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EVAN LAVENDER-SMITH
in conversation with BENNINGTON REVIEW 

 

THEA WONG

"Childish Things" reads almost as a prose poem. In your other work (From Old Notebooks, Avatar) you play a lot with genre and hybridity. Is this something you do very consciously in your writing, or does it just happen? Were you always drawn to experimentation in fiction?

EVAN LAVENDER-SMITH 

I'm mistrustful of received forms in prose narrative. For me, writing and formal invention are coterminous. I can't ever let myself face the laptop with the attitude, "OK, buddy, today you're going to write fiction." Every time I try to conserve the genre of my writing by applying craft, it seems like I fail to create anything resembling art.

THEA WONG

In “Childish Things” the narrator's wife tells him to put aside all childish things, and he empties his pockets in order to do so, producing a litany of objects, some of which are more personal than others. Do you tend to carry a lot of things in your pockets? (Including, or not including a Moleskine notebook and a pen…)

EVAN LAVENDER-SMITH

I used to carry a notebook and pen everywhere I went, but then I started carrying an iPhone around, and soon I convinced myself that the notebook and pen were superfluous. This was a big mistake. Much of the past decade has involved a daily struggle to get iPhone away from my body. I have to play all these little games with myself, go to such embarrassing lengths to trick myself into not looking at it. A seven-minute stint with iPhone is now my reward for good behavior.   

THEA WONG

How did “Childish Things” come into being? Did it always have its present form?

EVAN LAVENDER-SMITH

Originally this was supposed to be something like an overture to the short story collection I finished a few years back. In one of the revisions I made on the manuscript, I decided to remove everything that I felt surpassed a certain threshold of self-involvement or masturbatoriness. It seemed like "Childish Things" was intended to be a sort of connective tissue between this book and a previous book I wrote, From Old Notebooks, and the story's function as such would depend on the reader's familiarity with that earlier book, and all of this ultimately would be suggestive of the author's repellent hubrisAlso, for a long time I've felt as if I need to "grow up" with respect to the content of my writing—that the subject matter of my writing is more of than not puerile and silly—and there's probably a way in which "Childish Things" is kind of an allegory for that.

THEA WONG

What are you reading at the moment?

EVAN LAVENDER-SMITH

I just finished teaching Russell Edson's The Tunnel, an all-time favorite.

THEA WONG

With your wife, the poet Carmen Gimenez Smith, you are a founding editor of Noemi Press, which has been publishing new titles since 2002. What do you look for in other writers' work?

EVAN LAVENDER-SMITH

I guess the main thing would be a serious regard for language. In my experience as an editor, it's not as common as one might think, especially in prose. Usually I can gauge the writing's regard for form within the first page, the first paragraph, even the first sentence. Is language being used as a crutch, as a mere a delivery device for content? Is the form of the writing insisting on a transparency of language whereby words are meant to recede into the background, encouraging me to partake in a kind of passive viewership of content like that I experience when going to the movies or watching TV? I want what I read to make me feel newly alive, as I feel reading Valeria Luiselli and John Keene, rather than already dead, as I feel watching HBO and ESPN. I want to be reminded that language possesses the power to restructure the way I think.


EVAN LAVENDER-SMITH is the author of From Old Notebooks (Dzanc Books). His writing has recently appeared in BOMBDenver QuarterlyFence, and The White Review. He is the founding editor of Noemi Press, the editor-in-chief of Puerto del Sol, and an assistant professor in the MFA program at New Mexico State University.


THEA WONG is an editorial assistant at Bennington Review.



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