‘Readers can expect to be fascinated, horrified, scandalised …’ Read an interview with Matthew Baker on his new book Why Visit America
More about the book!
Jonathan Ball Publishers has shared an interview with Matthew Baker, the author of the collection of short stories Why Visit America.
Welcome, dear visitor, to a proud and storied nation. When you put down this guidebook, look around you. A nation isn’t land. A nation is people.
Equal parts speculative and satirical, the stories in Baker’s collection portray a world within touching distance of our own. This is an America riven by dilemmas confronting so many of us, turned on its head by one of the most innovative voices of the moment.
Read together, these parallel-universe stories create a composite portrait of our true nature and a dark reflection of the world we live in.
Baker is the author of the story collection Hybrid Creatures. His stories have appeared in the Paris Review, American Short Fiction, New England Review, One Story, Electric Literature and Conjunctions, and in anthologies including Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions. A recipient of grants and fellowships from the Fulbright Commission and the MacDowell Colony, among many others, he has an MFA from Vanderbilt University, where he was the founding editor of Nashville Review. Born in Michigan, he currently lives in New York City.
Read the interview:
How would you describe the stories that make up Why Visit America and what should first time readers of your work expect?
Why Visit America contains 13 parallel-universe stories, each more strange than the last. Readers can expect to be fascinated, horrified, charmed, mystified, scandalised, thrilled and astonished (not all at the same time). It’s similar to sci-fi anthology shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror.
Your writing raises so many interesting questions about modern society, what would you like readers to take away from reading your work?
The final story in the book was first published in the literary magazine American Short Fiction under the title ‘The Wrong Chemicals’. After the story was published, a reader blogged about the story, saying: ‘If you read anything, of any kind, ever again, I have to urge you to read “The Wrong Chemicals” … This story changed my life. I’m not entirely sure how yet, but I know I’m not the same … I cried and cried on the airplane as I read the last pages, then dried my face and started a list in my composition book: “Things I Will Do Now That I Have Read ‘The Wrong Chemicals’ by Matthew Baker”.’ That’s what I hope readers take away from the stories in the book: a life-changing experience. A new way of existing in the world; a new way of perceiving the underlying structures of human society.
If you could take any one aspect of the universes in which your stories are set and transport it to the present day world what would it be?
In the title story of the book, a small town in rural Texas secedes from the United States and forms a new nation, naming itself ‘America’. That’s what I’d choose. I’d love to visit there – the real America.
How does it feel knowing that your work will be adapted for TV and film audiences?
It feels marvellous. It’s been so much fun to get to talk about these stories with so many talented screenwriters and directors and producers. Hollywood has been very kind to me.
Why Visit America touches on a variety of genres, what kind of books do you enjoy most as a reader?
I love everything, including graphic novels and manga and bande dessinées, but I especially love experimental literature like Composition No. 1 and The People of Paper, sci-fi novels like The Dispossessed and The Handmaid’s Tale and Never Let Me Go, and realist novels like The Sympathizer and Middlesex and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. I adore Jorge Luis Borges most of all.