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The Haunters and the Haunted: Zing Magazine Interviews Joanna Howard

Joanna_Howard_edit2_Brian_Evenson In a thoughtful and probing interview, Rachel Cole Dalamangas asks Joanna Howard, author of On the Winding Stair, a broad range of questions that cover the details of her work, her writing process, and the inspiration that fuels her wild imagination:

In addition to the beauty of ruin and decadence, I can't ignore the possibility of a social commentary that particularly reminds me of Virginia Woolf's association in A Room of One's Own with poverty and nourishment to the imagination (or lack thereof).  In a world and an economy where most of us have to spend most of our time working (and one's attention in what time for entertainment is leftover is often drawn to TV or the web), what time is there for reading?  I admit, that's bit dramatic of me.  But, there have been periods of my life in which I didn't have time to read or if I did, I was too exhausted to focus my attention.  To ask the question more broadly: this collection seems concerned with how imagination survives in impoverishment, so how does imagination survive in a world that doesn't value imagination for imagination's sake (and instead prefers imagination applied to productivity, technological ingenuity, etc...)?

This issue is of genuine concern to me, and I think it comes literally from growing up poor and filling in for material lack with imagination of material decadence, hence the obsession in my work with baroque décor and artisanal niceties. I think imagination is rarely valued for anyone other than children because it is seen as impractical or naïve, but I don’t feel this way.  Perhaps because I tend toward cynicism and misanthropy, I use imagination to combat these things and to draw myself back into positive contact with individuals.  These days if someone tells me I have a great imagination, I assume that they are raising one eyebrow.  Imagination is connected with magical thinking and psychological projection, two things that breed awkwardness in a cocktail conversation. Beyond this, imagination is attached to enthusiasm, which is doubly awkward. For all that we dismiss things that don’t earn us money, at this cultural moment, I think the fear of having an awkward moment is much more damaging.

You can read the whole interview here
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