19: David Whitton, "Robin"

It's December 19. David Whitton, author of The Reverse Cowgirl, wonders who among us hasn't danced on top of a slippery balcony when the mood struck.

How would you describe your story?

DAVID WHITTON: It's a horror-comedy set in Daytona Beach at spring break. And it's also an expression of amazement that, given the quality of my decision-making, I ever managed to make it out of my twenties.

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

DW: I wrote it in the spring(?) of 2003, which means that, twelve years later, I don't remember all that much about how, why, and what have you. That said, I do recall that the first draft was a quickie, blasted out in a stream of consciousness. And also, now that I think about it, I remember I wrote it in a kiosk in a library, and that after one of my sessions I ran into Dean and his roommate Aaron, and that we ended up at a dive bar nearby and had ourselves an evening. But whatever. I remember I wanted "Robin" to be impressionistic, a tumble of thoughts, memories, anxieties, etcetera. As a result the first draft came out a bit of a mess; I added some coherence in later iterations. So I guess that was different from my other experiences—I didn't normally write in a library kiosk, in a stream-of-consciousness style. I didn't normally run into Dean and Aaron, and sadly never will again because Dean doesn't live here anymore and I have no idea what happened to Aaron. I hope he's okay.

What, for you, are the essential elements of a good short story?

DW: I like it when stories start in the wrong place and stop before they're supposed to. I like it when writers lie and mislead and leave things out. I look for what other readers might call defects, because they're more interesting than all the middle-of-the-road "good writing" stuff you're taught, which makes them not defects at all, but attempts at enormity, because you can do anything in a story, so why be normal? Denis Johnson said that he doesn't care if his books "work." I love that. I love liminal, capricious, dark-eyed characters. I love the feeling I get sometimes that while this narrator is telling me her story she's also debating whether she should shank me and steal my wallet.

"Viewfinder" by Raymond Carver is an example of a story I love. And "The Bath." The ones that went through Gordon Lish's meatgrinder. No one talks about how insane those stories are.

Did this story require any research? If so, what?

DW: Nah, fuck that.

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

DW: I have a Tumblr and a Twitter. I also wrote a story collection called The Reverse Cowgirl, which you can reserve at a library or order at an online store if you're feeling up to it.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

DW: This Darwin Tank is next level.