Queer Lit Q&A: Robert Levy

Last year I read The Glittering World and loved it. Doing what I do you get used to seeing the names of various queer lit writers going past you all day long, and quite a lot of that time you know about them but haven’t read them, so when you finally pick up one of their books, there’s always a slightly trepidatious sense about reading them.

The Glittering World wasn’t like that for a simple reason: I’m a bit dense.

I was sent The Glittering World by netgalley, read it and adored it. I then recommended it to Steve Berman of Lethe who (digitally) blinked at me and said, “Well yes, it’s Robert Levy. Of course it was great.” And he’s right. The Glittering World was one of my top ten reads of last year, and so I was delighted to see it announced as a Lambda finalist, and in the last fortnight announced as a Shirley Jackson nominee. (It’s against a Lethe title for the Shirley Jackson so of course I couldn’t possibly say who I’m rooting for *coughglitteringworldcough*).

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1. Tell me about a story of yours that you feel like shouting about today…
 

I have a story called “DST (Fall Back)” that just came out in Autumn Cthulhu (Lovecraft eZine Press), edited by Mike Davis. It’s about a 40-year-old man who is summoned to a quaint town in Pennsylvania by the lover of his old college boyfriend, and all is not as it seems.

There were a few things I tried to accomplish in this story, either by design or in retrospect. First, I had to fit the theme of the anthology, which actually didn’t have a Lovecraftian or Mythos-related mandate per se, but the story did have to be weird/horror/etc. In other words, heavy on the Autumn, light on the Cthulhu. When I first think of the season I think of the leaves changing, and in fact my husband and I had recently taken something of a fall foliage trip to Milford, Pennsylvania.

One of our weekend activities was visiting Grey Towers, a stunning mansion and grounds once owned by the governor and now managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Fittingly, the property is veined with hiking trails. Not terribly far back in the woods, we came upon a large and mysterious structure, wooden and canted with a rusted ladder leading up into its occluded interior. I immediately though it must be some kind of immersive observatory– in the story I refer to it as a cosmoscope– though when I enquired the structure turned out to be an old water tower that had been out of use for decades. But my imagination had already decided otherwise…

So I had my theme and setting, and I had the beginning of a mystery to unravel (one that goes on to include a twenty-year-old Keoki album, the echoing realms of macrocosm and microcosm, and my longtime fascination with the origins and effects of daylight savings time). I still needed to develop my protagonist, however, so I took a page from my literary hero Elizabeth Hand. Her anti-heroine Cass Neary is a kind of dark mirror version of Hand, what they author might be like if– as she’s been known to put it– she had her brake lines cut at twenty years old. I wanted to try that in miniature, what I might be like if I’d never gotten over having my heart broken in college, the way our unnamed hero has never gotten over his ex. He forces himself to hide away his excruciating loneliness, and by suppressing it he lands up being haunted by it. And then I was off to the races.

2. Recommend me a novel/short story by someone else that you think everyone should be reading… 
The best thing I’ve read recently is “The Haferbräutigam” by Steve Berman in the new issue of the online magazine The Dark. It’s a deliciously eerie tale told from the point of view of a sexual predator in fin-de-siècle Germany, and centers on a disturbing encounter he has on a train with the title character, an attractive young man and would-be victim who turns out to be nothing of the sort. I’m not going to give anything more away, except to say that what you think is going to happen doesn’t, one of the many appeals of this nightmarish story (truly nightmarish, as it follows its own distorted kind of dream logic). Highly recommended– and free to read online!
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13149895_10102826473980281_62013850_nRobert Levy is an author of stories, screenplays and plays whose work has been seen Off-Broadway. A Harvard graduate subsequently trained as a forensic psychologist, his first novel The Glittering World was published by Gallery/Simon & Schuster and is a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, as well as a Shirley Jackson Award nominee. Shorter work has appeared in Shadows & Tall Trees, Black Static, and Autumn Cthulhu, among others. He is currently working on a television pilot as well as a new novel, and can be found in his native realm of Brooklyn and at TheRobertLevy.com.

 

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