“The marketing people will say—so who is she. Who is the author of this book, this lesbian no one, that we should listen to all this crap about her development. She didn’t win anything, right. Okay. Did anything horrible happen to her. Noooo. I mean yes but that’s not what she’s writing about here and maybe it wasn’t that bad. I love this book, the editor writes. We all love your book but we can’t get it past the marketing people. Cause who are you—I mean really. I’m … uh the poet Eileen Myles. Why not. If a fucking horse can tell his story why can’t I.”—Eileen Myles is probably not going to see the Secretariat movie. I wrote about her new book for the Poetry Foundation.
“Novelists have two ways of talking about themselves. One in which they do a very good job of pretending to be reasonably modest individuals with fairly realistic opinions of their own powers and not atrociously ungenerous in their assessments of their contemporaries. The second train of thought is that of the inner egomaniac; your immediate contemporaries are just blind worms in a ditch, slithering pointlessly around, getting nowhere. You bestride the whole generation with your formidability. The only thing your contemporaries are doing—even the most eminent of them—is devaluing literary eminence. Basically they’re just stinking up the place. You open the book pages and you can’t understand why it isn’t all about you. Or, indeed, why the whole paper isn’t all about you. I think without this kind of feeling you couldn’t operate at all. The ego has to be roughly this size. I’m not sure it’s true, but I was told by a poet friend that even William Golding can come into a literary party at six-thirty and do a good imitation of a self-effacing man of letters, but at nine o’clock the whole room may be brought to silence by his cry of I’m a genius! Just give him a bullhorn. They may have their little smiles and demurrals and seem twinkly and manageable characters but really … Is there anything you’d like to add? Yes. I’m a genius! End of interview.”—Martin Amis, interviewed for the Paris Review by Francesca Riviere in 1998 (via RC)
“This book does not seem to be growing very large although I have got to Chapter Nine. I think this is partly because there isn’t any conversation. I could just fill pages like this:
“I am sure it is true,” said Phyllida.
“I cannot agree with you,” answered Norman.
“Oh, but I know I am right,” she replied.
“I beg to differ,” said Norman sternly.
That is the kind of stuff that appears in real people’s books. I know this will never be a real book that business men in trains will read […] I wish so much I had learnt my lessons at school. I never did, and have found this such a disadvantage ever since. All the same, I am going on writing this book even if business men scorn it.”—Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came From Woolworths
“I think that’s a neurosis common to men and women both, but maybe at a higher level of intensity in people who don’t yet have a clear understanding of what they want and are likely to be able to do in life. They look for ways to be useful and become frustrated when they’re not needed.”—Norman Rush describes an obstacle to the unnamed narrator of Mating's happiness in love. The blog posts I wrote while I was reading Mating are here and here. The rest of this enormously satisfying interview with Rush and his wife Elsa is in the Paris Review.
“I don’t wish to convey messages—period. But I look carefully at certain situations in the world and try to render them honestly. And if someone perceives that to be a bleak situation, it’s the situation’s fault, not mine!”—My interview with Jonathan Franzen is up at Goodreads. I had trouble picking a favorite part and settled on this. Other contenders were: his evaluation of the pros and cons (primarily cons) of the institution of marriage, his succinct summary of the history of the novel, and the part where I asked if he still wore earmuffs and blindfolds to write and he said “Oh well, yeah, of course, but doesn’t everybody?”
This was good but my favorite part was that one of the last straws was “the thought of growing into a person whose meanness and cynicism is cloaked in a kind of holier-than-thou brand of sarcasm that the rest of the world finds nauseating”
“The nude beach provides so much more entertainment than a regular trip to the ocean. Not only can you suntan your naughties and not feel like your going to get caught by beach patrol or offend someone’s kids but there are so many characters! And I don’t really have to mention that there aren’t many families and the whining that often goes along with that. There was a variety of older men who clearly wish they never had to wear clothes anywhere, gay men who are there for the exhibitionist aspect and cute couples who want to feel free. I guess I would be part of the latter but my man was not as into stripping down as he was checking out the scenery. I on the other hand used this opportunity to try and get rid of some tan lines. The surf was pretty rough due to impending Earl but there were some people braving it and those people tend to be in clusters. This is because all the naked people want to check out the other naked people. I talked to a very friendly man named David while Jeff braved the surf. I guess it wasn’t all that weird that I could see his member, he was just a nice guy that doesn’t like wearing a bathing suit.”—