A co-founder and editor in chief of Bomb, the quarterly devoted to artists and writers, offers a wide-ranging selection of interviews—author on author—that spans the history of the journal.
There are some celebrated names in this unusual and very engaging collection, among them Martin Amis, Francine Prose, Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Franzen, Steven Millhauser, Paula Fox, Tobias Wolff and Charles Simic. But there are many more names probably unfamiliar to casual readers. The format is generally uniform: One writer asks questions; another answers; a colloquy ensues—though the focus remains on the work, usually the recent work, of the interviewee. In some cases, there is the delight in hearing from writers before they became household names. Franzen, for example, talked with Donald Antrim in 2001, the year The Corrections appeared—but before the novel took off, before the Oprah kerfuffle—and they discussed Franzen’s two earlier novels. Sometimes the writers are loquacious (both Rachel Kushner and Hari Kunzru have plenty to say), but this is occasionally due to the format of the exchange. Some are via email; others, edited versions of live conversations. The media affect the messages. We learn about writers’ habits (Kimiko Hahn once wrote a lot in coffee shops; Ben Marcus had to adjust to a new baby in the house; John Edgar Wideman confesses that revision sometimes comes easily). The diction ranges from nearly pretentious to appealingly humble. In the latter category, Justin Taylor and Ben Mirov end their interview with a playful word-association game. But at the center of virtually every exchange are significant discussions of writing and art in general. Lydia Davis learned early from Dick and Jane the rhythms of sentences, and Junot Díaz says, “I don’t write with any regularity or joy. I fear that it might take me another 11 years to write another book.”
Interviews that range from sparklers to Roman candles to skyrockets and beyond.