Widely considered among the finest war novels, The Things They Carried has carried Tim O’Brien from the jungles of Vietnam to the summit of Mt. American Literature. He discusses the book with DJB, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.
Standing at the center of the anti-war movement on college campuses, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five explained the meaningless of death in three words: “so it goes.” Two decades after the last Jolly Green Giant helicopter lifted off from atop the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Vonnegut’s Tralfamadorian philosophy of death had taken root in mainstream America: “[When] a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.'”
As the ’80s open, Dennis speaks with this eloquent voice of the American working class about the poet’s native Detroit, and “bullshit cities” like Laguna Beach. Their long talk ranges from Levine’s teacher at Iowa John Berryman to the difficulty of staying true to your values under the worst conditions. This was years before he became Poet Laureate of the United States. Philip is open and frank about some of his contemporaries. He tells Dennis, in this never previously heard interview, how he envisions a marriage made in heaven between Charles Bukowski and Edna St. Vincent Millay.
The superstar Chinese pianist was just blasting off in America. While the crowd, the hoi polloi, enthusiastically embraced Lang Lang for his energy and style, muttering pundits were mercilessly attacking him for his weaknesses, as if teenage pianists should not have weaknesses. In this environment, James Bartel interviewed Lang Lang.
The legendary British writer, who lived the second half of his life in Santa Monica, speaks with DJB in a conversation that ranges from his boyhood and his expulsion from Cambridge to his conversion to Hinduism.
Please note: DJB’s interview with Isherwood has been selected to appear in the forthcoming book Isherwood in Transit. In deference to the publisher, The University of Minnesota Press, we at djbartel.com, including Dennis, have decided to withdraw the interview from our website until after the book’s publication in early 2020.