Interviews

All Interviews

Nelson Algren

1955

“I once heard two junkies arguing about my book, and finally one guy says, “If he really knew what he was talking about, he couldn't write the book, he'd be out in the can.”

Truman Capote

1957

On his childhood: “I was thought somewhat eccentric, which was fair enough, and stupid, which I suitably resented . . . ”

Joyce Cary

1954

“Critics write about my vitality. What is vitality? As a principle it is a lot of balls. The life-force is rubbish, an abstraction, an idea without character.”

Isak Dinesen

1956

“I'd say [to the African villagers] ‘Once there was a man who had an elephant with two heads. . .’ and at once they were eager to hear more. ‘Oh? Yes, but Mem-Sahib, how did he find it, and how did he manage to feed it?’”

Lawrence Durrell

1959

“I think that, as I say, in England, living as if we are not part of Europe, we are living against the grain of what is nourishing to our artists, do you see?”

T. S. Eliot

1959

On the role of “place” in his work:
“ . . . putting it as modestly as I can, it wouldn't be what it is if I'd been born in England, and it wouldn't be what it is if I'd stayed in America.”

Ralph Ellison

1955

“[African-American folklore] is like jazz; there's no inherent problem which prohibits understanding but the assumptions brought to it.”

William Faulkner

1956

“The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.”

E. M. Forster

1953

“I am more interested in works than in authors. The paternal wish of critics to show how a writer dropped off or picked up as he went along seems to me misplaced.”

Henry Green

1958

On the merits of subtlety: “After fifty, one ceases to digest; as someone once said: ‘I just ferment my food now.’ . . . The oblique approach in middle age is the safest thing. The unusual at this period is to get anywhere at all—God damn!”

Graham Greene

1953

Asked whether he takes characters from real life: “No, major characters emerge: Minor ones may be photographed.”

Ernest Hemingway

1958

“. . . the best writing is certainly when you are in love.”

James Jones

1958

“Politics is like having diabetes. It's a science, a catch-as-catch-can science, which has grown up out of simple animal necessity more than anything else.”

François Mauriac

1953

“Sartre expressed the despair of this generation. He did not create it, but he gave it a justification and a style.”

Alberto Moravia

1954

“A writer survives in spite of his beliefs. Lawrence will be read whatever one thinks of his notions on sex. Dante is read in the Soviet Union.”

Frank O'Connor

1957

“I still maintain that living with somebody . . . you know him as well as he can be known . . . What happens if you're torturing him or he's dying of cancer is no business of mine and that is not the individual.”

Dorothy Parker

1956

“Gertrude Stein did us the most harm when she said, 'You're all a lost generation.' That got around to certain people and we all said, 'Whee! We're lost.' ”

Francoise Sagan

1956

“I recognize limitations in the sense that I've read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare . . . Aside from that I don't think of limiting myself.”

Irwin Shaw

1953

On the New York theater audience: “I have a fine play in mind I'll write for them someday. The curtain slides up on a stage bare except for a machine gun facing the audience. . . . [then] the actor walks upstage, adjusts the machine gun, and blasts them.”

Georges Simenon

1955

“The fact [is] that we are I don't know how many millions of people, yet communication, complete communication, is completely impossible between two of those people . . . ”

William Styron

1954

On when he writes: “I like to stay up late at night and get drunk and sleep late. . . . The afternoon is the only time I have left . . . ”

James Thurber

1955

“When I did the cartoon originally I meant the naked woman to be at the top of a flight of stairs, but I lost the sense of perspective and . . . there she was stuck up there, naked, on a bookcase.”

Robert Penn Warren

1957

“America is stuck with its self-definition put on paper in 1776, and that was just like putting a burr under the metaphysical saddle of America.”

Thornton Wilder

1956

On fighting against didactic intentions: “I've spent a large part of my life trying to sit on it, to keep it down . . . I think the struggle with it may have brought a certain kind of objectivity into my work.”

Angus Wilson

1957

“I don't think it's the novelist's job to give answers. He's only concerned with exposing the human situation, and if his books do good incidentally that's all well and good.”