David Shields decided to gather every interview he's ever given, going back nearly 40 years. If it was on the radio or TV or a podcast, he transcribed it. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he knew he wasn't interested in any of his own answers. The questions interested him—he condensed and collated to form 22 chapters focused on such subjects as Process, Childhood, Failure, Capitalism, Suicide, and Comedy.
An amusing compilation of hundreds of short, random-seeming questions that come unaccompanied by answers ... Shields maintains a playful and absurdist tone that pokes fun at the conventional Q. and A. ... The questions in Shields’s book have their own distinct personality. Granted, some of them are nominally informational ... At first it seems as if Shields intends his book to be an indictment of the media ... But what if Shields made up the questions he supposedly culled from past interviews? As you read on, you become more convinced of that possibility ... Shields wants to blur artistic boundaries, a noble postmodernist pursuit, but The Very Last Interview succeeds only in blurring his point. Despite the broad cultural exploration promised in the jacket copy, Shields has produced a narrow, nihilistic investigation into the vicissitudes of his own career. Preoccupied by his professional disappointments, he is inattentive to the sublime consolations of art. I have a question for him. Next time, can you please think bigger?
The breadth of these queries speaks to the wide range of human activity, thought, and introspection on which Shields is expected to have particular insight. More often than not, the questions provide deeper insights into the interviewers’ pretensions ... The collective inanity, banality, and redundancy of the interviewers’ questions serve to make Shields’ point. By cleverly juxtaposing the questions and reframing the context, Shields exposes the artificiality inherent in literary discourse, resulting in a though-provoking, hilarious, genre-defying work.
[A] meandering collection of queries that go unanswered ... There are requisite questions about the relationship between writers and critics, and the usual riffs on a writer’s reading habits. It’s full of rambling ruminations and surrealistic fluff, but the onslaught of questions does offer insight into the art of interviewing—in some instances, the interviewer is obviously more interested in their own perspective, while in others it’s clear the questioner has thought deeply about their subject. This falls squarely between the absurd and the clever.