Leaving Behind and Returning Home: An Interview with Michael Parker

On Tuesday, April 22nd at 7pm, Michael Parker will read from his recent novel All I Have in This World, at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro. He’ll also be appearing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Thursday, May 1st at 7:30pm.

MichaelParker

UNC Chapel Hill graduate Michael Parker is currently a Professor in the MFA Writing Program at UNC-Greensboro and holds a faculty position with the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. Author of six novels and two collections of stories, Parker’s work has been awarded the Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Prize and has been featured in various journals such as the Georgia Review, the Washington Post, and the New York Times Magazine. His short story “Love Wild” appeared in issue 44.1 of Carolina Quarterly in the fall of 1991, and in the Winter of 1996 an excerpt from his scrapped project Lake Amnesia appeared in CQ 48.2.

Lee Abbott said of his work, “Only Michael Parker can tell a story you don’t want to quit about folks you don’t want to leave…He has us all in mind—all of us who are needy and scared and running fast from the past, all of us who believe in magic and miracle, all of us beleaguered and bewitched by love.”Parker is the recipient of the Hobson Award for Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literature, and has received fellowships in fiction from the NC Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Parker self-admittedly has, “…a habit of writing ‘road trip’ novels,” which explore the universal hope that either a temporary change of scenery, or a permanent geographical transition will be the thing that wipes the blackboard of our lives free from unfortunate mistakes and sour memories. For most people, though, and for Parker’s characters, these road trips “…rarely heal their wounds. It might provide some temporary peace of mind or soul, but it’s ephemeral.”

All I Have in This World susses out the relationship between tragedy and redemption and explores two strangers’ unexpectedly shared journey for reconciliation.

-Ryan-Ashley Anderson

RAA: In the Author’s Note of All That I Have in This World, you say you woke up in the middle of the night with the idea that catalyzed the writing for this book. Is that typically how characters and stories come to you, all rushing and intrusive, begging you to leave your life for a while so you can get it all down?

MP: My stories (and novels) usually start with an image or a phrase. Rarely do I begin with an idea. I suppose the spark of All That I Have in This World can be classified as an idea—a man and a woman, complete strangers, who meet in a used car lot in West Texas and decide, after knowing each other less than an hour, to purchase a car together. But it’s also an image. I saw these two people in that car lot and I realized what they were doing there in a matter of minutes, but I think I had to see them first.

Often it’s a phrase—sometimes overheard—that sparks a story. Sometimes I begin with a title, which is unfortunate, since it is rare that the publisher allows you—or at least me—to keep the original title. But on the other hand, it doesn’t really matter if that remains the title of the book, since whatever gets you into the story is golden.

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Girl Meets Language

By Caitlin Bailey

Bring me to the lip of the evening again, again;
palm my best parts. If we’re lucky, rain. You like talking
your way inside me, swelling the dark with spondee.
I am split air, tessellated sky. Tell me how it used to be.
Let me gorge myself even on truth, your crooked verbs.
Words forever the best meal, gorgeous mash of syllables.
Here our bodies lead secret lives, cusped and crashing.
Know everything dazzles in the right light.

*****

Caitlin Bailey’s work has previously appeared in Bateau, Lumina, Paper Darts, Poetry City USA, Vol. 2, and elsewhere.
She is learning to live in the woods after many years in the city. More of her poems appear in the Carolina Quarterly 62.2.

Trust, Monotony & Infidelity (with 50,000 Strangers) – An Interview with Dan Jones

Dan Jones will be reading from Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With The Help of 50,000 Strangers) at Flyleaf Books on Monday, March 24, 7pm.

Dan Jones, editor of the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column, which is featured in the Style section of the Sunday paper, has been sifting through other peoples’ love stories for nearly 10 years. “Modern Love” is neither an advice column, nor a dumping ground for lovers spurned. Rather, it showcases essays by people of all ages, from all over the globe, who have something poignant to share about love. Be they retirees who are finally finding love for the first time, or young divorcees whose failed love has led to unexpected self discovery, Jones attempts to include essays that are as varied as they are well written.

Jones assured me that he has no advice to give and that his power lies solely in the ability to choose the right stories to share, at the right time. Nonetheless, I felt the urge to confess to this man I’d never met. Having been confessed to by so many others over the years perhaps he had mystically come to possess both the absolving qualities of a priest and the pathologizing abilities of a savvy psychiatrist. How many Hail Marys, Dan? What exactly is wrong with me, anyway? How many bouquets of flowers am I in debt for?

One of the most attractive qualities of “Modern Love” is how the writers’ experiences are as unique as they are relatable. Even in the essay about an Indian couple in an arranged marriage, aspects of their experience felt universally relatable. Now married for two decades with two children, Farahad explained, “the slow discovery of another person and the unraveling of layers of mystery are part of the fun of arranged marriage.” Jones concluded that, “…in arranged marriage the goal is to figure out how to be married, not whether to marry.” Every piece has something to teach. No love story is too taboo.

“Modern Love” is a vehicle by which the confessions of people like you and I, who have something valuable to share, make it out into the world. Dan says of storytelling, “We’ve learned how to live from shared narratives and stories retold for thousands of years. Learning from the stories of others has so much more meaning than just trying to follow a set of rules.”

Dan’s passion for representing a broad range of love-related experiences in all their forms, combined with encouragement from colleagues and friends, drove him to write Love Illuminated, a book which explores the search for a long term relationship in today’s world of buzzing electronic distractions.

“On the way (to love), there are all kinds of ways of delaying, and ways people have relationships that seem to be a series of short term experiences, but most of what I hear from people, by far, is that people are looking for the love of their life and then trying to figure out whether they can hold onto that love once they’ve found it, or eventually have to let it go and move on again.”

Love is a grind, and Dan tries, through thorough curation and thoughtful interpretation, to present what he has learned from all his years reading about the experiences of over 50,000 people who all want, as Eden Ahbez once said “… just to love and be loved in return…” forever and ever, Amen.

This month, Monday, March 24, Jones will be reading from Love Illuminated at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill at 7pm and I spoke with him to get some behind the scenes insights about his experiences both with writing this book, and curating Modern Love over the years.

- Ryan-Ashley Anderson

 

Ryan-Ashley Anderson (RAA): Who and what gets published by “Modern Love”?

Dan Jones (DJ): “Modern Love” is a reflection of what’s submitted. The story has to be one that is well told enough to be considered, and typically about 1 out of 100 gets published. The column generally reflects the readership which consists of people who are actively interested in writing about and exploring these issues of love. This impulse to figure out the formula for love is more experimental than traditional because there are so many new problems. As my father said, “Relationships are so much more complicated than I ever would have thought they were.”

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An Interview with Leslie Bazzett

Leslie Bazzett’s story, “Preludes,” was published in Issue 63.2 of The Carolina Quarterly. Her work has been published in New England Review, where it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received special mention, in addition to West Branch (also nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and New England Review Digital. Her novel, Abandon, was a finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, and was nominated for a Pushcart Editor’s Choice Award. Preludes will be her first publication in the Quarterly. Leslie grew up in a family of artists and was trained as a classical musician but, from the age of 10, has always wanted to be a writer.

- Moira Bradford, Fiction Staff

 

Leslie Bazzett (LB): I have always written, but I only recently attended my first writers’ conference. A friend of mine—a playwright—mentioned to me that people would be obsessed with point of view. I definitely found that to be true!

Carolina Quarterly (CQ): What do you think the obsession with point of view is?

LB: I think… I was a little astonished. I read a lot of work where there is shift in the narrative point of view, and I’m married to a poet, and so I’m used to approaching reading with verve. I respond to that (the obsession with POV) with a certain amount of bafflement and amusement. I think people who go to workshops are attuned to talking about point of view shifts, but I don’t think it throws readers. I think this is a case where writers are being lazier reader than readers are!

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El Dorado

By Michael Leal García

A Carolina Quarterly web exclusive

 

    From birth until the sixth grade, home was a room on the tenth floor of the Hotel El Dorado in downtown Los Angeles. During its heyday in the 1910s and the 1920s, the hotel stood at the foot of the Spring Street Financial District—the Wall Street of the West—amidst the Braly Building (at twelve stories tall, the city’s first skyscraper), the Hotel Alexandria (frequented by Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo), and, just blocks away, City Hall, all regal and white, looming over the blooming metropolis. For a brief period of time the El Dorado even laid claim to its own celebrity resident in Charlie Chaplin. By the 1960s the financial institutions had mostly fled west to Wilshire and Figueroa, and the burgeoning quarter was rendered hollow, splendor laid waste.

    By the 1980s the El Dorado was home to rats and roaches, and the elevator was jumpy, alternately lurching and painfully still. Apprehensive of those on the other side of our thumping walls, Mom wouldn’t let my siblings and I venture alone into the hallways, cast in the dingy, unsaturated hues of seventies film stock. The fire escape creaked under the rumbling footsteps of anonymous neighbors. The rats, with their tiny pink feet, scurried along our walls. At midnight sirens wailed angry and sorrowful songs, occasionally in response to a neighbor free falling to earth – or at least that was the story concocted by my father before he up and left.

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