SmokeLong Quarterly

Share This f l Translate this page

Smoking With William Yarbrough

Interview by Isaac Boone Davis (Read the Story) June 25, 2013

William Yarbrough

art by Alexander C. Kafka

Tell me about the original image in “Bear Club.” The violent, cursing, bottle throwing Bears arguing on the back porch. Where did that come from?

During the time that I was working on “Bear Club,” I was reading quite a bit of experimental fiction, specifically James Tate. What intrigued me the most about Tate’s writing was his use of animals acting as humans in order to express human behaviors that were both absurd and disjointed when forced to interact with each other. By doing this, Tate often forced his narrators to come to a realization that is or isn’t acted upon. In “Bear Club,” I was looking to create a similar sense of rupture between the narrator and the “you” to whom he is referring to in the story by implementing an absurdist, yet partially human image like the bears in order to reflect not only how alienated the narrator felt at having lost someone close to him due to a damaged relationship, but also to create a sense that the narrator was beginning to doubt or experiencing confusion in regards to his community and the role that he served in that specific space. Ultimately the conflict or the question in the piece becomes: What is the narrator going to do in order to resolve the issue of the bears, and if he chooses not to act, what does that say about him?

The story moves from the absurd to the sad. When the neighborhood association calls you can feel the narrator’s loss. How do you explain the juxtaposition?

I think this plays to what I explained in the above question. The bears are an absurdist image that severs the narrator’s connection and involvement with the tightly kept, suburban neighborhood that he is a part of. It’s not meant to be political, but the sense of sadness that arises from this juxtaposition is what ultimately brings the narrator to realize how much he is at fault. I guess you could also view the bears as an apparition of the narrator’s guilt.

Which writers influenced this story? Your writing in general?

James Tate is certainly the biggest influence here, but also Joshua Taylor and Zachary Schomburg were also influences in the writing.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on more microfictions that are similar in tone and style to “Bear Club”, although some of them have gravitated toward being slightly longer pieces.

About the Author

William Yarbrough lives in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. He is 22 years old. In his spare time he enjoys listening to records, reading short fiction, and watching baseball. He is still waiting for Pavement to get back together.

About the Interviewer

Isaac Boone Davis is a writer living and working throughout the United States of America.

About the Artist

Alexander C. Kafka is a journalist, photographer, and composer in Bethesda, Maryland. He created the cover image for Lost Addresses: New and Selected Poems by Diann Blakely (Salmon Poetry, 2017). His work has also been published at All Things Fashion DC, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Juked, Vice, The Washington Post, The Writing Disorder, and many other periodicals. He has been on the documentation team for the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo and is a contributing concert photographer for DMNDR. Kafka studied fine-art figure photography with Missy Loewe at the Washington School of Photography and portrait photography with Sora DeVore at Glen Echo Photoworks.

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

Support SmokeLong Quarterly

Your donation helps writers and artists get paid for their work. If you’re enjoying what you read here, please consider donating to SmokeLong Quarterly today.

A SmokeLong Summer 24

Book Now!


A SmokeLong Summer 24! 

We’re doing it again! A SmokeLong Summer 24 is going to be hotter than ever with events, competitions, workshops, webinars, and more. Get out your sunblock and join us!