An Interview with Ladette RandolphBy Terese Svoboda
October 01, 2011
Terese Svoboda’s newest novel, Bohemian Girl, inspired by Willa Cather’s My Antonia, is the latest in a series entitled “Flyover Fiction,” from University of Nebraska Press. The concept is fiction set on the Great Plain: affectionately known as America’s Heartland, or dismissively referred to as a flyover region between the more “important,” interesting and sophisticated coasts. But if this ironic series name leads readers to expect a Midwest that’s folksy or sentimental from Svoboda, they’ll have another thing coming—her fans already know that fiction doesn’t get much more innovative, whip-smart or cosmopolitan in spirit. Like Ladette Randolph, editor of the venerable Ploughshares literary journal as well as an esteemed author of fiction oft-compared to Flannery O’Connor’s, Svoboda is also an ardent—if unconventional—feminist, and makes no bones about it in her work. When it comes to buzzwords that marketers usually don’t want to hear, “what’s worse, flyover or feminist?,” or so jokes Svoboda’s powerhouse publicist, Lauren Cerand. Here, these two fearless women writers, who happen to have set books in the Midwest, discuss their unconventional careers, grappling with their shadows, and whether there is such a thing as “Midwestern literature.” Is a novel different if it doesn’t take place on a coast—or wasn’t written by a man? If so, and the novel also happens to be by Svoboda or Randolph, it’s sure to be worth much more than a flyover . . .
Gina Frangello, TNB Fiction editor