The LARB End-of-Year Editor Interviews: Michelle Huneven

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going;  we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive. Here we present Michelle Huneven, a Senior Fiction Editor. 

Give us some background – how did you end up working at LARB? What do you do for LARB? What do you do when you’re not working for LARB?

I had been eyeing LARB since its inception, and finally asked if I might step into the drink. I am a Senior Fiction Editor, which means that I assign essays about fiction, reviews of fiction and interviews with fiction writers, which I then edit and, eventually, shepherd into production.When I am not editing and shepherding, I am trying to write fiction. I also teach creative writing at UCLA. 

Could you talk about one of the pieces you submitted for the 2014 LARB Digital Anthology? What was it, what was the editing process, and why did you submit it? (The 2014 LARB Digital Anthology is available as a thank you to donors of $50 or above during our fund drive.)

Just one? I utterly admire “Nail Me Right Inside the Blackness,” Annie Galvin’s brilliant review of A Girl is a Half Formed Thing because Galvin not only shows us how to read this unusual, often challenging novel, she indoctrinates us into its virtues. Also — and this is a rare, insider-y pleasure for editors — the review came to me just a couple commas shy of perfection. Our copy editor only changed the style of some quotation marks. I loved how “Committed” by Angela Flournoy starts with a longish, telling anecdote — which allows us to get to know the reviewer a little before she turns to the book at hand. Flournoy’s voice is so engaging we happily tag along as she wends into an incisive and quite intense discussion of Cynthia Bond’s lauded and unflinching debut, Ruby. (I can’t wait to read Flournoy’s own debut, The Turner House, coming out this Spring.) Oh, and I just have to say, Anna Keesey’s essay on Mansfield Park, “Simple Girl” is simply the next best thing to reading Austen herself.

Talk about a book you read this year you’d recommend — could be recent or old, well-known or unknown. As long as you read it this year and you think it’s worth reading. 

Barbara Pym’s A Glass of Blessings, first published in 1958, is Pym at her quiet, hilarious best. The classic Pym markers are present: much of the action centers around an Anglican church with its assortment of priests; the narrator is one of Pym’s intelligent, witty, educated and underpurposed young women, and her friends are drawn from a clutch of parish women. But this novel also has a number of homosexual characters, which was radical in its time (and today feels utterly contemporary). You could say that this is Pym’s novel about homosexuality — but only in same sense that her 1955 novel Less than Angels is her novel about anthropologists. Which is to say that all her characters are subject in equal measure to her inimitable mix of sharp, scrutinizing wit and even-handed compassion.