As time goes on, the world seems increasingly cruel and absurd—the president tweets hateful memes that originated on Reddit, which are then analyzed by the media and archived by the Library of Congress. But as Nell Zink, author of The Wallcreeper, Mislaid, Nicotine, and the forthcoming Doxology argues, it’s not that things are getting worse, but simply that they’ve never been in such clear, horrific focus. Her commitment to realism in her upcoming novel, excerpted in the July issue of Harper’s Magazine, captures the brutal irony of modern life with care. Pam and Joe are caught in the genuine optimism of the early Nineties, and they attempt to become revolutionary rock stars and make love aimlessly and earnestly. When the gyre widens, they struggle against an overdetermined world that, as Zink puts it, “refuses to show its face.”
Herself an ex-post-punk guitarist, Zink lived through the decade’s nascent hopefulness and bathetic turns. In this interview, she recalls the bygone era with candor and touches upon fluffy idealism, pet-centric zines, and her 10-hour writing days.