Ben Greenman, "Will Evans Save the World?"


It’s December 14. Ben Greenman, author of Don Quixotic, has a sandwich in his pocket right now.

How would you describe your story?

BEN GREENMAN: I would describe it as indescribable. It's broadly concerned with love, loss, death, and the repetition of life that leads inexorably to death—though specifically its concerns run to less intimidating matters like neighborhood politics and the difficulty of carrying multiple dogs at the same time.

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

BG: These days, I try to set up a kind of color wheel where I can move between novels, ghostwriting and collaborations, and short stories. Each form moves the various sliders on the equalizer (time, money, creative satisfaction) to different levels. This particular story was written mostly on a ferryboat. It compared favorably to other work except that once the boat bounced and a whole iced coffee almost went into my keyboard.

What kind of research went into this story?

BG: Because this particular story was written on a ferryboat (see above), it started with the idea of going back and forth, back and forth, getting somewhere, but also getting nowhere. Which part of that is achievement? Which part is futility? Somewhere in there I was thinking about the novels of Frederick Barthelme, which are rich but also bleak suburban comedies. There are pieces of Beckett, probably. And there is a nod to Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path," weirdly, which is also about repetitive task-based life in the service of love.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

BG: Stories are the hop in my step. They're the Bendel bonnet, the Shakespeare sonnet. They're the best way to take a lump of coal and squeeze it so hard that it becomes a diamond. Stories are the easiest way to get a reader's attention and keep it for a short burst of time. They are the form that most resembles hypnosis.

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

BG: They can go to, or bookstores, or old New Yorkers, or old McSweeney’s. Or they could go to the distant future and see if any of it has survived. I'd be curious.

What's the best gift you've ever been given?

BG: [in very sincere voice] The gift of life. Though when I was 13 or so, I got an Intellivision. That was great. Later I got a football signed by Dan Marino, also great. Along the way, I also got a poster of R. Crumb's Heroes of the Blues trading cards, a pair of Puma x Bodega Spy vs. Spy hightops. If I had to pick one thing, it would be an Anton Chekhov face my kids made out of clay to commemorate a book I published called Celebrity Chekhov. I still have it in my office.

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Michael Hingston