Smoking With Terry DeHart

Read the Story March 15, 2004

What inspired you to bring together style elements personifying Salinger and Caulfield? Was it challenging to put them into one story?

I’d recently read a list of questions that included something along the lines of: “Which novel seemed to save you, when you needed it the most?” Most of the respondents listed Catcher In the Rye and I was playing in my journal, and I got this image of a man climbing through a hole in his fence. I was wondering if Mr. Salinger ever thought about confronting the immortal characters he created, and what might happen if he could. It came together quickly after that, but I don’t remember actually writing it.

Salinger submitted work to The New Yorker for about ten years before his work was accepted for publication. What has been your experience?

I’m glad he stuck with it. I have hundreds of rejection slips, but still believe that work and hope and/or delusion can bring about something of value—or confinement to a nicely padded cell.

Critics have said that Salinger uses a reclusive persona to generate notoriety for his work. The character in your story uses it for another purpose. Was this fun or difficult to write?

I’m not a Salinger “expert”. I respect his work immensely, and can only speculate about why he became reclusive.

My story came very quickly, but it was emotionally difficult because it was about one of my favorite writers, who is in the winter of his life. I can only hope that he’ll give us more of his stories, but I think I’ll understand if he doesn’t.

What do you find exciting about flash fiction? What is challenging?

With flash, the emotional rush is almost instantaneous. It’s amazing how powerful these short pieces can be. How can so few paragraphs make me cry? Make me laugh until I need to change my boxers? Make me crave an after-sex smoke?

On the downside, editing flash is like giving a nano-scale Barbie a pelvic exam.

Can you give us a peek at your novel?

It’s a continuation of my story in the archives at The Barcelona Review.

About the Author:

Terry DeHart’s stories have appeared in The Paumanok Review, In Posse Review, Vestal Review, The Barcelona Review, Zoetrope All-Story Extra, Night Train, SmokeLong Quarterly and other places. Three of his stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is currently working on a novel about a family, and other nuclear events.