Happy birthday, Robert Lopez!
And here are some quotes from a selection of his interviews:
“It is all a fiction, perhaps a supreme fiction, if we believe Wallace Stevens, as we always should. He wrote, ‘It is an illusion that we were ever alive.’ I think we become the sum of all that we have made up. It bleeds out of us every time we sit down to assemble and reassemble language. I always make it up as I go, in everything I do. It is all a fiction and all of it is true, except when it isn’t.”
“Anything that monkeys around with grammar is interesting to me. Of course, it also has to be musical. The acoustics have to be just right, so, it isn’t enough simply to break the language, it has to work in the way Hamlet instructed the players, ‘Speak the speech, I pray you, as I have pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.’ This is what I am always after on the page, and it doesn’t matter if the language is broken or not.”
“Either way, any writer worth a damn, and there aren’t many, has to listen to his/her own page. For me, it was a process. I had to read Paley, Hannah, Michaels, Lutz, Beckett, Gass, Markus, Markson, Stevens, Dixon, and many others. I had to steal what I could and forget what I needed to forget or ignore what I needed to ignore. I had to evolve and become myself. To me, being distinctive is the only real achievement.”
“I think cultivating uniqueness on the page has to do with syntax and diction, ultimately. I want to read sentences that surprise me in some way. I want to see a word I wasn’t expecting, a phrasing that feels off somehow, but is still musical. I want the goings on to be familiar yet weird, in an organic way. I’m not into anything that feels like it’s trying too hard to do something, and that includes any sort of willful cultivation of weirdness.”
“‘I think of writing, […] particularly when it comes to first person, as like an acting performance, where you improvise, try different things, assume roles that aren’t you. This is one of the great things about writing.'”
“I’ve always been drawn to the short form. I suppose there is more at stake in a story; it’s probably more of a high-wire act. Danger is intoxicating on the page. That said, cultivating danger in a novel is also a good idea. There has to be an urgency for me, regardless of the form.”
“I always feel like I’m repeating myself, because I am always repeating myself. To my way of thinking I don’t have much of an imagination. When I think of ‘imagination’ I think ‘ideas’ and I never have ideas. I would like to have an idea someday. I think it would be nice. Perhaps it’s a narrow way to look at imagination, but for me everything I’ve ever done has been borne out of language. I never think in terms of character and certainly never story, which is a lie. I do think of story, but only later on, when everything else seems in order. I try to find an interesting voice and I let that voice do what it will. From there comes character and story.”
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found 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, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.