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Smoke & Mirrors with James Gianetti

Interview by Mick Parsons (Read the Story) June 19, 2023

James Gianetti

James Gianetti

You managed to successfully fit a saga into about two pages of text. The story here is a deep and complex one. What is the advantage of compressing it? Why not let it breathe a little?

I knew the story had to be written in a relentless, rapid style because it would align really well and correlate with the dire situation the narrator is in. Loss of innocence can sometimes happen in an instant and the compression mixed with the magical realism is a depiction of how some kids are forced to grow up quickly. This was a coming-of-age story minus the levity one would come to expect of that genre. Importantly, the language, syntax and word choice needed to be interdependent with the pace and propulsion. It was essential for the cadence to represent the urgency and palpable nature of the situation.

One of the barriers here is a language barrier, and it adds to the violence in unexpected ways. What do you see as the connection between language barriers and violence?

I feel we always look at language barriers like any other type of unknown. We tend to fear what we don’t know and view differences as this hostile constituent in others. The language barrier in the story is a pivotal component in the narrator’s journey from boy to man in the sense that it represents so much of what he doesn’t know yet which creates a sense of fear and defense in him. His understanding of the language in the later part of the story is a testament to his transformation.

The mother’s pain creates both a cushion and a jumping off point for the narrator … her emotional and spiritual pain, but also cancer … which is sort of a ghost in this story that ties a lot of it together. Would it be fair to say that the pain … in all its facets … is also a character here?

The mother definitely serves as the catalyst for the narrator’s actions. As the story progresses, he comes to terms with how much of his father he must become and continues the cycle of violence in order to protect her. This propels him forward in time, breaking the mother’s heart as her little boy loses his innocence too early and fulfills every mother’s biggest fear of their child growing up too quickly. His action at the end of the story is heroic on the surface but comes with implicit consequences that create ambiguity around the morals of it. So pain is very much its own character and acts as this governing presence that is also inherent in all three of the characters.

The time compression allows the story to almost loop back on itself, like memory. But it also reads like some of the finer magical realism I’ve read. Have you been influenced at all by magical realism? If so, who? If not, who are you reading these days?

I tend to gravitate towards stories with magical realism elements. I recently read and loved “You Were Only Waiting for This Moment to Arrive” by Kathy Fish and Heather Monley’s “Town of Birds.” I also love stories that are just the right amount of speculative. Stories that straddle that line between possibility and impossibility. I think “How We Survive” by K.B. Carle and “Wolf Radio” by Riley Manning do that really well. I have also been reading a lot of work by Eliot Li, Amy Stuber, Rebecca Van Laer, and Danny DeRock. I usually turn to writers like them when I am in a creative rut of sorts. I really admire writers who can put out great story after great story. I hope to get to a point in my writing career where I can annually generate multiple stories that are rich, meaningful, and original.

Does that mother imprint as Future Wife hold true, or is it a nice story device?

I will let the reader scrutinize the actions that unfold and what may or may not come to fruition. One of the many luxuries of magical realism is that it opens up interpretations and broadens implications. I wanted to sprinkle clues and evidence showing that the narrator’s life as a man has similarities to his father’s while also letting the reader wonder if the narrator’s action at the end of the story has turned him into a hero or a version of his father.

About the Author

James Gianetti’s stories and work have been published in Fatal Flaw, Hobart, Crow Name, and Hearth & Coffin where he received an Editor’s Choice Award. His debut novel, The Town of Jasper, was released in 2017. Beyond writing, James holds an M.A. in special education and teaches middle school in New Jersey. You can find him on twitter @Jamesgianetti or at www.jamesgianetti.com.

About the Interviewer

Mick Parsons is the author of the poetry collection 92 Tanka (Basement Books, 2021) and the chapbook God’s Tired Plumbers (Basement Books, 2020). His work will or has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Impspired, Moon City Review, Cajun Mutt Press, Unavoidable Disaster, Contemporary Haibun Online, Thimble Literary Magazine, Poetry Flash, The New Southerner, Pegasus, Antique Children, The Smoking Poet, The Dispatch LitaReview, The American Mythville Review, The Licking River Review, Inscape, and on semantikon.com.

This interview appeared in Issue Eighty of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty

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