August 12, 2015

“The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far is a successfully ambitious bending of form that takes the reader beyond the expected in both literature and art. There’s a lot of bending in Wikswo’s work—time, form, genre, narrative, historical record—which encourages the reader to explore the territories we may not have encountered in more familiar forms of story collection. As she says, a “disruption in the familiar invokes a questioning of the habitual.” 

“Quintan Ana Wikswo’s debut book of stories and images, The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far, is an intoxicating read that feels at once universal and personal, comforting and jarring, ethereal and earthy, and after reading it once I read it immediately again. And then I read it again. And then I couldn’t stop recommending it to everyone I know.

And then I wanted to talk with Wikswo about how she managed to do all that.

A former human rights worker, Wikswo now uses salvaged government typewriters and cameras to navigate unexpected corners of the world—often seemingly mundane or obscure places where she reveals a multilayered complexity of time, space, and emotional history. Many locations are forgotten or overlooked sites where crimes against humanity have taken place. Wikswo writes stories from these places, attempting to put words to the places themselves and the peoples who’ve inhabited them, bridging in her work the liminality of human experiences, making stories that read like poems with images that don’t serve to illustrate the text, but to deepen a reader’s feel of it. – Sarah Dohrman, ELECTRIC LITERATURE


Sarah Dohrmann: The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far is an intriguingly unconventional story collection – in all ways, these stories defy the classification of a standard fiction text. There are painterly, abstract photographs, and the fiction often reads and looks more like poetry, with sometimes only one line or fragment of text on a page. The narrators and characters of the stories are nameless and their genders are undefined. This slipperiness conjures the reader into a dreamlike, abstract space that nonetheless grabs us with the conventional aspects of stories, like narrative, plot, emotion.

Quintan Ana Wikswo: I’m fundamentally obsessed with the way we humans actually experience story – the narrative of existence. This is a slightly different focus than priorities of “the craft of fiction.” For me, writing is the desire to convey the kinetic beauty of visceral, messy passions of our lives and experiences – the shifting abstractions of memory, the contradictions and disharmonies of shared reality, the awkward internal juxtapositions of trauma – where beliefs and feelings and perceptions are a tangle that defies the story arc.

Arguably, the conventional aspects of story are an attempt to organize the human psyche, to combat the disorganization of it that I find so compelling. Narrative, plot, and emotion are present when we walk to the corner bodega. But the rest is almost a secret lodged inside the mind that we will never adequately convey to another living being, and perhaps not even to ourselves. These secrets are fragments and wholes, fantasies and fears, and we might spend the rest of our day trying to make sense of what we felt on the way to the bodega. That’s the unconventional aspects of story – trying to accommodate all the messy bits that don’t fit into what’s expected.

Most of all, I find it rather horrifying to think of forcing a reader to perceive something – a place, an event, a person, a feeling – exactly as I see it. I’m devoted to the niceties within the art of writing, but can’t seem to bring myself to pin down the wings of the psyche.