Reading Munro puts me in that state of quiet reflection in which I think about my own life: about the decisions I’ve made, the things I’ve done and haven’t done, the kind of person I am, the prospect of death. She is one of the handful of writers, some living, most dead, whom I have in mind when I say that fiction is my religion. For as long as I’m immersed in a Munro story, I am according to an entirely make-believe character the kind of solemn respect and quiet rooting interest that I accord myself in my better moments as a human being.”
— Jonathan Franzen on Alice Munro
I don’t write two books in the same place. I seem to have settled on a chair that I write. I’m very happy with it.
Anne Enright, interview with The Independent (London, UK), May 5, 2012.
Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him
Alice Munro. It’s difficult to sum up why in one sentence. She’s the kind of writer who lasts for a lifetime. I’ve been reading her for 30 years and she is as relevant, or more relevant, as she was when I started out.
[Joyce Carol Oates] wrote a letter to my house in DC during one break, and she said, “We talked a lot about your work in the context of the class and now I would like to talk about it a little more personally.” I can practically recite it, “You appear to have a very strong and promising talent coupled with that most important of writerly qualities, energy.” And man is she right! Energy is the most important writerly quality. In any case, she gave me a reading list. It was a very Joyce Carol Oates thing to do. She gave me suggestions for what avenues to pursue. And somebody took me seriously. It was a revelation for me. The revelation was not just that—the smaller revelation was that a writer of Joyce’s caliber would like my writing. The much larger revelation was that there was such a thing as my writing. It had never occurred to me.”
— Jonathan Safran Foer
We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
— Toni Morrison
I Want to Write Something So Simply by Mary Oliver
I want to write something
or about pain
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your heart
had been saying.
Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it—don’t cheat with it.”
Ernest Hemingway (via casimirpulaskiday
The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”
— Gertrude Stein (Woody Allen) - ‘Midnight In Paris’ (via para-doxical)
And as of now, what do you ask from a story?
The two things I want are interesting language and genuine feeling. And one other thing: Years and years ago I knew a very wise woman who was tremendously accomplished and who had excelled at many things, a lifetime achievement for anybody else, and I asked what was her goal now? And she didn’t hesitate for a second. “To love deeply.” A lesson there.
Carver was a Hemingway fan and Carver became a great influence in the eighties and into the nineties on almost everything. I admired him, hugely, but that’s the only connection I make myself. I can never speak for other writers, except to say simply that good writers are always trying to get to something clearer, deeper, not said this way before. Gordon used to ask us in class, Why would you want to add to what’s already in the world? We didn’t and that was the job. Ultimately you write the way you can write. Someone once complimented Carver on a story, and he modestly said, It’s what I can do. I always thought that was a lovely thing to say, and accurate. Barry Hannah’s version was, Be master of such as you have.”
— Amy Hempel on Raymond Carver