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 Lee Rourke 


Website: ScarecrowComment

Lee Rourke is a talented Mancunian writing out of East London, co-editor of 3AM Magazine and founder of the litzine Scarecrow.

Short Story Collections

Social Disease, 2007

Reviewed by Mark Dalligan

 Interview with Lee Rourke 

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Lee Rourke: I wrote them a long time ago now; from January to September 2006. I wrote each story – I like to call them fragments – in the same pub (The Talbot, Hackney, east London), each Saturday afternoon, on the same table in the corner of the bar, long-hand in HB pencil in a Moleskine (I don’t use Moleskines any more as they’re too expensive). But, I don’t remember ever saying ‘right, this collection is now finished’ . . . It all just seemed to happen quite organically.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

LR: No, I was much more interested in developing a theory. I was reading a lot of Beckett at the time and I wanted to write about dark humour; out from a treadmill of boredom, bleakness and meaninglessness. I also wanted to write about writing, in the same way Blanchot writes about the impossibility of writing. The writing of Blanchot hovers over Everyday like a dark cloud. But then, there are my own thoughts on boredom in there, too. Each fragment – all basically the same story told in polygonal perspectives – became an obsession of mine. I was caught in the repetition of writing about the same theme over and over again: a theme of boredom (something I am writing extensively about in an on-going non-fiction project On Boredom); those that embrace boredom, and those that try to resist it. Everyday concentrates on the violence, the friction created when those two types meet. I’m not the biggest fan of Bertrand Russell but it makes complete sense to me when he states that there would be less violence in the world if people learnt to embrace boredom.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

LR: Without trying to sound too flippant I simply chose the ones I liked at the time. There are a couple I probably wouldn’t have put in there if I was compiling it today.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

LR:  Not that much. I am much more interested in language; we demand language as Heidigger (and others) argued. Although, we need "story" in our lives: from the muttering of everyday speech to the grand narratives of the Greeks. I suppose "story" simplifies things for us, turns something we can never understand (our finite, limitedness) into something plausible.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

LR:  Myself, I am a reader. I write for myself – a selfish cliché, I know – in the vainglorious hope that someone might tell me they like it. Although, I do like the idea of an average reader/fan of the established British "literary" novel (a re-hash of the "Victorian novel with Jamesian knobs on" as the critic Mark Thwaite once said) reading my work. I sometimes wonder about people who expect plot and twists and literary metaphor reading Everyday. I often wonder what they would make of it.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

LR:This is a bloody good question. Well, probably a toss-up between a) Do you think I am far too obviously bitter and twisted in that juvenile slamming doors-after-an-argument kind of way, and I should finally grow up? And b) What did you think of the first story?

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

LR: It makes me happy, as I suppose it does every published author. Okay, I wrote the book for the clichéd and selfish reasons I mention above, but I like the idea of people reading my book. I can’t deny that. If I saw someone reading it on the tube it would make my year and I would probably rush up to them and demand they shake my hand.

TSR: What are you working on now?

LR: Well, I’ve just signed a deal for my novel The Canal with Melville House Publishing in New York. Something I am very proud of (Melville being a favourite publisher of mine). I have just finished a poetry collection called Varroa Destructor that I’m pleased with and I’m working on a new novel (working title Amber) and the non-fiction book On Boredom. And I nearly have enough stories (fragments) for another collection. I write a lot of criticism too and have just finished a piece on Francis Ponge for the TLS.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

LR: Clare Wigfall - The Loudest Sound and Nothing; Tao Lin - Bed; Gabriel Josipovici – In the Fertile Land