Frederic Tuten

AN INTERVIEW WITH FREDERIC TUTEN

Since dropping out of high school at the age of sixteen with dreams of becoming a painter, Frederic Tuten has lived in Paris; traveled through Mexico and South America; earned a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century American literature; acted in a short film by Alain Resnais; conducted summer writing workshops in Tangiers with Paul Bowles; and written fictions and essays for the artist’s catalogues of Eric Fischl, David Salle, John Baldessari, Jeff Koons, and Roy Lichtenstein. He has also written some of the slyest and most beguiling fiction ever to be described as experimental. His five novels include The Adventures of Mao on the Long March (1971), Tallien: A Brief Romance (1988), Tintin in the New World: A Romance (1993), Van Gogh’s Bad Café (1997), and The Green Hour (2002). Recently Bookforum contacted him to ask about his latest book, Self Portraits: Fictions (Norton), a collection of mysterious, funny, sexy, and ineffably melancholy short stories.—Peter Trachtenberg

BOOKFORUM: Your new book has a recurring narrator named Louie who’s in love with a woman named Marie. Do you think of these as separate stories or as episodes in the unfolding story of a single character or set of characters?

FREDERIC TUTEN: The stories seem to revolve around a single love story that recurs eternally; the two lovers appear in different guises, in different places, at different times, before and after death even, and sometimes as different people. It’s perhaps more accurate to describe the book as having principal souls than principal characters, as they are not literally the same persons in each. My characters are transformations of the people I’ve known in my own life—that’s why each story is separately dedicated—and in each story there are traces of these people, including and especially me, in fact and in fantasy. That’s why I began the book with an essay about storytelling and going to the movies with my grandmother. In a sense, all my novels are self-portraits. I am now engaged in an ongoing memoir project and think of this book of interrelated stories as part one in my autobiography.

Zadie Smith

We know where we'll be tonight: At the FSG Reading Series, the semi-regular literary event held upstairs at the Russian Samovar. You know the drill: The Samovar will start serving vodka around 6:30. David Bezmozgis and Rahul Bhattacharya will start reading their work at 7. 

Zadie Smith takes over the "New Books" column at Harper's.

The Paris Review has just launched its redesigned website, which looks as elegant as their new print issue. You'll want to free up the next several days to peruse their interview archives spanning the 1950s to the present, listen to audio clips, and subscribe to their blog, including an intriguing post by Lydia Davis on translations of Madame Bovary.

Barnes and Noble chairman Leonard Riggio was dealt a setback in his fight with investor Ron Burkle for the company's future, as the influential advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services has backed Burkle's slate of candidates for the Barnes and Noble Board of Directors. According to the Times, Burkle says he is not seeking control of Barnes and Noble, just a more independent Board, or as he put it: “I want someone in there who doesn’t say, ‘That’s the most amazing thing I ever heard’ every time Len opens his mouth.” Riggio, who bought the company nearly forty years ago, told the Times that the battle was more than just business: “Lots of people have an emotional stake in books . . . It’s not like what they have with their haberdashers.”

Lee Rourke, author of the Not the Booker Prize-nominated novel The Canalchats with Tom McCarthy, author of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel C.

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