Jason Brown is an associate professor in the University of Oregon’s creative writing MFA program and earned his own MFA at Cornell University. The title story from his first collection, Driving the Heart & Other Stories (1999), appeared in Best American Short Stories 1996, and three later works were named among the series’ “100 Other Distinguished Stories” in 1997, 2005, and 2010. His most recent release is the linked story collection Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work (2007). Two stories from that book – “Life During Peacetime” and “Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work” – earned Special Mention in, respectively, the 2008 and 2009 Pushcart anthologies. Brown is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Fiction at Stanford University (1996-1998), a MacDowell Colony Fellowship (2002), and a Yaddo Fellowship (2002). His work has appeared in magazines and journals including The Atlantic and Harper’s, among others.
Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answers?
I would say that my writing, and any art worth paying attention to, is about searching for meaning in a post-religious world. That doesn’t mean no one in our world is religious. Religion provides answers. Art is about the search for answers and about the search for a connection to something larger than ourselves. Some might equate the urge to create art with the urge to seek a spiritual life. For me, they are the same instinct.
My work might offer insights on how addiction functions in people’s lives. Society has many different ways of looking at addiction. The lens at the moment involves seeing addiction as a “disease.” I think the nature of addictions is far more complicated.