Robert Walser on The Marketplace of Ideas

I was recently interviewed by Colin Marshall for his show The Marketplace of Ideas, which is broadcast on KCSB in Santa Barbara and can also be listened to online or downloaded for free from the iTunes store. Colin specializes in the hour-long interview format, which allows him to explore a topic at length with his guests. In my case, we talked about Robert Walser for the first half-hour of the show and most of the last fifteen minutes, with an interlude in which we discussed Yoko Tawada, Kobo Abe and the uses of literary hybridity. The show’s title, “The Literary In-Between,” actually comes from a Yoko Tawada quote.

One of the great things about being interviewed is that it helps you focus your thoughts on some of the ideas that are most important to you even if you’ve never sat down and consciously formulated them. In conversation with Colin, I found myself speaking about what it is that draws me to the literature I most love, which tends to features authors that can be described in some way as straddling two different worlds. Here’s what I told him:

I think the in-between is a great place to actually open your eyes and see something. When you’re hovering between two spheres of reference, the very geography of your condition forces you to actually see where you are. I think so much of our everyday lives is so unmindful and involves not noticing things and not seeing things and not understanding what’s around us. I love literature that puts me in the position of asking me to actually see what it is I do when I speak, when I understand something, when I hear another person, when I think that I’m communicating with another person and hearing them talking to me. I think being made conscious of these things and how miraculous it is that we have languages we can use to communicate with each other – how great is that! I think there’s so much we take for granted that literature written in these in-between spaces invites us to notice and appreciate. For me there’s a lot of joy there.

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