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.