One of my sons sent me a link to an interview from the Paris Review: Adam Begley interviewing Don DeLillo. The interview was published in 1993, before DeLillo had written the novel I’m currently listening to, Underworld. Right away, DeLillo says something wonderful in response to Begley’s question: “Do you have any idea what made you a writer?”
DeLillo says, “I have an idea but I’m not sure I believe it. Maybe I wanted to learn how to think. Writing is a concentrated form of thinking.” That’s a great way of expressing the act of writing. Putting your thoughts on paper requires a sharp focus, digging down to find what you mean to say and how to say it. It’s also a very considered response; an indication of the quality of the interview to follow. That’s not a surprise, given the seriousness of DeLillo’s novels and the intellectual credentials of Adam Begley. The full text of the interview can be found here.
I came across another gem about writing in a LitHub article about Lucy Ellman by Lois Feather. Ellman is the author of Ducks, Newburyport, shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year and gathering lots of press for its unusual style and structure. Ellman says, “Fiction is like a rock that sits there in your way. How do you break a rock? You give it everything you’ve got.” Not so different from DeLillo’s comment, in the way Ellman references the concentration required to create great fiction.
LitHub is a constant source of interesting tidbits about writing. In the October 15th edition, there’s a short interview with Elizabeth Strout. Her recently published book, Olive, Again is a follow-on to Olive Kitteridge, following Olive as she ages. I read it last week and it’s just as wonderful to spend time in Olive’s prickly company as it was when the original Olive stories were published. Here’s what Strout has to say in response to the question, “What do you always want to talk about in interviews but never get to?”
“I seldom get asked specifically about point of view, so I try and bring it up myself in any way that I can. But the fact that every person in the world is locked into their own specific point of view just amazes me. And when I write I try as hard as I can to imagine what it feels like to be another person. Reading fiction is one way—small but hopefully true—that we can experience, even momentarily, what it feels like to be another person.”
I never get tired of hearing writers talk about their craft.