Interview

12 Iconic Author Interviews from The Paris Review

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Founded in 1953, The Paris Review remains a brilliant showcase of the greatest poets, essayists, and writers of exceptional fiction. With inspiration lurking on every page (and in every pixel), let’s take a look at some standout author interviews that provide insight into the craft of writing — and into the lives of those we admire.


 

John Ashbery Interviewed by Peter A. Stitt in The Art of Poetry No. 33

John Ashbery“This is the way that life appears to me, the way that experience happens. I can concentrate on the things in this room and our talking together, but what the context is is mysterious to me. And it’s not that I want to make it more mysterious in my poems—really, I just want to make it more photographic.”

Read the full interview here.


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Hortense Calisher Interviewed by Allan Gurganus, Pamela McCorduck, and Mona Simpson in The Art of Fiction No. 100

Hortense Calisher

“One doesn’t write a ‘pure’ novel—that is, a novel purely about one thing. One writes a novel in part because things are never one thing that purely.” 

Read the full interview here.


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Samuel R. Delany Interviewed by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah in The Art of Fiction No. 210

Samuel R. Delany

“I think of myself as the kind of person who writes, rather than as one kind of writer or another.”

Read the full interview here.


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E. L. Doctorow Interviewed by George Plimpton in The Art of Fiction No. 94

E. L. Doctorow

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. You can get away with an awful lot.”

Read the full interview here.


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Lawrence Durrell Interviewed by Gene Andrewski & Julian Mitchell in The Art of Fiction No. 23

Lawrence Durrell

“When you say ‘influences’ it suggests an infiltration of someone else’s material into yours, semiconsciously. But I read not only for pleasure, but as a journeyman, and where I see a good effect I study it, and try to reproduce it. So I am probably the biggest thief imaginable.”

Read the full interview here.


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Stanley Elkin Interviewed by Thomas LeClair in The Art of Fiction No. 61

Stanley Elkin

“Like most people of my generation, I fell in love with the philosophy of existentialism. There is no particular religious tradition in my work. There is only one psychological assertion that I would insist upon. That is: the SELF takes precedence.” 

Read the full interview here.


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John Gardner Interviewed by Paul F. Ferguson, John R. Maier, Sara Matthiessen, and Frank McConnell in The Art of Fiction No. 73

John Gardner

“You create a whole world in a novel and you deal with values in a way that you can’t possibly in a short story. The trouble is that since novels represent a whole world, you can’t write them all the time.”

Read the full interview here.


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Mary McCarthy Interviewed by Elisabeth Sifton in The Art of Fiction No. 27

Mary McCarthy

“I liked teaching because I loved this business of studying. I found it quite impossible to give a course unless I’d read the material the night before. I absolutely couldn’t handle the material unless it was fresh in my mind.”

Read the full interview here.


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Ned Rorem Interviewed by J. D. McClatchy in The Art of the Diary No. 1

Ned Rorem

“Am I really more of a narcissist than other artists? Or do I just admit it more readily? Certainly I’m not hot for myself. I’m not my own type.” 

Read the full interview here.


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Walker Percy Interviewed by Abádi Nagy Zoltán in The Art of Fiction No. 97

Walker Percy

“Mine has been a happy marriage—thanks mainly to my wife. Who would want to live with a novelist? A man underfoot in the house all day? A man, moreover, subject to solitary funks and strange elations. If I were a woman, I’d prefer a traveling salesman.”

Read the full interview here.


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May Sarton Interviewed by Karen Saum in The Art of Poetry No. 32

May Sarton

“Sometimes the demon of self-doubt comes to tell me that I’ve been fatally divided between two crafts, that of the novel and that of poetry, but I’ve always believed that in the end it was the total work which would communicate a vision of life and it really needs different modes to do that.”

Read the full interview here.


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Terry Southern Interviewed by Maggie Paley in The Art of Screenwriting No. 3

Terry Southern

“I never ‘decided’ to be a writer. I used to write a lot, then show it to my friends—one or two of them anyway—with the idea, more or less, of ­astonishing or confounding them with the content of the pages.”

Read the full interview here.



For more insight into the lives and art of great writers, and fiction and poetry for every taste, subscribe to The Paris Review, or gift a subscription to your favorite book nerd or young reader.

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