Posts tagged ‘Interviews’

December 19, 2010

Vice Interviews Sam Lipsyte

by Biblioklept

Vice interviews Sam Lipsyte–good stuff. From the interview, here’s Lipsyte on writing comedy–

The page is very different than what a stand-up comic does. A comedian has a physical body—gestures, vocal intonations, double takes—whatever they’re going to do to bring across the comedy. They can make a phrase funny just by the way they say it. Authors don’t have any of those tools at our disposal, so we have to find lingual ways to do it. So much of it is how you build to something, how wide you make a loop of description before you veer off and land somewhere totally unrelated. You have to learn how that rhythm works in prose. It has to be something you feel.

I don’t want it to be too jokey, I don’t want it to be making claims for itself as funny, but then you must laugh because it is a funny moment. I pursue… something strange, usually, in every paragraph. It may be funny, or it may be something I don’t think is that funny. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “That was so funny!” and I think, “Dude, that’s the most devastating moment in the book.” I’ve realized that it’s both. In my work the funniest thing is usually the most devastating thing, and that’s where they play with each other.

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December 17, 2010

The AV Club Interviews Lynda Barry

by Biblioklept

The AV Club’s Tasha Robinson interviews comix legend Lynda Barry. In the (rather lengthy) interview, Barry discusses teaching her craft–

It’s a really hard thing to teach students. The two things I always try to teach them is, one, you have to stay in motion. It doesn’t mean that you have to just write blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Write the alphabet. You have to stay in motion. And the other thing is, when you get stuck, don’t read over what you just wrote. Especially if you have a computer. Maybe by hand is not so bad, but with a computer, what happens is… My experience has always been that there is a point when the story just stops. Always. You know, it’s just like when you’re dancing. There’s a time when you’re fake-dancing, because the groove has stopped. Then you’re back in the groove. So if people understood that that’s a natural part of making something, and they knew what to do during that time… But what people will do if they’re writing on a computer is, when that time comes and it’s quiet for a minute, they panic and go back and start fixing stuff above it that was not even broken. You can’t start to fix something until you know what it’s for, you know? So I always try to get my students to just sustain the state of mind for a certain amount of time. Even though I use 24 panels for my students, they’ll have seven minutes to just sustain this open state of mind while they’re writing, keep their hand in motion. But it’s really tough to get them to believe me, to just to even give it a try. And then once they do, it’s really fun.

December 13, 2010

How Roberto Bolaño Handled Criticism

by Biblioklept

From Roberto Bolaño’s July, 2003 interview with Mexican Playboy, collected in The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Every time I read that someone has spoken badly of me I begin to cry, I drag myself across the floor, I scratch myself, I stop writing indefinitely, I lose my appetite, I smoke less, I engage in sport, I go for walks on the edge of the sea, which by the way is less than 30 meters from my house, and I ask the seagulls, whose ancestors ate the fish who ate Ulysses: Why me? Why? I’ve done you no harm.

 

November 26, 2010

Read the Complete Transcript of a 1998 David Foster Wallace Interview

by Biblioklept

Tom Scocca interviewed David Foster Wallace in 1998. A short version of the interview ran in The Boston Phoenix in February of ’98; Slate published a transcript the entire interview this week. It begins with phones and beards–

Q: For basic reader orientation here, are you doing this from Bloomington?

DFW: Speaking to you? Yes, sir.

Q: What sort of phone?

DFW: What sort of phone? What kind of phone is this? This is a Panasonic Easa-Phone. E-A-S-A, hyphen, P-H-O-N-E. And I don’t see a model number on it. It’s got a little answering machine attached, although the answering machine doesn’t work as often as the average consumer probably would like it to.

Q: OK. Let’s see.

DFW: You’re really going to orient that reader, aren’t you?

Q: Yeah. You have to bring the color in somehow.

DFW: Uh-huh.

Q: Any particular configuration of beard or bandana or glasses? It seems to change over time.

DFW: So what, we’re going to pretend, we’re going to pretend that we’re sitting in the same room?

Q: No.

DFW: I’ve never had a beard. I’ve tried periodically to grow a beard, and when it resembles, you know, the armpit of a 15-year-old girl who hasn’t shaved her armpit, I shave it off. I do not have a head hanky on at this point, although I did recently, ’cause I just got back from running my dogs around the countryside.

November 9, 2010

Six Paul Auster Interviews

by Biblioklept

Several Paul Auster interviews for those inclined. Also, read our review of his new novel Sunset Park.

Auster on NPR’s Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal.

Auster on NHPR.

Auster at the AV Club.

Auster at The Cult.

Auster at Goodreads.

And, on a video interview with Borders, Auster leaves his shades on for the duration of the interview, perhaps commenting on the brightness of his future.

November 2, 2010

“I Had Made a Bad Trade” — Kurt Vonnegut on Quitting (and Resuming) Smoking

by Biblioklept

From The Paris Review interview archive: Kurt Vonnegut discusses quitting smoking and then starting again and then quitting and then stating again–

INTERVIEWER: Have you ever stopped smoking?

VONNEGUT: Twice. Once I did it cold turkey, and turned into Santa Claus. I became roly-poly. I was approaching two hundred and fifty pounds. I stopped for almost a year, and then the University of Hawaii brought me to Oahu to speak. I was drinking out of a coconut on the roof of the Ili Kai one night, and all I had to do to complete the ring of my happiness was to smoke a cigarette. Which I did.

INTERVIEWER: The second time?

VONNEGUT: Very recently—last year. I paid Smokenders a hundred and fifty dollars to help me quit, over a period of six weeks. It was exactly as they had promised—easy and instructive. I won my graduation certificate and recognition pin. The only trouble was that I had also gone insane. I was supremely happy and proud, but those around me found me unbearably opinionated and abrupt and boisterous. Also: I had stopped writing. I didn’t even write letters anymore. I had made a bad trade, evidently. So I started smoking again. As the National Association of Manufacturers used to say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

September 21, 2010

Violent J Holds Forth: Highlights from AV Club’s ICP Interview

by Biblioklept

If you don’t have time to read Nathan Rabin’s epic interview with Violent J of Insane Clown Posse, we offer some highlights–

On the inspiration and rationale behind their revisionist Western, Big Money Rustlas: “You know, just for the fuck of it all.”

On keeping one’s cards close to one’s breast: “I don’t want to give our secrets away, but they might be obvious”

On opinions: “In our opinion, it’s not cool to actually see us doing the murders, as cool as it is to imagine it when you’re hearing the song. That’s our opinion.”

On making quality comedies: “I think the crew that was working the movie, they didn’t respect us. They didn’t respect our humor. I think a lot of them felt like it was a bum job. The attitude on the set every day was shitty. We got into arguments and battles with the crew. We’d be the only ones laughing. To do a comedy, it seems like you would need the whole crew laughing and having fun, to keep that morale up on the set, but the only ones that were having fun were us. The rest of the crew just seemed like, ‘Ah, this shit’s not funny. We’re only doing this because we have to.’ “

On making career decisions: “We knew it was gonna be basically garbage, but we thought about it and decided to do it.”

On capitalism: “If people knew how little money we actually make, I think it makes us more impressive.”

On logical fallacies in Martin Bashir’s Nightline profile of ICP: “They talked about crime happening and about how some Juggalos have committed these crimes. We made the point that millions of people bought our albums, and out of millions of people, there is going to be some bad apples. I’m sure Barbra Streisand fans have committed crimes as well….”

On what killed Michael Jackson: “It was Martin Bashir’s documentary that eventually killed Michael Jackson.”

On having quotes taken out of context: ” . . .  they took my response to one question and edited it so I looked like I was responding to another question. And what’s scary to me is that this is Nightline. This is a respected piece of American journalism, and they were full of shit.”

On pulling shenanigans: “It’s scary to me to see somebody that’s that trusted pulling shenanigans like that. It’s just fucking crazy to me.”

On being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly: “Looking at that also makes me sick, because I know we could have schooled his ass a lot better than we did. We were kind of weak with it on his show.”

On your loss: “But anybody that can stand there, looking at a rainforest or something and not think that’s a miracle—I mean, that’s their loss. Anybody that can sit there and look at shooting stars or a fucking full moon when it’s red and hanging over the city and not sit there and think, “That looks awesome, and that’s a miracle that we get to see that and have that on this earth and all this shit,” you know, that’s their loss.”

On what it takes to find out if Slick Rick might or might not be interested in performing at The Gathering of the Juggalos: “Just finding out if Slick Rick is interested can be a monthlong process. It’s very fucking drawn out.”

On why ICP declined to play Ozzfest: “It was probably something along the lines of you can’t throw Faygo or something.”

On The Wrestler: “Like, nothing they showed in that movie we didn’t already know. I’m that tuned in to the wrestling world.”

On forgetting that he’s being interviewed: “Do you have an ink pen with you? Or something to mark this down?”

On the internet and clothing: “You can’t download a T-shirt.”

On Nickelodeon and Beyoncé: “I don’t even mind Nickelodeon, or Kids’ Choice Awards, or any of that. I’m not against all that. I’m not against Beyoncé. I love Beyoncé. I’m not against pop music.”

On what people have to realize about “Miracles”: “See, what people have to realize about the “Miracles” video is that that went out into the world, but that wasn’t for the world. That was for Juggalos.”

Thank you for the pure motherfucking magic.

September 1, 2010

“I’m Not Too Concerned What Happens to My Books After I’m Dead” — The AV Club Interviews Jonathan Franzen

by Biblioklept

The AV Club interviews Jonathan Franzen. Topics include his new book Freedom, posterity, Glenn Beck, Ian McEwan, and why Franzen still has an AOL account. Here’s Franzen, from the interview, discussing contemporary references in his books–

I’m not too concerned what happens to my books after I’m dead. And I am very concerned by what’s going on with the culture of reading and writing now. So I would not wrap myself in a toga and speak of timelessness regarding my work. It’s my experience that reading Dostoevsky, say, or reading Balzac—the books are full of these contemporary references, and there are feuds going on, and names are dropped, and you know that they’re significant. If you have a good edition, it’ll have six pages of notes at the back explaining what the reference is, because some good scholar has actually looked all of the stuff up. But I don’t really feel like it detracts from my reading of that, and in a perverse way, it actually makes it feel… [Pauses.]

I want to say something can’t become timeless unless it had first inhabited its own time. Undoubtedly, we only get 70 percent of Shakespeare, because the other 30 percent is references that are just completely lost. There are all of these in-jokes, these insider references and contemporary references. We’re so removed from that culture, we don’t even know they’re there. But he was having so much fun writing those plays, and part of the fun was putting all this other stuff in—all of the wordplay, taking a jab at this actor and that theater. He was having so much fun that it just became inseparable from the general fun of those plays, and reading them, and going to performances of them. And he maybe needs those little references to make it fun for him. Not to compare myself to Shakespeare. [Laughs.] But any writer nowadays, I think… I don’t think the book is about those references. It’s not a collection of in-jokes. It’s not some snarky contemporary satire. It’s no dis-fest. It’s about other things, and those things are there for the enjoyment of people who might get them.

August 10, 2010

The AV Club Interviews Terry Zwigoff about His Movie Crumb

by Biblioklept

The AV Club interviews director Terry Zwigoff about his movie Crumb (and some other stuff). From the interview–

The idea was to do a documentary on the three Crumb brothers. It was never a documentary about Robert Crumb in my head. I had met Charles and Max and liked them both, and I collected artwork from all three brothers. I even spent a night at their parents’ house, and met his father when he was still alive. So it started taking shape in my mind, and it seemed to me like a good idea for a film if Robert would do it. Not so much because I had access to Robert and he was willing to cooperate, but because I felt comfortable knowing that as his friend, I’d been exposed to facts that other people wouldn’t have known. And there were some things Robert never even thought to tell me about, not because he was trying to withhold information from me, but because he couldn’t tell what would be interesting and what wouldn’t. He couldn’t be objective about it.

Here’s a clip from the movie–

August 4, 2010

The Paris Review Interviews David Mitchell

by Biblioklept

The Paris Review interviews David Mitchell in their new issue. An excerpt from their free excerpt:

INTERVIEWER I noticed this sentence in Number9Dream: “The cloud atlas turns its pages over.”

MITCHELL Wow, is that in Number9Dream? Then the phrase was haunting me earlier than I realized. “Cloud Atlas” is the name of a piece of music by the Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, who was Yoko Ono’s first husband. I bought the CD just because of that track’s beautiful title. It pleases me that Number9Dream is named after a piece of music by Yoko’s more famous husband, though I couldn’t duplicate the pattern indefinitely.

INTERVIEWER The epigraph to Number9Dream is from Don DeLillo: “It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams.”

MITCHELL The best line in the book and it’s not even mine.

July 25, 2010

China Miéville Profiled at The New York Times

by Biblioklept

Today’s New York Times profiles one our favorite bizarros, China Miéville. Read the article here. Topics include embarrassing apocalypses, Star Trek, and his new book Kraken. From the article:

Mr. Miéville says what attracts him to the genre, as a reader and a writer, is the importance of the imagination — “that sense of the world blown apart, that sense of a crack in reality, that visionary sense, that ecstatic sense,” as he described it.

“At a certain stage some people end up not trusting their own imagination,” Mr. Miéville said. “You get this kind of baleful set of voices in your head that tell you, ‘That’s silly; you’re being silly.’

“But I think most people have more ideas in their heads than they think they do. It’s just that those of us in the fantastic fields — either we don’t listen to our own filters, or we have a much higher ridiculousness threshold.”

July 22, 2010

Vanity Fair Interviews David Mitchell

by Biblioklept

Vanity Fair interviews David Mitchell about his new book The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The interviewer mistakenly (I believe, anyway) thinks James Wood is joking in his New Yorker review when he wonders if the book is “post-postmodernist.” Mitchell’s answer sounds about right.

VF: James Wood in the New Yorker was describing your books and he jokingly came up with the phrase post-postmodernism. If there were such a thing as post-postmodern literature, what do you think that might be?

DM: Oddly enough, I’m not sure if novelists are the best people to ask whither-the-novel questions. For me, it’s a little like I’m a duckbilled platypus and I’m being asked a question about taxonomy. You won’t get much of an answer out of a platypus because they’re busy going about their business digging tunnels, catching fish, and having sex. You really have to ask a critic, or a taxonomist. I feel like I should have a pithy answer because I’m a novelist and you’re asking a question about the future of the novel, but the biggest question I ever get to is, “How can I make this damned book work?” I rarely ever put my head above the rampart and see where this big lumbering behemoth called global literature is going.

(Thanks to the Bored Bookseller for the tip).

July 20, 2010

David Mitchell Discusses His New Novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

by Biblioklept

Hear the whole interview here.

July 12, 2010

Biblioklept Interviews Adam Langer about His New Book, The Thieves of Manhattan

by Edwin Turner

Adam Langer’s newest novel, The Thieves of Manhattan hits bookstores across the country this week. It’s a smart, funny hybrid that blends and bends genres with startling results. Adam was kind enough to talk to Biblioklept over a series of emails about his new book, truth vs stuff that actually happened, literary hoaxes, and being mistaken for the author of The Magicians. You can read more about Adam Langer at his website, including info on his previous novels Crossing California, The Washington Story, and Ellington Boulevard, and his memoir My Father’s Bonus March. The Thieves of Manhattan is available from Spiegel & Grau.

Biblioklept: Your new novel (or novel-posing-as-memoir-posing-as-novel-posing-as-memoir . . .) The Thieves of Manhattan is about a con game, a literary hoax, and the problems of art and truth, love and theft. It’s also a send-up of the publishing industry and a clever adventure story with a noir flavor and a self-referential sense of humor. I want to talk about all of that, but let’s begin with your protagonist, Ian Minot, a barista with literary aspirations. Early in the novel, he attends a Manhattan party crammed with literary types, most of whom he thinks are poseurs and hacks. At the same time, under his bitterness, we sense that he’d love to be a part of that world. How much of Ian’s experiences correlate to your own with the publishing world? How much hyperbole is in your satire?

Adam Langer: Looking back on writing Thieves, it’s sometimes hard for me to remember exactly where the reality ends and the satirical hyperbole begins. At some point, fact and fiction fuses in my mind, which is, of course, one of the themes of the book. On the one hand, it’s totally true that, as an editor of Book Magazine, I attended many a literary wingding in which actual events described at the book took place. Yes, just as Francine Prose happily greets our hero until she realizes she has confused him with someone else, I too was happily greeted by Ms. Prose until she realized that she thought I was Lev Grossman (Argh). On the other hand, though, a majority of Ian’s experiences and Ian’s biography emerge completely from my imagination—my resumé has a lot of odd items on it, but New York barista isn’t one of them. I liken this experience of melding the actual with the fanciful to one of those live action/animation movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or Mary Poppins, in which the two coexist to create another reality.

B: At the beginning of Thieves, Ian is writing “small,” realistic, character-based stories that no one wants to read. He enters into a literary con with a man named Roth to produce a big adventure story that they will sell as a memoir–as “true,” despite how improbable and fantastical it is. Thieves is in many ways an analysis on our modern obsession for true stories (and the way that “truth” can unravel). Why do people demand truth–even when it might not be what they really want from a narrative?

AL: I think we, or at least speaking for myself, I do want truth from a narrative. When I read a book or see a movie, I do want it to resonate; I want it to either connect with my viewpoints or to challenge them and make me rethink them; I don’t like when my BS-o-meter is constantly going off. But I think people often get bogged down when they confuse Truth with Stuff That Actually Happened. Tim O’Brien has an awesome essay on this topic that kind of blew my mind when I was in college. As for me, I’d much rather read a story of space aliens or baboons or Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog that rang true than a self-aggrandizing purportedly-true memoir or celebrity autobiography. There’s a line in Steve Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole, which I quite liked–”If someone said to me, ‘I’ve got this great story to tell you, and every word of it is an absolute lie!’ I’d be on the edge of my seat.” That line has stuck with me. Also, more prosaically, in the publishing industry, there’s a perception that, with the decline of traditional book coverage, a good novel isn’t enough anymore, that the author needs a compelling biography as well. Ian certainly has this perception and part of his frustration is that he assumes his lack of success is directly related to his lack of an interesting autobiography. He later learns he was wrong regarding just about all of his
perceptions.

B: In his recent book Reality Hunger, David Shields makes a point similar to yours that audiences “get bogged down when they confuse Truth with Stuff That Actually Happened.” Shields also calls for the extinction of the “novelly novel” or the “novel qua novel” — he wants hybrid or “remix” novels. Thieves strikes me as such a novel, clearly in its treatment of memoir vs. novel, but also in its self-aware incorporation of genre fiction tropes from adventure stories and crime noir. Had you tried your hand at crime fiction or adventure tales before Thieves? Were there any difficulties you faced in crafting your hoax story?

AL: I haven’t read Reality Hunger, but my sense is that Shields is probably a lot more dogmatic in his views than I am. I’m not particularly interested in rendering any particular literary form “extinct,” except maybe the genre of Manifestoes That Declare Certain Literary Forms Extinct. I’m a fan of novelly novels just as I am a fan of remix novels or hybrid novels. I love writers who experiment with form and writers who hew to the “well-made-novel” and haven’t advanced past the 19th Century. Though Thieves probably does fit the definition of hybrid or remix, I don’t think that’s all I’ll be writing from now on. As for crime fiction, I’ve dabbled. In fact, the first novel I wrote after moving to New York in 2000 was a thriller of sorts set in the publishing world and concerned a research assistant to a crime novelist who becomes chief suspect once that novelist disappears. It had a lot of problems, and I haven’t taken it out of the drawer in about nine years. Although I have other crime/genre fiction ideas, I think my tastes and skills tend more towards character-based, comic social novels. But putting together the hoax plot was really a blast or a hoot or something like that. It was really incredible fun to try. Normally, when I’m writing, I read certain books to inspire me; while writing Thieves, I was religiously doing New York Times crossword puzzles.

B: Speaking of crossed-words, your narrator Ian uses a rhetorical device that will stand out to many readers: he substitutes the names of famous authors, alter-egos, and literary characters for words he associates them with–so, sex becomes “chinaski,” after Bukowski’s stand-in, a bed becomes a “proust,” a thick head of hair becomes a “chabon,” and so on. How did you come up with this idea?

AL: Well, it seemed to me that so many thrillers I’ve read are filled with jargon, whether hard-boiled patois or technical procedural details, that I thought my narrator needed his own lingo. At the same time, the lingo worked for me because it established Ian’s mindset, one completely immersed in the contemporary literary universe. Before I even started Thieves, I heard this voice that spoke in this literary slang, much of which I didn’t wind up using because I didn’t want to overdose on it. The idea of the slang is that it should be understandable in context without anyone needing to understand or even care about what is being referenced.

B: There is an “answer key,” though–a glossary at the end. Was that your idea? Or was that a publisher’s or editor’s inclusion?

AL: My idea, and I was just having fun with the glossary. I don’t like when readers can flip to the last page and see how it turns out. So, my previous books have featured glossaries, an index, and in the case of Ellington Boulevard, song lyrics.

B: Like you, I’m a big fan of literary hoaxes–so one of my favorite passages in Thieves was a detailed list of various literary forgeries and hoaxes, many of which I’d never heard of, like Li-Hung Chang or the works of Emanuel Morgan and Anne Knish. How much of Thieves was born of your interest in literary hoaxes, and how much research did you do along the way?

AL:: I’ve always been fascinated by literary hoaxes and, while editing Thieves, I was reading as many as I could including the titles you mention, as well as watching great literary hoax movies such as Orson Welles’s F For Fake and Forbidden Lies, the documentary about Norma Khouri, and some awesome YouTube footage of “Margaret B. Jones.” I was slightly disheartened to note how many literary hoaxes have been forgotten. My personal favorites are the Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion in 1764-5 by Madalen King Hall aka Cleone Knox, an incredibly fun read, and the poems of the fictional “Ern Malley,” who has some great turns of phrase no matter how nonsensical. I have no idea what “I am still the black swan of trespass on alien waters” means, but man, it sounds cool.

B: While we’re on literary hoaxes, one of my favorite things about Thieves is that both Clifford Irving and Laura Albert (aka JT LeRoy) blurb it, and then, in the plot, a hoaxer agrees to blurb Ian’s book. How did the Albert/LeRoy blurb come about?

AL: I actually take a very active part in soliciting blurbs for my books, which is partially related to control freakishness and partially related to the fact that, as an author, I much prefer hearing from other writers than from editors, publicists or agents. Clifford Irving’s was the first blurb I got for the book, and getting it was remarkably simple. I found his agent, wrote her a letter that she forwarded to him. We had a very gentlemanly correspondence. I sent him the book and he provided a very generous endorsement. As for Laura, we were introduced via a mutual friend and, after I sent her a galley of the book, we traded dozens of e-mails back and forth and had a number of hilarious, wild and profane telephone conversations. She’s a lot of fun to talk to and correspond with.

My initial idea was to have writers blurb as their alter egos or writer characters in their books—Steven King would write as Jack Torrance, Gary Shteyngart would write as Jerry Shteynfarb, Michael Chabon would write as Grady Tripp, and so on. But I was advised that this would be confusing and most readers who got the joke would think that the blurbs were fake.

B: Have you ever stolen a book?

AL: When I was about eleven, I shoplifted a copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s Fountains of Paradise from Rosen’s Drug Store on Devon Avenue a few blocks away from my house in Chicago. But I felt guilty about it, so the next day, I actually wound up sneaking it back.

July 9, 2010

“Plugging Literature Into Other Literature” — Tom McCarthy on His New Novel, C

by Biblioklept

British Cover for C

Surplus Matters has reprinted last week’s edition of The Sunday Times interview with/profile of Tom McCarthy about his new novel C, our favorite new novel of 2010 (The Sunday Times is not free, so thank you, Surplus Matters). The author of the article, Robert Collins, situates McCarthy’s C as an indirect answer to David Shields’s argument in Reality Hunger that the successful modern novel must be a synthesis or remix. We’ve been critical of Shields’s argument, which ultimately rests on aesthetic assumptions that allow Shields to pick what texts will count in his reality canon. To put it another way, great works of literature, from Homer to Ovid to Shakespeare to Henry Miller have always been appropriating and recontextualizing the texts that came before them. McCarthy’s C doesn’t respond to Shields’s would-be manifesto; it obliterates it, following in the (counter)tradition of Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, and William Burroughs, writers who navigated the treacherous straits of history, art, representation, and reality. C is rich and inventive, telling the life story of Serge Carrefax in the early part of the 20th century. We follow Serge through his strange youth, where he experiments with wireless technology, to the skies of WWI, where he maps the terrain below him; we follow him through his drug-soaked twenties in the ’20s and eventually to the tombs of Egypt. C isn’t a response to the demands of a marketplace that increasingly demands gimmicky concepts and reality-soaked memoirs; instead, to use McCarthy’s term, C plugs into the reservoir of literature that precedes it. From the article:

If McCarthy — as [Zadie] Smith has suggested — presents a radically fresh prospect for the future of the novel, it is probably, paradoxically, because he has instinctively ignored contemporary literature almost completely. He would argue, in fact, that it is only by immersing oneself in all that has gone before that any contemporary novelist has even the faintest chance of coming up with something new. “I don’t think most writers, most commercial middlebrow writers, are doing that,” he says. “I think they’ve become too aligned with mainstream media culture and its underlying aesthetic of ‘self-expression’. I see what I’m doing as simply plugging literature into other literature. For me, that’s what literature’s always done. If Shakespeare finds a good speech in an older version of Macbeth or Pliny, he just rips it and mixes it. It’s like DJing.”

June 26, 2010

HTMLGIANT Interviews Lee Rourke about His New Novel, The Canal

by Biblioklept

At HTMLGIANT, Catherine Lacey interviews Lee Rourke about boredom, the writing process, dialogue, foxes, and his new novel The Canal. Read our review of The Canal here. From the interview:

Your narrator speaks a lot about his philosophy on boredom. How much of this do you share with him?

Well, I would have to say quite a lot. I mean, I truly believe – as Bertrand Russell did before me – that if we truly embraced boredom there would be less violence in the world. When I say truly embrace boredom I mean that we should make an effort not to fight it – we especially shouldn’t do something just to stop us from feeling bored (this just leads to the type of passive nihilism the philosopher Simon Critchley warns us about). I think we should just accept it and naturally feel bored and ultimately do nothing. Fighting boredom only leads to friction, which can cause myriad things, including the type of violence that haunts my novel. But I know this is a losing battle. It is a losing battle because boredom reveals to us the nothingness that makes up our lives: the gaping void of our existence, its meaninglessness and finiteness. Obviously this gaping void scares the shit out of us. And it is because of this intrinsic fear that we mostly fail.

June 25, 2010

Pop Damage Interviews James Grauerholz, Executor of William Burroughs’s Literary Estate

by Biblioklept

Pop Damage interviews James Grauerholz, executor of William Burroughs’s literary estate. From the interview:

SF: William’s magickal experimentation, the aspects of recording what he called “Danger Sounds” and replaying them in proximity to his target, or using collage to hit a specific target has become the stuff of legend. Some attribute the closing of one particular establishment to William’s hexes. Is there another specific instance which you can recall that is as dramatic and apparently self-evident?

JG: Nope, not really. You are likely referring to the Moka Bar in London, where William said he received snide, snotty service and lousy, weak tea — and his tape-recorders-and-cameras mock-surveillance routine, back and forth on the sidewalk of Frith Street, and how the Moka Bar failed and was shuttered not too long after that.

Forgive me please, but my cast of mind leads me to suspect the Moka Bar, if it really did sell lousy tea with terrible service, might have been headed out of business, with or without the sound-text-tape-film sidewalk-pacing routine…

As with William’s long-ago theory that, because he had never known a NYC junky ever to get a seasonal cold, it was likely that Junk provided a protective covering to the cells (or else, maybe Junk kept the cells well-exercised and in-shape with a constant cycle of shrinking to kick, swelling back up in re-addiction, kicking, hooked again, etc.) — I pointed out that, because a junky with a good supply on hand rarely leaves his apartment to mingle on the sidewalk with other people (which would expose him to more airborne rhinovirus particles), maybe the apparent immunity was more the result of limited exposure to current pathogens…

May 24, 2010

Biblioklept Interviews Michael Wiley about His New Book, The Bad Kitty Lounge

by Edwin Turner

Michael Wiley is a mystery writer and professor of British Romantic literature and culture at the University of North Florida. He’s published academic volumes about geography and migration in Romantic literature, but we spoke to him about the latest edition in his detective series, The Bad Kitty Lounge. Dr. Wiley was kind enough to talk to us via email about ambiguity and resolution in mystery fiction, giving readers what they want, and the prospects of Wordsworth with a Glock. The Bad Kitty Lounge is available new in hardcover from Minotuar/St. Martin’s. Read more press at Michael Wiley’s website.

Biblioklept: Your new novel The Bad Kitty Lounge picks up with P.I. Joe Kozmarski, the protagonist from your first novel The Last Striptease; both books are set in Chicago. When you were working on Striptease did you envision it as the beginning of a series?

Michael Wiley: I did. To tell the truth, The Last Striptease catches the story already in motion. I wrote an earlier Joe Kozmarski manuscript that I called Little Girl Lost, almost got published, and then tucked into a box, where it remains. I liked the character and the settings well enough that I wrote a new manuscript, which became The Last Striptease. I had set Little Girl Lost in August and Last Striptease in September, so when I started writing The Bad Kitty Lounge I decided to set it in October and aim for a series that covers each month of the year. There’s no great logic to aiming for a twelve-book series, but it seems as good of a number as any.

B: There’s a tradition in detective fiction of recurring characters (Chandler’s Marlowe comes immediately to mind). When you are writing these books, do you consciously follow or inject tropes of mystery and crime fiction? How important is it to give mystery readers what they want?

MW: It’s always important to give readers what they want. But readers might not know what they want until a book gives it to them. In genre fiction and mysteries and thrillers in particular, conventions matter, but if a writer sticks too closely to conventions the result is cliché. The key isn’t to ignore the conventions but to finesse them, use them in new ways, invert or subvert them. The best mysteries, I think, are recognizable in form but still manage to surprise us and give us great unanticipated pleasures. Before Chandler’s Marlowe, there’s Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and before Holmes, there’s Poe’s Dupin. Each of the greats has reinvented the form in big ways and has given readers what they’ve always wanted without knowing that they’ve wanted it. The rest of us innovate where we can.

B: Sometimes though it seems that writers who experiment too much with genre conventions can subvert, invert, or innovate in ways that trample on some of the great pleasures of mysteries and thrillers. I’m thinking explicitly about novels like Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music, which weds PK Dick with hard boiled noir, or Thomas Pynchon’s recent exercise Inherent Vice. Such books prize ambiguity, which leads to a shaggy dog story. There’s certainly a pleasure in reading them but many of us read mysteries because Dupin or Sherlock Holmes or Marlowe (or whomever) actually solves the case. How important do you think it is to give mystery readers an answer or solution? What place does ambiguity have in your detective fiction?

MW: Right. Most of the best mystery writing right now includes at least some ambiguity, though. I’ve been reading and re-reading James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux books lately, and while each of them solves a case at hand, we never have the sense that Robicheaux has restored a proper order to the universe. Just the opposite: we know that the universe is deeply screwed up and that Robicheaux is as much a part of the problem as he is part of the solution. Aside from that, some of Burke’s villains pop up again in later books even after we’re sure that Robicheaux has put them to rest.

My own books resolve crimes. At the end, we know who did what and when and why. But my books are also full of moral ambiguity. Some of the guilty parties don’t get punished. Some of the innocent parties do. Good people sometimes do bad things for either good or bad reasons. Bad people sometimes do good things. We get answers but we don’t necessarily like them.

B: I realize that I may have been putting carts before horses with some of these questions–can you tell us a little bit about the plot of The Bad Kitty Lounge?

MW: I like carts before horses. Here’s a synopsis that I wrote for the book flap:

Greg Samuelson, an unassuming bookkeeper, has hired Joe Kozmarski to dig up dirt on his wife and her lover Eric Stone. But now Samuelson has taken matters into his own hands. It looks like he’s torched Stone’s Mercedes, killed his boss, and then shot himself, all in the space of an hour. The police think they know how to put together this ugly puzzle. But as Kozmarski discovers, nothing’s ever simple. Eric Stone wants to hire Kozmarski to clear Samuelson. Samuelson’s dead boss, known as the Virginity Nun, has a saintly reputation but a red-hot past. And a gang led by an aging 1960s radical shows up in Kozmarski’s office with a backpack full of payoff money, warning him to turn a blind eye to murder. At the same time, Kozmarski is working things out with his ex-wife, Corrine, his new partner, Lucinda Juarez, and his live-in nephew, Jason. If the bad guys don’t do Kozmarski in, his family might.

In short, it’s a gritty hardboiled mystery set in Chicago. If your sense of humor runs the way mine does, it has some laughs. Booklist Magazine calls it “howlingly funny.” That may be overstating the case, but I appreciate the compliment.

B: Books critics must always be forgiven hyperbole, positive and negative.

You’re a professor of English literature; specifically, you’re an expert on the British Romantic poets. You might tire of this question–and forgive me if so–but do elements of British Romanticism find their way, consciously or not, into your detective fiction? It seems like a detective’s mission would be at odds with the spirit of Keats’s Negative Capability.

MW: From my perspective, it’s easier to deal with the positive hyperbolic criticism than the negative.

I once told an editor jokingly that I planned to write a mystery featuring William Wordsworth with a Glock. To my surprise, the editor was enthusiastic. I suppose there’s a market for these books. Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has been doing well, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a hit.

I mostly think of my day job as a British Romanticist as being separate from my night job as a writer of pulp fiction, but I know that that the two intersect and inform each other. Wordsworth and Raymond Chandler are two of the great English-language locodescriptive writers, and they’ve both influenced my handling of place. William Blake deals with ideas of innocence and experience, good and evil, and heaven and hell in ways that no noir writer has ever surpassed. And Lord Byron is great for moral ambiguity, as is S.T. Coleridge though in different ways.

So, I’ll probably get to that Wordsworth-with-a-Glock manuscript sooner or later.

B: Wordsworth with a Glock sounds great. Then you could write John Keats Vs. The Lamia; make it a graphic novel. Or just a screenplay. For now though, is the next Kozmarski book already in the works?

MW: I see a series here. My friend Kelli Stanley has set mysteries in ancient Rome. She calls them “Roman Noir.” I’ll just add a “tic” and I’ll have “Romantic Noir.” In the meantime, Joe Kozmarski will ride again. St. Martin’s Minotaur has said that they want to publish the third in the series. It’s done, it’s called A Bad Night’s Sleep, and it’s the best one yet. It should be out in 2011.

B: You teach full time and have a family–how do you make time to write? What advice could you give to young writers who want to develop that kind of discipline?

There’s never enough time in the day — or the week or the year — to write a book. There are thousands of excuses for doing something else, and nearly all of the excuses are good. I accept these facts and then write anyway. I write in the morning before breakfast if I can, or write in the evenings after the kids are in bed. I write in between. And when I’m not writing, I’m often thinking about plot, characters, and setting.

I draw from my own experience when I give advice, which is very simply (and annoyingly) this: “Just write.” Writing seems to me to be more of an act of will than of discipline. Don’t spend time worrying that you’re not writing enough; don’t spend time thinking about the act of writing (unless that’s the subject of your short story or novel) — Spend your time writing. Tell your story. Then revise it. Then think of another story and tell it. Oh, and when you’re not telling or revising or thinking of new details for your story, read other people’s stories and learn from them. That seems important too: others have told better stories than I’ll ever tell. I can learn from them. We all can.

B: Have you ever stolen a book?

MW: No. But I hope someone steals one of mine.

May 11, 2010

Vice Interviews Bret Easton Ellis

by Biblioklept

Vice interviews Bret Easton Ellis at length. Topics include troublesome editors, that “Cranky old bastard” J.D. Salinger (“who hated us all, by the way”), the weirdness of L.A., and his forthcoming novel Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to his first big hit Less Than Zero. Here’s a taste of the interview, where BEE talks (mild smack) about Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, and former classmate Jonathan Lethem:

Vice: [I]t seems like people will never get tired of probing you about how much of your fiction is autobiographical.
BEE: I wonder why? No other authors, when I read about them, get asked this. Michael Chabon doesn’t get asked this. Jonathan Franzen doesn’t get asked this. Jonathan Lethem doesn’t get asked this. I get asked this. Maybe because I’m just not as good a writer as they are.

Vice: No. You’re as good or better than all of them. But I don’t know, I don’t want to get off topic too much. Never mind.
BEE: I want you to just briefly get off topic. You can say anything you want to me. I really don’t know any of them. I mean, I know them kind of, but I’m not friends with any of them.

Vice: I like Chabon, but I get this weird sense that I wouldn’t like him as a person. Not that that matters, of course.
BEE: No, it doesn’t matter. Always look at the art, not the artist.

Vice: But it’s difficult for me sometimes. I think there’s something kind of too cute about Lethem, or at least something too cute about his last novel, Chronic City.
BEE: I really like The Fortress of Solitude. That’s the only book of his I’ve liked. And the only book of Michael Chabon’s that I really liked was Kavalier & Clay.

Vice: That was great.
BEE: And I really don’t like anything by Jonathan Franzen but The Corrections, which I think is a great American novel.

Vice: Those are kind of their inarguable books I guess, those three.
BEE: Yeah, but everything else by those three is just, you know, I go, “Grrrrrr.” You know, I went to school with Jonathan Lethem.

Vice: Oh, really?
BEE: We were in the same class at Bennington.

Vice: I didn’t know that. What was he like in school?
BEE: Nice. He was a nice guy. I had no idea that he wanted to be a writer. He wasn’t in any of the main workshops. Like Donna Tartt would be in there, and Jill Eisenstadt. You know, the people who really wanted to write were the people who always managed to get into the major workshop that term. And Jonathan never got into any of them. And then I got a galley in the mail a long time after we graduated, and it was for a novel by Jonathan Lethem about talking animals or something. And I was like, “What the hell is this?”

April 2, 2010

Hoax, Italian Style

by Biblioklept

In this week’s issue of The New Yorker Judith Thurman reports on the literary hoaxes of Tommaso Debenedetti, an Italian “journalist” who has apparently fabricated dozens of interviews with famous authors in the paper Il Piccolo. Authors–so far–include Philip Roth, John Grisham, Gunter Grass, Toni Morrison, Herta Müller, Nadine Gordimer (Thurman is continuing to investigate Debedenetti’s archival interviews).

Thurman contacted Debenedetti, who denied that he faked the interviews. From the article:

Debenedetti said he was completely “shocked and saddened” that all these writers would have denied the veracity of his reporting. When I asked him about the interviews with Roth and Grisham, he flatly denied having invented them, and told me that Roth and Grisham were lying for “political” reasons—because their views on Obama would make them unpopular with left-leaning intellectuals. Roth, he added, might have decided that it was impolitic to express hostility toward Obama because it might spoil his chances for the Nobel.

I then read the list of other writers who had denied or questioned his conversations with them. In every case, Debenedetti asserted that he had invented nothing. When I asked if he could produce any recordings or notes from his interviews, he laughed and, admitting that it sounded like a “tired” excuse, told me that he had lost the tapes in some cases, and in others had “thrown them away.”

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