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On November 21, 2013, I had the opportunity to sit down with Kirk Nesset and his well-behaved Pomeranian at Oak Street Drafthouse in Denton, Texas. My interest in meeting him stemmed primarily from my interest in his flash fiction. I frankly declare that “I Want You to Kill Me,” from Mr. Agreeable, is one of the best short stories ever written, short-short or not. Like many of the other stories in the collection, it’s as provocative and visceral in its abstract expressionism as any painting by Chaïm Soutine, with unsettling intimacy, absurd joy and heartbreak. After a couple of IPAs, we proceeded around the corner to Andaman Thai Restaurant, with Ryan the Pomeranian quiet as a mouse at Kirk’s feet in his portable carrier (with the exception of one brief escape).

The first thing about Kirk that struck me was his precision. With great deliberation, he minces his words, and I don’t mean he “weakens” or “softens” them, and neither is there an over-wrought pause between. There’s a vigorous delicacy to his manner and an exactness, a cleaving, to his word choice—a sheerness. A navigation. He’s one who will tell on himself wryly but not for the cheapness of a laugh, though I laughed plenty. He’s simply an honest poet. I found the jazz of him somewhat reminiscent of Barry Hannah, my mentor and friend, so it came as little surprise to learn that Barry was his friend, his hero, for many years, too. We discussed, among other things, Barry’s “Even Greenland,” one of the classics in the genre of sudden fiction. Here is my account, albeit polished, of those other things.



Sidney Thompson (ST): What were your sources of inspiration as an aspiring fiction writer, and what are they now?

Kirk Nesset (KN): I read a great deal as a child, so I was inspired early. Aesop and Grimm and the Nancy Drew books had the most impact, I think, early on. Then Louis Carroll and Poe, Zane Grey and Jack London. London’s autobiographical portrait of an artist, Martin Eden, pretty much knocked me to pieces. By the time I hit high school I’d read all of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Mansfield, O’Connor, Thomas Wolf, Lawrence Durrell and Hesse, and had dipped into many others. Mainly this was because of a wonderful thing my parents had done. In 1969, relocating to California from Seattle, they “killed the television,” as the phrase went then. After that all I did at home was read and sing and play guitar, stack wood and play board games. As an English major later at college and grad school, I was still a voracious reader, most voracious during the summer. The books I loved then made me the writer I am, I believe. They not only taught me craft but taught me how to perceive. Don Quixote. Tom Jones. Middlemarch. The Brothers Karamazov. Lolita.Beckett’s Malone Dies. Atwood’s Surfacing. DeLillo’s White Noise. I’m still completely TV-illiterate, and not nearly as informed as some about film. I