Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Limits of Author Interviews

The usual practice, when invited to write the introduction to an anthology, is to praise its contents. How refreshing to come across an introduction that finds most of the volume under discussion wanting (and manages also to achieve resonance well beyond the book under discussion):

Some of the Americans in this book are perhaps a little too eager to explain themselves. All that has ever really happened to them, one feels, is the experience of being writers. When they talk about themselves, these "selves" become sacred objects. As so often happens with Americans, the terror of failure hangs over them ... By contrast, Blaise Cendrars seems carelessly bountiful of everything, and recounts his life, his friends, his many countries and adventures simply as anecdote and observation, for the pleasure of talking about them. His interview makes an extraordinary impression on us who are saturated in literature: this is not merely a writer seeking to be a writer, this is a man who has lived.
-Alfred Kazin, in the introduction to Writers at Work, The Paris Review Interviews, Third Series, 1967.

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1 comment:

JCF said...

"I am haunted by no phantoms. It is rather that the ashes I stir up contain the crystallization that holds the image (reduced or synthetic) of the living and impure beings that they constituted before the intervention of the fire. If life has a meaning, this image (from the beyond?) has perhaps some significance. That is what I should like to know. And it is why I write."- Blaise Cendrars, L'homme foudroyé (1945, The Astonished Man), who sounds here less than careless of his lit intentions, although blithely tossed off perhaps in a mag interview, no place to reveal mystic leanings. Kazin, the lit-saturated NY intellect, sounds here envious of "a man who has lived," no arriviste like Hemingway or Fitzgerald.