First you have nothing, and then, astonishingly, after ripping out your brain and your heart and betraying your friends and ex-lovers and dreaming like a zombie over the page till you can’t see or hear or smell or taste, you have something.
There are always surprises. Life may be inveterately grim and the surprises disproportionately unpleasant, but it would be hardly worth living if there were no exceptions, no sunny days, no acts of random kindness.
Pleasure, I remind myself, is inseparable from its lawfully wedded mate, pain.
We live in a cluttered culture, a culture of information in which even our computers can’t tell us what’s worth knowing and what is merely cultural scrap. In such a society, we don’t have the experience of contemplative space, of the time or mood to engage a book of poetry or even read a novel. Who can achieve the unconscious-conscious state of the reader when everything is stimulation, everything is movement and information?
I’m always trying to do something different and trying to keep myself amused.
I have an idea and a first line — and that suggests the rest of it. I have little concept of what I’m going to say, or where it’s going. I have some idea of how long it’s going to be — but not what will happen or what the themes will be. That’s the intrigue of doing it — it’s a process of discovery. You get to discover what you’re going to say and what it’s going to mean.
Writing is a channeling of an individual experience; so is reading. That’s what’s so exciting about this art form – it’s interactive.
The professorial dictum has always been to write what you know, but I say write what you don’t know and find something out. And it works.
I’m sad that there no more mysterious places in the world.
The hardest part is always the middle of anything because at that point, on some unconscious level, you have to figure out what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what it means. You don’t know that in the beginning.
I go around with my books so much and I love to perform on stage, to remind everybody that the lights are off, the phones are off, and for this hour, it’s going to be like your mother reading to you. We’re going to remember why we love stories. I think that gets lost in over-intellectualizing.
I’m extremely worried. I’m worried about the survival of our species, worried about what we’re doing, worried about being Americans, worried about depletion of resources. On the other hand, we are trying. We are trying to understand our impact on the environment.
I’ve always been a huge fan of theatre and performance. The idea of just the human voice and just this night. Live music is the same. They’re doing it for you right now. It’s an amazing thing. And if you perform a story properly, it can be a transporting, too.
Sometimes, when she’s out here alone, she can feel the pulse of something bigger, as if all things animate were beating in unison, a glory and a connection that sweeps her out of herself, out of her consciousness, so that nothing has a name, not in Latin, not in English, not in any known language.
The reason we love nature is because it’s fascinating and we love all the creatures, but if you watch any nature film, there’s always a lesson: “the creatures are all dying and life sucks.” The same is true of literature.
What I’m doing is exploring things. This is why I’m a fiction writer rather than an essayist or a politician or whatever. I just gather material and find a scenario, and see where it takes me. I don’t have a plan.
But then, that’s the beauty of writing stories-each one is an exploratory journey in search of a reason and a shape. And when you find that reason and that shape, there’s no feeling like it.
Work ethic and this determination is all part of escaping the depressive side. Of course I’m manic depressive, maybe not to the degree that Exley was, but I think all writers are. There are highs and lows. Look at David Foster Wallace.
Everything we do is escapism, because we’ll all be dead and everything we do is completely meaningless. Why brush your teeth? Why not be in the park with the bums passing a short dog? Why pay taxes, why get educated? Of course literature is an escape. You have to fill the hours.
I always listen to music while I’m working and I always read aloud to my wife. I love to read aloud to an audience because there’s a cadence and a beat. There’s a music to the language that’s very important to me.
We are animals and we are made in this way and this is how we behave. I’m just kind of fascinated by how we can deny that we are animals and what our impact on the other animals is like, and how quixotic we can be in trying to assess what we’ve done in trying to correct it.
I’m a product of state schools. I had a working-class family. We had no books. I was the first to go to college. But I didn’t really think about it, or about making money. I was just going to be an artist, and I’ve been fortunate. I’ve never had to work for anybody nor have I had to write for money. Maybe that’s another reason that I’ve been able to be productive. I haven’t had to use my writing to make a living.
I like to joke that you usually write more books before death than after death, so that’s why I’m doing it. But really, I remain engaged with ideas. There are so many things happening that turn me on and I just want to examine them.
I don’t know who they are[my characters] . They’re entirely invented characters. Maybe that’s how I’ve been able to write so many books, because there are no boundaries for me. I can write a completely fantastical story like “Swept Away” or “Blinded by the Light” and then a non-comic drama like “Chicxulub” or something like “Birnam Wood” that has autobiographical underpinnings. Why not?
I’m just having fun making jokes and writing books. But you see me once a year, I come on when I have a new book out, but basically, I’ve got my nose to the grindstone and I’m doing what I’m supposed to do in life, which is make stories.