Lydia Millet and the Devastating Loss of the Divine

My interview with Lydia Millet just went up on Identity Theory. She talks about the ways our society treats the profane as the sacred and vice versa, and why she revels in being a dry-nosed primate.

Her story collection Love in Infant Monkeys is just out from Soft Skull.

Millet told me that ambitious macrosocial writing isn’t being published as boldly as it should be. More on Millet’s definition of “macrosocial” here – discussing Lynne Tillman, Millet has written that in most contemporary fiction “the self is understood as a social being for whom the greatest meaning, and the truest answers to life’s questions, resides in dynamics with family, friends, and sexual partners. That the best fiction articulates not just a view of this microsocial self but also a view of the macrosocial self, the self in relation to the larger mysteries of the world, is often either forgotten or actively repudiated.”

Millet also works for the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson. In an interview for The Rumpus, Millet told Olivier Lamm, “My writing and my day job come from the same place: a love of the beasts and growths and forms of this stunning and irreplaceable world, a belief that humans are, in fact, not the sun around which the other planets revolve but mere planets themselves, which rotate ceaselessly around a flaming core of being they can’t understand.”

I’ve heard that, tired of being referred to as a “nature writer,” Gary Nabhan retorted that there are two types of writing — writing, and urban dysfunctional writing. Lydia Millet’s project lately has been to fuse both types of writing into a meaningful whole. Reading her, after reading lots of urban dysfunctional writing, is like getting out of the city long enough to remember what real air is supposed to feel like.

Here’s an animated version by Luca DiPierro of the first sentence of Lydia Millet’s story “Sir Henry,” brought to you by Electric Literature.
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