Interviews

Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223

Interviewed by Paul Winner

INTERVIEWER

You often seek the remotest solitude to live and work. What are your typical working conditions? Notebooks? Do you pack a typewriter?

WILLIAMS

I currently own seven Smith Corona portables, if that’s at all interesting, which it probably isn’t. My favorite typewriter is a palomino-colored Sterling that Noy Holland gifted me with in Amherst, Massachusetts. At home in Arizona, I don’t have a TV or Internet or air-conditioning. I’ve never even seen how 99 Stories of God appears to others, as Byliner produced them. They are as vapor to me. My old black Bronco has almost three hundred thou- sand miles on it. It’s traversed the country dozens of times. A great vehicle! My other ride is of a much more recent vintage—a 2004 Toyota Tundra with which I have yet to truly bond. I like old things. I almost never buy anything new.

INTERVIEWER

How does writing get done on the road?

WILLIAMS

Here in Wyoming, I sit and work and walk the dogs. I watch the thrilling ravings of Max Keiser on the RT channel. This TV has cable or a satellite, one or the other. I finally saw The Tree of Life through to its end on the Sundance Channel. Have you seen the ending? I did like everyone meeting up on the beach, although the last shot, of the field packed with sunflowers, seemed a little quiet. All I could think when I saw the field was genetically modified. I missed the glory, totally.

INTERVIEWER

What about the act of writing itself? Do you ever enjoy writing?

WILLIAMS

That nice Canadian writer who recently won the Nobel—beloved, admired, prolific. Who would deny it? She said she had a “hellish good time” writing. This could be a subject for many, many panels. Get a herd of writers together and ask them, Do you have a hellish good time writing? Mostly, I believe, the answer would be no. But their going on about it could take some time.

INTERVIEWER

You’re funny. You must know this.

WILLIAMS

Occasionally I can have a little fun or am pleased with an effect. The conversations between Ginger and Carter, for example, in The Quick and the Dead, or the Lord’s interactions with the animals in 99 Stories of God. But then I hear Plimpton again—You’re showing off.

INTERVIEWER

Who are some living writers you admire?

WILLIAMS

DeLillo is first among them. A writer of tremendous integrity and presence. Mao II is an American classic. So, too, is White Noise, though it’s been taught to splinters. His later works are fierce, demanding. His work can be a little cold perhaps. And what’s wrong with that? The cold can teach us many things. Coetzee I admire very much. On a lighter note, the Russians. Vladimir Sorokin and his crazy Ice trilogy. The short-story writer Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.

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