Rarely do writers compose a great piece by sitting down and just doing it. Countless hours of thought and uncertainty go into writing a poem, story or novel before typing a single word. Writers are often inspired to create something but many just don’t know where to start. Our most recent addition to the One Question and Answer series features Adam Ehrlich Sachs’ Inherited Disorders: Stories, Parables, & Problems (Regan Arts, May 3, 2016). Written in over 100 vignettes this short, short story collection spans over thousands of years exploring the often absurd dynamic between fathers and sons. So, that begs the question of how Sachs came to write so extensively on this subject.
Question: What did you find so fascinating about the relationships between fathers and sons that you wrote over 100 short stories on the subject?
Adam Ehrlich Sachs: I actually arrived at the subject matter by process of elimination. All I had at first was the desire to write a book, any book. You want to write a book, any book, and get acclaim for it: that always comes first. Before the urge to express yourself or, you know, investigate your trauma, or whatever. Then you look around for your subject—something hopefully that’ll get you that acclaim. (You really want that acclaim!) Thankfully there’s a limited set of subjects that can get you literary acclaim: War, Sex, Race, Class, God, and a few others. The others are: Grief, Artistic Obsession, Scientific Hubris/Heroism, The Falsifications of Memory, Capitalism/Bureaucracy, Trauma (Personal), Trauma (Public, incl. the Holocaust), The Opacity of Oneself to Oneself, The Body (either the existential uncanniness of having one at all or the sociocultural pressure to make it conform to a certain ideal), and finally Family Dynamics. Next, I wrote down each of these on its own index card and just sort of shuffled through them for a while. Sex? No. War, Race, Class? No, no, and no. God or Grief? No and nope. Artistic Obsession or Scientific Hubris/Heroism? No. The Falsifications of Memory? Nah. Capitalism/Bureaucracy? No. How about one of the two popular trauma categories, the opacity of oneself to oneself, or something sort-of vaguely philosophical about the body? No.
So that left Family Dynamics.
Then within Family Dynamics there are: Sibling Dynamics, Mother-Daughter Dynamics, Father-Daughter Dynamics, Mother-Son Dynamics, Father-Son Dynamics, and Successive Generations Shaped Without Quite Realizing it by the Reverberations Through Time of Some Original Sin or Trauma (incl. the Holocaust). I did a lot of research and determined that all of these subjects are taken seriously by literary people and win literary prizes, etc., so it was just a matter of picking one. The last one seemed like the most work so I cut that first. Then, for reasons probably not worth delving into here, I cut both of the Mother ones. This left Sibling Dynamics and Father-Son Dynamics. Either of these seemed fine, so at that point I just flipped a coin, which came up tails (Father-Son Dynamics). Turned out to be an interesting topic, though.