But that’s the fun stuff, right? The thing that broke my heart when I was doing the Harper’s archive is that the older issues, uh, when they bound them, they took out the covers and all the back matter ads. They had this very pure librarian, and she was like, “No one’s going to need those ads.”
RD: No one’s going to be stuck on a desert island with an empty filing cabinet.
PF: Yeah, right? So it’s a tragedy, because that’s actually more honest about the commercial history of the world. Things that aspire to literary quality focus on being weirdly timeless. They have their own language. They avoid slang. They avoid brand names.
RD: Another word for that is “sterile.”
PF: Well, it can be, or it’s a set of constraints. I wrote a novel. It was an ironic novel. It didn’t do well, and it wasn’t that good, regardless. One of the pieces of feedback I got online was that it used too many brand names, and people saw me as like, shilling.
But: the character was just very brand aware, and he was 22, and really engaged with what people were driving, and so on and so forth. I was making fun of him for that, but I also was making fun of it in myself.
It’s a weird time capsule. It’s about the transition of like Williamsburg into hipster culture, and it came out in 2005 and it was written in 2003.
RD: It’s a different kind of archive.
PF: It is, right? I would never recommend anyone go out and get that book, to have any sort of profound reading experience. But as part of the smear of culture of that moment, it totally makes sense. Because, you know, what are we trying to do? Who are we preserving all this for? It's partly for people who just want to read some of the stuff in the future, somebody getting their M.A. on Saunders, who just needs to get all the interviews together.