Ramblings & ephemera

Richard Wilbur on Edgar Allan Poe

From Helen McCloy Ellison, Ellesa Clay High, & Peter A. Stitt’s interview of Richard Wilbur in “The Art of Poetry No. 22” (The Paris Review: Winter 1977, No. 72): INTERVIEWER That was one of your criticisms of Poe’s poetry, wasn’t it, that it wasn’t grounded enough in the concrete. WILBUR Yes. He is hurrying away […]

Richard Wilbur on the advantages of being a poet

From Helen McCloy Ellison, Ellesa Clay High, & Peter A. Stitt’s interview of Richard Wilbur in “The Art of Poetry No. 22” (The Paris Review: Winter 1977, No. 72): INTERVIEWER Are there what one could call advantages to being a poet? WILBUR Well, one is allowed enormous license in behavior, one is forgiven everything, one […]

Richard Wilbur on the difference between imagination & fantasy

From Helen McCloy Ellison, Ellesa Clay High, & Peter A. Stitt’s interview of Richard Wilbur in “The Art of Poetry No. 22” (The Paris Review: Winter 1977, No. 72): To me, the imagination is a faculty that fuses things, takes hold of the physical and ideal worlds and makes them one, provisionally. Fantasy, in my […]

Richard Wilbur on what poetry is

From Helen McCloy Ellison, Ellesa Clay High, & Peter A. Stitt’s interview of Richard Wilbur in “The Art of Poetry No. 22” (The Paris Review: Winter 1977, No. 72): I think of poetry in terms of the compressed expression of the whole of one’s experience, all at once; the combining of things; the bringing together […]

Kurt Vonnegut on writing as practical joke

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): If you make people laugh or cry about little black marks on sheets of white paper, what is that but a practical joke? All the great story […]

Kurt Vonnegut on the basic plots available to writers

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): VONNEGUT The others aren’t that much fun to describe: somebody gets into trouble, and then gets out again; somebody loses something and gets it back; somebody is […]

Kurt Vonnegut on the conventions found in plots

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): INTERVIEWER Let’s talk about the women in your books. VONNEGUT There aren’t any. No real women, no love. INTERVIEWER Is this worth expounding upon? VONNEGUT It’s a […]

Kurt Vonnegut on using our talents

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): I bawled [my daughter] out one time for not doing more with the talents she had. She replied that having talent doesn’t carry with it the obligation […]

John Steinbeck on finishing a book

From Nathaniel Benchley’s interview of John Steinbeck in “The Art of Fiction No. 45” (The Paris Review: Fall 1969, No. 48): I truly do not care about a book once it is finished. Any money or fame that results has no connection in my feeling with the book. The book dies a real death for […]

John Steinbeck on Ernest Hemingway

From Nathaniel Benchley’s interview of John Steinbeck in “The Art of Fiction No. 45” (The Paris Review: Fall 1969, No. 48): The first thing we heard of Ernest Hemingway’s death was a call from the London Daily Mail, asking me to comment on it. And quite privately, although something of this sort might be expected, […]

Joseph Heller on the necessity of limits on writing

From George Plimpton’s interview of Joseph Heller in “The Art of Fiction No. 51” (The Paris Review: Winter 1974, No. 60): There’s an essay of T. S. Eliot’s in which he praises the disciplines of writing, claiming that if one is forced to write within a certain framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost […]

John Steinbeck on how Europe & America view poverty

From Nathaniel Benchley’s interview of John Steinbeck in “The Art of Fiction No. 45” (The Paris Review: Fall 1969, No. 48): I wonder whether you will remember one last piece of advice you gave me. It was during the exuberance of the rich and frantic twenties and I was going out into that world to […]

James Dickey on Philip Larkin

From Franklin Ashley’s interview of James Dickey in “The Art of Poetry No. 20” (The Paris Review: Spring 1976, No. 65): INTERVIEWER: We’ve talked a good deal about American poets, but English poets are always on the scene; some critics contend that the best contemporary English poet is Philip Larkin. DICKEY: Oh, my Lord. Philip […]

James Dickey on the personalities of poets

From Franklin Ashley’s interview of James Dickey in “The Art of Poetry No. 20” (The Paris Review: Spring 1976, No. 65): INTERVIEWER: You’ve known a great many poets personally. Do you find some common characteristic—in their madness, their vision, their discipline? DICKEY: I would have to put the answer in the form of a paradox. […]

James M. Cain on writing editorials

From David Zinsser’s interview of James M. Cain in “The Art of Fiction No. 69” (The Paris Review: Spring-Summer 1978, No. 73): Editorials (we called them idiotorials) were written by trained seals whose only qualifications were that they be in favor of motherhood and against the man-eating shark.

James Dickey on why he wrote Deliverance

From Franklin Ashley’s interview of James Dickey in “The Art of Poetry No. 20” (The Paris Review: Spring 1976, No. 65): I wrote Deliverance as a story where under the conditions of extreme violence people find out things about themselves that they would have no other means of knowing. The late John Berryman, who was […]

Anthony Burgess on patriotism

From John Cullinan’s interview of Anthony Burgess in “The Art of Fiction No. 48” (The Paris Review: Spring 1973, No. 56): I’ve voluntarily exiled myself, but not forever. Nevertheless, I can’t think of any good reason for going back to England except on a holiday. But one is, as Simone Weil said, faithful to the […]

Anthony Burgess on satire

From John Cullinan’s interview of Anthony Burgess in “The Art of Fiction No. 48” (The Paris Review: Spring 1973, No. 56): Satire is a difficult medium, ephemeral unless there’s tremendous vitality in the form itself—like Absalom and Achitophel, Tale of a Tub, Animal Farm: I mean, the work has to subsist as story or poetry […]

Anthony Burgess on his ideal reader

From John Cullinan’s interview of Anthony Burgess in “The Art of Fiction No. 48” (The Paris Review: Spring 1973, No. 56): The ideal reader of my novels is a lapsed Catholic and failed musician, short-sighted, color-blind, auditorily biased, who has read the books that I have read. He should also be about my age.

Anthony Burgess on artists dying young

From John Cullinan’s interview of Anthony Burgess in “The Art of Fiction No. 48” (The Paris Review: Spring 1973, No. 56): I think America likes its artists to die young, in atonement for materialist America’s sins. The English leave the dying young to Celts like Dylan Thomas and Behan.