December 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
November 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
We conducted this interview over email last month (as the inserted images probably make clear).
In bold defiance of the LARB tradition of having an absentee interviewer, I present the questions that inspired these responses, though, in the hopes of pre-disorienting the reader, detached from the provided answers.
1. Was there a time when you decided to dedicate yourself to writing?
2. You’ve said that you decided in the late 1990s to write ten novels each in a single voice — an antidote to the complexities posed by The Last Samurai. Lightning Rods was one of those novels. What were the other nine? What voices did they feature? What state of completion are they in?
3. Did writing a book about male sexual obsession pose special challenges? Were you sympathetic to Joe’s sexual fantasy life? Did you find it hard to understand why he might be attracted to the sorts of acts he found appealing?
the rest here
Lee Konstantinou’s review of Lightning Rods here
Scott Esposito’s review here
October 31, 2011 § Leave a comment
Early in September, Christopher Glazek and I spent a long, pleasant afternoon interviewing Helen DeWitt. Helen had arrived in New York a few days earlier, about a month before her latest novel, Lightning Rods, was to be released by New Directions. There were miles of book tour events to be traveled before she slept, and our discussion was one of them. But it was a Friday, and the end of summer, and the city was warm and mild and forgiving, and all in all our meeting felt less like an interview and more like a conversation. The three of us met on the Upper East Side and talked for many hours, as if we had nowhere to be. I don’t think any of us did.
The rest here
October 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
JENNY DAVIDSON: Here’s one sentence that caught my eye early on, as your protagonist Joe’s first trial of his sexual-release program for high-performing employees leads him to tweak the product he’s offering: “It meant another head-to-head with Beginning Programming for Dummies, but the thing that separates the sheep from the goats is the willingness to go that extra mile.”
This wild mixing of metaphors is wonderfully characteristic of a certain kind of management self-help book. (I remember watching an episode of “The Apprentice” once and being perplexed as to why all of the would-be apprentices so frequently used the expression “step up,” as in “step up to the plate”—would so-and-so “step up”? So-and-so really “stepped up” in that challenge.) Did you read any books of this ilk as you began working on Lightning Rods, and if so, which are your favorites?
the rest here
October 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
David K. Israel: As I understand it, you actually finished this manuscript for Lightning Rods before completing and publishing The Last Samurai. Sounds like an interesting story for aspiring novelists. What happened there?
The whole saga here.
September 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
One of the most exciting literary events this fall is the publication of Helen DeWitt’s long-anticipated second novel, Lightning Rods. DeWitt, a Maryland-born polymath, is best known as the author of The Last Samurai, the story of a boy genius who sets off in search of his missing father. Sam Anderson called that book “the most exciting debut novel of the decade.” Lightning Rods promises to generate even more emphatic responses: It is, among other things, a satire in which a businessman develops a service that will end sexual harassment.
BOOKFORUM: Lightning Rods, your new novel, is not actually new at all—it was completed more than a decade ago. What have been the major obstacles to publication?
HELEN DEWITT: This is hard to talk about. One way and another, The Last Samurai was THE major obstacle to publication of Lightning Rods. . .
The whole thing here
July 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
Even beyond incorporation of the film, you use a lot of Japanese language—among many others—in your book. Have you studied?
Many years ago, in London, I came across a book by Murakami Haruki whose English title is “A Wild Sheep Chase” (Hitsuji o meguru boken). I loved this book. I read somewhere that Murakami had translated many hardboiled detective novels into Japanese. His translator had translated the book back into hardboiled English. I wondered what this would be like in Japanese (I did not know a word of the language).
I especially liked a chapter in which the narrator, his girlfriend and a driver debate the naming of cats (they are appalled that he has not given his cat a name). I decided I would like to see what some of this book was like in Japanese.
Axiom Magazine, June 13, 2011
the rest here