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"Just a guy keeping himself amused:" 3 Q's for Short Fiction writer David Gionfriddo

And now for something completely different . . . 

I am thrilled to introduce to this space short fiction writer David Gionfriddo, whose debut collection The Good Worlds are All Taken is destined to become a cult classic, particularly among his devoted Internet fans. What I like about David's work is that it is reminiscent in some ways of Donald Barthelme's 40 Stories -- it's quirky, theatrical, and has a touch (okay, more than a touch) of the absurd.  David was gracious enough to take a break from his postmodern musings and stop by BtO and answer a few questions for us.

His answers, in fact, are so meaty that it was obvious from question one that this would definitely be a two-part interview.  In this part, David discusses the influence of the theatre upon his work, and in the next one, he will talk about how his stories grapple with the breakdown of communication in the modern world and the walk between dark and light.

BtO: When reading The Good Worlds are All Taken, I noticed, in both format and theme, a great deal of theatricality to your work. Are you influenced at all by the theatre? Do you consciously employ these techniques, or is this just something that has arisen from your subconscious?

DG:  Some of it, like the religious ritual in “Just Punishments” or the minstrelsy in “Who’s Afraid of Tobias Wolff,” was just incidental. The “play,” “Johnny Broken, Julie Gone,” was a little different story. Part of it goes back to the seminar I took with Rick Moody at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown back in 1997. It was called “Forms of Fiction,” and he encouraged us to tell stories in the shape of other types of writing – maybe as assembly instructions for a piece of furniture, or a Last Will and Testament. It was very liberating to think outside familiar story structures.

You’ll notice I said “play,” because it’s not so much a piece of drama as a story in the form of a play. I doubt it could ever be staged as written, and it wasn’t meant to be. What really triggered it, though, was a lecture I watched online by Peter Greenaway on what he termed the “new possibilities” of cinema. He talked about changing the spatial relationship between the audience and the onscreen content, moving the audience around, projecting material on screens that were sized and shaped differently and located in unexpected positions, creating more interplay and interactivity. And he does this all the time in his various installations. It got me thinking, albeit in a very primitive way, about how those ideas could be used to tell my story. It was originally supposed to be two acts, but once all the various voices started emerging and speaking, it became clear that the whole set of interlocking conversations between those different voices, on their fictional “stage,” was the real story. It just seemed that was the logical way to imagine and share that particular tale.

Obviously, I’m not a tenth as clever as Greenaway, but it was fun to have fantasy voices drifting in and out of an imaginary theatre space flooded with images like a Greenaway art installation. I don’t do his techniques justice – not by a long shot – but it was fun to try, and it made sense for the material, so, what the hell?  It was fun to flex those muscles again. Just a guy keeping himself amused.

Tomorrow, I'll post part two of this interview, where David will discuss "all the existential artillery," such as the breakdown of communication and "dissolute pathos," and then you'll really drop into his vortex. :)


Angela Killian said…
I enjoy the wise wit, perspectives, and writing of David Gionfriddo, and happen to have read this book today. I agree it will eventually become a popular and referenced dystopian among novel and story lovers in the genre, especially for the cinematic "Just Punishments. I have re-read it twice since, just to absorb the imagery and poetic nature of the piece. I look forward to the rest of your series on this book and author.

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