Ramblings & ephemera

Reading the impenetrable too fast

From Lee Siegel, quoted in Juliet Lapidos’s “Overrated: Authors, critics, and editors on ‘great books’ that aren’t all that great” (Slate: 11 August 2011): It was like Herbert Marcuse’s advice to a despairing graduate student who said he had spent days on a sentence in Hegel and still couldn’t understand it: “You’re reading too fast,” […]

Matthew Arnold’s 4 words that describe Homer

From Edwin Frank & Andrew McCord’s interview of Robert Fagles in “The Art of Translation No. 2” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): I think it’s through that effort, trying to turn Homer into poetry, that we just may come a little closer to Matthew Arnold’s unforgettable touchstones—Homer is simple, direct, swift, and above […]

Robert Fagles on the dramatic sense of Homer

From Edwin Frank & Andrew McCord’s interview of Robert Fagles in “The Art of Translation No. 2” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): As I read Homer, he’s a remarkable combination of the timeless, immortal phrase, and of the timely, too, and he’s meant to be heard, not read. “Homer makes us Hearers”—in Pope’s […]

Richard Ford on how to deal with mythical narratives

From Bonnie Lyons’s interview of Richard Ford in “The Art of Fiction No. 147” (The Paris Review: Fall 1996, No. 140): …when you start manipulating mythical narratives, whether you blunder into them or you do it by calculation, you’d better—to be in control of your book—reckon with their true potency and wide reference. They haven’t […]

Don DeLillo on how film has changed our society completely

From Adam Begley’s interview of Don DeLillo in “The Art of Fiction No. 135” (The Paris Review: Fall 1993, No. 128): Film allows us to examine ourselves in ways earlier societies could not—examine ourselves, imitate ourselves, extend ourselves, reshape our reality. It permeates our lives, this double vision, and also detaches us, turns some of […]

Philip Larkin on modernism

From Robert Phillips’s interview of Philip Larkin in “The Art of Poetry No. 30” (The Paris Review: Summer 1982, No. 84): It seems to me undeniable that up to this century literature used language in the way we all use it, painting represented what anyone with normal vision sees, and music was an affair of […]

Tom Stoppard on the advantages of being famous

From Shusha Guppy’s interview of Tom Stoppard in “The Art of Theater No. 7” (The Paris Review: Winter 1988, No. 109): INTERVIEWER Now that you are [famous], do you still feel excited by it, or do you think it isn’t that important? STOPPARD Oh, I like it. The advantages are psychological, social, and material. The […]

Ray Bradbury on what you know & how to write

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): I learned this early on. Three things are in your head: First, everything you have experienced from the day of your birth until right now. Every single second, every single hour, every single day. […]

Ray Bradbury on science fiction

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as […]

Ray Bradbury on his 3 rules to live by

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!

Ray Bradbury on an encounter that changed his life

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): Circuses and carnivals were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Dill Brothers Combined […]

Ray Bradbury on Edgar Rice Burroughs

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): But as it turns out—and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—[Edgar Rice] Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. INTERVIEWER Why do you […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]