This Will be Difficult to Explain
W.W. Norton
Johanna Skibsrud
“This Will be Difficult to Explain”
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“This Will be Difficult to Explain” is from Johanna Skibsrud’s debut story collection of the same title (W.W. Norton, 2012).   Her debut novel, The Sentimentalists, was awarded the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most prestigious literary award.  She is also the author of two much-praised poetry collections.  She is from Canada, but currently lives in Arizona.

 

Skibsrud said this about her story:  “This Will be Difficult to Explain” reframes and transforms various stories told to me by a friend about her own childhood over a period of a couple of years.  I didn’t always think of them as potential material for a story, but when one day she told me a story about a highway road accident she had experienced with her father, involving a dog and a bizarre case of “mistaken identity,” my own story began to take shape.

 

Far too gruesome and strange for fiction, I immediately recognized this particular story’s place there.  But even more than the story itself, it was the words that Monika attributed to her father after realizing his mistake – “this will be difficult to explain,” – that got me.  I saw the way that this statement, in connection with the disorienting event of the accident, shot through all of the stories that Monika had told me about her childhood, and I began to work on putting them together in a single story.

 

I later chose the piece as the title story for my collection because I believe that, though all nine stories are very different, they are united by a common struggle: to articulate what is, for their characters, and for one reason or another, most “difficult to explain.”

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