In February 2019, Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You and Cleanness, came to Sewanee to deliver a lecture on the work of the 2019 Aiken Taylor Award Winner for Modern American Poetry, Carl Phillips. Greenwell’s lecture, “Cruising Devotion: On Carl Phillips” (published in the Winter 2020 issue of the Review), is an unflinching examination of gay male promiscuity, intimacy, and desire as written and reworked by Phillips over his entire oeuvre.
On the eve of the award ceremony, Greenwell sat down with editor Adam Ross to record this conversation, in which the two discuss how to be a writer in America today, Greenwell’s novel What Belongs to You, and the place of literature in contemporary American culture. The two also discuss the work of W. G. Sebald, Jenny Erpenbeck, and writers from the Latin American queer baroque: José Donoso, José Lezama Lima, and Pedro Lemebel. In this episode, Ross dubs Greenwell King of MFA Programs and invites him to issue several decrees. Among these edicts is a brilliant and refreshing argument about the generative effect of reading work in other languages: “Anytime you’re reading in a single language I think you’re drawing from a well that is necessarily much shallower than literature.”
To ensure that you don’t miss any more of our conversations, subscribe to the Sewanee Review podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. To read more of Greenwell’s work in the Sewanee Review, subscribe today, and gain immediate access to the magazine’s archive, including his short story “Decent People,” which appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of the Review.