DH: You've mentioned a couple influences. Barthelme, Wallace, Kunin. Any others that have had a particular impact on you?
BS: A lot of the usual suspects. By which I mean, the authors people tend to identify as influences of mine are people I self-consciously consider influences. Nicholson Baker, Philip Roth, Thomas Bernhard, W.G Sebald. I usually have them in mind when I'm trying to craft sentences.
DH: Charles D'Ambrosio compares the book to those of Walker Percy. Was he ever a conscious influence of yours?
BS: I did read The Moviegoer growing up, and I liked it a lot. It's one of the crown jewels of Louisiana literature, alongside Confederacy of Dunces. But I haven't read it recently, and it wasn't something that was in my mind when I was drafting the novel. I was surprised and pleased by D'Ambrosio's comparison, but the influence had to have been subconscious on my part.
DH: What's your favorite thing that you yourself have written?
DH: Yes. To make you choose.
BS: Well, I guess there are two axes of satisfaction here. First there are the projects that were the hardest to write and the hardest to get right, and that caused me the most agony and self-hatred and bloodshed, but that I still managed to finish and be proud of. My favorite in this category would either have to be the novel itself or this short story called "House-Sitting," which I wrote while I was at the Workshop.
DH: Is that what you do to force yourself to write, make jokes?
BS: Yeah. At some point I internalized this ethos of sitting at a desk and forcing myself to be at a laptop for a set number of hours in a workday. I'm suspicious of how productive this actually is, though, because I tend to just while away the hours writing a bunch of dumb jokes, then pat myself on the back for putting in a full day.
DH: I don't know. What did the doctor prescribe the mutant for constipation?
BS: Milk of Magneto.
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Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.
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Derek Heckman's interview with Bennet Simms, author of A Questionable Shape (Two Dollar Radio), originally appeared on The Iowa Review's blog.
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