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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Q & A with Raymond Federman, Undergraduate Class
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. Raymond Federman takes questions from a class at San Diego State University. He explains the process involved in writing his novel The Voice in the Closet. He discusses how all of life is fiction and the seeking out the answer to the question of why we are here. Federman explains his goal is to make people read the language and that he is less interested in story. Federman talks about his use of language and humor in The Voice in the Closet and then reads a passage from the book. Some of the questions and answers appear in edited form on pages 127 to 151 of Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists, ed. Tom LeClair and Larry McCaffery, University of Illinois Press, 1983., 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.
Q & A with Susan Sontag
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. Susan Sontag takes question from an audience. She begins with a description of how she views her work and its place in the current literary world. She explains that she is more influenced by European writes than American writers. She has bounced between fiction and essays until “the essay monster took over my life” and she did that for a long time until she finally gave it up so she could write other things. She explains that she strives for Nietzsche’s “aesthetic justification of existence”. In response to a question, Sontag explains the difference between her essays and her fiction and the writing style inherent in each form. She talks about she enjoys writing about artists and what they do. She explains what she sees as the importance of writing essays as opposed to writing fiction. In a brief discussion of the current state of major writers she expresses strong admiration for the writing of John Updike but notably dislikes Thomas Pynchon. She discusses the value of creative writing programs at universities. In reaction to a comparison to Tom Wolfe, she notes her disdain for Wolfe personally, his writing and the comparison itself. The final part of the discussion concerns her well-known essay “Notes on ‘Camp’”. A section of the middle of the Q & A session is absent due to recording issues., 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.
Q & A with Suzette Elgin
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. Suzette Elgin answers questions from a class. Larry McCaffery begins the questions by asking Elgin why she became a science fiction writer. Elgin discusses her writing habits including the choosing of titles. The audio has bleed-through from the original 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.
Q & A with William Eastlake, Graduate Class
After a brief introduction by Larry McCaffery and a few questions from McCaffery, William Eastlake takes questions from a graduate class. Eastlake begins by talking about writing as a discipline. He then discusses the morality that arises from what people choose to read and write. Eastlake talks about the role of the university for writers. Eastlake discusses his admiration for Louis-Ferdinand Celine in regards to Celine’s anti-semitism. Eastlake discusses the realism of language in his novel Castle Keep. Eastlake discourses on the state of current American writers., After a brief introduction by Larry McCaffery and a few questions from McCaffery, William Eastlake takes questions from a graduate class. Eastlake begins by talking about writing as a discipline. He then discusses the morality that arises from what people choose to read and write. Eastlake talks about the role of the university for writers. Eastlake discusses his admiration for Louis-Ferdinand Celine in regards to Celine’s anti-semitism. Eastlake discusses the realism of language in his novel Castle Keep. Eastlake discourses on the state of current American writers., 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.
Q & A with William Eastlake, Undergraduate Class
After a brief introduction by Larry McCaffery, William Eastlake takes questions from an undergraduate class in separate sessions. He begins with a description of the concept of revolution. Eastlake answers questions about the depiction of Native Americans in his works. Eastlake responds to questions on such disparate subjects as politics, religion and current events. Eastlake responds to a long, complex question regarding his opinion on the moon landing. In the second session, Eastlake begins by addressing the way he writes female characters. Eastlake again discusses his use of Native American characters. Eastlake concludes by discussing his time as a correspondent during the Vietnam War., After a brief introduction by Larry McCaffery, William Eastlake takes questions from an undergraduate class in separate sessions. He begins with a description of the concept of revolution. Eastlake answers questions about the depiction of Native Americans in his works. Eastlake responds to questions on such disparate subjects as politics, religion and current events. Eastlake responds to a long, complex question regarding his opinion on the moon landing. In the second session, Eastlake begins by addressing the way he writes female characters. Eastlake again discusses his use of Native American characters. Eastlake concludes by discussing his time as a correspondent during the Vietnam War., 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.
Radio Interview with Laurie Anderson
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. Laurie Anderson is interviewed in the radio show Backstage Pass. Anderson discusses her work as a multimedia artist, visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronic vocalist and instrumentalist. Between recordings of hers that are played on the show, Anderson talks about her move to New York and her studies in medicine. Anderson explains how she came to be more interested in drawing than science and moved into art history. She was fired from her position for “too creative teaching” and became a disc jockey. Anderson discusses her 1981 recording “O Superman”. Anderson mentions the flexibility necessary to do her varied work. She discusses both William S. Burroughs (calling him the “Mark Twain of the 20th Century”) and her collaboration with Peter Gabriel on her album Mister Heartbreak., 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.
Radio Interview with Raymond Federman and Larry McCaffery
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. Tom Fudge, on the KPBS radio show These Days, interviews Larry McCaffery and Raymond Federman about "the novel" and whether it is dying. The interview begins with a discussion of Mark Danielewski’s recently published novel House of Leaves and how it is placed in the history of the novel. The history of the novel and its place in 19th century culture is briefly discussed. The interview moves to Federman’s novel Double or Nothing. The three discuss the idea of the hypertext novel. After Federman reads a brief bit from his novel Take It or Leave It (the precise page can not be listed as the novel has no page numbers) the interview concludes with a discussion of the future of books on the internet and what possibilities this entails. During the course of the interview Fudge answers two callers., 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.
Reading and Q & A with Jerome Klinkowitz
Jerome Klinkowitz lectures at San Diego State University as part of the Living Authors Series. He begins with a discussion of a discursive shift after World War II in which realistic fiction no longer represented an increasingly unrealistic world. To make a point about the new use of story-telling in the current era, Klinkowitz has his son read from the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of This Book. Klinkowitz discusses and gives a reading from Clarence Major’s then forthcoming book Emergency Exit and from Michael Stephens’ incomplete and never published Five James Stephens. Portions of Klinkowitz’s lecture would appear in edited form as Notes on a Novel-In-Progress: Clarence Major’s Emergency Exit, Black American Literature Forum, Vol 13. No. 2, Summer 1979, p 46-50., 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.
Reading by 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. After a brief introduction from Larry McCaffery, Barry Hannah reads pages 38 to 51 from his novel The Tennis Handsome. This section had previously been published in slightly altered form in Esquire and Hannah’s short story collection Airshops as “Midnight and I’m Not Famous Yet”., 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.
Reading by Jerry Bumpus
The tape begins with McCaffery announcing the next event. He then introduces Bumpus and says the story to be read has not been published yet. Bumpus reads "The Outdoorsman," a short story published in The Partisan Review, Volume 44, Number 3, in the summer of 1977. The story was later published in an anthology called Heroes and Villains in 1986. The volume is low and the reading hard to hear due to noise from the tape recorder. After the story, there is applause. McCaffery invites questions, and one is about who his influences were. Bumpus answers that none helped with this story. A question about angels elicits an answer from Bumpus in which he talks about reading Jung that influenced another story. He is not sure why the Partisan Review took this story. After more applause, the group breaks up., 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.
Reading by Max Apple
Apple reads an essay, “My Love Affair with English,” from the New York Times of March 22, 1981. He says he will answer any questions about the world, but “no homework.” Next he reads the story “Eskimo Love,” published in Esquire Magazine of April 1, 1984. Someone asks whether “Oscar,” the protagonist of “Eskimo Love,” is based on anyone. Apple begins to answer before side one ends at around 47 minutes. Questioners are not identified. About the reading, “It’s always astonishing to hear it out loud.” In his essay he says he tried to tell the truth, but in fiction his “touchstone always was the rhythm.” There is an advantage in knowing more than one language because “you learn to lie in two languages.” He teaches at Rice University but says that it is not related to Texas, and he would live the same way no matter where he was. Writers pre-select themselves, but writing can be taught “because you can help them to hear themselves.” “It’s not like training for any other work. It’s like training for the Olympics when there are no games, … so you have to like the training.” He did not publish until he was 30-something and did not think early about being a professional writer. Asked if he “labors” at writing, he says, “I labor very much.” He would “love to sell millions of copies” and would write a best-seller “if I could.” He makes “half a living” from his writing, “but I do not mind teaching.” There is no “great conspiracy against quality,” but only good business for the publishers and big bookstores. Saying, “I think we need designer books,” Apple comments, “We’re really living in a time when there are so many good prose writers in our language,” adding, “look around.” McCaffery shuts off the recorder while beginning to talk.This material may have been edited for Alive and Writing:Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s., 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.
Reading by Raymond Federman, 1980
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. After a brief introduction from Larry McCaffery and a longer introduction by himself, Raymond Federman reads from his (then forthcoming) novel The Twofold Vibration. Federman reads from pages 1-8 and 10-27. There are alterations between the text, as read by Federman and as eventually published, including the alteration of Jane Fonda as a character in the reading to “June Fanon”. Federman then takes questions from the audience. He explains that the novel is stylistically influenced by The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He discusses his style of writing and his preference for language over story., 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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