Chasin received her PhD in Modern Thought and Literature
Stanford University in 1993, and went on to teach literary and cultural
studies at Boston College, Yale University, the University of Geneva,
and Columbia University. Chasin's first book was a work of nonfiction
called Selling Out: The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market. Kissed
By is her first book of fiction. Chasin's creative work has been
published in print in Denver Quarterly, AGNI, Chain, sleepingfish, West
Branch, Phoebe, and The Capilano Review, and online in Exquisite
Corpse, DIAGRAM, and elimae. She now teaches in the Writing Department
at Lang College, The New School.
with Alexandra Chasin
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Alexandra Chasin: About
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
AC: No. In fact, even
when it became clear that there were more than enough pieces to amount
to a book, I thought they were too disparate, too formally diverse, to
come together in a collection. Especially in a literary-historical
moment when linked stories are popular and when writers often find
their way into a voice or form or niche and stay there, I had to be
persuaded that “range” could be an affirmative quality in a collection.
My ideal reader – David Jauss, the gifted teacher, editor, and writer –
persuaded me by asking, “When did it become a virtue to be the literary
equivalent of John Wayne?”
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
AC: I left out a
couple of pieces that struck the editors as “realist,” not exactly
because I agreed with them, but because I was not too attached to those
particular pieces to let them go. I had some difficulty ordering the
collection. I placed the title piece first because it works as a kind
of artistic credo for me and because it begins, “I began....” From
there, I tried to alternate pieces with respect to their length, degree
of formal experimentation, and degree of humor/seriousness. The last
piece is a series of Indexes, so I put it at the end to mimic the place
of Indexes in other books.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
AC: The word
“story” means, to me, something along the lines of plotted narrative,
which is why I tend to avoid it in favor of the more amorphous, the
more generically indeterminate, and therefore arguably more
categorically capacious, “piece.”
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
No, but I can see that my writing requires, and therefore perhaps
assumes, a certain quality, or rather, activity, in its readers; my
prose tends to call for a fairly high degree of engagement – readers
often need to participate in making sense of it.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
AC: I’m often
curious about whether the (intended) humor goes across because I have a
fairly idiosyncratic sense of humor.
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
AC: I wish I knew.
TSR: What are
you working on now?
AC: A novella that
works with the proposition that historical events and forces determine
individual personality and action more than familial events and forces
do. And a longer work that is set in the early 19th Century, in which I
take radical liberties with actual historical figures.
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
Le’s The Boat,
Martone by Michael Martone, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee.