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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoke & Mirrors with David Ryan

Interview by Wendy J. Fox (Read the Story) December 16, 2019

David Ryan

Art by Paul Bilger

You are a very good writer, but what’s something you’re bad at?

Thanks, Wendy! I think there’s probably a pretty long list of things I’m bad at, but one thing I really wanted to be as a kid was a jazz drummer. And despite many years of practice, I just never really got very good at that. I can say I am a bad jazz drummer.

Do you have a go-to recipe? 

I love to cook. I do the cooking at home and we have a young daughter, so the recipes tend to be more practical these days. However, I can make all kinds of tapas, risottos, deep-dish pizza (I’m from Chicagoland), and  a Bolognese recipe from the 1500s. I started cooking at around age 5 or so, as did all of my brothers growing up, so we’re very comfortable in the kitchen.

What part of the country are you located in? What do you like about living there?

I live in a little hamlet off the Atlantic. I like it here because the neighborhood is extraordinarily friendly and generous and open. People drop off clothes for our daughter in bags at our front door when they see she’s gotten to a certain age. We’ll come home and find a bunch of garden tomatoes in our front yard, or strawberry bushels—someone just thought we might like some. Someone once dropped off a bunch of rhubarb.  It’s amazing. People don’t even leave notes saying who dropped stuff off. It’s just the nature of the place. Last week, my next-door neighbor gave me a bike for our daughter because someone was getting rid of it and he thought of her. If I travel only five or ten minutes in any direction, I’m surprised by how different the world is.

Do you have a career that, in a different life, you would have pursued?

I’m lucky to have any career at this point, but I love teaching, and that’s one thing I do. I can’t think of anything better, really. I get to hang around a bunch of curious and smart people much of the time. The things you have to do to be rich seem generally unappealing to me, however much I’d love to not be broke.

Do you remember how many revisions your story in this issue of SmokeLong went through?

This one was unusual in that it was basically one or two drafts (which never happens for me), with several little word changes over various glances at it. Normally it takes a lot longer and my edits are far more invasive, but this drew largely from a memory that I’d been teasing out for years. I think it just had a sufficient gestation period to write itself in my head.

About the Author

David Ryan ’s work is forthcoming in The Southhampton Review and DIAGRAM, and has recently appeared in The Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, Bellevue Literary Journal, and Epiphany. He’s the author of the story collection Animals in Motion (Roundabout Press) and a hybrid memoir/literary criticism Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano: Bookmarked. He teaches in the writing programs of Sarah Lawrence College and New England College.

About the Interviewer

Wendy J. Fox is the author of four books of fiction. Her novel, If the Ice Had Held, was named a top book by Buzzfeed, High Country News, and LitHub (audio). She has been a finalist for the Colorado Book Award twice. A frequent contributor to national publications, she has written for Self, Business Insider, Ms. Magazine, Buzzfeed News, and others. She has also written for literary sites including The Millions, The Rumpus, and Electric Literature.

About the Artist

Paul Bilger’s photography has appeared at Qarrtsiluni, Brevity, and Kompresja. His work has also been featured on music releases by Dead Voices on Air and Autistici. When not taking pictures, he is a lecturer in philosophy and film theory at Chatham University. He is the art director at SmokeLong Quarterly. 

This interview appeared in Issue Sixty-Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Six
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