Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Molly Giles

by Julia Brown Read the Story September 19, 2016

The story’s title is perfect for so many reasons. Of course, that “X” would normally be “Ex,” but your title circles something deeper, something about the paradox of relationship, particularly one that’s ended. I can’t see an X without imagining making one myself. It’s a violent act—a crossing out, but also a marking down, a marking the spot. For mathematicians, X is an unknown quantity that has to be solved for. The protagonist tries again and again to solve for her X, always failing.

Thanks for your insights—I had none of them! I’d love to claim that I meant X to be read as the missing link in an algebra problem, but I’m afraid I just liked the way it looked. But since you’ve offered all these other great suggestions, I see that it also works as a multiplication sign, as a tic-tac-toe foe to zero, as a sign hoboes made on garden gates to mark hospitable kitchens during the Depression …. Why didn’t I think of those?

“My X” made me think of Grace Paley, how deft she was at revealing core, abstruse realities of relationship by examining shared habits or small moments that are deceptively mundane. The protagonist’s desire, to “get under the rock of his reasons,” struck me as very Paleyesque.

I love Grace Paley and am so glad you do, too; she is definitely a shining star to me. Her advice—“Love your life”—opened the door to writers, particularly women writers in the eighties who were not hunting lions in Africa or splashing around in Paris fountains. She gave us permission to celebrate the “small moments” in our ordinary lives.

Do you believe in soul mates? I’ve heard a theory of reincarnation that we spend each successive life revolving around the same set of souls in different roles; your boss in this life might be your husband in the next, etc. Do you think there’s any truth to that?

It does seem we keep meeting the same people in different disguises (how many of us have married our own parent, for instance), and I feel I have definitely run into the same obstacles, questions, and challenges all my lives, I mean life.

What are the things in your own life that you hate to love?

Hate doesn’t seem to have staying power; maybe I’m too lazy to hang on to it. Love on the other hand never goes away. It reminds me of a bed of campfire embers—you’ve thrown a shovel of sand and a pail of water on it and then years later damn if it doesn’t flare up, saucy as ever, and try to burn down the forest.

About the Author:

Molly Giles is the author of four award-winning story collections and a novel. She has recent and forthcoming fictions in Bellevue Literary Journal, Foglifter, Juked, West Marin Review, Willow Springs, and Zyzzyva.

About the Interviewer:

Julia Brown lives, works, and reads in Houston, Texas.

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.