Zachary Mason, "Endless City"


It’s December 3. Zachary Mason, author of The Lost Books of the Odyssey, enjoys a tall tale from time to time.

How would you describe your story?

ZACHARY MASON: Topologically complex—a little like a Mobius strip. Perhaps more like a Mobius double helix? There are two threads, each a story told by the other, and they eventually loop into each other.

It was the final story for the first edition of the Lost Books. It takes Odysseus's narrative vortices as far as they'll go, making them a sort of prison and an image of obsession.

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

ZM: 2007 or thereabouts. It was... incredibly hard. The structure of the story is highly constrained—making it work at all, much less gracefully, took considerable thought.

What kind of research went into this story?

ZM: None. Narrative vortices and the Odyssey are pretty much my jam. If I'd been born a handful of decades earlier perhaps I would have been in Oulipo.

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

ZM: In a short story there is (hopefully) nothing to excess—it can be like a subtly disguised poem with a narrative backbone. One might hope for this in novels, but the longer the form the harder it gets.

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

ZM: I have no personal website, though in my other life I'm a computer scientist (doing AI).  I'm not sure if this is because I'm out of step with the times or because I got over the web in 1995.

So... use Google to find random interviews? The one on BLDGBLOG is my favorite.

Oh, and google "end of the game zachary mason." It's a very short story and one of my favorites.  (Also, Amazork, which people seem usually not to find.)

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

ZM: I was being interviewed by an NYT journalist who had interviewed Borges three times. He told me he thought Borges really would have liked my book.

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Michael Hingston