The idea of interviewing Tom Drury and Yan Lianke with a set of similar questions occurred to me because in an ideal world, without geographical and language barriers, I would have liked to listen to a conversation between the two.
I’ve been an admirer of Tom Drury’s work for years. A long time ago, I wrote him a fan letter and confessed that he was one of the two living authors I would like to meet. Characters from his trilogy set in Grouse County, Iowa The End of Vandalism, Hunts in Dreams, and Pacific, have become part of my consciousness when I read and write. I have also been paying attention to Yan Lianke’s work for the past decade. His novel Dream of Ding Village, about the AIDS epidemic in Henan Province, is one of the most important novels coming out of China in the past twenty years.
Much of Drury’s work is set in Iowa. All of Yan’s work is set in Henan Province, in China’s heartland, not unlike Iowa. Both writers grew up in rural areas. Yan’s journey took him from his hometown to the Chinese army and eventually to Beijing, while Drury’s took him to the East Coast, West Coast, and now back to New York City. Both worked in journalism before becoming writers. Both, in person, are unpretentious and thoughtful.
The interview with Yan Lianke took place in a hotel in Berkeley. The interview with Tom Drury took place through e-mails. Ideally one would like to hear a back-and-forth between the two authors, but it’s interesting to see, without their talking to each other directly, where the two perspectives diverge and coincide.Continue reading
Kevin Wilson is the author of a story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Harper Perennial), which won the Shirley Jackson Award, and a novel, The Family Fang (Ecco). He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he teaches at Sewanee: The University of the South.
1. Can you describe your daily routine, any rituals or habits?
My wife, Leigh Anne, lets me sleep an extra hour after she wakes up with our two boys, which is the kindest gift, and so I wake up every morning when the hour is up and my wife places our nine-month-old son, Patch, in my arms. He then pinches the hell out of my face. Then I play Legos with my older son, Griff, until it's time for breakfast, and then school and work. The only constant routine in my life is the Internet, the constant checking of e-mail and downloading whatever new mixtapes have come out that day on DatPiff, and reading Wikipedia articles about feral children. I prepare for classes. I try to set aside time for reading and writing, but I end up using that time to update the narrative of the fake basketball league that I've been curating since I was fourteen years old. Then the kids are back home, we play some more, eat dinner, read stories, put them to bed, and then my wife and I have one hour to watch TV before we go to sleep ourselves. If I feel like I can handle it, I stay up an extra two hours and write. I rarely feel like it.Continue reading
As Constantine listened to the men talk, he understood for the first time that his uncle wasn’t just a tinkerer or an amateur animal breeder: he made things. Something that helped bind the bamboo into a sturdy frame; a refinement of the varnish spread on the wings to seal the cloth. The little crook in the tubing controlling the rudder was his design as well. In the same way that Taggart tinkered with cows and fowl, cross-breeding and selecting until he’d improved some aspect, he joined inanimate objects—screws, oil, guncotton, rubber, parts from those tubs and bins at home—until something new emerged. —ANDREA BARRETT, “THE INVESTIGATORS”
Before I actually wrote a poem, I pretended to write poetry. I don’t mean this as an aesthetic or qualitative judgment, rather as fact; I declared things written by others as my own. Really, it only happened once, in a love letter to a girl in my fourth grade class. —BRETT FLETCHER LAUER, “A SUPPOSED PERSON”
“Mania is not the aspect of religion that we should emulate,” he continued. “There’s such a fine line between sainthood and mania. It’s best not to try for either and simply do the best you can.”
Edwin did not entirely understand what Father Naylon was telling him, probably because Father Naylon did not entirely understand what Edwin was actually feeling. The fainting was not, he had decided, from his own desire to talk to God. Perhaps—Edwin was still formulating this theory in his mind—something (and perhaps that something was God) wanted to talk to Edwin. —KEVIN WILSON, “A SIGNAL TO THE FAITHFUL”
new fiction by KATE WALBERT and BONNIE NADZAM
introducing MAGDALÉNA PLATZOVÁ
MARTHA COOLEY on the Costa Concordia
poems by RAE ARMANTROUT, JOANNA KLINK, ADAM FITZGERALD, DU FU, TERRANCE HAYES, and MICHAEL MORSE
cover photograph by JAKE STANGEL
1. Can you describe your daily routine, any rituals or habits?
My routine is so boring, you might die of boredom from having to read about it. But since you asked: I get up around 7:00. I have some mint tea with soy milk. I eat a gummy vitamin. I check my e-mail, read the New York Times online, though I end up reading only the top articles, knowing someone will tweet or Facebook any other articles of note throughout the day. I check my calendar to see what's on deck for the day. Usually what's on deck is having to prepare for some class or other. So I prepare. Around lunchtime—one-ish—I leave the house in search of food, which is usually a roll or a can of lima beans. Shtetl mentality. Then I come home and work some more. Maybe I stop to practice my guitar. Maybe I check e-mail. Maybe—and by maybe I mean almost never during the school year—I write a sentence.Continue reading
The PEN World Voices Festival Opening Night Reading: Bravery kicks off the festival with a fantastic line-up of authors, including Najwan Darwish, Joy Harjo, Mikhail Shishkin, Jamaica Kincaid, Earl Lovelace, Ursula Krechel, A. Igoni Barrett, Vaddey Ratner, Lt. Col. David Frakt, and Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld. The event is hosted by comedian Baratunde Thurston.
More information about this event here.
For 20% off of your tickets, use the code PEN13 here.
Monday, April 29
The Great Hall, Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street, NYC
PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 29-May 5, 2013. Chaired by Salman Rushdie, this year’s festival explores bravery in art, politics and personal life. Join us for a variety of events including panel discussions, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances at venues crisscrossing the city. Find a full schedule of events here.