Episode 509 – Darryl Pinckney

Virtual Memories Show 509:
Darryl Pinckney

“It’s meant to be funny, but it makes me sad to remember it, because it’s a lost time.”

Literary & cultural critic Darryl Pinckney rejoins the show to celebrate his new memoir/memorial, Come Back In September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan (FSG). We get into Darryl’s friendship with (& apprenticeship to) Elizabeth Hardwick, and the relationships he built with Susan Sontag, Barbara Epstein, and the New York Review of Books in the ’70s & beyond. We also talk about recognizing a golden age when you’re in it, our current professionalization of culture and why it leads to meh art, the value of his literary/writing education from Hardwick (& others), the NYC New Wave scene he was a part of alongside Howard Brookner, Lucy Sante, Felice Rosser, and others, and why the one place he felt a sense of belonging was on the red sofa in Elizabeth Hardwick’s home. Plus, we talk about his massive project on the history of black literature in the 20th century, why there are so few examples of failure in black autobiographical tradition and why (and whether) he considers himself a failure, why someone once told him, ‘You’re very disciplined at beating yourself up,’ why we bonded over the same character in Middlemarch, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Come Back In September!

(And go listen to our 2020 conversation!)

“When you’re buffeted by your own time, sometimes stepping out and consulting a voice from the past helps you to know what to look for. And to put yourself in the stream of history. It gives you some humility.”

“I leave out a great deal. I have to, just to protect myself, this absolute fool.”

“No one was worse at dialogue than Susan Sontag.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Darryl Pinckney is the author of the novels Black Deutschland and High Cotton and the nonfiction works Busted in New York and Other Essays, Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy, and Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature. He has contributed to numerous other periodicals, including The Guardian, Harper’s, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, Slate, TLS, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. His several theatrical collaborations with director Robert Wilson have appeared internationally and at Brooklyn Academy of Music. His new book is Come Back In September.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Darryl’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Bookshelf photo of Darryl by me; tie-wearing photo by Dominique Nabokov. It’s on my instagram.

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