Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Conversations with American Novelists: The Best Interviews from the Missouri Review and the American Audio Prose Library

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Conversations with American Novelists: The Best Interviews from the Missouri Review and the American Audio Prose Library

Article excerpt

Kay Bonetti, and others, editors. Conversations with American Novelists: The Best Interviews from The Missouri Review and the American Audio Prose Library. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997.

This was another interesting title from the University of Missouri Press. I did not notice that it was released back in 1997, but I sensed clues to this as I was reading this book, before I recorded the release date for this review. Jamaica Kincaid is very youthful in her interview from 1991, when she was only forty-two, and already an international celebrity and a classical canonical writer in most literature programs. But, other than a few of these time-stamps, this was an interesting study because it includes in-depth interview questions and replies from authors that are especially relevant to my current work, as I am expanding the interviews section of the Pennsylvania Literary Journal. When I read a book, I penetrate deeper into it if I have a self-interested motivation, as was the case here.

Each of these collected interviews with established American novelists takes on a different shade depending on the novelist being interviewed. When Jamaica Kincaid is in the chair, the questions are primarily biographical and address her race and the parallels between her life and the life of her characters. In contrast, when Robert Stone is being questioned, the interviewer focuses on "form" or the craft of structuring and developing an artificial novel. For example, "The terms 'allegory' and 'morality play' get called up over and over again in reference to your novels. What affinities do you feel with those forms, or, if not the forms, the way of looking at the world which those forms represent?" (13) In both cases, the interviewer closely read several available reviews of these writers' works, but since these reviews stressed different aspects of their unique styles, the interview shifts to meet these.

I read the entire interview with Jamaica Kincaid and it helps to explain where there has been so much press on her across her career. She is spicy and entertaining, and it is a pleasure to look closely at her unique perspective on the life of a writer. For example, when she is asked about her creative process and motivations, she replies: "I started to write out of reasons that were, I thought, peculiar to me-I was lazy and I wasn't really interested in being educated in a way that would suit other people. …

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