So much of our lives ends up becoming unrecoverable. That’s what this story makes me think about. What’s it mean to you?
I guess I was thinking about all the choices we make in life, and how when we make choices we often take things—and particularly people—for granted. This is especially true with family. People who have always been there, like parents or grandparents, are so much a part of the landscape of our lives that we can’t really conceive of them not being there. It’s only when you begin to lose people who are very dear to you that you confront the fragility of human existence. For me, this story is about how cavalierly we make choices (like breaking up with someone or not visiting someone we love) because we assume there are better options or endless opportunities, and how when you intersect those cavalier choices with the eventualities of fate and loss, you can end up with regret, or at least, a very poignant moment.
Those “forks in the road” are not only really clever but also really rich with metaphoric possibility. They’re connected to everything and everyone in this piece. How important is such an image to your own writing—and to flash fiction in general?
Sometimes you get lucky with an object or a character and sometimes you don’t. In this story I actually began writing with the idea of “a fork in the road,” and thought immediately to put an actual fork in an actual road. I wrote the story that way—as if it were a puzzle to solve. I don’t normally write this way, but I found it really satisfying.
“A memory he had to visit alone.” Do we all have such memories? What do we gain by facing them alone? Are some memories better left alone completely?
I think when it comes down to it, all of our memories are ours alone. Even when we think we share a memory with someone else, the two are never identical. Everyone remembers different details and stretches or truncates different moments. Yet it is comforting to have people in our lives with whom we share experiences, because then we become witnesses to each others’ lives, and our experiences become stories we retell together. Together, we get to relive those experiences and hold onto them. Maybe retelling and reliving doesn’t happen as much or as well if you have to do it alone. Maybe when you’re the only one who holds a memory, your connection to the past feels more precarious.
I think if a memory is better left alone, you probably don’t remember it. If you dwell on something, there’s usually a reason for it.
Tell us more about your radio producing gig. Fun? Fascinating? Fulfilling?
I love the radio stuff. I love talking with people about their lives and seeing bits of the world through other eyes. I also love playing around with sounds and the relationship of voice to individuality and thinking about the bigger, more universal life questions all people face. It’s a new format for me, and I’m really enjoying getting to know it.
A new year approaches (yikes!). So, what’s the best that 2005 had to offer in literature, web sites, music, movies, television, DVD, and the like? Also, any predictions for 2006? And we’d love to hear your New Year’s resolution.
My resolutions tend to stay pretty much the same. It’s always some version of: be less hard on myself and more appreciative of the world I live in and the gifts I have been given.
In 2005 I discovered the band Okkerville River and read Kathryn Chetkovich’s ridiculously good essay, “Envy” and both of those things have made me very, very happy. That and watching seasons 3 & 4 of Six Feet Under. I’m ready for Season 5, so if anyone can hook me up, please don’t hesitate to offer.