“90% of my stories are written from my life and I’ve used them up. More and more imagination will be required.”
Interview with Chris Dungey
So, short stories. Love them or hate them?
I like a good literary novel and I gravitate toward ‘difficult’ books. I should never have read Bellow, Pynchon, Wallace, DeLillo because I realized I would never have the brilliance to do something similar. But, short stories seem to be within my grasp. I read many just to see where the bar is. Almond, Dybek, McGuane, Richard Ford, Beattie, Saunders, Bukowski, Updike, Dan Fante, Junot Diaz.
You’re the first author that Likely Red has ever published twice. We published “Epoxy” in 2017 and “Peepers” this week. Could you compare your writing thoughts and processes from last April up to now? Has anything changed for you?
Yes. Sorry to say, I’m slowing down. 90% of my stories are written from my life and I’ve used them up. More and more imagination will be required.
How did “Peepers” come to be?
OK, but spoiler alert: “Peepers” didn’t take much work. While my neighbors hated the intrusion of free-range chickens, they never got a taste. The mom and kids came by after the storm looking for Henny but I never found her. They must have, though, because she showed up in late April when I began mowing again.
How do you feel about chickens?
I don’t hate them, though my exposure is probably minimal. I’d love to know what they’re clucking to themselves about. Since I don’t eat red meat, I rather depend on poultry.
What about automobiles?
I’m a big sports-car racing fan. Haven’t seen any this year because I’ve been training for a couple of bicycle races. Usually see 3 or 4 including 24 Hours of Daytona and Sebring 12 Hour. Really despise motorists when I’m on the bike. The cars aren’t the problem though.
Your book The Pace-Lap Blues and Other Tales From The Seventies is on Amazon. What was the process of putting that together like for you?
The process was just a matter of picking the stories and getting the chronology right, making sure the characters had the same names throughout that chronology. As I said earlier, that time-frame was much more fertile, verdant, with incidents and subject matter from which to draw stories. Next time I need to slow down, too, and edit more carefully. In “The Mickey,” I spelled Gandalf wrong.
Any recent influential reads?
I’ve spent the summer reading any Bellow that I’d missed. That included everything but Herzog and Adventures of Augie March. Simultaneously reading first volume of Zachary Leader’s Life of Saul Bellow. Have to get moving as the second installment comes out this fall. Also discovered Tessa Moshfegh this summer, hoping to get out of my dwindling short-fiction ‘box.’
If readers of Likely Red had to go read another lit mag or journal after reading this interview, what should it be?
Is Tin House still considered small? My latest just arrived today. Passages North out of the Upper Peninsula is pretty robust. I read Three Penny Review. Also Book Forum.
What’s next for Chris Dungey?
First in my age group at Cherry Roubaix Gran Frondo in Traverse City next summer, the 20 mile route. Or, move up to the 40 miler and just finish. Would love to be smart enough to write cogent book reviews and literary criticism. I’ll settle for a good story idea: Something that never happened to me or someone I know except that I pulled it out of my butt.