People, mostly nonwriters, are always surprised when I tell them I wrote so much growing up. They’re incredulous that I would write such a large volume of work, entire novels, and never submit them, or at least rework them (as if all of it wasn’t incredibly sophomoric, amateur as if it wasn’t written by a 14-year-old). But those words, I want to tell them, weren’t written for anyone else the audience who needed to see them and the audience for whom they were written was me.
Writing fiction was my emotional test kitchen.
At Bookforum, Rebecca Donner talks with former Granta editor John Freeman about his new book of interviews, How to Read a Novelist. Freeman says that he enjoys interviewing writers in their homes because it allows him to observe them more closely: “The writer thinks you’re taking notes about what he’s saying, but you’re really writing, ‘His head looks like a lion’s head.’”
I don’t know the exact reasons, and I’m not sure I need to know, since I’m convinced that the joy of fiction stems from its ambiguities and contradictions, its questions and suggestions more than its assertions, the way it completes a circle without telling you how or why.
Her mother taught stillness the hard way. Wouldn’t speak to her when she was driving. Told her to get under the blanket whenever she heard voices. Whenever she saw a red-blue scream of sirens. Sometimes she brought Bird things she found when she left the car, broken sunglasses and chipped lawn gnomes and abandoned tool belts. If anyone else ever opened the car door, run like hell.