July 2, 2016

As you ponder liberty

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As you ponder liberty and independence this long weekend, and perhaps think of liberty in some relation to your ability to read, and perhaps to write, we recommend to you highly these two fine interviews on reading and writing and the strictures and freedoms of the writing life.

Here’s a snippet from Gary Shteyngart’s interview of Sam Lipsyte in 2011:

 Sam Lipsyte
People no longer have to fake reading books the way they used to. There’s no basic assumption from which to work from anyway. So, very urbane, literate people talk about video games at cocktail parties. That’s the new Dickens — it’s Halo. Dickens—it’s Halo.”

Gary Shteyngart
What’s strange to me is that fewer and fewer people read, and yet more and more want to write. Look at the proliferation of MFA programs, for example. Maybe it’s a part of our self-obsessive culture. It’s like the credo of The Subject Steve: “I am me.” There’s more concern with self-expression than there is in trying to connect with another person, than trying to hear someone else’s words.”

Perhaps, in some perverse way, writers have become to free of salubrious obligations.

We also recommend Gary Lutz, interviewed by the Paris Review, upon the publication of his story collection Divorcer. Divorce might seem to be a kind of liberation, but sentences flying away from each other presents the ultimate jeopardy:

“[P]aragraphs, to me, are nervous little cliques or sororities of like-natured outcasts who put up with each other despite the friction. There’s a lot of rubbing the wrong way and very little mating of a peaceable kind. Getting something that might pass itself off as a story out of these uneasy alliances is in fact a pretty maddening and brutal ordeal. Among my deficiencies is a freaky neurological setup that  keeps me from seeing wholes. So all I can see are parts, pieces, flickery fragments. I will never be up to writing a novel. It’s all I can do to even read one.”

“Uneasy alliances.” “Flickery fragments.”

You know, you understand, yes, what all of this means?

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