Christopher Boucher, "Lady with Invisible Dog"
It's December 3. Christopher Boucher, author of Golden Delicious, has had his eye on that Superbook for weeks.
How would you describe your story?
CHRISTOPHER BOUCHER: “Lady with Invisible Dog” is about a bookstore owner named Edwin who falls in love with a woman who owns an invisible dog. Edwin’s also trying to recover from his father’s death, keep his bookstore afloat, and repair his relationship with a character known as the Narrator.
When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?
CB: I wrote this story in 2009, between drafts of my first novel, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive. It felt like a real breakthrough to me—I’d been working on Volkswagen for a long time by that point, and “Lady with Invisible Dog” led me back to the short fiction form. It was a really fun story to write—I remember writing the bulk of it rather quickly, over a period of a week or so. There was something about the formatting—the section titles that led into the first paragraphs—that propelled the narrative for me.
What kind of research went into this story?
CB: I’m not sure this counts as research—yes I am; it doesn’t—but this story was facilitated by the convergence of a few outside forces. I’d had the idea for a while of writing about those weird “invisible dog leashes” that were a fad in the 1980s. Also, I was drawn to the resonant charge of existing titles: My first novel borrows the title from John Muir’s Volkswagen repair manual, while the title of this story is a riff on Anton Chekhov’s great story “Lady with Lapdog.” I didn’t deliberately seek out these “sources,” but they certainly paved the way for me to write this story.
What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?
CB: By far, the majority of my first favorite books—Trout Fishing in America, Birds of America, Jesus’ Son, Civilwarland in Bad Decline—were short story collections. What I love about the form—both as a reader and a writer—is that there’s just no time to waste; the short story is rigorous and demanding, but also elastic: stories can turn on a dime, cover years or a single instant, take an infinite variety of shapes. Personally, too, I’m drawn to compression, kinetics, and a strong voice—features that the short fiction form caters particularly well to.
Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?
What's the best gift you've ever been given?
CB: When I turned 19, my parents took me out to a restaurant—Chi-Chi’s in West Springfield, Mass.—for my birthday, and their single present to me was a box that held a key. The key unlocked a beat-up 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit that was parked in the driveway of the restaurant. The car was all registered and ready to drive—I ran out to the parking lot, found the car, started it up, and drove it out of the parking lot. Not only was it one of a series of great Volkswagens that I’ve owned, but I still marvel at how much time and money went into that gift and its presentation.
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