In my review of Marisa Matarazzo’s short story collection Drenched, I describe her work as “redefin[ing] the terms ‘crafted’ and ‘tightly focused’.” However, as I began my interview with the prize winning author, I found myself struggling with both craft and focus as I fumbled my way through a stack of seemingly disjointed questions, groping toward a coherent explanation or understanding. In my defense, Drenched is that sort of book –- short stories that touch lightly, that are more braided than linked, stories infused with what Matarazzo terms “magical realism.” Thankfully, Matarazzo was unfailingly kind and patient with my stammering attempts to dive deeper into her work.
We began with the question that had plagued me while reviewing this unique work.
How would you describe Drenched to a stranger?
It’s a collection of love stories that are all connected. It’s about longing and loss and sex and water. It’s about the magic of pursuing love -– true love or untrue love, it doesn’t matter. Desire causes strange things to happen; it suspends rules.
That’s much better than anything I could come up with. When I was trying to explain it to my husband, one thing that I had a hard time getting across was that things happen almost without explanation, but you just believe them.
I think some stuff I do try to explain; in some stories I give a sort of pseudo-science explanation of how things work, or how they’re built. Some stuff is just a given. It’s like when you’re a kid, trying to explain gravity. “What holds us on the earth?” “Gravity.” “What’s gravity?” “It’s the thing that holds us on the earth.” It was the same thing in some of the stories, like “Hotmouths.” “What’s the deal with the rose-quartz teeth?” “They heat up when he gets turned-on sexually.” “Well, why do they heat up?” “Because he’s turned-on.” It’s that same sort of circular logic.
Drenched is written in such a unique style; it’s very difficult to explain. Did this make it difficult to pitch to publishers? What was that process like?
My agent did most of the pitching. I think quite a few of the major houses did pass on it. It is sort of different, and short stories aren’t easy to sell anyway. Soft Skull [an independent publishing house] got it and liked it. It’s been lovely working with them.
Did you always envision Drenched as a set of linked stories, or did the collection emerge organically?
It emerged organically. I sat down to write a collection of short stories. I didn’t think they’d be connected. I realized that they had similar themes. Then I noticed that a few of them had a main narrative voice, and I realized that it was the same girl.