An Interview with Joseph Scapellato (Necessary Fiction)

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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