Robert Birnbaum's interviews are wonderfully smart and entertaining. He manages to have an actual conversation with the writers, which is certainly refreshing. There's other good ones at the website with Chip Kidd, Dorothy Allison, Amy Bloom, Sarah Vowell and Donna Tartt, among others.
This, from the interview with Janette:
Robert Birnbaum: You have compared terrorism to the Plague?
JTH: It seems to me a very apt metaphor. As was the case with the Black Death, one cannot ultimately protect oneself from attack. No matter what precautions you take, extra airport security, extra visa requirements for people, not letting travelers leave transit lounges, ultimately there is not any way to protect yourself. A determined terrorist or suicide bomber will get around all those things. As with the plague, too, for different reasons. In medieval times people didn't know what caused the plague or how to protect themselves.
RB: There are people who are put off by contemporary American fiction, complaining that it is too writing school, writing for other writers.
JTH: Well, a lot of it is rather tedious and self-indulgent. But there is also some very exciting contemporary writing going on. I do always make my graduate students read non-American fiction. Because I do think the confines of current American fiction are really narrow. I have them read Kenzbro Oe, Alessandro Barricco, the Italian, and also French novelists. Just really to say, the novel is anything that novelists have made it. And this is something I reproach my graduate students with—students in France, even undergraduate students are far more familiar with contemporary American literature and with other European literatures than American students are with anything outside America. It's a consequence of being so huge as a culture and dominating publishing.