Originally published in Willow Springs 76
From the author
Notes on “Cheston!”
The ingredients for any single story are so random. You meet someone named Cheston. You write an essay about Donald Barthelme’s incredible story ‘The School,’ and it has you thinking about how that story moves from comic to slightly disturbing to sneakily profound. You think this is cool. Then you watch the first season of True Detective, and it pisses you off, goes from being darkly philosophical to a kind of cliched buddy-cop, southern-gothic bullshit. You hear yourself describe True Detective as a “Nihilist Happy Meal”—and this makes you think: who would order a nihilist happy meal? Next thing you know, you’re reading “Cheston” at Pie and Whiskey and people are laughing at it.
Notes on Reading
How does reading shape craft? Boy, how doesn’t it? I think the first impulse toward writing is to try to recreate those things that moved you as a reader. But I also react to things, think, Oh, no, it should be like this … like that. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of the new memoir-tinged fiction (Knausgaard, Ben Lerner, Rachel Cusk, Jenny Offil, Sheila Heti) and when it’s done well, as those are, I think it can be sort of thrilling, taking away the coy sense of crafting that fiction writers often feel. But I also worry about this as a movement, a shrinking of the writer’s charge as nothing more than a looser memoir. I wrote in a review of TC Boyle’s newest novel that I fear a “selfie” movement in fiction because it seems to shrink the imagination. I think publishing should put a limit on the number of books about writers that can be published in one year.
About Jess Walter
Jess Walter is the author of eight books, most recently the short story collection, We Live in Water, and the best-selling novel, Beautiful Ruins. He was a National Book Award finalist for The Zero, won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Citizen Vince, has been a finalist for the PEN/USA Award in both fiction and nonfiction and twice has won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. His short fiction has appeared Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Harpers, Esquire, Tin House, McSweeneys and many others. He lives with his wife and children in his childhood home of Spokane.