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Q and A

Jun 14, 2007; Papusa of the night Asks:

How come a nifty writer such as yourself has so few reviews on Amazon? I looked up Twin Study and there were only four reviews and they all seemed fake. Also, I think you should write a novel about Pirates.

Stacey answers:

I like pirates in the sartorial sense, the eye patches and breaches and all, but brutality on the high seas isn't my bag. It's more likely I'd write a novel about someone writing a novel about pirates than writing about pirates themselves, and once a person get started on one of those self-referential spirals you know you're in for a long ordeal. Nevertheless, I will take your suggestion to heart, Papusa.

Here's a thought: why don't you write an Amazon review yourself? Or how about any of you nice questioners out there taking a stab! Go! For! It! I don't think they're all fake but one does appear to be written by my mother (it's not; I know this because my mother has not read my book; do you know how happy this makes me? Seriously.). But it is written by my friend Carolyn. She's read the book. But she hadn't at the time she wrote the Amazon review.

Jun 13, 2007; Previous- Question Dan Asks:

Have you read Wendy Brenner's stories? You two seem to approach stories with the same tactics. And you're both funny.

Stacey answers:

Previous question Dan, I've never even heard of Wendy Brenner. But I just checked Amazon and they have great titles. I'll look her up, thanks.

Jun 10, 2007; Chris from Meat Space Asks:

Howdy Stacey! I too have just broken the seal on my copy of "Twin Study" the same day that I got my new reading glasses. It was just strange sitting out on my back terrace with my glasses at the end of my nose reading your book and being transported by your wonderful work. One thing that really has tickled me about your book (so far) is that you threw in Hair Sperm! I thought that place would be long forgotten, but now it shall live forever! I'm also using for the first time the autographed bookmark that Nancy Cartwright gave me when she visited the set of "24." She gives out bookmarks that have the whole Simpson clan sitting in the living room reading books under the words "Read, man." Okay, I guess I should ask a question now... okay... any "firsts" for you lately?

Stacey answers:

Yes, Hair Sperm! I have a snapshot of the sign in my china cupboard. Hair Sperm was a Tucson hair salon called "Hair & Perm" but the sign said "Hair &perm." It makes a brief appearance in the title story of Twin Study. Apparently, now, when you get your hair cut in the building that used to be Hair Sperm (it's become Brio), they say, "Oh yeah, this place used to be Hair Sperm before Artie bought it and changed the sign." Gone but not forgotten.

I did have first just today, when I picked up Mutey for the first time and carried him. Mutey is a feral cat that lives on my porch and is slowly becoming more tame. There are all sorts of beautiful firsts with Mutey: the first meow (I thought he was mute, hence the name), the first time he didn't cringe in abject terror when he saw me, the first time he rubbed up against my legs, the first time he ate from my hand, the first time he let me pet him. He better watch out because the next one is going to be the first time I shove him in a box and take him to the vet.

Jun 08, 2007; Liam from MySpace Asks:

Hey, Stacey! I hope you've been doing well. I cracked open "Twin Study/Story" last night and I'm already depressed about how good it is (sample thought of mine, "I'll never write that well. Mnuh." I had the same kind of thoughts reading Dybeck recently. So discouraging, even though I know it shouldn't be).
Anyway, I've got two questions for you. The first one is relevant, and second is almost completely irrelevant. Here we go!:
#1: Is there, or has there been, any author you find particularly painful or depressing to read because of how good they are? Like, it makes you ask yourself, "What am I doing trying to share a medium with this person?" And yes, I know, I know, I know that that thought is unfair and simplistic, and that great, daunting authors are also what inspire other writers, but I'm talking about the petty/human stuff right now. So, just to clarify: -If you have ever felt similarly, then answer me this: What writer(s) do you find so amazing, it makes you feel worse as a writer?
#2: What do you think about this Paris Hilton thing. It's probably beneath you to answer this question honestly, but I feel kind of elated about her being taken back to jail, sobbing, which then makes me feel guilty and ashamed of my overt Schadenfreude. Do you feel similary? Am I a bad, petty person?
Thanks for any insights.
-Liam

Stacey answers:

Liam my lad. I'm surprised, considering that you're my #1 virtual fan, that you just now cracked open Twin Study, but I understand that you're a busy young man and must spend your valuable time in important pursuits like making whoopee etc. As for your first question: There are a lot of authors that are just so good that I can't even get depressed about how good they are. They seem like they're from a different planet than I am--like Kafka, I.B. Singer, Flannery O'Connor, Borges. But there's something about Denis Johnson's writing that can make me feel like I've been punched in the stomach. I love it so much, it's so truthful and dark, it follows strange emotional currents into unexpected places, but I think the thing that gets me is that it's just so intensely lyrical. That's a talent, pure and simple; it can't be practiced or learned, you have it or you don't. Sometimes I have it but usually I don't, and even when I have it, it's a random event beyond my jurisdiction, which is dispiriting.

Second question: Like everyone else on earth, I think Paris Hilton should go to jail because she was driving drunk and I think drunk drivers are terrifying and kill people and so should go to jail. But I find it hard to expend too much emotional energy on her since there's nothing interesting about her personality. The celebrity who fascinates me is Tom Cruise. He's charismatic, powerful, isolated, and utterly deluded, in the manner of someone who sits beside you on the bus and makes you want to change seats. It's the delusion I like best. He thinks there are creatures from another planet clinging to each of our bodies and that only he has dislodged them. It's just so great.

Jun 06, 2007; Dan Asks:

Did you write stories similar to your published ones when you were at Brown? (Did you like Brown?) Is any of your first book from your thesis? Thanks for reading my questions!

Stacey answers:

Well Dan, I'll tell you, all the stories I wrote at Brown were crappy. I didn't start writing fiction until about a year before I went off to get an MFA so I needed a lot of practice. The last time I tried to read that early work I became mortified and had have a stiff drink and a valium and some heroin and a pack of cigarettes and chant my mantra. None of the stories I wrote for my MFA thesis were ever published anywhere, thank God.

But if you're a young writer, don't let my experience discourage you. I wasn't really good at anything when I was in my twenties and a lot of people are. Look at John Updike, publishing Rabbit, Run at 24, or Jonathan Safran Foer, who published Everything is illuminated when he was 24--or was it 23? And then there's Zadie Smith, who published White Teeth at 25. Let's not forget Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein at 19, and Mozart who a shitload of music before he died at 35, etc., though in my opinion there are more prodigies in music than in writing. Next chapter: late bloomers.

Jun 04, 2007; Official A Asks:

Stacey, can you explain what the deal is with the uncollected stories youhave links to on the other pages? Are those stories going to be in a book? If they aren't, why not?

Stacey answers:

Some of those stories are in various anthologies but I decided not to put them into my own collection because they didn't go with the other stories. Some are very, very short, and while I like very short stories it's hard to fit them into a collection unless you're a Donald Barthleme kind of writer. Also, a few of the uncollected stories didn't come out as well as I'd hoped. I might have put in one of them (The Minimalist) but I sort of forgot about it. Which isn't a good sign.

May 28, 2007; Just me, Wag. Asks:

Hi Stacey. Today on CNN.com I saw a story about a book store owner in Kansas City, Missouri who was trying to thin out his back stock by donating much of his surplus to libraries and thrift stores. Much to his surprise he was almost universally turned away. So he had a book-burning to protest what he sees as society's diminishing support for the printed word. He said that not reading a book is the same as burning it. How do you feel about this?

Stacey answers:

I feel really good about it. I'm hoping that most of them are the promotional copies of Twin Study that come up for sale on Amazon for $7.95 that I keep buying in fits of terrible rage.

May 22, 2007; Paul Hood Asks:

Your Question Dear Stacey, I wrote a story like this once, all in advice Q&A's. But that's not my question. My question is: what's the future of the book?

Stacey answers:

Paul! Hi! Do you mean, like, what is the future of the book in American culture? Will literature remain a vital art and all that? Here's my answer to that: I think the book will remain but become increasingly marginal to mainstream American culture. People love reading, and new times need new stories, but books have to compete with other, meretricious, light-emitting sources of entertainment that respond to our glances and clicks like a perfect mother while the book just lies there like a lump of coal.

Or did you mean to ask what is the future of my latest book, Twin Study? Twin Study will be overlooked for many years, but will eventually have a constellation named after it.

Or did you perhaps mean to ask what is the future of the novel, a kind of book? I think the novel is in trouble in America. My theory, since you asked, is that Americans experienced a sort of group trauma on September 11th that left us with a low-grade anxiety exacerbated by the absurdity of the war in Iraq. As a response, people have become obsessed by information, because if you have enough information (says the lizard-mind) how can you be surprised by something shocking like a terrorist attack? Therefore we as a society have become obsessed with news and information; the Times even seems to have stopped reviewing fiction, for the most part, and in an unscientific survey I keep overhearing people talking about how they only read non-fiction. The collective logic goes like this: non-fiction is serious, it has value, it's not ambiguous, it makes sense, information makes sense, unlike a terrorist attack or the war on Iraq, neither of which make sense. So, people have turned to information to shore up their sense that the world is a place that can be comprehended and controlled, and therefore are not reading as many novels (the internet facilitates this search for information).

Sure, we all want to escape too, but even our national escapist fantasies have the tinge of information on them, as the "news" reports about Paris Hilton's jail time shows. Granted, we all love it when a slutty robot heiress goes to jail, but that event was scrutinized with such passion that it occurs to me that this is another way not to think about the senselessness of the violence of the last six years. Fiction seems to be just what people don't want now. It's not true, it's made up, so how can it make us safe? And if it's any good, it probably has too much emotional resonance and intelligence to really function as an escape from the idiocy and threat of reality. There's even a possibility, while reading fiction, of encountering a dramatic example of the empty absurdity we're all so sick of, and overwhelmed with, in real life--and then what? There's not even a myth of mastery there, like there is when reading information, because while we humans may mistakenly believe that enough information will make us safe, no one believes that enough imagination will. The only thing that's really working for all the people all the time are the Harry Potter books, which are wonderfully escapist but since they're meant for children, people are willing accept them as something outside of the flow of information. Kids need imagination, the reasoning goes, grown-ups need facts. (Of course, as it turns out, parents love the Harry Potter books just as much as their kids). Maybe if we had leaders that weren't so dedicated to absurdity, misinformation, power-grabbing, and tribalism, we could all relax enough to be able to tolerate ambiguity, and then people would start reading more fiction again. Am I saying that the novel is in trouble and that is is Bush/Cheney's fault? Yes I am. Rant concluded.

May 21, 2007; Waggamemnon Asks:

Dear Stacey, after ten years of living in Los Angeles and working in the film industry, I am contemplating moving back to Tucson, Arizona. However, I'm not really sure what line of work I could/should persue once I return. Do you have any suggestions for someone like myself with my level of schooling (very little) and my (very little) "real world" (ie non-Hollywood) experience?

Stacey answers:

Dear Waggamenmon,

Tucson has many wonderful opportunities in the fields of food service and landscape maintenance. If you want to improve yourself, it's also a great place to further your schooling. According to the commercials for Apollo College, you can get a degree in the intriguing, fast-paced field of "Doctor's Office." Positions are available immediately. We would love to have you back!

May 19, 2007; Pickles Asks:

Have you read the collection of stories by Patricia Highsmith called "Ordinary Tales of Beastly Murder", or something very close to that? A whole book of animal-point-of-view stories by an accomplished, if deeply creepy writer. Good stuff.

Stacey answers:

Pickles! No, but I keep meaning to read Patricia Highsmith so I'll check it out. I think she was deeply strange herself, which makes me even more interested.

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