1. On the Audio Culture of Letters

By James Draney

I think of my favorite literary interviews as revelatory events: occasions, in Toni Morrison’s words, “when some moment or phrase flares like a lightning bug” and all participants “see it at the same time and… remember it the same way”.

Perhaps it’s this unpolished quality that readers want from literary interviews. As Rebecca Roach notes in Literature and the Rise of the Interview, the form is designed to “mediate conversation while promising communicative immediacy”.3 Oral forms, especially, appeal to this desire for proximity. They combine the rigor of good criticism with the intimacy of good fiction. This is what drew me to literary interviews in the first place: not only for serious reflection on craft, but for the sense of sociality they simulated. I enjoy literary podcasts because they offer a kind of companionship in thinking. They provide a way of getting to know a writer or a critic.

The show’s second season will continue to expand its conversations in blog form. Each new episode will be followed by a bi-weekly post from an early-career scholar. The blogs are responses to the show’s dialogues; they are annotations on the recorded episodes. I think of them as a way of catching those lightning bugs of conversation and holding them up for closer inspection. In future posts, Paige Eggebrecht will riff on the role of worldbuilding in Jennifer Egan’s novels, Lorenza Starace will offer her thoughts on Tom Perrotta’s readability, Anya Lewis-Meeks will meditate on Caryl Phillips’s writerly education, and much more. I hope this season’s episodes and blog posts inspire you, or help you learn something new, or, at the very least, provide some companionship in a time of uncertainty and isolation.

1 Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison, “A Conversation” in The Southern Review, Vol. 21, No. 3 (July 1, 1985), p. 591.
2 Michael Silverblatt and Sarah Fay, “An Interview with Michael Silverblatt” in The Believer, no. 72 (June 1, 2010)

3 Rebecca Roach, Literature and the Rise of the Interview (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 7.

%d bloggers like this: