We navigate the modern world through language: Texts, tweets, forms, documents and disclaimers of all sorts. But a new anthology raises a powerful question. question.
Matthew Vollmer reads from the introduction to his new collection titled “Fakes”.
“Fakes” is anthology of short essays by acclaimed writers including George Saunders, Lorrie Moore, Donald Bartleme and others. Each one, a fictionalized or fantastical take on a familiar form.
“So I’ve been thinking about forms for another form of writing.”
Vollmer, directs the under graduate creative writing program at Virginia Tech
“When you think about creative writing you think about freedom. Oh, I have the freedom to express myself and I bought into that for years and I still do, but it is a class, you should be teaching them or challenging them in particular ways I think.”
So instead of focusing only on traditional literary realism, on setting, narrative, plot Vollmer began assigning students a familiar form to write in. This constraint not only removed the fear of the blank page that stalks many writers. It also gave Vollmer the idea for this book. “Fakes” transforms the mundane into something moving, sometimes poignant and often hilarious.
“When you’re subverting something, often it’s funny, even the titles, 1000 words on why you should not talk during a fire drill, some instructions to my wife concerning the upkeep.”
"Letters to Wendy's, which is a guy who really likes Wendy's and is writing letters to the corporation and asking them strange questions."
Discarded notions, which is a list 2100 that’s exactly what it is each a discarded notion that is more absurd than the next.
There may not be a plot, but a character emerges and a narrative arc and voice, and that’s what Vollmer is interested in.
"For instance one of my favorites in there is Daniel Orozco’s Officers weep which is told in a series of police blotters. It starts to really boring, officers responding, and then you notice the language doing something diff and the language gets lush and craziness is unleashed."
Vollmer scoured literary magazines for the 40 pieces in this anthology. He checked with professors at the top writing programs in the country to see if they thought the book was a good idea and whether they would use it in their classes. He got a resounding yes and acclaimed writer David Shields asked if he could co edit with Vollmer.
Made him think of story as art form – that book puts forth an argument that it puts forth is that writer is an artist,.. never thought I was an artist.”
Vollmer says these Fakes has something in common another artform.
The Mashup – where two songs are overlayed to create a new work, offputting to some who feel the originals are being subverted, as in this song from “The Grey album”. A mashup of rapper Jay Z’s “The Black Album” with sampling from the Beatles White Album.
“And the other thing I like about these kinds of stories that are taking these kinds of risks, its sort of like a story staging a rebellion.”
Mathew Vollmer and co-editor David Shields will host a reading and discussion of their book, “Fakes” February 21st at 7:30 in the Great Room at West Ambler Hall on the Virginia Tech Campus.