Category Archives: Interviews

Those Old Songs of Place: A Conversation with Kim Scott

By Robert Wood

Australian writer Kim Scott’s novels include True Country, Benang and That Deadman Dance. He was the first Indigenous person to win the prestigious Miles Franklin Award and is highly regarded as a member of the Noongar community working towards language maintenance and renewal. He was trained as a teacher and worked in the northern part of Western Australia before settling in Fremantle. He was the West Australian of the Year in 2012 and is currently a Professor at Edith Cowan University. Our conversation focused on his new work, Taboo, which was released in July 2017. It is a novel about settlement, colonization, family, trauma, history, and language, and features a cast of characters in a regional setting. We spoke about the importance of elders, the intimacy of reading, and our relationships with history, imagination, and writing. Continue reading

What a Very Strange Thing Legal Precedent Is: Talking to Angela Naimou

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on Angela Naimou’s Salvage Work: U.S. and Caribbean Literatures amid the Debris of Legal Personhood, winner of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present (ASAP) Book Prize, and finalist for the William Sanders Scarborough Award from the Modern Language Association. Naimou, an associate professor of English at Clemson University, recently guest-edited the Dossier on Contemporary Refugee Timespaces for Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development. She is currently at work on a study of contemporary war-refugee imaginaries and humanitarian practice. Continue reading

How Culture Makes Us Feel: Announcing Avidly Reads

Interviewed by Evan Kindley

For the past five years, Avidly has been one of the most original, surprising, and entertaining venues for cultural criticism and personal narrative on the web. Founded by Sarah Mesle and Sarah Blackwood in 2012, Avidly has brought us essays on everything from Ernest Shackleton’s “Chilly Ponies” and weird sex to Brexit and Dylann Roof. Now Sarah and Sarah are bringing their sui generis editorial sensibility to a new book imprint, Avidly Reads, to be published under the auspices of NYU Press beginning in 2019. The first three titles — Jordan Stein’s Avidly Reads: Theory, Eric Thurm’s Avidly Reads: Board Games, and Kathryn Bond Stockton’s Avidly Reads: Making Out — have just been announced (and are described in detail below). I emailed the Sarahs to find out more about what they have in store. Continue reading

Yuri Brodsky: Solovki Has Left Us No Victors

Interview by Yan Smirnitsky, translated by Anna Gunin

The following conversation between Yan Smirnitsky and Yuri Brodsky originally appeared in Russian, on the website MK.ru, on October 11, 2017.

Yuri Brodsky has recently won the Enlightener Prize, which awards outstanding Russian-language non-fiction, for his monumental new work Solovki: A Labyrinth of Transformation. The book traces the history of the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, home to a monastery and prison that became, in 1923, an infamous Soviet penal colony — the “mother of the GULAG,” in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s words. Brodsky does not position himself as a writer or philosopher; he is an exceptionally modest, self-effacing man, offering up facts for the reader’s evaluation, without imposing the usual overtones of horror, pessimism, and apocalypse. Brodsky, who has devoted his entire life to studying Solovki, invites us to reflect — calmly, without bitterness or ulterior motives — on the beauty created by nature and on the hell man created within that beauty. Continue reading

An Entirely Different Immersion: Talking to Kathleen Fraser

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Nicole Monforton, focuses on Kathleen Fraser’s collection m  ov a  b  le  TYYPE. After years of pioneering work teaching at San Francisco State University, founding the American Poetry Archives, and co-founding the feminist poetics journal HOW(ever), Fraser began regularly immersing herself amid the venerable Roman cityscape. Fraser took with her the supple linguistic register that she had cultivated during decades of writing and living in the Bay Area, and started developing with visual artists a series of poetic/typographical/collage-based collaborations shaped by the palimpsestic textures and tonalities of this new environment. The resulting m  ov a  b  le  TYYPE texts provide any number of what Fraser herself describes as “Stendhalian city moments,” filled with echoes, multiplicity, synesthesia. Talking to Fraser about her intricate, elaborate, often constraint-based yet nonetheless playful process for each project produces the same.  Continue reading

Come Rain or Shine: Marion Rankine Discusses the Complexities of the Common Brolly

By Cleaver Patterson

In today’s world of cutthroat publishing it’s some feat for a first time author to not only have their debut book snapped up by a renowned indie publisher like New York’s Melville House, but also have the head of said company approach you themselves about the project. But this was just the case for Australian writer Marion Rankine, whose book Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature was published by the prizewinning publisher in November. Though umbrellas may sound an odd subject, Rankine’s quirky and beautifully illustrated book proves that there’s more to the humble brolly than simply a means to keep dry. As she explained to me when we spoke recently, writing about them has opened up a whole new world of the strange and bizarre. Continue reading

An Ever-Expanding Repertoire of Concepts: Talking to Danielle Allen

By Andy Fitch

The conversation focuses on Danielle Allen’s Why Plato Wrote. A subsequent conversation will focus on Allen’s memoir Cuz. Allen, a James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought — focusing on questions of justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America. Allen is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014), and Education and Equality (2016). She co-edited Education, Justice, and Democracy (2013, with Rob Reich) and From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in the Digital Age (2015, with Jennifer Light). She is a Chair of the Mellon Foundation Board, past Chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Continue reading

Letter from Utopia: Talking to Nick Bostrom

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufmann, focuses on Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. It was reading Superintelligence’s meticulous, cosmos-encompassing thought experiments, with Bostrom’s lucid prose calmly outlining unprecedented urgencies posed by existential-risk scenarios, that made me want to explore literary aspects of public-intellectual practice in the first place. Bostrom is Professor at Oxford University, where he is founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, and directs the Strategic Artificial Intelligence Research Center. His 200-plus publications include the books Anthropic Bias (Routledge, 2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Human Enhancement (Oxford University Press, 2009). Bostrom has an intellectual background in physics, computational neuroscience, mathematical logic, and philosophy. He has been listed on Foreign Policy‘s Top 100 Global Thinkers list, and on Prospect magazine’s World Thinkers list. Here Bostrom and I discuss applications of his book across any number of fields — from history to philosophy to public policy to practices of everyday life (both now and in millennia to come). Continue reading

Try to Get Some Distance Between Yourself and Your Moment: Talking to Anthony Reed

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on Anthony Reed’s Freedom Time: The Poetics and Politics of Black Experimental Writing, winner of the Modern Language Association’s William Sanders Scarborough Prize. Reed, an Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at Yale, is currently completing a study of how recorded collaborations between black poets and musicians refract historical shifts in the aesthetic and political possibilities available to these artists and to broader cultures. Many related concerns arise amid the dense texualities read closely in Freedom Time, Reed’s first book. Continue reading