:: Interviews

Becoming Dolores: William T. Vollmann Exposes His Female Alter Ego published 05/02/2020

When you read an interview with William T. Vollmann you never quite know which William T. Vollmann you are going to get. Wild Bill Vollmann—the reckless journalist reporting on humanity’s crooked timber from the latest geopolitical hotspot? Billy the Kid—grinning nerd in flak jacket welcoming you into his creepy den of iniquities? William the Blunderer—concerned citizen quixotically laboring to save the world one lost soul at a time? Or maybe you’ll simply hang out with William Tell and shoot some guns of an afternoon, like French writer David Boratav did in 2004. None of these caricatures really do Vollmann justice, but if they help raise his profile and sell his books they’re doing their job. When in a 2010 interview with Carson Chan and Matthew Evans, Vollmann discusses the founding mythology of “American Ovidianism”—the ideal that you can change who you are—you understand that his commitment to transformation is not simply aesthetic, but ethical. His writing argues that each of us has the right to be who we are, and who we want to be.

Stephen Heyman interviews William T. Vollmann, an excerpt from Conversations with William T. Vollmann, edited by Daniel Lukes.

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The mail never stops: Small press interview with Joshua Rothes of Sublunary Editions published 20/01/2020

I have a special fondness for brief forms of literature, and I wanted, first and foremost, a place to showcase those in a way that gave them presence, space in the life of a reader that, in the absence of a substantial printed collection or inclusion in some compendium or another, I thought they seldom received. I wanted them to be printed on good paper, typeset (each uniquely so), the objects of anticipation. Still, as great as it sounded in my head, I had no idea how writers would react to it: “What, you’re just going to fold my story and put a stamp on it?” But people have really embraced it, readers and authors. The short books I’m now starting to dabble in are just the next logical extension of that.

Joseph Schreiber interviews Joshua Rothes of Sublunary Editions.

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Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape: An Interview with Joshua Chaplinsky published 21/12/2019

I was born and raised on Long Island, and have been living in Queens for the last decade or so. I don’t know if the geography affected me that much, but the middle-class suburban malaise definitely did. Although, there were points where we were hanging on to the “middle-class” part by our fingertips. How that affected me as a writer, specifically — that’s for my future biographer to say.

Chris Kelso interviews Joshua Chaplinsky.

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Another Form of Turning: An Interview with Jessica J. Lee published 16/12/2019

The preservation of her grandfather’s story was given weight by his struggle with Alzheimer’s, which would later claim his life. “The realisation that the past was quickly dissolving,” she writes, “gave an urgency to the task of knowing it.” In a latter passage, she writes of his last days, “Alzheimer’s, I think, is a form of haunting. It possesses the people we love, takes them away in stages, devouring memory, life, personality. As the disease progresses, the proteins that gather in the brain begin to form plaques around nerve cells, structures that once transported nutrients collapse, and the brain tissue shrinks. First short-term, then long-term, memories disappear. The people we know fade, as though gradually stepping out of a picture.”

Pete Carvill interviews Jessica J. Lee, whose book Two Trees Make a Forest is out now.

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A Writer in His Own Worst Way: Two Days Across Pittsburgh with Gary Lutz published 01/12/2019

“The truth is, the way I write, and it’s the only way I can write, I used to think I was imitating John Updike,” he says. “Obviously, my writing is nothing like John Updike’s stuff. I always had a vague sense of my own limitations. I didn’t grow up with books. I was essentially a nonverbal kid. Late in life, I found out I’m on the autism spectrum. As a kid, I didn’t understand how to use language properly, because nobody ever really spoke to me at any length except on television. And I didn’t watch a lot of television. So I think with my writing, the weirdness comes in part from not really feeling as if even American English is my language.”

David Nutt interviews Gary Lutz (with exclusive pictures).

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The Unsayable: a conversation with Cynthia Cruz published 26/10/2019

The main difference to me between depression and melancholia is that depression is what is occurring on the outside, one’s symptoms: (sadness, lethargy, loss of appetite, etc.) while melancholia is what is actually happening within. Furthermore, melancholia is a definition of what occurs when one is unable to grieve the loss of something because they are unable to determine what exactly it is they have lost. Because in melancholia one does not know what one has lost, there can be no resolution; there is no way to recover. This is the case for class trauma (the trauma that occurs when growing up working class/poor in the contemporary US) and trauma, in general. The definition of trauma is that the event that has occurred to create the trauma has created a shock and that shock results in a blackout where no memory exists (the psyche protects us from such traumatic memories). Because these memories are not recoverable, what has occurred cannot be remembered, which means it cannot be re-experienced and grieved.

Paul Rowe interviews Cynthia Cruz.

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Cutting and Stitching: An Interview with Jenn Ashworth published 20/10/2019

I’m not sure they are stitched back together — in that yes, there’s a rough narrative to the book about parts of my life, and alongside that, a rough argument about trauma and suffering and attention and creativity. I hope those threads make the book more or less hospitable to a reader. There are those ghosts of through-lines that give it a bit of coherence. But in the main I experience the book as quite a chaotic, three-dimensional thing. A maze to go into rather than a line to follow. I laid all these different types of writing next to each other — the memoir, the fiction, the autofiction, the criticism, the pretend lectures and essays and epiphanies — as a kind of collage, where the rough edges where they don’t stitch together are much more important than any seamless stitching. 

Lee Rourke interviews Jenn Ashworth.

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Disabled Queer Poet Jillian Weise Upends Ableist Assumptions in Cyborg Detective published 26/09/2019

I turned away from poetry because it had invited strange men towards me. They were amputee fetishists and I guess they mistook my first book as a solicitation. Many assumed that I would be flattered by their advances. I was 26. I was shocked by their suggestion that I’d obviously hook up with them. Who else would I hook up with? Culture must have given them the impression that amputee women can’t find dates, but every amputee woman I know is partnered, has been partnered, has multiple partners, or doesn’t want a partner. So it was all confusing and a little scary.

Élan Young interviews Jillian Weise about cyborg detective.

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A Very Ambitious Magician: Dennis Cooper Interviewed published 21/09/2019

The main character in Permanent Green Light, doesn’t intentionally commit suicide. That’s not his interest or goal. Others around him do, and he studies those suicides for his project. He wants instead to disappear in a way that has the most spectacular effect on the world that’s possible. He decides that his death is the way to achieve maximum impact, and his goal is to die without triggering any conventional, personal reaction to death, and to his death in particular. He’s trying to create a death/disappearance that erases him entirely and just uses the natural, inherent impact that suicide has as a powerful effect. He doesn’t long to die. He’s more like a very ambitious magician, I think.

Chris Kelso interviews Dennis Cooper.

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Influx published 18/09/2019

Occasionally it’s just that you’ve never seen language used in the way the author is using it. I often know within 20 pages whether I’m going to try and sign the book, which sounds odd since the whole book could go off piste after that. But if it maintains its quality, the voice of the author and doesn’t turn sour then you know it’s a belter. Whatever it is, it must be trying to do something with language or subject that is new, or inventive. Without that initial surprise and ‘oh I haven’t read many books like this before’ moments, it’s hard to get further with the reading. The funny thing is, hardly anything is new in literature and things are recycled, pastiched, borrowed, stolen, influenced etc. all the time. It just happens to be new to me.

Sylvia Warren interviews Kit Caless about Influx Press.

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