I'm sorry I'll miss this, but my mom is in town and she has no taste for new fangled literature.
I'd love to ask Heidi to hold forth on the state of literary criticism. I remember her essay on "snarky" criticsm, and I remember thinking at the time that the traditional role of the literary critic hardly exists anymore. There are no more Edmund Wilsons, and even if there were, there's no readership. Gore Vidal is the last one left from the old school, and the poor man is becoming crazier and crankier all the time. Has Heidi found an audience for polite & informed criticism? Where?
I also want to know: Who is reading new literature? Who are her fans? There seem to be more books published all time, and less and less time to read. How does she break through the double walls of impatience and indifference?
Around the time that the Baffler emerged, there was a lot of talk about how e-books were going to save literature. Books were going to be downloadable and somehow more accessible. Does she feel like electronic media has lived up to that hype? Has blogging and instant messaging had a positive or negative effect on the quality of prose? Is there any technology that can make the novel new again?
Alright, I really don't know anyone who has read Moby-Dick, although I'm fairly sure it is brilliant and possibly life changing. I have read another novel by Melville however, which IMHO was brilliant and life changing, in addition to the standard English 101 short story 'Bartleby, the Scrivener.' Could you ask her how the Bartleby character speaks to us in our present day? It would be some snarky brilliance of her to say, "I prefer not to," but it would also be nice to hear Ms. Julavits' elucidation.
Refer to Keith Gessen's recent interview in the New York Inquirer, and ask her how she responds to this criticism:
The standard model for a literary magazine these days is not the New Criterion but something more like Ploughshares or McSweeney's -- basically, a kind of short-story contest curated by one editor or a rotating series of editors. You might have a mix of stories and essays, but they will be chosen because they met certain standards of being a "good story." ... But the point for us is we're much more focused on the idea of a story’s or essay's necessity -- is it necessary, does it explain our situation, some part of our situation? If so, then we'll edit it until it's good. Otherwise, it doesn't matter how good it is.
I got another one.
The current rage is for the novel-disguised as memoir-disguised as a novel. (I'm thinking about James Frey, JT Leroy, all that stuff) With that in mind, how long before we get the tell-all autobiography about Heidi and Ben Marcus, camoflaged as a Harlequin romance?
Would it rude to be ask when we can expect another Ben Marcus novel? And whether he makes her wear a helmet during intimate moments?
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