Street Talk

Braddock Avenue Books: You’ve been trained as a visual artist and you’ve spent considerable time working in film/ video. These media are quite different from print.

Braddock Avenue Books: Watch the Doors As They Close chronicles the relationship between the narrator and a Columbia University student named Anselm. Ultimately, their love fails, and so much of the narrator’s thoughts are consumed by the limits of intimacy.

Braddock Avenue Books: Your novel, Little Known Facts, centers on a movie star and the impact that his celebrity has had on the lives of those closest to him.

Things I inherited from my father: Curly hair, a predisposition for autoimmune disorders, and an intense love for science fiction.

Braddock Avenue Books: Stewart O’Nan correctly (we think) compares your writing to James Salter’s. I’m especially interested in the subtle shifting of POV. How did you come to this style and what effect do you think it creates for readers?

Christine Schutt: As it is in life often a relief to be in someone else’s company, so it is for me in writing a novel. I am relieved to change point of view and hope the reader feels the same way. Only in my stories and first-person first novel are there no such shifts, so it seems I came to this style over time.

1. Sure, it was nice seeing Jeff Condran and Robert Peluso at the Pour House for drinks. And yes, I was very excited to purchase Aubrey Hirsch’s very beautiful debut collection Why We Never Talk About Sugar. But truly, the highlight of the conference was setting up my laptop at the BAB table with a Nintendo Entertainment System emulator and challenging all comers to games of Kung Fu. It turns out that Joyce Carol Oates is totally boss at Bump N’Jump.

2. Matthew Salesses brought a Virtual Boy to the hotel bar, and even though it’s not a two player system, he kept crying and telling anyone who walked by that he was a better Virtual Boy player than Philip Roth. Really weird.

Braddock Avenue Books: Evvie Muldoone is a fascinating character in so many ways. One of the most compelling things you seem to be doing with her in the novel is exploring the line between eccentricity and mental illness.

Jane McCafferty: You’re right. Most readers, in fact, have read her as a mentally ill character. But I think the category of “mental illness” is huge, and we use it as an umbrella term because we understand so little about the various kinds of mental illness.

Braddock Avenue Books: Your novel, Following Tommy, is set during the 1960s in Chicago. Contemporary novels with historical settings seem to require a special reason for out attention. What is it about this moment and place that has so attracted you?

Bob Hartley: I was really interested in examining the time just prior to the rise of the counter culture. The book is set in an ethnic enclave because it acts as a microcosm of mainstream society with its demand for strict conformity to institutions even though those institutions are corrupt, racist, and repress nearly all those involved.

Braddock Avenue Books: Several of the stories in This is Not Your City have international settings and themes. Some stories, like “The Lion’s Gate” feature Americans abroad, but in others, such as “Going to Estonia” and “This is Not Your City,” the protagonists are citizens of foreign countries. This seems brave! How is it you felt comfortable inhabiting the point of view of characters from so many different cultures?

Caitlin Horrocks: The big cheat in both those stories is that the foreign protagonists are still outsiders, in some way.

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