An Interview with FC2 Author Luke Goebel — Part Two
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
Jenn Mar: I don’t disagree that a person’s writing process and emotional life are inextricable from each other. Can we apply this idea to one of your short stories? I’d like to talk about “Insides,” a short story you read earlier this year at the Franklin Park Reading Series in New York, which must have felt like a huge honor to read alongside literary figures like Ben Marcus. I watched and listened to a clip of your reading and went back and read the story online. I was struck by how “Insides” is generated sentence-by-sentence and how voice is so central to the story’s conflict. I wondered if your approach to writing–your rejection of a constructed character or personae–is responsible for this innovative, fluid form. Will you talk more about this?
Luke Goebel: I’ll figure you’re saying that Insides gets somewhere from the speaker’s voice and attention to speaking and compelling ness (I pray) of the sentences—rather from preconceived or prestanding forms of story or conflict or setup etc—that the story erupts from its first from it’s never been sounded like this before ness, if I can say that, good or bad, you know, hopefully, at least. Because that’s the least. Gotta have that. Gotta sound new. Write from some radicalized new-self-nature. For me that’s being not smart. That’s being honest above being careful.
I put a lot of risk and a lot of myself on the page—too much?—and leave me and my too forthcoming self open to being rejected and this book won’t leave me when I grow out of this version of me, it will hang to my name, even in death, which is a big part of this whole writing and reading thing, right, and my family will read it, which is terrifying and a risk I have weighed heavily and decided it matters enough what I’m doing, so I am gonna just say yes—I think I sound different. That’s original and primary for me and is what I’m doing, making music—pushing the sentence—getting on with it! Then making stories from music—then making a novel from the stories by intersecting stories with other stories and weaving it all together in this way that makes everything talk to everything else, build upon itself, be more powerful, be more emotive, be more vulnerable, be more unable to retreat from itself or fall down on the job—to be a total sum of ALL of itself at once. Trying to get beyond the mind and into the physical—so there is a whole world all of the world out here in the world is in there in the book, but all through a lens, or lenses. I’m getting to a lot of who and how I love in this book. Also, how I’m undone. Also how the world is. I’m afraid of what I show and I show it. I feel I provoke and reveal and take the right to speak back from a world which wants to make us commodified and mute, for good and bad reasons—the reasons to make us mute I’m saying—and I’m risking and destroying myself so I can be less mutable to those who pick me up for a read. Because why not? Because look at the world. Because just look us. Look at our way of living and our egos and our social media and our Fukushima and our war budget and so let’s ring it out. Let’s get very honest and a lot wild. Play outlaw except it isn’t playing. And get funny. And heartbroken and honest about it. And loving. And let’s hope that in the process of getting more free by pushing against the forces encroaching, we become better people. And I think that’s happening. I want to read any person who dares show themselves in a way they know in their inner bloodsong is them, and that they can’t ever unmake their music or unmake themselves, and that scares them to do. If we let ourselves get real and vulnerable and risk ourselves—that’s the goal. Not hiding behind what’s inscrutable or what makes us more successful con artists, but that which makes us more easy to strike at, to mock, to ridicule—to show our true selves and say—I’ve decided. I’ve already risked it. You can only say what I’ve already let myself show to be said about me, and I’ve chosen my nature over any critique. I’m here for the wild ride of this spirit journey. This is what I have. Here’s me gleaming nude dancing my strange dance in language. Here’s me with my hands out, heart exposed, only what I’ve confessed and how I have confessed to protect me only. Go ahead.
I was of course very honored to read with Ben Marcus—who is smarter than I am smart. More so I was ecstatic when my great hopes were exceeded and he came cruising up to me as I left the stage with those eyes of his and said some staggeringly terrific things and asked for a story for the American Reader from the book, which I gave him (and he sent a check!) and which is in the next issue. Also, he said to send him the advanced reader copy for a blurb, which knocks me out—I’m on hold to see if that comes. I’m in a hotel room in California on my back in a bed with gleaming sheets looking out at that house I described in the first question, since this is an email interview, I can pull shit like this.
As for the story, “Insides,” again, it also has a lot of its force coming from departures. From being non-linear and non-chronological, in how it starts and stops, jumps, departs. Like this interview, which is all mixed up, which has time all mixed up, as I’ve written and come back and added and changed and amended and winged etc. So it’s all a fiction. A version. An experiment. Which people might think to call experimental. This is the book’s nature too. I call it paying attention to attention.
To the 57 varieties of boredom that can come if you don’t keep performing and moving the parts in an amazing speed and powering of the blades. Because you can’t convey the heart and the feeling and the art film of your unique lens if the reader stops reading. Which means amaze them. From associative leaps and from jumping off to new lines of associative feeling and revelation. Then figuring out how to weave it all together so it’s tight, sharp, apt—this only depends on a lot of play between confession and provocation from vulnerability to force and personae-inhabiting. From clarity to blurring and back to new clarity. From making yourself hurt again. From caring about others and all of life itself–as far as you can see it in others and yourself and how it’s in common.
I’m not in on intellectualizing or spinning myself into product. Use your heart and your body and employ your smart brain last. Give it all. Till you’re unmade by it. Then out and start finding your new self. This book undid me.
It is not that I don’t have a personae or that it isn’t fiction–it’s both–though I’ll catch a lot of hell likely for using real names and for sharing so many biographical details with my narrator(s), but the character in my book is not me. Things are said I would not say. Not in public. God no! I have a personae heavily in play in “Insides” and in my novel: Fourteen Stories| None of Them Are Yours. The book is cleaner than I am clean here answering these questions of yours.
Finally, the sentence is something that bores me how much people who write want to talk about the sentence as if they invented it as a concept and a unit. I didn’t. I stole it and made it work for me. I’ve already talked about sentence(s) much.