Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi received her MFA from Brown University and currently teaches in the MFA program at the University of Notre Dame. She is the recipient of the John Hawkes, Frances Mason Harris, and Beth Lisa Feldman prizes in Fiction at Brown University, a Fulbright scholarship, and a research grant from the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes in Barcelona. Her work can be found in State of the Union (Wave Books), Harp & Altar, Paul Revere’s Horse, Sleepingfish, Dewclaw, Encyclopedia Vol. 2 F-K, Xcp: A Journal of Cross Cultural Poetics, and Words without Borders. Her chapbook, Girona, was recently published by New Herring Press. She has lived in Iran, Spain, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. She currently lives with her husband in Indiana. Her first novel, Fra Keeler, is available now from Dorothy, a publishing project.
An excerpt from her novel Fra Keeler appears in Issue Thirty-Nine of The Collagist.
Here, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi answers questions "in the form of excerpts" -- with further excerpts from Fra Keeler. Enjoy!
1. What is writing like?
It is what people do, I thought, feed themselves lies. Everything is a lie in the first instance. Then the lie is purified, smoothed out, turned into a truth, because the present is always cycling into the past, or transforming into a future moment. The notion of the present is a purified lie, because in the time it takes to say the word present the moment has already passed and you are just a fool running out of breath trying to pin down the moment to evaluate. What misery, I thought to myself, rocking back and forth on my legs. A whole system of lies, a whole system of belief.
2. What isn’t writing like?
This is how one postpones one’s death, I thought, by walking.
I sat down near the stream.
It is a green mass of death, I thought.
I grew heavy with sleep.
Then, I thought, what rot, the things in one’s head.
I caught a glimpse of the sky, blue and vast above me.
3. When you do it, why?
The yurt, I thought, and it flashed before me like lightning, silver and radiant in the rain. I took a step, one leg then the other, and walked into the yurt. I leaned over, the bottom of this, I thought, I will get to it, but then I heard a banging. I thought, I can’t handle this, a banging in addition to everything else, the distant echo of the phone, the wind sharpening, the phone ringing inside the house, but I couldn’t get up, I was lying down, flat inside the canoe with my arm out, reaching for the oar, and I thought it’s raining, it’s raining, like the end of the world, and then I felt the canoe lift up to the surface of the water and drift away.
4. When you don’t, why?
“Would you like to further discuss the issue?” she asked. Discuss what? I wondered, because I couldn’t remember having talked to her in the first place. “Sir, we could discuss your research,” she said. “Discuss my research?” I asked. She is out of her mind about my research, I thought. And then I asked, “What research?” To which she replied, “You requested our services, sir.” And I thought, how is the phone intact when surely I had shattered it. “Discuss my research,” I said. “That would be good,” I said, because I wasn’t getting anywhere without lying to her.