Authors and Editors in Conversation
Eric Chinski: In The Fun Parts you're returning to short stories after publishing a novel, The Ask. Do you approach writing stories and novels differently?
Sam Lipsyte: Once I know what I’m writing I start to approach them differently, but in the beginning I’m just trying to get something down on the page. As I go I can start to sense whether it’s opening up and might be something longer or if a closing is already in view. Sometimes I know it’s a short story from the start but often it takes a little while. Nathanael West, who wrote rather short novels, said, “You only have time to explode.” I think of that when I write the short pieces. You are creating a new world and new language to navigate it and there will be some nice effects along the way, but you are usually after a single moment for the piece to turn on. You are putting something – characters in the case of some stories, the very mode of utterance in others – under increasing pressure. It’s the same with the novel, in some sense, but you vary the pressure, digress in a controlled way, gather in more stories to feed into a larger narrative.
Eric Chinski: I don't think it quite hit me until I heard you read from The Ask a few years ago, but there's clearly a Sam Lipsyte sentence. I heard music at that reading. Your sentences are as much about rhythm and sound as character and plot. How do you think about the sentence in the broader context of a story?