New Interview with Lance Olsen

An excerpt from the interview:

John Madera: Would you talk more about this “webbing” that connects everything with everything, about reality as a text?

Lance Olsen: Maybe our real job as writers, I sometimes want to say, perhaps even as human beings (with the accent on the plural noun), is to continuously learn to pay attention to the world we move through. Yet the world—which is to say how we’re wired—plots against us. Our default mode of being often wants to be the habitual, which is to say the unexamined, which is to say our default mode of being-there wants to be not-being-there.

What’s astonishing and invigorating for me about what I consider difficult art—a sentence, say, in Ben Marcus’s Age of Wire and String or Gary Lutz’s Stories in the Worst Way; the architectonics of David Lynch’s Lost Highway; the complexity of any two seconds of a text-film by Young-Hai Chang or corner of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights—is that it seeks to return us through challenge to attention, which is to say contemplation.

Another way of putting this is to move from the aesthetic to the existential and think about what your answer might be to Annie Dillard’s rattling riddle: “Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”

In other words—and this eases us toward a tentative answer to your second question about reality’s textuality—paying attention is a continuous condition of learning (and unlearning) how to read. The world is nothing if not a text composed of a multitude of texts (just as each of us is nothing if not a text composed of a multitude of texts) we try to make sense of, narrate, and, as Derrida reminds us, there is nothing outside the text.

But here’s the deep-structure dilemma: humans are by nature story generators, pattern recognition machines, designed to tell what the world has done to them. Give us an incident, no matter how enigmatic, indeterminate, or tenuous its causes, and we will narrate in order to generate the hopeful, desperate impression of coherence. We are built to strong-arm links, invent causal chains that don’t exist. Give us a bedlam of stars and we’ll birth Sagittarius. This instinct is what Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to as the narrative fallacy—that common intellectual blunder of forcing chaos into cosmos in an attempt to account for what eventuates around us and to us and through us.

Find the rest HERE.

New Fiction in Conjunctions:60, In Absentia!

conj60bOne of my fictions, “Suspension as a Unit of Experience; or, What She Remembered of the Vanishing Lines,” has just been published in Conjunctions:60, In Absentia.

Happy to have some of my fiction alongside work by Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Coover, Brian Evenson, Robert Olen Butler, Miranda Mellis, Joanna Ruocco, Stephen O’Connor, J. W. McCormack, Gabriel Blackwell, Matt Bell, Benjamin Hale, Kim Chinquee, Julia Elliott, Carole Maso, Charles Bernstein, Robert Walser, and others.

Thanks, Bradford Morrow and everyone at Conjunctions!

My Fiction Published in The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing!

12220_now51_4c6a838933d573fd1da19bd9c83deffeOne of my fictions, “Spectral Confessions and Other Digressions,” has been published in The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, edited by Davis Schneiderman (&NOW Books).

Happy to be in such fine company: David Shields, Craig Dworkin, Alexandra Chasin, Amelia Gray, Kathleen Rooney, Laird Hunt, Michael Leong, Matt Bell, Bhanu Kapil, Alissa Nutting, Brian Evenson, Andrew Borgstrom, Kim Hyesoon, Antoine Volodine, Johannes Göransson, Kate Bernheimer, Jesse Ball, J. A. Tyler, Amber Sparks, Joyelle McSweeney, and many more.

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Full Interview with William H. Gass Now Available!

Check out the entirety of my career-spanning, 25,000 word-long, interview with William H. Gass at Rain Taxi: Review of Books!

 

My Interview with William H. Gass

The excerpted version of “Sentenced to Depth,” my career-spanning interview with William H. Gass, is available now in the latest print issue of Rain Taxi! Haven’t seen it, yet, but I’m psyched it’s out there.

New Fiction Forthcoming!

conj60a-1Great news! One of my fictions, “Suspension as a Unit of Experience; or, What She Remembered of the Vanishing Lines,” will appear in Conjunctions:60, In Absentia, alongside work by Matt Bell, Robert Walser, J. W. McCormack, Kim Chinquee, Gabriel Blackwell, Carole Maso, Can Xue, Robert Coover, Stephen O’Connor, Joanna Ruocco, Samuel R. Delany, Benjamin Hale, Ben Marcus, Elizabeth Hand, and many others.

Thanks, Bradford Morrow and everyone at Conjunctions!

R.I.P., Jef Lee Johnson

lJef Lee Johnson died on Monday, January 28, 2103 in Roxborough Memorial Hospital of complications of pneumonia and diabetes. He was 54.

Jef was an incredible musician. I always enjoyed our conversations, which would cover music, art, politics, and sometimes dark and sad matters. I’ve been listening to his music non-stop since I heard the news of his passing. I still can’t believe he’s dead.

“Jungle” was one of Jef’s signature songs. In concert, Jef would sometimes stretch the song out to last half an hour or more. Like all of his performances, they were overwhelming expressions, where the dynamic of tension-and-release became something you could touch, or, rather, that could crush you.

Here’s my tribute to him: