I’ve Got Questions for Julie Wittes Schlack

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

This All-at-Onceness by Julie Wittes Schlack
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

My nonfiction book (essentially, a memoir in essays) is called This All-at-Onceness: A Memoir of Hope and Satellites, and it was published by Pact Press (an imprint of Regal House) in June of 2019.

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

This All-at-Onceness is a personal journey through the political and cultural movements that have shaped every generation from the Baby Boomers to the Parkland kids. It examines the unlikely and twisting relationship between idealism and engineering that promised a future of progress and hope, but only occasionally delivered on it. From the civil rights and anti-war movements to the birth of Second Wave feminism, from the wintery ‘70s to the shiny rise of corporate culture in the ‘80s, from the democratic early days of the Web to today’s social surveillance state, this is a book about idealistic energy and how it travels through time.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

The book is part history, part memoir, written in the form of linked personal essays.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

Well, I was pretty pleased with this Kirkus Review: “Schlack recounts her ideological journey with humor and nuance throughout this sometimes-wry, sometimes-lyrical memoir. She riffs on what she sees as foibles of progressive dogma as well as absurdities of corporate culture … Schlack’s graceful prose balances clear-eyed reflection with luminous passages that celebrate past passions … A thoughtful, witty, and evocative recollection of a life and the convictions that energized it.” – Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

But I was also delighted by a review a reader unknown to me posted on Amazon: “…These musings simultaneously speak to the shared experiences of a generation — the Summer of Love, UFO sightings, marches against the Vietnam War, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, 9-11, the unspeakable rise of Trump, and all the music along the way. Also paradoxical is the blend of skepticism, sometimes veering into cynicism, tempered by a never completely exhausted wellspring of idealism, hope, and — yes — joy. Wittes Schlack is an unforgettable and irresistible unifying guide throughout; fiercely intelligent, engagingly vulnerable, disturbingly honest, disarmingly funny.”

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

Oh man, this is such a hard question. Stylistically, I’d like to think it emulates books like Eula Biss’s Having and Being Had, and Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections of my Non-Existence, but is funnier than either. In terms of content, Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs comes to mind. Maybe it’s a mash-up of one of those books with a pop-culture parody like Leigh Stein’s Self Care. Yeah, that’s it.

  • Why this book? Why now?

Now that Trump’s been banned from Twitter, the book feels less essential to me. But it arose from my day job as a market researcher and online community-builder, and what I learned from that work about the promise, joys, and perils of both pervasive digital targeting and perpetual connectedness are as relevant now as when I began this book ten years ago.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

It’s probably the semester or so that I spent working at an ice cream parlor when I was in college. There was nothing ethically ambiguous about it, and though I eventually got fired for making the ice cream cones too big, the pleasure my customers took from that sin was entirely worth it.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

In this time of such peril and such hope, I want readers to revisit the idealism of their youth and find what was right and durable in it.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Montreal bagels – the finest of bagels. As for music, wow, a lot: Aretha’s I Never Loved a Man the Way that I Love You, The Doors first album, the Isley Brothers’ Time, Simon and Garfunkle’s Sound of Silence, and though it shows up nowhere in the book, Rickie Lee Jones’ Horses.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

Heather Cox Richardson’s How the South Won the Civil War and Tana French’s The Searcher. And next in the queue, Maggie Doherty’s The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation and Sue Miller’s Monogamy.

Julie Wittes Schlack

Learn more about Julie at her website.

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Buy the book from the publisher, Bookshop, or Amazon.

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