The Interview Awards: Rivka Galchen
Interviews with novelists seem to always run the risk of being completely inane. (So…. how’d you come up with the plot of your book? Your protagonist is craa-aazy! How ’bout that? ) A lot of interviews have the same confused, polite tone. If you haven’t read the book they’re talking about then the interview might not make any sense but if you have read it, the interview might be boring. Either that or the writer ends up just talking about their “process” (3 hours every day, only after midnight, in the bathtub… blahblahblah…) which can be interesting sometimes but is often dull.
Somehow, though, I like reading these interviews despite having a lot to complain about. Rivka Galchen gives particularly good ones so I’ve decided to give her three highly arbitrary HTMLgiant awards based on one interview in The L Magazine.
Best alternative to just saying “Um, No.”:
The L: The omnipresent character Tzvi Gal-Chen is named after your father. Is there significance behind the names of any of the other characters?
RG: If you take all the letters of the names of the different characters, shuffle them, then transpose their value an X increment, it reveals the terrifying and silent name of the God of our divine disorder.
Best way to answer a slightly inane question about a character from a novel:
The L: …Leo Liebenstein, [protagonist of novel] is assumed to have a firm grip on reality and logic, but succumbs to a patient’s psychosis and finds himself questioning his perception of what is real. What was it like to develop a character that was at once certain of himself and completely disoriented?
RG: One time I was just walking in the hall of the library and suddenly I was being pummeled by this elderly woman with shopping bags full of books, and I really thought — even though I’d never seen this woman before in my life, and even though all I was doing was walking down the hallway to the water fountain — that I probably had done something to this little old woman, that I probably deserved being beaten with shopping bags of books, that the whole encounter was a just revenge for.. for something I must have done that I had totally forgotten about. So, well, the highly suggestible part of Leo, the strong suspicion he has that seemingly random occurrences are laden with meaning — that comes naturally to me.
Best way to answer the “ohmygod you’re a woman but your protagonist is a man!” question:
The L: Why did you choose to write from the perspective of a man?
RG: Probably some mix of envy and revenge. I’ve known a lot of really wonderful, data-loving, confident, affectionate-but-emotionally obtuse, and irrational-but-sound-of-rationality-addicted men. I find simultaneously mocking and being jealous of them for their higher rates of self-delusion, their studious missing of social cues and their ability to see their lives, regardless of how quotidian, as part of some grand heroic tale. How’s that for generalization?