A couple of years ago, the New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm, who knows enough about journalism to hardly ever give interviews herself, spoke to Katie Roiphe for the Paris Review. Except that she didn’t actually speak to her — or at least, not while Roiphe’s tape recorder was rolling.

Roiphe was allowed to visit Malcolm’s book-lined home overlooking Gramercy Park in New York — “If I were a journalist walking into the room, I would immediately start composing a satiric portrait of the New York writer’s apartment with its standard tasteful objects (cat included) and general air of unrelenting culture,” joked Malcolm later — but she was required to ask her questions only via e-mail, the better that her reluctant interviewee might “tinker” with them (for “tinker” we may read: avoid).

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