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An ABR Interview with Lidia Yuknavitch

From: American Book Review
Volume 34, Number 3, March/April 2013
p. 15 | 10.1353/abr.2013.0032

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Abstraction is often eschewed in fiction that focuses so much on the body—the trials and travails of having a body with needs, desires, and flaws. While having a body is certainly a universal human condition, what it means to have a body varies with the individual, and can be influenced by outside forces such as disease, drugs, medicine, injury, and age. How do you feel embodiment is changing in response to modern technologies, and are these positive or negative changes on a whole?

Well I’m more interested in the relationship between language/representation and the body. I think our bodies are evolving and de-evolving in relation to technology all the time, and I don’t think of it as positive or negative—it’s just the world at the time and the body in that world at that time. For instance, we’ve been in the so-called cyborgian future for a long time now, but we still refer to cyborg life as sci-fi.

What interests me about the relationship between language/representation and the body is that the threshold is extremely telling. One of the most corporeal texts ever written was Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. That interests me. The acute embodiment of his language, how a reader feels more inside her own body in his poetics.

It interests me that what I think of as acutely corporeal writing is on the decline in our present tense. Why is that I wonder. In its place we have a large swath of some quasi-domestic realism going on. Middle-aged people having sex or not having it, getting divorced or married or producing offspring or taking care of aging parents or going through endlessly bourgeois plotlines…particularly white heterosexual bourgeois plotlines…the most exciting work to me today is work that deviates via corporeal truths and plotlines, not socially condoned plotlines, which have been and always will be aligned with the cult of good citizenship….

And my fiction is OFTEN abstract! Ha…you must be talking about something in particular you saw…I used to get told all the effing time that my work was “beautiful and lyric,” code for “utterly abstract writing.” Really!

I don’t think I’ve gotten less abstract or lyric. I think I’ve become more sly and silver.

Your work often plays with structure and form in narrative. How important is structure and form to your work? Do you start a work with a preconceived structure in mind, or does it evolve as you write the piece?

I’m a form junkie. In Lidialand, there IS no writing unless I can play a formal game or solve a formal question as part of the content.

You’re a founder of Chiasmus Media and publish with independent presses. What is your opinion on the future of publishing, as far as the small/large press debate goes? What role does technology play in your writing, editing, and distribution of your work? How do you think fiction is changing in response to technology?

Well the mode of production has resurged and is in the hands of the masses now, isn’t it. Great waves of plate tectonics are facing the big publishers— agents—editors—they must be shitting their pants a little—what will authors do without us??!!! At the same time, the ugly head of corporate domination is alive and well, so the money publishing may end up as a kind of monstrous overlord…I don’t know. A little bit we deserve what high capitalism has given us. I mean, “we” bought the books they fed us, we like the shiny glitz and pomp of market determined “literature,” we let it ride….

Lots of us have tried to fight the good fight in terms of keeping an edge alive in literary endeavors, I could name a hundred warriors here—but the ones I’m closest too? We’re pretty exhausted and wondering what comes next. Most of the students I work with want to be rich or famous.

Maybe it’s a good time for art to remake itself underground.

The Chronology of Water has sometimes been billed as an...

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