Roland Barthes said: “Literature is the question minus the answer.” I have agreed with him for a long time, but as I read Turf, I was thinking that the short story form is much more open to questioning, where novels tend to answer questions more definitively. Does that resonate with you? This felt like your most questioning collection, too. Like, Betsy wonders “what if?” Thoughts?
It does resonate. “What if” is at the front of some significantly greater percent of the questions in my head on a daily basis. What would it be like to live in that house? What would it be like to be that person? You know, what would it be like for someone a lot like me (who has maybe spent some good time contemplating what seems like a real possibility of life without the energy resources we’re used to) if the apocalypse hit? (Alternate title: “Life Without Coffee Would Probably Suck.”) And both my novels began with what-ifs — my original idea for We Only Know So Much, when I thought it was going to be a short story, was: What would it be like if there were a family whose members existed so much in their own heads that they almost never had a conversation with anyone else in their family? Which could have worked in a short story but in a novel left me without a lot in the way of, you know, scenes. And with History, the initial question was: What if I could sit down with my (dead) mom and try to work a few things out? But you’re right, there is probably a bit more called for in the way of answers or insight for some of the characters in the novels than there is in the stories. Too many possibilities, to bring it back to that. Even in a novel that has an ending that can be seen more than one way, I hope the reader has the feeling of a satisfying resolution, even if it’s not tied in a bow, which will definitely never happen in anything I’ll write.
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