Lily Tuck is the author of five novels, including The News from Paraguay, which won the National Book Award, two story collections, and a biography of the Italian writer Elsa Morante. Her forthcoming novel, The Double Life of Liliane, will be published in the fall. An excerpt from her story “Labyrinth Two” can be found here. The full story appears in the July/Aug 2015 issue of the Kenyon Review.
Your story, “Labyrinth Two,” was inspired by a project of Roberto Bolaño’s. Do you see it as a sequel or sorts? A companion piece? Or a piece that takes only its initial inspiration from the original “Labyrinth,” and is otherwise not conceptually connected?
I see my story as both being inspired by Bolaño’s story and as a small homage to it.
What have you found to be the challenges of incorporating a visual element into a piece of writing? What avenues does it open up that would be otherwise closed?
I came across the photo and had no recollection of when it was taken or who some of the people in it were which allowed me to invent and imagine stories about them and their relationships to each other. I did of course recognize myself in the photo at the same time that I did not. I looked so animated and self-confident which normally I am not. I could not help and ask myself: Who was this person? And what was she talking about? And that was the impetus for the story.
How has your writing or writing process changed since you started out?
I think I am less fearful and less interested in plot and structure. I let my imagination dictate what I write and I am not afraid of digressions.
What is either the best or the worst piece of writing advice you’ve received or given?
Gordon Lish once gave his class the following good advice: “Each sentence gives rise to the next sentence, each sentence owes everything to its predecessor. Reveal how elastic a sentence can be. Get into the habit of recasting sentences. Learn how to open up a sentence. Think of yourself as a language-making machine.”
What project(s) are you working on now, or next?
I have a novel coming out in the fall: The Double Life of Liliane.