The Precarious State of the Literary Interview

From The Atlantic:

Fay_authorinterviews_postThe 2010s may rightly be called the age of the interview. Interviews appear regularly in magazines and newspapers, on blogs, websites, videocasts, television, and podcasts. On iTunes this week, eight of the top-ten podcast revolve around or include conversations or interviews. The popularity of interviews indicates that although we may be isolated in our technology-clad bubbles, we still like to listen to people talk and engage, reflect and share, even if we've stopped doing it ourselves. According to some, literary interviews—which were oncethe apotheosis of the form—have become platitudinal and monotonous. In 2006, Pico Iyer attributed the decline of the literary interview to an overreliance on sound bites about authors plucked from search engines like Google and recommended that interviewers actually read an author's work. “[I]nterviews,” he wrote, “have become a circular form in which almost every interviewer asks the same questions as every previous interviewer.” Although some writers and readers have given up on literary interviews, now is not the time to abandon the form; some of the best examples of literary interviews are available on the Internet.

KCRW's weekly half-hour broadcast and podcast “Bookworm” with host Michael Silverblatt reminds us that the literary interview can function as art. Silverblatt prepares for each interview by reading almost everything a guest has ever written. He is a sensitive and careful reader who shapes his questions based on a guest's responses rather than a set of rote queries. Silverblatt's questions spark analysis, discussion, and storytelling. As a result, his guests break subjects apart and examine them more closely, entertain multiple points of view, and create narratives rather than blab anecdotes. Silverblatt takes the role of “host” literally. He is cordial and considerate without being sycophantic. (Silverblatt's Lannan Podcasts are also available via podcast.)

More here.