Smoking With Wendy Oleson

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story July 25, 2010

I just love all that the avocados represent in this piece. Each avocado reveals a new facet of the narrator and her relationships. It’s so well-done. I’m curious: is there a fourth avocado? If so, where is it? If not, when will the narrator realize there’s not?

Thank you! I’m under the impression that there probably isn’t a fourth, but I don’t think it’s something she would ever fully concede. That fourth avocado could be anywhere, and it’s easier to think about how it might have disappeared than admit the unreliability of her memory.

Isn’t guacamole like the best food ever invented?

Absolutely. I think I’m averaging six avocados-worth per week.

Another thing I love about this story is the sense of longing for what was or could be. And also, you capture really well the feeling of coming back from somewhere—a vacation, a conference, an experience of whatever kind—and feeling torn between the experience you just had and the life you’re returning to. Has this ever happened to you personally, and if so, how do you deal with that transition?

Thank you! And yes: as of last fall, I began dividing my time between Lincoln, NE and Los Angeles, CA. I’m quite fortunate to feel welcome in both cities, but the transitions definitely disorient. Reading and writing (because I generally feel like “me” when I’m doing those things) can be good bridge activities; however, I think the demands, joys, and frustrations of each place eventually suck me in.

What’s the best thing you’ve read recently?

“Downriver,” a lovely and often heartbreaking collection of stories by Jeanne Leiby.

How has not having a TV for the past year affected your life positively and negatively?

Sigh. About a decade ago, I remember reading that people form attachments with personalities and characters they watch regularly on television, such that when a favorite show is canceled or a beloved athlete retires, a person might react emotionally as though she’s lost a friend. Clearly, this is a terrible thing. Deprived of a TV I learned to watch DVDs (mostly King of the Hill and Golden Girls) on my computer. I kinda purchased a membership (go Angels). Finally, Hulu might have been discovered. And abused.

About the Author:

Wendy Oleson is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she reads for Prairie Schooner. She has an MFA from Oregon State.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.