Jess Walter, "Statistical Abstract for My Hometown, Spokane, Washington / Addendum"


It's December 18. Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins and We Live in Water, was not available for comment. So we Voltron'd a new interview out of a couple of old ones.

How would you describe your story?

JESS WALTER: When I finished “Statistical Abstract,” I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. Is it an essay? Is it kind of a story? [The Rumpus]

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

JW: I started writing “Statistical Abstract” thinking that it was just going to be funny. I’d seen all these young guys on children’s bikes and I’d thought, Why are there so many of those guys on kid’s bikes? And then that connected with the idea of a Statistical Abstract, and so I thought, I’m just going to write to the point where I can say there are more adult men per capita riding children’s BMX bikes in Spokane than anywhere in the country. So I wrote to that point. I love humor in writing, so I’ve written to the thing that’s funny, there’s the joke, but then I just kept going. I started thinking about all the bikes I’ve had stolen, and that got me thinking about crime, and that got me thinking about the city I’m in. [The Rumpus]

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

JW: Your job is to engage the reader. Sometimes to fool them awhile, sometimes to suspend something that you don’t want them to know for a while. Sometimes it’s to have the action interrupted by an em dash and not tell the reader what happened. Sometimes it’s to write something in first person. [Willow Springs]

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

JW: I always do a lot of research, immerse myself so that I believe it, then set the nonfiction aside and let it become fiction. [Salon]

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

JW: My hope is that in 15 years we'll look back and see social media as a great big CB radio. "Breaker, breaker"—remember when we all did that? [Tampa Bay Times]

What's on your Christmas list this year?

JW: Two-day-old coffee [...] movie popcorn [...] a book about survivalists [...] a wildlife freeway [...] uninvent the internet. [The Daily Beast]

Michael Hingston