Gladman/HarrymanAugust 23, 20081
An Interview with Carla HarrymanBy Renee Gladman
For a long time, I wanted to talk to Carla Harryman about her sentences, and, for about as long, I had no idea where to start. The questions I needed to ask were entangled in my own preoccupations withthe sentence, and it seemed an insurmountable task to separate them out. But time passes; tangles become arecognizable shape, and suddenly there is a way in. The following exchange took place over email between December 2007 and August 2008. As will be apparent immediately, this conversation does not follow thetypical interview format. Harryman’s responses are wondrous, “thinking texts” that take their time, that take your time, but give you, in return, passage through the mind and practice of one of our most original writers.
RG: Since the mid-nineties, in either reading your work or attending your performancesand readings, I have been astounded by the vastness of your imagination. The behaviorof your sentences has always struck me as other-worldly, not the way one is trained tothink or act in language. I use “behavior” instead of something like “quality” herebecause I’m trying to call attention to the animate nature of your work, the individualmind of one sentence making contact with the distinct minds of surrounding sentences. Iread your paragraphs as spaces of many (sometimes overlapping) voices, impulses, anddirections. What I’ve wanted to do for years is find a way to get you talk about how suchspaces come to be in your writing. Not psychological reasons, exactly. Not “what made you this way” so much as what the principles are that organize your utterly unique way of working in prose. A question of your metaphysics, I suppose. In any case, I’d like to trysomething. Let’s say we have a common language. It’s called English. In this language wehave an extensive group of everyday words, simple words, words that most regular users