I used to write stories that had lakes, that had deep blue waters shelled by the sky; water mucky and full of disease; I wrote stories where people used to break down and cry unbidden, unprovoked, just because of the way a stone looked when it was wet, or the way the wind ruffled the grass; the people in those stories might jump to violence unprovoked; they wore teal windbreakers and rolled packs of cigarettes into their T-shirts; some swore up and down to God Almighty and drank slugs from tail-boy beer cans (those were the same ones who might kick a mutt unprovoked, even kill it, the sharp snap of a dog’s jaw breaking, the sound of a wooden chopstick being pried apart). I had characters who walked alone in dust-moted houses, plains pressing like gaping mouths against the windows, while they considered how to cope with abuses; furnaces popped on in basements, and there was always the sickly smell of fuel oil that saturated everything. I used to produce characters, American loners, who …
Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Episode 22: “Form and Formlessness”
In an essay specially commissioned for the podcast, Aisha Sabatini Sloan describes rambling around Paris with her father, Lester Sloan, a longtime staff photographer for Newsweek, and a glamorous woman who befriends them. In an excerpt from The Art of Fiction no. 246, Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti discuss how writing her first novel helped Cusk discover her “shape or identity or essence.” Next, Allan Gurganus’s reading of his story “It Had Wings,” about an arthritic woman who finds a fallen angel in her backyard, is interspersed with a version of the story rendered as a one-woman opera by the composer Bruce Saylor. The episode closes with “Dear Someone,” a poem by Deborah Landau.
Rachel Cusk photo courtesy the author.
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