On Being an American Writer

Can you tell me how you feel your writing fits into American literature in terms of style, narrative and form, and perhaps who has most influenced you?

—Geoffrey Metcalf, Arundel, West Sussex, England

I’ve almost wondered if I should answer this question in terms of how I don’t fit into American literature, Geoff. Read more…

Emily, for the most part you have chosen the American Midwest—a place and a time—(or it has chosen you) as the setting for your work. I have found in other artists that old-timey, folk America (blithely uninfluenced by Europe in the teeth of Henry James claiming that we inescapably are influenced by it) can be a deep river, an environment that can yield, the way symbols can yield, feelings and meanings and balls of illusion beyond even what the writer has put into it. I’m thinking of Bob Dylan and William Burroughs, among many others. And I wonder what you think about this, how much the idea of a kind of mythic Midwest—not Broadway and not cowboys and not Hollywood—informs your work, or is a bed for it, or a character in it?

—Donald Warfield, Fairfield, Connecticut

I’m actually having a little difficulty getting my mind around this question because I’m not entirely sure what the myth of the Midwest is. Read more…

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