As he people-watched, he listened predominantly for women thinkers. Curiously, they thought as much about sex as the men, sizing up their fellow shoppers and making lewd internal comments, but were much quicker to attribute a love-related trait to a man or replace whatever provocative thought had occurred to them almost instantly with a mundane concern like what would be for lunch.” That is funny. You are funny. You go on to show the internal thoughts of a woman, in which she is looking at a man and thinks about how she would want to wake up to him making coffee, and then immediately her main focus turns to that of coffee. I find that sort of humor to be so well constructed and thought-out, but at the same time you are making a strong and perhaps personal statement.
HF: Oh, yes. I think about sex a lot.
GD: Does coffee triumph sex more often than not?
HF: I think that with women, sex and love are bound pairs more often. They want the animal appeal, but they also want the comforts of relationships, home, or friendships. Also, there's a sense that men are expected to think about purely carnal activities with no strings attached, but perhaps for women, many thoughts of sex lead to strings attached, or responsibilities, or other details.
GD: That's really interesting. So in regard to humor, how is it a part of your everyday life and not just present in your writing? I hear you have an obsession with peacocks, is that true? Now bringing up humor and your peacock obsession in the same question makes it seem like I'm mocking your peacock obsession, but so be it.
HF: Oh, peacocks are grand and glorious creatures. Aside from my deep and consuming love for Flannery O'Connor, who raised peacocks, they've always had such interesting stories and mythologies connected to them. I mock myself when I say I have a peacock fetish though--mainly because it is almost like a branding that attaches itself to me, so I go along. I get peacock presents in the mail from friends. What I love about peacocks is what a strange blend of reality they are, which I do find funny. One of the most beautiful creatures to view, photographed often, has a voice that sounds like screaming. Maybe I identify a bit. We want to be beautiful like these birds, but our voices come out how they're made. I love that oddness of this bird. I think the humor in my work goes along with that. I like the beautiful made ugly or the ugly made beautiful. I like to be playful with that. Because beauty is more than visual perception, beauty for me is complexity sometimes too.
GD: Perhaps you are the new 'King of the Birds'. I also think that's a brilliant take on humor and its place in writing and life in general.
HF: I love that you've slanted my gender here. I feel rather queered by it, in a good way.
GD: Flannery O'Connor wrote an essay with that title, in which she discussed peacocks.
HF: Thanks for that. I've been cracking myself up all morning, by the way, with dialogue of the appealing grotesque variety, so in a way, I'm blowing kisses to Flannery this morning. Nobody did that better than she did.
GD: I actually just remembered and looked up a quote from that essay, as it is extremely similar to what you said about their voices. O'Connor writes, "...seven of eight screams in succession as if this message were the one on earth which needed most to be heard."
HF: What a great Flannery passage to pull. I think I'm going to start saying, "Seven or eight screams in succession," every time I want to say something important, vitally important.
GD: This is a good spot to lead us into the topic of your next story collection. Can you tell us a little about it?
HF: Here is an example passage from one of the stories in progress:
This is when Ronnie interjected, like he wanted to add, “I never pleased Angie. Maybe if your boyfriends had never pleased you, you'd love them more. You would cut off their heads. There's something about complete rejection that turns women on.” He blinked while he awaited their response. Twice.
I slapped his cheek and covered his eyes before whispering, “You're a guest here, baby; don't forget.”
“I'm sorry,” he said. “I’m crabby. I kind of miss my body.”
“Sure,” I agreed. “You were better at running when full-bodied.”
Ariel touched his head. “Can I kick it?” she asked, tracing his temples and nose with her red acrylic nail, tossing back her ridiculous sweep of platinum blonde curls. His face just like an infant's, one who was about to scream. “Just once?" she went on. "I always wanted to kick a head, especially a man's head…. I don't have to do it twice.”
GD: I love that excerpt. A lot. I sense some more magical realism.
HF: Yes, I'm working on the next magical realism collection. I'm having a lot of fun with titling the pieces. But this is one of my great joys. Titles.
GD: Titles are so important. Do you want to talk at all about what the next collection is going to feature? Does the collection have a title yet? HF:
Oh, yes. Right now, the collection is slated to be called PEOPLE WITH HOLES, after the title story. I think if I drop a few titles, you'll get an idea what kind of pieces the collection will house. A short, partial listing: "Ex-Boyfriend's Head," about a girl who cuts off her boyfriend's head because he thinks she's too happy; "Spontaneous Orgasm Guy, Dick Woods," about a guy who causes women to, you know, in public; "Anatomy of a Song," about a girl who takes up dart-throwing balloon popping when she starts walking on the ceiling; "Three Views You Might Have Had, Or Quack," about a woman whose lover turns into a duck; and so on. It's a lot of fun! A few of the stories are already available online. "Anatomy of a Song," for example. The duck piece too. GD: That sounds like a lot of fun. Could it maybe be described as a more savage approach that still deals with some of the same questions related to love, life, and living that Suspended Heart touches upon? HF: I think love is a question that can't be exhausted.GD: I think I speak for all of your fans when I say I can't wait until the release of the collection. Thank you so much for the talk, it was truly a pleasure. Anyone who has yet to read your work is missing out on some magical writing.HF: Thanks for having me, Greg!IF you haven't already:-Check out Suspended Heart-Check out Heather's website
-Follow Heather on Twitter-Check out Aqueous Books
-Make note that Heather loves peacocks and her last name happens to be Fowl
Also be sure to keep up with all things Fix it Broken via Facebook
Writing with a Heartbeat: An Interview with Heather Fowler
Heather Fowler received her M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University. She has taught composition, literature, and writing-related courses at UCSD, California State University at Stanislaus, and Modesto Junior College. Her work has been published online and in print in the US, England, Australia, and India, and appeared in such venues as Night Train, storyglossia, Surreal South, JMWW, Prick of the Spindle, Short Story America and others, as well as having been nominated for both the storySouth Million Writers Award and Sundress Publications Best of the Net. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, was recently featured at MiPOesias, The Nervous Breakdown, poeticdiversity, and The Medulla Review, and has been selected for a joint first place in the 2007 Faringdon Online Poetry Competition.
Her debut story collection SUSPENDED HEART
was released by Aqueous Books
in December of 2010. A portion of her author's proceeds will be donated to a local battered women's charity in San Diego, CA. I was able to talk with Heather at great length, in which we discussed her story collection, the balance and correlation between love and humor, her obsession with peacocks, and more. We decided that this interview would be best presented in two separate installments, the first with a focus on love and the second with a focus on humor. This is love.
Greg Dybec: Your debut story collection, Suspended Heart, is described as “an explosion of love’s metaphors.” I do believe that is an appropriate abstract of the collection as a whole, as it depicts love, the loss of love, and all the trials in between through several imaginative circumstances, such as losing one’s hearts, birthing a saint, and having multiple eyes. However, such short descriptions are always made to fit within the restraints of a single sentence, and I’m interested in hearing how you would personally describe the collection.
Heather Fowler: I would describe the collection as a love letter, or perhaps a series of them, tied with a string that vaguely resembles the binding of a glossy paperback book. Perhaps as an unveiling, a series of meditations that say: Here is what matters to me. Are we alike? How are we different? Who are you? Join the conversation.
There is the irony that I, personally, am nowhere in these stories, yet I am everywhere and every word. In fiction writing, even for stories of the magical variety, it seems the writer moves or creates between a constant duality of both studious fabrication and veracity. To me, Suspended Heart and all of my collections in progress are like groupings of daydreams with a smattering of questions and dreams--light, dark, whatever is real and present in my thinking, doing, life. I have been in a dark space lately that I only now break free from, thus I'd admit my more recent work may have a heavier flavor. Suspended Heart is the lighter of the two books of magical realism stories I've already written; this is why it is quite excellent it came out first.
GD: In the title story, a woman loses her heart in a shopping mall and does not seem to notice the missing artery, yet she feels the relieving effects of not having to deal with the pain involved with love and relationships. Your writing has been compared to that of Franz Kafka, and I personally feel this particular story was the most Kafkaesque in the collection; the way such an anamoly was presented in such a placid and sure manner. If my work were to ever be compared Kafka’s writing it would probably be the best day of my life. I guess what I am asking is how does one respond to that comparison and do you agree with it?
HF: I love Kafka. My heart smiled when I read that. I have been compared to a number of writers, but since Kafka is one of my favorites, this particular praise was very meaningful and delightful. I've also heard comparisons between my work and assorted Irish authors, recently Edna O'Brien. In truth, I love all comparisons of my work to other authors--provided the comparisons are specific in terms of what someone thinks I do with my prose. Writers should impact other writers, just as the best writers are also always avid readers.
Relatedly, as part of my writing process, I often read or reread the authors whose work I love before I go about composing new work--to energize the pulse of the work. When I teach classes, I call this "riffing." "Read, for example, some Rick Moody--and riff," I might tell students. I love cross-pollination of styles.
What is beautiful about writers influencing each other's work is that it can be so overt or so subtle--because our lives are not just the books we read but the influences we absorb, coupled with our lives as experienced and the media that incessantly competes for our attention. So, "Kafka, sure. Yes. Oh, really? Thank you so much!" I might say, I did say, but I think my writing is really a cocktail of art, letters, and experience. If somebody said, for example, "Wow, that thing you just wrote, it's very much like Virginia Woolf and Matisse and Kathy Acker--seasoned with a little Nabokov, Van Gogh, and Tori Amos," I'd probably fall over in my chair and die from sheer delight. I'd likely say, "Really? You saw that in there, too?"
But nobody better ever say that to me. That person would never get rid of me. I would love them for life.
GD: In a few words, what is your definition of love?
HF: Well, I don't believe that love means never having to say you're sorry, as some people feel. Love apologizes all the time for the hurt created while being unloving. I suppose my definition of "love," then, is doing for others (and treating others well) because when you think of how you care about them you know you could not do otherwise without harming yourself. I love often and love broadly. I love romantically and platonically. Aside for late bloomers: Platonic love is easier. Love is a poultice and a pain in the former. As an aside, I advocate for the use of love as a verb whenever possible; the noun form is more passive.
GD: Do you have a favorite story in the collection? HF:
My favorite story changes all the time, and it is usually whatever story I've just written. I'm such a child that way. From this collection, my favorite story is always whatever story a reader says is their favorite in any conversation about the book. I guess I'm a mirror that way. I get excited when others get excited, want to know what they're excited about, and excite easily upon details others may choose to expound upon.
That said, since stories are like frames I enter and exit, the actual current writing pieces feel much more immediate at any given time, if I'm not duly engaged in talking about work already out--so it takes the reminders from others, their feelings about pieces placed or published, to cause recall in terms of the work I've already creatively moved beyond. And yet, when I read this work at readings, it feels very immediate. All of it. Like my stories were images I suddenly remember very clearly and can emote through.GD: Are any of the instances of magical realism present in your book at all related to relationships you have had? Maybe some of the ideas or the writing itself were brought to life while in relationships. Maybe I am completely off. Let’s get to the question: How did the instances of magical realism and strong love related metaphors come about?
Let me address the first and very forthright question--as I love a bit of discomfort, inappropriate revelation, and honesty. Yes. Certainly, stories in the book are related to relationships I've had. But the tricky thing about my thinking in terms of what does or does not become a part of a piece is that, often, readers have no clue as to which piece of the work is relational or to what. A few people have picked the lock, usually those who know me well. For example, I have one friend who might read a new piece and say: "That stuck door! You were so talking about ______, right?" And I would reply, "Exactly! And the bird was ____, all up in his preposterous self again, whinging about ________--did you get that?" But these sorts of friends you should woo with lots of homemade cookies and gifts, sing songs in their honor, and never let them leave you. They are few and far between.
If I address the issue of how the magical realism comes about in my stories, I think this is a blend of impulses: an eagerness to see the fantastic; an over-sensitized perception of things, people, and events; and a love, since childhood, of the premise of magic itself, magic as power, magic as solution, magic as an amplification of a symbolic truth. There is often a philosophical idea behind each story I write with magic, one that is the narrative bed on which I lay its characters--beside a question being examined. "Suspended Heart," for example, poses the question of whether it is better to be passionate or calm in love, which can be otherwise stated as: What wins are worth what risks and when and why? GD: On all sales of Suspended Heart, partial proceeds are being donated to the San Diego Family Justice Center. That is a great thing. I assume your writing process involves more than just coming up with stories that are interesting and publishable? How concerned are you with connecting with your readers and exhibiting something profound, in which they can relate to?HF:
I love connecting this book to a charity. This charity helps battered women and children, which explains the book's dedication as well, which is: "For all the beautiful women, inside and out, who have struggled for life in the name of love. My best, most healing magic to you always." But commerce or desire for commerce doesn't drive my work. In fact, if I have one thought about sales, it's usually: Wish I could make more and give more to this place that saves lives and spirits daily.
Regarding audience, honestly, I think every literary writer, which is to say "those who write for the art more than the money," thinks of their audience only when they are asked to think about audience by the business side of the industry, perhaps after they gain some acclaim and have something to live up to, when they watch their path or trajectory and seek to compete with those around them for prestigious awards or bigger contracts. Personally, I've been seriously writing for more than a decade without these pressures, stockpiling work, following whatever creative urge I have. There's freedom in that.
The writing, the creation, not its sale, is my focus. But for me, writing is a must do rather than can do activity; I write for the love of writing but also out of my need to express. Yes, of course I want to connect with readers, but when I write, I think only about connecting to and dealing with whatever emotional engagements the piece I'm writing is trying to convey. Profound? Relatable? Vibrator? Apple? Dilemma? These are definitely not things I set as a goal for any given piece, but if they are the outcome, I'm mightily pleased. (See question above about how easily influenced I am by readers' opinions. If they like it, I like it more, as I said. But I might just like them, the people, and how they looked momentarily attired in the ideas or whimsy of my piece.) GD: What does the future look like for Heather Fowler?HF:
The future looks like the faces of my children. It looks like more stories. It also looks like more poems. It looks like working hard and fast and dark until I die, hoping to evoke beauty and pain and heart in the glimmering; but I'm Irish. We're made that way. I hope it looks like something cheery to wake up to on those rare and precious days when the world's oyster seems readily available on one's palm for one's tongue. Sometimes it looks delicious, like a plum. Maybe like the one stolen from the refrigerator that everybody knows about, which I ate, by the way. I eat that damn plum all the time. Though I am nice enough to share. Nevermind. It's mine. Okay, sorry I got distracted by selfishness for a moment. I'll get over it.GD: Now, to bring back that classic question we love asking all of the great writers and artists we interview. What does the term ‘Fix it Broken’ mean to you?HF:
That terms resonates for me on so many levels--like the Velveteen Rabbit, almost. If it is used until it is broken and fixed, it is loved. If it is broken and anyone new to its tarnished or stained reality chooses to fix it, it is loved. If you are the sort of person who likes things and people just a little bit damaged because they are more beautiful that way, more real, more accessible, I'd guess you'd know what 'Fix it Broken' means to me. It means the eccentric who doesn't expect or want perfection from reality--just hope, a little hard work, and a willingness to see the glory in the beauty of something exceptional that can be labeled exceptional not because it is perfect but because it is flawed in such a charming way.
Check out Heather's Website
Check out Aqueous BooksBe sure to visit the Fix it Broken Blog on Thursday, May 26th, for part two of this interview with Heather Fowler, where she shows off her quirky side, love of peacocks, and reveals a little bit about her forthcoming story collection.
On Tuesday, May 24th, part one of a two-part interview with author and peacock obsessor, Heather Fowler, will be live on the Fix it Broken blog.
This two-part interview will be separated by the two distinctions that make Heather's writing so fun and informed: Love and Humor.
Check out Heather's website
for news, writing, and praise for her recent short story collection, Suspended Heart (Aqueous Books).
For the first installment of the Yes/No Interview Series we will be "speaking" with Blake Butler, author of There Is No Year, Scorch Atlas, and Ever. Learn more about Blake Butler on his author site at Harper Collins
Check out the New York Times review of There Is No Year
Blake is clearly a man of many words, but we plan to change that.Send us any yes/no questions that you would like Blake to answer. Send all questions and names of authors you would like to see interviewed in the future to our Twitter, Facebook, or by emailing FixitBroken@yahoo.com
The Yes/No Interview Series
When it comes to interviews, writers can be a bunch of ostentatious conversationalists that seem to talk there way out of any question. It seems that more often than not, an interview for a writer is an opportunity to showcase their wit, intelligence, humor, and whatever other mesmerizing qualities they chose to display. I say this because it’s true. I’ve done it and we’ve all seen it.
Now don’t get me wrong, interviews with writers are some of the most interesting documented accounts out there. However, wouldn’t it be nice, for once, to learn some cold hard facts about your favorite writers and publishers without the fancy fluff? We have a solution.
The Yes/ No Interview Series will be a list of penetrating, well-thought out, and let’s face it, probably perverse questions that the interviewee MUST
answer with either YES
. No exceptions
Think of it as another new interview series in order get to know some of your favorite writers and editors, or think of it as something more like a heat seeking missile or form of predation. Perhaps a 9-foot Indian Python that constricts and kills large mammals, eating them head first. Or maybe just an interview series, but one that gets straight to the point and doesn’t allow anywhere to hide.
The other catch is that there is no set schedule of interviewee’s. If we want you, we will find you. If the people want you, we will find you. Which brings me to my last point. Send us names of people you’d like to see interviewed and questions that you would like to see asked via Facebook and Twitter. We are a community people, let’s act like it.
Got it? Good.
Gene Wisniewski is an artist. Gene Wisniewski is a great artist. Gene Wisniewski will be providing the cover art and accompanying artwork for Issue #2 of FIX IT BROKEN.
Gene takes his work seriously, and he is clearly well educated and undoubtedly passionate about what he does. He fears the dismal possibility of spending all day in an office, and for that he paints and writes with desirous vigor, and we are lucky to have him on board.
Check out the interview below, as well as Gene's website
Greg Dybec: Let's get to know you the quick and easy way. Who are you? Where are you? Why art? Why writing? Gene Wisniewski:
Ooh, just like speed-dating! My name is Gene Wisniewski (pronounced just like it looks), and I am a visual artist and writer residing in Weehawken, New Jersey.
My artwork falls into the category of Surrealism in the strictest sense, in that the images are based on things that come to me in my dreams or spontaneous sketches I do without thinking about them. A lot of my writing is about art and artists; it covers a wide range of styles, from comedic satire to essays to poetry. I just gathered a number of pieces into an anthology called “The Art Collection”, which I am presently trying to peddle to agents and publishers, in case anyone out there is an agent or publisher.
The exact origins of my fascination with art are shrouded in the foggy depths of the distant past. Betty Ann Rotundo, one of the kids I hung around with in high school, won a scholarship to Cooper Union, and I think I thought that was pretty cool. I was also encouraged by my third art professor, Leon Golub, although not by my first two, who matter less than Leon Golub. In any case, I was a theater major in college and didn’t start studying art seriously until I was I my thirties.
I began writing because I had two sentences in my head and decided they belonged together. Not long after I had an eleven-thousand-word story, and while the original two sentences didn’t wind up RIGHT next to each other, they were only 176 words apart in the final draft. Some friends told me the story was funny, and so, mad with power, I decided to send it to some literary magazines. It was published in Exquisite Corpse
from Louisiana State University and the rest is whatever it turns out to be. GD: How would you describe the current state of the art community? Is there a commonality between that community and the literary world?GW:
There’s no money around in the art world so the dealers are literally holding up collectors at knifepoint in their galleries. No one is safe. The writers are looking a little more well-heeled than the artists.
I think in both circles, once you immerse yourself, you find they are really very small, and everyone knows everyone with only a degree or two of separation. There is cross-pollination between artists from different disciplines, but that mostly seems to happen at parties. My impression of art openings and literary readings though is that they’re pretty homogenous overall. I would say readings are ever so slightly more cliquish than openings, if such a thing is possible.
Of course, once you get into the upper echelons of celebrity, the various disciplines cross paths much more frequently. Oprah knows everybody. GD: Are your art and writing processes similar? GW:
I see both as solving a series of problems. And, while a piece of art can be created by a group of people, I don’t generally indulge in that sort of thing, so another characteristic the two activities share is that they require me to be alone, or in a situation where I can wrap myself mentally in a little cocoon. On a bus where people are being considerate of their fellow passengers and speaking quietly on their cell phones, for instance.
Writing for me anyway is pretty much always the same, whether it’s something funny or something serious. The only thing different is the emotional state I’m in while I’m writing it. It’s all about trying to create a sequence of events that’s logical but unexpected (although leading a reader to a foregone conclusion can sometimes work. I just tried that myself.)
There’s the constant search for just the right word, making sure your sentences are well constructed, and trying to keep your worst excesses in check. You have to keep reviewing that you haven’t put in anything that contradicts anything else you’ve written, which is like juggling more and more plates, and then juggling more and more plates on a unicycle as the thing gets longer. So it’s a lot of thinking ahead but also a lot of re-reading.
With art, sometimes it’s just a matter of having a piece of paper in front of me so I can draw something that pops into my head. The next step with these particular pieces is to edit them to see which, if any, are worthwhile. Since I don’t alter these images at all before I make paintings out of them, it becomes the same thought process as painting your kitchen ceiling. Being careful to stay in the lines. Mixing the right color. The one part of this body of work that’s similar to writing is coming up with a title.
Once you get into painting of any type, the most obvious difference is the enormous amount of preparation involved. To begin writing, you turn on your computer. To begin painting, you spend an hour laying out paints and doing various and sundry adjustments, that is, if you have the light you need and sometimes even the weather (Michelangelo made the mistake once of trying to work on the Sistine Chapel when it was too damp out). If you are painting something from a model, whether it be a vase of flowers or your own face in a mirror, you have to get out of your head, like when you’re writing, and relate to that model. You’re also more in the present because you can’t think about what’s next until you put something on the canvas.
One project I’m working on now is an art book. I found a Jehovah’s Witnesses book from the 1970’s in the basement of my apartment building, and I’m transforming each page into a piece of art, either by incorporating what’s on the page or obliterating it. This is the first time I’ve ever done art where I had no idea whatsoever might happen, and really learned the value of a happy accident. GD: What influences you and gets the creative juices flowing? GW:
The terrifying and all-consuming thought that I will spend the rest of my life working in an office. GD: If you, as a whole, could be described and seen as one particular image, what would it be? GW: I see myself as a four-winged bird in a barbed-wire cage. I not only sing, but I dance just as good as I walk.
GD: In the "Artist's statement" portion of your website you state, "Spontaneity is at the crux of my work," but you also explain your formal education and technical expertise as being essential to your trade. How important is it to channel and balance both of these aspects, and is it vital for them to coexist? Do you think this is often the case with many successful artists? GW:
I’d like to take this opportunity to invite readers to visit my website, http://www.genewisniewski.com
, to see more of my work.
Good art always balances freedom and discipline. I feel, on general principle, if you are going to make art you should be good at it. Fran Lebowitz makes this argument far more wittily than I could ever hope to in the film Martin Scorsese recently made about her.
In my case, I wouldn’t have the nerve to show somebody a painting I made out of one of my deranged little doodles without knowing that I was at least a reasonably accomplished draftsman. And I would never want my expression limited by my lack of technical ability.
Of course, genuine passion trumps technique in art any day. Vincent van Gogh wasn’t a great painter in the academic sense, but he did have a certain enthusiasm. However, if you’re not making art in a mental health facility or a shack in rural Appalachia, you really should learn your craft. Then you have the right to toss it out the window. GD: Tell us a story. Any story. GW:
A woman who looks like the “before” Susan Boyle comes to an all-night diner every evening. Always orders tea, sits at the same table next to the wall, plays “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” on the jukebox. When the song comes on, begins gently sobbing. The staff is used to her—“Weeper’s here. Must be 8:30”. This goes on for a year and a half, until the restaurant goes out of business, and is replaced by a high-end espresso bar... GD: What does the term "Fix it Broken" mean to you?GW:
I like that it can read three ways at least, and probably more:
Fix It WHILE YOU YOURSELF ARE Broken
Fix It ONLY IF IT IS Broken
Fix it WHEN THERE’S NOTHING REALLY WRONG WITH IT UNTIL YOU’VE MESSED WITH IT SO MUCH IT GETS Broken
I prefer the second over the others, since it most likely requires little action on my part. The third sounds far more time-consuming. The first would be my last choice, and honestly sounds more than a little undesirable. Be sure to check out Gene's artwork in the forthcoming issue of FIX IT BROKEN (Publication date: April 10th).