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An Interview with Franco Moretti: The Uncut Version
INTERVIEWER: Such a pleasure to have you on our show today, Dr. Moretti.
FRANCO MORETTI: Grazie. I'm always happy to spread the word about my work and help people save all the time they're wasting reading novel after novel after novel. Ha ha.
INTERVIEWER: Hmm. Okay. Well. Let's start small and go wide. What is your favorite novel?
FRANCO MORETTI: No, no, amico mio. I do not have a favorite novel, and even if I did, I would not admit it. I am about the collective, the masses, pools of information. I am not about little drops in the sea. Such things do not interest me. No, no.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, so we shouldn't be wasting our time reading Wuthering Heights https://www.shmoop.com/wuthering-heights/ or Bleak House https://www.shmoop.com/bleak-house/?
FRANCO MORETTI: Take the image of you curled up with Tom Jones and erase it from your hard drive. Replace it with a vision of you chucking books into a computer somewhat like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In my effort to steer people away from the same old same old, I especially like to include such overlooked masterpieces as Running from the Debtor: A Life of Owing as Told from Reading Gaol and Are You My Mother? The Best Nineteenth-Century Orphan Novel Ever Told.
INTERVIEWER: I understand that you are trying to marry science and the study of literature. You really take this whole interdisciplinary stuff seriously.
FRANCO MORETTI: Yes, yes. This thing that you say is very true. I like to think of my mind as a Cuisinart mixing the disciplines like so many ingredients. Who can tell us that trigonometry and the lyric poem have nothing in common? Or sine-cosine and sonnets? Or architecture and the Bildungsroman? I just like to mix it up. You know—keep it real.
INTERVIEWER: Impressive. Different. Okay, well, let's shift gears, because I'd like to play the devil's advocate. Don't we read a book to read about the world and people and culture and cool stuff like that?
FRANCO MORETTI: "Cool stuff"? Gee. You've really bought into the lie. I'm not going to call you a sucker, but my Mac laptop might.
INTERVIEWER: Funny. I don't feel like a sucker. What gives?
FRANCO MORETTI: When you read a book, you read what the author wants you to know. You have to read between the lines. It's all about form, baby. How the story is told is what matters, not what is being told in the story.
INTERVIEWER: I must have missed that seminar in graduate school.
FRANCO MORETTI: That's because you were studying with those close readers. They're a devious bunch: they feed you propaganda about novels. Don't believe the hype.
INTERVIEWER: If you don't mind my asking—what is "the hype" that I should not believe, and the propaganda to which I should be impervious?
FRANCO MORETTI: I'll make it brief. But heed my words: most books that are taught do not change the way we think about the world—they confirm it. We read the stories that validate our beliefs. Please do not get me started on theorists. These are not my people.
I can close by saying that if you must do a close reading, there are only two books I can recommend: One Hundred years of Solitude and Midnight's Children. The rest you must toss into the HAL 9000 and go watch a movie—preferably Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, a masterpiece of Marxist peasant anger set in the bucolic Tuscan countryside. Bellissima!