Sara Levine studied English at Northwestern University and has a PhD from Brown University. She taught in the MFA in Nonfiction Writing program at the University of Iowa and is the chair of the Writing Program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has previously published a novel entitled Treasure Island!!

Short Story Collections

Short Dark Oracles
(Caketrain, 2011)

reviewed by Emma Young

Interview with Sara Levine

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

Sara Levine: It's hard to say, not only because I write slowly but because I wrote them over a long period of time. I know that I wrote the earliest in 1996 when I was in graduate school and that I wrote the latest in 2008. Which means a gestation period of twelve years!

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

SL: Never. I thought of them as my apprenticeship, or exercises in sentence-making. It was hard to get my mind around the idea that they'd ever be a book at all.

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

SL: The order was largely intuitive, I think. I sent Caketrain a manuscript and they re-ordered, re-titled, suggested several compressions, and cut two stories entirely. If the book reads coherently, I think it's because of their editorial care. For example, they moved Psychic--a tiny piece that was floating in the book's middle--to the front and retitled it Oracle, which was a superb edit.

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

SL: Somebody yearns for something and the status quo is disrupted. Something changes. That said, a lot of my stories don't follow this formula; they work closer to prose poem, essay or meditation.

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

SL: Not a specific person. The audience is an idealized reader—probably a smarter, less tolerant, ruthless version of me. Someone who's tapping her toe and saying, "What ever made you think I would be interested?"

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

SL: No. Well, maybe, if you liked Short Dark Oracles, would you check out my novel Treasure Island!!!?

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

SL: It feels great and amazing and lucky and weird. But sometimes I just want to forget it ever happened and be back at my desk, mulling over sentences.

TSR: What are you working on now?

SL: A novel.

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

SL: Adam Levin's Hot Pink, Helen Simpson's In-Flight Entertainment, and Gary Lutz's Stories in the Worst Way.
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