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AN INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT STONE Robert Stone photo by Kelly Wise courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf An Interview with Robert Stone / Kay Bonetti This interview was conducted in California in April, 1982, for the American Audio Prose Library. Robert Stone is the author of three prize winning novels: A Hall of Mirrors; Dog Soldiers; and A Flag for Sunrise. Interviewer: You're the kind of writer who is associated with the long haul, the big form. You have such a large vision that I was a little startled at the presence of short stories in your canon. How much do you work in the short story form? Stone: Well, I started out writing quite a few. I find that I'm difficult to satisfy in terms of my own stories. I think I have destroyed many more than I have ever submitted. My stories are rather different from my novels. They're a bit more surreal, perhaps there's more humor in the short stories. The concerns, though, are the same. Perhaps I find I don't have the opportunity to really address those concerns in what I consider to be a serious way, in the story, in quite the same way that I can get to them in the novel, because in the novel I can go off in different directions. I can find resonances by setting up things like parallel structures where two different sets of people are doing totally different versions of the same thing, whereas in the short story everything must be particularly impacted. So I'm always waiting for some story to occur to me that I consider to be inevitable. Because I don't actively pursue the form but rather wait to be struck by some story that will come together in my mind, I don't do many. Interviewer: You said that the concerns were the same and by that did you mean the thematic concerns of your short stories? Stone: I think there's a common element in everything I've ever written. I started out in my first book and I think I was working my way toward the main subjects that I deal with. All of them touch on these subjects, and they are subjects that a great many educated people today don't take very seriously. I'm concerned with basic ontology, with questions that are perhaps more religious than political. I write about the presence or the absence of God and the significance that the The Missouri Review ยท 91 question of God's absence or presence has in people's lives. People's pursuit of the numinous, their desire for some kind of transcendent ground, seems to me to be a very large part of the human experience. It isn't something that is very often addressed in academic or literary or educated circles generally, but I think it's something that occurs in the lives of most people, even though they don't often talk about it. Interviewer: Is this just your personal material, or do you see those issues as the fundamental business of the novelist? Stone: Well, I suppose every novelist finds his fundamental business , decides what his fundamental business is. That, I think, is mine. Interviewer: What does that say to you about the fact that most contemporary novelists are somewhat embarrassed by this kind of subject matter, or consciously avoid it? Stone: Well, I understand why novelists do. It's very dangerous territory. It's very easy to be fatuous about transcendence and spiritual values. There's an awful lot of fatuous and sentimental stuff written about people's hunger for areas beyond their own ken. This is an area that you really can't fake. You come to it with either active belief or active disbelief or a position which takes its dynamics from somewhere in between. It has to concern you. If it doesn't, then you can't write about it. You can't, I think, effectively write about people's hunger for transcendence unless it's something that you yourself experience. It can't be done secondhand, it can't be rendered warmed-over. Interviewer: You said that you...


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