Tucker Lieberman: Author Interview

Dale Stromberg talked to me about my forthcoming novel. On process, reality, and chocolate.

Stromberg Literary

Tucker Lieberman is a novelist, memoirist, literary critic, poet, editor, and photographer based in Bogotá. I was fortunate enough to offer editorial input on his forthcoming novel, Most Famous Short Film of All Time (tRaum Books, 2022); now that it is soon to be released, we sat down at our keyboards a hemisphere apart to chat about the book.

DS: Tell me about the genesis of the novel. Was there a scene or image that came to you and grew into a larger story? Or did the story arrive more fully formed?

TL: In 2015, I made a messy pile of nonsense scraps of text that I shuffled like a deck of cards. It had therapeutic value for me and I privately referred to it as “a novel.” Of hundreds of pages (unpublishable for various reasons), two key scenes wouldn’t let me go, and I pulled them out to become…

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Mary Gaitskill: ‘Writers…sometimes don’t know what this inner force is’

A reflection for today:

“Unless you are a surgeon or are the witness to a horrible accident, you aren’t going to see the guts of the body, but if you touch the person you will feel them beating under your hand — on a hot day you might even smell them. But smell them and feel them or not, they are what is holding the body up. The unconscious and the viscera; each is a fundamental force behind the person you look at. Something comparable to that fundamental inner quality or qualities are what make a piece of writing alive or not. These inner qualities determine what the work is about as much as the plot or the theme or even the characters. Strangely, writers themselves sometimes don’t know what this inner force is in their own work because it is so entwined with our own way of seeing, we barely notice it, any more than we notice our own breath.”

—Mary Gaitskill, “The Deracination of Literature,” Unherd (June 17, 2022)

And another:

“…so overwhelming is our general cultural ignorance that the term “plant blindness” was minted by two botanists about 20 years ago to describe the state of glassiness that results when asking contemporary people to truly see the plants around them — a “chronic inability,” according to the Carnegie Museum, “to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs.” Such blindness is a loss, and for all. It is a loss for people and a loss for the plants, who suffer (with much of the natural world) the burden of human ignorance and disdain through environmental degradation and other species-level insanities. While our interdependence is barely reduced, the daily experience of that interdependence, and the myriad beauties, wonders, and dangers that arise from it, feels very far from the daily life of most of us.”

—Paul J. Pastor, “Healing, Dangerous Wonders: On Sylvia Legris’s ‘Garden Physic’,” LA Review of Books (July 5, 2022)

Charlie Jane Anders: Anger ‘doesn’t really come with a sense of proportion’

Advice on writing fictional characters which I find helpful:

“Often as not, when I have a character who’s not clicking, it’s because I haven’t found what they’re angry about yet.
My favorite fictional characters are the ones who cannot witness evil being done without becoming fired up about it, and I have all the time in the world for characters who will go to the ends of the Earth to right a wrong. But I also have boundless love for characters who hold petty grudges, who are still stewing about something that happened to them in seventh grade, or who are just grumpy cusses. A character who is supposed to save the world, but can’t let go of an incredibly minor vendetta, is automatically fascinating. And utterly believable. That’s the great thing about anger, after all: it doesn’t really come with a sense of proportion.”
—Charlie Jane Anders, Never Say You Can’t Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times by Making Up Stories, Tordotcom (2021), Chapter 12.

To Climates Unknown: A rare exploration

Not “comforting” but “challenging.” Discussing “the sort of historical incident” that’s “rarely explored at any great length.” To Climates Unknown by Arturo Serrano, reviewed by Andy Sawyer in Strange Horizons today.

A description of the novel:

On September 11, the United States were destroyed. That is, September 11 of the Year of Our Lord 1620. In this alternate history, the Mayflower was lost at sea, and the English Separatists were disheartened from further colonization of North America. The United States were never born. The centuries that follow will see the emergence of rival empires that will split up the world between them. One will become the terror of the seas. One will rampage with carriages of steam. One will take to the skies. And the people caught in the middle will fight against the colonial system to bring an end to all empires.

Rodney Frazier: ‘Mindfully generous’

Knowing what to say about a text you’ve read, or art you’ve appreciated, can be challenging.

Of your online presence and interactions, you might be asking yourself: Should you always tend toward a “like and share”? Will people not believe you if you “like” almost everything you see? Will people get bored of your posts if you “share” too often? Is silence sometimes more meaningful? Or more mindful?

Here’s a tip I stumbled across today.

You don’t have to “recommend everything,” says Rodney Frazier in the submission guidelines to Prism & Pen, written two years ago. However, “we are asking you to be mindfully generous of work written by your peers.”

You can be mindful and generous.