Jeff Mangum: Right before recording On Avery Island I was walking around in Ruston [La.] waiting to go to Denver to record. I don’t consider myself to be a very educated person, ‘cause I’ve spent a lot of my life in dreams….And I was walking around wondering, "If I knew the history of the world, would everything make more sense to me or would I just lose my mind?" And I came to the conclusion that I’d probably just lose my mind. The next day I went into a bookstore and walked to the wall in the back, and there was The Diary of Anne Frank. I’d never given it any thought in my entire life. I spent two days reading it and then completely flipped out.
Pitchfork: So you proved your thesis.
JM: Yeah. I spent about three days crying, and just was completely flipped-out. While I was reading the book, she was alive to me. I pretty much knew what was going to happen. But that’s the thing: You love people because you know their story. You have sympathy for people even when they do stupid things because you know where they’re coming from, you understand where they’re at in their head. And so here I am as deep as you can go in someone’s head, in some ways deeper than you can go with even someone you know in the flesh. And then at the end, she gets disposed of like a piece of trash. And that was something that completely blew my mind. The references to her on the record— like “Ghost” refers to her being born. And I would go to bed every night and have dreams about having a time machine and somehow I’d have the ability to move through time and space freely, and save Anne Frank. Do you think that’s embarrassing?