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Interviews

Recent Issue

Comic and Interview by Jess Ruliffson

Last Shift

Author Elaine Castillo grew up as a first-generation American with Filipino immigrant parents. She lived abroad in London for nearly a decade before moving back to her hometown of Milpitas, California, against the background of anti-immigrant sentiment in England and America.

Forward Thinking

Claire Schwartz: According to the poet Marie Howe, who studied with Joseph Brodsky at Columbia, Brodsky said: “You Americans are so naïve. You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn’t come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language.” You’ve written about the relationship between language and the social imagination—in particular, about the ways that totalitarian regimes in Russia and, more recently, the current government in the United States, have eroded public speech. Would you describe what you mean by that and how you see language functioning in public space right now?

Masha Gessen: For totalitarian regimes, language is an instrument of subjugation. It’s a way of controlling both behavior and thought. Attempting to ensure that words mean what the regime says they mean is a way of undermining people’s ability to inhabit a shared reality outside of what the regime says reality is. There are all sorts of tricks the regime performs along the way—such as using a word to mean its opposite, or almost its opposite. 

Photo by John Ricard

Voice, Diction, and Influence

August 29, 2018

Mitchell Jackson began fastening the hashtag #litlifeislife onto his Instagram posts as early as September 2014. He has since adopted it as his unofficial catchphrase. The slogan is scattered generously across his feed, slapped onto snapshots of colleagues’ newly published books, event posters for upcoming writing festivals, slides announcing literary contest award winners, and—most recently—manuscript stacks of the forthcoming Survival Math fanning across tables and bedsheets.

VQR Online

An Interview with Francine Prose

June 13, 2014

Even casual readers of literary warhorses the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books will recognize the name Francine Prose. She’s written more than a dozen novels dating back to 1973, from Judah the Pious (Atheneum, 1973) [...]

Leslie Jamison

An Interview with Leslie Jamison

April 14, 2014

The first Leslie Jamison essay I remember reading is “Fog Count,” in the Oxford American. At the time, I was busy researching and interviewing lifelong residents in small-town Virginia, and Jamison’s depiction of the community surrounding a W [...]