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     Volume 7 Issue 36 | September 5, 2008 |

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Making Histories

David Haglund

David Haglund, Managing Editor of PEN America: A Journal for Writers and Readers talks about his life as an editor

Ahmede Hussain

What are the ideas behind your journal?
PEN America attempts to embody in print form the ideas that animate PEN American Center (www.pen.org), an organisation of writers committed to defending free expression and fostering literary fellowship. Among those ideas is the notion that great literature speaks across cultural and political borders, so PEN America is very much a literary magazine, full of fiction and poetry (much of it in translation), along with conversations between writers and talks or essays often devoted to important writers of the past and present.

While making an editorial decision what do you look for in a write-up?
The only rule I can think of is that we must like it. Beyond that, I suppose both the editor, M Mark, and myself have a taste for writing that has a certain playfulness. We also try to bring into each issue a variety of tones and styles, etc.

How important do you think it is for a writer to know her audience/reader?
I imagine there are great writers out there who don't think about their audience at all, but if I was to teach writing I wouldn't recommend that approach.

Do you think every novelist writes history, both at a personal and a social level?
Not necessarily. Our last issue (#8) was devoted to all kinds of historical writing-- personal and social, fictional and non-fictional and poetic. I was struck by the tremendous varieties of historical writing, and the number of writers pushing all kinds of boundaries connected with that sort of project. But I can think of poems by Wallace

Stevens, for example, which don't strike me as either personal or social history.

Do you think the world has become a dangerous place in which to live?
I think the world has always been a fairly dangerous place.


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