“All Activism is a Romance”: An Interview with Maryse Meijer

Maryse Meijer

I first met Maryse Meijer on a book tour where she was kind enough to read with Tobias Caroll and myself at the very fine Volumes Bookstore in Chicago, Illinois. We exchanged copies of our books and I quickly devoured Heartbreaker, all too happy to add it the following semester to my students’ reading lists. Her prose is sharp, focused, sometimes musical and possesses an undeniable kinetic energy. Her characters, filled with the burning embers of desire, are often longing for things that will tear the asunder, lead them into situations that give the reader pause, that ask us to consider the power of desire, that fill us, in the safety of our reading chairs, with a sense of danger. Bleak and uncomfortable but never disappointing, her stories unearth the best and worst in human nature. Her latest, The Seventh Mansion, centers on a disenfranchised young man, Xie, who discovers love in the bones of a saint, and through this love finds power to stand in the face of extraordinary odds and fight for what he believes in. A novel that is as much a love story as it is a literary call to arms, Maryse manages to create a book that I wish I’d read my entire life and only now have had the pleasure. When FSG Originals announced the release of The Seventh Mansion, I contacted Maryse for this interview. Always gracious, Maryse agreed and the follow conversation was conducted via email over several weeks this autumn. 

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Life’s Unexpected Detours: On Richard Owain Roberts’s “Hello Friend We Missed You”

"Hello Friend..." cover

And for that matter
This cake is baked but I much prefer the batter
Perhaps in part because it had so much potential
To be delicious and still be influential”
—Sloan “Fading into Obscurity”

Driving along Highway 36 in Colorado recently, I drove past a town where I studied for a brief period. I visited the home where I once lived, toiling away on stories that would inevitably go nowhere, vanishing with the hard drive they’d been written on. Beautiful and flawed experiments filled with promise that never suffered through the indignities of editorial review. I lived in poverty, but my days were rich with hope, that one day, my work would be well received, sought after, respected. Enter Hello Friend We Missed You, the latest from Welsh author, Richard Owain Roberts. A fine pairing for this trip to Colorado. Perhaps it was the reading which conditioned my thinking or my thinking that conditioned my read, either way, we met in the right space and the right time. 

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Poetry Against Authoritarianism: A Review of Randall Gavin Horton’s “{#289-128}: Poems”

Randall Horton coverThough I’m not typically one to write reviews for works of poetry, I was happy to take on {#289-128} by Randall Gavin Horton — a collection of poems that examines mass incarceration in the United States. 

Horton divides his book into three sections: Property of the State, Poet-in Residence, and Poet New York. Each section follows the trajectory of the speaker ([#289-128]) from when he is turned over to the state to when he manages to reclaim his identity after his time is served, illustrating the ways in which a prisoner remains imprisoned beyond their time on the inside.

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Philosophy, Horror, and Denial: Brian Evenson on Uncanny Fiction

Brian Evenson

Brian Evenson isn’t an author that fans of Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, or Chuck Palahniuk typically know, but he certainly should be, as his work is every bit as apocalyptic, surprising, and haunting. For years, Evenson’s readers have been slipping copies of his books into the hands of friends, students, and family members. When travelling, I often keep a copy of Contagion (which Evenson graciously allowed my small press, Astrophil Press, to reprint) and drop it into neighborhood lending libraries, and I must admit that I find a little thrill in knowing that I’ve done my small part in introducing people to this pitch perfect collection of stories. I am not alone in this; many of Evenson’s readers border on evangelicals, spreading the dark word of Evenson. This enthusiasm for Evenson’s work is understandable considering his ability to publish tightly wrought, layered stories that often stick with us long after having read them. There are very few authors I can think of who have a catalog as strong as Evenson; his stories feel entirely new and each of his sentences feel entirely necessary. 

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Where Sounds Meet Spaces, Haunted by Memory: On Cynan Jones’s “Cove”

Cynan Jones’s books tend to rest on the intersection of the interior struggles of his characters and the exterior challenges the elements present. It is only through navigating the difficulties in the natural world that the characters are able to excavate the emotional dilemmas they’re unable to process—certainly, the elements, the land, and the creatures dying at the hands of the characters are symbolic of his characters’ moods, but there is always something else happening beyond Jones’s use of setting […]

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“I Realized the Text Should Lead Me”: An Interview With Jordan A. Rothacker

I first met Jordan A. Rothacker at the Astrophil Press/South Dakota Review booth during the AWP conference in Washington DC. He was carrying a copy of his novel, And Wind will Wash Away and I found it in my hands very quickly. At first, I was a little taken aback by his direct and spirited personality. It didn’t take me long, however, to realize that Jordan is a gregarious and kind man who, like so many of us, is just […]

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Another Side of Brian Evenson: A Review of “Reports”

When I consider authors that have inspired me over the years, there is perhaps no fingerprint more pronounced than that of Brian Evenson’s. It was, after all, upon seeing Evenson read “The Polygamy of Language,” that brought me upon the path that I’m on today as a writer, precisely, a writer of fiction. Evenson’s work showed me, in a way I had not encountered previously, that narrative could grapple with metaphysics and language, and it was as if the chair […]

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Ghosts of Many Worlds: A Review of Jac Jemc’s “The Grip of It”

There is at the core of the American writing tradition an interest in haunts, specters, and otherworldliness as they allow play, or what Hawthorne refers to as “a certain latitude” in fashion and form. Jac Jemc’s latest book on FSG Originals, The Grip of It, seems to me to honor this tradition while finding its own voice. On the surface, the book is a haunted house story—the story of a couple who move away from the rush and clank of […]

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