Interviews

Sex, Rocks, and Taxidermy: A Conversation with Chris Offutt

Alex Dezen

[This interview appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of The Iowa Review.]

I first met Chris Offutt outside the fabled Foxhead bar on Iowa City’s east side. What I had heard about Chris Offutt was that he graduated from the Workshop during the fabled Conroy days—when Frank Conroy ruled the Workshop with painstaking intensity and tough love—and that he wrote about hunting. I had shot a pigeon with a BB gun at age twelve, from the second-story window of my friend’s brownstone in the Bronx, an experience that continues to plague me with guilt.

An Interview with David Gates

Brian Gresko

Reading David Gates led me to take one of his seminars, with the hope—not unusual for a novice writer—that he might impart some secret to his skill. Writing mostly in the first person, Gates's antihero protagonists are rude and disaffected, erudite and funny—not-so-distant relatives, one imagines, of Holden Caulfield. Like that iconic character, they come across as flawed yet likable, or at least sympathetic, revealing sordid aspects of the human condition with brutal honesty and wicked humor. Gates's debut novel, Jernigan (1991), was short listed for the Pulitzer Prize.

A Lowly, Humble Bookworm: A Conversation with Michael Silverblatt

Sarah Fay

[This interview appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of The Iowa Review.]

On the surface, Bookworm is a nationally syndicated weekly radio show that hosts fiction writers and poets. But after listening to it once, anyone with an ear knows that it is an opportunity to learn how to read, listen, and engage with print culture via Michael Silverblatt, the show’s perspicacious and endearing host. Silverblatt created Bookworm in 1989 and has conducted what he calls “interview occasions” with thousands of writers, including Joyce Carol Oates, Carlos Fuentes, Maxine Hong Kingston, Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag, Alice Walker, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Moving the Furniture in his Brain: An Interview with Thomas Pletzinger and Ross Benjamin

Diana Thow

Thomas Pletzinger’s debut novel Funeral for a Dog (Norton, 2011), translated from the German by Ross Benjamin, is an expansive, lyrical double portrait of two writers: the journalist Daniel Mandelkern and the elusive children’s book author Dirk Svensson, whom Mandelkern travels to  interview at Svensson’s home on Lago di Lugano. To answer the novel’s initial questions—Who exactly is Daniel Mandelkern? Who exactly  is Dirk Svensson?— we cross three continents and navigate five languages; we spend time on a basketball court in New York City’s West Village, in a motorboat hovering over the deepest, quietest part of Lago di Lugano, and at a cockfight in Sao Paolo, where the winning bird is named William Wordsworth.

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