“A journal with its finger on the pulse …”
by Kevin Murphy
Novelist Christopher Boucher, the author of How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, published by Melville House in 2011, is also a full-time faculty member at Boston College and managing editor of the literary magazine Post Road.
I had the chance last month to hang out with Boucher following the Boston Book Festival. He’s a smart, friendly guy with a sharp mind and a taste for jazz.
How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive is a strange, beautiful book, like nothing I have read before. It’s full of tender, surprising moments between a father and his … Volkswagen. The writing itself is often darkly humorous, and takes some interesting risks that payoff impressively. The story is structured in how-to chapters such as “Tools and Spare Parts,” “Engine Stops or Won’t Start,” and “Flat Tire!”
Here, check out a sample.
Below is an excerpt from an interview with Boucher conducted by Jessica Ullian in The Review Review, a website that reviews literary journals. The interview focuses on Post Road — its history, editorial tastes, and Boucher’s role there as managing editor.
The magazine has been praised for being cutting-edge but not self-consciously edgy. To what extent is that true?
One of the things that drew me to Post Road — not as a member of the staff, but as a reader ten years ago — is the team of editors which Jaime Clark and the founders assembled. Each editor has their own aesthetic, and I think that gives the journal a healthy stylistic range. I do agree that the work in Post Road is cutting-edge, but in this context I take that to mean vetted, ambitious and engaging.
You have some personal experience with unconventional fiction — the Volkswagen of your novel is actually the driver’s child. When that’s the story in your own head, what excites or surprises you in the work you read?
I don’t make editorial decisions for Post Road, but I do a lot of reading during the production of the issue. And while I’m always interested in experimental or unconventional fiction, I think the journal should (and does) focus on work that is, in one way or another, fully realized and committed to its own vision. There’s a bravery involved with that endeavor, and it’s that same bravery which, in my mind, defines work as diverse as that of Gertrude Stein, Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov and Flannery O’Connor.
Let’s say you hand a fresh-from-the-printer issue of the magazine to a (smart, literary) friend. What do you want their reaction to be?
I’d like for them to look to Post Road as a journal with its finger on the pulse — as a publication which introduced them to vital and important art and literature that they might not have found otherwise.
You worked on your own novel for a decade before it was published. How do you think that affects your work as an editor? As a teacher?
I try to approach both of those pursuits with the idea that writing, in any discipline or context, is difficult work. Given this, I think it’s helpful to remember that there are generous, passionate readers out there. Thanks to Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians at Melville House, who took a risk on me and my work, I’m afforded the opportunity to meet my readers. I think every writer deserves this chance — they deserve to be reminded that their work is important.
But wait — don’t go yet! Let’s have a contest …
How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive kind of works like one big metaphor for relationships, right?
Send us your best automobile-human-relationship tweets @melvillehouse.
We’ll pick the best one at the end of the day and send the lucky winner a free signed copy of Boucher’s novel.
So come on, start up those engines and get tweeting.
Kevin Murphy is the digital media marketing manager of Melville House.