Interviews with a wide range of contemporary authors, available in their entirety online.
Available Interviews in Alphabetical Order
"I think that sometimes the word 'experimental' has been used to hide the political radicalness of some writers. Oh, they're 'experimental,' that means they're not really important. . . What this society does is marginalize artists."
A Conversation with Svetlana Alexievich By Ana Lucic
"I hate full-time authors...The art of writing has turned into an excess. Today, literature is a waste. It should be abolished, at least in the form we know: as a money-making endeavor."
A Conversation with Svetislav Basara By Ana Lucic
A Conversation with Mark Binelli By Theodore McDermott
A Conversation with Andrei Bitov By Dmitry Bavilsky Friday, November 07, 2003
"Too much contemporary fiction seems to be either part of somebody's Ph.D. dissertation or TV in print form...I'm sure that there are diamonds in the dross. It's the enduring one percent or so of all art that you have to look for, in any age."
"[The] most postmodern writer is still basically realistic. They may not be 'imitating' reality[...]but ultimately they're representing something. There's always a representative function simply because language is representative."
"I think I went into writing for the very simple reason that very deeply I needed a number of voices in order to survive. . . . I was a multiple schizophrenic, if you like, but I was aching and aching to be a variety of people."
A Conversation with Alan Burns By David W. Madden
"Say if I have a book of approximately two hundred pages ... you can assume that there were six hundred. So, there's always an overflow into the next book. In other words, my selection of materials is often rather arbitrary."
"Even when I quote another writer, the quotation takes on a different meaning in the new context."
"What's the original? And it's a very good question that I was asking. How do we know what is authentic behavior and what is inauthentic behavior?"
"What I think I've been doing throughout my entire life is writing comic books in novel form. It doesn't seem to me that I was ever interested in 'realism,' or logic, or traditional narrative."
"I want, or wanted, to come along after all's been written about Jews, particularly about Jews in America, and write the End. A rhetorical Apocalypse, the Semitico-literary eschaton. To found the genre of genre-annihilation."
"A good boxing match is just as beautiful as a swan. So why not utilize it within a system of comparisons, within a scale of values. That's why, almost from the start, there are many references of that sort in my books."
"The awful thing, as a kid reading, was that you came to the end of the story, and that was it. I mean, it would be heartbreaking that there was no more of it."
"I feel a certain amount of embarrassment, lack of preciousness about my work, and would rewrite all of them given half a chance . . . Once the books are in print I have to turn the spines against the wall."
"Books are like children: once they are born, the world is theirs and they are part of the world, and our role shaping their lives diminishes as time goes by."
"My theory is simply that human beings have an aesthetic register. Like the registers of hunger and sex, the aesthetic register is fundamentally appetitive. It manifests itself as a desire to recognize patterns both spatial and temporal."
"It's as if somebody had driven a nail into the wall to hang my posthumous portrait." [Jose Donoso on being awarded his country's National Prize for Literature.]
"When I'm doing the galleys I get depressed because I think that I have not accomplished anything at all that I set out to do. . . . There's something about the galleys. I go into a deep state of depression."
"Every artist worth her salt knows what I mean--either one chooses the well trodden path, platitude, sentimentality, the current orthodoxy, whatever, or one blazes a trail which is [...] part of the process of becoming."
"What I'm saying is that you're doomed to write what you write. And you're doomed to either commercial success or artistic success. You can't say you're going to write well and going to have survival value."
"This is going to sound dopey, but I sometimes get emotional at how good I occasionally am. And I'm not just talking about the fireworks[...] For me, language is still where it's at."
"The great possibility not only of literature, but of art in general, is to be the only presence of the past, the only way of being in the present, and the only way of being a perpetually potential event that can project itself into the future."
"The question of autobiographical sources in fiction has always seemed to me one of the more tiresome going, usually what simply amounts to gossip and about as reliable, not that we don't all relish gossip [. . .]"
"Any work of art is going to be dangerous to a point of view. If you are an artist, you have to see not only why you can't walk on air, but also why people who think you can, think so."
"I do not know a single writer, I mean among the great ones, who has not lamented his failure to create a work of real worth."
"Natural Novel... was my first attempt at this genre and I was prepared for failure because the novel was very different from anything in the Bulgarian literary tradition."
"If young writers were to ask me for advice, the first one that I would give them is that they renounce living from their writings, that they search for parallel activities that might earn them a living."
"If an American reader finds my Scottish references and idioms more confusing than [...] the Irish ones of Joyce, it is because I am an inferior writer, not because I write with a narrower audience in mind."
"I'm not interested in reflection or representation; I'm only interested in creating a fictive world, and my concept of a fictive world means that it draws heavily on what Bernard Malamud once called 'psychic leakage.'"
"A very wise author once said that a writer writes for himself, and then publishes for money. I write for myself and publish just for the reader."
"I've never heard an engineer [...] say, 'I never studied the history of engineering because I want my structures to be original,' but I often hear writers say, 'You know, I never read because I want to maintain my originality.'"
"In the seventies, I was unemployed for a while. Ever since then, I’ve had the ambition to write a great social novel. But somehow, I never wrote it, and the material of my unwritten social novel merged into my novel about unrequited love."
"I write about myself because I came to the conclusion that I am most competent in this sphere. Even if I create various characters, make a plot, some chain of events, everything is saturated with me."
"I remember the endless comings and goings on that old train very clearly... This commute was part of my daily routine, as I was obliged in those days to attend to many different jobs, none of which had anything to do with writing."
"I understood one very simple thing: An author, once quoted by a journalist, is no longer master of his word."
"A society where the writer is more welcome, where people read more, where the cultural life is more intense doesn't have as great a need for the writer."
"The most immediate impulse for writing the book was the fact that I’d just been burglarized. This was maybe the fourth or fifth time... and all of the issues connected with being broken into, being invaded, were all very much on my mind."
"We are talking to ourselves and for ourselves. The lines of communication no longer exist, if they ever did. Dialogue at its best should give some sense of this."
"But even now when I do have a moderately acceptable body of work behind me I can still go months, sometimes even years, without writing a solitary word."
"Writing, for me, is a significant human adventure; it is about exploration and investigation and meditation. It's about the search for a legitimate language."
"I think that what matters in writing, as in music, is what's going on between the words (and between the notes); the movement is what matters, rather than whatever is being said."
"I think the aim is to write for pleasure even if you're writing about concentration camps and the black death; and the pleasure one imagines is the reader's pleasure."
"I tend to be close to Dr. Williams' idea that writing is a disease. If you can get along without it, you're really much better off. I have a hard time getting this across to other writers."
"I wasn’t brought up as a reader, didn’t as a boy particularly want to read, didn’t know how to read, and so was a late bloomer. Once I did discover the ecstasies of reading, my life changed forever."
"When I write the first draft of a novel I know that there may be scarcely one sentence that will survive to the final novel: but it doesn't dismay me when I cross the whole thing out the second time through."
"To my knowledge the themes of incest and family abuse had scarcely been explored in such an open and direct way at the time. However, my concern was to write as honestly and accurately as I could."
"If one writes, it's precisely, in my view, in order to make things 'move,' both the elements of the narrative and the readers of narratives."
"Talking about writing has a certain pleasurable richness, but it is not at all like the richness of writing itself."
"Translating is probably the most economical way to be confronted with the world’s otherness: not through what languages can tell, but through what they think, and how they think about themselves."
"I have tried my best to eliminate or to destroy the beginning and the end of my novels. The Inner Side of the Wind, for example, has two beginnings. You start reading this book from the side you want."
"I happen to believe that the deepest value of fiction is that, in its very fictiveness, it is the one arena where we can, at least temporarily, take apart and refuse to compete within the terms that the rest of existence insists on."
"The writer needs to react to his or her own internal universe, to his or her own point of view. If he or she doesn't have a personal point of view, it's impossible to be a creator."
"One can say that fiction has consisted either of placing imaginary characters in a true story, which is the 'Iliad,' or of presenting the story of an individual as having a general historical value, which is the 'Odyssey.' But after the magical
"I think if Faulkner had been a black writer, he would have been considered ethnic. I would say 60 percent of Faulkner's work is written in black English."
"So I don't impose a way of reading on my readers. I would like the motto of Larva to be Theleme's assertion: 'Fay ce que vouldras,' or 'Do as you will.'"
"I am a human being who lives in a country in an age that allows the poor only one weapon in their duel with life, and that’s swearing. Swearing is the scream of a victim, their only normal way of speech."
"Well, see, there’s a pancake problem in the underground in that most people are really surface people. They didn’t grow up in the underground and don’t know the origins of the underground, don’t know why there’s an underground."
"If I had the unfortunate task of selecting my own gravestone text, I’d probably say something like "Ed Sanders, American Bard." I’d rather be known as a bard, which is a poet who takes public stances."
"I mean the whole thing was like all the gods got together; really, people were so wonderful [at Grove Press under Barney Rosset], really wonderful."
"I don't want you to read a story, I want you to experience it. I don't want to tell you a story, I want to put you through an emotional experience. I want those characters to be so real to you that you can hate them."
"I adopt completely Paul Valery's declaration: 'If, therefore, I am asked; if people are anxious to know (as it happens, very anxious to know) what I meant in such and such a poem, I reply that I did not intend to say anything [...]'"
"I must admit that I find it exciting to write in a female voice, from inside a female character. Some radical feminists may disapprove and maintain that it is impossible for a man to write from within a woman's viewpoint. I think that's nonsense."
"It seems to me that all writers are in their lives, at least most writers I know, very sentimental people. But the best writers excise sentimentality from their work because sentimentality is death to fiction."
"I have tried never to write a book that didn't attempt something new in the way of narrative technique. Writing is an assault on cliche. I find little to admire in writers who make no attempt at originality."
"Now, I’m not saying that books should be difficult for difficulty’s sake, but sometimes there are formal or stylistic aspects of a novel that are intrinsically necessary to the story itself... omitting them would fundamentally alter the book."
"I think that the separation between what we usually call reality and fiction is more tenuous than we can imagine. And there are people or historic moments that serve as pivots, bridges or shifters."
"Your book is like your body--you're simply born with it. The covers are your face, your skin, pimpled or hairy or speckled with the moles of irrelevancies."
"In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what's human and magical that still live and glow despite the times' darkness."
"I think the reader has to be willing to work hard, has to be willing to do some work. No worthwhile book is going to go through them like a laxative. It's not as if fiction were a recipe."
"Like any requiem, my requiem is a meditation on death. It is a meditation in the old-fashioned sense of a consideration of human impermanence and mutability, but it's also a meditation on modern death."
"It's not as if an artist creates a work and intends something and that is its truth, and it is certainly not as if a critic reads it and tells us what it means."
"I had reviewed Dowell for the New York Times. I didn’t know him... and I got a call from him inviting me to dinner. He was a famous cook, who would take two or three days to prepare a dinner and would use food as a substitute for travel."
In 1994, when Edmund White was asked to do an interview for this issue, he decided instead to interview himself.
"I've always felt that I had no memory to speak of, no really good memory, so if I didn't have a very good memory, how on earth could I be an artist. . . . Now, it's the fragmentary nature of my memory that I exploit [...]"
"All my writing is about the recognition that there is no single reality. But the beauty of it is that you nevertheless go on, walking towards utopia, which may not exist, on a bridge which might end before you reach the other side."
"The later an author starts writing, the better. We have been writing for more than 5,000 years now. Many, many things have already been written."