Monday, June 11, 2007

The Paris Review Interviews I

I've been reading these with great pleasure. All of these interviews with leading writers have been published before - the earliest (Dorothy Parker) in the Paris Review of 1956, the latest (Joan Didion) in 2006, but they all bear reading again. They've been selected by Philip Gourevitch and what a selection, Kurt Vonnegut rubs shoulders with Rebecca West, Billy Wilder with T. S. Eliot. The interviewers were chosen with as much care as the subjects and there are some great pairings, Rebecca West and Marina Warner, for example. I loved the piece on Robert Gottlieb which juxtaposed the comments of his authors with his response to them. He was an editor to die for - and I especially liked the Michael Crichton's explanation of what a good editor can do: 'you generally start out with some overall idea that you can see fairly clearly, as if you were standing on a dock and looking at a ship on the ocean. At first you can see the entire ship, but then as you begin work you are in the boiler room and you can't see the ship anymore. All you can see are the pipes and the grease and the fittings of the boiler room and, you have to assume, the ship's exterior. What you really want in an editor is someone who's still on the dock, who can say Hi, I'm looking at your ship, and it's missing a bow, the front mast is crooked, and it seems to me as if your propellors are going to have to be fixed.' The book is full of insights in the creative process and incidentally, good advice. too. Both Hemingway and Robert Stone make a pont of stopping the day's work when they know what they are going to write next. ('Leave it pointing down hill,' as I think Graham Greene advised). This is one of three volumes that are planned. I can't wait.

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