I’m not interested in reading books that tell me what I already know. I don’t want to read a novel that makes me ‘care about’ a fictional character; I want to read a novel that teaches me a new way to think or a new way to read, or else intentionally frustrates my desires for those things, or does something else entirely unexpected — frankly, a formula of rising action, climax, falling action and denouement seems to me to be the thing that’s in need of defending. How boring! Why would anyone want to read that?
That’s from a fantastic interview with Emmett Stinson at Verity La, an online Australian literary journal that has evolved from interesting to absolutely indispensable in the space of about six months. Even better than the interview as a whole is that it is only the latest installment in a long series of equally fantastic interviews. What makes the Verity La interviews so great, I think, is not just that the editors’ chosen interviewees are compelling in their own right; it’s that the editors themselves are so uninhibited in seriously engaging with them. By this I mean that they refuse to air the sort of disclaimers that such interviewees tend to attract — usually the suggestion, bordering on a warning, that readers will perhaps find the interviewee’s work “unusual” or “difficult” — and, in so doing, they allow themselves the freedom to dive right in to engage with the work in a way that respects and indeed savours its particular complexities.
In terms of celebrity and literary influence, of course, those interviewed in Verity La are no match for those interviewed in The Paris Review. However, in terms of quality, depth, intelligence, and respectful aesthetic engagement, the Verity La interviews are the closest thing we have right now in Australia to the Paris Review interview archives. Five years or a decade from now, when more of the Verity La interviewees have produced a greater body of work and thereby gained wider recognition, I think readers will look back on each of these interviews as instruments of unparalleled value with which to better understand the work itself. For now, it can’t hurt to admire the worthiness and sophistication of the interviews already accumulating.