Interview: Salvatore Scibona

The Brief


Salvatore Scibona is a novelist and short story writer. His first book, The End, follows a small group of carnival-goers as their lives intersect in the fictional immigrant enclave of Elephant Park, Ohio. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Young Lions Fiction Award, awarded by the New York Public Library. His short fiction works have been published in the New York Times and Harper’s Magazine, and have won a Pushcart Prize and an O. Henry Award. Scibona is also the recipient of a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. In 2010, he was selected by The New Yorker as one of its ‘Fiction Writers to Watch: 20 under 40’. He is  member of the Writing Committee of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Which book would you recommend to our readers?
Independent People by Halldór Laxness. The great novel of cold, striving, and endurance.

Which film would you recommend to our readers?
Keeping with the trend of cold weather, Touching the Void, a mountaineering docudrama directed by Kevin Macdonald. It includes this advice for the stranded mountaineer: ‘Keep making decisions, even if they're the wrong decisions.’

Which essay would you recommend to our readers?
‘On Self-Respect’ by Joan Didion: ‘To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which, for better or for worse, constitutes self-respect, is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent.’

Which poem would you recommend to our readers?
‘Keeping Things Whole’ by Mark Strand. To paraphrase the poet: In a field, he is the absence of field.


The following questions relate to our Perspectives column, in which two writers respond to an artwork that they are experiencing for the first time.

Are artists always driven by personal experience?
In so far as the personal coincides with the absolute, yes.

Are educational curricula a form of violence?
Let us think carefully about what the word ‘violence’ has meant in the past and how much of our own dissatisfactions fit the category.

Can art help us to understand death?
The goal of art was never to understand.

States of the Arts

The following questions relate to our States of the Arts column, for which each article includes four artworks that share an association with a single nation or territory.

Which Chilean artwork would you recommend to our readers?
Distant Star
by Roberto Bolaño, a strange and formally uncanny short novel.

Which Pakistani artwork would you recommend to our readers?
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
, a peerless short story collection by Daniyal Mueenuddin.

The art of discovery

The following questions relate to Silent Frame’s aim to celebrate the art of discovery.

For you, is artistic discovery a private or shared experience?
It is a private experience shared with the infinite.

What question would you like to ask other Silent Frame interviewees?
Is it moral to ignore the news?

More to discover

Salvatore Scibona: You can visit Salvatore Scibona's website here, and read an excerpt of The End hereMichael Hinken has interviewed the author for the Fiction Writers Review, as has Bret Anthony Johnston for the National Book Foundation website.

Many of Scibona's short stories and essays are available to read online. Short stories: 'The Hidden Person', 'The Kid', 'Tremendous Machine'. Essays: 'Think Like a Fish', 'Where I Learned to Read'.

Today's recommendations: Independent People (excerpt), Touching the Void (trailer), 'On Self-Respect' (full essay), 'Keeping Things Whole' (poem), Distant Star (excerpt), 'In Other Rooms, Other Wonders' (title story from the collection of the same name).

Also on Silent Frame