Paris Review has on their site a wide selection of their author interviews through the decades, back into the 1950s. What I’ve done is pull a huge number of them off, copypasta, convert three at a time into .mobi format, and sent them to my Kindle. I’d like to think my semi-random coupling (or, tripling) has led to happy little triplets. Some thoughts of what I’ve read so far:
Margaret Atwood, from ‘Atwood – Elkin – Lorie Moore’ — Handmaid’s Tale is great and ought to be mentioned with the usual Huxleyan Orwellian distopias but it’s not often, maybe because it applies more to North American hogwash and the Brits aren’t hung with evangelicals. I was bored with her interview. I’m glad she’s there and plan to like and read more of her stuff, but this interview comes off strangely as I expect she does in person – bland, domestic, Canadian, friendly, boring. I don’t mean these in confining terms, just that we’d somehow get onto discussions of brands of instant coffee or old cardigans rather than more, confound it.
Ian McEwan, from ‘McEwan – Oe – M. Robinson’ — As I was finishing Amsterdam, which is kind of crap in plotting. He is to me someone I like knowing is there and will like reading but who will have nearly no longetivity. Constantly an ‘oh, okay’, factor. But a good interview. An author who does not seem touched by genius but rather is one of us, who traces the strangeness of our lives and our societies but does not lift it or even expose it or light it on fire. Note: lighting on fire not necessary. Trying to think of someone from his generation who is American. Maybe Auster. Similar thing there – someone who powers through a lack of stone cold talent with great success. Different writers, though. Maybe.
Don DeLillo, from ‘DeLillo – Powers – Gaddis’ — Realizing how old this guy is, was sort of starting Cosmopolis. Realizing he’s basically said what he’s going to say. Not sure how that makes me feel. Reading interviews from him is opening his early work for me. There was a closed veneer inconducive to one such as me, but I think I’m getting it now. One, no one, or few ones, even try out what he’s doing, so I must love him. Two, he has no grand vision, didn’t, doesn’t. That’s not a bruise on him, just a thing to say. There’s an apophenic sense of creation (in writing) out of him and so there’s a muted, unsure sense of what to read and how, other than White Noise, which, partly as a campus novel I suppose, is (or was, twenty years ago) read in lit classes. As a writer I am unsure what to learn from him.
Harry Matthews, from ‘Matthews – Burgess – Amis’ — Have read nothing by him, but own Cigarettes. Notion of a novel (?) entitled The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium highly intriguing. Clearly a highly intelligent man, only American member of Oulipo but suffers from the goofiness of the whole. Such interesting things to say, then some bull about purely mechanical ways for new writing. I slam my head against the wall, or at least lay it wearily against, at stuff like, “I wrote that portion to remind the reader that this is a book he or she is reading, not reality.” Garrrr… really? Still, moved Cigarettes up on the list a tad, puts him up on the ‘when I’m at the used bookstore look for him’ list.
Anthony Burgess, from ‘Matthews – Burgess – Amis’ — Such gunk. Unreadable. What is this guy on about? He’s little known in the United States and I suspect he’s vanishing everywhere. That would make my heart cry but he has a Harlan Ellison vibe. I imagine both as trollish homonculi with outside regard for their powers, though I think only Ellison looks that way in truth. To be fair much of this is about Joyce and Ulysses and that’s not my ken. What I know of him (Burgess) is Earthly Powers is regarded his best, but it’s massive and I’ll never get to it. This interview wound up skimmed.
Martin Amis, from ‘Matthews – Burgess – Amis’ — What remains in memory are the parts about his father, who I don’t think anyone reads anymore. I can’t name anything other than Lucky Jim. So, filially eclipsed, I guess. Amis has a mousy reputation, or reputation for mousiness, rodentine sniping and gnashing and nibbling at others, but here it’s honest: he feels one must savage younger writers. Okay. I have only read Money and feel it dribbled into an ending mess of syrup, not having the courage of its convictions. Also come away with how Julian Barnes, he, and Ian McEwan arose on the scene together. Much discussion lately on whether they lived to early reputations (let’s minimize ‘much’).
‘Matthews – Burgess – Amis’ in general — Clearly Harry Matthews does not belong. Gives a Henry Miller vibe to me, maybe the initials. But international Americans, same-ish age range? Not really. Each is experimental in some fashion, or aware of such things. Amis with Burgess purely for the Britishness? For the smarm rolling off the Thames like a fog? But really Amis comes off as rather genial. Ra-ther.
I have about a hundred more to go. Just reading them whenever.