Interviewed by Liz Axelrod, Editor-In Chief
“She could do with her body what she wanted, everyone knew that; the body was just a fleshy vehicle of consequences. Her mind was virtual—free, even, to make false separations”— From “The Substitute” a story in Lynne Tillman’s latest collection, Someday This Will Be Funny.
As a New School Professor, Lynne Tillman brings a fresh angle to her courses. In her close reading seminar, students look at writing from many different angles: through the camera lens, via the film director’s eye, and into the novelist’s vision and writing process. As a fiction writer and essayist, Ms. Tillman’s work brings to mind freedom of expression, masterful creation and a love of language. Tillman’s novels include No Lease on Life, Cast in Doubt, Motion Sickness, Haunted Houses and American Genius, A Comedy. Her first collection of short stories, Absence Makes the Heart was followed by The Madame Realism Complex and This Is Not It. Her nonfiction work includes The Broad Picture, a collection of essays that were originally published in literary and art periodicals, The Velvet Years: Warhol’s Factory 1965-1967, and The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.
Lynne Tillman will be reading from Someday This Will Be Funny at the 12th Street Online Launch at Barnes & Noble on Thursday, March 31 at 7:00 p.m., and discussing writing and media with Ross Kaufman, an Academy Award Winning documentary producer whose short film “Wait For Me” can be found by clicking on the Audio and Video link above.
12th Street Online crafted this interview over the internet, via email.
12th Street Online: You’ve studied theories of different media, such as film and photography, as well as writing. How has that affected how you approach the scope and scale of your work?
Lynne Tillman: All art forms have specific materialities, problems –scale, for instance, in a photograph, framing in both film and still photography. Painting is usually done on a flat surface, in a rectangle or square. Then there’s color, positive and negative space. Questions of time exist in all forms. So, thinking about these questions in various art forms and practices, I might subject my writing to them; I can borrow or steal an idea and try to adapt it, or be helped by ways visual artists have made their work. Other imaginations soothe me, and spark my own.
12th Street: Do you find that your stories favor certain “styles”—narrative distance from the subject, pace, length, time-frame, genre, etc., or does the style vary depending on the story?
TiIlman: I try to find a shape or style that fits the story I’m telling. But the story I’m telling necessarily develops along with the way it’s being told. Usually I have no idea of how I’m going to write it. I’m hoping to find it as I proceed, word by word. I consciously try to come up with ways of approaching a story that challenges me, in any way I can, mostly to keep myself interested.