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An Interview-in-Excerpts with Lance Olsen

Image Credit: Andi OlsenLance Olsen is author of more than 20 books of and about innovative writing practices, including, most recently, the novel Theories of Forgetting (FC2, 2014), the collection How to Unfeel the Dead: New & Selected Fictions (Teksteditions, 2014), and the critifictional meditation [[ there. ]], of which the piece in this issue of The Collagist is an excerpt.  He teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah.

An excerpt from his book, [[ there. ]], appears in Issue Fifty-Five of The Collagist.

Here, he answers questions "in the form of excerpts"--with further excerpts from [[ there. ]]  Enjoy!

What is writing like?

A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.

            Reflected Rebecca Solnit.

What isn’t writing like?

I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time.  Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one. Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.

            Wrote another editor when rejecting a manuscript submitted by Gertrude Stein.

When you do it, why?

Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients.  That is, after all, the case. What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?

            Queried Annie Dillard.

When you don’t, why?

Consciousness’s continuous harassment by the flesh.

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