cover image The Very Last Interview

The Very Last Interview

David Shields. New York Review Books, $14.95 trade paper (164p) ISBN 978-1-6813-

Writer Shields (Reality Hunger) rounds up questions he’s been asked over four decades in this meandering collection of queries that go unanswered. Some are standard interview fodder about the process of writing: “Do you write every day? Do you have a ‘schedule?’ ” Some are hilarious attempts to fashion a literate take on pop culture—“Do you now wish you had gotten a PhD so you could be discussing Roland Barthes on Racine rather than Bart Simpson on his kegger?” or “But what is the role of the imagination in this ‘post-literature literature’ that you envision?” Some of the questions zero in on Shields’s childhood (“Did Joan Baez really sing at your sixteenth birthday party?”; “Who was little Davy Shields?”), while others meander over philosophical topics (“Why is the human animal so sad?”; “Why are we so melancholy”). There are requisite questions about the relationship between writers and critics, and the usual riffs on a writer’s reading habits. It’s full of rambling ruminations and surrealistic fluff, but the onslaught of questions does offer insight into the art of interviewing—in some instances, the interviewer is obviously more interested in their own perspective, while in others it’s clear the questioner has thought deeply about their subject. This falls squarely between the absurd and the clever. (Mar.)