is a writer, visual artist, humorist and HTMLGIANT contributor, and his
fiction, non-fiction and humor pieces appear widely on internet
publications and anthologies by small indie presses.
with Jimmy Chen
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Jimmy Chen: Some of the pieces were
already published online, the rest took about two weeks. Looking back,
I probably should have spent more time on the chapbook.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
JC: Not really, I was simply trying to
write companion pieces to the ones already published. If I am to name
names, I think The Age of Wire and
String by Ben Marcus and Varieties
of Disturbance by Lydia Davis were in the back of my mind --
only because the pieces are really short and seem to relish off such
constraints, as well as for their unapologetic strange logic.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
order was somewhat arbitrary, other than The Typographer and Re: Loading This Typewriter being
first and last, respectively, for hopefully intuitive reasons. The
alienation of technology sort of culminated with the penultimate A Second Person, so I guess its
place was intentional too.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
doesn't mean plot or character, an idea at the point of some
contention. I will admit my favorite stories -- like any Raymond
Carver, Dubliners, or Nine Stories -- are all character based, but for
me a "story" is simply a linguistic gesture, a body of words which
spawn ideas, even problems about their own artifice. Borges, Perec, and
Barthelme are "problematic" writers in this way, which I try to
emulate. They saw a story as a riddle, a poem without line breaks,
which has been very instructive.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
I write stories that I would want to read, which I suppose is
solipsist, even narcissistic. I'm suspicious of the egalitarian ideal
that writing is selfless and for the common reader. Writers, as all
artists, are egotistical maniacs who deem their perception worth
documenting, and who, in their mire, inadvertently transcend themselves
and affect others with their art. People have sex for selfish reasons
and babies are made. Well, writers write for selfish reasons and
culture is made.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
is rather laced with sarcasm, and I wonder if the omniscient narrator
is even likable, and if that's important to the reader.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
still kind of flattered and surprised that the first print run of 75
has sold out, and that it was received with relative positivity --
mainly because, honestly, the better pieces, I feel, were already
available online, and I didn't work that hard on it. I'm not flaunting
any casualness, only suggesting that I'm humbled people went out of
their way to procure the chapbook. With online publishing, which is
mainly what I'm involved in, it's free and at the tip of a button; that
others chose to read my work that way seems appropriate. That others
have purchased the chapbook is subduing.
What are you working on now?
painfully editing two more elaborate pieces about a condominium and
wikipedia-type entry for a fictional television show. I'm also writing
a handful of dense paragraph flash fictions that attempt to recoil
inward, in the sense that the story, given the length, is not able to
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
JC: Two are Like Life and Self-Help
by Lorrie Moore, and I started poking through David Sedaris's stories
again, my wife and I taking turns reading them to each other in bed. I
got over my unfair bias against him because he was "too popular," which
is not only absurd but really small. At the end of the day, Sedaris is
one of the few who can make me laugh out loud, literally. He has a way
of delivering a line that I could learn from, and a deep sustaining
empathy for the world.