Where did you find the inspiration to write this piece? Was it a specific event in your life, or were the details in the story a vessel for a deeper meaning?
I wrote this story in a workshop with Nancy Zafris, who happens to have been one of the smartest and most generous teachers I’ve encountered. For this particular piece, Nancy gave us a sentence to be placed somewhere in the middle of our story. I’m sorry to say I have no idea what my line was. I think it was lost somewhere in the revision process. That’s the beauty of these technical obstacles; they get your wheels turning and then, once a story exists, they fade away and the story becomes what it wants to become.
Aside from the very technical origins of this story, I guess I was just thinking about the terror of infinite sameness—the idea that the infinite is inherently terrifying even when applied to things that appear charming at any given moment, such as romantic relationships and craft beer breweries. But I’m not sure about all that. I try not to read too much into my own writing. I can say, though, that this story was not based on any real-life experience, although I have been to my fair share of craft beer breweries. Who hasn’t? They’re everywhere. We have several of them here in Mississippi now, which typically indicates the death rattle of such trends.
What would you say is the difference between a dream and reality?
I think about dreams a lot, especially when writing. Robert Olen Butler has written about the need to access something at the “white hot center” of consciousness to make artistic discoveries and surprise yourself as an artist. I guess I take all of that quite literally. It’s not that I write about my dreams explicitly. But I do find dreams to be nice paradigms for accessing the subconscious through narrative. I see dreams as ignorant, unlearned little things that assemble themselves by the laws of desire and chaos rather than intelligence and reason. The writing that has most impacted me over the years seems to possess this dream-like quality, not because of magical or fantastical elements, but rather because reason and logic take a back seat to desire and chaos. But it’s not just raw subconscious content—it’s been processed through narrative form, which allows for new associations and connections and meaning.
I realize I’ve avoided the question. I guess I’m not sure that reality and dreams are oppositional. Maybe dreams are part of our realities, our lived experiences. Maybe the real dichotomy exists between conscious and subconscious experiences of reality. Now I’m thinking about the similarities between memories and dreams, how they’re both forms of narrative creation and neither can lay claim to verisimilitude. Yet we tend to privilege one as closer to “reality” than the other.
What are you reading right now that you enjoy?
I recently found a copy of Nightwood by Djuna Barnes on the shelves of a neighborhood coffee shop. I guess I should say the book found me. Always nice when that happens. The prose, obviously, is excellent. A great book for people who love sentences. I cracked up at the somewhat pedantic introduction by T.S. Eliot, accompanied by the sheepish apology he wrote for the second edition. Always fun to see a writer like Eliot feeling cringy about his previous work. I read Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away not long ago. I tend to avoid writers marketed as “southern,” but I recently got over this hang-up and began devouring all of O’Connor’s work. The Violent Bear It Away is a perfect narrative vision and builds into a swirling crescendo by the end. I think it’s more efficient than Wise Blood, though WB is perhaps more ambitious and barely able to contain itself.
Also on my nightstand: The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila (translated by Mirabai Starr), The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, and Down Below by Leonora Carrington.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve been writing this one story for a few months now. Maybe longer? It’s hard to tell at what point an idea starts to grow legs and take its first steps out of the primordial sludge of fragments and sketches and failed attempts. But I’m fairly confident this thing is an actual story now, mostly because it has shape, a contour to follow, and that contour suggests the existence of some sort of beginning and, more importantly, an ending. This particular story is an episodic narrative focused on the daily walks of a rather solitary old man in search of a historical landmark that may or may not have been demolished. Or maybe it never existed. I’ve really enjoyed writing these little episodes because each walk allows the man to make observations of a city long since abandoned by the times. Places really seem like living organisms to me even when they’re decaying. Especially when they’re decaying. I think I’m almost done with the draft, which means I’ll soon pass it along to my friend and fellow writer Jessica Denzer, who recently accused me of withholding all the stories I promise to be writing. She’ll tell me whether it’s any good.
J.D. Hosemann‘s story “Tourists” appeared in hex on June 21, 2022