Meet the Editors: An Interview with Fiction Editor, Chase Burke
It’s a new year and new staff here at BWR. We (the editors) interviewed each other so that you (the world) could get a sense of us as editors/readers. We’re pleased to meet you!
Interview by J. TAYLOR BOYD
J. Taylor Boyd: What recent BWR piece stands out the most in your memory?
Chase Burke: This is very recent, but probably Zeynep Özakat’s “Aviculture” from 43.2. It’s a beautiful story, and it’s not afraid to play around with form — though any shifts it makes are always, always in service to the story itself, which is such an important consideration.
JTB: What are you reading/ what do you plan to read in 2018?
CB: I’ve been reading novels novels novels. Currently bouncing around Emma Smith-Steven’s The Australian, Laura van den Berg’s forthcoming The Third Hotel, and Gabe Habash’s Stephen Florida — I recommend all three. I recently read Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, which is incredible and terrifying; Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin, which made me cry; Camille Bordas’s How to Behave in a Crowd, which is a beautiful and sad portrait of childhood; Álvaro Enrigue’s Sudden Death, which is, boiled down to its essence, about tennis and art and European imperialism; and Steve Erickson’s Shadowbahn, which feels like necessary reading these days.
For the rest of 2018, I want to keep reading novels (Batuman’s The Idiot, Egan’s Manhattan Beach, and Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere are all on my list, as well as Rachel Heng’s forthcoming Suicide Club and R. O. Kwon’s forthcoming The Incendiaries). But I also want to return to short stories (gotta read Her Body & Other Parties in particular) and, as I always say, I want to read more poetry, goddamnit.
JTB: Tell us about Ellie!
CB: She’s the best duh. In more specific terms: Ellie is the dog my wife and I got from the Humane Society of West Alabama in late 2016. She’s about 27 pounds and looks like a husky crossed with a german shepherd crossed with a shiba inu. Everyone at the local dog park tells us she looks like a) a coyote or b) a fox. Dogs and foxes can’t breed (we checked) … but dogs and coyotes can. (So make of that what you will.) She has an adorable underbite and a floppy right ear. She likes sprints around the backyard, long walks, and couch cuddles. She is, as I said, the best.
JTB: Which writers make you want to write?
CB: I love this question, because nothing makes me want to write more than reading. Great sentences in particular really make me want to start new projects, as do singular voices. Off the top of my head: Rivka Galchen, Laura van den Berg, Leesa Cross-Smith, Matt Bell, Mary Robison. Too many more. Everybody I already mentioned, too.
JTB: What can readers expect from you as an editor? What kind of work are you looking for?
CB: I always feel like it’s hard to answer this question, because I worry that the response will sound like a call for submissions where a bunch of creative descriptions are bandied about without really saying anything. I’ll give it a shot. I like stories that know what they’re about even if I don’t know what they’re about, if that makes sense. (That probably doesn’t make sense.) Stuff that feels like it must be finished, to the point where walking away from it seems impossible. Maybe it’s the voice that does it, the subject matter, the sentences, the structure, something else entirely — there’s a sense that these stories really know why they’re working, and they lean on that. I’m doing that thing I just complained about, aren’t I.
I like formally inventive stuff. I like voicey stuff. I like weird stuff (whatever that means to you). But most of all I’m looking for work that sets off that buzzing in the back of my head that says, “I’m not sure I’ve seen this quite like this before.” Hopefully that means readers can expect me to get out of my comfort zone a bit. I think we should all do that.
I also want our submitters to know that we’re looking for BWR stories. It’s important to read a past issue (or dig through our online archives) to get an idea of what that might mean. I really want to emphasize that just because something is passed over doesn’t mean that it’s “bad work.” I’m not trying to make that kind of declaration. But the work might not be a fit for us, and that’s OK. What I can do is promise to read everything with generosity. And I will do that.
JTB: Which Sex and the City character are you and why? (EDITOR’S NOTE: Chase is a Charlotte)
CB: Based on this very scientific brunch-based poll from the folks at buzzfeed, I’m Samantha. This is because, of course, “[I’m] bold and adventurous, and the life of every party. [I’m] a true hedonist, and live for thrills without any care to what other people think of [me].” As I said: very scientific.
JTB: If you were a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would you be?
CB: Grilled cheese. And if anyone says that’s a bland choice, they’re wrong. It’s cheese and bread, guys.
JTB: What’s your favorite twitter account?