Always Apprentices: Twenty-Two Conversations Between Writers for the Believer Magazine

Edited by Vendela Vida, Sheila Heti, and Ross Simonini. McSweeney’s/Believer Books, $16 trade paper (375p) ISBN 978-1-938073-25-0
This enthralling collection contains 22 conversations between novelists, memoirists, poets, journalists, screenwriters, and combinations thereof about the craft of writing and the rewards (and torments) that it offers. The interviews, previously published in the Believer, tend to focus on idiosyncratic processes and each author’s career trajectory, as well as on how authors understand their work and its relationship to the world. The “conversations” here are more like interviews, with younger authors asking questions of established figures, including Mary Gaitskill, Michael Ondaatje, Victor LaValle, Pankaj Mishra, and Joan Didion. The book’s pièces de résistance include a muted exchange between Bret Easton Ellis and Don DeLillo about their respective careers, a high-minded discussion between Aleksander Hemon and Colum McCann on the ethics of novel writing, and a dialogue between Alain Mabanckou and Dany Laferrière on the emergence in literature of African and Caribbean voices. From the troubled state of literature and today’s narrowly commercial publishing world to the exasperation of working with Hollywood, the interviews both inspire and charm with their blend of urgency and irony. Moreover, the conversations offer a degree of insight into the development of M.F.A. culture that rivals McGurl’s The Program Era. Agent: The Wylie Agency. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
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