Matthew Salesses: If We’re Going to Tell Stories About the World, We Need to Make Better Decisions
In Conversation with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review Podcast
On the gradual impositions of craft:
Writing is the place where we can make choices freely and supposedly no one is telling us if we have to do something or not. It’s often an outlet for people who feel like they don’t have the ability to make so many choices in their regular lives or that their choices aren’t honored or that their choices aren’t heard. They come to the page to be able to have that sense of choice and yet, the more we hear about writing or the more we’re educated in writing, those choices become limited in strange ways without really talking about where those limitations come from and who is imposing them.
On representation in fiction:
The thing I find myself saying most often to my students is why do you believe so much in free will? I want to know why. Because it usually has nothing to do with reasoning out what actually has an effect on their lives; it’s just this thing that’s part of the project of individualism that we are especially attached to in America. I don’t think it actually reflects most people’s experience in that the things that happen to me rarely seem to be about the decisions I make. They’re more the decisions that other people make, or rules or laws. We rely on geography and class and race and gender and all of these other things that really have an effect. If we’re going to tell stories about this world, and if we really believe that stories matter and that stories can help us live better lives, which I believe in strongly—I wouldn’t want to write if I didn’t believe that—then we should be making better decisions about how to represent those worlds and lives, and whose lives and worlds and experiences we write about.
Matthew Salesses is the author of three novels, Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, The Hundred-Year Flood, and I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, and a forthcoming essay collection. He was adopted from Korea and currently lives in Iowa.