Well, continuing with my policy of baring my soul, Dwight Garner said something like, the book was like one of those satellite photos of North Korea when I talked about the second marriage. I obviously had very little access to Updike from ‘77 on, really. And I cheated a bit by using Ian McEwan as my spy in the Updike household. First of all, Updike definitely did pull up the drawbridge and retire into his castle and I thought, in a sense, that this should be respected. He had decided on his persona, at that point—the highly professional man of letters. And I thought, why not let him go out with that persona intact?
Leslie Jamison’s new essay collection is getting lots of plaudits, not least here at The Millions, where Ryan Teitman argued that Jamison manages to “meet her subjects in utter intimacy.” At the Tin House blog, Stephen Sparks interviews Jamison, who talks about the book, her “shame-seeking superpower” and her epigraph-cum-tattoo.
Year in Reading alum Elizabeth McCracken has a new story collection out this week, and to mark the occasion, she spoke with Kelly Luce over at Salonabout her writing, her Twitter obsession and — strangely enough — cannibalism (at least in the context of fairy tales). She also talks about the importance of humor, lamenting that “some young writers mistake humorlessness for seriousness.” (Related: Tanya Paperny wrote a eulogy for the translator Michael Henry Heim.)
How do you keep going back and back and back in conditions that are really awful? It’s the people that keep you going back; it’s these deep engagements with these people that you’re learning a great deal from. … It really is a respect and a love for these people that has nothing to do with your own virtue. It has to do with their claim on your heart. Then the trick is how do you get that onto the page so that people in New York, 8,000 miles away from their community, will be able to engage with their dilemmas?
There are dangers for an artist in any academic environment. Academia rewards people who know their own minds and have developed an ironclad confidence in speaking them. That kind of assurance is death for an artist.
At this point, it’s perversity that keeps me writing.
That’s a particular problem with English people: they seem to think that everyone in Ireland is a writer
I like to say that this is my ‘fuck you’ book.
The Empathy Exams, a new collection of essays by Leslie Jamison, gets its title from a piece about medical acting that was published in The Believer. On the Harper’s blog, you can read an interview with Jamison, who calls her collection “a refusal to choose between these approaches — criticism, confession, journalism.” (Michelle Huneven interviewed Jamison for The Millions a couple of years ago.)