David Foster Wallace on commercial entertainment, the redemptive power of reading, and the future of writing in the age of information – highlights from his fantastic 1996 Charlie Rose interview.
I also like “There’s this part that makes you feel full. There’s this part that is redemptive and instructive, [so that] when you read something, it’s not just delight — you go, “Oh my god, that’s me! I’ve lived like that, I’ve felt like that, I’m not alone in the world…”
James Salter’s outline for his novel, Light Years, which Jhumpa Lahiri wrote about today. Writes Lahiri, “In the beginning it was the light, the warmth of the novel that enchanted me.” Note how Salter is careful to think of the seasons as he moves through the chapters. At the top of the page, Salter identifies a short list of possible titles for the novel, including The Feast Is Ended, New Life, and New Lives. On the bottom portion of this page, in his notes related to the fifth chapter, Salter writes, Life Is Meals. More than thirty years later, he would repurpose this phrase as the title of his 2006 book, cowritten with his wife, Kay Salter. (via Paris Review – Document: An Outline for ‘Light Years’, Thessaly La Force)
"In my twenties I realized that the muse is a bum. The muse only shows up when you bait her by putting your ass in the chair. She can only be lured to your side by the sound of pounding keys, the smell of paper and ink."
“I mostly write about places that I’ve spent some significant amount of time. I like to know where I’m writing about. Sometimes I attribute it to when I was in college and trying to figure out how to write realist fiction, which did not come naturally to me. I was always getting hung up on how to move the people through the room or how to get them across the town. Where are the traffic lights? How far are these houses from each other? And so I started writing about the town I grew up in, mostly because I just didn’t have to think about where any of those things were and I could accurately draw the map in my head, which made it easier to move away from the off-the-wall shit I was doing and focus on real people—real pretend people, of course, but you know what I mean.”
—Justin Taylor (askforgiveness), who will be here on Tuesday discussing place with Jess Row, in “Real Pretend People”: An Interview with Justin Taylor | The American Reader
"When people talked about it, I thought it was total bullshit—the whole thing when authors are like, ‘My characters just came and they told me what they needed to do.’ That actually, I found out, is a real thing, because you have to actually do this sort of deep empathic work of imagining how other people think and feel for it to work."
"It usually starts with a scene, or a sentence. A half-formed idea. Maybe you have an idea for a sentence. You repeat the sentence in your head until you know it by heart, then you want to write it down. Or you have half an idea for a scene—it’s in the distance, it’s a little foggy, but you can see it’s there. You aim for it. You start making your way down the road towards it. You either eventually arrive there, or, you get sidetracked and end up somewhere else entirely."
"Sometimes I think my whole professional life has been based on this hunch I had, early on, that many people feel just as muddled as I do, and might be happy to tag along with me on this search for clarity, for precision. I love that aspect of writing. Nothing makes me happier than to hear a reader say: that’s just what I’ve always felt, but you said it clearly."
"There are two main perils when it comes to writing from personal experience: what it will do to your work, and what it will do to your life." —Leslie Jamison via Is It O.K. to Mine Real Relationships for Literary Material? - NYTimes.com
I just finished Leslie’s novel The Gin Closet and highly recommend it, in addition, of course, to her BEST-SELLING (!) essay collection The Gin Closet.
And, of course, I should mention Leslie will be here on May 19 for our Graywolf Press birthday party! More info.
"This is advice that I am borrowing from Nao Bustamante, which is that you are not responsible for other people’s experience of your work. Even if it’s memoir. If they perceive it in a way you didn’t intend, that’s not on you. You also can’t do anything to change it."
"A good critic is trying to tell you what she has learned about herself from the reading of a particular piece of literature. A bad reviewer is often trying to tell you how smart he is by declaring whether or not he liked a particular book."
Kevin Guilfoile in the commentary on our first day of judgment at The Morning News Tournament of Books - Presented by Field Notes
Join us for a ToB celebration here on March 24!