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Short and Sweet: Aaron Schneider + What We Think We Know
Short story writer and lit mag editor Aaron Schneider shares his collection What We Think We Know (Gordon Hill Press), its play with the medium in the form of diagrammatic stories, stories in the form of questions, stories that break apart and metastasize. Including the Journey-nominated “Cara’s Men (As Told to You in Confidence)”, excerpted below.
A (short) interview with Aaron Schneider, author of What We Think We KnowAll Lit Up: Describe your collection in under 100 words.Aaron Schneider: What We Think We Know is a collection of experimental short fiction that pushes the boundaries of what the short story is and can be. It includes stories in the forms of diagrams, charts and research data, a story that consists largely of questions, a story about a cancer victim whose sentences fragment and metastasize, and a handful of other artifacts that extend and sometimes elude the definition of the short story. What ties the pieces together is an interest in generating new forms of writing to speak to and reflect contemporary experience.ALU: What do you love about the short story form? AS: What I love most about the form is that it doesn’t exist. There is a history and certain idea of the form that belongs to and develops over that history, but neither that history nor the shape the form has taken over the course of it are determinative. What has been done doesn’t define what we can do. In the final analysis, the short story is nothing more than a word or a page count, a space, within which anything is possible, and every time we sit down to write, we are (re)inventing the form.ALU: Who is your favourite short story author? AS: This may seem odd given the kind of writing that I do, but it’s Alice Munro. I’m from Owen Sound and have been in London for the last two decades, so I grew up and continue to live in the region in which her work is grounded, and I have a deep connection with her material. Not a week goes by that I don’t walk past the building on Western University’s campus where Rose met her husband in Who Do You Think You Are? I am also endlessly fascinated by the precision and complexity of her sentences.
An excerpt from “Cara’s Men (As Told to You in Confidence)”Cara tells you about the men that she has slept with, across a table in a crowded campus bar over a series of Friday afternoons in the fall when you are both a little drunk and the light is easing you into the evening. You have to lean forward to hear her clearly. The clamour of graduate students and professors talking together, their noise and closeness, how they keep bumping into your elbow, the back of your chair, and apologizing, closes a circle of privacy around you, contains and deepens the intimacy of the conversation:Her first boyfriend was a Jehovah’s Witness. They were both in Grade 8. His parents didn’t want him dating her, or dating at all, and he told them that she was a classmate and that they had been assigned to work together on a project that term. She waited in the entryway of his apartment, and felt: the massing silence. The shining parquet. The atmosphere of piety, certainty and disapproval. They climbed the stairs of his building to a locked door that opened onto the roof and made out on the top step pressing against the steel of the door. The echo in the stairwell magnified and restrained their movements. She was wearing a skirt. He pushed inside of her, and she felt nothing. No pain. Nothing. It was only for a few seconds, and then he stopped. The next day he told her he had wanted to see if she would let him do it. He was already distant when he said this, not expressionless, but withdrawing into disdain, and they broke up.
* * *Aaron Schneider is a Founding Editor at The /tƐmz/ Review and was a Founding Editor at The Rusty Toque. His stories have appeared/are forthcoming in The Danforth Review, Filling Station, The Puritan, Hamilton Arts and Letters, and Prolit-. His story “Cara’s Men (As Told to You in Confidence)” was nominated for the Journey Prize by The Danforth Review. He runs the Creative Writers Speakers Series at Western University. His first book, Grass-Fed, was published by Quattro books in the fall of 2018.
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