This interview was conducted by our wonderful intern Rebecca Wood. Make sure watch Dinika's video that accompanies her newest piece, "Symphony of Breakfast Things", fresh on The Dock
RW: The story focuses on food and household items rather than people, is there a specific value you are trying to place on objects in household routines, maybe more so than the actual people?
DA: I was trying to prioritize objects over people, but couldn’t manage it. After the idea for SoBT was born I stuck with revising it for a couple years because I wanted to write a story without people that was still interesting for the reader.
RW: Do these objects have “personalities” in our own lives, reasons we are so attracted to them?
DA: It’s impossible to write about objects without personification. Or animals, for that matter. So I ended up writing about people anyhow. But there was some innovation because I was slightly removed. I was writing about people slightly from the outside. In a way it is the ultimate narcissism because here objects and animals can live outside us, independently, but only have consciousness, from our perspective, through us. This reality has interesting implications for language because we can never know theirs. If they did have a language though . . . What if your carrot objected to being eaten? I think whether or not you still ate it would be a fascinating way to explore your character. But what would be more compelling is how the carrot would object.
RW:You also mention diets and other modern fads when describing peoples’ approach to breakfast. How does modern culture clash or work with the traditions of a household meal?
DA: To me, company is the main ingredient of a traditional household meal. Given this, dinner is the better candidate. In the morning, it’s usually go go go. This makes me sad though, because I really love breakfast.
When I was single and living in New York City, I’d get lonely and go to diners all the time and eat breakfast at the counter with people. Diners are a great place to meet characters. They’re quieter than bars and there’s no pressure to drink, which works for me since I can’t hold my liquor. I’ve since relocated to Dublin, California where -- as I finish up my story collection and novel -- I live with my parents, and am no longer single, and we all eat breakfast together all the time. It’s lovely. (Of course I now miss the Waverly Diner on 6th Ave.)
With regard to dieting fads, in this story I kept trying to rail against the human dominance over objects’ consciousness. Atkins examined from a toast’s point of view was what came out of this struggle. But the fear of the toast can be universally felt. How afraid would you get if your purpose of being was eroded by a fad?
RW:Have modern ideals subverted older traditions, and is this for better or worse?
DA: When you say “modern” the first thing that comes to mind is technology. I use fiction to teach writing to business students, and you should see how hi-tech their classrooms are. If I high-five myself because of a “Yay!” moment in a Saunders story, it affects the lights. If I touch the podium in the wrong place, the blinds descend, screens drop from the ceiling.
RW:The story features a balance between two different tones; the scientific approach to the consciousness of the breakfast things with the more personable, sometimes humorous, voices each of the things. How does this use of tone affect the story?
DA: Humor is the ultimate lubricant, beard, distraction. I tried to juxtapose humor with the shared world of consciousness I’ve imagined for objects. The humor, the music, allows me to take risks. It also provides relief from the boring act of reading about breakfast things on a table. And from the dastardly dull task of exploring the consciousness of breakfast things on a table. And from the dastardly boring task of being breakfast on a table.