A Word About Writing

An Interview with Lynne Tillman, by Brian Gresko

Sentence connoisseurs hold Lynne Tillman in high regard. A virtuosic stylist, Tillman writes sentences that weave and twist, sometimes telescoping upon themselves such that a reader ends up in unexpected territory or finds that the end of the construction somehow contradicts the beginning. They come so close to capturing the quick pulse and spiraling nature of thought that they seem to lift off the page and speak—and what stories they tell. Tillman’s inquisitive, neurotic characters hold forth on music, politics, art, and culture while dropping hints about frustrated desires and past traumas, and these clues gradually congeal into a narrative. In Tillman’s most recent novel, American Genius, A Comedy, as the protagonist ruminates at length on topics from the Manson murders to skin diseases, a mystery of sorts unfolds regarding her setting—an ashram, an artists’ retreat, or a mental institution, it’s not entirely clear—her companions, and past wounds caused by her mother and a cat. From her first novel, Haunted Houses—reissued by Red Lemonade along with four of her other novels—to last year’s collection, Someday This Will Be Funny, Tillman has explored how the mind creates and understands history both personal and cultural. Slice spoke to Tillman in hopes of uncovering the seeds of inspiration for her unique work. It turns out that the author’s tastes—from Marilyn Monroe to Michel Foucault—are as wide-ranging as those of her characters.


An Interview with Alissa Nutting, by Julienne Grey

Alissa Nutting’s work has the power to cauterize and charm. While her award-winning short story collection, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, set the tone for her prowess as an artful provocateur, the release of her acclaimed debut novel, Tampa, is further testamentto her mastery.

In Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, each story explores an unusual occupation. From the woman having a love affair with a panda to the woman in Hell who grows breasts that spray venom, Nutting delves into the absurdities, impossibilities, and dangers of womanhood.

With Tampa, Nutting goes even further. Tampa follows a young, beautiful teacher—who is also a sociopathic pedophile—as she preys on her teenage male students. Yet Nutting makes the story as surprisingly funny as it is brutal. Wielding expert humor, Nutting skewers the double standard that suggests that a gorgeous woman can never be a monstrous predator.


An Interview with Owen King and Matthew Specktor, by Brian Gresko

At times, I curate my reading life like a music playlist—selecting the next book in order to complement the one I just finished reading. So upon putting down Owen King’s debut novel Double Feature, which has to do with an aspiring film auteur and his B-moviestar father, I picked up Matthew Specktor’s American Dream Machine, knowing that it also takes the movies as its subject. I did not realize, though, how perfect a pair the two novels would make. Both concern themselves with the creation and consumption of art in American culture, a theme that each explores within a father-and-son story that unfolds over decades. There is a telescopic quality to the novels—the lofty concerns are rooted in the perspectives of expertly drawn characters; their scopes are epic, yet the narratives are intimate, familial.

For all these similarities, the books cover distinct ground. The patriarch in King’s Double Feature, Booth Dolan, rose to fame as a hammy leading man in seventies and early-eighties schlock-fests such as Devil of the Acropolis, in which Booth plays Plato, philosopher and werewolf hunter. Booth’s son, Sam, in opposition to his father, aspires to make serious films. His hopes are dashed when an assistant director recuts Sam’s debut, relegating it to the status of a ridiculous cult classic.


An Interview with Fiona Maazel, by Esme Hoffman

There are a few female authors in Brooklyn who make me feel like I’m a little girl again, looking up at all the big girls around me who are smarter and cooler and do big- girl things, like write books. Fiona Maazel is one of those authors. Her sentences are knockouts, and her novels are both entertaining and wickedly intelligent. She is the author of Woke Up Lonely and Last Last Chance, a winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, and a National Book Foundation “5 under 35” honoree.

When I saw Fiona Maazel read at the Franklin Park Reading Series, it was so crowded that it was hard to move. Her curly brown hair was just visible beyond the heads in the crowd. Fiona’s reading style is crisp, confident, and darkly witty, like her prose. The audience laughed as she gave us a scene where an awkward crush goes awry in the middle of a hostage situation. Although I was too shy to approach her at the reading, I contacted her via Facebook, and she graciously agreed to an interview.


An Interview with Bill Roorbach, by Celia Johnson

Bill Roorbach has written several award-winning fiction and nonfiction titles. His latest novel, Life Among Giants, does not disappoint, and the critics wholeheartedly agree. “Its wild characters feel genuine, their aches and flaws and desires wholly organic; and the plot they’re tangled in moves forward at a breakneck pace,” observed Haley Tanner, in a rave review for the New York Times. This novel combines unlikely characters (world-famous celebrities with a quirky middleclass family) and unlikely worlds (dance, football, tennis, food, business). They coalesce under the narrative lens of a towering football star named David, who also goes by Lizard. The result is an epic tale filled with intrigue, hope, and heartbreak.

I met Roorbach at a Honda repair shop on the day of his interview with Slice. He was having seats installed in his van, so that he could drive his twelve-year-old daughter and all of her friends to the beach. It quickly became clear to me that if Roorbach isn’t orchestrating an adventure, then he’s discovering one. We drove a short distance to a restaurant called Slate’s, just across the way from the Kennebunk River, in the tiny town of Hallowell, Maine. Inside, the conversation leapt from topic to topic: the delicious food, the music, the publishing industry, the wilderness of Maine. Roorbach has a knack for pinpointing humor and mystery in just about anything, and that expansive interest shines in his prose.


An Interview with Eric Lundgren, by Peter Swegart

The Facades is Eric Lundgren’s first published novel is a mix of darkness and light, humor and deep-stomach sadness. The story follows Sven Norberg’s search for his wife in the fictional city called Trude. The whole atmosphere of Trude is dirty, menacing and decrepit and many of the characters are villainous in one way or another. Despite all of this, the reader can comfort in the protagonist’s dry humor and undying hope that he will find his wife. The Facades is a beautiful nocturn of a novel, with a plot that makes you want to keep reading and style that makes you want to reread each sentence. I had the pleasure of talking to Eric about anguish, scary operas, and Minnesota.