17: Daniel Handler, "I Hate You"

It's December 17. Daniel Handler, author of Adverbs and All the Dirty Parts, always leaves a forwarding address.

How would you describe your story?

DANIEL HANDLER: The story sprang from three sources, near as I can tell:

  1. Borrowing someone else’s apartment and collecting a large pile of their mail.
  2. The end of a dinner party, lingering over the last of the food and drink—I’ve recently learned the word sobremesa for this time—talking about the worst thing you can say to someone.
  3. Thinking about the importance of missing information in fiction.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

DH: I wrote it in one large rush and then put it away for about a year and then returned to it. I have learned to put things away for awhile. It took some training but it is good for the work I think.

What kind of research went into this story?

DH: I kept my eyes open.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can’t?

DH: I read once someplace that a short story is like a kiss from a stranger, and a novel is the whole affair. I’ve never been good at kissing strangers but I understand the quick breathless rush, the slipping away, the occasional lingering fantasy of how else it might have gone.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

DH: I believe some information can be found in libraries and the internet, but I think reading literature is more fun than investigating it. I’m reading a book by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge currently; she’s good.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

DH: Being grateful I’m Jewish, and thus can hole up with my family in a rented cabin away from the juggernaut.

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