Literary Lion: 5 Questions with Novelist Sam Lipsyte

March 31, 2015

Sam Lipsyte, Columbia UniversityAssociate Professor Sam Lipsyte’s most recent book is The Fun Parts (2013). He is also the author of The Ask, which was named a New York Times notable book for 2010; Home Land, a 2005 New York Times notable book and winner of The Believer Book Award; as well as The Subject Steve and Venus Drive. His fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Harper's and McSweeney's, among other places. He was a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow.

Q. How does the intersection of teaching and writing affect you?

I think there is a vibrant exchange between the two. My experiences writing inform my teaching enormously, and discussions about literature and literary practice in my seminars and workshops help me clarify my thinking on whatever I am working on.

Q. How important to the craft of writing is reading?

Probably about as important as watching films is to a film director, or looking at paintings is to a painter, or listening to music is to a musician. It's nearly everything. But if you find it a big chore, you're in the wrong field.

Q. Do you focus on one particular kind of writing or can you easily switch genres?

I write stories, novels, essays, book reviews and scripts. I can't switch seamlessly from tying one shoe to tying another. You have to adjust to the formal requirements of each genre.

Q. How does living and working in New York influence your writing?

I have young kids, so I live with a lot of cacophony in my apartment. Can't say I thrive on it. But I feel very connected to this city. I've been here over half my life.

Q. What are you working on now?

Still trying to figure that out.

— Interviewed by Eve Glasberg