It felt like everyone had been talking about Eley Williams. Her slim book, Attrib. and other stories, bounced across Twitter and Instagram. I’ve seen it posed artfully on oh-so-many bedsheets. For some reason, when I first heard of Attrib. I thought it was poetry. Later, when I read it, I wasn’t sure I’d been wrong. These are short stories that dabble in line breaks. It is a book that contains the declaration, ‘I am strobe-hearted.’
I read Attrib., in bed, on a sick day with the sound of kids going to school blurring past my window. It is a strange collection and deeply intimate. It left me curious about the mind that created it.
The author photo is of the top of Eley Williams’s head. On top of that head is an owl. Neither Eley nor the owl look at the camera.
So when my editor at The White Review suggested that we have a conversation, I said yes. I was intrigued. This, despite the fact that I wasn’t quite certain of the distinction between an interview and a conversation. A conversation seemed to involve admitting that I too was a writer. A novelist, even. My editor thought we might have interesting things to say to each other about craft. I hoped so. But mostly, I wanted to meet this mind.
We agreed to meet in a small London cafe. The year had not yet turned cold and sullen. We sat outside at a small metal table that rocked slightly on the uneven ground. A fig tree spread dark green hands against the sky. What follows is a pruned version of the natter that managed to make it into the recording device left upon that table.