Keith Gessen is editor-in-chief of n+1, a twice-yearly magazine of literature, politics, and culture based in New York City.
Gessen graduated from Harvard College and earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University in 2004. Gessen, who was born in Russia, has written about Russia for The Atlantic and the New York Review of Books. Gessen has also written about books for magazines including Dissent, Slate, and New York, where he was the regular book critic.
His first novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, was published in April 2008.
Question: Is political writing political activism?
Keith Gessen: Well, you know, I mean, this is a- I myself am not involved in doing much political activism, because I think that the thing that I do best is to write and to read a lot of things, and try to process them and understand them. I think, you know, but I definitely think that books, more than anything else, can really change how people think. I think there’s a process when you’re reading when you become much more susceptible to the thoughts of another person, and also to changing your own thinking.
So, you know, and that’s been true in my own life, so you know, I think books have a- and articles- but you know, even fiction still has a real role to play in changing the way that people live. And, you know- and there’s various ways, you know- there’s- I mean, there’s various arguments for this. You know, with my own book, I hope it discourages a bit of- by showing what happens with a particular kind of apathy and self-involvement, and showing where that can go, that it might keep some people from that path.