Mary Akers: Hi, Avital. Thanks for letting us have your wonderful short story “Fulfillment.” I love the details in this piece, so honed and specific. They really speak to me as a reader and as a writer, too. I love this paragraph, especially:
Walking tentatively toward the north, she stopped when a masculine voice called, “Hey, hello, want me to read your palm?” As expected, the man, unkempt and in his thirties, wearing an oversized jacket, leaning against a rare robust tree, was looking at her. People always thought she was easy prey. She shook her head, able to sense the rough surface of his blackened hand rubbing against the palm of her hand, and what good future could come out of that?
It has a great specificity of menace and creepiness to it–both aspects of work that I gravitate toward. Do you enjoy encountering literary creepiness as a reader?
Avital Gad Cykman: Thank you for having me and my story!
What a great question! It made me think about my different preferences as a reader and as a writer. As a writer, I’d take any ride, anything that comes out of my consciousness and sub consciousness. As a reader, “creepy” literary stories such as Joyce Carol Oates’s amazing “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” scare me so much it’s hard for me to enjoy their flawless narration. Having said that, I adore reading ambivalent texts containing a menacing subtext as long as I can doubt the inevitability of upcoming disaster.
MA: It also reminds me a bit of the work of Margaret Atwood whose work I know we are both superfans of. Want to say something geeky and gushing about her work? (You know I will agree.)
AGC: We love her for a reason! Margaret Atwood has written so much, so well, and in so many forms and genres that if a reader doesn’t like her, it’s simply because he/she has not read the right work. I love her sharp, insightful poetry that drills right through the surface of relationships into the mud underneath. Take for instance these famous lines: “You fit into me/like a hook into an eye/a fish hook/an open eye.” She has no mercy! Of the huge variety of her fiction I mostly admire her intimate books such as Cat’s Eye and the historical ones like Alias Grace. In these she builds layers and more layers of her characters’ identities and lives while also involving the readers emotionally, playing with meanings and elaborating important social concerns.
MA: Your wonderful book “Life In, Life Out” is so different and original. I would say it has a unique voice, but it has much more than one voice or one particular style. What do you look for in story collections as a writer and a reader?
AGC: Thank you for these words and for asking this crucial question. When I listen to music I usually put it on “random” so I can listen to a variety of songs unless a CD is a long project with a theme. I love variety in story collections, getting to know different aspects of the author’s world and a diversity of characters. In a novel, on the other hand, I expect certain unity, a world and its related themes and characters. Therefore, when I put a collection together, I thread stories that are related in the same way people are: they reflect on one another without necessarily having a strong similarity. My novel is different, as I am entering one woman’s world.
MA: When I choose work to illustrate each issue, I’m often surprised to learn that the image I chose ends up having special significance to the author–a significance that I couldn’t have known. I think this speaks to the way our minds crave to connect disparate things–especially inter-genre connections (like dance and music, visual art and text, etc). What did you think of Mia Avramut’s image used to illustrate your story?
AGC: I gave one glance at Mia Avramut’s image and everything clicked: my story, the drawing, and their existence within a womb in which an unexpected life, an impossible pregnancy grows. The plant in the womb cannot really exist, and yet it’s lively and full of life, giving hope. This is the reason I emailed you right away and told you the choice was inspired.
MA: In this piece, you use the line “the electric pleasure of the city” which I love. What, as a writer, gives you that electric pleasure–either in the writing or the reading?
AGC: Oh, the electric pleasure…I love beautiful prose that combines humor, compassion, intelligence and the capacity to expose the unseen, unheard of and irregular in a visceral, involving manner. I try to write this way-never to address only one layer or one emotion-and make it interesting both to me and to my (hopefully not imaginary) readers. I’m hoping that the novel I’m going to finish editing within days now holds at least some of these things.
MA: And finally, because we are a recovery-themed journal, what does “recovery” mean to you?
AGC: After a certain age or experience, aren’t we all in recovery, doing the best we can within the circumstance? Recovery means daring to hope even against the worst odds, and having the strength to live intensely and laugh at the face of the next disaster.