Amy Benson discusses the nature of threat and the bounty of dreams. Check her out in the August issue.
1. If this were a letter, whose name would be on the address?
Dear Urban Neighbors
2. What has changed, if anything, between your father’s generation and the generation of today in how we view threats to national security?
We can’t help but think more globally now than we did during the rise of the Cold War. Though I suppose the most recent Bush Administration and the support it received domestically would belie that conviction.Â But the experience of being post-national (at least to a degree in Europe and elsewhere) was part of the world’s rejection of the blatantly nationalistic.Â I think members of my father’s generation– post WWII, full flush of the Cold War/arms race– had a much greater sense of their own facility, of the power of the US and their power as a US citizen, and also, then, their responsibility as a citizen.Â Bomb shelters, drills, even back-to-the-land experiments.Â This may just be my own feeling, but I think the generation of today feels more helpless, given terrorism and its lack of national boundaries and accountability, but also tends to be more interested in the bigger picture– the one that extends beyond national boundaries and the present moment.
3. What do you think your story expresses about the nature of safety? And is that what you yourself believe?
There are countless delusions in which we willingly participate and that participation allows us to function.Â But it’s very easy for the functional delusion to fall apart or morph into something extremely unhealthy.Â It would make the world patently unsafe if everyone owned a gun; at the same time, it’s horrifying to consider what might happen in a subway if it were targeted.Â Unthinkable, really; that is, I choose not to think about it entirely.Â Just shut it down.Â I choose a kind of reactionary heedlessness often.Â That part is true. I’m not arguing for it, I’m just trying to explore what happens if that heedlessness sours and becomes its opposite (which seems much more possible than I’d like to admit most of the time).
4. Think of the last terrible story you read and give it a name starting with Mr. (example: Mr. Bad Breath).
Mr. Sad White Guy
5. Whose work do you find generative? Where do you turn when you hit a drought in your own writing?
I read John Berger to see how he keeps something big and open, kind and exacting at the heart of his pursuit of ideas.Â He is an an education in ethics and gentle wisdom.Â I also turn to Anne Carson and Mary Ruefle, and the book by Lawrence Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees.
6. What kind of dreams do you want your reader to have after reading this story?
The kind of dream in which the dreamer is separated from personal history or psychology and feels like a plural entity.