Saturday, January 10, 2015

Two New Interviews: Lewis Hyde and Stephen Harrod Buhner

Things have been quiet with me recently, but two interviews I did over the past few years were recently published.

An interview with Lewis Hyde was published in the online section of The Believer. A few years ago, I biked over to his place in Cambridge to talk, and he was immensely friendly and generous. His books are mysterious little presences in our culture, because they're not the sort of thing that anyone is supposed to be able to write any more, nor is there supposed to be an audience for them. But—there they are. Everything he has written is worth reading, but The Gift and Trickster Makes This World are particularly wonderful.

The second interview is with Stephen Harrod Buhner, which came out in the December issue of The Sun, which I have been trying to crack for a good decade. You can read a portion of the interview online. Stephen gets particular thanks for putting up with like eight rounds of follow ups.

As far as I can tell, the unsolicited arrival of Ensouling Language in the mail many years ago was the moment when I turned onto the road I've been walking ever since. Farther and farther away from the mainstream of our culture, it turns out, but I get faint smells on the breeze occasionally (water? trees?) that tell me I'm heading in the right direction.

Looking at the review I wrote of his work in 2010 makes me a little embarrassed now. I was clinging to all sorts of old opinions, because I thought abandoning them would take me too far beyond what was considered serious and respectable. Well, little by little, the increasingly useless tokens of respectability fall away, and Stephen's work is still there, one of the real guides to the way ahead. I hope both interviews are good introductions to these writers, and make you curious to read more if you haven't dipped into their work already. Thanks,



Anonymous said...

Hey this is really interesting! Have you done many interviews and do you have a focus group, in terms of the type of person you would usually interview?

Akshay Ahuja said...

Well, I do know which magazines and publishers are on my basic wavelength, and share my sense of the sort of ideas that need to go out into the world. I suppose that's a kind of loose focus group. Certain websites --, for example -- have also been a good place to find people doing the kind of work I like to share with others.

Abe Uno said...

Hi, I read your review of Balzac from 2006 and was amazed. Have you amended your position in the nine years since? In 2006 you called Balzac a "second-rate author", truly a frightening proposition for any other writer if Balzac is considered "second rate" in this, or any, universe. Fortunately you're in the minutest minority; Maugham, amongst several others, has called Balzac the greatest novelist of all time, certainly the greatest of all French novelists.

Akshay Ahuja said...

Dear Abe,

You have stumbled upon a review from my hoity-toity phase. I have certainly amended my position, but what has changed is less my connection to Balzac than my silly obsession with ranking things. I did recently try my hand at Lost Illusions (the Kathleen Raine translation), and petered out after a few chapters.

For whatever reason, Balzac isn't one of the authors who really connects with me. Maybe it's the relentless analysis, the obsession with period detail, and what strikes me as some missing element of soul -- he just isn't what I need at the moment. If he is giving you what you need, then by all means let's call him first rate. And I will try Lost Illusions again -- I'm just waiting for the mood to strike,