SmokeLong Quarterly
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Smoking With Mary Lynn Reed

Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette
""Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette"
by Vincent Van Gogh
The desire for the chalkboard. Tell us a bit about that, in terms of what it meant for you as a writer to have that chalkboard in mind and what it means to Margaret.
Many mathematicians (myself included) are infatuated with chalk. It's a raw, tactile experience — touching chalk to a blackboard. For me, it evokes a labyrinth of memory. The thrill of discovering a beautiful proof for the first time, inspired moments of teaching, and also — very vividly — preliminary exams in graduate school! For Margaret, I imagine she craves, through the chalkboard, the same intimate connection to memory and her twin life passions — geometry and teaching. Also, the chalkboard functions in opposition to the puzzle books Margaret's son brings. Margaret is interested in real mathematics (the kind best performed on a chalkboard!), not puzzles, games, or light entertainment.

How did Euclid's Elements find its way as a central metaphoric image in this story about Margaret, death, and the search for the infinite?
The oldest math books in the library are always the best. In most sciences, a text has to be on the cutting edge, written within the last five years, in order to be sexy and desired. Not so in mathematics! The ancient texts are still relevant, still highly coveted by current practitioners. I started thinking about this last fall when I was searching for some long forgotten formula in spherical trigonometry and the best reference I found was a small dusty book written in the 1940s. That led me to think about the timelessness of geometry, which of course, led to Euclid and the postulates. Then the character of Margaret appeared and the story, as they say, wrote itself!

No one writes about love as you do. What secrets of Aphrodite have you learned through your exploration of all the nuances and types of love in your fiction?
Wow, what a question! Love and longing, in all its forms, are definitely my favorite themes. I wish I had some secrets of Aphrodite to share with you, but I'm still rapt in the exploration (and hope I will be for a very long time)! My highest fictional goal, however, is to achieve some sense of universality, even with my most eccentric characters in the most extreme circumstances. Because love, I believe, transcends everything.

A completed novel. A short story collection in the works. Your short fiction appearing everywhere. When did you realize that Mary Lynn Reed was meant to be a writer?
Yay — an easy question! I can't remember not knowing that Mary Lynn Reed was meant to be a writer. I've been writing fiction, in one form or another, since I was a child. But, when it came time to choose a career path, I followed my mathematical abilities instead of my passion for writing. For all the usual boring practical reasons. Then about two years ago, I had one of those “it's now or never” moments and enrolled in my first fiction writing class. The instructor was Terri Brown-Davidson, who is the most amazing and inspirational teacher one could ever hope for. I'm a writer now and I have Terri to thank for that!

Time for the first (and perhaps only) SLQ deserted island questionnaire. One CD. One novel. One flash piece. One movie. One very much alive famous person. One very much alive writer. One SLQ editor with the initials R.B.. Go!
Well, first, I'd probably beg the Gods of the SLQ deserted island to allow me to swap one or all of these categories so that I could take my partner, Angie, to the island with me instead. But, I'll try to play by the rules and answer the question in the spirit it was intended!

One CD: DRAG by k.d. lang. My favorite singer and my favorite of her CDs. So much heartache, longing, and rich smoky metaphor all in one package! Very sexy.

One novel: EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck. I read this as a teenager and it confirmed my desire to be a novelist. But it would kill me to be limited to just one novel: I always travel with at least three!

One flash piece: BIRD TREE by Lesley C. Weston. It's so good, I wish I'd written it!

One movie: A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. By far, my favorite movie. It was a brilliant novella too, but I saw the movie first, and it won my heart. I have absolutely no interest in fly fishing, but I could watch this movie forever!

One very much alive famous person: I think I'm going to need some laughs on this deserted island, so I'll pick my favorite funny famous person, Ellen DeGeneres. I value humor! And goofy dancing.

One very much alive writer: The easiest category! Terri Brown-Davidson. Not only would I get my favorite very much alive writer, but also a fabulous teacher, and a spectacular friend!

Read Euclid's Elements.
Issue Thirteen (June 15, 2006): A Foreign Woman by Roberta Allen «» Fetichismo by Christopher Battle «» How the Broken Lead the Blind Until They Both Become Something Else Entirely by Matt Bell «» See Odi Naked by Lisa K. Buchanan «» Memory of Sky by Jai Clare «» The Captain by Ron Currie, Jr. «» Bingham by Steve Cushman «» The Table by David Erlewine «» Daffodil by Kathy Fish «» Fishing by Mike Hagemann «» Real Estate by Jennifer A. Howard «» Emily Avenue by Jeff Landon «» Tough Act by Steven J. McDermott «» Cheering by Srdan Papic «» Something Blew by Ellen Parker «» Euclid's Elements by Mary Lynn Reed «» Miracle by Chad Simpson «» Her Lips by Claudia Smith «» Man and Dog by Girija Tropp «» Randomization by Joseph Young «» Interviews: Roberta Allen «» Matt Bell «» Lisa K. Buchanan «» Jai Clare «» Ron Currie, Jr. «» Steve Cushman «» Katrina Denza «» David Erlewine «» Kathy Fish «» Mike Hagemann «» Jennifer A. Howard «» Jeff Landon «» Steven J. McDermott «» Srdan Papic «» Ellen Parker «» Mary Lynn Reed «» Chad Simpson «» Claudia Smith «» Girija Tropp «» Joseph Young «» Cover Art "Despair" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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