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On What Fiction Can Do: Danielle Dutton Interviewed

Danielle Dutton is the author of S P R A W L (Siglio, 2010), a novel that, in a single long paragraph, chronicles the mercurial consciousness of a woman surveying her suburban life. While the reviews of S P R A W L have been excellent (“Danielle Dutton’s S P R A W L reads as if Gertrude Stein channeled Alice B. Toklas writing an Arcades Project set in contemporary suburbia” —The Believer), interviews with Dutton reveal much more about her process and intentions, as well as about her work as the founding editor of Dorothy, a publishing project. It all makes for very interesting reading. Click on the links to read the interviews in their entirety.

From an interview with HTML Giant’s Christopher Higgs entitled “What is Experimental Literature?”

I’m interested in so-called “conventional” books and so-called “experimental” books and in how different kinds of books might form a conversation about what fiction can do and be.

From an interview with Anne K. Yoder in BOMB Magazine:

On a very basic level, my best guess is that writing asks something different of its reader than listening asks of the listener. Same goes for looking at a painting, even one that might perplex or upset us. To read, to connect words in a difficult syntax, like Stein’s, or make sense of seemingly simple sentences within a maddening paragraph, like Beckett’s, or piece together a narrative that doesn’t seem to add up in a familiar way, like Gladman’s or Woolf’s, the reader has to pay close attention, has to work. I’m not saying that experimental writing is all slog slog slog, that it isn’t rewarding or entertaining, because obviously I think a lot of it is, but that we’ve been trained to think that language itself should work in one way, should be clear, and linear, and should instantly reveal meaning, so when writing confounds those expectations it’s perhaps easy to feel cheated by it, or to chalk it up as wrong, bad, pretentious.

From an interview with Laynie Browne on Like Starlings:

I don’t think of myself as a poet, though, and I’ve never been called a poet by other poets . . . I mean, in classes, for example, when I “had” to take poetry writing classes at the University of Denver, I felt like an outsider; not unwelcome, but outside it somehow. But then I don’t always fit right in with fiction writers either.

From an interview with Siglio publisher Lisa Pearson:

My fiction tends to begin more with a desired shape than with any idea for a plot. The exploration of sprawl, for example, seemed to necessitate one long paragraph wherein everything, at a glance, seems the same but isn’t. That said, to begin the book I wrote segments, little bursts of language, often working off the photographs, and then I began stitching these segments together, like a quilt. Once I’d stitched together about fifty pages of material, I started working inside that long strip of language, pulling things out, carrying them through, expanding, connecting, spreading. But the fact that photographs were the most influential stimulus to the project is no doubt telling: I think the novel is concerned with seeing, with acts of attention.

Dutton reads next week on Tuesday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. in New York City at Dixon Place (161 Chrystie Street) as part of the Belladonna press reading series. (Amina Cain and Renee Gladman will read, too, and the evening is curated by Kate Zambreno.)

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