To celebrate our Summer issue, we asked each of the six featured fiction writers to share an image that evokes their story.
Henry Ossawa Tanner, Portrait of Booker T. Washington, 1917
Tanner’s striking use of color here evokes for me some of the mood of my story, as does the depiction of Washington’s eyes, which seem as haunting—and haunted—as I would imagine my narrator’s eyes to be.
—Jamel Brinkley, “Witness”
Casey Hannan, Pending in the Desert
I love Casey Hannan’s work. The colors and subject matter always feel playful, and yet there’s something a little bit sinister lurking just beneath. In this painting, it’s the tone more than the subject matter that I respond to: an off-kilter way of looking at the world. I’d like to think that duality is reflected in my fiction, too: humor and longing, light and darkness—a joke told in an empty room.
—Amy Silverberg, “The Duplex”
This is a photo a friend took of me in high school. “I Was a Public Schooler” isn’t really autobiographical, but I used some details from my experience to inspire the world of the character. I feel more like the person in this photo recently. My passion for my work is coming from my heart again, not from my brain. I wrote this story four years ago, when I was in my second year at a fellowship at Stanford, and very lonely and uptight and nervous about my future. I think of this as a story about not belonging, and not wanting to belong.
—Ottessa Moshfegh, “I Was a Public Schooler”
I wrote a rough outline and a few sentences of “The Juggler’s Wife” while attending a talk on Walter Benjamin’s The Storyteller Essays, published by NYRB. At some point the panelists discussed Benjamin’s piece that briefly refers to Enrico Rastelli (pictured), who was a real, celebrated juggler in the early twentieth century. Incidentally, I was also teaching Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History” in my composition class at the time. During the talk, I fell in love with the repetition of those words: the juggler, which for me soon became the juggler’s wife, the juggler’s son, the juggler’s wife’s boss …
—Emily Hunt Kivel, “The Juggler’s Wife”
Watercolor, Rae Buleri
I was at an odd seaside motel in New Jersey with my wife, Rae Buleri. She was painting watercolors on the beach, I was sitting next to her, writing stories on my cell phone. She painted this house all lit up at sunset, the windows glowing gold, and I thought it looked like it was on fire. The painting blew me away, and I started writing a story about a couple who burn their house down. Something about the neons Rae used had so much energy and joy. So I tried to make “Violets” have that same feeling. Also, of course, it’s no mistake that the characters in the story also decide to burn down a motel. All I had to do was look over the dune and there it was right behind us.
—Bud Smith, “Violets”
Keep exploring our Summer issue here.
Last / Next Article