The Paris Review Interviews, I

The Paris Review Interviews, I - Joan Didion, Jorge Luis Borges, Dorothy Parker, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Robert Stone, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul  Bellow, Robert Gottlieb, Philip Gourevitch, Elizabeth Bishop, The Paris Review, Rebecca West, Richard Price, Billy Wilder, Jack Gilbert, James M

What are writers like? What makes them different? On goodreads, for example, they will be the people that write their 'about me' sections in the third person. However, I had a feeling there must be more to that. 

When I was younger I thought writers were an entirely different caste of people. You can't become a writer, you have to be born one. There are no creative writing courses in Poland, because writing is not something you can teach. It comes from divine inspiration and not from knowing your craft. Anyway, writing is not a craft. This attitude is responsible for the embarrassing quality of Polish literature. It relies on gold nuggets rather than a gold mine. 

I want to know everything about writers and the writing process. I mean, everything! This collection of interviews was an immense pleasure. The writers come and confess what they do and how they do it (alas, some very reluctantly, I am looking at you, Hemingway). I could fill out this whole review with all the quotes I neatly underlined in my copy, but that might take a while. The final conclusion is that there is no right way to write. Every writer in the selection was contradicted by another writer at some point. 

You can read while you write, or you can't. It will affect your writing or it won't. You have to write when you feel very emotional about the subject or you need to wait till you calm down and detach yourself. You have to know the history of literature inside out or you might not even read Madame Bovary until you are 40. You need to show your work to people before it is finished, or you can't ever do that. You need to invent new metaphors and be creative or quite the opposite - use only the well established metaphors because only those are true. You can't have a hidden agenda, or you might, or maybe you even should. And so on. 

I found myself in bits of every writer. It got me fantasising about publishing my own book. When the writers tell you how they started writing, it seems like something you might do yourself. They all of a sudden don't seem larger than life but they come across as ordinary human beings (that they were once, before they became AUTHORS). 

My favourite interview was the one with Robert Gottlieb, editor who worked with people like Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison, Le Carre. This was probably the most honest interview and the most fascinating one. See, the problem with writers is that they are writers. Even if they try to be candid they can't help being writers. They start to write themselves eventually, because that's what they do and that's who they are. Sometimes they become their own creations.