Collection Description

Larry McCaffery is an SDSU professor emeritus of English. In addition to teaching, McCaffery built a reputation as an important postmodern and contemporary American literary critic known for identifying influential and innovative writers. Over the course of thirty years, he and his wife, Sinda Gregory (a scholar in her own right), conducted numerous interviews with notable postmodern and contemporary American writers. In total there are 71 interviewees, including Mark Danielewski, Samuel Delany, Raymond Carver, Joanna Russ, Ursula LeGuin, Raymond Federman, and William Gibson.

McCaffery's unique interview process started with a recorded interview on tape. He then made a loose transcription of the recorded conversation, making changes and rearranging sections as he went. Both McCaffery and the interviewee heavily edited this transcript, which eventually resulted in the creation of a final, collaborative manuscript. Some original audio recordings are reproduced here, while others are only available in our offline archives. This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

McCaffery’s interviews were published in several books: Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists (1983); Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s (1986); Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Authors (1990); and Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors (1995).

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Cris Mazza visits a class
Cris Mazza visits Larry McCaffery’s class and takes questions from students. The questions focus on the short stories in Mazza’s second collection, Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?. The questions focus around the inspiration for the stories and the sexuality inherent within them. A considerable portion of the questions and answers focus around the recently concluded confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas in his appointment to the Supreme Court., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Film Commentary by David Blair
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. David Blair provides commentary while viewing his film Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees. Present at the viewing are Larry McCaffery, Scott Bukatman, Brooks Landon, Bruce Sterling and Kathy Acker who ask questions about the film. At the conclusion of Wax, the video transitions into an “S & M” video which the various people present comment upon., San Diego State University, contains the audio of the film Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Graduate Class with Jerome Klinkowitz
Jerome Klinkowitz takes questions from Larry McCaffery’s graduate students. Klinkowitz discusses the humor in the writers included in his book The Life of Fiction, most especially Kurt Vonnegut. Klinkowitz addresses the lack of female writers in his book, noting that in contemporary culture, female writers are called upon to write more socially conscious novels rather than the more personal ones written by the writers included in his book. He discusses several female writers he considered including and the reasons why, in the end, they were not included in the book. Klinkowitz discusses the use of language among the writers featured in his book., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Graduate Class with Steve Katz
The tape opens to a group discussing revision. A note on the cassette liner labels this as a graduate class. Katz asks whether they are trained to read books and then ask questions about them. Katz asks if anyone thought what they read was serious, and they say they all took it seriously. He discusses exploring the potential of storytelling. Katz discusses the audience for different types of writing. A student asks whether art is becoming more of a visual medium, like “last night’s Readers Theater." A student asks if Katz found teaching at a parochial school (Notre Dame) restrictive. Katz says he has nothing to “break” the Catholic Church. Another asks how Katz “looked at the critical writing process,” Katz replies he “tries to teach as little as possible,” because he does not want to try to articulate his ideas in anything other than “the medium itself.” He thinks it is “one of the decadences of writing in general” to find so many writers studying at university. Katz is working on a book called “Journalism,” which is a reportage of voices he has heard during his lifetime. He asks if they read Cheyenne River Wild Track, but it was out of print, so no. He says he uses poetry for its “economy” and rhythm. McCaffery talks about Katz’s book “Creamy & Delicious,” which has poems at the end of each chapter and asks if Katz was just playing with words. Katz says those were “little Tinkertoys,” such as “defend your liver,” which he got from a sign in Milan. Another student asks what hold New York City has over its artists. Katz says, “that’s where the money has been,” adding “there is a kind of energy there” that makes it easy to work. Katz says he could live in any city but Los Angeles. He reads some short poems until the end of the tape., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Ann Beattie
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory meet with Ann Beattie in a restaurant in Los Angeles. The conversation begins with a description of the circumstances of the publication of McCaffery’s previous collection of interviews, Anything Can Happen. The interview itself begins with a discussion of Beattie’s background. It moves on to a discussion of Beattie’s first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter and its approach to the sixties. The theme of relationships where people struggle to communicate in Beattie’s work is examined. Beattie expounds upon her particular writing habits. Beattie’s second novel, Falling Into Place, is discussed in detail. They discuss the use of popular music in Beattie’s works. Beattie explains her difficulties with coming up with titles for her writing. The interview ends with a discussion of the film Shoot the Moon. An edited version of this interview appears on pages 46-65 of Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s, ed. Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory, University of Illinois Press, 1987., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Barry Hannah
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory interview Barry Hannah in their home in San Diego. They begin by asking Hannah how he reacts to being labelled a “Southern writer” which transitions into a discussion of violence and then sex. Hannah explains how he makes fictional use people he knows in his writing. Hannah discusses the way artists aren’t appreciated in their lifetime in the South. Hannah explains how his novel The Tennis Handsome evolved from a novel into separate short stories and then back into a novel. Hannah talks about drinking, both among his characters and in his own life. The last half-hour of the interview has the Bruce Springsteen album The Wild, The Innocence and the E Street Shuffle and then the Elvis Presley album The Sun Sessions playing in the background. Hannah discusses the “unlikability” of many of his characters. An edited version of this interview appears on pages 111 to 125 of Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s, ed. Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory, University of Illinois Press, 1987., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Bruce Sterling
Against loud music, McCaffery says this is an interview of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, but it is Sterling alone. Sinda Gregory also takes part. They discuss artificial intelligence, and Sterling brings up the work of Rudy Rucker and the idea of “postmodern science.” Sterling says of Gibson, “His brain works in mysterious fashion." Gibson’s “perceptions are very acute,” not like other science-fiction writers, who “are very interiorized.” They discuss Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. Sterling uses “pomo” for “postmodernism.” They talk about Difference Engine characters and the real Sam Houston. McCaffery asks about the character John Keats. They discuss the place of the book Sybil or the Two Nations, in their book. Sterling says Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are parodied in the book. Jim joins the interviewers. Sterling says the narrator is an extremely advanced artificial intelligence from 1991, getting closer to being able to see itself. “This book is about the conceptual roots of the information revolution” where the computer becomes self aware at the end of the book.” About the process, Sterling says, “I think it’s a very seriously computer constructed book." McCaffery talks about sampling and Sterling discusses détournement. The second tape begins with Sterling telling a story about Langston Hughes and Arthur Koestler. In the book, Sterling says what looks like chaos theory was “more of a metaphorical thing” than scientific. Sterling says he began his career doing historical fantasy. McCaffery says that the book has the “underworld, outsider perspective” of the cyberpunk genre. Sterling replies that “Angel of Goliad” was an earlier draft. “We started with Sybil,” he says. Sterling says there are those who can see “that this is some kind of experimentalist narrative,” and those who ask “Where’s the plot?” “Why was it set specifically in 1855?” McCaffery asks, and what about 1907? The dates, Sterling says, were to establish “the sense of historical scope” and ability to move back and forth in history. 30 years into a computer revolution is “where we are right now.”, San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Clarence Major
Larry McCaffery, Jerzy Kutnik and Sinda Gregory meet with Clarence Major at his home in Davis, California. Much of the discussion focuses on Major’s novel Such Was the Season, its movement towards a more realistic fiction in Major’s work and the real life events that helped spark the novel. The discussion includes the influence of a wide array of media on Major’s work including music and Major’s own work as a painter. The final part of the discussion focuses around Major’s place as an Afro-American writer and his place in the “Black Aesthetic Movement” in relation to other writers. The final eight minutes of the interview contain severe distortion. An edited version of this interview appears on pages 241-264 of Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors, ed. Larry McCaffery, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Cris Mazza
Larry McCaffery interviews Cris Mazza at his home in San Diego. Mazza, who was a graduate student of McCaffery’s at San Diego State, discusses in depth the majority of short stories that appear in her collections Animal Acts and Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?. Mazza discusses the stories in relation to current events, such as the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and the William Kennedy Smith rape trial. Mazza explains how she came to write many of the stories and how the process relates to her soon-to-be published novel and her several unpublished novels., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with David Antin
Larry McCaffery interviews David Antin in McCaffery’s house in San Diego with some questions from Marjorie Perloff and Jerzy Kutnik as well as the occasional presence of Rae Armantrout. McCaffery begins the interview by asking Antin about why he chooses to write poetry rather than write prose. Antin explains his theories on fiction and what fiction tries to do and why it doesn’t work with the type of writing that he does. Antin explains his recent interest in Freud, using Freud’s examinations of dreams as the source for narrative. Antin explains the process and concept of his “talk poems.” Just after the 2:30 mark, the interview moves to a car with a discussion of various contemporary writers. Antin discusses his artistic collaborations with his wife Eleanor. Antin gives a long explanation of his view on Ron Silliman’s essay on sentences and then expounds further on a variety of literary critics. An edited version of the interview appears on pages 36 to 58 of Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors, ed. Larry McCaffery, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996., San Diego State University, Digitized by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP) / California Revealed.
Interview with David Blair
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery interviews David Blair in San Francisco with Brooks Landon and Scott Bukatman also present. The interview begins with Blair describing how he came to make his film Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees, explaining specifically the influence of Thomas Pynchon as well as a variety of other ideas that influenced him. Blair describes how he came upon a book that peaked his interest in the work of Ahmed Zaki Abu Shadi and his work on bee-keeping. Bruce Sterling arrives part-way through the interview. A side conversation among the interviewers discusses the use of alternate history as a form of literary genre. Parts of the interview are at an increased speed, affecting the pitch of the voices. An edited version of the interview appeared as "Ms. Found on a Floppy Disc: Some Reflections of David Blair's Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees. A Sign-Processed Hypertextual Critical Narrative." Noboddies 1, 1 (1994): 7-27., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with David Foster Wallace
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery meets with David Foster Wallace. The interview is far ranging and covers Wallace’s published book The Broom of the System and the stories published in the collection Girl with Curious Hair. The interview continually returns to modern fiction, its place in literary history and in particular its use of irony which Wallace criticizes. Wallace struggles to place his own work in the framework of the post-modernists of the sixties and the current irony-laden writing of his own generation, most notably Mark Leyner. The first section of the interview is not preserved. The interview appears, in edited form, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Summer 1993 (13)2, p 127-150., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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