I am excited to share that American Book Review published my review of Eloy Urroz‘s The Family Interrupted (Dalkey Archive) and Rain Taxi published my interview with Sanderia Faye about her novel Mourner’s Bench (University of Arkansas Press).
I am excited to share my interview with Joseph Scapellato regarding his debut collection of short stories. This interview covers his development as a writer and a bit of conversation about style and craft. These stories are set in Texas, the West, and Chicago with stylistic touchstones that range from John Barth, Richard Brautigan, and Cormic McCarthy’s younger brother who love slapstick humor. Enjoy.
An Interview with Joseph Scapellato
I met Joseph Scapellato fifteen years ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin through mutual friends in Marquette University’s theater department. We bonded over fiction and writing. Since then we have kept in touch, meeting up now-and-again to swap manuscripts over coffee or beer, sharing advice and book recommendations. Scapellato now teaches at Bucknell University and has published his work in the Kenyon Review online, Gulf Coast, and The Best Innovative Writing. Big Lonesome is his debut book. In this interview we discuss his progress as a writer, how teaching influences his own writing, and his style in this collection of short stories.
Jacob Singer: Would you talk about your evolution as a reader and writer?
Joseph Scapellato: One afternoon when I was a kid, I drew a series of pictures, a one-panel-per-page “comic book.” This was before I knew how to write. I knew that a comic book needed text to be official, captions of some kind, so I drew big blank boxes at the top of every page. Then I asked my endlessly patient mom to write what I dictated in those boxes. She was nice enough to do so.
In this “comic book,” Spiderman fights armies of aliens. He steals a mean-looking alien laser gun. He blasts hundreds of aliens into bloody halves. I remember this only because my mom still has the stapled-together pages of it. A limited print run.
This was where I started! And it was followed by lots of reading, lots of writing. As a kid, my favorite thing to read was mythology—Greek, Norse, Egyptian. I couldn’t get enough of it. And I think that my favorite non-mythology books were the ones that were aglow with the same exciting elements that drew me to mythology in the first place: wonder, darkness, humor, surprise, transformation. I was a big Roald Dahl fan, for instance.
Then I started writing. I wrote a play in fourth grade. I wrote stories and novellas in junior high. I wrote poetry and radio dramas in high school. The writer who’s most influenced me as I’ve gotten older, I think, is Russell Hoban. Especially his first novel, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz. When I read it in 2005, I was stunned, joyously stunned: he was doing what I’d been trying and trying and trying to do. One of the many things I love about Hoban is his magic way of honoring the mystery of being by honoring the mystery of language. In his best work, these two mysteries become interchangeable. It’s beautiful.
Read the rest at Necessary Fiction
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be presenting at the Fourth Annual David Foster Wallace conference this summer. My presentation is titled “Building Sentences with David Foster Wallace” and will address his prose style in both fiction and nonfiction. Below is my proposal.
This proposal provides a three-part presentation about how stylistics can be used to explore David Foster Wallace’s prose style. This topic is important for instructors of innovative literature and creative writing because there is a pedagogical gap that fails to provide students with the technical understanding of the English sentence and how grammar can be used to achieve rhetorical ends. First, this presentation will briefly define the mainstream paradigm of writing instruction in English and writing programs. This is significant because Wallace’s opaque prose style has been judged as deviant when compared to the mainstream paradigm, which values transparency and simplicity. Second, the presentation will primarily focus on introducing and applying the theories of Francis Christensen, Brooks Landon, and Richard Lanham to a range of Wallace’s writing. In particular we will look at the notion of generative grammar, subordination, and the master sentence. Third, we examine how Wallace built sentences in his fiction and nonfiction to better understand how he used style to achieve rhetorical goals by addressing the needs of his audience—which varied greatly depending on his mode of writing.