Pointing in the Direction of Truth: Jai Chakrabarti on Crafting Endings
In Conversation with Mitzi Rapkin on the First Draft Podcast
First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.
In this episode, Mitzi talks to Jai Chakrabarti about his new story collection, A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness.
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From the episode:
Mitzi Rapkin: I wanted to ask you about endings. Short stories can sometimes be really confounding to end. I think your story endings seem to go back to a small moment within the story or go back to a small moment within the characters’ lives; they don’t reference back to some major reckoning with the meaning of the story or goings on of the whole story, if that makes sense. They’re just maybe picking a small moment. And there’s 14 endings in your collection, so I can’t describe all of them, but I’m wondering if what I’m saying makes sense to you and how you approach endings?
Jai Chakrabarti: Yeah. In general when I’m writing the story, I am trying to walk into this liminal space. I like to think that, as is the case with lyric poems that I love, the poem is walking toward this deeper truth that can’t quite be expressed in words, that language is insufficient to hold it but the poem is pointing you in the direction of that truth. As readers, we experience it emotionally, even if we don’t get all of the words, because the words cannot be said—there are no words for some of that. And that’s what I mean by the liminal space in stories. As we’re moving toward the ending, for me, it’s like going to that place of what we can’t quite say; poets would describe it as the ineffable. Oftentimes that can be done by an image, or by, as you say, a small moment, or a memory. And it’s to charge up this emotion that perhaps is very difficult to find on the page without sentimentality, or simply that can’t be written on the page.
Jai Chakrabarti is the author of the novel A Play for the End of the World, which won the National Jewish Book Award for debut fiction, was the Association of Jewish Libraries Honor Book, was short-listed for the Rabindranath Tagore Prize, and was long-listed for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He is also the author of the story collection A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness.