I love reading interviews with writers. They're so interesting and revealing. It seems writers choose their words as truly and precisely in spoken interviews as they do on their pages. And I find that each writer always has something fascinating and new to say about writing, and the world of writing.
Like this interview I came across with Andrea Barrett in a random edition of Paris Review - always a great source for writer interviews. I was struck by what she had to say about writers not feeling at home in the world. Is this true for all writers I wonder? Or has she just made some gross unfair sweeping generalisation?
Personally, I agree. The world to a writer is to be observed first and foremost. The world we live in is mostly one of our own making, with narrations and descriptions, observations, plot and page-marking epiphanies. Words are where we feel at home. And I would most definitely agree with her view that we write about the world to make sense of it, to translate it to ourselves. To feel more at home in it.
Sure. I’ve never known a writer who didn’t feel ill at ease in the world. Have you? We all feel unhoused in some sense. That’s part of why we write. We feel we don’t fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we’re not of it. Different experiences in our lives may enforce or ameliorate that, but I think if they ameliorate it totally, we stop writing. You don’t need to write a novel if you feel at home in the world. We write about the world because it doesn’t make sense to us. Through writing, maybe we can penetrate it, elucidate it, somehow make it comprehensible. If I had ever found the place where I was perfectly at home, who knows what I would have done? Maybe I would have been a biologist after all. No great loss if that had been the case, but it didn’t work out that way.
Read the entire script here: