Author and professor Peter Trachtenberg checks in from the Catskills. We talk about his surprise at how well he’s dealing with This Whole Situation, the essay he’s working on about Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider, the realization that Americans are more afraid of going broke than contracting COVID-19, and how this pandemic echoes and differs from the 1918 flu and the AIDS crisis. We get into the book he’s working on about living and dying in New York’s Westbeth artists’ apartments, the value of art in society, his meditative practice of reading Levi’s Periodic Table in Italian, what it was like to preside over graduation-by-video at Pitt, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Another Insane Devotion and Peter’s other books!
You can listen to all these COVID Check-In episodes at The COVID-19 Sessions.
About our Guest
Peter Trachtenberg is the author of 7 Tattoos, The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning, and Another Insane Devotion, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. His essays, journalism, and short fiction have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, BOMB, TriQuarterly, O: The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times Travel Magazine, A Public Space, the L.A. Review of Books, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and StoryQuarterly. His commentaries have been broadcast on NPR’s All Things Considered. Trachtenberg is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and part of the core faculty at the Bennington Writers Seminars. His awards include Guggenheim and Whiting Fellowships and the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction. The Book of Calamities was given the 2009 Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Ralph Waldo Emerson Award “for scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.”
Credits: The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Peter by him. It’s on my instagram.