Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of Real To Reel and Liberty’s Excess from FC2. She was interviewed by T. J. Dietderich on April 5, 2005
Some of your short stories are written in a screenplay format. Has your work ever been performed? Is it meant to be?
Yep. Not only do I sometimes move toward the performative myself in readings, but I also love it when other people perform the “voices” or “scenes” without me. And perhaps more to the point, my man human, Andy Mingo, is working on a third film adaptation of one of my stories. The first was screened at the Portland International film festival (“Chronology of Water”); the second just screened at the Longbaugh film festival (“Bravo America”); he is currently in pre-production on a feature film based on my story “Cusp.”
The other way to answer that question would be to say that I consider language itself to be performative — an alive medium which is not so unlike the moving image or the performance in that it is fluid, arbitrary, chaotic, subject to arrest or interruption or perpetual extension. I suppose traditional and especially market driven fiction covers over that idea … but some writers are actually interested in bringing that idea to the very front of fiction.
Your stories sometimes involve actors as characters. The stories “Male Lead” and “From The Boy Stories” revolve around actors and their thoughts. Why do you use these people as characters?
Ha. Aren’t actors characters? I mean, what I can’t stop loving about the figure of the actor in American culture is that they play out what seems true about all humans … that we are always all already playing out roles and scripts whether we want to admit it or not.
In that story in particular I think I abandoned a traditional notion of character altogether in favor of constructed subjectivities. In fact it may be true that I no longer believe in characterization as an interesting mode …
You seem to have a knack for pointing out the violence in a way that makes even the “strangest” violence, like in “Sade’s Mistress,” seem everyday, like something we normally avoid looking at. Is violence so prevalent in your work because you see the world as violent?
Is there someone who does not see the world as violent?
Are they blind?
I mean, American culture and I suppose world culture is super-saturated with not only actual violence but of course representations of violence. I think we live in this world. We write in this world. I’d like to be precise about that in my work.
But there is a lot more to it than that, because I have zero interest in shock value or representing violence to be clever or flashy. I’m looking for articulations which get underneath cultural cover stories. Here is an example: when bush says he believes in and promotes a culture of life, I think that’s about the most violent thing I’ve ever heard. It’s obscene. It’s pornographic.
Your work also seems rich with sexual themes. What is the connection between sex and violence in your work?
See above. Ha ha, just kidding. Seriously, I think I am looking for a precise articulation when it comes to sexuality, too. I believe that the body is an epistemological site, and that language is a metaphor for experience. Since nearly every lived moment of a woman’s life is sexualized, even if it is not, I try to speak articulately and precisely about this plain truth.
Can you tell me a little bit about two girls review?
two girls review was a magazine, which I invented while drunk one night in Eugene, Oregon, after I’d been to yet another yawner academic literary reading where I’d picked up several academic literary journals. I think I said to myself goddamn it and thought to myself why why why does writing have to be “housed” like this? In such a pristine and hierarchical and deadened way? Why can’t it be expression again, alive, noisy, unflinching, rude? So I talked four of my friends into an alternative literary publication where we would break the rules of the page and publish people who were outside the mainstream. Including non-literary figures such as Annie Sprinkle, Andre Serrano, Joel-Peter Witkin, and roving graffiti artists. And that we’d print those texts alongside prizewinners like Yusef Komenyaaka. And that we’d also include never-been-heard-of’s and street people. And that the idea would be a heteroglossic carnival.
And that we wouldn’t apologize.
It was a kick in the pants.
Currently that idea has evolved and morphed into our indie press, chiasmusmedia.net.
Like many FC2 authors, you teach creative writing. What do you think is the most important lesson for new writers?
Be who you are and say something which goes against the grain of your current culture. Watch out for being seduced by capitalism. Find what makes your heart beat near rupture and cultivate it.
Are you working on anything new right now?
Yep, hope to finish it this summer. “It” is a multi-media novel.