Literary Lion: 5 Questions with Nonfiction Writer, Novelist Heidi Julavits

March 27, 2015
Heidi Julavits

Associate Professor Heidi Julavits is the editor, with Sheila Heti and Leanne Shapton, of 2014’s Women in Clothes, a book of essays, photographs and reminiscences about how women feel about their clothing. She is also the author of The Uses of Enchantment and The Effect of Living Backwards, both The New York Times Notable Books, The Vanishers and The Mineral Palace. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper's, Esquire, New York Magazine, The New York Times, Vogue and other places. She's a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a founding editor of The Believer magazine. Her newest book, The Folded Clock: A Diary, was favorably reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review on March 30, an experience she called “a dream come true.”

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

Nothing is separate. My life is totally brackish. Each week I try to teach what interests me the very most as a writer. I can’t talk about things I’ve long ago discovered with much interest or passion. I like to make discoveries in the classroom in the same way I like to make them at my writing desk.

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

I think it would be cool, as a human experiment that may, for all I know, already be happening in the culture at large, to disallow people from ever reading anything and then see what kind of books they write.

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

I’ve always defined myself as a novelist but suddenly, within the past year, I published two books of nonfiction. The word “suddenly” might suggest the switch was a seamless one, and I guess it was! It was so seamless I didn’t even really know it was happening.

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

Whenever I go out people say, “where do you live, in San Francisco, in Maine?” And I have to say, “I live here. I’ve lived here for 21 years.” I guess this suggests that I don’t thrive on literary cacophony, though I once wrote an email to a friend complaining about a particularly bad book party experience and she said, “that’s the best thing you’ve ever written.”

Q. What are you working on now?

As the director for the undergraduate creative writing program, I’m working on course offerings for Fall 2015 already! Also I’m trying to assemble, from the detritus of my desk, a Keeping Society to go along with the publication of my new book, The Folded Clock: A Diary.

— Interviewed by Eve Glasberg

In the News:  October 15th: A Diary Entry, The New Yorker, March 26
With The Folded Clock, Heidi Julavits Contemplates Mortality, Unseriously, Vulture, April 9
Related Links:  ‘The Folded Clock,’ by Heidi Julavits, The New York Times, March 27
Turning Clutter Into Joy, The New York Times Sunday Review, April 4