Recently Heidi Julavits was interviewed about her latest novel, which has been praised by Aimee Bender and George Saunders, and received a respectful, if mixed, review from Taylor Antrim in The New York Times. Alex Abramovich, for the Washington Post, is a dissenting voice among the many heralding the novel.
In the interview, Julavits talks among other things about writing her latest book. She says she was opted for a “straight narrative” when she tackled her first novel, because she was intimidated. She was determined to follow her own vision for the second book, though:
I had to fight a lot with my editor because a number of drafts ago she didn’t think it worked. I agreed, but I said, “I know it doesn’t work, but I want to make it work. If it doesn’t work perfectly that’s okay with me, but I don’t want to take these scenes out.”….
With The Mineral Palace [Julavits’ debut novel] I thought, Alright, I can’t do that very well. I keep making things piecemeal so I better go and figure out how to make one big whole. Anyway, now I’m back to pieces. I think I’m back forever now.
(Thanks to Felicia Sullivan for the link.)
Over the past several months, Julavits has become infamous in certain circles for a Believer essay in which she called some book reviewers out on the carpet for writing what she considered snarky reviews. I’m taking the quote out of context somewhat, but she also said she didn’t think it was a good idea to “piss people off.” In the same essay, she called for a new era of literary experimentation.
I wonder: is it really better for literature if all experiments are treated with kid gloves?
Phil Nugent thinks not.