And I came to writing fiction, in the first place, out of being an art student. From the beginning, I wanted to make stuff. I wanted to make paintings and sculptures. And so the idea of artifice and craft and artificiality seemed really like the baseline condition of my gesture to begin with. The idea of verifiability or objectivity-these characteristics that writing inherits not from the arts but from journalism or scholarship-those weren’t native to me in any way. I was a failed student. I had never written a thesis, let alone a dissertation. I’d never done any journalism. I wasn’t even a person who kept a journal. I just wanted to make stories.
All those years ago, I didn’t think it unusual to spend so much time making stuff. This had a lot to do with my grandmother, a woman who, when she was not preserving produce, was ceaselessly creating other kinds of goods. She spent her evenings at her handwork: The needlepoint and cross-stitch samplers she’d frame and hang on walls; she hooked rugs and sewed the odd quilt, made Christmas ornaments and wine cozies and doorstop covers. As a little kid, I followed her lead, pulling thick yarn through big-holed plastic patterns of butterflies and strawberries, later graduating to friendship bracelets, some small needlepoint and, briefly, origami.