Smoking With Ben Stein

Read the Story December 15, 2007

Magic realism, fabulist fiction, quirky literary. In what genre would you put this story? Should fiction, or any work of art, be given such labels?

To both of those questions, the short answer is I’m not sure…

The long answer is probably best discussed at the kitchen table. I’m not sure if having the dog nearby is a help or a hindrance. It is hard to tell with dogs.

“The halfboy’s halfness isn’t obvious.” What a great first line. It immediately made me want to know more. Do you have any tips for writing first lines that hook?

They are usually there already, probably somewhere in the middle.

Whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, is any character ever whole?

I feel that if we were on, say, Matlock, someone would object to this question as “leading the witness.”

Who has influenced your writing?

Gail Adams. Mary Ann Samyn. Matt Vandermeulen. Dan McCarthy. Sam Bell. John Schumate. Gertrude Stein. Julie. Gary Lutz. Ben Marcus. John Wells. Sandy Baldwin. Jeremy Justus.

SLQ completed issue 18 at the close of summer and launched this issue, 19, on the threshold of winter. During the three months in between, the crops were harvested, the leaves fell, the rain returned, temperatures dropped, darkness lengthened. Death in increments. How does the turning of the seasons affect your “muse,” your inspiration?

Pleasantly. It is nice to hole up with nothing but fat books and projects.

About the Author:

Ben Stein teaches English in New England. He recently received his MFA from West Virginia University. His work has appeared in Harpur Palate, Cranky, and River Teeth and is forthcoming from 5_Trope, Caketrain, and Gargoyle.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.