In memory of Peter Matthiessen, The Missouri Review has unlocked an interview with him from 1989. Matthiessen detailed the beginning of his writing career. “I started my first novel and sent off about four chapters and waited by the post office for praise to roll in, calls from Hollywood, everything. Finally my agent sent me a letter that said ‘Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this a hundred and fifty years ago, only he wrote it better. Yours, Bernice.’ I probably needed that; it was very healthy.” For more Matthiessen, you can read one of his best travel essays or his new novel, In Paradise.
If your characters go on a road trip, do you have to take one, too? When Mary Miller wrote The Last Days of California about a family driving from Alabama to California to meet the rapture, she hadn’t even been to the desert herself. To ensure it was accurate, though, she mapped important destinations on the route. “For Western Louisiana, I thought, ‘Is there actually a Waffle House within forty miles of this border?’ because I wanted it to be accurate. So I had maps, and I was tracking mileage,” she told Down & Out.
"For Mr. Kirn, 51, who indeed brims with an outer confidence that can be intimidating at times to those unused to brash, creative types who dress in custom cowboy boots and seem indifferent to the modest niceties of literary image, the loud underwear seems to be working this afternoon." If this doesn’t read like the typical author profile that’s because Walter Kirn interviewed himself for The New York Times on his new book, Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade. Here’s our review.
Every night the sounds were different. Helplessly cognizant, I formed mental scenarios while drifting in and out of sleep. One memorable night, I tossed and turned in a metalworking shop. From the far end of the second-floor hallway came the powerful rip of my mother-in-law’s rough-cut saw. From below, on the living room’s foldout couches, the intermittent thrum of welders’ torches—a wild hissing as the sisters’ noses sparked and soldered invisible objects. Beside me, Elida’s finishing touch: the high-pitched burr of a polisher perfecting a metal surface. Elida was slight, and she dressed in precise, quiet colors. She sat with her hands folded, wore clear nail polish and almost undetectable makeup. You would never have imagined that such a stark little person could produce such sounds
Yesterday, our own Elizabeth Minkel pondered if Twitter fiction could be real art. She cited Teju Cole, a literary Twitter master, but what does he have to say about how Twitter affects his writing? “My memory is worse than it was a few years ago, but I hope that my ability to write a good sentence has improved,” he told The New York Times.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is almost as famous for being sampled on Beyoncé’s latest album as she is for her novel Americanah. With that in mind, she discussed her writing process, hair blogs, and what feminism means to her in Elle. “It means that I am present in the world, and that I realize that there is a problem with the way we’ve constructed gender,” she said. For more Adichie, read her 2013 Year in Reading post.
Looking for a way to spice up your short story? Add a ghost. “This is going to sound strange, but what your story really needs is a ghost,” Lorrie Moore said in an interview with The New York Times. She discussed her new professorship at Vanderbilt and her new short story collection, Bark, which, yes, does contain a ghost story.
How does Karl Ove Knausgaard delve into some of the oldest parts of his memory for his writing? “I remember every single room that I have been in from the age of seven. What I did was to place myself in those rooms, and when I started to write about them it was like unlocking a thousand small doors, all leading further into childhood,” he told Cressida Leyshon at The New Yorker. Knausgaard also has a story, ”Come Together" (behind the paywall), in the current issue. Pair with: Our essay on My Struggle.
"There’s more to life than writing and publishing fiction. There is another way entirely, amazed as I am to discover it at this late date," Philip Roth said in an interview with Cynthia Haven for Stanford’s The Book Haven. Besides his retirement from writing, Roth also discussed why he doesn’t consider himself an American-Jewish writer and his book The Ghost Writer. For more Roth, read our essay on lessons you can learn from his work.