Meet our Fall 2018 interns: Juliette Luini ‘18.5 (left) from Los Angeles, CA, and Kylie Winger ’18 (right) from Medford, OR / Elgin, IL. Below is a transcription of a conversation they shared before their final day together at NER as they celebrated (and mourned) their last week together as interns.
J: We are in my apartment above Leatherworks eating sweet potato tacos.
K: Yes, can confirm. They are very good. Thank you for feeding me.
J: And it’s a sunny winter day in Vermont in December with blue skies, which is rare, because it’s been really overcast.
K: Chilly, but beautiful.
J: I just went cross country skiing. What did you do this morning?
K: I started working on an essay and then…hold on, I’m chewing…and since then I’ve been studying for my oral exam that’s part of my senior work, so like rereading a bunch of Greek tragedies and some Latin texts and the Book of Job.
J: Do the tragedies affect you emotionally in any way? Or do you feel detached enough?
K: I think Oedipus’ problems are unique, there’s little bit of distance there, yeah. If anything it’s been a really enjoyable morning because I’ve been reading these texts separately over the semester and now I get to link them together, which feels pretty fulfilling.
J: So I don’t think I ever asked you, but how did you hear about NER and how did you decide to apply?
K: I don’t remember where I first heard about NER. It might have been from the NER Out Loud event series on campus. Another way I heard about it was my advisor, Stephen Donadio, who was the editor for a long time before Carolyn. So he definitely told me about the internship. But I didn’t realize how big of a deal NER was until I was doing the summer writing program at the University of Iowa.
J: Yaaas, which is so impressive!
K: Around Middlebury it can be hard to tell what is big in this bubble and what is big in the world generally. But NER came up there, and I was like, “Oh, this magazine is important.” And how did you hear about it?
J: I always have known about the New England Review from being in the English Department, I think. And also because it’s my last semester here, I was seeking out more of an engaged, dynamic, creative semester, rather than a semester where I’m just sitting in a classroom. Since I was only taking like one other class, I reeeeally wanted the internship. I was like, “I only have to be on campus twice a week, I will commit so many hours to you. Please choose me.” And the podcast! In the interview, when Carolyn mentioned a podcast I was like: okay, this is something I really want to do and I want to be a part of the development of it.
K: I think it’s interesting that neither of us are just straight-up English majors.
J: And we both have a language. You’re taking Japanese and I’m Portuguese.
K: And they’re both kind of off-beat, atypical languages, too. How did you end up with Comp Lit as your major?
J: I was a Creative Writing/English major. And then I decided since Middlebury has such an amazing language program, I wanted to expand what literature meant outside of just the English language, because I had only read literature in English and some in Spanish. And I decided to take the Intro to World Literature class which made my decision to be a Comp Lit major, because I liked the added layer of translation and I think that reading in another language or reading translations of texts from other languages and cultures expands your worldview so much more than just reading in English.
K: For sure. It makes you a better reader, too. Because it makes you aware of so many other peripheral circumstances and elements that go into reading and interpreting a text.
K: I feel like you can’t make as many assumptions as you normally do when you’re reading a text from your own culture. So it really relies on your ability as a critical, self-aware reader. You’ve got to be imaginative.
J: And I wanted to get outside of my comfort zone in reading and in lived experience by taking a language that I had no affiliation with at all, so I just decided to take Portuguese. And I really wanted to go abroad to Brazil. How did you decide Literary Studies?
K: I really liked it partially for some of the reasons you just talked about. Also for the variety.
J: More so than English you think?
K: Yeah, like being able to take a literature class in any department and apply it to the major. I had already taken a literature class in the Chinese department at that point and had really liked it. I wanted to take more classes like that, and I didn’t really want to be wedded to any one department—so maybe I just had commitment issues. But the next semester I was able to take a Classics class that counted toward the Lit Studies major, and that ended up being one of my favorite classes at Midd.
J: What is it about old texts that draws you to them? Because people tend to check out.
K: I used to be that person!
J: What changed for you? Because I feel like I would identify as one of those people.
K: A lot of things. One is that I now find that old texts often feel incredibly rich to me. Perhaps because there’s often a religious component to it. I’ve done a lot of biblical literature. And there’s something about religious and spiritual texts that feels so rewarding of deep reading.
J: And Kylie and I met in our Literature of the Mystical Experience class.
K: That actually—that might have started it! Because the Song of Songs, which we read in that class—I had never read it before. And it’s so incredibly striking and rich and beautiful and rewarding of sustained attention.
J: Well, I guess I haven’t paid attention long enough to have the attention be rewarding.
K: So that’s part of it. And I also think there is something really gratifying in reading a text that other humans have also been engaged with for thousands of years. Something that’s had a presence in many others’ imaginations. It feels really connective, y’know?
J: Yeah. When you get home is there a bookstore you go to to buy books or are you a library gal?
J: You don’t have a material collection of all the pages you’ve read?
K: Oh, I also have that! But since the future is so unpredictable right now, I don’t feel as comfortable collecting material items.
J: Feel. You’re not nesting yet.
K: Actually I think I need to move some books out of my dorm room and back home before I graduate in the spring. I think I’m going to start that process right now.
J: Do it slowly over the next couple breaks.
K: What’s your favorite thing you’ve read? On your own or for a class.
J: For our class we both took (which I have also read on my own but I liked reading it in the context of a class), it’s Franny and Zooey.
K: Oh my gosh, I registered for that class because I saw in the course description that we were reading Franny and Zooey.
J: Yeah, I had read that book like three times and had never discussed it ever. So that’s my favorite book that has been affiliated with a class.
K: When was the first time you read it?
J: When I was like a junior in high school.
K: Same! How did you find it?
J: I was in a Salinger phase…I went to one of the only independent bookstores in Los Angeles, and I literally went to the section where everything was Salinger and I bought all of his books and short stories.
K: My thing with Franny and Zooey is—I think I was about sixteen or so—and I was complaining to a friend who was just a couple years older about a bunch of the people in my grade. (Laughs.) And just like generally venting that sort of teenage, angsty frustration—
J: Salinger’s good for that.
K: Yeah. And this friend was like, “Have you ever read Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger?” And I was like, “No,” and he said, “I think you would get a lot out of it.”
K: I really respected the opinion of this friend, so I went out and found it and read it, and it just felt—like that really special feeling where you read something and you feel like it’s speaking directly to you, y’know?
J: Yeah. I love that.
K: I feel like a lot of people who choose to study literature, they get into it because as a young person they got a lot out of that feeling.
J: Yeah. In high school, were you like an introvert—
K: Oh yeah.
J: —or felt like you had big ideas that you needed to go elsewhere to sort through?
J: I was very contemplative and would stay home on Friday nights rather than going out with my friends and read Salinger—
J: —and just “I feel like I’m watching my friends when we’re at parties—
J: —and I’m over in a corner, like I feel like I’m outside my body and looking at myself—”
K: Yes, yes, yes. Um, do you remember that scene in The Great Gatsby where Nick, he goes along with Tom to his woman’s apartment in the city at that party?
J: I love that scene. Where it’s really hot?
K: No, that’s later. But earlier in the book, Nick, he’s at this party, and he looks out the window, and he sees somebody on the street, and he has that kind of out-of-body experience you were just talking about, where he says that he was both “within and without,” and simultaneously he was at the party but he was also outside of the party looking in—I used to have this quote memorized when I was a teenager because I connected to it so much.
J: That’s amazing. Yeah, one of my teachers in high school said this—and I’m sure someone famous said it before—but to “live literarily,” like, to live and to perceive things in such a way that makes you feel like you’re in a novel. And it gives your life more of an importance of thinking about things in a poetic, literary way, rather than just going through the motions of it. But there’s a balance of being lighthearted also.
K: For sure.
J: And having a sense of humor. I’ve learned how to have a sense of humor about things and not to take life so seriously in college.
J: Yeah, after those pubescent years.
K: “How do I deflate myself.”
J: Exactly. And what has it been like for you to help make the podcast for NER? What do you think a podcast does for literature?
K: There’s an incredibly rich intersection of elements there, I think. And you see that in the quality of the recordings of the readings we’ve gotten.
J: It does also step outside of the typical experience of consuming words and reading. Because usually it’s a solitary activity—
K: I was about to say, you’re able to listen to it together with others if you want to.
J: And it’s already with someone else because their voice is present.
K: That’s true.
J: I really love it. I was listening to the second episode the other day, and it made me so happy to know that my family was listening to it, too.
J: Because I don’t think my family is as likely to read the New England Review all the way in Los Angeles…but my grandparents and my parents and my younger sister can all listen to this podcast. And their response wasn’t like, “wow, this podcast is so well put together” or “the production level is so high,” it was, “these poems and stories are really high quality.”
K: And that’s what you want.
J: Yeah, exactly. The accessibility of it.
K: And for the content to come through before whatever we’re doing behind computers.
J: Yeah. The last question I wanted to ask is: what’s your big takeaway from NER?
J: I need to think about this, too.
K: I think what’s been really nice about being at a literary magazine is that it reveals how the literary world is always bigger than you think it is. There’s always interesting stuff happening in places where perhaps you’ve never looked before, but it’s really worthwhile to take a good look around and see what’s going on. And I think I really like that because—as you mentioned earlier—reading can be so solitary, but it’s good to have reminders that there’s a big, bustling world surrounding the act of reading. And it’s nice to feel surprised at what you find. I think that’s true of contemporary literature, and I think that’s also true of older stuff. You think that a work is one thing based off what you’ve heard about it, or based off the one time you read it like five years ago—but then you go back to it and you’re surprised at what’s actually there. I really enjoy that feeling, and I think NER has helped feed into that too, which I appreciate.
J: I think for me, this is kind of my first experience—this is!—this is the first time I’ve been compensated for something that I actually want to do with my life.
K: Yeah. That’s big.
J: That is really big. And it’s encouraging—
K: —it’s affirming—
J: It is affirming, and it’s encouraging as a student, and I just love how many tasks we have. From checking submissions to reading. I learned a lot about how to read a fiction submission and have conversations about it and put my own bias aside. And I think the process of developing our podcast has been so valuable and so affirming, and I think it emphasizes how important collaboration is in whatever you do. It meant a lot to be affirmed in a creative, literary environment. Because as a student and a comparative literature major, it’s pretty hard to see how that could transfer outside of the academic environment. But being a part of that world of finding fresh new voices is really encouraging, not only to bring those to light by working at a magazine and curating those voices—which ones deserve to be heard out of the thousands that come in—
K: I don’t know how they do it.
J: —I don’t know either. But also that we could submit. We could do that.
K: I am doing that.
J: (Snaps.) You’re going to be published. Kylie—wait, say how you’ve written a novel like every year in November—
K: Oh. I do this thing called National Novel Writing Month, which is a challenge to write a fifty thousand word novel during the thirty days of November. I’ve done it every year since I was a freshman in high school, including last month. It’s a tradition with myself.
J: So how many novels do you have?
K: Oh, no. (Laughs.)
J: How many novels have you written?
K: I have eight very long, very meandering, very incoherent Word documents. No novels.
J: It’s stream of consciousness form! That’s amazing.
K: (Laughs.) Maybe. What time is it?
K: Time to walk over?
End of recording.