“Americans have traditionally demanded coherent and simple national stories,” she has written. “Now many of these stories no longer make any sense. But so far nothing has replaced them. We are in story limbo, and for a storyteller this is an intensely interesting place to be.”
Anderson’s stories tend to be broken and fragmented, unfinished, nonlinear, elusive, pointless — stories about the impossibility of stories. They are often gender-fluid. (She appears, sometimes, as a character called Fenway Bergamot, a male alter ego with thick eyebrows and a mustache.) In place of coherence, in place of the machine logic of propaganda, Anderson inserts dream logic, joke logic, the self-swallowing logic of Buddhism. She likes to hollow out triumphant national stories and fill them with doubt. She once summarized “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for instance, as “just a lot of questions asked during a fire.” (“Say, isn’t that a flag?” she asked, pointing into the distance. “Couldn’t say,” she answered, “it’s pretty early in the morning.”)
She is the American heartland affectionately alienated from itself.