INTERVIEW: BRIAN EVENSON
What's been the most difficult narrative technique for you to master, and why?
Probably protrayal of interior feelings or thoughts. All of the techniques that people use—from interior monologue to the narrator simply telling you to a more disconnected approach—seem to me too artificial and unconvincing. They end up assuming a lot about what goes on in someone's head, and I find what they assume doesn't really equate to how my head works. I'm convinced that people have a lot less of an internal life and a lot less of what has been called consciousness—at least coherent consciousness—than has been believed.
What sort of advice can you give young writers about mastering it?
I'd say restraint and experiment are equally as important. You have to find a balance between saying too much and saying not enough. If just enough is given, the reader will fill it in with his or her own natural processes. Use a little as a catalyst to get the reader to do the rest.
What should a young writer never do?
—Never end a story with the words "And then I woke up."
—Never only read contemporary American realism.
—Never believe someone who tells you "it has to be done this way."
—Be aware of the problems and prejudices of workshops, treat with suspicion people who say you should read more Raymond Carver, and do everything you can to avoid writing workshop fiction.
What should a young writer always try to do more of?
More reading. The most important thing you can do is to read the best work from many different national traditions and to read a lot of very different things. It's the best way of seeing all the options, opening yourself up to new possibilities.
BRIAN EVENSON is the author of two story collections, Altmann's Tongue and The Din of Celestial Birds, and a novel, Father of Lies. This interview first appeared in Rebel Yell (1998).