New York Magazine

Realism Is Overrated

Authors Marlon James and Victor LaValle on the changing face of fiction and the liberating power of fantasy.
Victor LaValle, left, and Marlon James.

BLACK LEOPARD, RED WOLF AND A PEOPLE’S FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES are in bookstores now.

THE OTHER DAY, Victor LaValle, a Queens-born author who employs the fairy-tale format to lure readers into serious treatments of race and parenting, ordered dim sum with Marlon James, a Jamaican author of sweeping social epics that delight in challenging all the conventions of narrative. Both have new books out: LaValle has co-edited the speculative anthology A People’s Future of the United States, in which 25 science-fiction and fantasy writers contemplate the future—and dark present—of the country, and James has published Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the highly anticipated follow-up to his Man Booker Prize winner, A Brief History of Seven Killings. The two writers, who first met ten years ago, shared their thoughts on modern literature’s fear of sex, what made them want to become writers in the first place, and why they left literary realism behind.

MARLON JAMES: So I read your review [of Black Leopard, Red Wolf in Bookforum].

VICTOR LAVALLE: What’d you think?

MJ: I gotta say, that’s maybe the first time anybody’s ever mentioned that I write about sex. I actually kinda screamed. I don’t mind people writing about the violence, but it tends to be all they write about.

VL: For a black writer writing about gangsters, violence is almost the go-to,

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from New York Magazine

New York Magazine3 min read
Comments
1 Vanessa Grigoriadis interviewed 60 friends and colleagues of the First Daughter to find out what the post-presidency will have in store for her and who, at the end of the day, she really is (“Ivanka Aeternum,” August 5–18). The cover, a nod to the
New York Magazine6 min readSociety
The Gentrification Myth
GENTRIFICATION, that once-wonky, now-common concept, is a term freighted with moral urgency, resentment, and guilt, because almost nobody in a high-cost city can avoid it. You’re either suffering its effects or inflicting them, often both at the same
New York Magazine2 min read
Call Every Man You Date “My Husband.” Trust Me, They Love It.
EXACTLY one year ago, a passionate Twitter debate burst forth over the term partner—can straight people use it to describe their significant others, or must they stay in their lane and stick to boyfriend and girlfriend? The discussion was short-lived