COREY MESLER has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and Esquire/Narrative. He has published 8 novels, 4 short story collections, and 5 full-length poetry collections. His new novel, Memphis Movie, is from Counterpoint Press. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart many times, and 2 of his poems were chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. With his wife he runs a 145 year-old bookstore in Memphis. He can be found on his website and his Facebook page.
Here is our poetry editor Ankur Chhabra in conversation with him.
Q: First of all, let’s get to know about the person behind the Memphis Movie.
I’m an old man in a youth-centered country. I’ve been writing for over 40 years and have published novels, poetry collections, short story collections. I write the occasional essay, book review and recipe. I have two children who have already outstripped me in wisdom, common sense and good looks. I also play Pickleball with a devotion and fervor most people apply only to their religion.
Q: With your wife, you run one of the oldest book stores of the US, which is there since 1875. How does that feel? Tell us about the privilege you enjoy.
With my wife I own Burke’s Book Store in Memphis, Tennessee. Its 140th birthday was last year, but I have only been there for 98 of those years. Some days I am a better bookseller than author. Some days I am a better marsupial.
Q: Memphis Movie is a fiction which includes characters who are poets, directors and painters. Along with this blend of art, the book offers humorous, witty, insightful and ghostly writing. Which form and genre, do you personally enjoy the most?
I am happiest when I am working on a novel. My creative soul, if that’s where it comes from, likes the long haul, the continual chatter for months and years. So I want to be called a novelist even more than I want to be called a pro at Pickleball. I also appreciate it if my readers think I am funny. I’d rather be funny than smart.
Q: Are your stories completely fictitious or do they contain personal experiences or real life incidents as well?
No one’s stories are complete fiction. I have been known to work with both what I know and what I don’t know. When I work with what I don’t know I feel free to just make shit up.
Q: You have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times. How would you like to put down that feeling in words?
Being nominated is very nice. If I ever actually win one I’ll get back to you. Always a bridesmaid, never groomed for success.
Q: After reading this book, with high anticipation I’d like to ask, what can we expect next from Corey Mesler?
I have a short novel called Robert Walker, coming this fall from Livingston Press. I am proud of it. Its protagonist is the nicest character I’ve ever created. I have also completed a 250,000 word novel called Cock-a-Hoop (yes, that’s longer than Nabokov’s Ada, but not anywhere near as long as David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.) It is autobiographical in nature so I like to say it’s a cross between DFW and Henry Miller. I need a savvy, brave publisher to behold its comic enormity and not run away. This publisher will have to be bold and/or foolhardy to take it on. Is there such a press out there? Stay tuned.
Q: Lastly, any piece of advice you’d like to give to the young writers of this generation?
Read books. Read a lot of books. Read outside your comfort zone. Find an author you love and read everything by him or her. Then write from your own world. Be aware of your forebears and your contemporaries, but don’t make your book from the gleanings of other books. Also, don’t listen to old writers who’ve never even been reviewed in Publishers Weekly.
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