3 to 5 Questions for Authors:
In Which A Librarian asks a Talented Author a Small Number of Questions
Stuart Dybek is a talented poet and short story writer and the recipient of many awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship, an O. Henry Award and a PEN/Malamud Award. Lately he has published (simulataneously) two books of short fiction: Paper Lantern: Love Stories and Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories.
In the meantime, read our short interview from a master of short fiction:
Q: What books had a strong influence on you at the beginning of your writing career? Lately?
A: I’m not sure exactly when the “beginning of my writing career” was but whenever it was it seemed to go on a long time. I started to write some as a senior in high school, a time I was moving away from my obsession with science fiction and turning into a beatnik. Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man in one hand and On the Road and A Coney Island of the Mind in the other. I think the writers that most made me want to write were that so-called Lost Generation of Jazz Age exiles: Sherwood Anderson, Scott Fitzgerald, Joh Dos Possos, TS Eliot, Ernest Hemingway. I still love their work. Lately, I read a beautiful book of poems, The Earth in the Attic, by a Palestinian-American doctor named Fady Joudah.
Q: What did you find the most useful in learning to write? The least?
A: [Most useful] Learning that to rewrite meant not to correct “mistakes” but to tell the story to myself over until it was ready to tell to a reader. [Least useful] Fancy words when simple ones would do.
Q: Tell us some of your most vivid memories of libraries or librarians, good or bad (but hopefully good).
A: The old vinyl collection in the days of 33 ⅓ records at a library in Memphis where they let you take out six in a day. In the summer, I listened my way through 20th century classical music.
Q: What number would you be in the Dewey Decimal system?
A: 527 (Celestial Navigation!)
Q: What is just the best thing you’ve ever seen?
A: Necker Island, when it rose deserted from the Caribbean in the British Virgins, circa 1969 when the sea was still the sea.
Now that’s poetry.
Photo credits: author image from www.poetryfoundation.org/; book images from www.barnesandnoble.com/.