Interim Fun at FCAC with a Larry Fondation interview

Lar­ry Fon­da­tion is nei­ther Appalachi­an nor rur­al, but I find his fic­tion about the urban poor and dis­ad­van­taged a wel­come ton­ic when I get tired of rur­al lit. He is LA all the way, and the author of four novels/short sto­ry col­lec­tions, some of them in col­lab­o­ra­tion with visu­al artists. He's  the real deal, and I rec­om­mend any of his books unre­served­ly, though my favorites by far are Com­mon Crim­i­nals and Angry Nights. His takes on the home­less and down­trod­den are more pow­er­ful than Carv­er ever thought of being. It's icepick-sharp min­i­mal­ist fic­tion, and can't be talked about enough. The fol­low­ing excerpt is from an inter­view Fon­da­tion did for William Hast­ings and the Indus­tri­al Work­er.

1: What is most strik­ing about your books is the style, your com­pres­sion of line and event. Where­as many real­ists go for the long line, the expan­sive book, you have moved in the oppo­site direc­tion. And yet, real­ism is nev­er lost. How did your style come about? There are echoes of Algren, Far­rell, Borges, Dos Pas­sos, but its always you.

Stream-of-con­scious­ness went for the flow of the mind, of thought; I am try­ing for the flow of action, of events. I don't think most of us – espe­cial­ly in this "Infor­ma­tion Age" – live our lives in a smooth and con­tin­u­ous nar­ra­tive arc. Par­tic­u­lar­ly not the poor – peo­ple with­out pow­er who must react to the actions of oth­ers, rather than have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ini­ti­ate. So my style has emerged from how I see and hear and expe­ri­ence street life, as it were. The influ­ences you cite are def­i­nite­ly there, but also Sel­by, Genet, Mary Robi­son (among con­tem­po­raries), Guy­otat, Ice­berg Slim, Beckett…I think we need a kind of "street Beck­ett" to reflect life as it is lived now…

Also, I am high­ly influ­enced by the visu­al arts. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er Hen­ri Carti­er-Bres­son talked about cap­tur­ing life at "the deci­sive moment." The idea is to evoke a broad­er, more com­plete sto­ry at a giv­en moment in time….

Final­ly, when I was a punk ass kid in blue col­lar Boston, our lives on the cor­ner were marked by long stretch­es of bore­dom, punc­tu­at­ed by short peri­ods of intense action – sex, violence…I think that's the way it goes down for most people….action is a cure for bore­dom…

2: You say that we lack a nar­ra­tive arc, or at least a smooth one, in our dai­ly lives, espe­cial­ly the poor. How much of this is pur­pose­ful­ly imposed upon us? Is it to the ben­e­fit of oth­ers that our lives lack nar­ra­tive?

Rich or poor, I don't think any of us have a "nar­ra­tive arc." That's in a sense imposed on all of us. For one thing, it's what sells. Though some­times, I think a nar­ra­tive arc, a three-act struc­ture, what­ev­er, works for some sto­ries and in some ways. It can help shape how we think about sto­ry, give it meaning…Having said that, what the poor are deprived of is the oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell their own sto­ry, smooth or rough. That's the injus­tice. And the imbal­ance of that pow­er is why "free speech" per se – espe­cial­ly as the Supreme Court defines it – is such bull­shit. The bul­ly pul­pit, unfor­tu­nate­ly, belongs to those who own the micro­phone.

Con­tin­ue:

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