Could you give a brief description of Communion Town for new readers?--Marshal Zeringue
Communion Town is a sequence of stories about an imaginary city. The subtitle is A City in Ten Chapters, and the idea is that the book builds a mosaic picture of this invented place from the perspectives of many different citizens: in the first few stories, an immigrant finds herself in trouble with the city’s paranoid authorities, a folk singer falls in love with a rich girl, a child has a scary encounter by the canal, a hard-boiled detective is drawn into a surreal investigation, an abattoir worker suspects his boss is a murderer… I wanted to capture a feeling I’ve always got from cities where I’ve lived, which is that they’re strange, secret places with all kinds of weirdness hidden just under the surface of everyday life.
Does working as an English teacher help with and influence your writing?
I think so. It’s an excellent day job for a writer, not least because it involves reading lots of books and thinking hard about how language works. And universities just feel to me like hospitable environments for writing. I know some people think academia sits uneasily with fiction-writing, and I can understand the argument that an academic subject like English Lit has to be orderly and systematic, whereas fiction needs to be wild if it’s worth anything. But I’d say that’s a positive tension — the point of fiction being that it’s a free, irresponsible place outside all the frameworks and institutions within which you ordinarily live. So writing and teaching...[read on]