Category Archives: Interviews

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

Why is Tilda Swinton in Bangladesh? The Dhaka Lit Fest, Of Course.

By C.P. Heiser

The Dhaka Lit Fest is happening this week in the capital of Bangladesh, a touch over 8000 miles away from Los Angeles. It’s hosting over 200 participants from nearly two dozen countries, and will welcome thousands of visitors over the course of its three days. Launching one of the world’s most exciting literary festivals, in the middle of the world’s densest megacity, is accomplishment enough. But managing it year after year, meeting increased expectations, and handling the particular challenges of a place like Bangladesh, make the Dhaka Lit Fest one of the most remarkable literary events in the world. Continue reading

The Beirut-Paris Express: Yasmine Hamdan on Tour

By Jordan Elgrably

When we spoke, Yasmine Hamdan was on her way to major concert dates in Oslo and Copenhagen, before heading to a five-city U.S. tour and then on to Germany and Russia. She is an Arab singer-songwriter with a haunting voice and the personality of a social critic. To hear her tell it, she has fiercely marched to her own beat since she was an unruly “weird” child growing up in Beirut, Kuwait, and Greece. Yet you may not know her name, unless you spotted her as the sultry singer in Jim Jarmusch’s vampire flick, Only Lovers Left Alive (2013). Continue reading

No Single Kind of Discourse Will Be Believable By Itself: Talking to Susan Gevirtz

By Andy Fitch

This conversation focuses on Susan Gevirtz’s hybrid critical collection Coming Events. From her childhood experiences on the Universal Studios set, to her graduate-school assignment TA-ing for Norman O. Brown in UC-Santa Cruz’s History of Consciousness program, to her incisive editorial trajectory at HOW(ever), her pedagogical engagements at California College of the Arts, and her current residency at Headlands Center for the Arts, Gevirtz has participated within and helped to shape some of California’s most influential interdisciplinary institutions. As a result, it seemed only fitting for our discussion to track philosophical, scholarly, cinematic, novelistic, poetic, performative, and architectural concerns often within a single exchange. Gevirtz’s publications include Nightboat’s Hotel abc, as well as the poetry books Aerodrome Orion & Starry Messenger (Kelsey Street, 2010); Broadcast (Trafficker, 2009); Thrall (Post-Apollo, 2007); and Hourglass Transcripts (Burning Deck, 2001); and the critical study Narrative’s Journey: The Fiction and Film Writing of Dorothy Richardson (Peter Lang, 1996). Amid these ongoing omnivorous explorations, Coming Events’s deft assemblage of a wide-ranging inquiry, combined with Gevirtz’s lucid, generous, engaging live presence, couldn’t help but prompt constructive conversation. Continue reading

Dick Gregory’s Searing Humor is Brought to Life in Turn Me Loose

By Michael Lorenzo Porter

“It was in the New York Times that there are 1.5 million black men missing. They are not in jail. I couldn’t imagine where they went until I saw the movie Get Out.”  

That’s Dick Gregory from his September 2017 biography, Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies, who, with his acerbic humor, became one of the preeminent comedic voices of the civil rights era. Continue reading