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I mentioned before that I had interviewed Adam Phillips for BOMB Magazine.  Well, they’ve posted an long extract on their site (to read the whole thing you’ll need to buy a copy of BOMB).  Here’s that extract for your interest, minus my introduction.  (And when you’ve finished this, take a look at his epic essay on happiness in today’s Guardian):

BOMB Magazine – Adam Phillips by Sameer Padania
Originally published with an introduction at

Sameer Padania (SP) Let’s start with how your new book, On Balance, has come together.

Adam Phillips I prefer writing essays rather than books. Over a period of time I’m invited to give various nonspecific talks and lectures. Nobody says to me, Will you talk about X? That tends to crystallize things that I’ve been preoccupied by, and a piece fairly quickly writes itself once that happens.

I don’t think too much about whether it all hangs together. I just write things that engage me, and then, when they get collected into a book like this, I trust that certain preoccupations will work themselves through. Otherwise, it becomes too tendentious and too focused and I don’t want that to be the case. When I read through the essays, I’ll keep the ones that I do still think are good and then I’ll think of what sort of order they might go in. The writing of the book, in a way, is putting them in an order.

In reading the book over, different things emerge at different times, but clearly one of the themes of the book is excess—that seemed to turn up in lots of different places. The idea for the title of On Balance, I don’t know how it came to me. I had read the Auden piece again, “Forms of Inattention,” where there’s that bit at the end about the tightrope walker. Ideas of composure or equanimity or balance or integration—all those words that have something to do with a kind of harmony—are at the heart of psychoanalysis in what it sets itself against, and also relate to what I seem to be preoccupied by.

I rely on the unconscious work of these things. When I sit down to write, I have a lot to write, but beforehand, I don’t. I’m not full of ideas. Writing is the way I think. Read More

On June 30th I had the privilege/challenge of interviewing, for American magazine BOMB,  psychoanalyst and author Adam Phillips, with the starting point being his latest collection of essays, On Balance.

The commission came about through pure serendipity.  BOMB occupy half a floor in the same Brooklyn building as WITNESS, and Monica de la Torre, BOMB’s senior editor (and a poet), and I shared the infamous G Train to work every day, and were latterly coffee buddies.  As I was moving back to London, she needed someone to interview Adam Phillips, and Phillips liked the idea of having an interviewer with a human rights background, it just seemed to fit together nicely.  And it was not utterly irrelevant that I’ve read and thought about (at Francesca’s behest) many of Phillips’ books.

I’ll post again when the interview itself is published in BOMB later this year, [Update: read the final interview here.] but in the meantime, here are a few interviews with Phillips online that I found a mixture of instructive and invaluable, and partly in response to which I positioned my own questioning.

– NYPL’s Paul Holdengraber interviews Phillips on stage in NYC on May 4, 2007 – mp3 / event page
– Artangel interviews Phillips about
The Concise Dictionary of Dress, an exhibition he recently co-curated with his partner, Judith Clark – audio / exhibition page / catalogue excerpt
– Jennifer O’Mahony interviews Phillips –
audio / transcript
– Video interview with Phillips on Kindness
– theartsdesk Q&A with Phillips
– A
conversation about Oedipus between Ralph Fiennes and Adam Phillips

Let me know if there are other good resources out there on Phillips and his work…

[UPDATE, June 2012: If you’re in the UK and can get iPlayer, or you’re elsewhere and subscribe to the Start The Week podcast, you can hear the great man discuss his latest book, Missing Out, here.]