BE: In the vein of your bullwhip musings, let’s talk about utility—to what degree do you consider personal/nonfiction writing as utility vs. art?
BH: Well, I guess it depends on the piece of writing in question. There are other writers whose personal nonfiction writing is much more overtly “useful” with respect to some kind of moral thesis or social fixeroo, but for my own personal nonfictional work, I am committed to being almost completely useless. The essays tend to be more artifacts of me thinking out loud in language, rather than me making an argument. In fact, I have a strange late-30s feeling that as I grow older I am slowly growing less interested in making arguments, or reading them, or (at the least) taking them seriously. We are awash in disguised “how to” manuals. And so, instead, I am trying to make a virtue of being relentlessly confused, which is not an idea I came up with on my own. The essays by other writers that pull me along are wonderful little odes to doubt. But, I hasten to add, there is pleasure in uselessness.