In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods feels very much like a work of literary fiction to me (though I think we all map those genres out in our own idiosyncratic and personal ways), just one that uses its tools in different ways, to different ends. Where on the literary landscape do you feel like this book comes from? Do you think very much about categorization when you write?
What I would like to think is that the story works as both a myth or a fairy tale and also [as] a sort of strange and heavily filtered realism. In other words, while the setting and the actions of the book are mythical in nature, my hope is that the emotions at the center of the book’s marriage are recognizable as belonging not just to the book’s world but to ours. For instance, it’s not only my narrator who discovers, after being married, that he hasn’t before considered how to actually be a husband, or who discovers, after having children, that he doesn’t know how to be a father.
In an interview, David Foster Wallace once said that realistic fiction’s job is the opposite of what it once was: “no longer making the strange familiar but making the familiar strange again.” That fairly accurately describes what I also see as the task of writing successful fiction: not to reflect the real world directly but to create a world inside the book, with the new world’s mysteries and wonders offering a space where we might more easily confront the world we’re from, in all the emotional, moral, and intellectual complexity it deserves.
Fiction: Q & A Matt Bell | February 2013
I really loved Matt Bell’s In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, so I reviewed it, made it one of my editor’s picks, AND I interviewed Bell himself. This is about as ringing an endorsement as I can muster, folks. Read the book!