I was trawling Google for a good explanation of a mundane editing issue and stumbled upon a treasure trove of wonders. The Paris Review has posted nearly all of their interviews of authors from the 1950s to the present for us to not only read but to absorb and to revel in. Just select a decade and become lost in the words of all those authors whose work we admire and respect and aspire to be like as writers.
William Faulkner is asked about his contemporaries in a 1956 interview and says,
“All of us failed to match our dream of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible.”
Dorothy Parker, never one to resist a witty retort, offers this analysis,
“Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.”
James Baldwin talks about the major turning point in his life with,
“After my best friend jumped off the bridge, I knew that I was next. So—Paris. With forty dollars and a one-way ticket.”
Ursula K. Le Guin shows her feistiness about her work being shoved into a confining box.
“I don’t think science fiction is a very good name for it, but it’s the name that we’ve got. It is different from other kinds of writing, I suppose, so it deserves a name of its own. But where I can get prickly and combative is if I’m just called a sci-fi writer. I’m not. I’m a novelist and poet. Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over.”
Eudora Welty talks about making changes to galleys with,
“I correct or change words, but I can’t rewrite a scene or make a major change because there’s a sense then of someone looking over my shoulder. It’s necessary, anyway, to trust that moment when you were sure at last you had done all you could, done your best for that time. When it’s finally in print, you’re delivered—you don’t ever have to look at it again. It’s too late to worry about its failings. I’ll have to apply any lessons this book has taught me toward writing the next one.”
It would be wonderful to have the time to just start in the 1950s and read every single interview to the present. But for now it’s nice to know they’re all available and can be visited in those spare moments of being able to kick back in a comfy chair with cup of tea and a cat on the lap and sift through this treasure trove of great authors’ lives and works as told in their own words.