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This week at The Paris Review, we’re highlighting queer and trans writers in our archive in honor of Pride. Read on for Jeanette Winterson’s Art of Fiction interview, Jericho Brown’s “The Trees,” Timothy Liu’s “Action Painting,” and a selection of diary entries by Jan Morris.
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Jeanette Winterson, The Art of Fiction No. 150
Issue no. 145 (Winter 1997)
One might say that your writing is characterized by a kind of excess. Have you gotten different responses to that aspect of your work?
If you want something to be clear straightaway then it’s probably better not to read my books. Read somebody else’s. I don’t really feel that I should be held accountable for writing the kinds of books that I want to write just because some reader I can’t imagine or will never know doesn’t want to read them. It seems a bit unfair. You can’t win in the art stakes, because there is always somebody who is cross with you. So that’s why it is better not to care and instead think, Well, I must really do my work, hope that it reaches people and leave the rest to chance. That’s often mistaken for arrogance, but it isn’t. You have to believe that you are good, because if you think you are rubbish, why are you doing this stuff anyway? And what are you doing chucking it out there for people to buy? I think that would be the true arrogance—if you thought your stuff was rubbish and still got people to pay good money to read it.