Faculty member Charlie Baxter posed five questions to faculty member Dean Bakopoulos about his latest novel, Summerlong, in an interview featured at Fiction Writers Review:
Charles Baxter: The novel is set during a period of heat and sleeplessness. Did you think of the seasonal conditions as a realistic background to your story, or as metaphoric and emblematic, pointing us toward the restlessness of early middle age (for example)?
Dean Bakopoulos: Well, here in the Midwest, as you know, the various extremes of the weather–deep winter and high summer–can sometimes feel oppressive, particularly if you’re already in a low mood. I’m interested in the way climate change is increasing our already anxious, unsettled culture. But more specifically, I think extreme weather amplifies the pressures at hand in this novel, and occasionally alleviates them by giving people a kind of permission to get into trouble, and I think that’s rather realistic. If you’re already feeling claustrophobic, restless, aroused, or filling up with self-pity, a heat wave or a hard freeze is going to feel like one more thing that’s gone out of control for you. Break up novels (or break up albums in music) are about the loss of control. Bon Iver’s beautiful “For Emma, Forever Ago,” for instance, seems like it could only have been produced during a great Wisconsin winter; Dylan’s song “If You See Her, Say Hello,” from “Blood on the Tracks,” which destroys me every time I hear it, feels very much like a summer song, from the moment the city of Tangier is evoked.
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