BooksThe Paris Review's Stunning Backlog of Interviews
by Jen Graves
on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 11:21 AM
Since the 1950s, The Paris Review has been publishing extensive, beautiful interviews with authors, and now, they're all online, every one.
Ralph Ellison in 1955? Here you go. The notoriously cranky Edward Albee in 1966. Simone de Beauvoir, Robert Creeley, Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, Saul Bellow, Jack Kerouac, W.H. Auden, John Cheever, Joan Didion, Pablo Neruda...and we haven't even gotten past the 1970s yet. The full archive is here, neatly separated into decades, every interview easy to find.
Last night I read the interview with Alice Munro from 1994, and it has left me wanting to be like Alice Munro. She walks three miles a day, writes a certain number of pages every day, and has accomplished this during breaks from housework and kid-raising. She did this in large part by cutting off external noise but not by setting herself up in a tower.
I never made a decision with any thought of my writing. And yet I never thought that I would abandon it. I guess because I didn’t understand that you could have conditions for writing that would be any better than any other conditions. The only things that ever stopped me writing were the jobs—when I was defined publicly as a writer and given an office to work in.
This is what she says she's afraid of as she gets older:
Now I am more conscious of the possibility that everything could be lost, that you could lose what had filled your life before. Maybe keeping on, going through the motions, is actually what you have to do to keep this from happening. There are parts of a story where the story fails. That’s not what I’m talking about. The story fails but your faith in the importance of doing the story doesn’t fail. That it might is the danger. This may be the beast that’s lurking in the closet in old age—the loss of the feeling that things are worth doing.