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Smoking With Daniel Bailey

(Read the Story) June 15, 2007

Daniel Bailey

"Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe" by Vincent Van Gogh

“The painting sat naked in the sun.” Gorgeous writing. What’s the key to creating that charged originality needed for great flash?

Chance? I have no idea. I try to keep the writing process pretty spontaneous. Usually, I write best when I give myself strange or challenging characters and settings to work with, something that I have no idea how to approach. I end up approaching it without any real expectations for success. That seems to work somehow.

From where in the world did you get the idea for this terrific flash?

It was actually a writing prompt in a class to take a painting and write dialogue for the characters in the painting. The painting was Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party.” I imagined all the stories would be the same, so I decided to abandon the rules and make it a conversation between the painter and one of the paintees. It required research to find out who each person in the painting was. I just like the idea of a renowned painter having to justify one of his paintings. The harshest critics are sometimes those who know nothing about whatever art form it is. But you also have to be careful of the same people, because some will readily praise anything. I think anyone can write. Some people just don’t understand that. They don’t take the time to understand the craft. I think they might be intimidated by those who have been writing for awhile.

Muncie, Indiana. What’s that like?

It’s all right. It’s kind of depressing now. I was just in Thailand, and Muncie doesn’t compare to Thailand. I want to live in Thailand. Muncie (for me) is a college town surrounded by a dying blue-collar town. They just closed the dollar theater. It could be worse.

Tell us all you can about Slop Lit.

Slop Lit is an idea that I shared with some friends after becoming frustrated with the sameness and self-absorbed quality to a lot of what I had been reading (and writing). We wanted to put out a book of the most ridiculous and assinine stories we could come up with. I think we suceeded (hermaphrodite polar bears, a giving tree with herpes, etc.). It doesn’t have much literary value, but it’s definitely good bathroom reading.

The titles of the stories in this issue wowed me and got me thinking about the value of the great title. What are some great titles-for novels, stories, movies, albums, CDs, and the like? And what is the worst title you’ve ever encountered?

I like titles that don’t take the easy way out. Titles that are unique and allow for a little ambiguity. Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is a good example of that. I like titles that do more than just identify the film, story, etc. An example of an insufficient title would be Pirates of the Caribbean. I also like humor in a title. My favorite album title is the Magnetic Field’s 69 Love Songs. My favorite book title is probably Dave Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity!. It’s a catchy title and it really captures the energy of Eggers’ prose. The Silver Jews have really great album titles. Their best song title is for a song about a relationship between a Christian rock singer and someone who doesn’t believe. The song is called “I’m Gonna Love the Hell out of You.” The worst title ever is probably that one Fiona Apple album with the really long title. Come on, that’s just unnecessary.

About the Author

Daniel Bailey lives in Muncie, Indiana. He works on a small, yearly publication called Slop Lit. His work has appeared in the Lily Lit Review.

About the Artist

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.

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

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