“The Majoritarian Tyranny”: An Interview with Tony Kushner



At 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Recently, 92Y and The Paris Review have made recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review. Consider them deleted scenes from our Writers at Work interviews, or directors’ cuts, or surprisingly lifelike radio adaptations.

This week we’re rolling out the four latest editions to the collection: Horton Foote, Gail Godwin, Reynolds Price, and Tony Kushner. All are Southerners, and as coincidence would have it, we’re just in time for the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House and the end of the Civil War, on April 9.

Today: a conversation between Tony Kushner and Frank Rich from May 20, 2003. Though The Paris Review ran an interview with Kushner in our Summer 2012 issue, none of its material was ultimately drawn from this recording, which finds Kushner in rare form—he and Rich discuss Angels in America, the power of art that courts controversy, and gay life in America:

Enormous things have changed. Not enough has changed, but … we’ve done spectacularly well in winning one aspect of the culture wars … Our fate and the fate of any minority seeking real enfranchisement in this country is tied up entirely with the question of whether or not the government’s role in a protector of minority rights against majoritarian tyranny continues or is dismantled by right-wing ideologues who are disguising the old states-right agenda under the banner of Reaganism.

Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with Reynolds Price from 1990. In the meantime, you can check out some previous installments of the 92Y series: the poets (Maya Angelou, Denise Levertov, and Gary Snyder) and the travel writers (Paul Theroux, Jan Morris, and Peter Matthiessen).

We are able to share these recordings thanks to a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, longtime friend of the Poetry Center and The Paris Review.

Dan Piepenbring is the web editor of The Paris Review.