Interviews: Conor, Baumbach, Bailey

At work editing a recent interview I did with writer William Gass, I’m in an interview state of mind. Here are several worthwhile other ones I’ve come across in recent weeks:

– Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst at I’m digging his new “Wide Awake” record. It’s interesting to hear him talk of his own cd-listening, particularly of Bjork.

– “The Squid and the Whale” writer / director Noah Baumbach at The man behind cult gem “Kicking and Screaming” talks about autobiographical filmmaking and parental divorce. Though it’s not brought up here, “K&S” had several great lines on the latter topic.

– Richard Yates biographer Blake Bailey at I read Bailey’s book, “A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates,” last year. Yates, a heavyweight drinker, lived so miserably and often so bitterly that one of the first reactions I had to the book was gratitude that my generation puts less stock in the five-packs-a-day / bottle-a-night writer as raw martyr-hero. The book was well done, and this interview is very long and interesting. Bailey says he’s found his calling as a biographer. His next book is on John Cheever, a writer with his own severe problems with the booze. You can open “The Journals of John Cheever” almost at random and find a devastating quote. On 290: “The gin bottle, the gin bottle. This is painful to record. The gin bottle is empty. I go to the post office and stay away from the gin shop. ‘If you drink you’ll kill yourself,’ says my son. His eyes are filled with tears.” On 234: “Now Thursday morning. Twenty minutes to eleven. I am in the throes of a grueling booze fight….There is really nothing to do but sit here and sweat it out. I can write myself a letter. Dear Myself, I am having a terrible time with the booze. Ride it out.” Bailey should not be wanting for material.