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Notebook on Cities and Culture S2E21: Grittiness and Heart with Kevin Sampsell

Colin Marshall sits down in Portland’s Montavilla with Kevin Sampsell, publisher of Future Tense Books, editor of Portland Noir, and author of the memoir A Common Pornography and the novel This is Between Us, forthcoming from Tin House. They discuss the meth crime to be found beyond 82nd Avenue; Portland from the vantage point of his childhood in Washington’s Tri-Cities; how he met other writers by publishing his own “lo-fi chapbooks”; how one forges one’s own unique voice by maintaining their not-giving-a-crap nonchalance; his chronologically un-pinpointable founding of Future Tense and its surprise success with Zoe Trope’s Please Don’t Kill the Freshman; writing as a kind of martial art, which develops you even if you start out flabby, and which demands its own kind of meditation; how he became a (more) serious reader at Powell’s Books; his love of southern writers, and more generally those who combine grittiness and heart; how unimportant he finds sense of place in fiction, yet how much praise he won for “capturing the Tri-Cities” in A Common Pornography; his technique of mixing the mundane with the shocking and hoping for the best; moving from the “no style” and short chapters of his last book to the longer chapters and conversational style of his new one; and the attractions of the Portland writing life, including having space to live and being in a place where nonfiction writers and poets might actually associate.

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