In the February issue of Vanity Fair, my pal George gives his answers to the famous Proust Questionnaire. Would you be surprised to learn his most treasured possession is a pen and a piece of paper? That his hero of fiction is Atticus Finch? That the thing he’d most like to change about himself would be to read more books?
Not a snarky answer in the bunch. My George is all grown up. And I admit he got me in the gut with his answer to “what would you change about your family?” when he said: I’d make them young again.
He also surprised me. His favorite writers are Mark Twain (I’d never have guess that one) and Paddy Chayefsky (who I had to Google). Turns out Paddy is a playwright, screenwriter, and novelist; and the only person to have earned 3 solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. Paddy is a much respected and renowned American dramatist.
Paddy Chayefsky. I love making these kinds of discoveries.
Now, of course, I can’t resist asking you a few questions. Who knows what I might learn. And I’ll play if you will.
Favorite Writers and why (I’m limiting myself to 4, because you know this list could be looooooong):
William Styron — what style, not a wasted word in the place, with long flowing complex sentences I could read over and over again.
Joan Didion — particularly for her nonfiction, a structural genius who writes what she wants and doesn’t worry about what she’s not supposed to do.
Mary Karr — raw poetry in prose, most recognizable nonfiction voice in town.
Larry McMurtry — brilliant epic storyteller, creator of unusual and conflicted characters who drive seamless plots.
Best last paragraph of a book:
Jane Smiley’s A THOUSAND ACRES
“And when I remember that world, I remember my dead young self, who left me something, too, which is her canning jar of poisoned sausage and the ability it confers, of remembering what you can’t imagine. I can’t say that I forgive my father, but now I can imagine what he chose never to remember — the goad of an unthinkable urge, pricking him, pressing him, wrapping him in an impenetrable fog of self that must have seemed, when he wandered around the house at night after working and drinking, like the very darkness. This is the gleaming obsidian shard I safeguard above all the others.”
Favorite Writer You’ve Seen Speak in Person:
Dorothy Allison. Couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She read a little, but spent most of her time on stage just talking like a real person, seemingly off-the-cuff, not a note in sight, about her writing and reading life. Her remarks were like listening to a great poet put their everyday life into a regular conversation. About a year later, I saw her perform her famous (which I didn’t know at the time) monologue, Frog Fucking, at AWP in front of hundreds of people. It was shocking and hilarious and devastating, and the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.
Your turn ….