Ben Greenman on Keeping It Real


New Yorker editor Ben Greenman recently published a new novel, Please Step Back—just before it came out, he spoke with my friend Melissa Kirsch about the ways in which the Web has altered journalism—alas, often for the worse.

Melissa continues:

“It’s harder to build a body of work slowly, over time…without a million little snap judgments all along the way. While in the past those snap judgments would evaporate, now they’re preserved in digital amber,” notes Greenman. He says we should stop fretting over “print/electronic opposition” and focus on the more crucial issues of authority, frequency and identity, which persist in every medium.

Greenman approached the writing of his novel with a journalist’s M.O., researching the bejesus out of the book’s subject, funk music. But regardless of genre, his intention is the same: “If I’m writing a ‘Shouts and Murmurs’ for the New Yorker, a current-events musical for its website, a literary short story or a book, I’m always thinking about the same themes: creative parentage, emotional fidelity, how people connect and disconnect, the uses of delusion, and the importance of making the world superficially comic to hold off the things about it that are profoundly tragic.”

14 May 2009 | interviews |