Interview by Christian Feuerstein ’94
Christopher Hebert '98 is, as he says with a laugh, “slightly frazzled.” And small wonder. His debut novel, The Boiling Season, has been released to wondrous reviews. Booklist says of The Boiling Season: “Hebert conjures a vibrant atmosphere, as rich a character as any inhabitant, whether in the fetid stink of the slums or the cool, detached opulence of the most affluent homes, and each locale is made more striking by the close proximity of the other.” Dayton Daily News calls it “a wondrous debut.” Read more reviews at his website, www.christopherhebert.com. Hebert spoke of his love of slush piles, the Antioch Review, and wanting to find a place full of passionate people.
You used to work at the Antioch Review. Tell us about that.
The office was charmingly romantic—on the second floor of the library. There were little typewriters around, and I loved the [seemingly] forgotteness of the space. I loved the slush pile—reading the correspondences, getting the first impressions of an author. We had weird stuff come in—cover letters that were scrawled [laughs]. I got to proof things, did little research errands for Bob [Fogarty]. The lack of glamour was what made it so appealing.
How did you first hear of Antioch College?
I transferred there. I was at one of the forgotten SUNY campuses near Plattsburgh, one of those schools that had no detectable pulse. I got burnt out in that wasteland. I was looking for the absolute opposite of that. Co-op was really appealing, and Antioch was a place full of really passionate people.
What co-ops made a difference to you?
I had two really substantial co-ops. I taught in Mexico for a semester, teaching English. Then I spent a semester in New York with the Overlook Press. At the same time, I worked as a research assistant for Susan Cheever. That was awesome because I got to see every part of the publishing world. I got to hang out with Susan Cheever, a working writer. I spent days and days hanging out in libraries and archives. That was sort of a dream. I got a very clear sense of the dedication it takes to write.
You studied writing at Antioch with Eric Horsting.
I was constantly harassing him and making him read things. He was endlessly patient with me and my work. We’ve stayed in touch! I had really supportive teachers at Antioch. It was a time of endless encouragement.
What are your favorite memories of Antioch?
A lot of them are at the Review. I had a strange experience [at Antioch]—because I was a literary guy, and there wasn’t a literary community at Antioch at that time. I felt on the periphery. I spent a lot of time holed up in corners. I really valued Bob as a mentor; he knew the literary world.
The Review is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
It’s awesome! I hope it lasts forever! It’s great to hear that in the midst of turmoil at the College, it’s still going forward.