“I like to spread myself out, I like to describe people and rooms and plot. I don’t like to write novels about gray people floating through the mall and you can only decipher who they are through the brand of their tennis shoes. I don’t care to write that sort of thing. That’s the fad now. When I was in college at Chapel Hill, the fad was you had to write a story about an old granny sitting on the porch remembering the past and everybody wrote this kind of story.”


This conversation between Gail Godwin and John Irving, part of a collaboration between 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center and The Paris Review, was recorded live at 92Y on April 4, 1986. We are able to share this recording thanks to a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, longtime friend of the Poetry Center and The Paris Review. An interview with Godwin has not yet appeared in The Review.


Christopher Lightfoot Walker (1954—2012) served as poster director, prints director, and advisory editor of The Paris Review. He also volunteered at the 92nd Street Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, making transcriptions, which were models of their kind, of audio recordings of live literary events. Chris was born in New York City, attended the Buckley School, then went west to Fountain Valley School and back east to Hampshire College. He was engaged in a number of entrepreneurial efforts (some in collaboration with his father, Angus Lightfoot Walker, longtime chairman of the City Investing Company) when, at the age of thirty-one, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. He wore his adversity lightly, retaining, in addition to his considerable wits, his sense of humor and sense of fun. Against the odds he remained a person on whom no delightful thing was ever lost. Chris was always grateful for the refuge he was able to find in the work provided by the Y.

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