February 25, 2014Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar
In light of the upcoming Daphne awards, we’re providing some supplementary reading about the nominees. Today’s post features Argentine author Julio Cortazar’s formally playful counter-novel, Hopscotch, published in Spanish in 1963 and translated into English in 1966.
“And in the long history of fragmented stories, from Gilgamesh to The Pale King, Hopscotch may present the biggest jumble of them all. A half-century after its publication, it still stands out as the most brazen attempt by a major writer to undermine traditional — indeed quasi-instinctive and constitutive — reading strategies.”
-- “How to Win at Hopscotch: The 50th Anniversary of Julio Cortazar’s Novel” by Ted Gioia | Los Angeles Review of Books
Ted Gioia searches for order within Hopscotch’s unconventional structure in an examination of how the format of Hopscotch shapes the reader’s experience.
For more on the author himself, here are two in-depth yet wide-ranging interviews from The Paris Review and The Review of Contemporary Fiction, in which he discusses his work, his influences and his politics:
“Literature is like that—it’s a game, but it’s a game one can put one’s life into. One can do everything for that game.”
-- Interview with Julio Cortazar by Jason Weiss | The Paris Review, Fall 1984
“Very early in life, I felt that one ought to approach the everyday elements in life that could be filled with beauty. A good boxing match is just as beautiful as a swan. So why not utilize it within a system of comparisons, within a scale of values. “
-- A Conversation with Julio Cortazar by Evelyn Picon | via Dalkey Archive, originally from The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Fall 1983
Also worth nothing are the 2004 New York Times profile of Gregory Rabassa, the translator of Hopscotch into English, who won the 1967 National Book Award for Best Translation. Rabassa was also interviewed at The Rumpus in September of 2013, where he discusses his history as a literary translator and the time he got to dance with Marlene Dietrich.
February 24, 2014
Image: Anna Akhmatova
Nicholas Vajifdar was an obvious choice to chair our Daphne Award poetry division. His "Forgotten Twentieth Century" columns are funny, wise, and insightful. I look forward to seeing what he's going to write about each month. He was the first to turn in a completed shortlist, and the heavyweights (like William Carlos Williams) had been cleared away to reveal:
Burning Perch by Louis MacNeice
Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law by Adrienne Rich
Requiem by Anna Akhmatova
Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
Five Senses by Judith Wright
Poems by Gwen Harwood
At the End of the Open Road by Louis Simpson
I asked Vajifdar if he would justify his decisions with a few questions over email.
How did you feel about the nominees over all? How was 1963 for poetry?
This has been a wonderfully bewildering exercise, a little like the biology assignment where you rope off a square foot of marshland and analyze all the organisms within. So much variety in such little space! What a range! Akhmatova to MacNeice to James Wright…
And yet I doubt that most experience literature as an event of the season, like a debutante ball or a fraternity pledge class. The emotional effect builds over the decades and you can only truly take stock in retrospect. Which is why this prize is such a damn fine idea, an overdue one.
Behind that seeming term of praise—range—lurks another more frightening word: chaos. To rhyme or not? To make surface sense, or not? To be of-the-moment and hep or to embrace the aristocratic gentility that some have assigned to poetry as a form? None of these questions seems settled fifty years on, and no faction even seems totally routed.
Or am I being paranoid? No devotee of numerology, I felt nevertheless that 1963 was an ominous year with regard to poetry. Why? Then it hit me:
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
As Larkin must have sensed, what could J. Alfred Prufrock do against those mop-topped Liverpudlians singing “Ooooh”? It seems to me that sometime in the '60s, poetry lost its mojo, and to say “I read poetry for fun” became like saying “I spend my weekends dressing up like Saint-Simon and pretending like the manikin I keep in my apartment is Louis Quatorze.” Freakish! Schismatic! And, in order to underwrite their verse, poets suddenly seemed either to have to teach at the university level or do some sort of activism. In other words, you had to kind of like the person before you got to like their poems. Which is just gross. Much better when all the contestants are moldering in their graves and you don’t have to like them as people.
I think that perhaps the most outside nominations we received were for William Carlos Williams. And so, dear sir, justify your decision not to include him on the shortlist.
Good lady, I justify it like this. First off, I’m not tossing him away with a wrinkled nose—some of his stuff is immortal, though I confess I like his shorter, vivid, nature lyrics the best. (“By the road to the contagious hospital / under the surge of blue…”)
Second, Williams did win the National Book Award for previous installments of Paterson in 1950. This, plus his large tracts in poetry anthologies, indicates that his place is secure; another indication of this is the mere fact that he got the most nominations.
Third, I sense that much of contemporary poetry in this country came out of Dr. Williams’s white coat—the sound of it, and the look of it, if not exactly its worldview. I thought of this contest partly as deposing old gods—out with Kronos, in with Zeus. That type of thing.
The Akhmatova feels like a bit of a cheat, as the reason it was published in 1963 was because of long years of being blacklisted and her work suppressed. Can anything hold its own against the power of Requiem?
Right, it feels a little like having to compete with an old master—not exactly fair. Then again, I’m sure Akhmatova would have liked a timely publication if only the man with the mustache hadn’t taken such a strong interest in the arts. Another thought: even works in the capitalist West often take a while to wend their way into print. Look at Confederacy of Dunces.
And I agree—for sheer heartbreaking power, the Requiem stands intimidatingly large. But, without jumping the gun, let me suggest a possible flaw: it’s our only foreign language entry. Can we really judge the merits of translated poems? Or, if not, can the poet’s story, plus blurry glimpses of the original, be enough to earn our sincere admiration? Stay tuned, folks. The answers will be revealed.
Any thoughts on the winner of the original National Book Award 50 years ago, John Crowe Ransom's Selected Poems?
John Crowe Ransom! Born during the Cleveland Administration, he went on to both rhyme and measure out his lines in meter. His poems often resembled little stories or closet dramas, and then, with the audacity of Keats, he’d reverse the order of adjective and noun to keep the rhythm. (“—I am a lady young in beauty waiting / Until my truelove comes, and then we kiss.”) So, this is not a man who rode the magic bus, not a traveler of both time and space. But, damn it, I still like that old romancer of the Confederacy. He worked hard to make his lines sing, and his poems touch on universal themes. I talked about deposing old gods—but what about the even older gods the old gods themselves deposed? Ransom seems like one of those doubly archaic deities. So, let’s honor the old man. Just not in this particular ceremony.
February 22, 2014
The Daphne Shortlists
Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Grifters by Jim Thompson
The Clown by Heinrich Böll
Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
Dreambook for Our Time by Tadeusz Konwicki
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter
The Destruction of Dresden by David Irving
Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt
The Reawakening by Primo Levi
The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson
Burning Perch by Louis MacNeice
Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law by Adrienne Rich
Requiem by Anna Akhmatova
Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
Five Senses by Judith Wright
Poems by Gwen Harwood
At the End of the Open Road by Louis Simpson
The Dot and the Line by Norton Juster
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Mr. Rabbit by Charlotte Zolotow
Harold’s ABC by Crockett Johnson
Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein
The Moon by Night by Madeline L’Engle
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey
Image: Daphne by Sir Hubert von Herkomer
February 21, 2014
Tonight in Chicago: The Daphne Salon
Friday, February 21
2334 W Erie, Chicago
There will be drinking, eating of deviled eggs, conversation, Sylvia Plath readings, and the announcement of the shortlist for our reconsideration of the best book of 1963.
All of the whiskey* will go to the person who can answer which two books from our fiction longlist begin with someone waking up after a failed suicide attempt.
* All of the whiskey being an inch and a half at the bottom of the bottle.
February 19, 2014
“A Friend in the Margins,” the latest installment in Lightsey Darst’s Thousandfurs column, speculates on the margin notes and underlining choices of her “unknown friend,” the anonymous previous readers of the books she’s acquired, the anonymous future recipients of the books that she’ll pass along. The remnants left by previous readers is one of the many joys of used books--they serve as a reminder of the book’s history, of the hands it has passed through before yours. You become part of a secret legacy, an heir to an intellectual inheritance. Notes in the margins of used books become a way to conduct a conversation between strangers across time and space. For more on the marginal conversations we have with unknown friends, here are some links:
“When to Read Was to Write” by Leah Price | London Review of Books
Leah Price’s examination of the history of marginalia takes us back to a time when writing in the margins of books was not only permitted, but the norm--a common practice expected of every reader. In her retrospective look at how readers used to interact with their texts and the role that reading played in their lives, she also brings our attention to the ways in which reading and annotating may be changing in the age of the e-reader.
“The Meaning in the Margins” by Rachel Luban | Full Stop
Rachel Luban’s study of S., the book/objet by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, places it alongside similarly metatextual thrillers House of Leaves and Pale Fire. Luban’s review is an examination of the genre itself, a close look at how, through footnotes and margin notes, these texts invite the reader’s participation; Luban evaluates what works and what doesn’t in this form, and why.
“A View From the Margins” by Sam Anderson | The New York Times
Sam Anderson, who in 2010 chronicled his year in reading through marginalia, presents selected annotations of his 2011 reads in this interactive feature accompanied by audio commentary.
"Knight v. Snail" by The British Library
The margins of Medieval manuscripts are alive with the strangest creatures: men slayed by giant hares, sea monsters creeping up from the deep, and, for some reason, a recurring theme of knights battling alarmingly large snails. The British Library has had a series of articles about the jokes scribbled by monks, inky cat prints and other doodles that clutter Medieval manuscripts, but their explanation of the snails is perhaps their finest moment.
February 18, 2014
The Daphne Awards
As a reminder, this Friday we will be announcing the shortlists for the Daphne Awards at a 1963-themed salon, and you are invited. Will we have the un-Oscar nominated film classic The Haunting playing silently in a corner? Yes, probably. Will we have deviled eggs? Most definitely. Also, please note that we'll be posting excerpts from the books, cover art, old reviews, etc, on the Tumblr.
It is very interesting to pick a year, read a slew of books, and get an idea of the world at that moment that way. We were trying to remember, what was going on in 1963, beyond Cold War, beyond the Kennedy Assassination, and beyond this simplistic Mad Men-tinged view of the world? Reading a dozen or so novels set in that era all in a row gives you an interesting idea.
But we have our pet favorites and the things in stories that drive us nuts, and no amount of time and award objectivity can get rid of that. Which is why I had such trouble with Anna Kavan's Who Are You?.
In short, I don't like the book, for the same reason I don't like Jean Rhys books. I can objectively see how the prose is beautiful or how the structure is interesting or what they're trying to do, but I have a kind of allergic response to the passive woman, to the woman trapped in her marriage or her circumstance, that oh things are not going so well I will just lie here on the floor until death takes me kind of thing.
I could get distracted by the Rhys thing, as I've been writing about her in my book about expats, but let's just say I find the act dull and let's stick with Anna Kavan. This was my first introduction to Kavan, and while I'm interested to read more, I was nothing but frustrated with Who Are You? Girl is in a bad marriage. He abuses her, rapes her. She stays. People try to help her. She stays. He is a bully and brute and has no personality other than Abusive Man. She is small and weak and helpless and men heroically want to save her but she can't be bothered to save herself. She also has no personality other than Wet Puddle.
God, why is this an interesting story to tell? And why do we tell it over and over again? Which is not to say it doesn't happen, god knows I know that it happens. But without any psychological insight, without any momentum, without any interest in even writing a character, why tell that story again? And it is my particular frustrations with these gender definitions, with these conceptions of what an abusive relationship is like, that this simplistic reduction and depiction of woman as passive victim is just so boring to me.
Not only boring, but poisonous. Because Jean Rhys, the character in Who Are You?, passive girls who can't make changes in their life, who make excuses and make their homes inside their trauma, girls who whimper and flutter their eyelashes until someone comes around to rescue them, girls who can't carry their own bags on the train, those girls are my enemy. My response to them is to go to war, rather than, let's talk about this book. No! Let's rip the book into pieces and toss them out the window, let's not give them another moment's thought. Which is why I am making someone else read Who Are You? and make the shortlist assessment.
On the other side, published in the same year, we have Christa Wolf's They Divided the Sky. Which is problematic in its own way, in that it is basically DDR propaganda. Wolf is the most famous/infamous (she reported on fellow writers to the Stasi) of the East German writers, but also the most accomplished. Divided is early into her career, though, and early into the East German state, when idealistic young socialists still thought they could build a new world. The propaganda edge kills it, but what remains is such a nice antidote to Anna Kavan.
Hers is the story of a couple in East Germany at the time of the wall going up, and the man chooses to flee to the West and the woman chooses to stay in the East. Here it gets muddled, the man is of course leaving because he has family and existential issues, and she is staying because she is stronger and sees the creation of the DDR for the grand historical moment it is (yikes). But it's also so interesting in the way it talks about how political and philosophical differences can break up a couple. She's political and believes in sacrifice if it means creating a new world (and she sees the consumerist West as spiritually hollow, a world of "shopping and eating"), and he just wants life to be easy. And so the relationship cannot work.
But the woman, Rita, is a person. She does not passively lie around, always living in response to other people's actions rather than taking any of her own. She believes in things, she works towards things, she is a human being. And Wolf, while obviously problematic, writes about this in a way that feels completely fresh. It is a different story to tell. It's a shame it doesn't hold together, that she wasn't aware of her own motivations.
Obviously the award was in some ways sparked by this bad reaction to the Updike/Mailer/Roth/Hemingway Very Special Men writers thing, and the stories that they tell about gender and the world and their very special problems. But then one should be able to discuss the problems of the female equivalent. This process of judging has been a very interesting one so far.
February 17, 2014
What We're Reading
Just Kids by Patti Smith
We spent Thanksgiving with my wife's parents in California. It is my habit when I am there to peruse Feldman's, one of my favorite used bookstores, where I always find something to covet. This visit was no different: I left with a large, supple four-dollar paperback copy of Our Mutual Friend. I was about to set it down on an end-table back at the in-laws' when I noticed Just Kids, Patti Smith's memoir. Patti Smith stands out in a living room full of outdated Stanford alumni directories, World War histories, and corporate biographies.
I don't know Patti Smith the poet. I've listened to "Gloria" over and over, but that's usually as far as I get in Horses. Before reading Just Kids I'd never heard of Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith's long-time companion, the artist whose career and life and death is the second subject of the book. Well, it's not the first time in my life I've been late to the party. It's an advantage here. I'm reading it like a piece of fiction, second-guessing Patti and Robert and wondering what will happen next. Two hundred pages in she still hasn't spelled out G-L-O-R-I-A.
The greater arc in Just Kids is a portrait of art and artists -- or, if you're less universal, an inside look at late-'60s and early-'70s New York. But there's a smaller narrative at work that fascinates me more: Patti Smith's magical thinking. She doesn't say it outright -- not for the first two-thirds of the book, anyway -- but I think she still feels culpable for the deaths of Brian Jones, Bobby Kennedy, Edie Sedgwick, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Lee Crabtree, for thinking them to the grave.
February 14, 2014
Image: Medusa by Leonor Fini
In Ovid's telling of Medusa, Medusa was once a beautiful maiden, a priestess in the temple of Athena. Like a lot of silly mortals, she was incredibly vain about her beauty, boasting about her hair, telling everyone she was more beautiful than even the goddesses.
Then she was raped by Poseidon in Athena's temple. Athena did not have the authority to punish Poseidon, so she would have to get her rage out by punishing Medusa. And so she did. But turning her beautiful hair into a head full of snakes, and by making sure that every man who gazed upon her most beautiful visage would instantly be turned into stone.
That was not quite enough for her. Athena assisted Perseus in Medusa's slaying, guiding his hand with the scythe and offering him the shield with which he could view Medusa in the reflection rather than be petrified by a direct view. From Medusa's decapitation, both a monster and Pegasus was born, the result of her impregnation by Poseidon.
One could unpack this story for months. Luckily we have the assistance of David Leeming, whose Medusa: In the Mirror of Time is a concise and clever overview. As Medusa references have been popping up in my reading and conversation a lot lately, I asked Leeming if he'd be up for a few questions about his book.
What is your personal interest in the Medusa story? Was it something in one of the versions of her story, or was it more that you were interested in how she's still present in our culture in so many ways?
My personal interest in the Medusa story grew out of a sense that no one has forgotten her. She turns up everywhere--in Beauty Salons, Versace uses her as a logo. Why is she of interest?
The role of Athena is so interesting in this story, the way she sells Medusa out in the first place, punishing her for her own rape, and then having her killed and then wearing her head on her shield. But then Athena wasn't even born of a mother, she had no real loyalty to women and sides with the male gods in more than one instance. Many female mythologists see this switch, the declining power of the goddesses as a sign of the rise of the patriarchy -- do you agree?
Athena was a goddess de-feminized by a highly patriarchal culture. And I do agree that this process of de-feminization and the related tendency to take away goddess power is a sign of the priorities of the patriarchy in relation to "strong women."
But then you're critical of a feminist reimagining of the Medusa story, as you are of any kind of reduction of the story. It's interesting, though, in the context of our culture's new willingness to be open about rape, even though it drags to the surface a lot of people's horrible inner thoughts about rape victims and rapists. If, as you say in the conclusion, we all have each of these characters playing out in our psyches, we have a lot of Athena in our conversation these days, willing to punish the victim to spare the rapist. (See for example: Woody Allen.) Your book obviously came out before these controversies, but do you see parallels at all?
It is not that I am critical of the feminist arguments in relation to Medusa. Essentially I agree with the feminist attitude towards her and her antagonists--from Poseidon to Perseus. And, of course I understand the horror and pain faced by rape victims in the patriarchy. BUT, a myth is a myth. And myths are developed by particular cultures at particular times to reflect who and what these cultures are. I think that how Freud or medieval Christians or even feminists re-write the Medusa myth is of interest, but if we are interested in what the myth is actually saying we have to put our particular ideologies and biases aside, consider the myth itself and ask ourselves what it is really about.
Whether we like it or not, Medusa is depicted in the myth as a monster, and I think to pretend otherwise is simply to miss the point of the myth. Even though we may not approve of the people who made her a monster, it is clear in the myth that she is one. As such, for us, it really does not matter whether she is male or female. All of us react against monsters whatever the reason for their existence. Perhaps it is best to compare her to the monster we carry around within ourselves. Most of our monsters can be traced to events that created them Monsters within are figures we hide and fear unless we take action against them.
Perseus seems kind of terrible, no? With the cockiness and the I'll-just-save-your-maiden-there stuff. Or am I projecting?
Our natural impulse is to disarm or even kill the monster, who will otherwise "petrify" us and make us dysfuntional. Perseus is one of many unlikeable patriarchal heroes, but he was created by a patriarchal culture. But if we are honest with ourselves we are naturally on his side--whether we are male or female--as he attempts to overcome the terrifying monster. In another age, in another place, the monster quest could be the quest of a heroine.
February 13, 2014
Looking for a 2014 Intern
Now that we have Spolia, Bookslut, and the Daphne Awards, things have gotten a little muddled. And now that I have two books I am writing, things are even more so. I'm looking for someone to help tie up loose ends: proofread, send out emails to writers and to publishers, and, if one wishes, do some writing. (Not required.)
Email me if you are interested. You can be anywhere in the world, as I am generally anywhere in the world. And this is a volunteer type of thing, but should only take up a few hours of the week.
February 12, 2014
Announcing John Biguenet's "The Other Half," Our Third Chapbook in Our Series
When Ron Hackett heard the Imperial Hotel was offering reduced rates due to renovations, he saw a unique opportunity to sample a taste of the good life. But things at the Imperial would not go as he expected. A disturbing presence was infiltrating the hotel’s elegant veneer and nobody wanted to talk about it.
Only after Hackett had dressed for his day of sightseeing did he remember that he’d left his shoes in the hall the night before to be polished. Smiling, he imagined them neatly bundled and hanging from the knob on the other side of his door, no doubt with an attached note expressing the hotel’s pleasure in providing this old-fashioned courtesy to its guests.
But then something occurred to him. Why hadn’t the waiter who had delivered his breakfast and morning paper bothered to bring in the pair of polished shoes as well?
Even as he swung open the door, Hackett knew they would not be there, awaiting him in the hall. He stepped sock- footed from his room to see whether shoes had been left for any other guest; nothing but the day’s newspaper and trays of half- finished meals littered the corridor.
“The Other Half” first appeared in our Medieval issue. The chapbook edition features drawings by Tona Wilson. Her illustrations, mostly of hands, convey Hackett feeling his way through a series of mysterious trials that seem to reach out specifically for him. Each chapbook is individually numbered and rubber stamped with our secret Spolia sigil.
To purchase, please visit our store.
February 7, 2014Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, reviewed recently in Bookslut, is a multifaceted look at the city from hidden and overlooked perspectives. Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedecker demonstrate that maps and the stories behind them can be surprising, unorthodox and deeply intriguing. For more books of unconventional atlases, here are a few suggestions:
Where You Are
This book of personal maps published by Visual Editions from 16 artists, writers and thinkers features the burrowing routes of lunar hamsters, a snapshot map of Harlem swingsets, and a map of destinations almost visited, among others. Contributors include Tao Lin, Sheila Heti, and Geoff Dyer. The interactive website is also really fun to browse.
You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination
Beautifully illustrated maps of fantastic places, both real and imagined, accompany a variety of essays on our impulses to dream and to document.
From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association
From Here to There also presents us with personal, imaginative maps of places as seen in the mind’s eye of the artist--from the practical to the theoretical, each map tells a story unique to its creator. To see over 300 hand drawn maps from the Hand Drawn Map Association, visit their website.
February 6, 2014
Announcing the Daphne Salon
February 21, 7pm
2334 W Erie, Chicago
Celebrate the literary world of 1963 with a salon at the temporary home of Bookslut and Spolia editor Jessa Crispin, different from the other temporary home of Bookslut and Spolia editor Jessa Crispin, just in case you were present at the December salon.
We will be announcing the Daphne Award shortlists, reading from the nominees (I have dibs on Spark), making statements about why The Centaur is a rather mediocre book, eating Deviled Eggs, drinking 1960s cocktails, and mingling and so on, whatever you do at 1960s cocktail parties. (It's too early timeline-wise for key parties, yes? Thank god.)
Some of our judges will be present, and you can harangue them in person why you think JD Salinger deserves to be on the shortlist, but just to warn you, I have given our fiction chair permission to knock you over the head with a wine bottle if you do. So, best have quick reflexes.
It'll be a thing! I hope you can make it.
We will have food and limited cocktails, otherwise BYOB.
February 5, 2014
What We're Reading
We Who Are About To... by Joanna Russ
There are two, maybe two and a half, people whose book recommendations I treat as gospel, and last year one of them issued a command to read Joanna Russ’s On Strike Against God. A few months after that short, intense novel threw bolts of lightning into my atmosphere I came across Joachim Boaz’s review of one of her signature science fiction works. We Who Are About To… (1976, I got this Women’s Press: Science Fiction edition) starts with one of the most basic premises in the SF playbook. A ragtag group of individuals have wound up crashed on a deserted alien planet after a space travel snafu.
But Russ takes this far beyond this boilerplate scenario to poke at the very foundations of the heroic and hopeful clichés that underpin so much Star Trek-style hokum by showing the speed at which most of the survivors descend into brutal coloniser mode. Our anonymous narrator understands the inevitable death of humanity that occurred at the moment she landed on an empty and uncaring world. Civilisation died when she lost her music, and now she’s being restrained by her fellow survivors as one of their potential child-bearers. Her answer to be valued as nothing more than a womb is death (and having lots of drugs). This is a book about the art of dying -– death of stories, death of history, the birth and death of a religion, and the death of the body.
February 4, 2014
Our February issue is up. But before we get to that.
I have been a little uninspired with author interviews lately. So many words spilled on "process," on poets talking to poets who write poetry about writing poetry. So many writers who are primed by publicists to see interviews as opportunities to sell, either their books or themselves as a Writer. Instead of having a conversation and being a person. And lord knows we've published plenty of those interviews. Tons. Because for a while I found that interesting, and then I think just because we had already and we had the space and why not, the book is interesting even if the writer is not.
So when you suddenly stop doing that, it means that section you used to fill up easily is suddenly bare. Margaret Anderson once published a dozen blank pages in her literary magazine The Little Review to protest the lack of good material, and this month's issue feels like that. We only have two features because that is all that was interesting.
Which means we're looking for pitches for features. I'm not sure what I'm looking for, only what I'm not. So if you have a zany idea, get in touch. Or, if you have the ability to conduct interviews that don't circle the drain of process and structure and what writing is like and what their writing routine is and are you a morning writer or a late night writer do you have a certain word count you try to hit blach. It's so fetishizing.
And in the meantime, check out our new February issue, particularly our brilliant columnists. (I love our columnists.)