After recently opting to read part of Paradise Lost instead of her own (relatively) brand-new novel, See Now Then, at PEN’s World Voices Festival of International Literature, Jamaica Kincaid talked to The American Reader about her career, as in, how it has been so awesome that she can get up onstage and read a little Milton if she wants to. She’s sort of earned the right to read whatever strikes her fancy, which is probably the secret desire of every aspiring writer — to get up onstage and talk about whatever the f*ck.

Kincaid’s conversation with Reader’s Alyssa Loh wandered over all the typical writer-interview territory (was this novel really autobiographical? what made you write about this, now? favorite color? favorite V.C. Andrews book?) except for when Loh asked Kincaid about the mixture of anger and humor in her authorial persona. Well? How could it be that Kincaid’s writing seemed so “angry” when she herself seemed so funny in person? Did she stub her toe before sitting down at her writing desk? Did she huff paint before speaking in front of large, bookish crowds?

Neither of those, actually. Kincaid’s answer was extremely thoughtful and incisive.