Tag Archives: Paris Review

For the Love of a Good Interview

I’m curious to see what changes, if any, will show up in The Paris Review now that Phillip Gourevitch is no more and Lorin Stein has taken over.  So far, it seems about the same, but we shall see ….   I sometimes read the fiction, but man it better be damned great, and I pretty much always skip the poetry — sorry, poets — and jump straight to the interview (or interviews as can be the case).  The interviews are what I really pay for.

One of my great obsessions is biography and memoir, and these author interrogations drag me joyfully right down that same rabbit hole.  In this latest issue, we have interviews with Jonathan Franzen and Louise Erdrich, both of whom hail from Minnesota.  On purpose?  Admittedly, I’m a bit Franzen-ed out.  Nothing to do with Franzen personally, but overexposure really can be the worst, and when you’ve got Oprah, the Time cover, all manner of gushing at the NYT, etc…. well, you see what I mean.  A girl can get worn out before she even opens your book!  But I digress.  I’m going to read Erdrich’s interview first and see what she has to say.  Her sister, also a writer, came to visit a class of mine at the University of Minnesota around 1998 and I remember feeling so, so bad for her.  “Your sister is Louise Erdrich!” my mind kept screaming.  How tough would that be?

There’s a fascinating, if terribly sad and tragic, backstory of Erdrich’s marriage to Michael Dorris, a professor she encountered as an undergrad at Dartmouth.  Reading this article and a few others, it’s a wonder Louise Erdrich had the time to write anything during her married — with 6 children — years.

If you’re looking for more interviews, check out this collection of The Paris Review interviews, a boxed-set favorite.  God knows they’ve talked to everybody who’s anybody, writer-wise, and frankly their files from the 60’s and 70’s — when everyone seemed tortured and totally nuts, but off-the-charts freakin’ brilliant — are to die for.

A writing question for Maya Angelou & William Styron

In The Paris Review Interviews, v. IV here are two very different answers to a common writerly question:  “Where/when/how do you write?”

Maya Angelou (1990):  Morning.  She rents a hotel room and goes there everyday to start writing by 6:30 a.m.  She lies across the bed and gets started.  She asks the hotel personnel not to change the sheets because, after all, she’s not ‘sleeping’ there.  She insists things are taken off the walls.  No distractions.

William Styron (1954):  Afternoon.  He sleeps in because he likes to stay up late and get drunk.  The only time left is the afternoon, with a hangover.

We really are a quirky bunch of folk.

The Paris Review “Interviews”

It’s an exciting day here in Carter Library.  The snail mail arrived right on time at noon and, for once, contained something besides junk mail:  Volume IV of The Interviews.  What a coincidence that Maya Angelou’s interview from 1990 just so happens to be in this particular volume, arriving in my mailbox while I’m re-reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Can’t wait to quit working/writing today so I read it!

Ray Bradbury

There’s a great interview with Ray Bradbury in the Spring 2010 issue of The Paris Review. Check it out.  Here are a couple of samplings:

On the New York critics and literati:  “It’s the terrible creative negativism, admired by New York critics, that caused [Kurt Vonnegut’s] celebrity. New Yorkers love to dupe themselves, as well as doom themselves. I haven’t had to live like that. I’m a California boy.”

On college writing classes:  “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do — and they don’t.”

On writing Fahrenheit 451:  “Montag came up to me and said, I’m going crazy. I said, What’s the matter, Montag? He said, I’ve been burning books. I said, Well, don’t you want to do that anymore? He said, No, I love them. I said, Go do something about it.  And he wrote the book for me in 9 days.”