Monday, December 28, 2009

On Reviewing: Eileen Myles

LH: What do you think the purpose of a review is?

EM: No single purpose. A book Im advocating for – a book I’ve been invited to write about that I have my own reasons to write about even if diff from the editor who invited me. A book to hinge some other argument on publicly..

LH: If you also write about books on a blog, why?

EM: Because there are more outlets for reviewing/writing on blogs. I write about what I care about where I can.

LH: What does blogging let you do differently?

EM: To do it period. And I suppose less editing. Less conventional approach. Generally in the blog world I’m an outsider – the world isn’t foregrounding poetry so you can say often more opinionated things because they don’t know what you’re talking about.

LH: If you write reviews, how would you describe your approach, or method?



EM: Contextual. I try to give the world of the review, or the book, or the world the argument will land in forseeably.

LH: Do you offer or engage in exegesis, theoretical, academic, reader response, close, contextual or evaluative readings?

EM: Sure.

LH: If you don’t write but read reviews, what aspects of reviewing do you notice?

EM: In poetry the new frontier is mainstream vs. language. The armies have lined up, are both at war and are in the midst of doing a corporate handshake. It began at Barnard. See Iowa. See Hybrid.

LH: What do you think makes for a successful review?

EM: courage and passion. intelligence. familiarity.

LH: Is there an aspect, a stylistic choice, or perspective that necessarily produces a more significant document?

EM: Awareness. Familiarity. It’s amazing how often uniformed people write say about poetry or lesbianism or any of the things I care about. Rank amateurs are underqualified over entitled, unjustly armed.

LH: When you review, do you focus on a particular text (poem, story), the book at hand, the author’s body of work?

EM: all of the above.

LH: Do you think this choice of focus influences criticism, or your own criticism, and if so, how?

EM: well yeah. Space is the final consideration. one nips according to how much area they get to cover.

LH: If you also write non-critical work, how different is the way you approach reviewing or critical writing to the way you approach your own “creative” writing?

EM: I don’t research so much for my own writing. I tend to know where I am and the act is buttressed by research that has apparently been performed without my knowing.

LH: Have you been in a position where you have had to write about a book that you don’t care for, or a book that is coming out of a tradition that you are perhaps opposed to, or resistant to on some level?

EM: I’ve stupidly aired my criticism when I would have been better off not writing the piece. Sometimes I’ve Tried to be fair but there’s nothing more insulting. We’re all readers. everything is transparent.

LH: How do you handle such events? Or how have you noticed others handle these events?

EM: People seem to think others want to know what they think. They really don’t.

LH: What is the last piece of writing that convinced you to a/ reconsider an author or book you thought you had figured out, or had a final opinion on or b/ made you want to buy the book under review immediately?

EM: There was a book in the times about reindeer that I became very excited about. I bought a copy for myself and a friend and I bet neither of us have read it. I read a review of a book called the some thing avacado, the dud avacado? by Elinor Dundy. I read it and liked it a lot. Minor books get in best for me through reviews. I usually know about the other books.

LH: Is there a quality you are looking for in a review that you haven’t found?

EM: Where the writer is sitting. Literally and in their world of thought. People often exempt themselves from scrutiny which I think is frightening.

LH: Critical work is increasingly unpaid work; will you continue to do this work despite the trend? Do you see this trend reversing, or changing course?

EM: I like a mix and that is my experience. yeah sure I’d do it for free and do and if it was only that it should have another name, I think.

EM: Yeah I think it’s going that way.

LH: What do you hope to achieve by writing about writing? Do you believe that reviews can actually bring new readers to texts?

EM: Finding audience for important books. It’s political work and is the most important work in the world next to your own writing. It is your own writing. duh.
__
Eileen Myles is a poet who lives in New York. Her novel The Inferno will be out by the end of the year. She is teaching this spring in Missoula, MT.