In this episode, editor Adam Ross sits down with Jay Parini, the author of twenty-eight books, to discuss Parini’s novelistic memoir, Borges and Me: An Encounter, which was published in 2020. Parini recalls the stories that form the basis of the book, and how written and verbal storytelling differ: “I’m a storyteller,” he says, “and I tell the same stories over and over and over again. And it’s very hard to make them live on the page the way they live in my conversation.” Parini explores, too, the genre of autofiction, pinpointing where his writing shifts into and away from his lived experiences, as well as the role memory occupies in this approach to craft.
The figure of Borges looms large over this conversation. Parini fondly describes their time together and the lasting impact of Borges’s mentorship. Parini and Ross investigate the ways in which Borges and Me pays homage to the author and his philosophy, as well as the Borgesian symbols and images Parini incorporates into his own work.
In addition to fiction, Parini writes poetry, criticism, biography, and nonfiction. His books include The Art of Subtraction, Benjamin’s Crossing, and The Way of Jesus. At the time this podcast was recorded, Parini was being awarded an honorary degree from the University of the South. Parini currently lives in Vermont and is a professor at Middlebury College.
The Sewanee Review Podcast is recorded in the Ralston Listening Room at the University of the South. This episode is produced by Hayden Dunbar and edited by ProPodcast Solutions with music by Annie Bowers. Don’t miss any of our conversations with some of today’s best writers. Subscribe to the Sewanee Review Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.