An Interview with FC2 Author Luke Goebel — Part One
Luke B. Goebel is a fiction writer who is alive in Texas. His first novel, FOURTEEN STORIES | None of Them Are Yours, will be released by FC2 (2014) as the 2012 winner of the (FC2) Ronald Sukenick Prize For Innovative Fiction. He won the Joan Scott Memorial Fiction Award in 2011. Goebel is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Texas at Tyler. He’s served as co-editor and guest editor for The New York Tyrant over several years through its latest issue. He has fictions forthcoming or published in The American Reader, Elimae, Green Mountains Review, The New York Tyrant, UNSAID, Gigantic, Everyday Genius, [PANK], and elsewhere.
Interview by JENN MAR
Without formalizing anything with me, Luke Goebel took liberties in this interview. He worked to systematically break down my questions. If the interviewer typically controls the pace, content, arc, and theme of the interview, then what Goebel has done, wild writer that he is, is wrestle the interview format away from itself. In responding to my questions, he steered us sideways, backwards, and far and away from anything I thought I had ever wanted to know and ask about the energetically-coarse literary voice that is Luke Goebel. He proves that an author is far more interesting when his persona is not confined to the sure and safe formulas of the typical literary interview. He illustrates how the interview carries the same possibilities of other literary forms. Read this interview as you would a short story—it combines honesty with meticulous fiction, and is mesmerizingly instinctive even though it appears at times haphazard. I’m not surprised by the shape of this product, delivered by a writer with a fierce allegiance to voice and gut instincts. Neither am I surprised that Goebel’s importance as an emerging fiction writer is finally being recognized by countless critics and awards, including the 2012 Ronald Sukenick Prize for Innovative Fiction. His debut novel FOURTEEN STORIES: NONE Of THEM ARE YOURS will be released in September by FC2. He was recently interviewed by The Believer and invited to read at the Franklin Park Reading Series earlier this year alongside distinguished writer Ben Marcus. Luke Goebel served as co-editor for many years with a New York-based publication where he worked with and published works by Padgett Powell, Gordon Lish, Pam Ryder, Brian Evenson, among others.
This interview was conducted in the months of February and March 2014. Brace yourselves.
Jenn Mar: I’m currently reading Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman and narrator says that it was for a book that he committed his greatest sin. Do you commit your greatest sins in writing, or do you simply commit them in life and write them on paper?
Luke Goebel: This idea of the two lives the writing life and the real life is an illusion that must be smashed I think for me at least there’s no such thing it’s all one thing it’s all one life it’s all the same—I’ve deluded myself I’ve deluded myself into being a complete persona my persona is the character that I am writing it is the voice alright that I’m writing with it is the delusion of the cell phone I have manufactured around the act of composing a voice of narrative a burst. It’s all a sin. It’s all a delusion. But there are love angels all around the delusion. The light bends like it does around us human bodies they cannot photoshop us without replication of that light bending. There is no line of edge around us we have found between our skin and the air and light. It is a bending. We are bending with love all around us. I’ll admit that my delusion is my sin and it is my sin of placing myself uppermost above others in terms of being the one who gets to speak.
That is what has required my attention in my last seven or eight years of studying and writing and teaching and living—as living informs the writing and teaching and I live in such a way, making decisions big ones, so as to best inform and inspire me in these pursuits, so, in this early part of my writing and hyper-literate life, my attention is on ways in which I can get the most power and effect out of stories, speaking, using language, using sounds, sentences, using rhetoric, commands, invectives, using variation, departure, approach, swerve, provocation, vulnerability, etc. all to command attention. But no tricks. Those are just the tools but you got to have the real holy bloodtruth song singing in you—which is of course comes from love and desire and agony. Those are the real. You have to be living holy life with feeling, pouring through you, picking you up like a wave in that holy Pacific when you’re surfing, its force coming and pushing you up and then you work the moves from thenceforth once you’re standing and riding that feeling with your corpus animate and aloft. So, how does one perform one’s self authentically—because it must be so authentic, so risky, so true, that the hairs literally raise off one’s arm while speaking or writing—you don’t admit it but you have to be brought to an emotional transformation while composing, repeatedly, over and over, and while revising, and while making—how to get that kind of power in living? That is what has made me sinful—my attention always being on that. Because by association, my attention is on myself, my experience, my way of seeing. It’s a way of studying command, really. It’s a way of studying command and your wrongness and your madness and your most directness of passions. And I would be better as Plato says, not indulging myself, just being okay with life, serving others. That’s the spiritual datum right? Serve others! And am I serving others with my writing, with my teaching. Well, that’s what this trial is about. This first book. You tell me! It could be so much easier. A veranda off a beige California stone house up in the hills in the sun, a little ice and tea or lemonade or cucumber water. A treadmill and a swimming pool. A wife. A lot of time in an office. Never having driven the mind out of the mind. Too late!
But this always having to co-create reality—reality as it is and then as through myself remade as art—unless totally absurdist—seems sinful. I have chosen to speak, and to present a narrative, and one that grabs the reader and takes them by force.
I could not have written this book from off to the side of myself—and I’m proud of that. I’ve been out in the desert making that voice more dynamic that form more engaging, more provocative, more appealing, by making it more honest, understanding the way to make patterns and making that voice out of my own life. This act is part of both my human act and my writing act. Once and all at the same time. It could not have been done any way else I can see yet. Except I am starting to see how it can, now, now that this novel book is done, for the next one, maybe. Maybe I can get free of myself more. A way of going a whole new direction.
But this book, this is my first book.
This is one that I like to read, still, and I am thrilled to bring it into the world as a physical object that people can ride and see a whole new ride of—an entirety of voice and life and lung and heart and reality that never has been done before in any way like what this book is doing. It’s the book I set out to write a decade plus ago when I started writing never knowing how I could even get a first sentence or a first story. It can only fail from here, because I know to me it is finally a success. They can’t give me that, since I already have it, so they can only say: hmmmmm. Maybe less of this awful word. Maybe less smuttiness. Maybe less filth. Maybe be a smarter fellow about things. Maybe keep it to yourself. Maybe don’t come around here. But the wild thing is, the people who have read it, they come back saying: YES. I am with you.