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Paul La Farge | Interview

The author talks about his new novel and its companion website.

By Jonathan Messinger

Paul La Farge might be the greatest American writer you haven’t read, but now there’s no excuse. His new novel, Luminous Airplanes (FSG, $25)—about a man who has to clean out his grandfather’s home after his death—comes with a corresponding website,, that allows you to sample the book for free and read new material that La Farge will continue to add indefinitely.

What’s going to be on the website?
I wanted to have a novel that tells one story, and this other immersive text—that’s what the publishers call it; I wanted to call it a “hypertext,” but apparently hypertext got a bad rap in the ’90s. The idea was to have a play between two forms. One is contained and bounded and linear; the other is exploded and boundless and not linear.

So there will be two different stories?
The book is mostly centered on one place, and it feels very much like it’s about the small world the narrator has lived in. The immersive text is about the experience of living in a big world and that the boundaries of what the narrator has been thinking are too narrow. He has to widen his thinking.

Your books have nontraditional narratives. Is that something you’re always looking to do?
As soon as I say I’m interested in doing something nontraditional, someone will come along and say, “Oh, no, actually there’s a tradition of doing this.” But I do like the experience of thinking up a form and trying to bring it into being.

Paul La Farge’s Luminous Airplanes • Sept 27


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