PW: “The Collected Letters of Gerald Kinglsey” seems to be both a humor piece (about a marriage) and a piece about an existential search. Did you set out to write humor, existentialist fiction, or something else, and how did you wind up at such a nicely balanced place?
AM: In one of his essays, Delmore Schwartz states that “a tragic truth is also a joke.” I like to think of this story as a humble inversion of that idea. It’s a joke that reaches for truth. My goal was to write a story that was funny partly because of its ornate style. The baroque diction let me write what I’d set out to write—a quirky and campy underground expedition—while, somewhat accidentally, placing Gerald closer and closer to the center of the earth, alone, with no loved ones waiting for him on the surface. I wish I could take credit for the story’s tonal range, or offer a formula for combining the existential and humorous, but the truth is I got pretty lucky that Gerald’s physical descent so nicely mirrored his emotional self-examination, and when I realized that, I set out to enhance how his external and internal states work together. So, in short, the story was a joke that turned into an accident.