Literary Conversations Series

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

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Conversations with Stanley Kunitz

Kent P. Ljungquist

"He again tops the crowd--he surpasses himself, the old iron brought to the white heat of simplicity." That's what Robert Lowell said of the poetry of Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) and his evolving artistry. The interviews and conversations contained in this volume derive from four decades of Kunitz's distinguished career. They touch on aesthetic motifs in his poetry, the roots of his work, his friendships in the sister arts of painting and sculpture, his interactions with Lowell and Theodore Roethke, and his comments on a host of poets: John Keats, Walt Whitman, Randall Jarrell, Wallace Stevens, and Anna Akhmatova.

Kunitz emerged from a mid-sized industrial town in central Massachusetts, surviving family tragedy and a sense of personal isolation and loneliness, to become an eloquent spokesman for poetry and for the power of the human imagination. Kunitz has commented, "If we want to know what it felt like to be alive at any given moment in the long odyssey of the race, it is to poetry we must turn." His own odyssey from "metaphysical loneliness" to a sense of community with fellow writers and artists--by building institutions like Poets House and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts--is ever present in these interviews.

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Conversations with Tim Gautreaux

L. Lamar Nisly

Louisiana writer Tim Gautreaux (b. 1947) writes fiction that mixes equal parts dry humor, tall tales, and deep tragedy. His stories and novels of working-class Acadiana portray lives of inimitably poignant love, loss, and longing. The depth and complexity of Gautreaux's writing invite scholarly appraisals as well, as critics mine the richness of his moral vision. These interviews reveal the intensity of his sense of place, his deep connection to the mechanical and working world, his commitment to the craft of writing, and his Catholic view that has been shaped by Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy.

Conversations with Tim Gautreaux collects interviews from 1993 to 2009 with the author of The Missing, The Clearing, Welding with Children, and many other vital works of fiction. Readers who have been engaged with the themes in his stories and novels will find themselves equally taken with the kind and thoughtful voice they discover in interviews.

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Conversations with Tim O'Brien

Patrick A. Smith

On the strength of a National Book Award for his novel Going After Cacciato (1978) and a widely acclaimed short-story cycle, The Things They Carried (1990), Tim O'Brien (b. 1946) cemented his reputation as one of the most compelling chroniclers of Vietnam--and, in the process, was cast as a "Vietnam writer." But to confine O'Brien to a single piece of ground or a particular style is to ignore the broad sweep of a career spanning nearly four decades.


In addition to detailed discussions of all of O'Brien's work--a memoir, If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973), and seven books of fiction--the sixteen interviews and profiles in Conversations with Tim O'Brien explore common themes, with subtle differences. Looming large is the experience of Vietnam and its influence as well as O'Brien's youth in Minnesota and the expectations of a Midwestern upbringing. Interviews allowed the writer to fully examine the shifting boundaries of truth and identity, memory, and imagination in fiction, the role of war in society; gender issues; and the craft of writing. O'Brien approaches each of these topics and a host of others with a directness and an evident passion that will resonate with both readers and prospective writers.

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Conversations with William Gibson

Patrick A. Smith

"After reading Neuromancer for the first time," literary scholar Larry McCaffery wrote, "I knew I had seen the future of [science fiction] (and maybe of literature in general), and its name was William Gibson." McCaffery was right. Gibson's 1984 debut is one of the most celebrated SF novels of the last half century, and in a career spanning more than three decades, the American Canadian science fiction writer and reluctant futurist responsible for introducing "cyberspace" into the lexicon has published nine other novels.

Editor Patrick A. Smith draws the twenty-three interviews in this collection from a variety of media and sources--print and online journals and fanzines, academic journals, newspapers, blogs, and podcasts. Myriad topics include Gibson's childhood in the American South and his early adulthood in Canada, with travel in Europe; his chafing against the traditional SF mold, the origins of "cyberspace," and the unintended consequences (for both the author and society) of changing the way we think about technology; the writing process and the reader's role in a new kind of fiction. Gibson (b. 1948) takes on branding and fashion, celebrity culture, social networking, the post-9/11 world, future uses of technology, and the isolation and alienation engendered by new ways of solving old problems. The conversations also provide overviews of his novels, short fiction, and nonfiction.

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