A Gary Lutz interview is always an event, an event horizon, really, a boundary, too, beyond which a reader, like me, cannot resist its almost gravitational pull.
As expected, the interview (at Wag’s Revue) is filled with meticulously crafted tidbits, epigrammatic pronouncements like the following: “Fiction terrorizes us with the inner voice that won’t shut up, that won’t put an end to alarming us with the otherness of its formulations, the frights of its unrelaxing mindfulness.”
Answering a question about his approach to teaching fiction, Lutz, after reflecting on how the students coming to him have likely been “sufficiently harangued about rising action, character development, conflict, setting, and the like, or whatever else supposedly goes into a supposed story,” offers this variation of his approach to crafting fiction:
I can’t forget that fiction is words, that a story is a serving of palpated verbal material with feelings surging through it, and not just some caboodle of data about fabricated people and their antics. If a reader is asked again and again to travel the distance between a capital letter and a period, every sentence ought to have been routed through the writer’s nervous system and acquired charged particles of language along the way. A sentence ought to be offering a vista of the infinite. What you get more often than not, though, is souvenirs of somebody else’s experience and not the experience itself.
And his characteristic self-deprecating humor is in abundance, reflecting the tone of much of his fiction, fiction peopled with odd assortments of doldrummming oddballs who disgorge all sorts of out of sorts reports:
And I have the disadvantage of apparently looking like a lot of other people, because I am often accosted by strangers who take for granted I am someone they know, and they insist on resuming conversations broken off long ago and throw fits when I can’t supply the precise lines of flattery or remorse they have been waiting all this long while to hear. A friend of mine once sent me an article scissored from The National Enquirer or some other redoubtable gazette, and the scarehead was something like “Is Your Neighbor a Space Alien?” The article ran down the inventory of telltale behaviors, and I had the entire array.
How many interviewees approach an interview with this kind of attention, this kind of flair and care; how many offer more than thumb-twiddling twaddle, resulting in just another throw-up?
And while Lutz shares that, “Whatever I might know about writing I learned solely from Gordon Lish. I am forever his student and forever in his debt”, I still can’t help thinking that it is the fiction of G.L., the student, that has surpassed the fiction of G.L., the teacher.
Read the rest of the interview, HERE.
John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.