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Melanie Rae Thon’s latest book, As If Fire Could Hide Us, is described not as a novel with three chapters, nor as a collection of three stories, but as “a love song in three movements.” What does it mean to see a story as song, to sing from or toward love, to experience a book’s phases not as sections but as movements? How does writing from or toward love change the music of our sentences or lines, the shapes of our stories, the way we represent others—whether other people or other nonhuman beings? Thon suggests a relationship between attention and attentiveness and this question of love. By quoting Simone Weil, who says, “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer,” Thon speaks to what she calls the “ethics of perception,” that we can avert our eyes or risk compassion, in our lives and on the page. A conversation that is as much about living as writing, and one that speaks as deeply to questions of poetry, music, silence, spirit, and yes, love, as it does to story.
In today’s conversation Melanie also speaks generously about her approach to the teaching of writing. In that spirit she offers to all Between the Covers supporters two of her teaching documents, “Memory & Adventure” and “The Gospel of Grief, Grace, and Gratitude.” In addition, for the bonus audio archive she gives a craft talk of hers called “The Ethics of Perception.” This joins craft talks from Marlon James (“The Nine and a Half Rules of Seduction”) and Jeannie Vanasco (“How to Write Memorable Lines”) as well as readings by everyone from Teju Cole to Lance Olsen, Carmen Maria Machado to Jenny Offill. You can find out about all of this and the many other potential benefits of joining the Between the Covers community at the show’s Patreon page.
Finally, here is the Bookshop for today’s conversation.