Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dialogue between Karl Iagnemma and Brian Knep

One is a fiction writer and a scientist at MIT; the other is an artist and a researcher at Harvard. The concept of a conversation between these two is particular attractive to me. I don't know Brian, however I have (sort of) known Karl since I first went to his reading at Newtonville Books in 2001. Karl's stories are often complex, and he has a unique way with language. He is one of the contemporary writers whose writing I truly admire – see my review for his debut story collection, "On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction." I look forward to reading his new novel The Expeditions.

Karl is not only talented but also a very kind person. I remember when I first started writing in English after 9/11, I was clueless about story submission and publication, being trained as an engineer. I wrote Karl out of blue and asked many newbie questions, including how his first story was published. He replied to this stranger right away, in a very helpful long email.

One question I asked him was, "Which one do you like more, doing your lab research? or writing a story?" And he said, "Boy, the research/writing question is difficult. I suppose I like writing more, because it's it's just more _fun._ But research is satisfying in a very different way. . .it's a good feeling to solve a problem, and of course I've always been interested in science and technology, since I was a boy. . .which is probably why the characters in my stories are often scientists or engineers! But it's hard to compare the two, since they're very different things." It is hard to achieve excellence in either field alone, and he has succeeded in both.

MCC's idea for having dialogue between artists of different disciplines is a good one, and as the first installment, this one was interesting to read. However, there seems little interaction between the two. It is hard for a discussion to reach certain depth without an interactive discourse. #

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