Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Glen Pourciau

by Colette Arrand Read the Story December 14, 2015

Your story has more than a few small spaces—an apartment building, suicide notes—but the narrative breaks them open. The crosstalk takes place through the wall separating two apartments. The suicide notes are largely blank. Flash fiction, too, is a kind of small space broken open. Did the form you’re using here lead you to find that open space beyond an apartment or envelope, or was it something else?

I’m interested in the silences between people and what inhabits those silences. The main narrative in this story is the unspoken.

What do you find so engaging about those silences?

I often suspect there is much more in what people are not saying than in what they are saying. I’ve written a number of stories in which people refuse to speak, and their silence is the catalyst for everything that happens in those stories. Silence conceals their inner worlds.

Is the same true of letters? In literature, especially, letters are loved for their intimacy. Letters between lovers. Friends. Suicide letters. We obsess over these objects and look between the spaces between silences for what their authors can’t convey, or for what they withhold. In this story, you give us three such letters, and each of them is silent. Is such an inner world impenetrable? Or does that silence actually speak to something else?

No, I don’t think the inner world is impenetrable. As you say, letters and connections with friends are examples. Stories can express different aspects of what’s inside silence, often in unsettling ways. I think that in many conversations, even with friends and family, there are expressive silences, maybe due to fear, confusion, or out of consideration for people’s feelings.

Is that what is happening in your story? Do these characters come to recognize each other better in some way, or is there something that is yet inexpressible between them?

I don’t usually like to get between the reader and the story, but I will say this: there’s recognition, yes, but on his part an aversion to the recognition. Much more could be expressed between them, but he turns away, which by implication expresses the limitation of silence.

The limitation of silence. I like that phrase a lot. Silence has its uses, obviously, but its limitations should be considered as well, which I think “Crosstalk” does a wonderful job of. Not to return to the title in the last question, but beyond the physical sense of crosstalking that takes place here, there’s the connotation of the word itself, two people speaking at, but not to, each other. Silence, here, is more than the absence of noise. In fact, silence seems to have a volume, a tangibility. What is the consequence of carrying such long, loud silences, I wonder?

One consequence can be isolation. And you may carry the burden of what’s left unsaid. Talking to yourself becomes a coping mechanism, with the drawback that in your mind you may become your own companion.

About the Author:

Glen Pourciau's first collection of stories won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. His second story collection is forthcoming from Four Way Books. He's had stories published by AGNI Online, Antioch Review, Epoch, New England Review, Paris Review, and other magazines.

About the Interviewer:

Colette Arrand lives in Athens, Georgia, where she is a student at the University of Georgia. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Toast, CutBank, The Atlas Review, and elsewhere.

About the Artist:

Claire Ibarra is a writer, poet, and photographer. Her photographs have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including Roadside Fiction, Alimentum--The Literature of Food, Foliate Oak, Lime Hawk, and Blue Fifth Review. She was an artist in residence for Counterexample Poetics and art editor for Gulf Stream Magazine. Claire’s work was included in the “Finding the Light” Exhibition at the PhotoPlace Gallery.