Friday, September 27, 2013

The Paris Review Interviews, IV

edited by Philip Gourevitch
Picador, 2009.

The fourth collection of author interviews printed in The Paris Review contains sixteen interviews, including those with William Styron, Jack Kerouac, E.B. White, P.G. Wodehouse, Maya Angelou, Haruki Murakami, Marilynne Robison, and more. The interviews are organized in chronological order, with the oldest published in 1954 and the most recent in 2008, just a year before this collection was printed.

The interviews are done in a variety of styles, from multiple meetings with an author to a live interview in front of an audience; in all cases, the authors are allowed to review the interview and edit, clarifying points before the interview sees print. This makes for a unique blend of artistry between the interviewer and author, as the conversation ranges from thoughts on writing and reading to politics and life in general. The type of writing the author is known for is identified at the beginning as "The Art of Fiction" or "The Art of Poetry," for example, and the interviewer frames the interview by outlining the writer's life and describing where they met and the conditions of the interview itself.

I received this book for my birthday three years ago. I started reading it immediately, but slowed down when I reached the fourth interview, that of E.B. White. He was identified as a writer of essays, while I only knew him as the author of Charlotte's Web and the other children's books. I thought I'd read his entire oeuvre has a child. So, before I read the interview, I had to first read a book of his essays. I didn't stop to read any other author's works before reading their interviews, but I was most interested in those of authors I've read. I loved Maya Angelou's, which was the one done in front of an audience. I was intrigued by the personal look into Marilynne Robinson's life and work, having read her three fiction titles. Though I expected to enjoy the authors I was familiar with, I was surprised at how much I was interested in the interview with Stephen Sondheim, as he talked about the art of writing musicals. There is such a variety of authors and opinions in here, that I can confidently say there's something for anyone interesting in authors and the writing process.

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