"The Lost Interview" with Leonard Michaels (Paris Review, Spring 08)


In his Paris Review interview, Faulkner said, “If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.”


Would he say the same about little girls? He sounds like a moral midget having a tizzy.


Were you part of the antiwar movement in the Bay Area?


I was photographed, with hundreds of others, marching or standing around in the street, disapproving of the war. But the mood of the time seemed to become one of weird exhilaration—all wrong, inappropriate to the reality at hand. There were planes flying over Berkeley to Hamilton Air Force Base with the bodies of dead American kids inside. In the streets, college students were raving about love and flowers and drugs. When Cambodia was invaded, they liberated the toilets on campus and started calling professors by their first names. I knew a few students who went underground, at extreme personal sacrifice, but too much of what I saw was weird, self-indulgent exhilaration. Some of it, I suppose, was provoked by CIA drug peddlers.

I did wonder sometimes if the spirit of those years wasn’t in the blackly comic elements of my own writing. If so, I consoled myself with the idea that I had invented it.