I’m all wound up today, throwing around all manner of four-letter words and waving my hands in the air when I talk. All I can think about is sass, sass, sass. So of course I went looking for more…
#1 — James Baldwin, from his 1984 Paris Review interview, when asked about recognizing talent in a writer: “Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”
#2 — William Faulkner, from his 1956 Paris Review interview, when asked if he’s under any obligation to his reader: “I myself am too busy to care about the public. I have no time to wonder who is reading me. I don’t care about John Doe’s opinion on my work or anyone else’s.”
Sometimes I read these interviews, and I wonder what they’re really wanting to say, what they’re holding back, whether they want to just say this is all a bunch of %&*#@!^(!*$^. I didn’t, however, think this about the Faulkner piece. If you have a chance, read the whole thing. It’s a hoot. At one point, the Interviewer tells him, Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they have read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them? To which Faulkner says: “Read it four times.”
#3 — I chose a book I love — Mary Karr’s LIT — for my May book club. I was downright giddy with pleasure when I did it. The next day, another Mary Karr devotee said basically this: Oh no no no. I worship at the Marr Karr altar and, therefore, could never do that. What if they hated it?!?!
Well, sister, it’s going to happen. I hear the train coming. And I’ll just have to bite down on a big bar of Ivory soap and survive it. Today one of my bookclubbers sent me an e-mail: “I’m about 1/2 way through. Does it ever get happy?” To which I wrote back: “I’m not big on happy books. I like the survival-of-life stuff.”
Better get that bar of soap out and keep it at the ready.