These stories are wild without being ridiculous, so they never feel like a hollow experiment. They’re intimate and real, but you never get the sense that Poissant is merely transcribing autobiography. They’re heartbreakingly sad and they’re laugh-out-loud funny.
That’s why I hate it when people say, “I don’t have time for reading or writing.” Some people say, “I love writing, but I don’t have the time.” They don’t know that by reading and writing, you earn time. Because you’re living twice. So the more you read, the more time you have. You have layers of existences. When I don’t write or read, I can clearly sense that I am wasting a part of my day.
The ability to think about and imagine other people’s lives and minds, to enter into their heads, is the beginning of empathy, of the moral imagination and sense. That is exactly what fiction does, too. I wanted to have that not only as the invisible and silent dynamo powering my book, but also to make The Lives of Others wear the morality of the novel form on its sleeve.
But that’s all it took—the place had its hooks in me, and for many years after that second trip I had an intense longing to return, but I wanted to go only if I could stay for a year or more—I wanted to settle down, see old friends and make new friends, get into a rhythm, hang out at night with the old guys playing chess in the alley, watch the seasons change.
The guards were ordinary women and there were some nice ones, who of course were tougher on the criminals, so life in prison was not made easy through the cowed condition of keeping our heads down and following the rules. I and others broke a lot of non political rules such as smuggling in books, smuggling out letters, stealing pen and paper from the office and we were very good at it.
I began reading Paula Bomer’s Inside Madeleine on a plane ride. I sat next to a friend and fellow writer who was working on his own story collection. He’d published a novel and poetry, but never short stories, and he felt disoriented attempting the new form. He wanted inspiration. He wanted a sense of control and…
In writing previous books I was a little more anxious about the craft police and in this book I just really didn’t care. I wanted it to be in fragments and I wanted it to be lyrical and have a lot of emotion in it and I wanted to roam around between the scenes and have these digressive, meditative moments.
Now, the buzz is drawing comparisons to Denis Johnson and, largely, Flannery O’Connor: stark, effusive, violent, seminal writers. Though after finishing Morris’s debut, I find I’m only struck to agree with this likening in its broadest possible sense, almost to a degree that their connections are contextual, and not what is drawn out of the writing.
I’m drawn most to writing that reminds me of the dazzling wonders of the world. That said, of course, I feel cynicism about many things. It’s hard to reach 40 in a tehcno-capitalist society and not become cynical about humanity’s attitude toward resources, or about the way capitalism rewards the profit motive above all else.
Following the death of his wife, Jacob Rosenbloom, veritable inventor of the film projector, moves his son from New York to California in an outward move of grief. Yet, along the way, Bloom, a sharply inquisitive, twelve-year-old, accounts the manner in which the two have been followed, their entire journey, by three looming figures, and he begins to understand it’s not only grief that has motivated his father.