QAE: Your book is, in many ways, a challenge to readers. We are challenged to question fiction and question what we want from literature in general. As a reader, too, you seem to want a new way of expression, a hybridization of forms, and a breakdown of literary illusion. And you’re virtually through with fiction. You declare, “The novel is dead. Long live the anti-novel, built from scraps.” I go to Barthes again, though, who wrote, “Isn’t storytelling always a way of searching for one’s origin?” In your opinion, have storytelling and fiction lost their ability to reveal basic truths about our lives?
DS: I’m not arguing against story. That would be preposterous. I’m arguing instead against faux-naÏve storytelling. It’s now not the anecdote that’s lacking, only its character of certainty, its tranquility, its innocence.
QAE: If you were to re-write Barthes’ sentence, what art form would replace “storytelling” as a way for us to seek out our humanity?
DS: The “essay” in its classical sense: the try, the attempt, the journey, experiment. I’m not sure, though, that the goal is anymore to seek out our humanity or find our origins. That sounds a bit old school to me. Maybe explore and problematize those questions—that interests me.
QAE: My question comes out of the apparent anti-fiction thesis of the book, and out of your idea in section 212: “I want the contingency of life, the unpredictability, the unknowability, the mysteriousness, and these are best captured when the work can bend at will to what it needs: fiction, fantasy, memoir, meditation, confession, reportage.”
DS: Sure. I’m not by any means abandoning fiction; there’s a lot of fiction in Reality Hunger. What I want to do, though, is wed it to a larger thematic matrix. I want fiction to be hostage to idea, not the other way around. Otherwise, I’m bored out of my mind.
Read the entire interview at http://www.quarteraftereight.org/shields.htm.