Synopses & Reviews
This book is a collection of conversations between writers and their "mentors," taken from the pages of The Believer
, along with previously unpublished conversations. The term "mentors" is used loosely to suggest an informal kinship between a younger writer and a more experienced one. These conversations are not limited to issues of writing and craft, but instead offer unfettered exchanges on a wide range of topics from Buddhism to infinity, politics to mountain climbing. The interviews feature the serious-yet-casual Believer
approach to the standard, often formal, interview format. David Foster Wallace, for example, fields the question, "Do you want to talk about your history with various forms of tobacco?" while George Saunders reflects upon this oft-pondered mystery: "What's up with the crows in Syracuse?"
Interviews include Zadie Smith talking with Ian McEwan; Jonathan Lethem talking with Paul Auster; Adam Thirlwell talking with Tom Stoppard; Susan Choi talking with Francisco Goldman; ZZ Packer talking with Edward P. Jones; Dave Eggers talking with David Foster Wallace; Julie Orringer talking with Tobias Wolff; and Ben Marcus talking with George Saunders.
"Each of the 23 interviews in this exquisite collection-diplomatically arranged in interviewee alphabetical order-begins with a pithy introduction by the interviewer, noting something anecdotal of the subject's life and work, suggesting thematic commitments that drew interviewer to interviewee and noting the location as well as the interview method employed, from 'via the U.S. postal system-I would send him questions on separate pieces of paper, and he would type the answers and send them back,' to 'The following conversation took place on an old Toshiba calculator.' The project's formal structure ends there; what follows is a book in which writers chat uninhibited and present the 'writing life' with deep, measured enthusiasm ('Here I am starting a new book,' says John Banville. 'This is the absolute best stage of it... you might actually get it right this time'), self-deprecating absurdity ('Gaining in gravitas?' Adam Thirlwell asks Tom Stoppard on the subject of weight-gain), or unexpected poignancy (as when Jamaica Kincaid gushes 'oh gosh' when asked about her aspirations). The volume is at its strongest when fledgling literati interrogate well-established literary giants-like Nell Freudenberger's sisterly conversation with Grace Paley, or Dave Eggers's respectfully warm tête-à-tête with Joan Didion-and when strong-voiced writers with distinctly different projects (Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan, or ZZ Packer and Edward P. Jones) pair off to explore what drives their work." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This collection of conversations between writers and their mentors includes Zadie Smith with Ian McEwan; Jonathan Lethem with Paul Auster; Adam Thirlwell with Tom Stoppard; Susan Choi with Francisco Goldman; ZZ Packer with Edward P. Jones; and Dave Eggers with David Foster Wallace.