Ramblings & ephemera

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.

William Burroughs on the necessary changes in biology

From Conrad Knickerbocker’s interview of William S. Burroughs in “The Art of Fiction No. 36” (The Paris Review: Fall 1965, No. 35): Science eventually will be forced to establish courts of biologic mediation, because life-forms are going to become more incompatible with the conditions of existence as man penetrates further into space. Mankind will have […]

William Burroughs on the term “heavy metal” & addiction

From Conrad Knickerbocker’s interview of William S. Burroughs in “The Art of Fiction No. 36” (The Paris Review: Fall 1965, No. 35): I felt that heavy metal was sort of the ultimate expression of addiction, that there’s something actually metallic in addiction, that the final stage reached is not so much vegetable as mineral. It’s […]

William Burroughs on how he gathers material for writing

From Conrad Knickerbocker’s interview of William S. Burroughs in “The Art of Fiction No. 36” (The Paris Review: Fall 1965, No. 35): For exercise, when I make a trip, such as from Tangier to Gibraltar, I will record this in three columns in a notebook I always take with me. One column will contain simply […]

William Burroughs on abstract art

From Conrad Knickerbocker’s interview of William S. Burroughs in “The Art of Fiction No. 36” (The Paris Review: Fall 1965, No. 35): INTERVIEWER: Therefore, you’re not upset by the fact that a chimpanzee can do an abstract painting? BURROUGHS: If he does a good one, no.

William Burroughs on his relationship to heroin

From Conrad Knickerbocker’s interview of William S. Burroughs in “The Art of Fiction No. 36” (The Paris Review: Fall 1965, No. 35): I was exposed to heroin in New York—that is, I was going around with people who were using it; I took it; the effects were pleasant. I went on using it and became […]

William Burroughs on why we take drugs

From Conrad Knickerbocker’s interview of William S. Burroughs in “The Art of Fiction No. 36” (The Paris Review: Fall 1965, No. 35): I think drugs are interesting principally as chemical means of altering metabolism and thereby altering what we call reality, which I would define as a more or less constant scanning pattern.

Woody Allen on what he’s interested in focusing on in his art

From Michiko Kakutani’s interview of Woody Allen in “The Art of Humor No. 1” (The Paris Review: Fall 1995, No. 136): The same things come up time after time. They’re the things that are on my mind, and one is always feeling for new ways to express them. It’s hard to think of going out […]

Woody Allen on immortality

From Michiko Kakutani’s interview of Woody Allen in “The Art of Humor No. 1” (The Paris Review: Fall 1995, No. 136): As I’ve said many times, rather than live on in the hearts and minds of my fellow man, I would rather live on in my apartment.

James Ellroy on how he writes

From Nathaniel Rich’s “Interviews: James Ellroy, The Art of Fiction No. 201” (The Paris Review: Fall 2009): I begin by sitting in the dark. I used to sleep on the living-room couch. There was a while when that was the only place I felt safe. My couch is long because I’m tall, and it needs […]

2 great examples of Tom Wolfe’s early New Journalism writing style

From Tom Wolfe’s “The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!” (Esquire: March 1965): Ten o’clock Sunday morning in the hills of North Carolina. Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua aqua, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer, Cloud […]

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall”

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall” (1880) To a young child Margaret, are you grieving Over Goldengrove unleaving? Leaves, like the things of man, you With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? Ah! as the heart grows older It will come to such sights colder By and by, nor spare a sigh Though worlds […]

The difference between crime films & noir

From Roger Ebert’s “Detour (1945)” (The Chicago Sun-Times: 7 June 1998): The difference between a crime film and a noir film is that the bad guys in crime movies know they’re bad and want to be, while a noir hero thinks he’s a good guy who has been ambushed by life.

How the Madden NFL videogame was developed

From Patrick Hruby’s “The Franchise: The inside story of how Madden NFL became a video game dynasty” (ESPN: 22 July 2010): 1982 Harvard grad and former Apple employee Trip Hawkins founds video game maker Electronic Arts, in part to create a football game; one year later, the company releases “One-on-One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird,” […]

A fine example of bad writing: repeated details

From Keith Phipps’s “Treasure Of The Black Falcon, by John Coleman Burroughs” (The Onion AV Club: 25 March 2010): Burroughs’ circuitous prose, which reads as if he absorbed the paid-by-the-word style of his dad’s early work, doesn’t help. Opening the book at random, I found this passage: The air was warm, humid, sultry. Everywhere the […]

Woody Allen’s atheism

From Robert E. Lauder’s interview with Woody Allen, “Whatever Works” (Commonweal: 15 April 2010): Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but […]