Monday, February 21, 2011

Writers At Cornell is back

A little cross-blog action here, as I inform you that the first interview podcast of the year is up over at the Writers At Cornell blog.  It's with W6 friend Stewart O'Nan, author of many novels, including Last Night At The Lobster, Snow Angels, Wish You Were Here, and the forthcoming Emily, Alone.  He gave a great reading the other night at Goldwin Smith (interrupted, with just one sentence to go, by a fire alarm); during this interview we talked about his prolificity and work habits, his research acumen, and his adventures chronicling the Red Sox with Stephen King.  Click the link above, or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

This Thursday I'm going to be interviewing one of my favorite writers, Nicholson Baker, and will post the results Thursday evening.  Anything you'd like me to ask him?  I've already gotten a lot of good suggestions from friends--honestly, I'd happily talk to Baker for an hour if I could.

9 comments:

knigt said...

:O

Nicholson Baker is my favorite living writer (if you don't count the lovely W6 posts, of course).

I've wondered, ever since reading U and I, whether he's encountered admirers as thoughtfully invested in (or, in other words, as fanboy-ish about) his work as he was about Updike's when he wrote it. I ask specifically in the context of this quote from Infinite Jest:

'You are deluded. You have been snared by the delusion that envy has a reciprocal. You assume that there is a flip-side to your painful envy of Michael Chang: namely Michael Chang's enjoyable feeling of being-envied-by-LaMont-Chu.'

Granted, Mr. Baker isn't quite as famous as John Updike, but I'm still curious -- what has he discovered about being the object of literary nerd crushes after so eloquently capturing his own in book form?

violentbore said...

Double :O (or something like that)

First, I just subscribed to the podcast. Very exciting.

A question for N. Baker: Did you initially intend for Mezzanine to reach novel length (as in, did you set out to write a novel in which a whole lot of things are explicated while a whole lot of nothing happens et cetera), or was there a breaking point at which you decided to pull a lot of observations and smaller works together into novel format?

Or something just like that...verbatim. Or whatever.

jrlennon said...

Both good! I'm formulating the questions now, will try and get these both in.

I adore Baker too. Have met him once before--he is a lovely guy.

gvNL said...

Besides an act of admiration and love, was writing U and I also some sort of literary patricide, a way to get/write Updike out of your system, or is this obsession as alive as it was when you wrote the book? Maybe on a larger note: do you see obsession as your driving creative force?

I think you preceded David Foster Wallace in your use of extensive footnotes with a few years. Has he who has been hailed as the king of the footnote in any way pointed to you as his precursor or expressed his admiration for you?

Dylan Hicks said...

Baker is one of my favorites as well, and I'm looking forward to getting to this O'Nan interview as well (I need to get to O'Nan's work too). I saw Baker read a year and a half ago or so, and he was very charming and modest. And for someone who writes so well about anxiety, his mien is surprisingly mellow. Someone asked him a question about the footnotes, and--as I recall, and I don't entirely trust my memory here--his answer seemed to suggest that not only were few using footnotes in fiction at the time (there may have been a very slight tinge of resentment related to gvNL's question) but that the practice was rather new in fiction. And I thought, that's odd, obviously this guy's read Borges and Beckett, and maybe Goethe and Stendhal and other footnoters in fiction. I may have misinterpreted his off-the-cuff answer, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if he did come to footnotes rather independently of any fictional forebears. I love all that early stuff, but think "A Box of Matches" and "The Anthologist" are just as strong.

jrlennon said...

Actually, Stewart O'Nan wants me to ask him about Wallace and the footnotes, too--though I think I'll let Stewart do it himself, over dinner. I'm not super interested in them--that is, their use is kind of an obvious metafictional device, IMHO, and not terribly significant in and of themselves in either NB's work or DFW's for that matter. That is, they're just window dressing. I'm more interested in the compression of time in The Mezzanine, and (as gvNL says) how it inaugurated a career characterized by the meticulous unpacking of obsession. (I do have a question in my notes that's sort of about that.)

D said...

Nice work on the O'Nan interview. Shades of Terry Cashman at the end.

Dylan Hicks said...

That "D" was Dylan hitting "publish your comment" too soon.

gvNL said...

Compression of attention (obsession) brings forth compression of time, brings forth compression of text (the 'infarct[s] of narrative cloggers).

I don't know, probably just stating the obvious here...