Interview with Peter Dimock

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An interview I did with Peter Dimock appears in the latest issue of Bookslut.

Peter Dimock’s latest novel George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time is written as a letter to the former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — a lawyer who drafted and signed one of the Bush era’s infamous Torture Memos. While it’s true that a handful of soldiers who participated in the beatings, rape, vicious strappado hangings, and other savage abuses at Abu Ghraib were charged and convicted, the masterminds of the legal reasoning that allowed the torture, now euphemistically branded as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” of prisoners-of-war have never been held accountable.

Dimock’s slim fiction rages against this and a host of state sins while also deftly functioning as a sorrowful, secular confession for an entitled race and class. It does this in an altogether unique style, which one reviewer described as coming from a “speaker who may be in some kind of rapture, or who is ironic, or who is mad, or who is all three.” I met the author, a long-serving editor in the New York publishing world, at a restaurant near his home in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Both of your books are stylistic gambles. The purpose and direction of that style is not immediately recognizable. We don’t know why you’re making these stylistic choices. In your author’s note you write that the success of your ambition will “rest upon the reader’s response to [your] invention of a form… no matter how estranged or estranging the results may seem at first.” While writing, how aware are you of your gamble? Did it seem like a gamble? And how did you reconcile yourself to this risk?

My experience is the history I have lived through. I was born in 1950. And so I was eighteen in 1968. That’s a moment. I was draftable at the height of the Vietnam War. So I have a particular relationship to that time, like everyone who lived through that period. But I remember being overwhelmed — I still am — by the sense that we don’t have a language adequate to the history we’re actually living. I was brought up and trained — I had all the best education and the best positions from which to assume an intellectual role either as an academic or a literary critic — but always felt I never could actually assume any such role in good faith. I feel strongly that — with the exception of contemporary literature, I’m thinking of Morrison, Marquez, Pynchon, and Bishop — we have not as a culture yet truly grappled with the inadequacy of the language we have available to us for the history we are living. I think we are crippled by this lack of a language.

Read the whole interview here:

http://www.bookslut.com/features/2013_03_019928.php

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