BLVR: The other day someone told me that our current president said he was a big fan of Thoreau—specifically, that he loved On Walden Pond. This probably wasn’t intentional humor, unfortunately, but I thought of your character Zoë in “You’re Ugly, Too.” She’s writing about humor and the American presidency. How would you describe the relationship of fiction writing and politics, and where does your own work weigh in?
LM: I hadn’t heard that On Walden Pond remark. This is funny—but funny and sad, no? One laughs but then sighs. As for the relationship of my writing to politics—in the broadest sense, of course, everything is political, and I am interested in power and powerlessness as it relates to people in various ways. I’m also interested in the way that the workings of governments and elected officials intrude upon the lives and minds of people who feel generally safe from the immediate effects of such workings. All the political things we discuss with our friends are things my characters consider, too. Or almost all. Of course, in short fiction, things are put forward in abbreviated ways.
BLVR: Intrude upon?
LM: Or insinuate or enter or otherwise come to call, visit, make themselves known in quiet or not quiet ways.
BLVR: And these intrusions have more power the safer people feel?
LM: Oh, no, I’m not suggesting that. I’m just trying to register the way we, here in America, live. Everyone’s life is deforming, to some extent, but some more than others. In this country there is a great range in the way people live, and this has to be acknowledged and felt by all of us, no matter how lucky and safe we may feel—and in fact are—at any given time.
That final sentence reminds me of Laila Lalami's essay; both stress the importance of honoring how all our fellow Americans--and fellow human beings around the globe--(not just the pretty, rich, ones) live, in our work.