I’ve recently received the four volume set of The Paris Review Interviews. These books, colorful inside and out, are a pleasure to look through and laugh or cringe at the pith and wit of the 20th century’s best writers. Here are some noteworthy excerpts from my morning skim: Interviewer: Are there any authors you’d like to have known but haven’t? Harold Bloom: No. I should like to have known fewer authors than I have known, which is to say nothing against all my good friends. Interviewer: Are there any characters you would like to have known? Harold Bloom: No, no. The only person I would like to have known, whom I have never known, but it’s just as well, is Sophia Loren.
Interviewer: Do you ever think about where your creations are coming from while you’re in the process of writing? Stephan King:Once in a while, something will declare itself so obviously, that it’s inescapable. Take the psychotic nurse in Misery, which I wrote when I was having a tough time with dope. I knew what I was writing about. There was never any question. Annie was my drug problem, and she was my number one fan.
* Interviewer: Was your adolescence a calmer time?
Elizabeth Bishop: I was very romantic. I once walked from Nauset Lighthouse-I don’t think it exist anymore-which is the beginning of the elbow (of Cape Cod), to the tip, Provincetown, all alone. It took me a night and a day. I went swimming from time to time but at that time the beach was absolutely deserted. there wasn’t anything on the back shore, no buildings. *
Interviewer:Have you ever drawn from those years (childhood) for story material?
Dorothy Parker: All those writers who write about their childhood! Gentle God, if I wrote about mine, you wouldn’t want to sit in the same room with me. Interviewer:What, then, would you say is the source of most of your work? Parker: Need of money, dear. Interviewer: And besides that? Parker:It’s easier to write about those you hate-just as it’s easier to criticize a bad play or a bad book.
Interviewer: What tools do you require? Ted Hughes: Just a pen. Interviewer: What do birds mean for you? The figures of the hawk and the crow-so astonishing. Are you tired to death of explaining them? Hughes: I don’t know how to explain them. There are certain things that are just impressive, aren’t there? One stone can be impressive and the stones around it aren’t. It’s the same with animals. Some, for some reason, are strangely impressive. They just get into you in a strange way...
Interviewer: a Blackjack? Jack Kerouac: It’s a blackjack. Bill says, “I pulled out my underneath drawer, and underneath some nice shirts I pulled out my blackjack. I gave it to Danny and said, ‘Now don’t lose it, Danny’-Danny says, ‘Don’t worry I won’t lose it.’ He goes off and loses it.” Sap...blackjack...that’s me. Sap...blackjack. Interviewer:That’s a haiku: Sap, blackjack, that’s me. You better write that down. Kerouac: No.