One of my favorite story collections of the last decade, maybe ever, is Gary Amdahl’s Visigoth, which was published five years ago by Milkweed Editions. Since the time I read the book I have had the good fortune to build a friendship with Amdahl and even have him blurb my new novel. But doing this interview has been one of the most rewarding events of my writing life. His unflinching honesty and approach to writing gives me solace, while also managing to frighten me about this path we’ve chosen. As it should be, I believe.
In honor of Visigoth’s fifth anniversary I’ll be giving away four copies of the book (they are used copies but in good shape). It’s a book I believe everyone should read. So, leave a comment on why you would like a copy and I’ll pick four people a week from today.
Now, for the goods:
RWB: It’s been five years since VISIGOTH was published, but when I read the stories the book feels timeless. And I know the stories are older than five years. When you look back on the stories in the collection what do you remember most about them? Do you remember the impetus for any of them? Are there any stories you look back on from that era that didn’t make the book that you still think about now? If I didn’t know the publication date I would have guessed mid-90’s, simply for the state of story publishing at the time, but in either decade it still would have held up as one of the best modern story collections, in my opinion. What has time done for you in relation to VISIGOTH?
GA: All stories are products of the time and place into which they are born–for good reasons, bad reasons, indifferent but inescapable reasons. They are also, more importantly in my view, the products of something like 100,000 years (probably twice that, but we have no evidence) of human consciousness. The mind that created “Visigoth” is absolutely the same “kind” of mind that painted an aurochs and the almost photographically realistic horses on the wall at Chauvet 40,000 years ago, or mined and prepared red ochre with a mortar and pestle in a cave in south Africa 100,000 years ago.
There is only one story. The usual dictum goes, “There are two kinds of stories,” or “There are seven basic types of story,” and so on, depending on the level of thought and the point of view and the purposes of the person expounding the dicta. I say there is only one. But because we are slightly different from each other, because we ourselves are constantly changing, and because the world is constantly changing, the story comes out differently each time it is born.