I am honored to bring you an interview with SCOTT GARSON, champion of flash fiction and editor of WIGLEAF, a journal I have admired since it first began. Check out the interview then check out WIGLEAF and you will know why I am a loyal fan.

BG: so many quality indie presses and literary journals, what is wigleaf bringing to the table? what words of wisdom can it offer to the literary conversation?

SG: So many ways to answer this question.

Because we're not like 'monetized' really—because it's not a job—there's no hiding the question of why we do it in the first place, and I do it because I love reading great stuff that's new to me and working with the writers and also getting to know those people in the way that you do over the internet.

But I like to think Wigleaf brings something to the table. Hard to say what. We were fortunate, early on, to have readers. Does everyone have readers right away? I don't know. But we did, and they helped me imagine the journal through their response, and in what I imagined I saw the possibility of a kind of niche, though again it will be hard to articulate that.

One angle: on the internet a journal is a place, not a thing. I've always wanted Wigleaf to be a good place, an alluring one. There's a big range in the writing, in terms of aesthetic, but I've always wanted it to have immediacy. I think some editors, maybe lots, underrate immediacy. Just considering print journals: my usual percentage, for liking the stories and finishing reading them, is maybe in the fifties or sixties (and that percentage is bloated by the inclusion of my favorite mags). Obviously taste comes into play, but I also think there are editors who aren't interested, in a primary way, in the reading experience, or who understand that term—'reading experience'—differently. What I want as an editor, as a reader: I want a story to be a like a face if you imagine that face rising up through depths of water into the shrieking light.

BG: when the world ends in 2012, as the mayans predicted, and the next species takes over the earth and digs up America 1,000 years from now, what literary journals / indie press publications will they be restoring, reviving, and immortalizing, and why?

SG: They will wear the wigs of leaves yo.

I don't know, will all the electrics be lost? The current vogue for imagining the apocalypse is no electricity. It's like, we lose electricity and we're cut off from our entire legacy of advancement: everything we've ever learned is lost. If that's the case, I guess a journal like Everyday Genius has it right: don’t bother much with the interface, or with your identity as a journal; just send out those vanishing transmissions.

BG: what is the last book you borrowed and never returned? who'd you steal it from and why didn't you give it back?

SG: Usually it's a case of me spacing—forgetting that I have the book until I've moved away or the person I borrowed it from has moved away. One book I've felt guilty about: a collection of Yiddish folk tales I checked out from a public library in Rockville, Maryland. I never lived in Rockville, Maryland but I worked there and I had to leave in a hurry after punching out the pig-faced man I worked for. Still I could have gone back to return the book. I kept it because I loved the humor, which is really singular—tight-lipped and spare but sort of infantile too.

BG: name the five best books you've read that you'd bet your balls nobody else has?

SG: I'm not betting my balls on anything, though I guess they've completed their historical assignment.

Here are five I haven't heard people talk about in indie circles, so we'll see:

1. Borges' Doctor Brodie's Report, translated by Norman Thomas Di Giovanni.

When I read this in the Andrew Hurley translation, as part of Collected Fictions, I was kind of like, What was I thinking? Why did I think I loved that? I went back to the Di Giovanni translation and it was really interesting. My bet is that Hurley took fewer liberties with the language. Whatever the case, the Di Giovanni is better: finer sentences, more authoritative, more cleanly askew. The story ordering is also different: Di Giovanni's starts with "The Gospel According to Mark" and "The Unworthy Friend"—two of the stronger ones, and they get me right away into that season of high retrospect.

2. Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker.

Probably somebody has read this; it was celebrated when it came out in England, in 1980, and an expanded edition came out about ten years ago. I have an old Summit Books hardcover, with review copy and a fanciful landscape illustration on the front cover. They were marketing it as sci-fi/fantasy, but it's not really that, and it's not really revolutionary in its language, as some people were saying; Hoban messes with spellings more than syntax. But a good read. One of my favorite novels of the apocalypse.

3. Wright Morris' Real Losses, Imaginary Gains

This is an out-of-print volume of selected stories, from 1976 (the later Collected Stories, from Godine, is still in print, I think). Morris was a more or less conventional literary fictioner, though one of high standing (the individual stories were originally pubished in The New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, etc.). I include him here because he meant something to me when I was coming up. He's a super-fine stylist. The language is alive but has a Midwestern plain-spokenness, an easy precision that I still really admire.

4. Patricia Highsmith's The Tremor of Forgery

I was thinking that the easiest way to go on this list would be genre novels. I like genre novels when they don’t suck. They usually do suck. But then so do most other types of novels. Highsmith's novel spins away from genre, and so probably isn't as satisfying as a perfect genre work (my standard: Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). But from another angle, it's more satisfying: when I think back on it, all the strangeness of the early chapters remains vivid, undischarged.

5. Czeslaw Milosz, Road-Side Dog

Probably someone has read this too; dude was a Nobel laureate already when he wrote it. But I had to get something vsf-related on here, right? The jacket-copy writer didn't know what to do with this book—called it a "memorable collection of poems and essays, aphorisms and anecdotes." That makes it sound like a rocky mix, but it's not at all. This is a book of shorts, and one that has natural movement and progression. Milosz was old when he wrote it; I think he was at the point where he didn't really give a fuck how people would categorize the thing; it wasn't about meeting anyone's expectations. He was just writing; he was making small things.

BG: who is your favorite historical figure, past or present, and how have they influenced your literary journey?

SG: Oh man. I'll say Thurgood Marshall. He's a hero of mine, for sure. Even as an insider, towards the end of his life, he was an outsider: not surprised by the bullshit and evil that some were championing, and not resigned in his opposition to it. How does this relate to me? Well, if Wigleaf ever gets to the top, I won't sit fat on my sense of natural privilege.

BG: BONUS QUESTION: Give us a six song playlist that tells the story of your life.

Not really in chronological order—first six that come to mind:

• "In a Jar," Dinosaur Jr.
• "Are You Experienced?" Jimi Hendrix
• "Some Kind of Love," The Velvet Underground
• "I Hate Myself and Want to Die," Nirvana
• "Where Was You At?" War
• "As We Go Up, We Go Down," Guided By Voices


  1. A dubious honor, but I'll take it with thanks.

  2. yeah, im with you adam, i read that sentence over and over trying to guess what is being said. this is my best interpretation... with so many journals out there trying to get themselves recognition using image and smokescreens. publishing genius, doesnt worry about that, you guys do it the right way, by continuing to publish excellent words.... yeah, thats what i think it means. which at least for me, is a good thing.

  3. tremor of forgery! the one graham greene loved. though i think maybe he liked them all (i like the stories best, esp. "The Black House"). riddley walker's really good, and dr. brodie's report, though i haven't read that in about twenty years. haven't read the other two; never even heard of wright morris, will have to look into it. have you ever read any other russel hoban? steve himmer really likes The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz and told me to read it, and it's sitting here but i haven't gotten to it yet. so i imagine you have an ally in him.

    ally? is that how you spell that?

  4. Finally the editor of Wigleaf. There are some good pieces. Sure. But the editor is another story. A great interview, indeed.