Artistic Statement 

Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2003



I have been working on a new collection of prose called What My Lover Wants since January of this year.  This collection of eighteen prose pieces (approximately 376 pages at this stage of the drafting process) is a sequence of stories about the desire to fall, and the fear that it could happen.  A quote from Milan Kundera gave me one of the central ideas for organizing my collection:

Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect some day to suffer vertigo…[but] vertigo is something other than the fear of falling.  It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves. [from The Unbearable Lightness of Being]

Self protection verses the desire to fall in love, to fall out of love, to fall from grace and God, to fall away from expectation, to enter the myth of the higher unknown, or to enter the myth of the pleasing known are all key themes in my collection.  The stories center on a queer character named Rhonda who, because of her desire to fall, and her previously over-protected life, has a hard time saying no to “the emptiness below.”


More specifically, one of my cultural interests in this collection (and in most of my writing) is to deal with the mythologies of love, religion, and gender in Utah, and how these mythologies impact each other, and impact queer women, and specifically the main character, Rhonda.  That love and religion and gender are thought to be, if you will, mono[gamous] by a large portion of Utah (and US) culture, that we are expected to fall for one person or one God or one identity, creates a lot of discomforting rifts in people who are exploring a more poly[gamous] way of being.  I use the word “polygamous” in a broad social, and botanical, sense: having multiple “wives” or a series of “wives”; having multiple belief systems at once or over time; playing with, or having, multiple gender identities/sexualties at once or over time.  Queer characters in Utah are ideal points from which to explore these tensions.


One of my aesthetic interests in this collection, and in all my writing, is the thin divide between “reality” and the construction of reality.  One way I play with this is by showing the central character from different time points and differing points-of-view in each story.  Another way I play with “reality” and foreground its construction is by merging moments of regional and personal non-fiction with magical realism, pop culture and urban myths (other forms of the constructed non-real), and, of course, outright fabrication, and at times I metafictionally call attention to the movements between these arenas.  Another way I foreground the rift between “reality” and its construction is to often focus on strong voices, on a first person point of view that is obviously “unreliable,” but is often aware of its unreliability.  I am also aesthetically interested in the rhythms, the moods, the sounds and emotions of language which tend not to let the reader get entirely swallowed up in what can at times be the mimetic dream of realism, or traditional story telling.  I also use different metafiction levels of humor to undercut this “dream”.  Yet even within this playfulness, this foregrounding, I still always have strong threads of cultural, feeling realism pulling through each story.  In other words, I’m working toward something feelingly playful in all my work.



Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2003