In “ Life with Spider ,” your story in this week’s issue, a young man named Fletcher encounters a creature with six legs, jet-black skin, and no eyes, ears, or mouth. This is Spider, and Fletcher finds that Spider is everywhere he is, in increasingly menacing and forward ways. But Fletcher is less surprised than he might be, because he recognizes Spider. And yet Spider terrorizes him. There are lots of ways that Spider can be read as a metaphor—for depression, terror, self-hatred—but this is a story with a lot of very concrete action. How did you go about balancing these two modes of storytelling? I should mention at the outset that I find a lot of what happens to Fletcher very funny. It’s horrific, too, of course; that tension is at the heart of the story. If there is comedy there, I think it also points to the two modes you identify, and how they relate to each other within the text. However unsettling, icky, or frightening the reader finds Spider, they will, I am sure, recognize it for what it is: a literary device. Fletcher is not so lucky. He is familiar with Spider’s weight and texture, the click of its legs on his kitchen floor, how the light bends when it touches its skin. Perhaps above all, he knows, all too well, the mood that comes upon him whenever Spider is there—not a physical quality, exactly, but a felt sense of its presence. From the beginning, I decided that I was going to treat Spider with the rigor I would afford to a human character. Since thought and speech were unavailable, this meant exploring how it morphed and moved. While writing, the two modes you describe seemed at points to converge. To say of Spider that it “trips Fletcher up” or “weighs him down” is to state the material case using figures of speech. This doubleness or blurriness hedges against the idea that Spider “represents” any one thing. Spider booby-traps Fletcher’s life. Hopefully, while doing so, it wriggles free of any neat definition. It’s interesting that […]

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