An interview by Max Liu
Increasingly, novels are praised for how much of the culture they manage to include. Open City is entirely contemporary and worldly and it includes a great deal. What are the possibilities and pitfalls of literary inclusiveness?
In a sense, Open City is a kind of Wunderkammer, one of those little rooms assembled with bric-a-brac by Renaissance scholars. I don’t mean it as a term of praise: these cabinets of curiousities contained specific sorts of objects – maps, skulls (as memento mori), works of art, stuffed animals, natural history samples, and books – and Open City actually contains many of the same sort of objects. So, I don’t think it’s as simple as literary inclusiveness. That phrase, in fact, brings to mind David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, and Dave Eggers. They are keen to include and, in fact, itemize the present in all its gaudy multiplicity. My own literary interest is more about excavating the past, or sensing the past inside the present. This requires all kinds of exclusions and sleights of hand. There’s an admittedly antiquarian flavor to it, even though there’s enough of the present included to lull the reader. So, for a book set in 2006, Open City evades certain markers, while it embraces certain others. Julius doesn’t use a smartphone, and he doesn’t discuss contemporary US politics in any fine detail. [Read More]