You see things differently when you’re in love. Two outpatients from a methadone clinic slap each other on the corner. A goiter rides the crosstown bus. We attend a dinner party; none of the dogs have tails. Men in the map room of the New York Public Library surveil passing breasts. Nights slip by. I sit on the curb outside a magazine launch and watch a famous author pour cold water down a woman’s arm. ‘Don’t be jealous,’ my companion says impatiently, cupping his own elbows. ‘He’s only applying a temporary tattoo.’
I was in love and then I wasn’t, and sometime during the drifting gray interim I was told by a bookseller friend to read Renata Adler’s 1976 debut, Speedboat, a novel that had long been out of print but was absolutely, he insisted, worth the trouble of the search.
I write every day as a matter of course … It is not a burden. It is the way I live.
My stepmother used to give lots of speeches and he asked me to edit one of her speeches. I think the idea of giving a kid that kind of power over your parents’ work, even though she didn’t take any of my edits…[chuckles] There was a rush of perverse power.
So many of us had collections of short stories we read in seventh grade as an introduction to fiction. We were never taught the short story as a unique form. It was an introduction to longer forms. This book was really about looking at what makes a short story such a distinct discipline. The writers we chose to introduce the stories are known for their mastery of that particular medium, which is so deceptively difficult.
“If we can achieve one thing with this book, I think it would be that — that a short story can be both an education and a pleasure.”
In matters like writing and painting, a man does what he has to do—if he has to write, why then, he writes; and if he doesn’t feel the urgent need of writing, there are dozens of professions in which it is easier to earn a comfortable living. Writing offers fairly large rewards to a few successful people, but the rewards come late, and most writers are failures.
-Malcolm Cowley in response to a letter asking whether one should pursue an MFA.
In the comments section, novelist Helen DeWitt serves a searing retort:
“if he has to write, why then he writes…” This is roughly what my penultimate agent, Bill Clegg, had to say on the subject. This is not so much the romantic point of view as the addict’s point of view. Anyone familiar with the world of publishing will know that it’s bullshit. The writer who is literally an addict, the writer who can’t help himself, the writer who HAS to write, can never be anything but an amateur, because the industry requires the professional to put writing on hold not just for a day or two, or a week, but for years.