alan_michael_parker_2013What the hell is this?

A novel.

 

But it’s got 99 stories and some of them have the same titles?

That’s true.

When your new book arrives in the mail, the first day, what do you do?

This is embarrassing. I usually weep, and clutch the damn thing like it’s just died. I’m pathetic. Once, I even tucked a copy of a newly arrived book into my pants—at the back, don’t worry—and wore it under my shirt all day at work.

 

Who should read this novel?

The people who are in it. This means you.

 

What dead person would you like to read this novel?

Calvino. If only he would use the word “lightness,” or at least mutter the word to himself.

 

Learn anything?

Always. It turns out that the wildest permutations of a form return the form to use: the more I thought I was writing an “anti-novel,” the more the various characteristics of a traditional novel began to appear, and to matter. Thus, for all of its seeming unorthodoxy, The Committee on Town Happiness remains a long-form prose event with a plot and characters, on- and off-stage occurrences, and a sidelong P.O.V. My god, there’s even a denouement.

Here’s another lesson for me, this one about P.O.V. Years ago, I heard Jonathan Lethem remark off-handedly that P.O.V. doesn’t matter, first or third, whatever. At the time, I had no clue as to what he meant, but I think I might get it now: intimacy is what matters. I want to feel not just for but also with my characters. Writing this novel taught me much more about the complex relationship between language and intimacy.

 

What do you like about The Committee on Town Happiness?

That it exists; that there’s space for this book in the world.

 

Can you talk a little about writing comedy?

I’m so glad you asked. I think that comedy raises the level of difficulty for me; not only am I writing seriously about serious matters all of the time, but then I also want to write comedy, which makes my projects even more impossible. Of course I revel in heartbreak—I mean, come on, I’m a sports fan and a novelist—but finding the comedy in heartbreak seems to me a larger challenge, if not a metaphysical necessity.

 

Three people you’d like to have dinner with?

My late dog, Issa. Gandhi’s father. Whoever invented the wheel.

 

When did you know you were an adult?

When I realized that it was more fun to drink after shopping rather than before.

 

How many stories did you cut from The Committee on Town Happiness?

Twenty-seven.

 

Who’s been your best editor?

Time. With a shout-out to Guy Intoci at Dzanc.

 

New York or Paris?

Rome.

 

What works mattered to you in the writing of The Committee on Town Happiness?

Invisible Cities

The Metamorphosis

A Rose for Emily

Symbols and Signs

Olive Kitteridge

The Inferno

The U.S.A. Trilogy

Fahrenheit 451

Hydroplane

And many, many films…

 

What are you offering people who buy and read The Committee on Town Happiness?

I’ll send a piece of my desk to the first 99 people who read the novel.

_________________________

ALAN MICHAEL PARKER a novelist, poet, essayist, and raconteur. He has written and lectured widely — including at the Sorbonne and on the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin — on subjects ranging from the history of beach house art to casinos that sell Matisse paintings. The author or editor of fifteen books, including THE COMMITTEE ON TOWN HAPPINESS and LONG DIVISION, he has received numerous awards: among which include three Pushcart Prizes, inclusion in BEST AMERICAN POETRY, the North Carolina Book Award, the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, the Fineline Award, and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. He is the Douglas C. Houchens Professor of English at Davidson College, and he also teaches in the University of Tampa low-residency M.F.A. program.

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