Monday, September 1, 2014

Peter Mountford

Peter Mountford’s debut novel, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, won the 2012 Washington State Book Award and was a finalist in the 2012 VCU Cabell First Novelist Prize. In its full-page review, The Seattle Times wrote: “Debut novels don't come much savvier, punchier, or more entertaining...the work of an extraordinary talent.”

Mountford's latest novel is The Dismal Science.

From his Q & A with David Sheilds for Tin House:

David Shields: All of your work seems to me mature, complex, layered, bittersweet, but this book feels almost unspeakably sad. How do you write or read about such sadness without succumbing? This is a bit of a rhetorical question on my part. I can’t read work that isn’t unspeakably sad, but I want to hear your answer, Peter.

Peter Mountford: All my favorite pieces of writing break my heart, badly. I’ve actually assembled in a manila folder a dozen or so short stories that bring me to tears every time I read them. And I sometimes reread one just to experience that little rush of heartbreak. It blows open the doors within me. What I’ve noticed with those stories is that there’s usually a lot of humor along the way to coax the reader onward, and to sharpen the contrast. That’s important, I think, and this book has a certain comedic atmosphere, even if it’s not at all a comedy. Toni Morrison once said something like, “My goal is to break my reader’s heart, I want to make them cry, and if I’m going to do that, I can’t cry.” I’m paraphrasing, but it’s true. As a writer you can’t force the emotion onto readers.

The emotion has to be a natural byproduct of what’s happening, and it has to be earned, too, so it often takes a while. People have to be made to care, over time. The crushing end of A Farewell to Arms—without the preceding 200-something pages, without the aching beauty of their stolen romance, without that it wouldn’t eviscerate you.

DS: When I write about politics, it comes out as “Impeach George Bush.” How do you manage to write so well about politics?

PM: Thank you for saying that, but I think the answer is implied by your question. Certainty is...[read on]
Visit Peter Mountford's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism.

My Book, The Movie: A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism.

Writers Read: Peter Mountford.

The Page 69 Test: The Dismal Science.

My Book, The Movie: The Dismal Science.

--Marshal Zeringue