The question of the medium and the medium’s mediumness is a common one for English critics, who make great use of the term to characterize the quality and range of literary work. Yet the word is used so loosely that it can be misconstrued, as if English writers were the only persons who would take pencil. One of the primary tools of our English critics’ toolbox is our vocabulary. There’s nothing wrong with our use of the word “medium,” but perhaps we should use a stronger alternative such as “pencil.”
What’s your biggest disagreement with critics?
At the end of the day, their job is to assess the quality of the literature. While some critics are quite good at this, I can hardly see a critical review of my book that would say it was not enjoyable or illuminating. Even at my favorite place, The New Yorker, they’ve been extremely kind. I’ve written for them about four time. I think the magazine appreciates me very much, but I’m pretty sure they would not have given me another review if it weren’t for my brilliant new book.
You’re in two countries at the same time. Should we call your project an autobiographical work?
Not particularly–that’s too formal and unambitious. When I first started writing, I was a teenager. There are a lot of people in my position, a lot of people looking to write a book. My goal is to become an author without a literary career, just another blogger with a few blog posts from time to time.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most remarkable political movements of all time, the civil rights movement. It was a movement that began on the streets of Birmingham Alabama and then spread across the country to include many others, particularly in Europe, and which resulted in the rights that black Americans have enjoyed for the past 60 years.
When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. decided to break out of Birmingham and go to Montgomery, Alabama, his first step was his first sit in and, later on, his first speech. That speech was called “I have a dream,” in his home state of Alabama. Dr. King was, in part, inspired by the experiences of the struggle of civil rights pioneers like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Jim Crow south. He wrote that speech in order to be inspired by the civil rights movement of the North and to be informed
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