Meet the Staff at Highbrow Magazine: Q&A With Chief Book Critic Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi


Lee Polevoi, Highbrow Magazine’s chief book critic, is a graduate of Amherst College and the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He has received a Bread Loaf writing scholarship and a screenwriting fellowship sponsored by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg’s studio. He is the author of a novel, The Moon in Deep Winter, and is currently completing a new novel, The Confessions of Gabriel Ash.


Q & A With Lee:


What inspired you to become a writer?

In high school, I wrote and circulated a newsletter commenting on politics and culture. The newsletter eventually came to the attention of the Dean of Admissions at Amherst, who invited me to apply. That’s when I knew I was onto something.


Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Denis Johnson, Robert Stone, John Banville, Peter Carey, Ted Mooney and (currently) Lorrie Moore, author of the excellent novel A Gate at the Stairs.



What’s the worst job/assignment  you’ve ever had?

A year spent as a copywriter at a wildly dysfunctional boutique ad agency. One condition of employment: Mandatory karaoke at the annual retreat. The horror!


Which is your favorite city in the U.S.?

For three years I lived in New Orleans, where for part of the time I worked as a zookeeper at the Audubon Park Zoo. This, combined with full-time residency in the French Quarter, offered valuable insights into alternate lifestyles I’ve never forgotten.



What’s your all-time favorite film?

Almost anything by the Coen brothers, but especially No Country for Old Men, a nearly flawless film (its lack of soundtrack being one of many virtues). Others: Twelve Monkeys, The Lookout, Tell No One, Sexy Beast, Animal Kingdom, Michael Clayton.


Which newspapers/magazines/websites do you read regularly?


New York Times, New Yorker, Slate, Daily Beast, Guardian, Literary Salon, Highbrow Magazine.


Would you rather become the next editor-in-chief of the New Yorker or replace Jon Stewart as host of the “Daily Show”?

Since the absurdity of real-life politics far outstrips what the imagination is capable of, I’d like to emulate Jon Stewart’s admirable track record in conjuring up laughter out of tears.



What are your favorite “highbrow” pastimes?

Taking a fat volume of mid-20th century European history to the beach—what my wife not-so-fondly calls my “Hitler books.”


Read a few of Lee's reviews below:


Author Thomas Mallon Revisits the Watergate Scandal in His New Novel


Author Alec Wilkinson Explores Arctic Adventures


Stalking Graham Greene


James Wolcott Lucks Out in the Big Apple


Photos: Denis Johnson book cover (Barnes and Noble); New Orleans ( and Wikipedia); Jon Stewart (Elke Sisco, Flickr).

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